EcoNews
Newsletter #216 - September 2011
Promoting the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island
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Certified organic veggies from our farms delivered directly to you.

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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

THE COPENHAGEN CRUNCH

From December 7th - 18th, the world’s leaders gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the most important conference our world has ever known.

To understand why, you have to lay aside the muttering of those believe global warming to be a massive hoax perpetrated by all the world’s climate scientists over 20 years, and pay serious attention to the facts.

The physics of climate science has been solid for over 100 years. Carbon dioxide and related molecules such as methane trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere, and their rapidly increasing presence is causing global temperatures to rise. All other contributing factors - such as the changing nature of the Sun - have been examined, and none has been found able to explain the steady although variable rise in temperature.

Right now, if we continue burning fossil fuels, cutting rainforests and raising livestock as usual, the global temperature is on track to increase by up to 6°C or 7°C by the end of this century.

And that spells total catastrophe.

EarthThe last time Earth’s temperature was this high was during the Cretaceous period, 144 to 65 million years ago. This high a temperature will cause major mass extinctions of life on Earth. Eventually, all ice on the planet will melt, raising the global sea level by 80 metres, and since less oxygen will dissolve in the warmer water, the oceans will become stagnant, further driving mass marine extinctions. On land, super-hurricanes, floods and other extreme events will make normal life impossible, and food production will be only possible in the polar regions, causing most of humanity to starve.

This is a hellish picture - and all within the lifetime of children being born today. 

Just last week, leading climate scientists came together to give us an urgent update on the climate science, in The Copenhagen Diagnosis. And it’s grim.

Here’s Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and Chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change:

"This is a final scientific call for the climate negotiators from 192 countries who must embark on the climate protection train in Copenhagen. They need to know the stark truth about global warming and the unprecedented risks involved."

Carbon Reduction Commitments

Developed Nations Developing
Nations
By… 2020 2050 2020
% Needed 25-40 80-90 15-30%
% So far agreed 10-24 40-80 5-20%
BC 19 80  
Canada 3% 50% -

* Below the 1990 levels (Source: New Scientist)

2°C has been adopted as the crucial precipice we must not cross; yet even at +2°C, which many believe is already far too dangerous, a billion people will suffer water shortages, most of the world’s corals will die, and the Greenland ice-cap may tip into an irreversible meltdown, leading to an eventual 6-metre rise in sea-level.

There are some important numbers that drive things home. In order to hold the line at 2°C we must emit no more than 750,000 megatonnes of carbon in total into the atmosphere.

If we can hold the line there, there is a 75% chance that we can prevent the temperature from rising higher - and conversely, a 25% chance that it will rise higher. So already, we’re in alarming territory. Would you put your child on an airplane if there was a 25% chance that it would crash?

Since the start of the industrial revolution in the mid-1700s, we’ve released 500,000 MT of carbon, 200,000 from deforestation and 300,000 from burning fossil fuels and making cement. That leaves a remaining budget of 250,000 MT and no more.

Right now, we are emitting 10,000 MT a year, and at the current rate of emissions growth, we will exhaust the budget within 20 years.

This is the crux of the matter, and why we can’t leave this to the next generation. If we’re willing to risk a 50% chance of exceeding 2°C, we can release a further 250,000 MT - but just how selfish do we want to be?

All the evidence shows that our total global emissions must peak between 2015 and 2020, and then decline rapidly. This is why the developed nations need to achieve a 25-40% reduction by 2020, and the developing world a 15-30% reduction. Canada’s goal is only 3% below 1990; this is nowhere near enough.

 If we really wanted to act wisely, we would aim for 100% reduction by 2020, which would be possible if we adopted a war-time emergency approach to reducing our energy use, becoming far more efficient, and replacing all fossil fuels with renewable energy.

You can see exactly what every nation is proposing in the Climate Action Tracker, which concludes with concern “Copenhagen climate deal not on track for 2°C”.

But let’s turn this around. Say we do what’s needed, and invest in high speed electric trains, super-efficient buildings, electric cars, fantastic cycling trails, wind, solar and geothermal energy, stopping deforestation, limiting our consumption of beef, and all the other solutions for a zero-carbon world - how bad can that be?

That’s not a price - that’s an investment in an incredible future which no longer depends on fossil fuels, no longer has nations fighting and killing over oil and gas supplies, no longer has air pollution and smog, and no longer worries about the collapse of the world’s oil supply because we won’t need it anyway.

And so what if it reduces the growth of our future GDP? As western cultures, we are massively overweight - we need to go on a slimming diet, to have less impact on Earth’s overstressed ecosystems. If we fail to do this, our GDP will collapse by close to 100%.

With every year’s delay, the risk of catastrophe increases. This is the crunch-time - now.

- Guy Dauncey


Guy Dauncey is the author of The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming (New Society Publishers, Nov 2009)

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Green Bites

LITTLE HOMESTEAD

They live in Pasadena, California in a smallish house with a smallish garden of 3900 square feet (66 ft by 66, 1/5th of an acre). But the Dervaes family of five has been turning their life into one helluva showcase for sustainable urban living.

In that small garden, they grow 350 varieties of vegetables, herbs, fruits and berries, and in 2008 they harvested 4,340 lbs of produce, plus 921 chicken eggs, 1028 duck eggs, 25 lbs of honey, and an unspecified amount of milk from their dwarf pygmy goats. And yes, they have rabbits too.

All in all, they grow 99% of their produce, right in the heart of the city. And that’s not all. They can, freeze and dry their food; they compost; and they make their own biodiesel for their car. They’ve also cut their daily power use down to 6 kWh a day, or 2,190 kWh a year for a family of five.

Here in BC, average household use is 10,000 kWh a year. They’ve also installed 12 solar panels, built a solar oven, a cob oven and an outdoor solar shower, and have a pedal-powered grain mill.

If this fascinates you - because it’s all doable in Victoria - check their website at www.pathtofreedom.com and come see the new movie ‘Homegrown’ about their life, at the Camas Bookstore, 2590 Quadra on Saturday December 5th, 7pm.

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MADRONA FARM APPEAL

Madrona FarmSpeaking of urban miracles, Madrona Farm (right) on Blenkinsop Road produced 175,000 pounds of food in 2008, feeding
 hundreds of loyal customers at their roadside stand with virtually no waste, no artificial inputs, and less than 700 litres of diesel. They are into the third and final phase of their funding appeal; another $836,000 is needed by January 30th 2010 to protect the Farm forever through ownership by The Land Conservancy (TLC).

They’ve won through to Round 3 of the Aviva Community Fund Award - if they get through to Round 4, they could be in line to receive up to $250,000. You can help, since it’s done by cumulative voting - and once you’ve registered, you can vote every day at http://bit.ly/icxui. You can also make a direct donation for Madrona to the TLC at http://madronafarm.com.

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TV AND BABIES

Do you have friends with children under the age of 3? If so, please show them this. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects between 5-20% of America’s children (Canada’s figures are likely not much different), and the prime suspect is TV.

A young child’s brain is still growing at that age, and the flashing lights, rapid scene changes, quick edits and auditory cuts appear to be over-stimulating the developing brain. In 1971, most children started watching TV at age 4; today, it’s 4-5 months.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has been warning for years that young children should not be watching TV at all - not even the specialty programs and DVDs created especially for them like Baby Einstein and Sesame Street.

In France, the government has banned French TV channels from airing TV shows aimed at children under 3 years old to shield them from the development risks that TV poses, which encourages passivity, slow language acquisition, over-excitedness and troubles with sleep and concentration.

What seems to be happening is that when the infants’ brains take in all the stimulation, it is rewired to become hyperactive. The hours of peace with TV as a babysitter can lead to years of grief with an overactive child whose brain has been wired to think the whole world operates the way a TV program does.

So please - save your child years of grief, and a future dependent on drugs like Ritalin that try to undo the damage.

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CARIBBEAN ESCAPE
This winter we will be chartering a sailboat
to sail the Virgin or Windward Isles for a week or two.
No experience required.
If interested in joining a group of up to 6 “adventurers”,
call Al (250) 216-2389.

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THE TOBIN TAX

Don’t you love all those derivatives (whatever they are) and “credit default swaps” that put the financial industry on such a permanent high - and then cause the whole financial system to tumble into a black hole, requiring a taxpayer bailout?

There is a medicine to the madness that has been around for years, but no-one paid much attention until recently. It’s called the Tobin Tax, after the economist who dreamed it up, and it was originally intended as a small 1% tax on foreign exchange transactions, “to throw some sand in the well-greased wheels” of global currency trading, and swing the balance back in favour of real investments.

Ten years ago, such a tax could have raised $360 billion a year - enough to pay for the UN, the $100 billion a year Climate Fund for developing nations; the worldwide elimination of AIDS, leprosy and diphtheria; the elimination of third world debt; the elimination of poverty; and the dismantling of all nuclear warheads. Today, with trading at $4 trillion a day, it could raise $720 billion a year. That’s quite an achievement for a small tax on currency trading.

The Tobin Tax is re-emerging in the US as a proposed 0.25% tax on derivates, and a larger proposal to tax all dealing in shares, futures, options, and credit default swaps except savings accounts for retirement, health and education, and the first $100,000 a year, to let small investors off the hook. The US could sure use the income of some $150 billion a year.

There’s enough interest among US Democrats that the White House has toned down its opposition - but it would need support from other countries too - such as Canada. In 20007, the global derivatives market was worth $598 trillion, so there’s huge potential to apply a tax to tackle climate change, poverty and hunger, while simultaneously taking the heat off all the financial craziness.

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SIX MILLION CHILDREN

Speaking of hunger, six million children under five die every year due to malnutrition and related illnesses - and the total’s been rising every year since 1996. That’s a terrible lot of dying every year, because collectively, we can’t get our act together.

In the absence of cohesive global action, such as a Tobin Tax on traded wealth, the charities try to do what they can - and one is worthy of special attention. RESULTS Canada works to eliminate hunger and the worst aspects of global poverty, working through small groups of committed members who meet monthly to write letters, applying pressure where it’s needed.

And wow, are they effective! In 2008 and 2009, every $1 donated to RESULTS helped generate over $1000 in programs that bettered the lives of the world’s poor. In the past 24 months, with a $300,000 budget, RESULTS Canada has helped leverage $300 million to tackle TB, AIDS, and malaria; to extend micro-loans to 106 million of the world’s poorest women; to strengthen health systems in Africa; and to achieve legislation which ensures that Canada’s foreign aid must be directed toward poverty reduction.

If you want to join this band of pragmatic doers, there’s a group in Victoria - call Anita Mark
, 250-744-8668. www.resultscanada.ca

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SEEDS OF VICTORIA
Certified Organic
Christmas Seed Collections

$13.95 for 5 Packets
Available at Dig This stores

On-line seed 2010 catalogue: www.earthfuture.com/gardenpath

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SAANICH CLIMATE ACTION

How does a local municipality respond when it looks at the climate emergency? Saanich has just released its draft Climate Action Plan, and it’s full of detail. In 2007, the residents of Saanich produced 521,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases - and by 2020 it will be up to 577,000 tonnes if we carry on as normal. (Plus the large carbon footprint from imported food and other purchases, none of which gets recorded).

To get that down by 33% by 2020, Saanich is adopting a tough carbon weight-watchers program to lose 228,000 tonnes. Overall, 62% of the heat-trapping greenhouse gases come from transport, 30% from buildings, and 8% from waste.
    
Saanich has already done a bunch of things, including reducing its corporate emissions by 10% and creating a Saanich Carbon Neutral Calculator. The goal - by 2020 - is to reduce the fuel-related emissions by 45%, building emissions by 30%, waste emissions by 50%, and to use renewable energy to cut building emissions by a further 5%.

For transport, the goals are to increase transit use from a miserable 5.3% to 8%, cycling from 2.4% to 5%, and walking trips from 9% to 12%. This means a commitment to a better bus service, more cycling lanes and trails, and better sidewalks. No magic bullets here - just a persistent effort to get people out of their cars. It also includes plans to create more village centres that people can walk to and to have 5,000 electric vehicles on the streets by 2020, with all the accompanying EV recharging posts.
   
Making our buildings more efficient is equally challenging. Saanich’s goal here is to increase the efficiency of all buildings in Saanich by 30% by 2020 - and there are 33,000 buildings to retrofit. Without effective provincial or federal support, this will be really hard to achieve - so a lot of the emphasis needs to go on achieving such support. It’s doable - but it will need such things as a low-interest Energy Efficiency Loan Fund, and allowing 100% of the cost to be tax-deductible.
   
The waste-reduction goal is probably easier - as soon as CRD manages to get community-wide composting going and bans organic matter from the landfill, we’ll see some progress. We need the whole CRD to set a strategy to achieve 100% Zero Waste by 2020. For the details, and a place to send your comments, see www.saanich.ca/climate/climateActionPlan.html.

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THE MOON GALLERY

Here’s one of Victoria’s hidden gems. The Coast Salish artist Darlene Gait has a beautiful gallery on the Esquimalt Nations land that’s open every Fri, Sat & Sunday, 10-5pm. Her work is wonderfully rich, reflecting humanity, nature, and the spirit; Robert Bateman is one of her heroes.

“Her art reflects her passion for the environment and wildlife as well as her beliefs in the oneness of humanity and the beauty of its diversity.” Treat yourself to a visit this holiday season, and you’ll come away enriched. The One Moon Gallery is on Kosapsum Crescent, off Admirals Road, just south of the Gorge. www.onemoon.ca
Action of the Month

CALL OTTAWA!

December 7th sees the start of the big Copenhagen climate conference. The climate science calls for a 25-40% reduction in our carbon emissions below the 1990 level by 2020, but Canada’s only committing to 3% below. In the eyes of the rest of the world, Canada is among the world’s worst polluters when it comes to responsible action on the climate emergency.

Action 1:

Pick up the phone, call (613) 992-4211, and ask to leave a voicemail message for Stephen Harper, telling him how you want Canada to be a leader at the UN Climate Summit this December. He may be going to Copenhagen, but what’s he taking? Action or sabotage? (Press # to skip the outgoing message).

Action 2:

Now do the same for Michael Ignatieff, leader of the Liberal Party (613) 995-9364, urging him to continue to show leadership, as demonstrated here in his very recent new Liberal speech on climate change. The future of our whole world is at stake.

The Wonderful World of Web
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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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