EcoNews
Newsletter #183 - July/August 2008
Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island
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EcoNews is a monthly newsletter funded by your donations that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, and the joys of personal fulfillment, guided and protected by our active citizenship.

AG00119_.gif (2913 bytes)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? It’s 95% funded by donations from readers like you.

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ETHICAL INVESTING
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Connecting your money with your values
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SEEDS OF VICTORIA
Certified Organic - Locally Grown
2008 Seed catalogue online at:
www.earthfuture.com/gardenpath
A great selection of
heritage seeds

Contact EcoNews

Guy Dauncey, Editor
395 Conway Road, Victoria, BC
CANADA V9E 2B9
Tel (250) 881-1304
www.earthfuture.com

Executive director
The Solutions Project

Feature Story

A WORLD WITHOUT OIL

$1.40 a litre - $2.80 in Europe – $4 a gallon in the US - and everyone has an opinion about it.  Some are philosophical, but many are angry, wanting to blame someone. How can this be, they ask? Someone has to be ripping us off.

For all our lives, we have lived with the easy availability of oil, rarely pausing to think what it is. How can this clear liquid cause metal weighing over 400 tons to fly? How can a single litre enable a car to go 10 kilometres – or a Prius to go 17 km, a Smart Car 20 km?

Car BuggyAfter a million years when our only heat came from burning firewood, what magic has enabled this to happen to our generation? For surely, as a result, we are the wealthiest, most privileged, and laziest generation that has ever lived – thanks to this strange liquid, and its sisters, gas and coal. I have a friend in Kelowna whose neighbour’s 15 year old daughter calls her dad to pick her up even if she is 400 metres from home.

It is only because of this strange liquid, too, that fishermen can strip so many fish from the oceans that they are being taken over by jellyfish and slime. Only because of fossil fuels that we can consume so much stuff.

Their presence is a one-time gift from the far distant past, energy from the Sun that was absorbed by ancient trees, ferns, and animals and then crushed, heated, and fossilized, waiting for the time when humans would have enough know-how to use it.
In as far as we depend on this ancient energy, we are technologically immature. We are like a child who loves feeding at its mama’s breasts, and does not want the trouble of feeding itself. Our whining about the price of gas fits the metaphor perfectly – “Don’t stop! It’s not fair! I want some more!”

The paradox of the sky-rocketing prices is that they are not being caused by scarcity but by financial speculators who have seized on the fear of scarcity as a sure fire way to make some money. If it were not for the speculators, oil might still be $80 a barrel, not $130

Where does all the money go? A slice goes to the speculators, 29 year olds in shirt-sleeves who simply want to make as much as they can. The rest goes to oil companies as undiluted profit which their owners can use to buy luxury yachts and golf-course condos, and possibly to hide in offshore bank accounts. Yes, be angry – it seems like a justifiable response. If only it was being collected as a carbon tax that could be used to reduce other taxes and speed up the rate of weaning. 

So let’s be rational for a moment. How much oil is left, and how close are we to weaning ourselves off it?

We are about halfway through the world’s conventional oil supply of around two trillion barrels. There are about a thousand billion barrels left, which is a lot – except that we are burning 32 billion barrels a year, which means – at this rate - it will all be gone in 31 years. There’s a lot more non-conventional oil, such as Alberta’s tar-sands, but they’re only producing 1 million of the 86 million barrels we burn each day, so while it may make some people very rich, it’s too little to make a useful difference.

The truth is that the speculators are doing us an enormous favour: they are giving us an artificial advance warning of what’s coming – which is that the warm, lazy days of feeding at Mama’s Earth’s fossil-fuelled breasts are almost over. From here on out, we have a very stark choice: either use our intelligence to design a post-carbon world – and quickly – or keep on whining as our civilization collapses around us, sans cars, sans trucks, sans farms, sans everything. (Shakespeare, As You Don’t Like It, 2008).

OK – maybe Plan B is preferable. For transport, as well as legs, we can use bicycles, and electric buses, cars, and high speed trains, powered by ocean, wind, solar, and geothermal power. For longer distances, until we develop rapid-recharge batteries, we can use plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, using liquid fuel from bio-wastes and hydrogen. For moving goods on land, we can use electric trucks and railways. For shipping, we can use solar, wind and wave powered vessels which are on the drawing board, but no further yet. For flying… well, forget flying.

The challenge is not the technology – we already know how to do most of this. The challenge is the urgency – how quickly can we do it?

The same urgency is being pressed on us by the ever more worrying warnings about global warming: just do it, top climate scientists like James Hansen are urging. Quickly.

There is no time for delay. We need to embrace the adventure, and pour huge investments into cycling, transit, electric railways, and zero-carbon homes. We need to require that all new vehicles sold in BC are zero emissions by 2020. We need to require that all farming become organic, also by 2020. We need to do as Sweden is doing, and wean ourselves off our dependence on oil by 2020. Even if only for purely financial reasons, we must do it.

So put aside the whines and worries, and get behind what’s really needed – which is a world without oil.

Guy Dauncey

The Eco-Personals

$1.00 a word. Max 5 lines; non-profits, low-income free. 1" box ad $50


Duncan house share, suitable for mature adult or adult + child under 12, who live lightly and want to grow own food. August 1st, $540/mo.+ util.
Rick: 250-746-0596


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

Syd’s Demo Salvage. 381-1141 www.sydsdemosalvage.com


Pacific Gardens Cohousing – a sustainable community under construction in Nanaimo 250-754-3060 www.pacificgardens.ca


Swift Kick Computers. Eco-friendly, servicing local business and personal computers at your location. All on-site transport fueled by used veggie oil. Peter, 514-4815.


Quiet, lifelong eco-woman needs ½ duplex or garden suite, electric heat, private washer/dryer hook-ups; no steps, mould, pesticide, fabric softener. Refs. Call Taannia, 250-920-0036.


The Peace Valley Environment Association is seeking active, enterprising South Island members to help oppose BC Hydro’s proposed Site C Dam. Call Don, 477-5507

Green Bites

ORGANIC ISLANDS FESTIVAL
with PERCY SCHMEISER

Summer is finally here (dare I say “roll on more global warming?” *grin*) and that means the Organic Islands Festival at Glendale Gardens and Woodlands, in Saanich, on the weekend of July 5/6th. It’s a wonderfully mellow, pleasant, inspiring way to meet, learn, mingle, and schmooze with other eco-people.

Percy SchmeiserOn Saturday, 2-3pm, there’s a panel on GE Free Zones, and the guest speaker is Percy Schmeiser, the heroic Saskatchewan farmer who was sued by Monsanto after genetically modified seeds were found on his property.

Percy is a seed saver, and the last thing he’d want on his property is genetically modified seeds. However, when he took Monsanto to the Supreme Court, the Court supported Monsanto because their Round-Up Ready Canola was protected by a patent.

Hello? If I dump my garbage on your lawn, some of which contained copyrighted writings, would that make you guilty of receiving it? “If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble,… “the law is a ass—an idiot.” (Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist).

But wait! In an out of court settlement this March, Monsanto agreed to pay for all the clean-up costs of Schmeiser contaminated fields, and since there is no gag-order on the settlement, Monsanto can be sued again if further contamination occurs - setting a precedent that farmers will be entitled to reimbursement if their fields become contaminated with unwanted GE plants.

Schmeiser and his wife won the Right Livelihood Award in 2007. See www.percyschmeiser.com – and see you at www.organicislands.ca!

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WINTER VEGETABLES

We can grow 45 varieties of winter vegetable in our mild coastal climate, and now is the time to be sowing the seeds, available from Dig This and other gardening stores.

At the end of August, in case you forget to sow your seeds, The Garden Path Organic Plant Nursery will be selling a large variety of winter vegetable bedding plants, ready for you to harvest next winter.

August 25-31 – see Green Diary.

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HERE COME THE JELLYFISH

Something extremely disturbing is happening in the world’s oceans.Thanks to our seemingly endless hunger for seafood, we have killed off 90% of the large predatory fish.

There is a consequence to this, since large predatory fish eat other fish - it’s like removing 90% the police from a community. The result in this case is an explosion of jellyfish, since we have killed 90% the sharks, swordfish, tuna, cod, and leatherback turtles that love to eat them.

JellyfishHoliday destinations in the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas are being plagued with them, in some places as thick as 100 jellyfish per cubic meter of water.

In the US, they are everywhere from Cape Cod to Hawaii.

In May, a mass of jellyfish forced a Japanese nuclear reactor to close down after they blocked its seawater cooling system.

In Northern Ireland, an invasion of non-native mauve stinger jellyfish in a dense pack 10 miles square by 35 feet deep killed 120,000 salmon in a hatchery overnight.

In Namibia, south-west Africa, once one of the most prolific fishing areas in the world, then plundered by the fishing fleets, the jellyfish have moved in and taken over.

Very few fish eat jellyfish, but jellyfish love to eat young larval fish and eggs, making recovery extremely difficult.

“We’re pushing the oceans back to the dawn of evolution, a half-billion years ago when the oceans were ruled by jellyfish and bacteria”, said Jeremy Jackson, a marine ecologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography who has dubbed what’s happening as “the rise of slime”.

In addition to us removing their predators, jellyfish thrive in warmer waters – and US and Australian climate researchers reported in June that the world’s oceans have warmed 50% faster over the last 40 years than previously thought, due to climate change.

The only good news is that in the 4% of the oceans that have remained free of human impact, the sharks and predatory fish still dominate, keeping order in the marine world.

The solution is for at least 1/3rd of the world’s oceans to be declared global marine protected areas, with no fishing of any kind allowed. We know from experience in New Zealand and elsewhere that this allows the fish to recover – but time is running out, and global leadership is painfully slow.

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YOUR $100 CLIMATE DIVIDEND

CADAre you wondering what is the most practical and productive way to spend the $100 Climate Action Dividend that all BC residents have just received in the mail?

I have researched a list of 30 Ways that can help you reduce your carbon footprint, which is posted on the BCSEA website, at www.bcsea.org.

If you are on a low-income, you will also receive a $100 Climate Action Credit, (children $30), as part of your quarterly GST rebate cheque.

It’s all part of ensuring that the carbon tax is “revenue neutral”, and giving people the means to reduce their emissions and pay less tax, if they so choose. As taxation policy, this makes total sense.

When people argue that it’s just more pain at the pump, they are forgetting that every cent paid out in the carbon tax is being returned in other forms; the same applies to the federal Liberal Party’s proposed carbon tax  – that’s how tax shifting works.

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SALT SPRING VICTORY

The Creekside Rainforest is 20 acres of stunning natural beauty and biodiversity with salmon-bearing streams in the Cusheon Lake area of Salt Spring, and it was threatened with subdivision.

It is now safe forever, thanks to the efforts of over 1000 people and The Land Conservancy, who have collectively donated and raised over $1 million.

See www.savesaltspringrainforest.net

Top 10 Climate Solutions

SOLUTION #9: GLOBAL EFFICIENCY

There is one source of green energy that is far cheaper than the others, be it solar, wind, geothermal, or condensed camel-burps, and that is the humble negawatt – which had its birth when Amory Lovins’ mother mistyped the word “megawatt”.

A negawatt is a watt of energy saved through efficiency. When utilities invest in measures to help us reduce our use of power, such as rebates for the best appliances, or home retrofit programs, the cost can be as low as 2 - 4 cents per kilowatt hour saved, compared to 6 to 25 cents that people pay around the world, 8-9 cents for new wind power, and 50 cents for new solar PV.

Along with BC, California has the best policies. They have decoupled utility profits from sales, so they no longer lose profit if they persuade people to use less power.

Under the new law, if a utility persuades people to use less power, they keep some of the savings as profit - this should be adopted worldwide.  In the US, only California and Idaho have such a rule, although four other states are considering it. Here in BC, we should do this for Terasen, Fortis, and other private utilities.

When it comes to appliances, Japan has the best policy. Their Top Runner Program requires the manufacturers of 21 appliances from TVs to vending machines to develop an overall average appliance efficiency that matches the most efficient product in the market; this has led to a 66% increase in air conditioning efficiency, and an 83% increase in computer efficiency.

For housing, Britain leads the pack, with a requirement that from 2016, all new buildings must be zero carbon, including the use of electricity.

We need a Global Energy Efficiency Agreement that will get all countries working together to realize the potential  - which is to reduce our global electricity demand by 50-70%.

Locally, BC Hydro is planning to invest $500 million by 2011 in a wide range of initiatives, including higher appliance standards, time of use metering, consumer education, funds for home renovations, rebates for efficient equipment, community engagement, and industry partnerships. The goal is to save 12,000 gigawatt hours by 2020,  - 20% of what we consume today - for which they should be applauded.
Action of the Month

SAVE JORDAN RIVER

Maurita Prato, Forest Campaigner, Dogwood Initiative writes:
Western Forest Products (WFP) is starting preliminary testing work for 3500 acres of land on Vancouver Island near Jordan River, while awaiting approval for the subdivision from just one person - the Ministry of Transportation's Bob Wylie.

Meanwhile, a developer has interest in buying the land to build luxury homes for 10,000 people should the subdivision be approved. The largely forested area was formerly a Tree Farm Licence (TFL), providing local employment and protecting recreation sites along the wild west coast. 

Early in 2007, Forests Minister Rich Coleman removed the lands from the TFL without any public consultation or compensation, and without the consent of local First Nations, saying that WFP needed some help.

The Capital Regional District (CRD) moved quickly to rezone the lands to preserve their rural and forest character, but the government’s lethargy in approving the new laws allowed WFP to submit its subdivision applications for Jordan River and the surrounding area. If allowed, the forests will be chopped and paved to make way for a commuter community, producing urban sprawl, greenhouse gases, and congested roads to the jobs in Victoria, making a mockery of years of careful regional planning.

The approving officer, Bob Wylie, has until April 23rd 2009 to approve the subdivision, or WFP will be forced to play by the new and progressive CRD rules.

Action

Write to Bob Wylie and insist that the planned subdivision is against the public interest, which is one of the criteria he has to consider before granting approval. Ask for a public hearing, so that all views can be expressed.

Write to Bob Wylie:

3rd Floor, 2100 Labieux Rd,
Nanaimo, V9T 6E9.

Email: Bob.Wylie@gov.bc.ca (cc to Maurita@dogwoodinitiative.org). 

Together we can save this incredible area from sprawling development. See www.savejordanriver.com

The Wonderful World of Web
Submissions to EcoNews

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Guy Dauncey, Editor
395 Conway Road, Victoria, BC
CANADA V9E 2B9
Tel (250) 881-1304
guydauncey@earthfuture.com

The deadline for the September issue is August 24.

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