No. 172 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
CHOOSING THE LIGHTNESS
OF PLANETARY CHILDHOOD
We are the binge generation – the ones who wanted it all.
We are the last of the innocents who believed that this tiny Earth, floating in the vastness of space, could provide for all our wants, however wild or stupid.
We wanted the fish – so we took them. At the current rate, almost all of the world’s commercial fish stocks will be gone by 2050.
We wanted the energy – so we took it. Now we are waking up to the appalling impacts that global climate change will bring.
We wanted the land – so we cut down the Earth’s forests from the Amazon to Bear Mountain, and turned them into farms and subdivisions, driving out eagles, frogs and plants.
All over the Earth, the things we have used and discarded lie scattered in landfills.
We are like two-year olds who have known nothing but the generosity of our parents’ love, whose parents are now saying "Enough."
Will we respond with foot-stamping and tantrums, demanding the right go on being the centre of attention, regardless of the distress we are causing to others on the planet?
Or will we come to our senses, as most two-year olds do, and learn that there is another way of living, beyond shouting and selfishness, where cooperation and respect create a harmony in which all may flourish?
Our Universe is filled with many planets, more than the grains of sand on Earth’s beaches. Surely, there will be life on some.
Given the nature of the molecules that were created at the birth of the Universe, it is likely that many will have evolved life based on carbon. As life evolved, they too will have discovered fossil fuels made from ancient sunlight, and undergone a carbon crisis.
The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Diego, Me, and Senor Xolotl,
by Frida Kahlo
What lies on the other side of this rite of passage, as we leave behind seven million years of planetary babyhood, and step into global childhood? When we learn to live within the limits of family life, no longer luxuriating as the centre of all attention?
There is well-researched evidence that when we choose to live within Earth’s limits, accepting the greater good of family discipline over the chaos that selfishness brings, there will be ample sufficiency for all.
There is well-researched evidence that when we choose to farm organically, within the limits of Earth’s bounty, we will receive more nutritional goodness than we do with our current poisonous methods of treating the soil.
There is evidence that when we choose to manage our forests ecologically, instead of the "grab and get rich" methods the two-year-old likes to indulge, we will harvest more resources, while sustaining the old-growth character of the forest, which is the only character there should be.
There is evidence that we can obtain all the energy we need from the Sun, Earth and gravity, leaving the remaining fossil fuels in the ground for the next Ice Age, when it might be useful to counter Earth’s cooling.
To sustain our present level of binge-living, we would need three or four additional planets – and this while a billion of our fellow humans still manage to live – or fail to live - on less than a dollar a day.
To live in the harmony of a healthy planetary childhood we will need to reduce our footprint on the planet by tenfold over the next 100 years.
That need not mean any loss of the things that matter. We can design zero net energy homes that are ten times lovelier than many of the boxes we call home today.
We can design things that are constantly recycled and reused, as nature has done for eternity.
We can fill our cities with urban gardens, rooftop greenery, and boulevard fruit and nut trees.
Life in a post-industrial, sustainable world can contain all the things that make life wonderful – friendly neighbours, fulfilling work, cooperative families, peaceful green spaces, beautiful architecture, locally brewed beer, music, art, protected wilderness, protected wildlife, inspiration, and love.
We need not fear the change that is coming. The Berlin Wall that blocked the way to environmental acceptance is coming down; the path to planetary childhood is opening before us.
One day, we will know what it means to enter planetary adulthood. But first, we have work to do.
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ECONEWS SUMMER APPEAL
Greetings! As the strawberries give us their long-awaited journey from vine to mouth, and all green things delight in the warmth of summer, the EcoNews bank account is heading towards empty.
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* Wanted: space for organic garden, Victoria region. Mike 385-0605
* Couple looking for home to rent with available garden space, Interurban area. 812-3379 email@example.com
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* Live Earth: July 7th, 2007. Using music to engage people to combat our climate crisis. Fernwood Inn, all day telecast. www.liveearth.org
When Victoria’s Green Drinks night was launched last fall, it was the largest launch of any of the 232 cities where Green Drinks are now enjoyed. For the uninitiated, Green Drinks is a chance for green-minded people to get together: no speakers, just endless stimulating conversations, and great connections. There is a deeply shared underpinning, determined by the awareness that we are living at a very critical time, and that each of us has truly important work to do.
On Tuesday July 10th, Green Drinks Victoria is stepping it up a notch with a Green Drinks and BBQ on the lawn at Royal Roads (6-8pm). So plan to be there – but come in eco-style, since The Great Sustainability Challenge is asking us to get to Royal Roads by the most sustainable means you can imagine – by bicycle, bus, kayak, horse, on foot, or perhaps by electric vehicle or biodiesel.
There’s also a Bumper Sticker Slogan Contest for the most powerful 6 to 8 words that address global warming. Any questions? Ask our intrepid organizer, Roger Colwill, 598-0077. See you there!
So what IS all this carbon offset business? Everyone’s talking about it, and everyone has a different opinion. It starts with the fact that the fossil fuels we use to drive, fly, and consume are all contributing to global warming. We are personally responsible for this.
An "offset" is an activity somewhere else that reduces the same amount of emissions. Your put five tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere here, so you pay to take them out there. On a straightforward basis, it makes sense. Some say it’s a valuable contribution to a solution. Others say it’s like paying for indulgences from the pre-reformation Catholic Church to buy your way into heaven.
I personally believe in the role of carbon offsets. Every year, I calculate my emissions from flying, driving etc, and pay $10 US a tonne to the Solar Electric Light Fund, based in Washington DC, which enables people in villages from Bhutan to Nigeria to install solar PV for lighting, instead of burning kerosene, which is a fossil fuel. It’s a direct reduction in emissions organized by a group that I know and trust, so it feels good to me.
There are other offset programmes that invest in tree-planting, and here I draw the line. For a tree to absorb the emissions you have created it has to live for 80 years without being burnt, cut down, or killed by pests. And 80 years is far too late. If we don’t get global warming turned around in the next 10-15 years, we’re in for some very heavy-duty death and suffering. Investing in tree-planting – as Air Canada is doing with its new offsets programme – is like buying indulgences.
For a good discussion of the problems with offsets, see www.tinyurl.com/2hlsoe .
So who sells good offsets, that you can trust?
Solar Electric Light Fund: www.self.org
Native Energy: www.nativeenergy.com
Cool Drive Pass: www.cooldrivepass.com
One of the essential characteristics of an offset is that the activity you put your money in would not have happened otherwise. If a province is requiring its people to reduce their emissions (which BC is not), an offset created in the province may be questionable, lending itself to double counting.
Saanich is setting up a carbon-neutral reserve fund to offset emissions from its municipal operations, which will be used to finance new GHG-reducing initiatives within Saanich such as solar hot water, geo-exchange, solar PV, fleet conversion, transportation demand management, and building retrofits, (see www.tinyurl.com/2kjmfs), and this I applaud.
As well as "solid offsets", I believe we also need to create a new category of "inspirational offsets", where direct tracking of reduced emissions may not be not possible, but where the activity will educate and inspire others. As long as we plan to reduce our future emissions as well as offsetting our past ones, this may be a valid way to finance the development of innovative carbon-reducing initiatives.
THE LUXUREVIL OF FLYING
Yes, it’s a new word, seen here for the first time. But luxurevil aptly describes our habit of flying, trading the pleasure of visiting exotic locations and loved ones in the present for chaos and suffering in the future.
The airline industry tries to talk a good line about how future planes will be more efficient, and maybe use some biofuels (which may make no difference to net emissions), but Boeing alone has 17,000 planes already in use, and there are no plans to retrofit them for what might be a tiny increase in efficiency.
And to be truthful, there are no real substitutes for kerosene. There is a solar plane, but it only takes one person, and it has to fly at 30,000 feet to gather enough sunshine and the pilot has to wear 6 layers of thermal underwear.
For some journeys, the solution is good teleconferencing (see www.tinyurl.com/38tx9p), or a webcam plus skype.
For others, the only "solution" is to offset your flight. Airplane emissions amount to 2% of the world’s CO2 emissions, rising by 3-4% a year, but that needs to be doubled or tripled to account for the fact that air pollution from flying creates ozone (another greenhouse gas) and because high flying creates cloud cover at high altitudes, trapping heat within the atmosphere.
To calculate your emissions for any particular long-distance flight, use one of these websites, remembering to multiply the result by 2.5, since they are not showing the full impact. Offsetters says Victoria to Halifax return is 1.23 tonnes of CO2, for instance, and Terrapass says it is only 2161 lbs (0.98 tonnes). For the true impact, you should assume 3 tonnes.
VANCOUVER STEPS UP
Vancouver has just voted to reduce its community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below today’s level by 2020, and 80% by 2050. It’s a start, but nowhere near enough. The City of London, in order to reduce the chance of catastrophic climate change, is aiming for a 60% reduction below the 1990 level by 2025. Vancouver has also voted to make all new construction carbon-neutral by 2030, in keeping with the 2030 Challenge, an initiative by architects to reduce the emissions associated with buildings.
We’re in a period of critical change, so how can you keep up with what’s happening? I use these free daily resources, which deliver key stories from all around the world direct to my email:
I have also been reading books: Heat, by George Monbiot, and The Last Generation: How Nature will Take Her Revenge for Climate Change, by Fred Pearce, environmental journalist for Britain’s prestigious weekly magazine New Scientist. Grim, but essential.
CANCER: 101 SOLUTIONS
And now, it is with great pleasure that I can announce that my new book, which I have spent 4 years writing with my co-authors Liz Armstrong and Anne Wordsworth, has just been published. It is called Cancer: 101 Solutions to a Preventable Epidemic (New Society Publishers), and it has been getting rave reviews on the many US radio shows where I have been interviewed.
The book challenges the pervasive view that cancer is being caused by our various "lifestyle" errors, and turns the spotlight on the multiple pollutants that have invaded our bodies.
How right can it be that at the moment of birth, a baby has 230 industrial pollutants in its blood and urine, 97 of which have known links to cancer?
How right can it be that over the last 50 years, food not grown organically has lost 50% of its iron, calcium, sodium, copper and magnesium?
That non-organic potatoes have lost 100% of their Vitamin C? How right can it be that so many of the chemicals we are exposed to have never been subject to health or safety testing?
Or that the same chemicals are also implicated with asthma, allergies, chemical sensitivity, immune system disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, infertility, and brain disorders such as Parkinson’s? How right can it be?
The book is packed full of solutions, from the individual right up to the global level, where we need far-reaching treaties to end this nonsense and pass on a world free from these insidious dangers to our children.
There is a launch of the book and a full slide presentation on Thursday July 19th (7pm), in the Garry Oak Room, 1335 Thurlow, Fairfield.
The beauty of summer is here, so don’t miss out on the many wonderful opportunities we have on Vancouver Island. The Victoria Natural History Society has a full roster of outings (www.vicnhs.bc.ca), and likewise CRD Parks, whose outings include hikes for adults, many events for children, and early morning and evening canoe tours on our lakes (www.crd.bc.ca/parks). Club Tread has events almost every day (www.clubtread.org). Hurricane Ridge, across the water in Washington State, is just stunning in late July, when the alpine flowers bloom, and from the Sooke Potholes to Wildwood, The Land Conservancy has treasures to explore and nature cruises throughout the summer (www.conservancy.bc.ca). Go enjoy!
ACTION OF THE MONTH:
THE LIVING OCEANS
Could you imagine life in British Columbia without the ocean, and the multitude of marine life that enriches us all, from salmon and starfish to kelp and sea otters, whales and dolphins? And yet they are so threatened by commercial bottom trawling, salmon farming, and unsustainable fisheries.
Of the 58 commercial fish species that are commonly harvested in BC, the abundance of 24 species is rated as low, 12 are rated as below average, and only 11 are rated as average to optimal. Inadequate information is available for the remaining 11 species.
Salmon farming still continues, despite the evidence that the predator nets it uses to keep sea-lions, dolphins and porpoises at bay are trapping and drowning them, and that the farms spread sea-lice to healthy wild salmon, causing a dramatic decline in wild salmon stocks. No wonder Alaska has banned all salmon farming.
Action: Write to Premier Gordon Campbell and Federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn, urging them to mandate an industry-wide transition to land-based, closed containment technology for fish farming, and end this travesty once and for all.
The Rt Hon Gordon Campbell, Parliament Buildings, Victoria V8V 1X4 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Rt Hon Loyola Hearn, Rm 441-S, Centre Block, House of Commons, Ottawa, K1A 0A6 (HearnL@parl.gc.ca)
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