Newsletter #216 - September 2011
Promoting the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island
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Contact EcoNews

Guy Dauncey, Editor
13561 Barney Road, Ladysmith, BC
Tel (250) 924-1445

Executive director
The Solutions Project



Let me start at the beginning: the global climate crisis is far more serious than most people understand.

If we carry on with business as usual, our continued use of fossil fuels will destroy all human civilization as we know it, and take most species and ecosystems with it. As things stand, we are heading for a temperature rise of 4, 5, or 6 degrees by the end of the century. Today’s Arctic meltdown and the current increase in forest fires, floods, and beetle infestations comes from a 0.7C increase.

Do politicians understand just how difficult it could be, just how devastating rises of 4C, 5C or 6C could be? I think, not yet."
–Lord Nicholas Stern, Britain’s top climate economist, March 2009.

How far can it go? The last time the world was three degrees warmer than today – which is what we expect later this century – sea levels were 25 metres higher. So that is what we can look forward to if we don't act soon.” 
- James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Feb 2006.

Business as usual is really grim, folks. We don’t want to go there.

The only certainty is that we have to act. How could I look my grandchildren in the eye and say I knew about this and I did nothing?”
- David Attenborough.

Next, let’s look at the resistance. Some comes from elderly, well-educated men whose heads are firmly in the sand. Some comes from the coal and oil industry, which doesn’t want to change what it’s doing; and some comes from economists and bureaucrats who argue that we can’t afford to act because it would “harm the economy”.

So let’s look at the economy – the same one that the world’s leaders are so desperate to revive so that we can get back to business as usual.

If we do nothing, the cost of future climate–caused floods, fires, droughts, hurricanes, and other disasters; the need to build sea walls two metres high around every port in the world; and the need to relocate 500 million refugees from low-lying lands will make today’s recession look like a tea party. Not a pretty sight, by any accounting standard.

We also know that as soon as the economy gets back on its feet the global demand for oil will surge again, and prices will rise past $200 a barrel ($2 a litre, $6 a gallon) as we pass peak oil, with natural gas following. With the global oil supply in terminal decline, the speculative markets will drive the price ever higher. 

Not a pretty sight either, from an economic perspective.

Solar Housing in Germany
Solar housing in Vauban, Freiburg, Germany

But now let us turn this around, and assume that we act on all the known solutions. Let’s assume that we successfully eliminate all use of fossil fuels, and create a world in which:

  • All our buildings are super-efficient, and heated or cooled by solar, bioenergy, and heat-pump technologies;

  • All our transport uses electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, combined with far more walking, cycling, transit, ridesharing, and railways;

  • All trucking, shipping, and aviation is powered by algae-biofuel grown on marginal and desert lands;

  • All electricity is renewable and most come from efficiency, wind, solar PV, solar thermal, geothermal, and hydro;

  • All of the world’s farms, grasslands, and forests are managed holistically and organically, without need for chemical fertilizers.

  • Our whole economy operates on the principle of zero waste, recycling and re-using 100% of the materials we use.

What would such a world look like, financially? Shockingly, no-one has done such a study, but some numbers are available for the US to give us a start:

  • By eliminating the need to buy oil from the Middle East, and defend the oil-exporting nations, the National Defence Council Foundation has calculated in its report The Hidden Cost of Imported Oil (2007) that the US will enjoy an annual dividend of $825 billion. This includes a $138 billion military saving.

  • By eliminating the air pollution and smog caused by fossil-fuelled vehicles and coal-fired power plants, Terry Tamminen, past Secretary of the California EPA, has shown in his book Lives per Gallon: The True Cost of our Oil Addiction that the US will save up to $690 billion a year.

  • By reducing energy use by 15%, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has calculated that the US will enjoy annual savings of $169 billion. If efficiency is increased to 30%, this could rise to $338 billion.

This comes to $1.7 trillion a year, which would arrive in the US economy every year as a free stimulus package, without needing approval by Congress.

It also stands to reason that since 80% of the worlds wars are fought over oil and gas supplies, if we no longer need them we could disarm 80% of the world’s militaries. For the US, with a $1 trillion annual military budget, this allows a peace dividend of $680 billion a year (excluding the $138 billion counted above). If we include this, the annual stimulus rises to $2.38 trillion.

This is the annual Climate Solutions Dividend – which must be contrasted with a 20% loss of annual GDP if we fail to end our use of fossil fuels, which would cost the US $2.8 trillion a year.

Will someone now please stand up and tell me we can’t afford to tackle global warming because it will hurt the economy? I don’t think so.

Guy Dauncey
The Eco-Personals

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The Zero Mile Diet - Twelve Steps to
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A Year On The Garden Path
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Wanted – full time Admin Assistant for the BC Sustainable Energy Association.

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

Volunteers needed. If you can help Pesticide-Free CRD, a coalition of organizations and individuals who want to eliminate all unnecessary local use of pesticides, please call 250-380-2358.

Short term rental, prime Fairfield location $30/night. 250-382-3810

Green Bites


April and May are glorious months on Vancouver Island, when the wild flowers enchant us with their loveliness, especially in the Garry Oak Meadows. The Victoria Natural History Society and CRD Parks offer many local outings, so do make the most of them.

April also brings Earth Day, and Victoria’s annual Earth Walk on Saturday 25th. The parade starts at noon from the Legislature to an Environmental Fair at Centennial Square. Bring your hope, vision, and optimism! They also need volunteers – if you can help, call Steve 250-216-5903 or See



Mt. Douglas Park

Everyone in Victoria knows and loves Mount Doug Park, but do we know about the hardworking Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society, whose volunteers work to restore this 500-acre wonder?

During the last year, they have fought non-native alien invaders including English ivy, Scotch broom, Himalayan blackberry, and the tiny garlic mustard, that is driving out native plants. In June, they released 50,000 chum fry into Douglas Creek, which had moved into Cordova Bay by August. They have been restoring the creek to make it more attractive to fish, planting 1,000 plugs of riparian vegetation along its banks, and they are planning to transplant coho fry, crayfish, and then more chum fry. By 2010, they hope the salmon will return.

They’re a hardworking group, but they need more help to fulfill their hopes. If you feel inspired, call Judy Spearing at 472-0515. To explore the trails, see here.



The future clearly must have much more walking, cycling, and transit, but it will also have cars, and the electric car has taken a clear lead in the race to be the vehicle of the future. The Dutch city of Amsterdam has just announced that it wants all cars in the city to be electric by 2040, and will be opening 200 electric charging stations by 2012.

The project known as Better Place is thinking the same thoughts on a global scale. They are working with Israel, Denmark, Hawaii, Australia, San Francisco, and Ontario to deliver an integrated electric infrastructure with Nissan/Renault EVs, recharging posts, and battery replacement stations.

In Denmark, the government is charging a 180% tax on the purchase of regular cars and 0% on electric vehicles, to encourage the change. Better Place is thinking big. Their CEO, Shah Agassi, wants to see 100,000 electric cars on the road by 2011, and 100 million by 2016-2020. The cars will cost around $20,000, plus a monthly lease for the lithium iron phosphate battery, which will last for 20-25 years.

This is the future, and we need every city to prepare for it, starting here in Victoria.

Better Place charging station
A Better Place plugged-in parking lot in Israel



You may associate Royal Roads with its glorious woodlands and gardens, but there’s a lot more afoot in the world of greenery. The University’s goals include becoming climate-neutral by 2010, reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 50% below 2007 by 2020, and becoming “grid-positive”, which means becoming self-sufficient in energy, waste, and water, obtaining heat and electricity from local waste wood cogeneration and sewage treatment plants, in partnership with Colwood.

They are aiming to change their current travel pattern (90% single occupancy vehicles, 4% transit, 3% ridesharing, 2% cycling, 1% walking), so watch for high parking charges and a better transit service.

They are also working to maximize the protection of their ecological heritage, adopt green purchasing, and raise funds to build the new Robert Bateman Centre, a green-as-they-come “living building” designed by the Mayne Island architect Richard Iredale, for which they hope to break ground in 2010.

The student body is engaged through Campus Green, which is developing various projects, and the University is working to integrate sustainability thinking into the many courses that are taught at Royal Roads. Way to go, you guys!

Robert Bateman Centre
The planned Robert Bateman Centre



Almost Green

For good green bedside reading, I can’t recommend James Glave’s new book highly enough - Almost Green: How I Built an Eco-Shed, Ditched my SUV, Alienated the In-Laws, and Changed My Life Forever, which may tell you that it’s not the turgid academic prose that afflicts some environmental books.

James lives on Bowen Island, and decided that living a subrural life while being green at heart just wasn’t good enough. So he embarked on his Big Green Adventure, chiefly into eco-building, and we get to be beneficial insects on his oh-so-green wall, encouraged by the fact that he’s a natural when it comes to humorous writing. So indulge yourself – and I challenge you not get inspired while doing so! ($22, Greystone Books 2008)



Stupid to the Last Drop

Moving east, another book. Stupid to the Last Drop, by the superb writer William Marsden, is subtitled How Alberta is Bringing Environmental Armageddon to Canada (and Doesn’t Seem to Care). Everyone knows about Alberta’s Tar-Sands, but to most it is a far-away disaster.

Marsden’s book grabs you from the opening paragraph, and takes you on a journey to the heart of the Tar Sands, meeting local characters such as Damien, driver of the world’s biggest dump truck, who earns $100,000 a year carrying 200 barrels of oil per load. I cannot speak highly enough of this book. You could visit Alberta a hundred times and never gain the insights he lays out into the mindsets, politics, machinations, ecological denial, and the fortunes that some Albertans are making at the expense of the boreal forest, the wildlife, the planet, and everything we hold dear.

He also delves deeply into Alberta’s coal-bed methane, a toxic mess that poisons local water supplies and even sets them on fire, that is trying its hardest to come to BC. For convincing evidence of the corruption and folly of Alberta’s oil and gas-controlled politics, this is your baby - it won the National Business Book Award for good reason. ($19.95 Vintage, 2007)



Alanna Mitchell, author of Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis, is speaking in Victoria on Tuesday March 31st, and I hope she gets a sell-out crowd (see Green Diary, below). Here on the west coast we are surrounded by the ocean and revel in its delights, even as we dump our untreated sewage into it, but the global situation is appalling.

With our advanced fishing technologies and insatiable appetites, we have driven a quarter of all known fish populations to the brink of extinction, including the once abundant tuna and cod – and another 50% are considered extremely exploited.

If things continue this way, global fish populations will disappear complete within 40 years. The worldwide catch has increased by 700% since 1960, and now fleets are chasing the more obscure corners of the oceans in a desperate quest to pay for their ever more expensive boats.

Using ocean-floor dragnets, a powerful trawler can scrape 20 tons of fish off the ocean floor in half an hour, straight into the on-board processing factory. As well as the authorized fishing fleet, 1200 trawlers operate under semi-legal flags of convenience, and 1,600 operate as pirates under no flags at all – all to satisfy our craving for tuna, sushi, and cat food.

Meanwhile, Earth’s oceans are absorbing more of the CO2 that we are dumping into the atmosphere, which is turning their waters more acidic, killing some coral reefs and threatening every shelled creature; and we are filling the seas our garbage, polluting them with plastics, sewage, and fertilizer run-off from our chemically managed farms. I sure hope Alanna has some hopeful solutions, when she speaks here!



Is there a way to end the political travesty that produces so many governments that are opposed by the majority of their voters? Yes, there is. It’s called the Single Transferable Vote, and we are can vote for it on May 12th. The campaigning will soon begin in earnest, and the NO side will try to tell us that it will lead to unstable governments run by whackos of very colour.

I spelled out the arguments in favour of STV last month, and I’ll do so again next month. This month, there are public meetings in Victoria at Camosun Interurban Campus (Fri 3rd), Brentwood Bay (Sat 18th), and James Bay (Sun 26th) when you can learn for yourself – and please do. Take your friends, so that they can become properly informed. And see

Make Your Vote Count


Victoria’s Sewage Treatment

Dual flush toilet
The process to design a series of new treatment plants to solve Victoria’s sewage problem is reaching a critical stage, and there are six opportunities early this month when you can attend an Open House, and learn more about what’s being proposed. The CRD has also created a survey where they are seeking your views. The EcoNews recommendation is that we should try to maximize the amount of heat, biofuel, and electricity that we can recover from the resource, within sensible cost considerations

We should also plan ahead to make every building in Victoria as water-efficient as possible, so that the volume of sewage is decreased.  If 100,000 toilets were changed from an old-fashioned 13-litre flush to a water-efficient dual-flush (3 and 6 litres), at 8 flushes a day, we would reduce the water needing treatment by from 10.4 million to 3 million litres a day. That might save some sewage treatment costs? 

Action of the Month


BC and Alberta are the only two provinces in Canada that do not have an Endangered Species Law, which leaves over 1600 species at risk here in BC without adequate legal protection. Past Liberal and NDP governments have both failed to act.

Action: Go to and sign the petition asking the BC government for such legislation. You can also download a petition, and ask your friends and neighbours to sign it. 

Polls show that 80% of British Columbians want such legislation, and the petition is being supported by the Sierra Club of BC, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, Forest Ethics, and EcoJustice.

The Wonderful World of Web
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Guy Dauncey, Editor
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Tel (250) 881-1304

Deadline for April issue March 24th


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