Newsletter #216 - Sept 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



Sept. 1st, 2011

$43 trillion - that’s how much is owed by governments to external debt-holders, according to The Economist’s global debt clock. In 2012 it will rise to $46 trillion.

Here are some of the numbers, showing debt per person and per GDP :

Greece:$34,154135% of GDP
Italy: $37,220 120% of GDP
Portugal:$16,751 88% of GDP
Spain: $19,18488% of GDP
Canada: $38,262 82% of GDP
US: $33,135 68% of GDP

Strange… there’s Canada with a larger debt to GDP ratio than the US. So how come the government has been telling us what good shape Canada is, in compared to the US?

That’s a small matter, however, compared to the big problem, which is how nations can stop the debt from growing, and begin to pay it down. It is because of the debts that governments are cutting back on environmental budgets and social spending at the very time when we need it. What is the way out of the mess? A sustainable world must have sustainable finances.

But first, how did we get into this mess? Maybe understanding that will help us get out of it.

Click here for the full version.


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Green Bites


How many species ?
A new study published in PLoS Biology estimates the total number of species on Earth at 8.7 million, with 6.5 million on land and 2.2 million in the ocean. In spite of 250 years of classification and 1.2 million species catalogued, the results suggest that 86% of the land species and 91% in the ocean await description. In 1979, when a beetle expert at the Smithsonian went into the jungles of Panama, rolled some sheeting and sprayed several trees with pesticide, he discovered the bodies of over 1,100 new beetles under a single tree.

How much species loss ?
We are causing the extinction of species at between 100 and 1,000 times the natural background rate. The current estimate is that we could cause the extinction of 9%-18% of all species by 2050, representing up to 1.5 million species.

How many people?
The seven billionth person may be born on October 31st, so expect a lot of media coverage. It took five million years to reach one billion; 123 years to reach two billion; 47 years to reach four billion; 25 years to reach six billion; and 12 years to hit 7 billion. We are increasing by 77 million a year, but the birth rate is falling as women become educated and there is more widespread contraception. With so many young people, the growth will continue until around 2050 when it will hopefully stabilize at 9-10 billion and begin to fall. If every couple had just one child, it would fall to two billion in 100 years.

How many cars, trucks and buses?
The 4-wheeled population passed one billion last year. It took 85 years to hit a quarter billion; 16 years to reach half a billion, and 24 years to double to one billion. Some predict that it could reach 2.5 billion by 2050. If every country adopted sustainable mobility policies and designs that prioritized walking, cycling, transit, rail, car-sharing and ridesharing, it could fall to half a billion, with one vehicle for every six or seven households.

How much CO2?
The current level is 392 parts per million, compared to 285 ppm before the industrial age. Lacking global action, we are on a seemingly relentless track to 450 ppm, and then more. Half the surplus CO2 is entering the oceans, making them more acidic. The other half is entering the atmosphere, where the average molecule released by a car or truck today will trap heat for 100 years.



There are many local organizations whose members work hard to protect the habitats and species here on southern Vancouver Island. Once a year they have a big public get-together called Conservation Connection, and this year it’s on Friday September 30th with guest speaker Bob MacDonald from the CBC’s Quirks & Quarks, at the Mews Conference Centre at Royal Roads. If you would like to find an organization to volunteer with, this is your chance to see them all together. For the details see



At the time of writing there has been little about it in Canada’s media, but right now in Washington DC, 2,000 people have pledged to get arrested to try to stop the flow of tar sands oil into the US through the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline.

As of August 25th, 322 people had been arrested including Bill McKibben, Gus Speth, Margot Kidder and Tantoo Cardinal. President Obama has the sole authority to approve or deny the pipeline, which is why they are focusing their attention on the White House.

Before he was arrested, Gus Speth said “We the prisoners being held in the Central Cell Block of the D.C. Jail need company and encourage the continuation of the protests against the tar sands pipeline. Help us stop this disastrous proposal! I’ve held numerous positions and public office in Washington but my current position feels like one of the most important.” See

Similar action is being planned for civil disobedience in Ottawa on Sept 26th. See

This May, Salt Spring researcher Michelle Mech published A Comprehensive Guide to the Alberta Oil Sands. She buried her heart and soul in it, so it’s good to learn what she gleaned, including the myth of the bountiful high-paying jobs, the greenwashing about carbon capture and storage, the potentially catastrophic disaster-in-waiting tailings ponds held in check by barrage dams up to 100 metres high, and the reality that when all factors are taken into account, the oil sands are producing twice as much CO2 as is being reported, which means they are contributing three to four times more to global warming than conventional oil, making them far worse than coal.

It is projected that tar sands production will increase to 1.8 million barrels a day over the next decade, requiring the elimination of 740,000 acres of boreal forest, and all the carbon it stores. Tar sands apologists claim that it is “ethical” compared to Saudi Arabian oil, but there is nothing ethical about such destruction unless you are completely oblivious to the beauty and ecological importance of Nature. See



We all need to eat, and over the last year our local farmers and food activists have achieved huge successes in winning the public’s attention. To continue the good work there are several important events this month. On the first weekend in September there’s a movie at Cinecenta on the honeybees crisis. This is followed on Tuesday 13th by a talk by Madrona Farm’s and TLC’s Natalie Chambers on how we can halt the decline of the bees.

The Sunday before (Sept 11th) there’s the grand Eat Here Now! Harvest Festival in Centennial Square, with tasty food, music and activities of every kind.

The next weekend (Sept 17/18), pack your tent for OUR EcoVillage in Shawnigan Lake, where the Cowichan Wine and Culinary Festival is combined with a Symposium on Insight into Genetically Modified Organisms with big-name guest speakers, locavore feasts, ecovillage tours and a chance to learn how we can take down the industrial farm-destroyers, led by the arch-villain Monsanto. For details, see Green Diary.

Also during September volunteers in the Fruit Tree Project will be harvesting apples and pear that go to waste for distribution to homeowners, volunteers, food banks and community organizations. If you can help, call Renate at 250-383-5800,



It was with great sadness that we learnt of the death of Jack Layton, who did so much to uphold the vision and importance of compassion, social justice and love for the environment, before being cut short by cancer at the young age of just 61.

My friends, love is better than anger.

Hope is better than fear.

Optimism is better than despair.

So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.

And we’ll change the world.”

- Jack Layton, R.I.P.



Jack was not the only inspiration to have left us this summer. During August Ray Anderson also died, also of cancer. Ray was a conservative southern businessman who ran the carpet company Interface. In 1994, he read Paul Hawken’s book The Ecology of Commerce, and found it to be ‘a spear through the chest’. He realized that everything his company was doing and that his business colleagues were doing was destroying the Earth. In the pain of that awakening, he cast off the veil of business-as-usual, and awoke to the raw beauty of the sacred earth in all its complexity. He vowed to change, and set his company on a path to ‘Mission Zero’ aiming for zero waste, zero impact and zero footprint by 2020. By 2009, Interface was halfway there, tracking its progress every year.

Ray took his inspiration further in over 1,000 speeches to business leaders, encouraging them to take up the sustainability challenge. In his wonderful eulogy to Ray, Paul Hawken said, “For Ray, re-imagining the world was a responsibility, something owed to our children’s children, a gift to the future that is begging for selflessness and vision…. his life was about the sacred. His covenant was with God; the marketplace is where he labored.” I do urge you to read Paul’s words, which are here:



Yes, it was in October 1991 that I produced the first issue of ‘The Network’, designed to serve the needs of the ‘Network for Spiritual and Ecological Change’ that Lillian van Pelt, Ben Dolf, Valerie Stanley-Jones, Chris Pegg, Carolyn Herriot, Tom Wuest, Margaret MacGregor, Larry Monterey and I were hoping to establish. The Network with its fancy dinners did not survive, but the newsletter did. By February 1992 it included a Green Diary, and by August 1992 it had been renamed Greater Victoria EcoNews, printing 300 copies. By 1999 I was printing 2,300 copies. The printed version is now 1500, and over 3,000 read it by email.

Throughout these years, I have been supported by a wonderful cast of volunteers who have prepped the labels and envelopes and met every month to fold, stuff, seal and stamp the newsletter, sometimes late into the night way when not enough people showed up. The years pass by, and sometimes the past gets forgotten, but if you have ever been among this wonderful crew, I thank you. There may come a point when I stop doing the printed version, but the response from readers begging me to continue was strong, and there were enough kind donations flowing in enough to keep going, including very generous gifts from the congregation of the First Unitarian Church in Saanich and The Pinch Group at Raymond James.

In the intervening twenty years I have seen the green movement on Vancouver Island grow in strength, and the public increase its embrace of the need to love and protect Nature. We still have an awfully long way to go, however. We’re no more than 10% of where we need to be if we’re going to make it around Cape Sustainability and back to the calmer waters of a peaceful green world in time, so the more we do and the greater our inspiration and persistence, the better it will be for all of us. We need all the urgency we can muster, but we also need the clear vision and the joyfulness of living that vision today. Let us be the change that we want to see in the world!

- Guy Dauncey

The Wonderful World of Web
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