EcoNews
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
CANADA V9G 1E9
Tel (250) 924-1445
www.earthfuture.com

Executive director
The Solutions Project

Editorial

WHAT’S OUR REAL CARBON FOOTPRINT?

Here in British Columbia we are in the middle of a provincial election where much of the debate has focused on BC’s carbon tax, brought in by the Liberals as one way to tackle global climate change.

Along with many economists and climate change experts, I support the carbon tax, and am distressed that the opposition has chosen to play partisan politics with it, calling it a “gas tax” while hiding the fact that it is 100% revenue-neutral.

I also support – with some reservations – the system of ‘cap and trade’ – supported by all parties - that BC will be engaged with in partnership with the regional Western Climate Initiative, which would create a declining cap on the production of greenhouse gases by industry.

On paper, BC produces 68 million tonnes (MT) of CO2e by burning fossil fuels and other means, which we need to reduce to zero as soon as possible because of the urgency of the climate crisis. Make no mistake –we are on the Titanic, heading right for the iceberg.
BC’s real carbon footprint is far greater, however – for three reasons.

Firstly, there’s all the food and goods we import, and emissions from the trucks and ships that bring them here. A 2007 study from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research found that 23% of China’s carbon footprint came from its exports. We must also include the international flights we take, that are not included in BC’s figures.

It is hard to put a number on all this, but when the Stockholm Environment Institute studied Britain’s true emissions, they found them to be 49% higher than was being reported, adding 5.44 tonnes per person to Britain’s carbon footprint. If we apply this ratio to BC’s 3.9 million people, we should increase our carbon footprint by 21 MT to 89 MT of CO2e.

Secondly, we are a big exporter of coal. We’ve all seen the terminals at Roberts Bank, next to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal. Every year, we export some 26 million tonnes of coal to 20 countries for use in steel-making, primarily to Japan and South Korea, but also to Germany, Brazil, Great Britain, Holland, Italy, and Turkey.

No Coal!

In 2006, our coal exports were worth $2.8 billion, and supported 3,200 direct jobs in BC’s ten coal mines, mostly in the East Kootenays and the South Peace. The coal industry is proud of its safety record, and the coal-miners are proud of their work – but when you burn 26 million tonnes of coal it produces 60 million tonnes of CO2, increasing our carbon footprint to 149 MT. The “clean coal” technology that would capture coal’s CO2 before it is released is years away from becoming a reality.

In Britain, there was a climate protest in 2008 at a coal-fired power plant at Kingsnorth, Kent, where six Greenpeace activists climbed a smokestack and painted GORDON on it (for Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown). They were duly arrested, and tried for the £35,000 it cost the company to clean it off. In their defense, they brought in NASA’s top climate expert, James Hansen, who gave testimony on the disastrous nature of climate change, and how coal was the fuel most responsible for threatening our future.

When the jury of nine women and three men considered their verdict they found the six not guilty on the grounds that they had “lawful excuse” to damage property to prevent even greater damage by climate change, following the precedent that that it is legal to break into a house to put out a fire. All around the world, coal industry executives must have felt the ground shake.

What should BC do? Without casting personal moral judgment on the coal workers involved, given what we know about climate change, producing and selling coal in the 21st century is similar to capturing and selling slaves in the 19th century. It is an absolute moral wrong that has to stop. As taxpayers, we should buy out the companies, close them down, and pay their workers to retrain for new lines of work.

BC also exports some 0.35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas to the US each year, adding 18.5 MT of CO2 emissions when the gas is burnt. When we include the gas industry’s methane leakage rate of 1.4%, knowing that methane traps 25 times more heat than CO2 over 100 years, its footprint increases by 25% to 23 MT. Over 20 years, which is the timescale of the emergency that matters, natural gas has a far greater impact, with a warming footprint twice as great – 46 MT of CO2e. In total, this would bring BC’s carbon footprint to 195 MT, which is almost three times larger than we think it is.

This is a hard discussion for any politician, for we benefit mightily from this trade in fossil fuels, just as Britain benefited from the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries, as did and southern US landowners. In 2007, revenues from oil and gas land rights sales contributed $2.4 billion to our BC provincial budget.

The discussion must start, however. We could begin by placing a moratorium on coal-bed methane, and on the development of any new coalmines, such as in the beautiful Flathead Valley in southeastern BC. We could plan a ten-year phase-out of BC’s budget dependency on oil and gas revenues. We could eliminate the industry’s tax breaks. Doing nothing is no longer an option.

Guy Dauncey
The Eco-Personals

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5th Annual Organic Islands Festival & Sustainability Expo, Victoria, July 4-5th. 150 Exhibitors. Solar Powered. Near Zero Waste. Live green, do good, we’ll show you how. www.organicislands.ca or 250-658-8148. Volunteers Needed.

Green Bites

UVIC’S SUSTAINABILITY PLAN

Not to be outdone by Royal Roads (see EcoNews #190), the University of Victoria has produced a Sustainability Action Plan for its Campus Operations, following a lengthy consultation process. “We are a country with a huge ecological footprint. Our current lifestyle comes at the expense of the health of the planet and its people. The University of Victoria recognizes that we must do things differently to succeed in this challenging environment.” With that powerful introduction, the plan announces 129 detailed actions, to be managed and monitored by the Office of Campus Planning and Sustainability.

On climate change, it includes a commitment to become carbon neutral by 2010, and to reduce campus electricity use and greenhouse gas emissions by 20% below the 2007 level by 2015. To achieve this they will take numerous initiatives, including installing laundry lines in family student housing. They will also develop a strategy to implement large-scale renewable energy sources on campus.

On transport, their goal is to increase bus use, cycling and carpooling to 70% of all trips by 2014, and reduce the number of fleet vehicles that consume fossil fuels to 40% of the total vehicle fleet. They will install more bike lanes, parking, and bike shelters; make sure every building has showers, change areas, and clothing lockers; enhance the transit service to UVic; create a guaranteed emergency ride home program; consolidate their shipments of supplies; expand video conferencing, create a telecommuting program for employees, and work to offer zero-interest loans for new bicycles.

They are also going to change their purchasing policy so that all decisions reflect a triple bottom line; publish a sustainability report card with measured indicators; and implement a campus- wide sustainability communications strategy. 100% of all new buildings will adopt an integrated design approach, and achieve LEED Gold; 100% of building spaces will be cleaned with green techniques; and 50% of major renovations will be LEED registered.

UVic’s grounds will eliminate toxic chemicals from all routine landscape management; ensure that 75% of all new plants are native; and work with local farmers and producers to create more local purchasing. The proposal to expand options for people living on campus to grow their own food was left on the shelf for now. They will also develop a process to plan a new Village Centre and Multi-Modal Transportation Hub on the campus.

They will divert 75% of their wastes from the landfill by 2012 (the CRD’s goal is 60% by 2012, but the current reality is 36% and falling), eliminate plastic bags and disposable utensils and containers from university-operated food services, and reduce water consumption by 25% by 2015.

This is excellent progress by UVic, and absolutely essential if our universities are to be the leaders they so much want to be. Now we wait for Camosun College to step up to the sustainability plate.

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BC’s ELECTION, MAY 12th

The coming BC election is very confusing from an environmental perspective. The issue that matters most is climate change, for if we fail to eliminate our collective carbon footprint, that’ll be the end of most existence on Planet Earth, forests, fish, and wildlife included.

The Liberals have shown great leadership, but they are compromised by their continuing support for the development of oil and gas, and for building more roads and bridges in the Lower Mainland (The Gateway Program). The NDP have been playing a very deceitful politics with the carbon tax, but their Green Bond proposal makes a lot of sense. The Green Party’s climate change platform makes the most overall sense, but it would restrict the development of new renewable energy.

When it comes to South Island ridings, I have just three recommendations:

  1. For Saanich South, Lana Popham (NDP) will be a great advocate for agriculture and organic farming in BC, and a strong environmental presence in the Legislature.
  2. Saanich North & Islands: Gary Holman (NDP).
  3. Victoria Beacon Hill: Adam Saab (Green).
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STV – 10 REASONS TO VOTE YES

This is arguably more important than the election, since it gives us the ability to end the undemocratic two-party system that has dominated BC for too long. Here are Ten Reasons for voting YES to STV on May 12th:

  1. The Citizens Assembly that recommended STV was randomly selected. After studying all possible systems of voting and hearing hundreds of submissions, 95% of its members recommended STV as the best for BC.

  2. STV is not complicated, as its opponents claim. You simply put a “1” by your first choice of candidate, and “2”, “3” or “4” by your follow-ups.

  3. Voting does not require a computer unless you want to tally the votes faster.

  4. Under STV, few votes are wasted. 80% of the voters will see one of their top choices elected, compared to less than 50% in the current system.

  5. STV will end the need for “hold your nose” strategic voting, causing antagonism between otherwise like-minded voters.

  6. STV will not produce minority governments. It will often produce a single-party majority, sometimes a coalition majority. In Tasmania, six of the last eight elections STV produced a single-party majority government.  

  7. STV will create more respect between parties, since they may need to form a coalition government together.

  8. In most ridings, voters will elect MLAs from two or more parties, giving you a choice of who you can speak to when you have a concern.

  9. STV will hopefully discourage negative campaigning, since a winning candidate may need 2nd and 3rd place support from voters whose first choice is a competing candidate.

  10. STV will not encourage the election of fringe candidates. The preferential ballot weeds out extremists, and makes sure that the winning candidates have widely based support.

The system is used in Tasmania, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Malta, the Australian Senate, and in local government elections in Scotland, and it would be great to have it here in BC. To learn more, go to www.stv.ca.

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LIVING IN THE FOREST

Living ForestWith so much forest on Vancouver Island, and so many people wanting to live here, how can we cope? The business-as-usual approach is a disaster. There has to be a better way – and there is.

Living Forest Communities (LFC) was set up by people on Cortes Island, including the singer Ann Mortifee, in response to the threat of a local “log and build” disaster. LFC seeks to establish and maintain sustainable natural forest ecosystems in perpetuity through land conservation and ecosystem-based forestry, financed by creating attractive, “light-on-the-land” residential hamlets modeled after traditional European towns – and they are close to getting planning approval for their first project.

Elkington Forest, south of Shawnigan Lake, is 950 acres of mature forested land that was last logged in 1928. 85% of the land has been placed under a restrictive covenant for outright conservation, ecosystem-based forestry (FSC certified), and value-added manufacturing from forest products.

The remaining 15% includes space for organic food production, agro-forestry, and three residential hamlets, designed as a European-style mixed-use village, with houses fronting onto a public square, green space or community orchard, backing onto a huge acreage of wild forest and trails.

The village centre will include a coffee shop and retail outlet, a small eco-lodge, and an artisan market space. The houses will be built to a high green standard (LEED), and the infrastructure will also be green, with an integrated rainwater/wastewater treatment system using a natural submerged wetland and sand filtration, followed by forest filtration. They hope to encourage forest-related businesses, including eco-tourism, value-added timber and agro-forestry.

To learn more, see www.livingforestcommunities.com, or call 250-386-6600. There are site visits on most Fridays, and PS – the views are amazing.

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ELEPHANTS IN VICTORIA

Two Victoria adventurers, Dag Goering, and Maria Coffey, have spent months in India and Thailand researching the plight of wild and captive elephants. Now, through their new Elephant Earth Initiative, they will work in S.E. Asia on elephant related issues, including the conservation of wild elephant habitat, improving captive elephant welfare, and developing humane and sustainable elephant tourism projects.

On May 7th, they are launching the Initiative with the opening of Dag Goering’s photo exhibit Elephant Enigma at Dale’s Gallery, in Chinatown, which will run until June 2nd. All proceeds from the sale of photographs will go to Elephant Earth Initiative.  They are also running a fund-raising Elephant Adventure in Thailand next January, if you want to enjoy some first-trunk experience. 250-995-2085. www.elephantearth.org

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DAVID SUZUKI on DVD

Recent David Suzuki shows on the CBC’s The Nature of Things have had an encouraging emphasis on solutions, and now five of the shows are available as a 2-DVD set. They cover David’s travels to Europe with his daughter Sarika in search of sustainability, and programs on sustainable cities, buildings, renewable energy, and the car of the future. Available in all major retail stores. More DVDs will follow.

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PREVENTING CANCER

It is happening to far too many people – every week this year, 3,300 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer, and 1,450 will die of the disease. Meanwhile, the toxic chemicals that are getting into our air, food, water and our bodies and the degraded quality of the food people eat are rarely addressed. Ever year, of the $400 million that is spent on cancer research, only a miserly 1.9% goes on primary prevention to eliminate the real causes of cancer.

Prevent Cancer Now aims to change all that, with active campaigns against asbestos, incineration, and to spend 50% of the $400 million on research that matters, instead of giving it to the drug companies. On Sunday May 24th I am organizing a 10km run and walk at Elk/Beaver Lake to raise funds for Prevent Cancer Now. Will you join me? Call Guy, 250-881-1304.

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DAWSON CREEK GOING GREEN

174 of BC’s cities and towns have signed onto BC’s Community Climate Action Charter, in which they pledge to become carbon neutral by 2012, measure and report their community’s greenhouse gas emissions, and create compact, more energy efficient communities.

Among them is Dawson Creek, in BC’s Peace. So far, they have installed solar hot water heaters on city owned buildings, solar operated traffic lights, and downsized the municipal fleet. They are also planning a major energy-saving retrofit and a solar PV system for City Hall, and they are monitoring for potential wind power sites, testing different biomass heating technologies, and testing plug-in hybrid vehicles. They are on target to reduce their civic emissions by 54% below the projected 2012 level. Way to go!

Action of the Month

THE SINGLE TRANSFERABLE VOTE

Action: Talk to people! Call three friends, and ask if they are going to vote YES to STV. If they have doubts, try to persuade them. This is our big chance to make our democracy more democratic and fair. Vote YES for STV!

The Wonderful World of Web

Some noteworthy sites that have passed my way:

Submissions to EcoNews

To buy ad space in the next EcoNews, or to submit your event to next month's Green Diary, please contact:

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

Deadline for April issue March 24th

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