No. 175 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
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THE SILENCE OF THE BEES
We live on the Earth as infants, depending on Mother Nature to feed us, give us the resources we demand, and clean up our mess.
We do not teach ecology in our schools. Our political and business leaders are not ecologically versed; nor are most college professors.
No wonder we are getting into a mess. The very word “ecology” come from the Greek words oikos + logos, meaning “knowledge of the household”. As a culture, we do not understand the household rules of our planet.
Instead, like two-year olds, most people want Mother Earth to go on providing coal, oil, timber, fish, meat, and everything else.
When things go wrong, as they are with disturbing frequency, we tend to act naïve. Like a two-year-old, we think “that’s mother’s department – she’ll make it alright.”
Enter the bee, a small insect with 60,000 species that has played an essential role in Earth’s household management for 100 million years.
The bee’s role is to pollinate flowers, transferring male pollen grains to the female ovule. 80% of Nature’s pollination is done by insects such as the bee; 20% is done by the wind, including all the grasses and trees.
Historically, when a good-sized blueberry farm was 500 acres, a farmer could depend on wild bees and local hives to pollinate them. Today, with farms of up to 10,000 acres, there are not enough bees to do the pollination.
Enter the traveling bee-keeper, shipping hives in semi-trailers to Florida in winter for the citrus and cantaloupe, then maybe to Pennsylvania in spring for the apples and cherries, and California for the almonds.
The industry’s bees pollinate 100 flowering crops, including apples, nuts, avocados, kiwi, broccoli, soybeans, asparagus, celery, squash, cucumbers, citrus fruit, peaches, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, melons, and animal feed crops such as clover. In a good year, a beekeeper can realize a $100,000 profit.
Last winter, however, when the beekeepers went to ready their hives for the new season, many were shocked to find them empty. The adult bees had flown off, never to return, choosing to die outside the hive rather than infest it. Hives containing up to 40,000 bees had been left with honey intact – not even predators wanted to scavenge them.
Some beekeepers lost 90% of their colonies. More than 25% of America’s 2.4 million bee colonies were lost to “colony collapse disorder” – and beekeepers around the world were reporting similar collapses.
When the scientists investigated, they found the bees’ bodies filled with fungi and parasitic mites and up to 40 pesticides in the hives, including neo-nicotinoids, designed to break down an insect’s immune system and cause memory loss and nervous system disorder, partially banned by France because of its very impact on the bees.
The current consensus is that the most likely suspect is the Israeli acute paralysis virus, found in 96% of the infected hives, first identified in 2004 when Israel started importing bees from Australia. This is probably the straw that broke the camel’s back, in a situation where bees are being stressed by mites, viruses, toxic pesticides, long-distance trucking, and poor nutrition, since monocultured crops do not have the food they need. Cell-phones, initially suspected, are not on the list.
With the virus identified, there are hopes that resistant bees can be bred. In the meantime, beekeepers are waiting see if their colonies collapse again this winter. If they do, many beekeepers and farmers will face bankruptcy, since there will not be other hives to rent.
Some species of bumblebee, which pollinate 15% of US crops including tomatoes, peppers and strawberries raised in greenhouses, are also disappearing.
Albert Einstein once wrote "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
This should be the most profound of wake-up calls. Like global warming, it is a potential life-ending situation that we have brought on ourselves by our fundamental ignorance of Earth’s ecology. We really have to wake up, and pay attention.
We cannot spray pesticides willy-nilly and expect the bees not to be affected. We cannot grow monocultures so big that bees have to be trucked across the continent. We must plan for a full global transition to bee-friendly, ecologically friendly organic farming. And we must teach ecology in all our schools and colleges.
We must also work to stop the spraying of pesticides in our cities; Victoria City Council is expected to vote on this sometime in November.
We owe it to the bees, and to our whole future on this planet. As Einstein says, life could not exist without the bees.
- Guy Dauncey
Thanks to PBS TV - The Silence of the Bees.
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to Brian Pinch and Lorena Mowers, both in memory of Roger Colwill.
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Connecting your money with your values
TOP TEN CLIMATE SOLUTIONS
#1: SOLAR THERMAL
Over the next ten months,
EcoNews will lay out what we believe to be the ten most effective technological
solutions to global warming, starting with the solar thermal generation of
The world’s entire remaining
store of fossil fuels is the equivalent of solar energy that shines on Earth’s
deserts every 47 days. Algeria alone has enough solar thermal potential to
supply Europe’s entire energy needs 50 times over.
The technology consists of a
series of parabolic arrays that gather the sun’s heat and concentrate it onto a
pipe filled with water, creating steam that drives a turbine. The power is then
transmitted underwater or over land using high voltage DC cables that have
lower EMF emissions and power loss.
In the Nevada desert, a 64 MW
system is producing power for around 10-12 cents kWh. At the recent Clinton
Global Initiative the power company PG&E signed a deal to purchase 2000 MW
over the next five years from Ausra, a company started by the Canadian
entrepreneur, scientist and innovator David Mills.
Since heat can be stored
using hot water, oil or salts, solar thermal power can deliver baseload power
24 hours a day.
Solar thermal power will be
cheaper than carbon captured coal or nuclear power, and has the potential to
deliver 90% of the world’s electricity without carbon emissions. Globally, the
best locations for plants are the western US, southern Europe, north Africa and
the Middle East, north India and western China.
One way to accelerate the
technology would be commitments by nations to generate 25% of their power from
solar thermal by 2020 and 50% by 2030, linked to close-down of the world’s
coal-fired power plants. See www.ausra.com and
ROGER COLWILL, R.I.P.
Our friend Roger Colwill died
suddenly in September while enjoying a peaceful cup of tea with his wife and
best companion, Barbara. He was such a great friend, supporter and ally to me,
ever since we met on Earth Day in Beacon Hill Park 17 years ago - and I hear
from so many people how he helped and encouraged you.
Roger had an abiding belief
in our ability to make a difference in the world. In the perfect Roger World,
we would all would wear two badges, one saying: “I’m good that these things
– can I help you?” the other saying: “I need help with these things
– can you help me?”
He knew that 1 plus 3 always
equaled 5 because of the magic that happens when people spark each other’s
creativity and open new dreams.
I think he will enjoy being a
student in the new class he has joined. They probably take that love and
support for granted and wonder why we are so slow to help each other here on
Earth, and why we are so timid in our dreams.
Roger knew that we face an
enormous crisis, but he also knew how much better things would be if we
supported each other as we work to make a difference.
On behalf of so many, I say
“Thankyou, Roger. We love you and thank you.” Farewell, our truest friend. Your
dreams will live on.
Green Drinks lives on too, on
the 2nd Tuesday of every month at the Canoe Brewpub, 450 Swift St, from 5-8pm.
Carpentry – Woodworking - Flooring –
BC’S CLIMATE PLANS
At the Union of BC
Municipalities conference this September, Premier Campbell revealed some of the
measures the BC government is preparing as it seeks to reduce BC’s greenhouse
emissions to 33% below today’s level by 2020. They include:
- the formation of a blue ribbon Climate Action
Team which will determine viable emission reduction strategies, followed
by legislated targets for 2012, 2016, 2020 and 2050;
- legislation to create market mechanisms that will
enable BC to require “hard caps” on GHG emissions for industry;
- regional symposiums to discuss GHG reduction
strategies with the forestry, mining, energy, waste and agricultural
- legislation this fall that will require all BC
government agencies, crown agencies, school boards and health authorities
to become carbon neutral by 2010 with mandatory annual progress reports;
- a new BC Carbon Trust that will enable people,
companies and governments to become carbon neutral by supporting
made-in-BC carbon-reducing projects;
- greenhouse gas reduction strategies and targets
that will be legally required in all Official Community Plans and regional
- municipalities to be allowed to waive development
cost charges to encourage green developments and small houses;
- all new government facilities to be LEED Gold;
- California’s tailpipe emissions low carbon
standards for vehicles to be phased in from 2009-2016, reducing vehicle
CO2 emissions by 10% by 2020;
- a 5% renewable fuel standard by 2010; $50 million
for BC Transit to buy new clean buses and expand public transit;
- and the promise of a new vision for transit to be
announced this fall aimed at making BC a global leader in public transit.
The details will be released
later this fall, suggesting an ability to achieve up to 82% of the 33%
The government also unveiled
a Climate Change Action Charter signed by 62 municipalities, which have pledged
in a non-legally binding manner to significantly reduce their greenhouse gas
emissions and become carbon neutral in their corporate operations by 2012, and
to work to create compact, more energy efficient communities. The Charter
commits local governments to work for the best green developments, reducing
This is impressive, but we
must remember that the climate science demands a far deeper level of reduction
if we are to avoid the catastrophic impacts that are coming. The City of London
has set a scientifically more appropriate goal of 60% below its 1990 emissions
by 2025. BC’s goal of 10% below 1990 by 2020 is a great start, but only a
PLASTIC BAGS CAMPAIGN
Lana Popham, a Saanich mom,
has launched a campaign to ban plastic bags, as other municipalities are doing.
To help, call Lana at 652-4110.
12 Steps to Sustainable, Home Grown Food Production
An Organic Approach to Greater Self-Sufficiency
March 15th – October 21st,
$650 for all sessions, or $55 per session
Presented by Carolyn Herriot and Glendale Gardens
Medea Benjamin is a prominent
US peace activist, cofounder of the women’s peace organization Code Pink and
the human rights group Global Exchange; Ann Wright is a retired US Army Colonel
and career diplomat. On October 4th, they were traveling to Toronto to meet
with the Stop the War Coalition when they were selected for a background check
at the Niagara Falls border crossing.
As part of her persistent
efforts to stop the war in Iraq, Medea had received three minor convictions in
the US, one for unlawful assembly at the White House on International Women’s
Day; one for speaking out during a Congressional Hearing; and one for
trespassing when a group tried to deliver 152,000 anti-war signatures to the US
mission to the United Nations. Anne had some minor convictions, the equivalent
of parking tickets for which she had paid fines.
As a result of their
convictions, the Canadian border guards denied them entry. But how did they
obtain these records? Canada is the first country to start using the FBI
database called the National Crime Information Center, created to find
fugitives, convicted sex offenders, missing persons, and members of terrorist
organizations and violent gangs.
When she was refused entry, a
journalist warned Medea that “Canada is a bellwether. If it gets away with
this, other countries, under US pressure, will follow.” We all need to speak
out loudly. Why are the Canadian border police enforcing rules created by the
FBI and other US agencies?
There’s a petition at www.codepinkalert.org/Canada,
and our letters of protest are needed to The Hon Diane Finley, P.C.,
Citizenship and Immigration Canada,
Ottawa, K1A 1L1, Email
Medea loved and admired
Canada. She says “We come in peace. We come with humility. Please don’t forsake
us in our hour of need.”
The Great Climate Challenge - Practical Solutions
with Guy Dauncey
Sat November 24, 9am-5pm
an excellent day"- past course
$95. Call 391-2600 x 4801
Royal Roads University
ACTION OF THE MONTH: THE
JORDAN RIVER BLUES
There is growing outrage at
the decision by BC Forests Minister Rich Coleman to allow Western Forest
Products (WFP) to sell 28,000 hectares of forest land from Sooke to Jordan
River for development. Coleman has handed WFP a multi-billion dollar windfall,
while signaling the go-ahead for land development in a remote rural area
without any requirements to create the “compact, more energy efficient
communities” that it is asking BC’s municipalities to support in its climate
The Ministry of Forests has
also failed to consult the public or to put any protection in place for
ecologically treasured lands such as the forest adjacent to the Sooke Potholes
and the Sea-to-Sky Greenbelt or at Muir Creek, just west of Sooke.
WFP has turned round and sold
2,532 of the 28,000 hectares to Vancouver developer Ender Ilkay for an
estimated $500 million. If you or I want to get 28 hectares rezoned for
development and increase its density, creating potential for significant
profit, we have to go through a proper legal process, including a Public
Hearing and a requirement to provide land for public parks. Here, the Minister
has rezoned 28,000 hectares with no questions asked or conditions required,
purely because he thought the company “needed some help”.
There is such a stink of
corruption here that there should be a full public enquiry. In 2004, the
Ministry did the same for Weyerhaeuser, letting it take 220,000 acres out of
tree farm licenses around Port Alberni for an estimated benefit of $200
million. We didn’t protest much then, so maybe they thought it was OK for the
Minister to give some more hand-outs to his forest industry friends.
Action: Write to Premier Campbell and demand that the
province retroactively veto the agreement, compensate the developer for his
out-of-pocket travel costs, and initiate a proper public discussion as to how
best to develop or not develop the coastal lands from Sooke to Port
Rt Hon Premier Campbell, PO
Box 9041, Stn Prov Gov, Victoria V8W 9E1. 250-387-1715. email@example.com
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