LIFE BEYOND THE WASTELAND
In the 1450s, in Europe, we used to dump our garbage on
the streets, and let the maggots and the crows take care of it. Then in the 1750s, when
the streets began to get too smelly, we started collecting it in carts and dumping it
outside the city walls.
Here on the west coast, the Salish and Nuu'Chah'Nulth
peoples used to leave their winter villages at this time of year, and the birds and
animals would come in and clean up.
As recently as the 1950s, in Victoria, we used to take our
garbage down to the beach and let the high tide take care of it. Hmm.
But then 'progress' arrived ! We started digging landfills
to bury the garbage out of sight. When the landfill was full, we dug up a 12,000 year old
lake to make room for another 40 years worth of garbage. Is this progress, or what ? The
average carpet (for instance) lasts 12 years, and then goes into the landfill - where it
may remain for as long as 20,000 years. And that's just the visible corner of it.
'According to Robert Ayers, a leader in studying
industrial metabolism, about 94% of the materials extracted for use in manufacturing
durable products become waste before the product is even manufactured. More waste is
generated in production, and most of that is lost unless the product is re-used or
recycled. Overall, America's material and energy efficiency is no more than 1 or 2%.'
(Paul Hawken, Mother Jones, April 1997). Is Canada any different ?
Globally, we are draining, mining and chainsawing Earth's
natural capital to make the things we want, using them often only once, and spewing them
into the environment as 'waste'. Economists call it 'growth', and insist that it's good
for the economy. Governments crave it. It may be good for the economy, but it's certainly
not good for the Earth.
Then in the 1990s, we began to realize how wasteful we
were being, and started to recycle. Here in the CRD, we currently recycle 37% of the
post-consumer waste-stream : the goal is 50% by the year 2000. (Keep composting, and keep
putting those mixed papers and newspapers in the blue box !).
Recycling is just the beginning, however. We have to
refashion our whole economy, from corner stores to mega-malls, along lines which minimize
waste and use resources with more intelligence. 'The resource productivity revolution',
Paul Hawken calls it. And we have to live with more quality, consuming less. That's called
We're clearly making eco-progress of some kind, so let's
jump to the year 2015, and see what might be happening then.
2015 When you walk into your neighbourhood store (or any
store) you'll see that all the products are ecolabelled and bar-coded, indicating their
cradle-to-grave eco-impact rating - and that they are taxed according to their rating. GST
has gone, replaced by the Ecological Sales Tax (EST), which bills you for the product's
manufacturing impacts, carbon dioxide emissions, other pollutants, and degrees of
When the legislation came in, manufacturers responded
quickly, keen for their products to have the lowest eco-impact rating. As a consumer,
there's a further disincentive against buying wasteful products, since the landfill
charges are $500 a tonne, which you pay by an electronic billing system built into the
That's not as bad as it seems, for under the Canadian
Product Stewardship Act, manufacturers are legally responsible for the disposal of their
own wastes, including packaging, so most packaging is designed for easy recycling.
Non-recyclable packaging costs a lot, so there's not much of it around.
Down at City Hall, business permit applications must
include an eco-management plan, which is tied to a good eco-impact rating. There has been
a rapid growth in eco-industrial clusters, as businesses work together to make the most
from their waste resources.
On the consumer end of things, the standard accounts
program that people use to do their taxes has been integrated with the voluntary
simplicity and the personal eco-impact programs, creating a single, unitary system of
self-audit, which turns the annual tax round into more of a personal life review. This is
the time, typically, when people make the decision to shift from a 4 to a 3-day week,
trading income for time, or trading their car for membership in a car share co-operative.
It all works out to lower taxes, fewer things, and less stress - while the shorter working
week is helping to mop up unemployment.
On the grand level, what's happening is that the old curve
of exponential economic growth is beginning to split in two, to decouple. The material
dimension of growth is ceasing to grow, and is heading towards a steady state economy,
while the quality/intelligence dimension is heading off to who knows where. Who does know
where ? Wasn't that always the question ? Now that we're getting unhooked from the limited
world of physical growth, we can see more clearly that the inner universe has no limits
whatsoever. Now that's getting the economists really confused.
- Guy Dauncey
Published as a monthly service, nourishing
the vision of an Island blessed by the harmony of nature and community, funded by your
||? ? ?
||? ? ?
||? ? ?
||? ? ?
Many thanks to Kathleen Gibson, Fay Mogensen,
Francis van Loon, Marilyn Thaden Dexter, Tim Isaak, Reg dawe, Bernice Packford, Unlimited
Possibilities, Mara Meshak, Ken & Andreé Scott, Fran Grady & Martha McMahon.
If you'd like to receive EcoNews by mail call 881-1304. By
email, call firstname.lastname@example.org. To make
a donation, send a cheque to EcoNews, 395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1.
APRIL IN THE MAGAZINES
The April issue of Mother Jones has a superb feature
spread by Paul Hawken on 'Natural Capitalism'. The new Common Ground has a mind-blowing
article on how organic food contains essential minerals and trace elements that are
missing in food raised on chemical fertilizers and pesticides; and the new WorldWatch
Magazine has an important piece on the Global Spread of High-Risk Synthetic Chemicals. You
can find them all at Yates News & Books, 736 Yates St.
'YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE'
Stressed out ? Working too hard ? Fed up with the
insidious power of consumerism? The best-selling book 'Your Money or Your Life' by Vicki
Robin and Joe Dominguez contains a simple nine-step plan that will transform the way you
think about, earn and spend money. The whole-systems approach, based on simple record
keeping and your own life situation, works for anyone who earns or spends money, whether
rich or poor. Art Charlton (592-1188) is starting a new 6 session group starting Mon April
21st. To learn how the last session went, call one of the graduates : Bill Okell 479-8453;
Hal Shand 744-2675.
Also, Jackie Robson, City Coordinator for the NorthWest
Earth Institute, has places in her ongoing Study Groups on Voluntary Simplicity and Deep
Ecology. Call her at 361-9446.
TAHSIS SMELLS SMELLY
Frank Hovenden writes : Having worked in Nootka Sound for
the last 18 years I have a far different perspective than the one presented by Julie
Johnston (EcoNews 58 'Tahsis Smells Real'). Tahsis is a company town, totally dependent
upon Pacific Forest Products Limited which operates two sawmills there. It suffered huge
layoffs (many hundreds of jobs) during the 80's and up to the present due to
The Company chooses to blame the downturn on recent
environmental initiatives. These mills are entirely dependent upon liquidating the
old-growth forests of Nootka Sound. The Timber Supply Analysis for the Strathcona Timber
Supply area showed that this area was greatly overcut and this resulted in a 16% reduction
in the AAC last year with more cuts to come. The environmental sensitivity of Wayne Haw
(mill manager) was shown following the torrential rains of January 1996, when he expressed
concern in the local press on how the weather was affecting his log supply. He failed to
mentioned that the same storm caused landslides that have many people calling Nootka
Island "Nuked Island"!
With a couple of notable exceptions, the Nootka Resource
Board is a group of company sycophants dedicated to protecting the interests of Pacific
Forest Products. Many of the board members were formerly members of the local 'Share'
group, including their paid secretary. The majority are either employees, spouses of
employees or contractors for Pacific Forest Products. They have consistently opposed any
progressive action which would impact the timber supply for Pacific Forest Products.
Although supposedly open to the public they meet during the workday and are virtually
inaccessible to the working person. Although supposed to give representation to all
sectors, the board has ignored the environmental and fisheries sectors. The Friends of
Nootka Sound, a locally based environmental group, has been repeatedly ignored or snubbed
by the Board.
BRITISH TRAFFIC MAKES U-TURN
Unbelievably, the British Road Traffic Reduction Bill has
become law, and will require local governments to draw up reports on traffic levels in
their areas, along with desirable targets for reductions in local traffic levels. The
Secretary of State for Transport will consider these reports when making funding available
for traffic reduction schemes. Friends of the Earth, who worked with the Green Party,
Plaid Cymru (the Welsh nationalists) and many other organizations for the Act, said:
"This is wonderful news and a momentous occasion in transport history: for the first
time ever a law has been passed that will tackle traffic growth rather than trying to
accommodate it." In the original bill, specific goals were set (5% by 2005, 10% by
2010). After the May 1st election, the groups will campaign to get the target reductions
onto the statute books. Friends of the Earth, London)
Dutch consultants PRé Consultants have just released
'Eco-it', a simple user-friendly program which allows a company to assess the ecological
impact of its products including the production, consumer and disposal phases (see cover
story). The program works with a database of over 100 eco-indicators which were developed
as part of a Dutch government project, and enable a product developer to carry out an
environmental analysis of any product in a matter of minutes. It costs $200US, and a demo
can be downloaded from their website at www.pre.nl/eco-it.html.
NO, NO, NANOOSE
For 13 years, the Nanoose Conversion Campaign has been
assembling a winning case against US submarines using Georgia Strait as a weapons
test-range. During the last 10 months, they have released a professional economic
assessment of the range called 'Damn the Torpedoes' by UVic economist Dr Jack Ruitenberg,
which reveals hidden subsidies that cost Canadian taxpayers $18 million a year; filed in
the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of nuclear submarines dumping toxic
debris into salmon habitat; upheld the World Court ruling that nuclear threats are illegal
under International Law by blocking access to the base five times in November; and earned
across the board support for a Full Public Review of the base. The Campaign feels that it
is close to success, and urgently needs money to drive its advantages home. Contact : NCC
#2, 85 Commercial St, Nanaimo V9R 5G3 (250) 741-1662 email@example.com www.nanaimo.ark.com/~convert/
THE FUTURE OF BANKING
Listen up, you banks, with all your big time profits and
attitudes ! At the Vermont National Bank, the Socially Responsible Banking Fund gives
depositors with any type of account, no matter how small, a say in how their money will be
used. The fund uses that money to provide commercial loans to Vermont residents involved
in agriculture, education, the environment, affordable housing or small business. The key
to every loan is that the borrower must be benefiting the community in some way. Started
seven years ago, the idea has proved extremely popular. More than 11,000 depositors -
almost all of them new customers - have joined the Socially Responsible Banking Fund since
it started in 1989. Their accounts total more than $111 million, nearly a tenth of the
bank's billion dollars in assets. Most depositors are from Vermont, but 42 states and 16
foreign countries are also represented. The village of Townshend borrowed money for a
revolving loan fund aimed at creating jobs and strengthening the local economy. A farm
used a loan to buy a greenhouse, potting soil and seeds. A day care center received a
mortgage for a classroom building. Adapted from article by Paul Bush in American News
SLOCAN VALLEY VISIONS
Phil Larstone writes : There is a beautiful vision
manifesting in the Slocan Valley, and a group of valley people are visiting Victoria to
share it ! Called 'This is Our Chance : The World is Watching' (Green Diary, April 18th),
it's about building an economy founded on human energy rather than corporate monopoly,
applying creativity and inspiration in a community setting to optimize the economic
returns from local resources .... maximizing meaningful employment while minimizing
The forestry sector uses ecosystem-based planning, while
value-added production is used to create more jobs from less timber. Rapidly growing
economic sectors such as organic farming, healing arts and retreat centres, music, outdoor
recreation, eco-tourism, education and so on become the mainstay of the local economy.
In the Slocan Valley, these endeavours are blossoming, and
in addition to supporting human needs, it is restoring important community values as
people empower themselves to use their heartfelt creativity and talents to meet their
needs, rather than being dependent on employment from large corporations. The group is in
Victoria to meet with Cabinet Ministers. See you on April 18th !
EMERGING TRENDS IN
The cycling city of Groningen, Holland, is experimenting
with a new approach to slowing traffic - herds of sheep which are allowed to roam on
designated roadways (with warning signs). The traffic will be forced to slow down, while
the sheep will feed on the rights of way, reducing maintenance costs. Baaa-aa !
Slocan Valley Visions, Camas Day, Sooke Celebrations,
Northern Passage's 'Caretakers of the Earth' Art Show, EarthWalk, much more. See full
program in Monday Magazine, April 17th.
THIS ONE'S FOR YOU, ROGER
As many of you know, Roger Colwill, famous watercolor
painter, encourager of EcoNews, and organizer of a hundred great projects, was struck by a
stroke during March and is now recovering in bed. (In bed, we said ! Put that phone down
!). Messages of love can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
COMPOST vs the BUGS
Tests at Exeter University (UK) have shown that compost is
very efficient at preventing numerous plant diseases. When tested in plots of soil
inoculated with specific disease organisms, crops grown in compost suffered 60% - 80% less
disease than those grown without. Some diseases, such as club root on cabbages, were
completely prevented. Compost contains so many million micro-organisms - it's the best
pesticide around. (Organic Gardening, March 1997)
THE FARM ON MASON ST
The Farm is open for visits noon-dusk, 7 days a week -
call 920-0257. Eggs free - 6/person/week. Extra produce free as available. Quality
humus/topsoil available by donation - call to order. Thank you all!
ORGANIC PRODUCE SHOULDN'T COST
At Share Organics, buying food together makes it more
affordable. Call Susan 595-6742 for details
ECO-ED YOUTH TEAM
The BC Ministry of Environment is looking for
organizations to sponsor young people aged 16-24 on projects that will benefit the
environment. Air quality, green transportation, eco-stewardship, recycling, outdoor
education. Most positions are for 12 weeks, and pay $10/hour for a 35 hour week. The
deadline for start dates between June 1st - Dec 1st is April 30th. For details, call Jody
at (250)387-0709. And CRD Community Clean-Up Funding is available to non-profit groups. Up
to $1,000 for out-of-pocket expenses for cleaning public lands or waterways in your
neighbourhood. First come, first serve. Call 360-3030.
B.C. ENVIRONMENT NETWORK
The BCEN links together environmental groups across BC,
using its members' strength to develop new policies, lobby for change and keep the
environmental profile high. Their annual conference is at UVic Fri May 2nd - Sun 4th, when
there'll be speakers, hot-tub parties, caucus meetings, a 'Hot Spot' session, and Des
Kennedy's environmental comedy. The fee will be around $60. For more information, or to
join BCEN, call Anne-Marie Sleeman at (604) 879-2279.
ACTION OF THE MONTH : AYUM
The Victoria Natural History Society's Habitat Acquisition
Trust (HAT) has launched a campaign to raise $625,000 to buy the 5.2 hectare
salmon-spawning Ayum Creek estuary from a lumber company by Dec 1st 1997, and protect it
in perpetuity. The creek is the southern most part of the Sea-to-Sea Greenbelt proposal,
reaching from Saanich Inlet to Sooke Basin. HAT is expecting to raise 1/3rd of the money
through individual donations. They have to find $5,000 every 2 months to keep their option
You can help by pledging your financial support. You will
be given 30 days notice that HAT needs to collect on the pledge, and charitable receipts
are available. Any amount will help, from $10 to $10,000. Pledge forms are available at
the Field Naturalist, Swan Lake Nature Centre and most Municipal Halls, or by calling
Colleen O'Brien at 995-2428. There are also various Ayum Creek activities in April - see
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