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AG00119_.gif (2913 bytes)EcoNews reaches thousands of people each month, including every MLA in BC and every CRD municipal politician. It’s 95% funded by donations from readers like you. If you value the information it provides, will you support it with a donation?

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Guy Dauncey, Editor
395 Conway Road, Victoria, BC
Tel (250) 881-1304

Executive director of The Solutions Project


Newsletter No. 169 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island - April 2007


All over the Island, tree frogs are frogging, birds are singing, and the leaves of a billion flowers, trees, shrubs and trees are unfolding.

Meanwhile, across our cities and rural acreages, farmers, landscapers, golf-course managers, apartment caretakers and home owners are reaching for their pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, ready to attack nature in their quest for The Perfect Lawn.

Item: In North America and Europe, childhood cancer is rising by 1% a year. About a third of these cancers are leukemia.

Item: In France, a 2006 study by the National Institute for Medical Research found that children who were exposed to garden insecticides and fungicides were more than twice as likely to develop acute leukemia.

A similar level of risk was present among the children of mothers who had used insecticides in the home while pregnant and/or long after the birth, and with the use of insecticidal shampoos for head lice. Parkinson’s disease has also been linked to the use of pesticides.

Change of frame. All over the Island, young couples (plus the not so young) are doing the birds and the bees thing – some hoping to make a baby. But why is it so difficult?

In the US, women under 25 are the fastest growing age-group of women with impaired fertility. In 2005, the US Centers for Disease Control found that 7 million couples (12%) were unable to conceive and carry a child to term; this had increased by 20% in ten years.

In Denmark, a 2006 study found that as many as 30% of young Danish men have low sperm counts, and 10% may be infertile.

Item: In Wisconsin, a study found that infertile women were 27 times more likely to have mixed or applied herbicides in the two years prior to attempting conception than those who were fertile. An Italian study linked the decreased sperm quality of tollbooth workers to their exposure to vehicle exhaust. The problem is also being linked to our exposure to brominated flame retardants and plastic-softening chemicals such as bisphenol A.

Birds do it, bees do it,
even dandelions and trees do it.
Let’s do it – organically!

Cancer, infertility … what’s next?

Autism - or autism spectrum disorder - among children. There’s no clear sign what’s causing it yet (the mercury in vaccines link has not been proven), but something is clearly wrong when one child in 150 is being diagnosed with this distressing disease. It can’t be genetic: genetic change takes generations to show up. It’s got to be something from the environment, either during pregnancy, or earlier.

Then there’s asthma. In Canada, childhood asthma jumped by 35% between 1994 and 1999. It used to be rare: now it’s common. Pollen and dust have always been with us - so what has changed? Studies show that air pollution from busy traffic brings a 2-fold increased risk; the presence of phthalate chemicals from plastics and PVC flooring in the dust in children’s bedrooms brings a 2 to 3-fold increased risk; fumes from air fresheners, furniture polish and household cleaners bring a 4-fold increased risk; exposure to herbicides and pesticides brings a 10-fold increased risk.

And mental health. The same farming methods that use chemical pesticides and fertilizers deplete the food of minerals and trace elements that are essential for a healthy brain. In Britain, Dr Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, found that addressing mental health problems with changes in diet showed better results than counseling or drugs.

Even the tiniest of clues can point us in a different direction. The clear, sweet apple juice that is sold in stores has had the polyphenols that protect against cancer taken out of it. Cloudy apple juice, which contains more pulp, contains up to four times more polyphenols. The presence of scabs on an apple means it has been exposed to disease, stimulating the apple tree to create phytonutrients to fight it.

Where is this journey headed? It could take a turn into the realm of perfumes, 80% to 90% of which are synthesized from petroleum, and which release neurotoxins that have been linked to headaches, confusion, anxiety, short-term memory loss, and central nervous system disorders.

Our bodies are ecosystems that are every bit as incredible as the Great Bear Rainforest or the Amazon. When you add up the accumulating impacts, our carelessness with toxic chemicals is like the chainsaws that clearcut their way through the subtle and complex biochemistry of our bodies.

The solutions start with the determination to act. Sweden has set a goal to eliminate all hazardous chemicals by 2020. Massachusetts has a highly successful Toxics Use Reduction Act. Britain has set a goal to increase the amount of organic food grown locally to 70% by 2010. We could be doing this kind of thing in Canada, too.

The reality of global climate change has given the world a wake-up call – and people are now saying "What do we do?" There’s another wake-up call due soon - on the pollution within.

Guy Dauncey


AG00119_.gif (2913 bytes)A monthly newsletter, funded by your donations, that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, & the joys of personal fulfillment, protected and guided by active citizenship.

Donations can be sent to EcoNews, 395 Conway Rd, Victoria, BC, V9E 2B9. For a receipt send stamped addressed envelope.

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The heat is on, and Europe’s 27 member nations have just set the new goal-post: a 20% reduction below their 1990 level of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. If the USA and other key countries come on board, they’ll increase it to 30%. They’ve also set a compulsory target that 20% of their energy must come from renewables by 2020, and 10% of their fuel from biofuels. Britain has set a separate, legally binding goal to reduce emissions by 26% below the 1990 level by 2020. If they fail, the government can be taken to court.

BC’s commitment is to 10% below 1990 by 2020. It’s good to get us started, but not fast enough. The City of London, UK (10 million people) has set a goal of 60% below 1990 by 2025. Back in 1992, the CRD Task Group on Atmospheric Change recommended 60% below 1990 by 2020 – and that’s what I believe is needed to address the true scale of the crisis we face.

Locally, everyone is waking up. On April 4th (7pm) the CRD is holding a public meeting at Spectrum School to hear from anyone who has ideas on how we should reduce our emissions. If you want to speak, they recommend booking a 5 minute spot - call 360-3078. Central Saanich, Esquimalt and Victoria are also holding public meetings on climate change in April – see Green Diary.

What would things look like if the CRD went for that goal of 60% below 1990 by 2020? That’s close to 80% below today’s level. Looking at just transport, could we reduce our emissions by 80%, within 13 years?

On the surface, it’s a very tall order. However, a new range of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles is going to hit the market soon, which would allow most local travel within a 60 km range to be done with BC generated green electricity, of which we’ve got lots. The trips would also be cheaper than gas since electric vehicles are so efficient.

We could take a bunch of initiatives to double our cycling to 15% of all trips, double our transit to 25% of all trips, and increase ride-sharing to 25% of work-related trips. A $5 toll on the Malahat would provide enough money to run 750 luxury coaches with Internet hook-up and tables to work on. Refusing building permits to new homes in the CRD that are not on a bus route and close to a safe cycling route would also help.

But how to persuade people to buy electric vehicles and the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles, when they arrive? A local carbon tax would help, starting at 20 cents a litre. This would generate $135 million a year ($370,000 a day), which we could use to expand transit and create safe cycling routes within a 10-minute bike ride of every home. In 2003, Victoria approved a detailed Greenways Plan that would go a long way towards achieving this, but it is to be phased in over 50 years. That’s far too slow. We need to complete the Plan in 13 years, and do the same throughout the CRD. For a BIG problem like climate change, we need BIG solutions.



We can only stand and watch. If we want to fly, we have to rustle up a huge chunk of metal, a powerful engine and a tanker full of oil. Humans have been walking for maybe 7 million years. The ancestors of today’s 10,000 species of bird of have been flying for 150 million years. And they’re not just pretty. They eat the insects that attack crops (swallows keep mosquitoes under control); they eat mice and rats; they disperse seeds and pollen.

They are an essential part of the ecosystems we depend on, but our "progress" is having a devastating effect on them. Before humans, the natural extinction rate for birds was one species per century. After 1500, it accelerated to 100 species a century. Today, it looks as if 1,250 species (12% of all bird species) will be facing extinction by the year 2100.

These grim facts were laid out last summer in a study from Stanford, Duke University and the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St Louis, led by the aptly named Peter Raven.

The causes of the extinctions are habitat loss (as humans move in and take over), the introduction of non-native birds, snakes, rats and diseases, and - now – global warming.

Since 1975, 20 species have been lost but 25 species have been saved, thanks to conservation efforts. This shows how important it is to preserve local habitat, and stop ploughing into pristine areas with bulldozers and surveyor’s ribbons.

Here on Vancouver Island we have a large number of conservation groups, and much of the quality of life we enjoy is due to their efforts. On Friday April 20th, at Victoria City Hall, the groups are gathering for Conservation Connection 2007, their annual chance to meet, celebrate and strategize. If you’d like to get involved, this is a great event.

To learn more about local birds, you could join the Victoria Natural History Society, who organize many outings,, $35 for a family.




There is nothing that dispels a sense of hopelessness better than becoming involved in action that makes a difference. And when it comes to the poverty and hunger of the world’s poorest 1.2 billion people, it is easy to feel hopeless.

Not so for a small group of Victoria people who meet in each other’s homes every month to write letters in an organized way, however.

RESULTS Canada works "to create the political will to end hunger and the worst aspects of poverty in Canada and around the world, and to demonstrate that individuals do make a difference." Working with ten groups in cities across Canada, and a small head office in Ottawa, members target their monthly actions very carefully, writing letters and Op-Eds to newspapers, and meeting with key people to follow up.

In 2006, their efforts led to a $20 million grant from CIDA to fight tuberculosis through the Global TB Drug Facility; a $250 million increase in Canada’s funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; hosting the Global Microcredit Summit in Halifax last November where over 2000 delegates from around the world celebrated the success of microlending as a way for families to pull themselves out of poverty; a $25 million grant to provide basic education for some of the millions of children who do not go to school; and the launch of the Citizens Bank Shared World Term Deposit, which is a way for Canadians to invest in microcredit around the world ( – click on "Products" then RRSP).

As a result of these efforts, every $1 donated by a member helped generate over $1500 for global health programs. If you’d like to join the local group, call Blaise Salmon 250-360-1716.



As a follow-up to last month’s story, I have three corrections: The CO2 from driving is 2.34 kg per litre, not 2.5. (250 grams per km). Public transport produces 60 grams of CO2 per km. And propane produces 63 kg per GJ. You can find the correct version and a PDF file at under "EcoNews" and "Back issues".

When you know what your carbon footprint was, what about neutralizing it through an offsets fund? My rule of thumb is "Offset your past emissions - Reduce your future emissions". I pay $10 US per tonne to the Solar Electric Light Fund (, which helps off-grid villagers in Bhutan and Nigeria to install 50 Watt solar systems which provide light in the evenings, replacing kerosene lamps. The lamps are also often dangerous and create air pollution, so solar PV is a better way to go.

In general, I’m not happy with offset projects that depend on planting trees, since trees need to grow for 80 years before they pull any effective CO2 out of the atmosphere, and we need to stop the emissions now. There is also no guarantee that trees won’t be chopped down, burn down, or killed by pests.

In 2006, Clean Air Cool Planet produced A Consumer’s Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers that explores the issues and lists the best providers. There are two things you need from a trustworthy offset: (1) evidence that it produces a real reduction in emissions, and (2) evidence that the reduction would not have happened otherwise. (Known as "additionality"). So make your choice:



As well as the May 12th Run, Walk and Roll for Cancer Prevention, I’m helping to organize a major national conference in Ottawa on May 24-27th, with top speakers and workshops. Fancy coming?




Oh to touch Victoria, when spring has laid her skirts,
when satin flowers and camas blue lie down beneath her oaks.

If you live on Vancouver Island and don’t get out into a forest or Garry oak meadow during April, you might as well go back to Torontottawa. Who needs store-bought chocolates, when we have chocolate lilies for free?

If you want company, or someone to show you what’s what, CRD Parks and the Victoria Natural History Society have a rich array of hikes, walks and outings. So go to and/or (Nature Programs) to see what’s on offer, and treat yourself to a day wrapped up in Nature’s skirts.


Chocolate Lily – Fritillaria Ianceolata




Local organic farmer Lana Popham has an idea. She was shocked at how far she and her husband drove each week, so they made a pledge to drive 100km less each week. Being who she is, she has started a campaign so that others can join her. It’s very easy: just set your odometer to zero on Monday morning, and track your kilometers for the week. Then set a goal to drive 100km less. See



Some noteworthy sites that have passed my way


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EcoNews, Guy Dauncey
395 Conway Road, Victoria
V9E 2B9
Tel/Fax (250) 881-1304

Author of "Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change"
(New Society Publishers)
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