Newsletter No. 49 - Serving
Vancouver Island's Environmental Community - April 1996
ON FALSE GODS -AND GENUINE PROGRESS
Are we chasing the wrong goals ? Every
year, governments of the world predict that they will achieve 3%, 4% or 5% annual growth,
as measured by the growth in the GDP - the Gross Domestic Product. The concept was
invented in the 1960s, as ever since, it has become the guiding indicator telling us
whether we were making good progress.
GDP is the total measurement of everything we spend.
Unfortunately, it mixes the 'bads' up with the 'goods' and calls them all 'progress', with
the result that when the overall economy 'grows' we have no means of knowing if this is a
net benefit or not.
For instance - GDP treats all the money that we have to
spend on crime, prisons, divorce lawyers, oil spills and pollution clean-up, natural
disasters, car crashes and cancer as 'progress', since they all contribute to the GDP. It
treats the depletion of natural capital, whether it is our old-growth forest heritage or
the topsoil in our fields as income, rather than the depreciation of an asset. It entirely
ignores all the crucial voluntary activities such as childcare, looking after the elderly
and community work, since no money changes hands. It takes no account of income
distribution, hiding entirely the fact that while some are certainly getting richer, many
are getting poorer; and it counts the money we borrow from abroad to fuel our consumption
as an asset, not a debt which will have someday to be repaid. Even Simon Kuznets, the
original architect of GDP, stated that "The welfare of a nation can scarcely be
inferred from a measurement of national income as defined [by the GDP]......Goals for
'more' growth should specify of what and for what".
The graph to
the right shows what happens when you redefine 'progress'. The team that produced the
graph (Redefining Progress, 1 Kearny St, 4th flr, San Francisco, CA 94108; send $10 US for
the report) have worked in a very rigorous way to re-include the following in the overall
GDP : crime and family breakdown; household and voluntary work; income distribution;
resource depletion; pollution; long-term environmental damage; changes in leisure time;
defensive expenditures; the life span of consumer durables and public infrastructure; and
dependence on foreign assets. The result, when you take all these into account, shows
clearly that for the USA, at least, the 'Genuine Progress Indicator' (as they call it) has
been falling steadily since the early 1970s. If you count yourself among those who have
worried that things as a whole did not seem to be improving - you now have firm proof that
you were right. Granted, these are US figures, and the Canadian figures would not show
such a steep fall in 'genuine' progress, but the decline would still be there.
If making genuine progress is what life is all about -
improving the overall social, economic and ecological wellbeing of our society - this is
seriously bad news : we are NOT making progress. In fact, we are worshipping false gods,
and heading in the wrong direction. The corporations may be getting richer and making more
profits, but our overall community is further away from its goals than it was in 1970.
What are the implications of this realization ? At a
profound level, we need to shift our focus as a society from maximizing individual wealth
and wellbeing to maximizing community wealth and wellbeing and ecological wealth and
To tackle unemployment, this would mean introducing
widespread worksharing, so that everyone could worker fewer hours, instead of the
unemployed being forced to take all the leisure time.
- Ecologically, it would mean a wholesale change in land
management practices to incorporate more integrated, eco-system based approaches.
- Financially, it would mean shifting from income and job
taxes to taxes on natural resources, wastes and pollution.
- To reverse the process of community breakdown, it would
mean establishing locally-based community trusts with responsibility both for community
economic development and for local welfare and UI funds, so that we could start
re-investing in local community cohesion, instead of leaving it to the free market.
- For the corporations, which do so well out of our
mismanagement of our overall long-term goals, it would mean new legal agreements, setting
new standards of conduct for doing business in Canada, or BC.
Whatever we do, we've got to think urgently.
The curve is heading in the wrong direction.
WILDFLOWERS, A NATIVE PLANT TOUR,
AND 35 TYPES OF ORGANIC TOMATO !
April is wildflower month on Vancouver
Island, and Mount Tolmie, where there's been valiant work to control the broom, is looking
more amazing than ever as the camas, satin flower and shooting stars blanket the ground
(see Diary for guided tours). If you want native plants in your own garden, join the
Native Plant Garden Tour on Saturday April 27th from 10-5, when you can do your own guided
tour around Victoria's private gardens, including Government House meadows. Tickets ($5)
from most bookstores, nurseries and the Field Naturalist, with all proceeds going to
restoration projects. For details, call Nancy Field 598-2909. And as for the tomatoes -
Carolyn Herriot has returned to the Greenhouse at 1834 Haultain St (between Richmond &
Foul Bay), and is holding her first weekend organic bedding plant sale Fri 26th - Sun 28th
(10-5pm). And yes, amid a thousand other varieties of vegetables, herbs and heritage
flowers, she's got 35 different varieties of tomato and 27 different peppers. Don't miss
AT LAST - ECONEWS IS BEING
PRINTED ON HEMP - AND IT'S CHEAPER !
When hemp paper first arrived on the Island,
there were problems with its jamming up copy machines, as well as costing more. EcoSource
has now located a new source of supply from Eastern Europe made from mixed hemp, cotton
and flax, which (as you can see) causes no problems in the printing, and looks and feels
great. AND it's cheaper. EcoSource has developed a trading partnership with Digital Type,
an advanced tech Oak Bay print shop that uses faster computer-interfaced methods, and
vegetable inks that are cheaper than normal toners. By combining the two, the EcoNews
print bill has fallen from $237 to $186. Do you publish a newsletter, or regular fliers ?
To shift to tree-free paper, call EcoSource at 595-4367.
At the same time, some serious hitters are revisiting the
postwar ban on hemp production. Colorado, Vermont and Missouri are all considering
legislation to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp, and a recent Ontario conference was
attended by 200 farmers and business people. Half the forests that once covered the world
are now gone, and paper-use accounts for 30% of all the trees cut down. Worldwide paper
consumption is projected to expand by 46% by the year 2040, and the US forest industry
projects a 50% increase in timber demand by the same year, with all the accompanying
ecological destruction and loss. US per person consumption of wood is 80 cubic feet per
year, and of paper 681 lbs - that's 6 trees each just for the paper. There HAS to be an
alternative. The Canadian Auto Workers see the potential for a million new jobs in an
agricultural biomass industry, and have launched a petition requesting that
non-hallucinogenic industrial hemp be placed under the sanction of the Ministry of
Agriculture, rather than the Bureau of Dangerous Drugs. For information, call Studio Risi
Garden Design on 338-7642. Help is needed gathering signatures on Southern Vancouver
Roger Colwill, fresh from his successful
Green Building Revolution seminar, attended by over 100 people, is also a talented
watercolour painter. To celebrate EcoNews 50th Birthday, he is offering to do a
watercolour painting of your house (or your mother's house ?) for $500, with $250 going to
EcoNews. Just one offer, so call Roger now (598-0077) if you want to give someone a
SINGING AYUM CREEK
In our future dreams, surely, every
creek, valley and watershed will have its own local stewardship society, with people
dedicated to caring for it. Ayum Creek drains from the Sooke Hills into the Sooke Basin,
at the southern tip of the Sea-to-Sea Greenbelt proposal. As well as being the habitat for
spawning salmon, it flows through an area of wild forest which is home to many species of
plants and animals. 'Ayum' means 'singing', in the T'Sou-ke language. There are pressures
to develop housing on both sides of the creek, and to help protect it, and include it in
the CRD Parks Greenspace Strategy, Joanne Manley and friends have formed the Society for
the Protection of Ayum Creek. They are also working with the Streamkeepers Federation to
monitor and enhance its water quality. If you want to join them, call Joanne on 642-7278.
GREEN TAXES MAKE GOOD PROGRESS
Elizabeth, are you listening ? In
the past 5 years five European countries have cut income or payroll taxes, while
increasing taxes on energy, wastes or pollution. In 1991, the Swedish government cut
income tax by 4%, replacing the revenue with a series of environmental charges, including
a tax on sulfur dioxide emissions (which cause acid rain) and carbon dioxide emissions
(which contribute to the greenhouse effect). Denmark followed in 1993, cutting standard
taxes by 3%, replacing them with taxes on water use, pesticides, carbon dioxide and the
sale of batteries. Holland made a 0.7% tax shift from income to energy use last year, and
in Germany, all the major political parties have made tax-shift proposals. Spain has
traded a 1% reduction in payroll taxes for a 3.5% increase in gas taxes, and even Britain
has brought in a small shift from wage taxes to a landfill tax. What are we waiting for ?
For details, contact the Wuppertal Institute, PO Box 100408, D-42004, Wuppertal, Germany.
Internet : email@example.com
The GAIA Project, in conjunction with the
Sierra Club, is putting on a series of workshops on sustainable living skills call 'No
Footprints Where We Go', designed to help people shift their everyday lives into a more
sustainable gear. The series (see Diary) includes the way we travel, the way we invest our
savings, the way we keep house, the way we eat and consume, the way we respect our
gardens, and (in May) the way we die (yes - Green Death !) and the way we get engaged in
action. Each workshop is designed so that participants will be able to work through their
own personal situations, and develop new travel plans, new 'greening the home' strategies,
etc. For details call Kathryn Molloy 995-0268
SOOKE HILLS - WHAT'S NEW ?
The Greater Victoria Water District
Board of Directors are holding behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Kapoor Lumber
Company, as prelude to a possible land-swap in which Kapoor would be handed the
publicly-owned Waugh Valley watershed in the Sooke Hills Greenbelt area, in exchange for
logged-over timber lands inside the catchment area. David McLean, Chair of the Board, says
that they hope to hold open meetings in May when they will put the proposed swap to the
public. Misty MacDuffee and Alison Spriggs at Western Canada Wilderness Committee are
scandalized that this kind of private give-away of public lands could be planned, and fear
that the public meetings will just be a selling job for the planned land-swap. Such a swap
would destroy the integrity of the Sooke Hills Greenbelt proposal. Details : 388-9292.
"IT'S IMPROV-ECO !"
It's what ? It's 12 young people
aged 19 to 24 who are working on local environmental projects, who offer riotously funny
theatre improvisations on social & environmental issues. Want to hire them ? Use them
? Fail to refuse them ? They love to perform at events, and can do most evenings and
weekends, and also Monday afternoons. For all the action, call 381-7611.
RECYCLE THAT PLASTIC
Chris Mowat has set up a small
plastics recycling service for all plastics numbered 1,2,4,5,6 & 7 (see the small
triangle on the bottom). He takes them over to Envi Technologies in Delta where they are
converted into Superwood and made into fence posts, picnic tables, landscape ties,
etc. He can take nursery pots, styrofoam packaging, toothpaste tubes, yogurt containers,
shrink wrap and countless other plastics, except No 3 which is PVC (not recyclable). Make
sure it is clean, separate any metal parts, and separate rigid plastics from soft plastic
(eg bags and wrap). The drop-off (2 bags or less only, $3 per bag) is at 925 Dunford Ave,
Langford on the 2nd Saturday and last Monday of each month. He will also do pick-up (2-bag
minimum). Chris is doing this as a service, and as a potential business-in-the-making.
CRETE - THE CRADLE OF THE SOLAR
The island of Crete, in the
Mediterranean, the famed Crete of Knossos and the Minoans, has an energy crisis. Demand is
growing at 8% a year, but plans for a new oil-fired power station are facing stiff
opposition. Meanwhile, the US based energy giant Enron has expressed a willingness to
build a solar power plant in Crete, delivering power below the price of current fossil
fueled electricity. In a recent speech in Athens, the European Union Energy Commissioner,
Christos Papoutsis, suggested that Crete could be a model for renewable solar energy.
Greenpeace's solar campaigner Jeremy Leggett is brokering the discussions, and feels
hopeful. Greenpeace have also taken the initiative in Germany, where they advertised for
2,500 solar pioneers willing to buy solar-power systems for their homes. By January they
had 1500, and are now seeking manufacturers to create a solar panel business. Solar energy
is still more expensive than coal and oil, but there is a growing demand which the market
fails to recognize. Greenpeace International is campaigning to replace all coal, oil and
gas with solar and other sources of renewable energy.
THE CANADIAN RAINFOREST NETWORK
Just formed ! The Canadian
Rainforest Network has just been set up as an alliance of a wide range of diverse BC
environmental and grassroots groups working on forest issues. The Network's active members
include everyone from Bear Watch and BC Wild to Greenpeace Canada, the Sierra Club and the
Valhalla Wilderness Society. They aim to move the public debate about forest preservation
in the province away from valley by valley conflicts and "12% solutions", which
tend to protect rock, ice, meadows and scrub, at the expense of valuable low elevation
old-growth forests. The group's mandate is to protect the ecological integrity of BC's
ancient temperate rainforests. Their goals include protecting critical ecological areas;
stopping all clearcutting in coastal temperate rainforests; limiting road construction in
pristine areas; supporting First Nations struggles to protect traditional territories; and
promoting sustainable community economic development, and they will be advocating bold
legislative initiatives to do so. They are planning an official launch on June 6th at a
gala reception, and want as many organizations as possible in their list of supporters. To
get in touch, call Jill Thomas, Greenpeace, 253-7701.
ACTION OF THE MONTH : GRIZZLY BEARS, and SPIRIT BEAR
As you are reading this, all over central and
northern BC, in forest caves and valley dens, black bears, spirit bears and grizzly bears
are waking from their winter sleep, coming out to sniff the spring. This, their kind have
done for millennia. This is their land, long before the natives, long before the whites.
But this year, will they find their solitude, their mates ? Or will they find hunters
licensed to kill, and bulldozers, licensed to log ?
Here in BC, we still allow trophy hunting, that primeval
sport of ancient male pride. The government issues almost 20,000 licenses for black bears,
and 300 grizzlies die from the licensed trophy bullet - a third of whom are female. More
die from illegal poachers, eager to sell to the Chinese. We do not know how many grizzlies
there are. Maybe 3000, maybe 12,000. No-one knows - yet we go on killing. In the
Peace-Liard region, open season hunting may even be allowed.
While all this is happening, the government planning team
in charge of identifying areas for new parks is intent on cutting the Spirit Bear Park
proposal by 2/3rds, allowing logging on a large part of the remaining habitat of BC's rare
spirit bear - the white subspecies of the coastal black bear, in which one bear in ten is
white, equivalent in uniqueness and world stature to China's Panda bear. The existing plan
would protect Campania Island, and only half the area of southern Princess Royal Island
proposed for protection. No protection is proposed for the critical river valleys on the
mainland, and if adopted by Cabinet the plan would leave one of the largest intact
temperate rainforests in the world open to clearcut logging by Western Forest Products.
If the government goes ahead with its plans the protected
area will be too small to serve as a viable bear sanctuary. The full 265,000 hectare
Spirit Bear proposal, on the other hand, would also protect the greatest number of salmon
spawning streams (60), the greatest salmon diversity on any existing or proposed park on
the central to north BC coast, bringing the total coastal rainforest preserved to 8.5%, up
from the present tiny 6%. Action : What are we asking ? That every reader write a personal
letter, imploring the government to stop selling hunting licenses, and to protect the
whole of the Spirit Bear Park proposal. Send it to Moe Sihota, Leg Assembly, Victoria V8V
1X4. Fax 387-1356. If we all act together, our voices may be heard.
Grizzly Project : PO Box 957 Nelson, BC V1L 6A5 (604)
EcoNews provides this electronic version of
the newsletter free of charge even though it costs time and money to produce. Please feel
free to repost. You can help by making a donation, whether $5 or $100, to:
EcoNews, 395 Conway Road, Victoria, B.C. V8X 3X1, Canada. Thanks !
for previous issues of EcoNews.
EcoNews, Guy Dauncey
395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1
Tel/Fax (250) 881-1304
Available free by mail or email
Author of 'After the Crash : The
Emergence of the Rainbow Economy'
(Greenprint, London, 1988. 3rd edition 1997)
EcoNews is printed on Tree-Free paper from Ecosource