No. 166 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
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TRANSPORT FOR THE FUTURE
Welcome to another New Year! I have a sense that it will be an amazing one in which the ice-jam that has been blocking progress on global climate change will finally break – just as it is breaking in the Arctic and Antarctic.
I don’t think we’ll get a global breakthrough this year, but I think we’ll see rapid progress by various nations as their leaders finally register that the multiple health, social, environmental and economic benefits of addressing climate change far outweigh the costs – and that the costs, both environmental and economic, will be truly devastating.
Even Britain’s very conservative Daily Telegraph ran a story over Christmas showing that a 1 meter sea level rise – which is possible this century - would flood large areas of central London, including St Paul’s Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament. (See www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/12/27/nlondon27.xml)
To grasp what is about to happen, we need to remember that the energy infrastructure our world is based upon is only 100 years old – and that things change. There is a whole new energy revolution underway that will transform the way we use energy to travel, make electricity, farm, and heat our homes.
This energy revolution has the potential – if we act on it fast enough – to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels to almost zero, minimizing the risk of the disasters that global warming threatens. It will also clean the air, reduce the incidence of asthma, cancer and heart disease, remove fears about peak oil, and allow our cities to become quiet and pleasant. But only if we act fast enough.
Throughout 2007, EcoNews will continue to focus on the power of positive solutions, following the premise that there are only two real problems in the world today. The first is the sum total of all our social, health, environmental, economic, political and religious (etc) problems; the second is the belief that we cannot solve them.
So how will we travel in this new energy world? For flying, I see no real solutions - but that’s for another day.
For personal travel, expect to see very creative changes in the ways we use bicycles, public transit, light rail transit, ridesharing and teleworking - but that’s for another day, too.
For vehicles, there are three candidates. The first is hydrogen. It takes a lot of energy to get the hydrogen, however. If it comes from natural gas (CH4), it still produces CO2 emissions. If it comes from water (H2O) using solar or wind, you lose 65% of the energy in the process. The second problem is who’s going to buy a H2 car when there are no filling stations, and who’s going to build the filling stations when there are no H2 cars? The signs are not good.
The second candidate is biofuel, using ethanol or biodiesel. This is hot, with billions of dollars pouring into Iowa farms growing corn for ethanol. Studies show, however, that when you count the energy needed to grow and process the ethanol, the new energy produced is small, and the greenhouse gas emissions are still high.
Also, if the whole US grain harvest was used to make ethanol, it would satisfy less than a sixth of US demand –and leave nothing to eat. Biodiesel from food wastes is fine, but it will never power many vehicles.
The calculations are better for cellulosic ethanol from plant and forest wastes, but this robs the soil of vital nutrients that are needed for future crops. There is a role for biofuels, but not as the main solution.
That leaves electric vehicles (EVs). These are powerful, efficient, and cheap to run –just $10 a month for an electric version of the Smart Car. The 2006 Mitsubishi MiEV has a top speed 130 kph. Its lithium batteries have a 150 km range, and can be recharged in 4 hours. If the US auto-industry had not tried so hard to kill the electric vehicle, there would be EVs all over the place.
And there will be, because of Plug-In Hybrid, which is generating lots of excitement around the world. You take a hybrid such as Toyota’s Prius, and add extra batteries. This allows it to run as an EV for shorter trips, with hybrid gas/EV for longer journeys. See www.calcars.org and www.pluginpartners.org
This assumes the use of electricity as the main source of vehicle energy, supplemented with biofuels and/or hydrogen. So is there enough sustainable electricity to do the job?
Here in BC, where we currently use 65,000 gigawatt hours a year, the BC Sustainable Energy Association found that we have the potential for an additional 84,000 GWh from various green sources (sun, wind, tidal, efficiency, etc), plus 55,000 GWh wind energy in the Hecate Energy Field (see inside). The electricity needed if the entire BC fleet went electric would be an additional 8,000 GWh, so there’s no problem with supply.
One of the problems with solar and wind energy is that it is intermittent. In BC this can be balanced by using the dams for storage, but the PHEV’s batteries can also be used to store power and send it to the grid when needed. A million "vehicle to grid" cars could generate up to 10,000 MW of electricity – the equivalent of 20 power plants.
The moral of this story is that we don’t need to suffer from a "creativity freeze" when it comes to solutions for a brighter future. They are everywhere.
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LOVE THAT FOREST
When I lived in England, people had no concept of an old-growth forest. It has been many thousand years since Britain lost its forests to logging, sheep and deer, and poets have written sonnets to totally bald mountains without ever knowing that they were once beautiful ancient forests.
Here on Vancouver Island, serious logging started less than 100 years ago, and yet in that short time three quarters of the Island’s ancient forest has been demolished, replacing it with tree farms. If it were not for the actions of those whose protests, tree-sits, trail-building and camps have managed to save or delay the destruction of some of the Island’s most stunning forests, the damage would be far worse.
In 2007, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee is planning to build the movement to a fever pitch to end the logging of the Island’s remaining old-growth forests, and ban raw log exports. In 2006 almost 5 million cubic metres or 160,000 truck loads left BC; if parked nose to tail, they would stretch from Vancouver to Montreal.
If you’d like to join the WCWC team of volunteers, call Ken Wu 388-9292 www.wcwcvictoria.org
YOUTH GREEN DRINKS
Victoria now has a regular Green Drinks night every 2nd Tuesday, and a delicious monthly Sustainable Feast organized by the FoodRoots Distributors Coop (www.foodroots.ca) every first Saturday. For 2007, Roger Colwill is organizing a Youth Green Drinks at 3:30pm on Tuesday Jan 9th for young people aged 14 to 22, in advance of the adult Green Drinks. It offers a chance to chat about projects and possibilities, with students from others schools and colleges. Don’t be shy. Make a difference! email Roger firstname.lastname@example.org .
Hands up if you’ve got an old computer in a basement or storage room? On Saturday Jan 13th, the Canadian Earth Institute is organizing an E-Cycling Event when you can recycle your old computers, TVs, videos, or IPods at Break Down Recycling, 852 Devonshire Rd, in Esquimalt. If something still works, it will be found a home with a needy family; otherwise, the materials will be stripped and recycled. Contact Sandra, 361-9916
EILEEN CADDY, 1917 - 2006
Far up on the NE coast of Scotland, there is a small piece of windswept land next to a US air base and the old fishing village of Findhorn. In 1962, Eileen and Peter Caddy were guided to set up home there in a trailer park, along with their 3 boys and their good friend Dorothy Maclean.
In 1953, Eileen had been persuaded by Peter to leave her first family and to follow a spiritual path with him. She meditated every day, seeking and receiving guidance from God, and Peter had no hesitation about acting on the guidance. In 1965, following guidance from the local plant devas, they started growing a garden, producing enormous and vibrant vegetables out of the sand.
The word spread, and people came to live alongside them, following the daily guidance that Eileen received. If you are skeptical about this kind of thing, that’s fine, but what happened over the next 40 years is nothing but miraculous.
The Findhorn Foundation has grown into Britain’s leading spiritual community, a thriving centre of spiritual service and education in co-creation with nature, where over 400 people live in and around the ecovillage. Eileen stopped receiving and giving guidance in 1971, in order that people would learn to develop their own inner voice.
As well as offering courses that have been attended by thousands, including many of today’s alternative and ecological leaders, Findhorn has been a pioneer for wind turbines, green buildings, and ‘Living Machine’ sewage treatment.
Eileen’s book Opening Doors Within has been translated into 27 languages, and in 2004 she was awarded the MBE for services to Spiritual enquiry.
Eileen died peacefully on December 13th, aged 89. Eileen’s guidance was that Findhorn would start as a family, and then become first a community, then a village, a town, and finally a city of light. Both Carolyn Herriot and I have close connections to Findhorn, and we draw inspiration from its work.
Rest in peace, Eileen. See www.findhorn.org.
The Findhorn Foundation’s "House in a barrel"
WORLD’S LARGEST WINDFARM
Britain may soon have the world’s largest offshore wind farm 18 km off the north coast of Kent, in south-east England. With 271 turbines, the 1000 MW London Array will produce enough power for 750,000 homes. Around the world, offshore projects being planned could produce 30,000 MW; the 10 built so far have a capacity of 587 MW.
Here in BC, the Haida Energy Field, in Hecate Strait west of Prince Rupert, could outstrip the London Array with 15,000 MW of wind turbines producing up to 55 gigawatt hours of electricity a year – about the total that BC Hydro currently generates. NaiKun Wind Development is ready to start with a 320 MW project in 2009. See www.naikun.ca
The Council of the Haida Nation has established the Haida Power Authority (HPA) with a mandate to oversee all energy issues in Haida territory; this project will be done as a partnership between NaiKun and the HPA. BC Hydro wants to find 30 GWh by 2025, and the Haida Energy Field’s potential confirms what the BC Sustainable Energy Association has been saying – that BC has incredible renewable energy resources. There is no need to develop coal-fired power.
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THE PEARL RIVER TOWER
Across the Pacific Ocean, in Guangzhou, China, the world’s first zero-energy skyscraper is being built 180 km inland from Hong Kong. 303 metres high, with 69 stories, the Pearl River Tower will produce more energy than it needs, using solar PV, two arrays of wind turbines designed into the front, heat from rainwater and humidity, and natural cooling. The project is managed by Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, who won an international competition. This is the standard we should expect for all new buildings. See www.metropolismag.com/cda/story.php?artid=2227
Seeds of Victoria
Certified organic – Locally grown
See the 2007 colour seed catalogue
VEGETARIANS ARE SMART
It takes intelligence to build these things – so that’s good news for vegetarian architects, according to a 20-year study of 8,000 people just published in the British Medical Journal.
At the age of 10, boys and girls were given a series of tests to determine their IQs. When they reached 30, they were asked if they were vegetarian, and their answers were compared to their childhood scores.
The 4.5% who were vegetarian had an IQ of 105, 5 points higher than the meat eaters. They were also more likely to have gained a degree and have a high-powered job (but no higher income). There was no difference between those who classified themselves as strict vegetarians and those who ate fish or chicken.
For each 15-point rise in IQ scores, the likelihood of being a vegetarian rose by 38%. The study either reveals that people with higher IQs as children are more likely to become vegetarian, or that a diet rich in fruit, veggies and whole grains boosts brainpower.
CORPORATIONS LOSE RIGHTS
Maybe they’ve been eating their vegetables in East Brunswick, Pennsylvania, where the Board of Supervisors (town council) passed a new Township Law on December 6th:
- recognizing that ecosystems in East Brunswick possess enforceable rights against corporations;
- withdrawing all constitutional rights from sewage sludge corporations;
- asserting that corporations doing business in East Brunswick will be treated as "state actors" under the law and required to respect the rights of people and natural communities;
- and establishing that East Brunswick residents can bring lawsuits to vindicate both their own civil rights, and the newly mandated rights of Nature.
There was a lot of work that went into this, with residents organizing educational forums, making door-to-door visits, and putting pressure on reluctant Supervisors who were unwilling to assert their rights against the sludge-hauling corporations.
The campaign originated because the Pennsylvania state regulatory agencies, seemingly hand-in-hand with corporate lawyers, supported the companies in dumping their toxins, pathogens and carcinogens into the living environment. They were helped by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which has been helping people in Pennsylvania to assert their fundamental rights to democratic self-governance since 1995.
In October, Blaine Township, PA, passed similar laws that banned corporate coal-mining and prohibited corporate contributions to candidates for elected office within the Township. See www.celdf.org
Vegan in Victoria?
The Victoria Vegan
A new publication from Friends of Animals
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
Some noteworthy sites that have passed my way
ACTION OF THE MONTH:
STOP THE SEISMIC TESTING
Living Oceans writes:
A team of American-led scientists wants to conduct seismic testing in the waters off the north and central coast of BC, using 36 high-pressure air guns fired into coastal waters every 20-60 seconds, 24 hours a day for 3 weeks.
The blasting is planned for September 2007, when humpback whales, orcas, white-sided dolphins and harbour porpoises are in the area, and when several species of whale will be migrating through. Scientific evidence suggests that seismic testing of this magnitude causes harm to the marine environment, including fish and marine mammals.
The testing may hinder whale-to-whale communication and threaten species' ability to navigate, kill prey and reproduce. Eminent scientists have concluded that whales and dolphins in B.C. could be deafened or driven aground by the kind of testing the Batholiths project is proposing. If a whale or dolphin beaches itself, it will probably die.
The Government of Canada needs to hear from you, to hear your views. See www.livingoceans.org
Action: Write to Diane Fraser. Environmental Assessment Officer
Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council, 350 Albert St, Ottawa ON K1A 1H5
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