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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. 176 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island - December 2007

Now available as PDF's! Front (PDF169kb) - Middle (PDF675kb) - Green Diary (PDF86kb)


What is happening to our civilization? Report after report is warning us that global climate change, driven by our use of fossil fuels, is pushing us towards the cliff.

Ever since the 1970s, the framing of environmental problems by many people has been “Good Earth, bad humans”. Humans are sometimes said to be like a cancer spreading out of control, exhausting Earth’s resources and polluting Nature’s body until it’s all over. Some suggest that it might be better if humans did kill themselves off, leaving Nature to recover without us.

I am appalled by this way of thinking, and its negativity. I believe deeply in the beauty of the human spirit. We have the ability to achieve incredible things – as well as to be totally stupid. I love the fact that we are 100% part of Nature, that the same genes that create flippers in fish create fingers and toes in us.

I view our existence through the lens of time, stretching millions of years into the past and millions of years into the future. Like all species, we learn as we go along, starting from a place of total ignorance about the Universe.

We have been asking serious questions for at least 10,000 years. With the development of written language we were able to formalize our thoughts, enabling new generations to use the intellectual capital of their ancestors.

Hindu and Babylonian thinkers organized their philosophies 5,000 years ago. When the Greek and Roman civilizations collapsed, the torch of enquiry was carried forward in the Muslim world, and rediscovered in Europe at the end of the Middle Ages.

The spirit of open-minded enquiry was always seeking to break free from the blanket of tradition and superstition that was passed from one generation to the next. It is the same impulse that causes a young salmon to try a new river, or a wolf to seek new territory. It was by this spirit of enquiry that we learnt how to make fire by burning wood, and how to make steam by burning coal.

From 1500 to 1800 AD developments in European culture finally enabled the spirit of enquiry to break free, as a result of which we established the organized system of enquiry we call science, and legally enshrined systems of democracy and human rights.

Hand-in-hand with the spirit of enquiry, we released the spirit of freedom that wanted desperately to escape from poverty, serfdom, kings and aristocrats. When Prince Albert organized The Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851, six million people came to marvel at the promise of a new world. Using the concentrated power of ancient fossil fuels, we developed the technologies our world is based on today.Carbon Chart

Looking back, are we to say all this was wrong? And if so, how far back does the wrongness go? Was it the spirit of enquiry itself that was wrong? I hardly think so.

So let us think our way through the crisis and ask where it might lead. We are burning the fossil fuels that were laid down over 200 million years. Every year, we burn a million years of stored ancient sunlight. We are certainly using this one-time gift from the past to indulge our whims – but we are also using it to build intellectual capital.

We could not have developed a solar cell or a super-efficient LED light bulb in 1750. We could not have developed solar thermal energy or plug-in hybrid electric cars. We needed this one-time burst of ancient energy to lift us to a position where we can power our world with renewable energy from the sun, wind, earth and tides without further need for fossil fuels.

Seen this way, the age of fossil fuels is the ramp of intellectual capital that will enable us to take off into a permanent post-carbon world. Thanks to coal, oil and gas, we have been able to build the scientific and engineering skills we need to do without them. They are the carbon-based booster rockets that will enable us to launch our civilization into the solar age.

So what about the climate crisis? It is extremely urgent. The scientists are warning that if we are to avoid 450 ppm of CO2, bringing a 2 Cº temperature rise, the melt-down of Greenland, and a 6-7 metre rise in sea level, we must cease our global yearly increase in emissions within ten years, and move to a zero emissions carbon neutral world as rapidly as possible.

The sooner we achieve lift-off, abandoning our carbon-based booster rockets, the less will be the chance of a collapse and foul landing.

This is not a time for hand-wringing, whining and despair. This is a time for courage, passion and excitement about the next great energy revolution, when we rebuild our civilization on the secure foundation of renewable energy, efficiently used.

This is a time for determination, when we work together as families, schools, businesses, colleges, cities, governments and the whole world to embrace and adopt the solutions. This is the moment of lift-off, which, if successful, will lead us to a healthy, ecologically sustainable world, and a host of future promises.  

 - 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 a stamped addressed envelope.

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A big thankyou to Katey Bloomfield, John Lutz & Cheryl Coull, Jill Stainforth, Jean Matheson, Allen Milne, Kathleen Woodley, John Van Beek, Patricia Badcock, Kathleen Shore, Bill Ashwell, Penny Furnes, Claude Maurice, Ruth Masters, Mitchell Timin, Jay Gysler, Corinna Scott, Carol McGrath, and Anita Wolfe, in memory of Roger Colwill.

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* Want to reduce your energy use, but need help? Knowledgeable, courteous, effective.

* Charming guest room, $30/night. Cook St Village, ocean. 250-361-3102

* Pacific Gardens Cohousing Nanaimo 250-754-3060

* Seeking partners to buy land for eco-living

* Peninsula Mindful Living is a community meditation group for women. We meet in Brentwood Bay, 6:30pm each Thursday evening. Tatha

* Recipe for a Cool Planet: 50 Ways You Can Help Slow Climate Change. Looking for distribution channels and ad sponsors. Books can retail at $5 each, wholesale $3.  Helen 250-544-2064

* Cowichan Valley Recycle & Re-Use – an online Forum where you can gift reusable items & keep them out of the landfill. See

* Victoria-based food co-op accepting new members.

* For sale – Solid maple student desk, mint condition. $65. David, 361-1399

"The Earth and the human community are bound in a single journey." - Thomas Berry



1. Remember Why

Midwinter celebrations have happened for at least 5,000 years as Solstice, Yule, Hanukkah and Christmas celebrate spiritual rebirth, the rebirth of the Sun, and the birth of the Christ. Today, this ancient spiritual core is in danger of getting lost as consumerism colonizes Christmas. If everyone on Earth was to consume the way we do, we’d need three more planets. So let’s celebrate without trashing the Earth.  

2. Plan a Green Christmas

The holiday is a family affair, so if you want to celebrate with less collateral damage, you’ll need to engage the whole family. Sit down and have a family meeting. Maybe plan to make it a carbon neutral Christmas?

3.  Send E-cards

If each Canadian mails 10 greetings cards, that’s 300 million cards, causing 100,000 trees to be cut down. To prevent this forest-slaughter, along with the loss of habitat for owls and wolves, make sure your cards are printed on 100% recycled paper, or better, send an e-card.

4. Throw a Garbage-Free Party

Plastic cups, paper plates, wasted food – isn’t there a better way? Borrow real cups and plates from your neighbours, or ask your friends to bring their own. Help your guests to use transit by including the bus schedule, and set up a party car-pool at . Buy locally brewed beer and local wine. Imported beer is simply flavoured water with a heavy carbon footprint.

5. Try a 100-Mile Christmas Dinner

With food imported from Mexico, Africa and Europe, a Christmas dinner may travel 75,000 kilometres before it reaches your mouth, racking up a big carbon footprint. Maximize local ingredients by shopping at local farmers markets and stores that sell local produce. Try recipes from The 100-Mile Diet.

6. Be Kind to a Turkey

Most turkeys are not raised on a happy farm surrounded by ducks and geese. They are factory-reared in sheds, packed so tight that they can hardly stretch a wing while standing in their own urine and waste. There are plenty of tasty vegetarian alternatives. If you must eat meat, find a local free range organic chicken or turkey.  

7. Give Green Gifts

Follow this hierarchy of impacts to make your best eco-choices. First, aim for non-material gifts such as tickets to a concert or museum, a membership to a green organization, certificates that promise a day’s outing or an hour of massage, or a donation to your loved-one’s favorite charity. Next, think about hand-made gifts such as a photo-album or home-made jam. Finally, material gifts from second-hand and antique stores, green gifts that support a more sustainable lifestyle, and locally made gifts from craft fairs and local stores.

8. Give a Gift of Forest

You could eliminate the Christmas tree, and make a holiday display from fallen branches and decorations - or buy a living tree you use for several years before it grows too big and you plant it out. Or a good artificial tree you can re-use for many years. If you must buy a cut tree, make sure you recycle it for composting when the holiday is over. For a gift that gives twice, you could sponsor an acre of rainforest or of threatened land here in BC, as we make our peace with the forests.

9. Give Books that Inspire

Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, who died this year, gave all her friends green books and magazines to get them inspired and motivated - a subscription to YES! Magazine, a video such as The Eleventh Hour or An Inconvenient Truth, or a book in New Society Publishers’ Solutions Project series.

10. Remember the Less Fortunate

There are single parents who can’t afford gifts for their children, homeless people who sleep rough on the streets, and lonely people in hospitals and old folks homes. They also yearn for love, warmth and the company of friends. So remember to include them in your giving. At the end of the day, kindness is the gift that gives the most.

By Guy Dauncey, adapted from Corporate Knights Magazine, Dec 2007


Seeds of Victoria
Certified Organic – Locally Grown
See the 2008 Seed catalogue online:
Christmas Collections  - Great Gifts



In our chemically permeated world, some people have been unwittingly assaulted by chemicals, and now suffer from acute chemical sensitivity – even the smallest amount of perfume, pesticide, laundry cleaner, or air “freshener” can trigger palpitations of the heart, nausea, abdominal cramping, aching joints, or a number of other symptoms.

It’s known as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), sometimes also as chronic fatigue syndrome. Those who suffer have to make extraordinary arrangements to avoid being triggered, while living with the raised eyebrows of those not affected.

Here in Victoria, the Ecological Health Alliance produces a valuable newsletter, the current issue of which contains a survival guide for those who are new to MCS, and lots of tips and advice. If this affects you, call 250-658-2027. They are also having a Christmas social at Green Cuisine on Dec 9th (see Diary).

For those not affected, please refrain from smelly perfumes: they may feel beautiful but can be very distressing to those who suffer from MCS. See



The Earth has radius of some 6,400 km, and when we drill down we can use the hot water that rises to run a steam turbine – around 10,000 MW of geothermal power is generated this way worldwide. Drill down deeper, and the available energy is enormous.

In January 2007, a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published a study looking at the potential energy 6 to 10 km down into granite, where the temperature reaches 400 C. Their findings are quite stunning.

For an investment of $1 billion we could produce 100,000 MW of power by 2050. Exxon Mobil made $39.5 billion profit in 2006, so $1 billion is 9 days profit for one oil company.

They estimated the total resource to be 130,000 times larger and the extractable portion 2,000 times larger than the total annual consumption of primary energy in the USA; similar data shows up for Europe and Australia.

Vinod Khosla, a top investor who is very alert to the dangers of climate change, is backing its potential, alongside solar thermal power, and so is Google’s new renewable energy investment project. We need a concerted global investment effort to develop the technology in a greatly accelerated manner.


BUILDING AN ARKBuilding an Ark

Ethan Smith grew up on a remote farm in the West Kootenays where he lived surrounded by wild creatures, and helped raise an orphan fawn at the age of 11. Today, he found a way to give back to the animal realm with a beautiful new book called Building an Ark: 101 Solutions to Animal Suffering (New Society Publishers), with a Foreword by Jane Goodall.

The book is grounded in the awfulness of how we treat the world’s animals and fish, but it is not a catalogue of pain and cruelty. It is a glorious compendium of inspiration, stories and practical examples of legislation, projects, business practices and personal lifestyle changes that are changing the way we treat animals. It is packed full of resources, and enables anyone to get involved and make a difference.

As a disclaimer, I will say that I am Ethan’s co-author, but this is his project, and he has done an amazing job of it. Available in bookshops, and at ($24.95).

“You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.”

Alan Watts



Ontarians recently defeated a proposal to adopt a mixed member proportional (MMP) voting system, but they ran into some very negative media opposition that made it seem very bewildering, which it is not. “37% voted for MMP and the press called it a resounding defeat. 42% voted for Mr. McGuinty and the press called it a resounding victory." Here in BC, we get a second chance in May 2009 to vote for electoral reform so that the will of the people is no longer reflected by a party that might be strongly opposed by 60% of the people. That’s not democracy – that’s domination by a minority. Fair Vote Canada is taking the lead to reform Canada’s antiquated voting systems, and they need our support, especially as a new BC campaign begins in 2008. For membership details, see



Do you want to earn a green MBA, but haven’t the time for a full course? Check out the short 4-course program starting this March on Salt Spring through the Institute for Sustainability Education and Action.



Are you a Citizens Bank VISA member, and do you care about farmland and local food? If so, please voting for TLC The Land Conservancy, which has been nominated as of the Citizens Bank Shared Interest Award Environmental Finalists. Voting happens between Dec 15 and January 30.  See



Gregor Robertson (NDP), MLA for Vancouver Fairview, has introduced two important private members bills into the Legislature.

The first is a Right to Know Act that would require hazard labels to clearly identify carcinogens, and other toxins, and the labelling of GE ingredients in food.

The second, a Toxics Use Reduction Act, would require the reduction, replacement or elimination of toxins in the manufacturing of products; ban toxic substances that are prohibited elsewhere; ban pesticides for residential or cosmetic use, on public lands, and around children; set a goal for BC to achieve a 50% reduction of toxics generated by industry by 2015; require comprehensive toxic use reduction plans and reporting by large quantity toxics users, and more. For the details, see

Action: Write to the Premier to ask for adoption of the bills: Rt Hon Premier Campbell, PO Box 9041, Stn Prov Gov, Victoria V8W 9E1. 250-387-1715

Please send a copy to:

George Abbott, Minister of Health,

Barry Penner, Minister of Environment and

Gregor Robertson, MLA



Some noteworthy sites that have passed my way:


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Click here for previous issues of EcoNews.

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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