No. 171 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
A NEW ECONOMY FOR A NEW REALITY
How can we create a global economy that can co-exist peacefully with the world’s ecosystems? This is one of the biggest questions we must answer if we are to solve the multiple crises that face us.
The shocking and imminent reality of global climate change; the crisis in the world’s oceans where 90% of commercial fish stocks are heading for extinction; the crisis in the rainforests, which are steadily and relentlessly being cut down; the myriad smaller crises in wetlands, forests, meadows and farmlands that are being lost all over the world – these are not isolated events. They are symptoms of a larger compelling force that demands its pound of flesh wherever it treads.
The small private logger who delights in making a buck by felling a Gulf Island forest; the shrimp farmers in Asia who destroy the mangrove swamps to make room for their trade; the oil company executives who dismiss the science of climate change for fear that it might slow their profits – they all act on the unspoken assumption that the world is huge, and if it runs out, there’s plenty to be had somewhere else so it’s fine to go on chipping away at it.
We have come to the end of this road. The great age of exploration, commerce and capitalism that was born in the 18th century is over.
It is not over because of any desire by its practitioners to stop what they are doing. Indeed, today’s world economy shows every sign of health. If Earth were a thousand times larger with a thousand times more resources, it would doubtless last another thousand years.
No, it has ended because, like a man who has sailed to the edge of the world and found that there is an edge, we are staring at the limits to growth, as the Club of Rome warned us back in 1972.
In 2003, a conservation biology study from the University of Leeds, UK, predicted that at the current pace of climate change we may lose up to 33% of all land-based animals and plants by 2050. Our economy may be thriving, but at an enormous cost.
Even the minerals are running out. In May, New Scientist reported that platinum, indium, zinc, copper, nickel, phosphorus and gallium (used to make thin-film solar cells) will all run out in the not too distant future. Our human population, meanwhile, keeps on growing. (See http://environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth/mg19426051.200-earths-natural-wealth-an-audit.html)
To justify our behaviour, we have created economic philosophies such as that of the Chicago school of economics which promotes the wisdom of the market, and persuades governments to give precedence to the needs of private capital rather than social, artistic, or environmental capital. The excuse has been that people need jobs – and for those who are hard pushed to earn an income in the competitive world we have created, it has often been true.
We now need to craft a wholly new vision of what an economy is, with operating norms which will allow us to live peacefully on the planet within the limits nature has set us, while restoring damaged ecosystems and building wealth in a deeper and more meaningful sense - wealth that includes personal fulfillment, stable marriages, satisfying work, an adequate income, socially rich neighbourhoods, inspiring urban landscapes, and the wealth that comes from giving and sharing, not just taking.
"Ecology" comes from the greek oikos (household) and logos (wisdom). "Economy" comes from oikos and nomos (measurement). We have been measuring wealth without wisdom. We need an "ecolomy" which uses both wisdom and measurement. What might the new ecolomic ground rules be?
First, that all accounting methods use a triple-bottom-line approach in which economic, social and environmental costs and benefits are all measured and accounted for.
Second, that costs which are "externalized" by current economics, such as air pollution, cancer, and climate change are re-included, using taxation and other means, and that all investments are required by law to account for them in an annual audit, with penalties for impropriety.
Third, that all manufactured goods are designed for cradle to cradle recycling and re-use, so that the whole idea of a landfill becomes unthinkable, and "zero emissions" becomes the norm for all production.
Fourth, that over the next 100 years, we reduce our ecological footprint ten-fold, so that all of Earth’s people may live well within the limits that Earth’s ecosystems offer us.
Fifth, that we build our ecolomy around communities of people, not solely businesses, and that we use community-based means of ecolomic development to provide fulfilling work for all, as they do so well in the Spanish community of Mondragon and the Italian communities around Bologna, where 250,000 people are employed in worker-owned cooperatives.
And sixth, that we reshape our global instruments of governance (such as the World Bank) to reflect the new reality. A new ecolomy for a new reality.
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The Pinch Group
Connecting your money with your values
HAL HINKLE’S OFFER
Hal Hinkle is a recovering Wall Street trader who is passionate about making a difference in the world, and especially about global warming.
He is making an amazing offer - if you read three short background papers that he has written about efficient light bulbs, anti-idling, and tank-less water heaters, he will donate $100 to the Solar Electric Light Fund (www.self.org), which helps villagers in countries such as Bhutan and Nigeria use solar PV lighting instead of burning kerosene, which as well as being a fossil fuel, is also dirty and dangerous.
Hal writes: "For each one of us who takes an initial step now, two benefits occur. First, the action taken starts to reverse the growth in our carbon emissions. Second, each ‘early adopter’ helps to create the demand for additional climate-friendly products and solutions." See www.thehcf.org/purewasteintro.html
Here’s the rule of thumb: if you think you’ll be stopping for more than 10 seconds, turn your engine off. It harms the engine to idle, and benefits it to switch off. If you’re more than 3 cars back at the lights – switch off.
Idling for 5 minutes a day in a small car will burn 38 litres of gas a year, and release 88 kg of CO2 (twice as much in a large car). For every thousand small and large cars that idle for 5’ a day, that’s 132 tonnes of CO2.
Many communities including Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and North Vancouver have passed anti-idling bylaws, with fines in the $35 to $150 range; Langford is considering doing the same.
Guelph’s bylaw is here: www.guelph.ca/uploads/PDF/By-laws/idling.pdf
And here’s the GVRD’s model bylaw:
Oak Bay Green Committee is running an anti-idling campaign, and they have Idle Free Zone aluminum signs for $28 each. See www.greengatherings.ca
VICTORIA TO VANCOUVER
What’s the best way to get to Vancouver? There are some who fly, while others drive or take the bus and ferry. So what’s the deal? Here are the CO2 impacts for a return trip, thanks to Malcolm McLure, of Oak Bay:
- Helijet (full): 167 kg
- Harbour Air (full): 120 kg
- Westcoast Air (full: 109 kg
- Regular car on ferry (4 people): 8.5 kg
- Prius on ferry (4 people): 6.5 kg
- Bus and ferry: 1.25 kg
- Bike and ferry: > 0 kg
In summary, a Helijet tip produces 67 times more CO2 than bus and ferry trip. The Spirit ferry uses 8400 litres for a round trip, and has a 470 car capacity.
In Britain, the Carbon Trust is experimenting with a carbon labeling system that will tell you how much carbon was produced to make a product, starting with a packet of potato chips (78 grams), which includes growing the potatoes, making the chips, and packaging and shipping them. (13 packets = 1 kg).
One of the challenges is to show how much a product will also release over its lifetime. In future, maybe every product will carry such a label. For details, see www.carbon-label.co.uk
SALT SPRING’S ECO-WEEKEND
Salt Spring is about to get its first bus from BC Transit, running between Fulford, Ganges and Vesuvius. It will also hopefully get a new Transportation Commission whose members will be able to take initiatives to make the island safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
On Sat June 16th, Salt Spring’s Community Energy Strategy Task Force is organizing a Transportation Fair, and a "critical mass ride" celebrating the many green ways to travel. On Sunday, it’s the now famous Salt Spring Eco-Home Tour when you can visit ten unique ecological and sustainable homes. See here for details: www.saltspringconservancy.ca
THE GARDEN PATH
Open Garden & Plant Sale
The Roses Are Blooming!
Organic Strawberry Tea in the Garden
Sat June 16 & Sun June 17, 10 to 5.30pm
395 Conway Road (off Interurban)
WHAT’S UP WITH THE BEES?
There’s a huge crisis happening among commercial honey bees in the US, which are responsible for pollinating 30% of all US crops. Since last fall, the bees have been dying and disappearing in dramatic numbers: Up to 80% on the east coast of the US, 60% on the west coast.
Overall, a quarter of America’s 2.4 million bee colonies have been lost — tens of billions of bees. Very high levels of bee death are also being reported in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece.
When you consider that bees are responsible for pollinating the crops we depend on for food, the implications are worrying. It’s called "colony collapse disorder". One week, the bees are in the hive; the next week they’re gone, and the few remaining bees are found to carry a tremendous pathogen load including every known bee virus as well as fungal infections.
Bees have disappeared before, but nothing like this. There are many theories floating around, including environmental stress, malnutrition, pathogens, the use of antibiotics, pesticides and genetically modified crops, and EMF radiation from cell-phone towers.
Sharon Labchuk, leader of the Green Party of PEI, is on a list of 1000 mostly American organic bee-keepers, and she and others say that the organic growers are not reporting any losses.
So what’s up? One line of evidence suggests a link with genetically modified maize. On its own, it has no effect, but when bees are also infested with a parasite, a bacterial toxin in the GM corn may alter the surface of the bees intestines, weakening them enough to allow the parasites to gain entry.
The problem is almost certainly caused by a combination of factors. Commercial honeybees are bred to be larger than normal bees, making their cells more vulnerable to varroa mites; they are also trucked around the US, which must stress them considerably.
Another suspect is a new class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which do not kill the bees but which harm their sense of direction, leaving them unable to find their way back to the hive.
In an unrelated finding, US researchers at UC Berkeley found that when honey bees have to compete with wild bees, they are up to five times more effective at pollinating sunflowers.
This points to the importance of wild bees, and therefore of wild flowers, hedgerows, pastures, and no more pesticides. A natural world, in other words, not the Monsanto-land that today’s commercial bees inhabit.
"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."
– Albert Einstein.
CARBON OFFSETS, GOOD, BAD?
Everyone is asking about them, it seems. Can I use them to offset my holiday flight to Mexico? Both Air Canada (www.zerofootprint.net/offsets) and Westjet (www.offsetters.com) are now offering offsets. So here’s my take.
You reduce your future emissions: you offset your past ones. If you don’t have a goal and a plan to reduce your emissions, buying offsets to reduce your guilt is rather like buying indulgences from the Catholic church in the 16th century, to reduce your time in hell.
Next, are all offsets equal? Anything but. An offset must cause a reduction in emissions that would not have otherwise happened, equal to the emissions you have just produced. It must also be verifiable. For this reason, I do not believe that tree-planting offsets should be allowed (this is Air Canada’s method).
The urgency of the climate crisis is such that we need to achieve a global turnaround in emissions within 15 years, and if you plant a tree today it won’t absorb much CO2 for 80 years, assuming it does not itself become a victim of climate change by fire, drought or disease.
So what is a good offset? Any investment that causes a reduction in emissions now that would not have otherwise have happened, such as saving a tropical forest from being destroyed, or helping people to use energy efficiency renewable energy in place of fossil fuels.
Personally, I use the Solar Electric Light Fund (www.self.org/cnc.asp), at $10 US a tonne, and I feel pretty good about it.
The David Suzuki Foundation website has links to everything you’ll need, including carbon calculators. See www.davidsuzuki.org/Climate_Change/What_You_Can_Do/carbon_neutral.asp
It just makes so much sense – to buy fair trade coffee, recycled paper, non-toxic cleaning and office supplies. For businesses, municipalities, governments and other organizations, you’ll find a bundle of useful resources in the Sustainability Purchasing Network. See www.buysmartbc.com.
FIRST NATIONS, JUNE 29th
Canada’s aboriginal people have been getting the rough end of the deal ever since the Europeans first arrived to settle and take their land. The poverty, pollution, contamination and discrimination they have to put up with is appalling. So it’s no wonder there is great frustration, and an instinct to do something that will get Canada’s attention, which is the plan for the June 29th National Day of Action. Wherever there are local actions, we need to stand alongside the First Nations in a spirit of support and non-violent solidarity. See www.afn.ca
ACTION OF THE MONTH: BC’S OLD GROWTH FORESTS
In Late May, BC’s Minister of Forests, Rich Coleman, told the Vancouver Sun that the government plans to clamp down on the export of second-growth logs, and shift away from harvesting coastal old-growth forests to focus more on the second-growth forest.
If this is for real, it is a major change from the previous policy to clearcut the old growth forests until they were gone.
Action: Write to Premier Campbell and Minister Coleman, commending them on the change, and asking them to create a firm timeline to phase out old growth logging, to reassure us that it is not just a PR move.
Legislative Bldgs, Victoria V8V 1X4.
For details, see www.wcwcvictoria.org
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