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

Executive director of The Solutions Project

 

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 wellbeing.

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.

Guy Dauncey


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 out !


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 Island.


WATERCOLOURS

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 surprise present.


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 : kai.schlegelmilch@mail.wupperinst.org


'NO FOOTPRINTS'

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. Call 642-3530.


CRETE - THE CRADLE OF THE SOLAR CIVILIZATION ?

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 PARK

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) 355-BEAR


NOTICE

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 !


Click here 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