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



What a mess. Where can we find the appropriate analogy to describe what’s happening in the Gulf of Mexico, where oil has been pouring out of the ocean bottom for over a month?

Imagine it’s your home, and a harmful gas is leaking out of the basement floor. You cannot move out and live elsewhere, and the gas will be in your home for 10, 20, 30 years, slowly poisoning your family.

That’s what it’s like for all the birds, fish, marine creatures, wetlands plants and tiny organisms that live in and around the Gulf. ‘Catastrophe’ is the only word that really captures what’s happening. And for all the people who live around the Gulf who earn their income from it.

Oily WorldIn the beginning, BP said the well was leaking 1,000 barrels a day. Then they said 5,000 barrels. In late May, the US Geological Survey said 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day. If so, it may be pouring out as much as the Exxon Valdez oil-spill every 3 weeks. This is a disaster that will be with us for the rest of our lives - and the oil could yet spill out into the Atlantic.

The oil - 98% of which may be lurking beneath the surface - is dangerously close to a current that could carry it round Florida, and up into the Atlantic - and the hurricane season begins on June 1st. (See graphics here.)

How did we get into such a mess? And why is the oil-spill so much more commanding of people’s attention than the larger and more ominous trouble brewing that can also be laid at oil’s doorstep - global warming?

To understand our dilemma, we must go back 800,000 years, when our ancestors first discovered how to control fire. Using fire, we were able to migrate around the world.

Then four thousand years ago, we discovered coal - these strange black lumps of rock that burnt with an intense heat. We didn’t have a clue what they were, but we were happy to burn them. It was the same with our discovery of oil, also four thousand years ago in Persia. We worshipped it, but we did not know what it was.

Even as recently as 1858, when the first modern oil well was struck in Petrolia, Ontario, most people had no idea what it was or where it came from.

Even now, when we know that coal, oil and gas come from ancient fossilized forests and sea-creatures, we are still behaving like our ancestors. We have found something bright and shiny and we are consuming it for all it’s worth, no matter the consequences.

We are primitive - and we are behaving in a primitive way, in spite of our all our technology, drilling into ever deeper waters in the world’s ocean, tearing Alberta’s boreal forests apart to get at the tar sands, ripping the tops of mountains to dig out the coal, paying billions to Middle Eastern oligarchs to buy their oil even while knowing that they are giving some of the money to Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups that want to destroy the West.

These are not the signs of mature behaviour. These are the signs of a desperate addiction that causes intelligence to be suspended. Seeking to caste blame - on BP, Obama, whoever - is to miss the point.

It is the miasma of our addiction to all the toys that this abundance of cheap energy brings us that has caused us to tolerate the tar-sands, the deep-ocean drilling, the mountaintop removal, and the environmental devastation that follows in their wake.

Maybe this will finally mark the end of our innocence, and wake us up. Unlike global warming, it is visceral, visible and immediate. It appalls our mammalian senses.

Now, more than ever, is the time for serious and urgent planning to divest ourselves of these fossil fuels that are polluting our oceans, fouling our air, corrupting our politics, and warming our planet.

Now, more than ever, is the time to place a permanent moratorium on drilling for oil or gas in the Arctic, signing an Arctic Treaty as we did for the Antarctic in 1959 - and Canada should lead the way.

Likewise, our MPs in Ottawa must affirm the moratorium on drilling for oil on Canada’s west coast, making it permanent and inviolable.

The amazing truth, of which most people are unaware, since the media lacks scientifically trained journalists, is that we are about to make an epoch-making transition to sources of energy that are green, nature-friendly, and will never run out.

Through the combined renewable resources of wind, solar, tidal, wave, hydro, solar thermal and geothermal energy, combined with far greater energy efficiency and lifestyle changes in the way we travel, we can leave the dirty fossil fuels behind us, along with global warming, asthma, and the other forms of foul pollution they create.

The fossil fuels are but a stepping stone into the Solar Age, which once established, can last a billion years. That is the future we can step into, if we will but choose.

But choose we must, for time is running out.

- Guy Dauncey

Action of the Month


Believe it or not, July 1st is the date set for US exploratory drilling for oil to start at Arctic drill sites up to 140 miles off-shore, in an area notable for extreme storms, gale-force winds, moving sea ice, darkness and subzero temperatures.

Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund are both calling for a moratorium, and a permanent Arctic Treaty. We must also protect Canada’s West Coast, both from drilling and from oil tanker traffic linked to the proposed “Northern Gateway” oil pipeline to the Alberta tar-sands.


Write immediately to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, urging action.

Rt Hon Stephen Harper, Office of the Prime Minister, 80 Wellington St, Ottawa K1A 0A2.  
Email:  Tel: 613-992-4211

The Eco-Personals

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

Lovely room to rent, close to ocean, downtown, $30/night, 250-382-3810.

Want to farm? No Land? Let’s collaborate! Cedar/Yellow Point area.

Organic food plants - Metchosin Farm has many organic heirloom vegetable starts. 50 varieties of tomato, 35 varieties of veggies. 542 Wootton Rd, Metchosin. For location, hours, catalogue see

Organic Islands Festival at beautiful Glendale Gardens, July 10/11, seeks volunteers for a variety of positions. See

Seaweed Workshop, Friday June 11 - Sun 13 at French Beach. Learn about seaweed’s nutritional and healing properties for ourselves and the planet. Friday seaweed dinner, Saturday Spa evening, beach field trip, classes on identification and uses of local seaweeds. Christine Hopkins 250-646-2177,

For Sale: BC 8x12 greenhouse. Metal structure, glass sides. 6x6 perimeter foundation beams, 2 side shelves, 2 end doors. Hydraulic roof ventilation. $2500 at Haliburton Rd, Saanich (250) 883-8860.

Need a great looking website? Want help with branding? Modern Love Design Studio offers prompt, affordable, friendly service. No detail overlooked in making your organization stand out. Non-profit discount available. Contact

Green Bites


In Paris, 2 km of the Champs Élysées have been covered by 8,000 small fields planted with wheat, beans, vines, mustard, bananas, pineapples and a hundred other species of cereals, fruit and vegetables. The two-day Nature Capitale exhibition reminded two million Parisians that food does not grow on supermarket shelves or market stalls. More than 600 young farmers and 150 foresters worked through the night to "plant" the avenue with blocks of soil and containers, separated by footpaths of wood-chippings. (Independent, UK)



Mark July 10-11th in your diary for The Organic Islands Festival and Sustainability Expo at the Glendale Gardens in Saanich, with 150 exhibits, 20 speakers, green technology demos, entertainment, and ten acres of Garden Trails. Carolyn Herriot will be giving a keynote presentation to launch her new book The Zero Mile Diet: a Year-Round Guide to Growing Organic Food.



Varese LigureHow does the world go green? Slowly, but with certainty. In northern Italy, the small farming community of Varese Ligure, composed of 27 rural hamlets east of Genoa, was gradually decaying, its population fallen from 6,000 to 2,200. But then the Mayor, Maurizio Caranza, appealed to the locals to turn the town into an environmental hamlet, with an economy based on ecology and organic food.

20 years later, 108 farms, representing almost all the farmland, have gone organic, using European Union grants to subsidize the transition. People are renovating and rebuilding their home, the historical town centre has been restored, and the population has risen by 200. Four wind turbines on a ridge generate 8 GWh a year (three times more than they use), and 141 solar panels add 15 MWh, earning $514,000 a year for the council.

The community became eco-certified under ISO 14001 - the first in Italy to do so - and was registered under the EU’s Eco-Management and Audit Scheme, opening the door to financial incentives; in 2004, they were honored as “the most eco-compatible rural community in Europe.”

Progress remains fragile, with a lack of younger farmers, and single farmers who can’t find wives. Politically, the centre-left party Varese 2000 has polled 65% of the vote for 15 years, showing that green politics, accompanied by green progress, is a solid vote-winner. See here for my source.



If you have children aged 6-12, and you’d like them to catch afire with the vision of a sustainable world, check out the FUN Camps that will run in Victoria from July 5th to August 27th at Windsor Park Pavilion in Oak Bay, organized by the irrepressibly determined Maia Green.

During their eco-summer, they will learn how to build and race a solar racing car, bake brownies in a solar oven, maintain their bike, plant seeds, reduce their ecological footprint, and develop leadership skills, mixed with outdoor games, sports, art, swimming, drama and hiking.

Registration is through Oak Bay 250-595-7946, see Could you help a disadvantaged youth to attend for a week by donating a $200 scholarship? You can send a cheque to FUN Camps, 5010 Lockehaven Drive, Victoria V8N 4J5, or do so online at



In the future sustainable world, all trade will be fair trade. 800 cities and towns have become Fair Trade Cities, in 19 countries, and Vancouver has just joined them, having met all the criteria, which includes having fair trade products widely available in local restaurants and supermarkets, and having an active Fair Trade steering group. For the five requirements for your town do the same, see



In many dry parts of the world, trees struggle to survive, and there often is not enough water to irrigate them. Even when there is, much is lost to evaporation - so what’s to be done? For Pieter Hoff, a Dutch flower-grower, his solution is the Groasis Waterboxx (pic below), which will grow food and trees even in the driest places. The round box is the size of a car tire, deigned to capture both rainwater and condensation which collects in the chamber underneath the cover, preventing it from evaporating. A wick taps into the ground and drops a small amount onto the tree’s root system every day. Once the tree has taken root, reaching a water source several meters below the ground, the box can be removed and used again elsewhere.

Groasis Waterboxx

In a 3-year test in the Sahara desert in Morocco that gets only a few inches of rainfall a year, 88% of the trees planted with the box survived after it was removed. In a test group planted without the box, but watered once a week, only 10% survived.

Pieter has developed a biopolymer version that will biodegrade, releasing nutrients into the soil, and is talking to a Dutch bank about a micro-finance scheme to enable farmers to buy the Waterboxx. ($26) Pieter thinks they could also promote reforestation, replanting the two billion hectares of trees we have cut down in the last 2000 years. See



The world’s oceans are warming up and the rise is both significant and real, according to one of the most comprehensive studies into marine temperature gathered over the past two decades. The upper 700 metres warmed significantly between 1993 and 2008, even though there has been a slight leveling off in the increase since 2003.

Global warming is not going away, just because the deniers think it doesn’t exist, and the looming emergency is as grave as ever. We must wean ourselves off fossil fuels - ideally by 2020. No-one believes this to be possible, but this is what the climate science demands if we are to safeguard our children’s future.

On Monday June 6th, there’s a big Climate Rally focused on the “Push for a Green Economy and Climate Sanity” at the Alex Goolden Theatre. The goal is to pile the pressure on Ottawa to include climate change in the G-8 and G-20 Summits (see Green Diary).



Geothermal energy is of the solutions that could replace coal-fired power, using heat 3 to 10 km below the Earth’s surface to create steam and run electrical generators. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found that enhanced geothermal energy could supply 2,500 more power than the entire USA consumes. The holdback has been the high cost of drilling, to which the solution may be a new way of drilling that uses super-heated water fired at supersonic speeds to carve through the rock, instead of mechanical abrasion. In August, Potter Drilling will use the new technique to drill a 4-inch hole through 1000 feet. Compared to regular drilling, water-drilling doesn’t have a bit that wears out, and it can drill continuously, 3-5 times faster than a mechanical drill. The trial is being funded by the US Department of Energy and Google. The eventual goal is to be able to drill to 10 kilometres. (Guardian)



Another problem we have to solve is how airplanes will fly without fossil fuels. The solution that is getting the most attention is biofuel made by farming algae. Virgin Airlines, Continental and the Chinese government have all held successful trials, and the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has successfully extracted oil from algal ponds at a cost of $2 a gallon ($0.52/litre); they say that large-scale refining, producing 50 million gallons a year, will begin in 2013, yielding 1000 gallons per acre from an algal farm that could use household sewage or brackish water.
Global flying uses 5 million barrels of oil a day, and is responsible for 2.4% of the cause of global warming, when all factors are taken into account. New Scientist magazine reported research showing that this much oil from algae could be grown on 66,000 square kilometres, or 276 barrels per hectare (about the size of Ireland, 0.13% of the world’s farmland). DARPA expects to produce 1000 gallons per acre, which is 59 barrels per hectare, five times less than New Scientist’s numbers. If DARPA is correct, flying would require land equivalent to 0.6% of the world’s farmland. 70% of the world’s farm and pastureland is used to raise animals for meat and dairy.
Looking ahead, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has designed a green airplane for NASA that could be flying by 2035 that uses 70% less fuel, with similar cuts in air and noise pollution, by redesigning the plane as a “double bubble”, with the engines in the rear where the air is slower moving in the wake of the fuselage, allowing engines to use less fuel for the same amount of thrust. For a photo, Google MIT + “double-bubble”.



It was all over the news in May - a huge new study compiling research from 13 countries which concluded that there was no association between the use of cell phones and brain cancer. Or so it was reported in North America, and by the US National Cancer Institute. But what awful selective reporting that was. In Britain, the Sunday Times reported “Heavy mobile users risk cancer.” So how come the difference?
Firstly, the study defined “heavy use” as more than 30 minutes a day. The researchers defined a “regular user” as making just one call a week over a 6-month period. Er - hullo? Has anyone seen a teenager without a cellphone glued to the ear recently? Secondly, it excluded anyone under the age of 30, because it was a ten-year study.

The real news, which should have alarm bells ringing, was that people over 30 who used a cell-phone for 30 minutes a day had a 33% increased risk of developing glioma tumours, a form of brain cancer. Because of the age delay and the “30  minutes a day” assumption, the study is deeply flawed. If you want to protect your children’s health, do everything within your powers to keep them off their cell phones.



“Run for the Cure” - it’s hard to naysay it, but it’s so frustrating to know that only 2% of all the money raised goes to actually help prevent cancer. In its studies of babies’ cord blood, the Environmental Working Group found 201 known and suspected carcinogenic chemicals in 20 babies. In May, the US President’s Cancer Panel said that public health officials have “grossly underestimated” the likelihood that environmental contaminants trigger a large proportion of cancers. On Saturday June 26th, Guy Dauncey and friends will be running/walking at Elk Lake to raise funds for Prevent Cancer Now, to provide help where it is sorely needed. See Call Guy 250-881-1304 if you’d like to help.

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