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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

 

 ECONEWS


Newsletter No. 55 - Serving Vancouver Island's Environmental Community - November 1996


CHANGING THE WAY WE RUN OUR CITIES - AND OUR COUNCILS

Once every three years, we get to vote for our local municipal leaders. On Nov 16th, that day comes round.

With the exception of some Mayors, the position of councillor pays $6,000 - $14,000 a year, depending on how large your municipality is. That's definitely a part-time salary, for what is really a full-time job. So how can anyone manage ? You have to be retired, have a partner with an income, be privately wealthy, or be committed to a very simple lifestyle. Is this really the best way to run our cities?

We pay a price for underpaying our councillors. Many of our most able leaders are unable to stand; and when those who get elected have to earn their own income too, it becomes difficult for them to do all the homework involved, while still enjoying a family life.

By default, the power passes to the staff. The City budget, for example, is an immensely important document that is almost impossible to understand unless you are a trained accountant. My estimate is that 80% of the power is with the staff; 15% with the Mayor and Council; and 5% with the public. If you are lucky enough to have a progressive, imaginative staff, the system can work well - but if the staff are carrying out business as usual, doing things the way they've always been done, and finding reasons why they can't be done differently - well, it gets hard to change the world in those circumstances,

What would it take to pay our councillors properly ? For Victoria, it would cost $3.20 per person per year, around $8 per household. Less than the price of a Tuesday evening movie for two.

We need to have the best, full-time leaders, at least in our larger communities, because some of the world's biggest problems have solutions at the local level. Cities in Europe are creating car-free areas, and using them to revitalize their urban centres. Berkeley and Oakland, in San Francisco, have set up a successful Recycled Market Development Zone, creating jobs in industries that use recycled material, while keeping hundreds of thousands tons of stuff out of the landfill. Tucson, Arizona, is partner in a progressive development to build a model sustainable urban village, demonstrating solar energy, energy efficiency, water efficiency, organic urban agriculture, a pedestrian and cycling environment, and a strong local economy. Throughout Europe, cities are committing themselves to implementing the goals of the Rio Conference on the Environment, through Local Agenda 21.

A visionary council for the final years of the 20th century could :

  • Open discussion groups on the Internet, covering everything from street people to traffic calming.
  • Take council meetings out to the different neighbourhoods and to the schools, to encourage more people to get involved.
  • Bring young people onto all advisory groups & committees.
  • Set up electronic town hall meetings on key issues, using the combined power of television, telephones and the Internet.
  • Take responsibility for finding solutions to local unemployment, through community economic development, and by encouraging home-based business, setting up televillages, and zoning for live-work business and industrial units.
  • Set up worksharing options at City Hall, offering staff more time off for less pay, and hiring more people to pick up the slack.
  • Work with neighbourhood groups to create car-free and traffic-calmed neighbourhood centres.
  • Phase out parking privileges, provide staff with bicycles for meetings, and charge the true market price for city parking places.
  • Set up local stewardship groups to create, protect and restore green corridors, creeks, lakes, ponds, Garry Oak meadows, and generally bring nature back into the city.
  • Establish urban containment boundaries and greenbelts, and zone future developments for compact ecovillage and televillage clusters, instead of allowing suburban sprawl to destroy our environment.
  • Work with the neighbourhoods to establish a voluntary system of street wardens, to encourage people to develop a stronger sense of community, and get more involved in local neighbourhood activities.
  • Conduct public hearings in a more intelligent way, using a facilitated process to find common ground and make improvements in projects, instead of polarizing people against each other.
  • Advertise rezonings in plain English that ordinary people can understand, instead of 'plannerese', which is enough to confuse anyone.
  • Plan ahead for the massive increase in locally grown food that is needed now, and will be needed even more when the world food crisis hits, in just ten years time.
  • Ban the cosmetic use of chemical pesticides and herbicides throughout the municipality.
  • Develop plans with the local business community to develop a closed-loop, restorative economy, with more jobs, less pollution and less waste.

You see, there's a lot we could do!

- Guy Dauncey


ECONEWS

Published as a monthly service, nourishing the vision of an Island blessed by the harmony of nature and community, funded by your donations.

Many thanks for your kindness to Jim Holtz, Bert & Liz Elliot, Ross & Caryl Peters, Dan Jason, Wes Koch, Mel Moilliet, Ken Wardroper, Liz Reading, Ian Moul, Victoria Natural History Society ($100), Katey Bloomfield, Hilary Sandford, John McMahen & Peter Schofield. Your donations are still needed, and welcome !

Donations can be made to EcoNews, 395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1. If you don't want to receive EcoNews, or are going away, please let us know - it avoids wasting the postage. To receive EcoNews call (250) 881-1304, or email guydauncey@earthfuture.com


IT'S LOCAL ELECTION TIME !

On Nov 16th, we have the chance to vote in green, socially progressive candidates in our various municipalities. A number of good people (and EcoNews readers) have put their names forward for what can be very hardworking and unappreciated work. By listing them here, EcoNews is actively endorsing them : Nitya Harris in Langford; Bob McMinn in the Highlands; Wally du Temple in North Saanich; Marshall Rosen in Central Saanich; David Cubberley in Saanich; and in Victoria, Laura Acton (for Mayor), and Al Beattie, Mike Burnett, Harinder Dhillon, Jack Etkin, Helen Hughes, Jane Lunt, Pam Madoff, Rande McMurray, Gene Miller, Art Vanden Berg & Christobal Young (choose 8). There is almost no limit to what a good Mayor and council with a working majority can do. Go vote !

And then there's the vote for the School District Trustees, a job that takes 20 hours a week, and a lot of dedication. For School District 61 (Greater Victoria), these are EcoNews' recommended candidates (choose 9 out of these 10) : Charlotte Beresford, Sandra Griffin, Tom Gillespie, Jim Holland, Bev Horsman, Carole James, Jackie Ngai, Morgan Stewart, Joan Russow and Peter Yorke.


SALT SPRING, SOOKE HILLS

Good things do happen ! The Salt Spring Island Conservancy has succeeded in its bid to raise the money to buy Mill Farm, the 65-hectare property on the slopes of Mount Bruce. They raised $108,000 on the Island, and the CRD and the Pacific Marine Heritage Legacy are covering the rest of the $800,000 price. It was a tight squeeze, against a competing bid from a Washington logging company.

And the Greater Victoria Water District Commission has recommended preserving all the non-catchment lands in the Sooke Hills as a park, placing the District under wider regional control, and making conservation of both land and water a major objective in future. Years of hard and persistent campaigning by the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, the Victoria Sierra Club, the Sea-to-Sea Greenbelt Society and many others appears to be paying off. Congratulations to all involved ! You are securing our heritage, and our children's heritage, for thousands of years to come.


RETURNING THE LOON TO PROSPECT LAKE

Not long ago, there were loons that nested on the island in Prospect Lake, in Saanich. Not any more. I quote from the wonderful booklet that the residents of Prospect Lake have published, with the above title : "If what has happened to Prospect Lake since my boyhood had occurred within a few years, it would have been called an environmental disaster. The demise of the lake must not be blamed on nature. The surrounding forest, reed and lily beds are rapidly giving way to rock walls and other 'improvements'. With habitat vanishing, so too is the diversity of wildlife and the ability of the foreshore to filter the ever-increasing nutrient flow. The once renewing winter rains now mostly serve to wash more toxins into the water. Slime balls, algae blooms and white foam are clear proof. With the lake undrinkable and often unswimmable, increasingly weed-choked and oxygen starved, many native aquatic species are all but extinct. The once natural trout has been replaced by hatchery-raised fish. The air, water and noise pollution from the ever larger, louder and more numerous power boats drives many a man and beast from the lake on a quiet summer afternoon. We are the stewards, we are the caretakers, and we are doing a very poor job." (Rick Todd).

The booklet itself is a work of love. As well as detailing the problems (the power boats emit 70 times more hydrocarbon pollution per litre than the average car; 30% of the fuel and oil used in 2-stroke engines ends up in the water; hot tubs empty chlorine and bromine into the lake), it offers many practical suggestions for restoring the ecosystem. "If we accept our role as stewards, we can return the loon to Prospect Lake." The booklet is a model for anyone who lives in an area that has been degraded, and who wishes to restore its former beauty and ecological diversity. To obtain a copy, send a large, stamped self-addressed envelope to the Prospect Lake District Community Association, 203 Goward, RR7, Victoria V8X 3X3. 479-1956.


SECRETS OF FUNDRAISING

'The workshop was really helpful. Next time I want our whole board to attend" (Laurie MacBride, Georgia Strait Alliance). "It's like being backstage with a great magician. You can see that the most incredible feats are accomplished by surprisingly simple methods. (Bob Bossin, folksinger). They are talking about Ken Wyman, author of six books on fundraising and volunteerism with non-profit groups, a committed social and environmental activist who has helped hundreds of grassroots organizations raise millions of dollars. He's running two day workshops in Victoria and two evening seminars in Nanaimo (see Diary), so if you are with a group that is struggling financially, and could do with a boost, sign up ! In Victoria, call 386-5255; in Nanaimo, call 753-6181.


HELP SEND MARY ALICE TO ROME !

Talking of fundraising, Mary Alice Johnson, one of Victoria's best known organic farmers, has been invited to attend the big UN Food Summit that is happening in Rome this month. Mary Alice met Vandana Shiva when she was in town last year, and now she has been asked to be a delegate at Rome, representing women who feed their family and local community, and care for the land. It's going to cost $2,000 for her to get there and stay, and Marti Martin-Wood is organizing a fundraising drive. So if you can donate, please do ! Cheques can be made to Canadian Organic Growers, and sent to Marti, 4768 William Head Rd, Metchosin V8X 3W9. Tel 478-3794.


ROBERT THEOBALD

Robert is a British-American futurist, economist and author who foresaw the coming of automation, mass production, and social ecological breakdown thirty years ago, back in the 60s, long before they became the topical issues they are today. At the time, few people listened, so he went on to create a grass-roots organization called Action-Linkage, creating dialogue to address the coming changes, and to explore such issues as the new economics, sustainable communities, health and religion. After being featured on the CBC's 'Ideas' for his progressive thinking, Robert was invited to give this year's Massey Lectures, a task which he took to by organizing a world-wide process of contribution over the Internet's 'futurework' list, building a group of committed co-workers who shared his vision of a world in which everyone would partake in meaningful work, and benefit from community-based development. The Internet process worked so well that there were plans for a country-wide lecture tour, following the Masseys, intended to trigger a major country-wide process of discussion, dialogue and commitment. Then for reasons of their own, the CBC pulled the plug on the Masseys, but Robert, who now had an inspired team of people all over Canada, decided to press on, anyway. Here in Victoria, he will be speaking on 'Reworking Success : global networking, local action and the new politics' on November 8th (see Diary), with a follow-up seminar on the Saturday, sponsored by the World Federalists, the Council of Canadians, the National Centre for Sustainability, and others.


'THIS PLACE ON EARTH'

Every so often a book comes along which is so well written, insightful and thought-provoking that you want to recommend it to everyone. So it is with Alan Durning's new book, 'This Place on Earth' (Sasquatch Books, $22.95US). Alan worked with the WorldWatch Institute in New York, and used to jet around saving the world. Then he and his wife Amy decided to return to their roots in the Pacific North-West (Seattle), where he founded Northwest Environment Watch, a local WorldWatch for our bioregion (where Victoria's Donna Morton went to work). His new book tells the story of how they settled in to make this region their home, how he came to understand the ecology, history and geography of the Washington region, and what kind of policies, initiatives and ideas might be needed to turn the whole bioregion into a sustainable, graceful place. He skillfully interweaves tales of how he and his family discover the region with ideas for creating new urban villages in the suburbs, ways of reclaiming our cities from the car, ways of producing the goods we use using ten times less energy and material, changes to the way we price and tax things that could guide us towards sustainability, and a host of other well-researched, carefully thought out policies. These are the thoughts of someone who has put real time and care into solving the great conundrum of our time - how can we turn our great economy around, so that it no longer consumes nature, but restores it ? If I had not already read this and someone gave it to me for Christmas, I'd be a contented man. Alan is speaking at UVic on Nov 25th (see Diary), so there'll be a chance to hear him, and probably buy a signed copy, too.


IT'S TIME TO CHANGE THE WAY WE DO BUSINESS....

FOR THE LIFE OF OUR COMMUNITY, VOTE

LAURA ACTON for MAYOR

PAM MADOFF for COUNCIL

Experienced. Inclusive. Energetic. To lend your help, call 386-1163


CAR-FREE HOUSING

In Edinburgh, Scotland, where car ownership has increased by 56% in the last ten years, the city has set a target to reduce traffic by 30% by 2010. As part of the plan, Lothian Regional Council has approved Britain's first car-free housing development, a $14 million apartment development for tenants who are prepared to sign a lease renouncing possession of motor transport. The development will have no feeder roads, and no places for parking. Emergency vehicles will gain access via a key and padlock bollards.


ELECTRIC CARS....

The Swiss city of Monthey, near Lake Geneva, has purchased 20 small 'Saxi' electric cars, which are available to multiple users as commuter or shopping vehicles. You simply pay for the vehicle when you're using it. Here on the Island, Clean Air Vehicles NOW! is looking for business or non-profit groups willing to trial an electric passenger vehicle during 1997, as part of a project coordinated by the Vancouver Island Advanced Technology Centre. For details, call Randy Holmquist on (250) 390-1166.


....AND CAR SHARING

The Victoria Car Share Co-operative has 25 of the 40 members it seeks, and will be launching on February 14th with the purchase of five shared vehicles. The idea is to give people access to a car, without having to own one. In Europe, 20,000 people are members of car share co-ops, and the number is increasing by 50% a year. By sharing a car, there are fewer vehicles on the street, less air pollution, less congestion, less urban stress, etc. Members pay $500 up front ($400 returnable), a $10 monthly fee, and $1.30 per hour and 0.25 cents a kilometer when they use the car. To book the car, you simply call the co-op's answering service. The first five cars will be based in James Bay, but the plans are to cover the whole of Greater Victoria. If you are interested, call Kathryn Molloy 995-0265, or come to the booth in Thrifty's Mall, James Bay on November 9th.


GREEN/BLUE SPACES

Over the past year, the Provincial Capital Commission and CRD Parks have been doing some valuable work in preparing a long-term strategy for the protection of valuable ecosystems, areas and corridors. The draft strategy has been on public display, but if you missed it, the CRD's Jeff Ward will be speaking to the Sierra Club on November 13th in Fernwood (see Diary). To turn the proposal into reality, the draft strategy suggests 75 measures and initiatives, including that local municipalities should recognize the results in Official Community Plans, that development should be clustered instead of sprawled out all over the place, and that a Regional Land Trust should be established. What it should do, but doesn't (so far), is propose a complete system of watershed-based ecological management for the San Juan, Loss Creek, Jordan River, Sooke and other watersheds, which is the best way to ensure long-term protection of the ecosystem as a whole. That maps are very detailed, and we owe it to our region to examine them, especially the areas we know well. The full report is at the CRD's offices; To obtain your copy of the summary, just call 478-3344.

Responses are required by November 30th.


ACTION OF THE MONTH

Lifestyle Markets on Douglas St is selling 100% recycled, non-chlorine bleached toilet paper from Seventh Generation (at last !). If every household in Canada bought just one 4-pack of this bathroom tissue instead of the normal virgin fibre tissue, we would save 100,000 trees, 460 trucks full of garbage, and 42 million gallons of water, as well as keeping furans and dioxins out of the environment. So - check out Lifestyle Markets ! 2950 Douglas St. 384-3388.


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