No. 162 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
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CRISIS IN THE AMAZON
I wish you didn’t have to read such news in a small newsletter
like this, when it should be hammered across the front pages of
the world’s newspapers. I wish I didn’t have to write
it at all.
The Amazon rainforest, home to a fifth of the planet’s plant
and animal species, 200 indigenous cultures, and 30 million people,
is in danger of dying.
Once, there was a river
The Amazon is in the second year of its worst drought on record.
Rivers and lakes have turned to sand and mud, and millions of fish
have died. Brazil’s government has declared a state of emergency
across all 253 towns in the region that depend on boats for food,
medicines, and fuel.
The drought is being linked to record water temperatures in the
south-west Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, and the constant destructive
But here’s the alarming bit. Starting in 2002, Dr Dan Nepstead
from the world-class Woods Hole Research Centre did an experiment
in which he covered 2.5 acres of the rainforest with plastic sheets
to see how it would cope when deprived of rain, and surrounded
the area with sophisticated sensors.
In the first year, the trees managed okay. In the second year,
they dug their roots deeper in search of water. In the third year
they started dying. The tallest trees crashed to the ground, exposing
the forest floor to the sun. By the end of the third year, they
had released 2/3rds of the carbon dioxide they had been storing,
adding it to the atmosphere’s burden. The Amazon stores 90
billion tonnes of carbon, enough to increase global warming by
If the drought continues next year, Dr Nepstead expects mega-fires
to sweep across the forest. "With the trees gone, the soil
will bake in the sun and the rainforest could become a desert."
If the Amazon were to die, the impact would affect the entire
planet, since the hot, wet Amazon evaporates vast amounts of water
that rises high into the sky, drawing in the wet north-east trade
winds which pick up moisture from the Atlantic. Without the forest
to absorb the water and store the carbon, much of the world would
become hotter and dryer. (Thanks to Geoffrey Lean, The Independent,
July 23, 2006)
Once, there was a river
The speed of deforestation is a big factor behind the drought.
About a fifth of the Amazon rainforest has been razed completely,
but another 22% has been logged enough to allow sun to penetrate
the forest floor and dry it out. That brings the total to 42%,
close to 50%, which the climate models predict to be the tipping
point for the death of the Amazon.
The Amazon in happier days
Why have we not heard about this before? Why are the mainstream
media so pre-occupied with trivia, at a time when the world needs
to be working together to craft urgent solutions to these crises?
Why is our own Times Colonist, here in Victoria, so very
empty of meaningful content?
I’ll leave that unanswered, because there is a linked development
that needs to be addressed, here in BC.
In August, BC Hydro awarded power contracts to two coal-fired
power plants, one near Princeton, at the head of the Similkameen
Valley, and one in the south Peace region, north of Tumbler Ridge.
By all accounts, BC Hydro had its arm twisted behind its back,
and was forced to accept the coal by Richard Neufeld’s desire
to please the coal barons, and the government’s misguided
belief that "cheap power" is all that matters, regardless
of the environmental cost.
We should celebrate the fact that BC Hydro also awarded three
contracts for wind power, with BC’s first turbines to be
installed in the Peace and near Prince Rupert, but that is overshadowed
by the decision to burn coal to generate electricity for the first
time in BC’s history.
This, at a time when the alarm signals about global climate change
could not be more serious. Together, the coal plants will release
as much CO2 as 300,000 cars, over 30 to 40 years.
They will also release filthy air pollutants, at a time when the
BC government, in its Five Golden Goals, has pledged to "Lead
the world in sustainable environmental management, with the best
air quality … bar none."
Compared to the Sumas 2 power plant in Washington State which
the government rightly opposed, these plants could emit up to 7
times more particulate matter, 72 times more NOx, and 200 times
more SOx, as well as mercury, a known neurotoxin.
What are they thinking? Are the Ministers and staff responsible
for this in complete denial about global climate change?
There is no shortage of green, sustainable energy to meet our
needs, combine with the greater efficiency.
And why is the NDP so silent?
BC may seem to be a long way from the Amazon, but we live on a
perishably small planet, where these things are very closely connected.
Please, write letters, speak up. Let your MLAs know that coal-fired
power is completely unacceptable in BC. We may not be able to do
much about the Amazon, but we can at least stop this.
ACTION OF THE MONTH: STOP THE COAL-PLANTS
Write to Premier Campbell and to your MLA, expressing your views about the government approving BC Hydro awarding contracts to the two new coal-fired power plants by Compliance (56 MW), at Princeton, and by Wapiti (184 MW), near Tumbler Ridge. There is no shortage of green, sustainable power in BC, and other countries are trying to close down their coal-fired plants, not open new ones.
Premier Gordon Campbell: PO Box 9041 Stn Prov Govt, Victoria V8W 9E1. 250 387-1715 email@example.com
To contact your MLA, go to: www.legis.gov.bc.ca/mla/3-1-7.htm
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KEATING COMMUNITY FARM
There is a growing awareness on Vancouver Island about the importance of fresh, healthy, organic food. A study in Iowa found that a regional diet used 17 times less oil and gas than a long distance imported diet. For these reasons, The Land Conservancy has purchased Keating Farm, a 13-hectare farm near Duncan, and set up a Co-op to allow for community ownership, giving shareholders a voice in its operation, and preferential access to farm-produced goods. And TLC needs more shareholders! Shares can be bought for $5000, and can be owned jointly by several people. Call 479-8301 to become part of a model organic farm that’s protecting farmland for perpetuity
Did you know that we can grow over 40 varieties of vegetable through the winter in southwest BC? If you have a garden, and want fresh organic food through the winter, now’s your chance to buy bedding plants. The Garden Path Organic Plant Nursery is offering plants only until Monday Sept 4th, then Carolyn is closed for the year. 10am – 5:30pm, at 395 Conway Road, off Interurban, 1 block past Camosun). www.earthfuture.com/gardenpath/map.htm
Winter Mesclun Fibrepacks - Mixed Mustard Greens - Broccoli: Purple and white sprouting (perennial) - Cabbage: ‘January King’, ‘First Early Market’, ‘Walking Stick’ - Cauliflower: ‘Purple Cape’, ‘Mervielle de 4 Saisons’ (white)
- Kohlrabi: ‘Early Purple Vienna’ and ‘Superschmelz’ - Mixed Winter Lettuces (‘Ice Queen’, ‘Kweik’, ‘Arctic King’, ‘Winter Density’ and ‘Brunia’) - Corn Salad ‘Vit’ - Land Cress – Coriander - Turkish Arugula – Collards - Perpetual Spinach - Silver Leaf Beet - Swiss Chard ‘Fordhook Giant’ - Kales: ‘Red Russian’, ‘Lacinato’, ‘Tall Green Curled’, ‘Red Leaf’ - Tatsoi Oriental Greens – Endive - Fava Beans: ‘ Green Windsor’,‘ Crimson Flowered’,‘Mr. Barton’s.
COWS versus CARS
Shock News: a cow contributes more to the global climate crisis than a car. A mid-sized car produces 5 tonnes of CO2 a year, plus 0.9 tonnes a year from the energy needed to manufacture and service it over its 14-year life. Total = 5.9 tonnes of CO2 a year. A typical cow requires 282 gallons of oil to service it over its 5-year lifespan, producing 500 kg of CO2. The cow’s stomach and liquid manure produce 285 lbs of methane a year. Methane is 23 times more powerful than CO2, so this comes to 2973 kg of CO2 equivalent (CO2e). The manure produces 20 lbs of nitrous oxide (N2O), which is 296 times more powerful than CO2, giving 2685 kg of CO2e. Total = 6.16 tonnes of CO2e a year. Over the cow’s five years, this totals 30.8 tonnes. (If the cow is grass-fed, it will produce less N2O.) A cow produces 570 lbs of beef, and a meat-eating Canadian eats 69 lbs of beef a year, so the cow feeds 8 meat-eaters. Divide the 30.8 tonnes of CO2e by 8, and each meat-eater is responsible for 3.85 tonnes of CO2e a year. For a family of 3, that’s almost 12 tonnes, or twice as much as the family car. PS These are preliminary figures, which I have to source properly.
Have you ever wished for a place where green-thinking people could mingle and discuss their various projects and ideas? From its launch in a London pub, Green Drinks nights have taken off in 134 cities around the world. And now they have reached Victoria, thanks to Roger Colwill’s efforts. So put it in your Diary: Tuesday September 12th, 5-7 pm, at the Queen Mother Waterside Café, 407 Swift St, and the same time and place every month. "These events are very simple and unstructured, but many people have found employment, made friends, developed new ideas, done deals and had moments of serendipity." So tell your friends, and we’ll craft a better world over a good craft beer. See www.greendrinks.org
Just imagine - your Green Drinks night beer could heat your apartment. We’ve waited this long, and now we can build one of the greenest large-scale sewage treatment systems in the world. In Oslo, Norway, population 520,000, the heat in the city’s sewage is used to heat 9,000 apartments, saving 2.2 million gallons of oil and reducing Oslo’s greenhouse gas emissions by 22,500 tonnes a year. The sewage flows into the system at 9.6 Celsius, and flows out at 5.7 Celsius after its heat has been extracted using a refrigerant. It is transferred to water in a 420 km system of pipes, and fed to homes and offices. The cost was $16 million CAN, or $1,777 per apartment. That’s just the beginning, as there are also biofuels and other resources that can be reclaimed.
UVIC’s BROWN ENGINEERING
With the world in such a desperate ecological crisis, one would hope that our universities would work their hardest to teach students about the latest green thinking and technologies. Every year, Corporate Knights Magazine surveys Canadian universities for the extent to which they include sustainability in the curricula. For its undergraduate business course, UVic shot up the ranks to 7th overall out of 46, ahead of UBC (12th) and Royal Roads (28th). Way to go! UVic’s MBA program came in 15th out of 34, behind UBC (8th), but ahead of Royal Roads (22nd). UVic’s Faculty of Law came in 3rd out of 21, just ahead of UBC, which is just excellent. But UVic’s Engineering School came in 32nd out of 36, scoring 0 in almost all categories, ending up with a terrible 6% score. UBC came in 3rd with 47%, behind Calgary (50%), and the École de technologie superieure at the University of Quebec (53%). Come on, you guys. How can your students build a better planet if you’re not giving them the tools? Note to prospective engineering students: avoid UVic until they pull their socks up. Full details, see www.corporateknights.ca/knightschools
Practical Herbalist Program
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In many ways, September is the start of the working year, when people return from their holidays, ready for a new year. September is no exception for the eco-movement. There’s a major conference on Water in the City, with a keynote speech by the indefatigable Maud Barlow. There’s the national Climate Action Tour arriving here to craft a "real" climate plan to stand against the "Made in Houston" plan that the Tories will issue soon. There’s the Second Festival of Peace to advance the agenda for a Canadian National Department of Peace. There’s a renewed campaign by the Western Canada Wilderness Committee to protect Vancouver Island’s Ancient Forests, and there’s the Earth Festival at UVic to kick off the student year.
SIMPLICITY And SUCCESS?
Why not create both?
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Victoria Workshop, Nov.13www.BruceElkin.com
GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST
Even while the Amazon is in such dire trouble, there is cautious reason to celebrate here in BC. For ten years, environmentalists from several groups have worked to preserve the largest temperate rainforest in the world from destruction by logging. There have been demonstrations, publicity campaigns, and photography trips to show the world how amazing the region is. There has been a persistent market campaign that persuaded companies like Home Depot, IKEA, Lowes and others not to sell products from ancient and endangered forests. There was pressure in Europe by pulp producers and magazine publishers not to be associated with forest destruction, threatening hundreds of millions of dollars of BC wood sales.
Staples came on board. Canadian publishers came on board. When the Liberals took office under Gordon Campbell, pro-logging bureaucrats rubbed their hands and were all set to go with the harvesting licenses, but it was the forest companies, seeing their markets dry up from bad publicity, which insisted that the government come to the negotiating table. An incredible 15.5 million acres of land was up for discussion. The region’s 25 First Nations communities came to the table, as did all the major companies that log in the area. Negotiations went on for two years on a two-track process, the first involving the public stakeholders, the second the First Nations communities. Both groups crafted land-use agreements, and people finally came together on Feb 7th, 2006 to sign a historic protection package.
Five million acres are to be protected permanently, including a million acres of existing parks, 3.3 million acres of new parks, and 736,000 acres of no-logging zones. The rest of the land is to be managed under a sustainable form of logging called Ecosystem Based Management, which must become a reality by March 31st 2009.
Eighteen of the 25 First Nations communities have signed on, and will gain greater stewardship and more direct decision-making. They are cautiously optimistic, but want more clarity about their involvement. A $120 million conservation package will fund conservation management projects and ecologically sustainable business ventures in First Nations territories. Private US and Canadian foundations have raised $60 million, and the BC government and federal government under Paul Martin each pledged $30 million. Everything is set to go, but the new federal government under Harper has not yet said that it will honour its side of the bargain.
For the greens, the negotiations were done by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club of Canada, Forest Ethics, and the Rainforest Action Network, who collective formed the Rainforest Solutions Project. Other groups that have played an important role include the Raincoast Conservation Society, the Valhalla Wilderness Society, and the National Resource Defence Council.
There is always room for doubt, and criticism, but this has been an outstanding success, combining many elements of campaigning to reach a result. Premier Gordon Campbell was reportedly quite moved by the result, and even Gerry Furney, the irascible "log-em" Mayor of Port McNeill came over quite emotional, and said that he loved the green campaigners. It may not be a perfect solution, but it’s a remarkable achievement. Much kudos to everyone who has worked on this.
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
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