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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. 177 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island - January 2008

Now available as PDF's! Front (PDF469kb) - Middle (PDF1.32mb) - Green Diary (PDF123kb)


Living on Vancouver Island, we take for granted that our shops overflow with food. We grow no more than 5% of it, however - the rest is shipped in, mostly from California and Mexico. In the event of an emergency, we have only 3 days food supply.

For the past 50 years, the world’s farmers and farming corporations have managed to increase production to keep up with population growth, thanks partly to the use of fertilizers and herbicides. This has kept food prices low and the stores full. Why bother with locally grown food when you can ship it in from around the world?

Suddenly, however, everything is changing. Last year, the world’s stocks of wheat fell by 11%, and corn stocks have also fallen. The UN’s food price index rose by 40% in 2007, after a 9% rise in 2006. Josette Sheeran, of the World Food Program, said “We are concerned that we are facing the perfect storm for the world’s hungry.”

This is not a temporary glitch - this is the start of a serious long-term trend. One cause is the early impact of global warming. In 2007, the drought in Australia reduced grain production by 40%, and harvests have been hit by droughts, floods and heatwaves in many other countries. When temperatures rise above 35°C, crops cease to grow - in 2003 the Ukraine lost 75% of its harvest due to that year’s heat wave.

Meanwhile, the world population continues to grow, and as people become wealthier they want to eat more meat, with the result that cropland that used to feed humans now grows soybeans for cattle.

And then there is the craze for biofuel as an erroneous solution to global warming. The US is diverting 20% of its maize crop is to make ethanol, and around the world millions of hectares of land are being used to grow biodiesel and ethanol. The world’s 800 million motorists are moving into a cruel competition for farmland with the world’s 2 billion poorest people.

Add the increased price of oil as we approach peak oil, and the growing shortages of water around the world, and it makes for a very troublesome picture.

Globally, these problems all have solutions, so while there is an urgent need to act, there is no fundamental reason to worry.

The Garden Path

From A Year on the Garden Path - a 52 Week Organic Gardening Guide, by Carolyn Herriot.

Firstly, if all the world’s farmers switched to organic methods they could - according to solid research (see here and here) - grow almost twice as much food. Cancer rates would fall, ecosystems would recover, soil erosion would stop, and wildlife would return to the farmland -it’s a no-brainer. The challenge is how to prise control of the farmlands out of the hands of the agro-chemical corporations who would much rather we believed that organic farming is deluded and unproductive.

Secondly, there would food enough even for an eventual population of 9.5 billion people if we stopped eating meat, and used the farmland instead to grow grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts for a vegetarian and vegan diet. A vegetarian diet requires seven times less land than a meat-based diet - and there is solid evidence from The China Study that people who eat plant-based food have less illness and live longer lives than those who eat meat. Meat and dairy production also produce 18% of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, so there’s another solid reason to cut back.

Nor do we need biofuels grown on cropland to power our cars: plug-in hybrid electric vehicles make far more sense, using electricity from the wind, sun and geothermal, topped up with a small amount of biofuel for longer journeys derived from wastes, sewage, algae and seaweed.

Meanwhile, we’re facing a very serious problem for which the solution has to be a dramatic increase in locally grown organic food here on Vancouver Island. In summer there is no limit to the crops we can grow; in winter, we can grow 45 different winter vegetables.

There are many young people who want to be farmers - the problem is the price of land, for which we need a community farmland purchase program.

We could grow far more food in our backyards - this simply needs encouragement, and workshops where we can re-learn the food-growing skills our ancestors took for granted.

Wherever there is vacant land local people should be allowed to use it for community allotments, at one year’s notice to the owner - such as the multi-acre BC Hydro Lands on Haultain Street in Saanich, which have sat empty for at least 20 years.

We could allow grow fruit trees along our city boulevards. We could encourage rooftop gardens in the downtown, where land is scarce. The Butchart Gardens and Royal Roads could plant showcase organic vegetable gardens they were proud of.

Locally grown organic food tastes better, has zero carbon emissions, and has important cancer fighting properties that non-organic food does not. The arguments go on and on. So let’s do it!

Guy Dauncey



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.



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EcoNews costs $1,100 to produce each month, and reaches around 8,000 people, including every MLA in BC and every CRD municipal politician. If you value the information it provides, will you support it with a donation? The bank account is very empty, and it’s 95% funded by donations from readers like you.

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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$1.30 a word. Non-profits, low-income free. 1" box ad $50

* New Year's Wish: Earth-friendly room mate to share bright & cosy 2BR apartment, main floor of Jubilee character house. Spacious rooms, garden, TV free. Resident cat. One bathroom only. Rent around $500 (negotiable). Christina 216-3733

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

* 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

* Natural building & sustainable food apprenticeships, work-trade options.  Courses, guest speakers, documentary evenings at OUR Ecovillage, Cobble Hill.

* Syd’s Demo Salvage. Quality building materials. We also purchase homes. 250-381-1141.

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


Your local Eco Realtor®
Learn how green remodeling
will make your home a winner.
Work with me to buy a greener home.
Toll-free 1-800-263-4753
Royal LePage



Do you want to reduce your carbon emissions and help your friends reduce theirs at the same time? The Sierra Club is looking for hosts for House Cooling Parties as part of its campaign to address global warming.

You invite some friends, co-workers or neighbours over for a party, and the Sierra Club provides you with a DVD and package of information about practical things people can do to reduce their carbon footprints. The first Parties will be on Jan 17th, 22nd and 30th. If you’re interested, call 386-5255 ext. 237 or email



Cowichan RecyclistsAaron Bichard and Katie Harris live in Duncan, where they run home-based businesses as a photographer and a radio broadcaster, and when they saw a big ecological problem recently - the big smelly trucks that collect garbage to truck to a landfill 400 km away - they thought “there must be a better way”. Duncan businesses are not allowed to mix recyclables in the garbage, but there’s no easy way to recycle them, so businesses are in a bit of a bind.

Enter Aaron and Katie’s creativity. They called Tony’s Trailers in Mill Bay (, and Tony made them a sturdy one than can haul over 90kg (see photo). They started in September with 10 contracts, collecting recyclables every Wednesday and biking them to the nearby Harper’s Recycling. By December they had 40 contracts, all by word of mouth and advertising on the trailer. Way to go! See .




Here in Victoria, the Pedal to Petal Urban Agricultural Collective is collecting household compostables by bike for $5 a week, and turning it into compost that will be used in urban organic agriculture projects that provide fresh produce for low-income Victorians. Call 383-5144 #1116.


Carpentry - Woodworking
Flooring - Design/CAD Consulting
Harald Wolf 882-9653



Ever had this experience? You’re going to an event where you know you’ll meet like-minded people, and you think “If only I could share a ride with someone.” We’d burn less fuel, create less traffic, and have a generally happier time. The good news is that we can, using . If you click on any region of North America you can see who wants or is offering a ride. If you are organizing an event you can set up a group with its own password, enabling people to link up. We just need to get into the habit of doing so for our meetings and various events. For the EcoNews Mailout Party, for instance, the website is  (password EcoNews).



This December, the world’s nations gathered in Bali, Indonesia, to create a roadmap for a new treaty that will replace Kyoto when it expires in 2012. Now this is serious stuff. If we continue to produce carbon emissions as we have been, global warming will bring an ugly end to all civilization, and most species. If you doubt my words, read Six Degrees by Mark Lynas.

The Europeans wanted a reduction in emissions from the developed world by 25-40% below the 1990 level by 2020. (BC’s goal is 10% below 1990 by 2020.) Canada, Japan and the USA all objected (boo!), arguing that unless countries like China and India also made a commitment, the industrialized countries should not be required to set binding targets.

The pressure on Canada was huge, including a petition with 300,000 signatures organized by the group Avaaz, and Canada did back down, withdrawing its objections. The US continued to insist that any reference to firm targets should be deleted, and in the end, they had their way. After the targets were relegated to a footnote that referenced a report, the US delegation finally agreed to sign onto the document.

This is a “victory” as far as it keeps the US at the table. Otherwise, it is a victory for the corporations that control US policy-making. The hope is that with a new President in the White House in January 2009, US intransigence will give way to a more constructive approach. The developing nations do also need to reduce their emissions, but it is wrong to insist that the developed nations - which have produced the lion’s share of the emissions so far - should sit back and do nothing unless China and India also play along.




BaliHow easy can this be? The bicycle is quite simply one of the best inventions ever made. With almost no extra effort, it enables us to travel at four times the speed of walking. In Copenhagen, Denmark, 33% of all journeys to work are by bicycle. In Davis, California, the number is 17%. 

Here in Victoria, Canada’s cycling capital, it’s only 6%.

Davis (population 64,000) started planning for cycling 40 years ago, and has two full-time cycling coordinators. It was the first to paint bike-lanes on the city streets, in the 1960s, and the entire university campus is closed to vehicle traffic. With over 100 miles of streets with bike lanes, trails, and other bike routes, and 25 grade-separated intersections keeping bikes and cars apart, Davis shows us what’s possible. 

As a global warming solution, cycling has to be one of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective. Operating a car costs $7,000 a year. A bike costs $120 a year. A US study found that 40% of all trips are within a 10 minute bike ride, and 54% of commuters live with 10 miles of their work, a distance that takes much the same time for cars and bikes.

Cyclists are generally more fit, more alert, and more productive at work. They are also happier, and have fewer hospital visits. For shopping and deliveries, there are bicycle trailers of every size, and if you can’t manage the hills, adding an electric motor ($350 to $1,400) will costs you just 1 cent per 20 km for the electricity.

How should we proceed? Every community should have a Bicycle Advisory Committee, and 25% of each community’s transport budget should be invested in measures to encourage more cycling until it reaches a goal of 25% of all commuting trips being by bike.

The best way to get there? BC’s cycling advocates need to be far more pro-active and involved in promoting cycling as a solution to global warming.


Certified Organic - Locally Grown
2008 Seed catalogue online at:
A great selection of heritage seeds



Ben Isitt writes:

A major battle in underway in the Capital Region, between citizens opposed to urban sprawl and proponents of the Bear Mountain resort. The sprawling 1100-acre resort on Langford’s Skirt Mountain – which features a Whistler-esque village centre, a Westin Hotel, luxury homes, and two Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses – needs a new highway to double in size.

Bear Mountain was made possible by backroom deals, which saw hundreds of acres of Crown land transferred to Western Forest Products and then LGB9, a development company headed by former NHL hockey player Len G. Barrie. Bear Mountain expanded to include 180 acres of former Forest Land Reserve land – sold by Langford city councilor John Goudy for $1.25-million and an assurance of $10,000 for every lot sold.

In February 2006, Councillor Goudy seconded a motion at city council to spend $750,000 on “Bear Mountain Interchange Design Development.” Earlier, land near the interchange site had been rezoned to allow 600 residential units, 150 hotel rooms, and 110,000 square feet of commercial space. In November 2007, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation added $5 million to the pot. Now Langford proposes to begin logging and blasting as early as January 2008.

A group of committed environmentalists have maintained a “tree sit” in the threatened area since April 2007 (accessed off Leigh Road between Goldstream Ave and the Trans-Canada Highway). They pledge to protect the Goldstream River watershed and ecological features that include the 50-metre long Langford Lake Cave; hectares of Douglasfir, Garry Oak, and arbutus forest; and habitat for the red-legged frog and other species.

The Bear Mountain Interchange (rebranded “Spencer Road interchange” in early 2006 to deflect public opposition) is needed to achieve a “build-out” valued at $2.5 billion. Bear Mountain plans to build 40-storey condominium towers located near the Skirt Mountain summit – on the remnants of a cave considered sacred by First Nations people at an elevation of 1000 feet. Viewscapes would be further degraded as these towers approach the height of Mt. Finlayson. Climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions would increase so rich golfers can reach their mansions in record time.

It’s time to stop the ecological and cultural disaster known as Bear Mountain – by stopping the Bear Mountain interchange project.

This summary draws from a detailed research study. For a copy, e-mail or call 250-382-8494.



Where do many people on low incomes live? In trailer parks, where they often enjoy a strong community life. For 30 years, a small community of people has lived in the trailer park at Pedder Bay, Metchosin, including seniors, veterans, widows, people with disabilities, single parents families, trades people and professionals. The trailer park has been their home, and they have invested time and money to landscape and renovate their trailers.

In today’s real estate market, however, all land has a dollar sign hanging over it, and in January 2007 the owner of the land, Bob Wright, of the Oak Bay Marine Group, (who recently made a wonderful donation of $11 million to support ocean and climate change research and education at UVic) issued all 29 home-owners with a 12-months eviction notice so that the land could be freed up for development. By way of compensation, they have been offered $4,300 each.

This is how homelessness starts. During the last 12 months, the stress of the pending evictions has led to illness, bankruptcy and marital break-ups. The residents are doing what they can, and have fund-raised to pay for a lawyer to defend their right to their homes, with a trial that starts on January 7th. Law students from UVic have kindly offered to help, but the legal fees may still reach $50,000.

This should never have gotten this far. The Province, as part of its drive to end homelessness, should help the residents to organize a Community Land Trust, enabling them to take out a loan to buy the land, as often happens in the US. In the meantime, the residents dearly need financial help. Donations can be sent to Pedder Bay Residents Society, #1 - 925 Pedder Bay Drive, Victoria V9C 4H1. For details, Terrill Welch 250-539-5877.



January is the time to make the commitment. Can you reduce your carbon footprint by 5%? If you keep that up for 12 years, it’ll be 60% lower by 2020.

Buy a notebook where you can track your car’s mileage, your fuel usage, your heating and hydro bills, your flights, how often you eat meat and dairy, and your garbage - all of which produce heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

Next month, I’ll remind you how to convert your numbers into your carbon emissions. Just 5%. Yes?



Some noteworthy sites that have passed my way:


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Donations can also be sent via PayPal:

(Donations in Canadian Dollars.)

Click here for previous issues of EcoNews.

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

Executive director of The Solutions Project

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