Newsletter No. 66 - Serving
Vancouver Island's Environmental Community - November 1997
GOING, GOING, GONE
Victoria, November 2020
I wasn't expecting to be able to see into the
future after leaving you so suddenly in that nasty car accident. I do apologize - I can
see now that ramming the other driver wasn't such a smart move, even though he was hogging
the fast lane. I'm sorry that I took your mother with me. She was always on at me not to
drive like that.
It's not at all what I was expecting up here.
As penance for my driving, they've sentenced me to stare at Greater Victoria as it will be
in the year 2020 if people continue to act the way I did, without thought for the
consequences. It's pretty bad news. They say Los Angeles was a beautiful city in the
1950s. And Vancouver was such a beautiful city in the 1970s, until it became impossible to
live there for all the noise, rush and cars. Victoria was a beautiful city in the 1990s -
but looking at it in 2020, I want to weep.
Oh sure, Dallas Road is still there, and the
parks - but the Island Highway is lined with big box retail stores and car sales outlets
from Tillicum to Goldstream, and lots of the stores in downtown Victoria have packed up -
Government and Douglas Streets have been taken over by the homeless and the hookers. They
hold the annual Symphony Splash at Royal Roads now, not the Inner Harbour, since the
symphony's wealthy patrons objected to driving in from their electronically gated
communities in Sooke and having their cars vandalized while they listened to the Mozart.
The few attempts that people made to have their streets closed to traffic were ended when
the Motorists Rights Association sued them for loss of rights. I don't know if there's
anything you can do to stop it - they're having the same kind of discussion in Tofino now,
afraid that it will go the same way. It's human nature, I suppose.
If you're in touch with your mother, do tell
her I'm sorry. She didn't deserve to go like that.
Your repentant father, Jim.
Victoria, December 2020
I've just seen your father's letter. As
compensation for my untimely death they've given me a job as a civic guardian angel (what
a laugh !) to help Victoria's citizens steer a new course for the future - and I get to
see the possible results ! It's doesn't have to be like your father described.
I love the new pedestrian urban villages that
have been created - so do the merchants and businesses. They've got such character and
life. The agreements to create higher density around the centres in exchange for calming
the traffic and increasing local green space works like a treat. Would you believe that
75% of all local trips are now made on foot or by bike ? That's as high as it is in
Holland. It helps that the parking is pretty expensive, of course.
It was the decision to create the new urban
villages while restricting the spread of suburbs that made the LRT system possible.
Up-Island, they're building ecovillages along the route of the new Island Railway, and
building forest villages in the woods with economies based on ecoforestry and ecotourism.
That decision not to allow any development along the new Island Highway was very sound -
would you believe they're paving two lanes with solar voltaic cells to make it a permanent
source of energy ? The downtown's in great shape - there's a new Marine Museum and an open
air theatre by the Inner Harbour.
You'd love the residential streets. So many
have been calmed, giving them a single winding lane with passing places, the rest of the
road being filled with trees and playspace.
Looking back to the muddle we had in the
1990s when there was no-one in charge of the region as a whole, just municipalities acting
in their own interests, it's no wonder people were losing hope.
The thing that broke the logjam was moving to
directly elected regional councils, instead of the old system whereby regional councillors
were chosen in private by the municipal councillors. People finally started debating
regional issues and electing councillors based on their ideas for the future. It was
that, plus getting proper regional planning powers and the wave of initiatives to get
people out of their cars that made the difference.
I do have some advice, however. You must get
out there, and get involved. The changes I've seen only happened because lots of people
got organized, and developed a strong vision of the kind of future they wanted. Margaret
Mead's here too, and she says she agrees. She says hello !
PS. Tell your father I've forgiven him; he
was such a lousy driver, but I still loved him.
Your loving mother, Fiona
Published as a monthly service, nourishing
the vision of an Island blessed by the harmony of nature and community, funded by your
LOCAL GOVERNMENTS GIVEN
When Victoria was writing its new Official
Community Plan in 1995, all the environmental clauses which the City Environment Committee
proposed were scrapped on the basis that we weren't allowed to include anything about
ecological protection. As a result, Victoria City Council proposed a motion to change all
this, and on October 20th under Bill 26 local governments received new powers to protect
urban salmon streams, provide property tax exemptions for eligible streamside property,
require environmental guidelines in Official Community Plans and request that development
plans contain information on environmental impacts. So ! Now we can all write to our local
municipalities requesting that environmental sections be written into OCPs - there's no
need to wait till the next time they're reviewed. (The City Environment Advisory Committee
has since been scrapped). For the legal details, call Lynn Siddaway, Municipal Affairs,
THE ISLAND TRAIL
Just picture being able to hike, ride or
cycle from Victoria to Cape Scott entirely off paved roads. One day, it will be possible.
For now, the focus is on the Victoria-Nanaimo section, thanks to the work being done by
Jim Currie and friends in the Victoria 'office' of Trails BC, the local component of the
TransCanada Trail Foundation. So far, the route has been identified through discussions
with the forest companies (from Leechtown it goes west of the Water Commission's lands and
then east of Lake Cowichan), but local fieldwork has not yet begun. The current obstacles
are crossing the Koksilah and Nanaimo rivers, and amending the Occupiers Liability Act to
release landowners from liability, as Ontario and Nova Scotia have done. It's all
happening on a voluntary basis, with the goal of completion by June 21st, 2000. If you can
help, call Jim at 477-8696.
THE WALKING BUS
Calling all parents ! One of the crazier
things that is happening these days is parents driving their kids to school, claiming the
roads are dangerous. And we want a livable region ? Well listen up - if they can do it in
Toronto, we can do it here. The "it" is the Walking Bus. Up until the 1970s, we
used to walk or cycle to school. Isn't it crazy that we are conditioning our kids to
expect to be driven everywhere ? That's what parents in Britain and Australia - and the
Greenest City Project in Toronto - thought when they got together to talk about walking
their kids to school. A 'Walking School Bus' consists of a group parents or retired people
who follow a set route through the streets to school, collecting kids along the way and
walking them safely to school as a group. In Toronto, its called 'Safe Routes to School'.
In a nutshell, here's how to start one : (1) Map the neighbourhood, to determine the
safest routes to and from school - can be done in the classroom. (2) Invite parents to a
meeting where they mark their home locations with red dots on a map, or send them a map
with the PAC newsletter. (3) Set up Walking School Buses with set routes, led by parent
'drivers' who take it in turn to accompany their own and neighbouring children safely to
school. (4) Create a 'no-idling' area around schools, where bus drivers and others must
turn off their engines to improve local air quality. The children enjoy it, and have fun
walking together. Here in Victoria, there's one informal walking bus that walks 5 kids
from Government St to South Park School (details Janet Hawkesley 383-7806). Contact : Safe
Routes to School, (416) 977-7626 email@example.com
Greenest City Project : firstname.lastname@example.org
Denise Savoie and Blair Marshall write :
The Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition has
finally re-established a working relationship with the City of Victoria, after a hiatus of
several months. During this period, we experienced confusing communications and
frustration with city hall. During the restructuring initiated by Don Roughley, the new
City Manager, the Bicycling Sub-Committee (and many other city committees) disappeared. We
were told that staff would no longer be available to consult with us, and that the budget
for further work had disappeared for 1997. We feared that the implementation of the
bicycle plan would be stalled, and work to improve streets for commuter cyclists did
in fact stop. Two weeks ago we went to City Council asking for a bicycle task force, but
the staff report said that our proposal didn't fit the guidelines - they preferred meeting
with us informally. That left too much to chance - especially given the problems in
getting the City Manager's office to approve staff time for meetings. We have now
negotiated a system of consultation where we'll be working directly with staff to solve
outstanding bicycling problems - and we understand from the planning department that a
small cycling budget has been reinstated. Pam Madoff, Bob Friedland and Geoff Young all
spoke in favour of re-establishing some sort of link - we hope you remember that at
election time !
PARKS ARE OUR LEGACY
How are we going to manage all the new parks
that have been created over the past five years in British Columbia, and protect their
ecosystems when hoards of people like us want to visit them and budgets are becoming an
endangered species ? To answer these questions, Cathy McGregor, Minister of Environment,
has set up the B.C.'s Park Legacy Project to involve us in their future planning and
management. The Project is being led by a panel of eight people from across the province
with extensive knowledge of B.C.'s parks and protected areas - Denise Savoie is our local
Panel member for Southern Vancouver Island. The projects lasts a year - there's an open
house in Victoria on Nov 20th at South Park School (508 Douglas Street), and in Duncan on
Nov 26th at the Cowichan Community Centre. So if you want to have some input, put it in
your diary ! Rebecca Porte, B.C.'s Park Legacy Project, 387-1968 www.parklegacy.bc.ca
HAMMERS FOR PEACE
According to the Barnard-Boecker Centre
Foundation, more than one third of East Timor's population has been killed by the
Indonesian government since they invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975. In Britain,
the UK government was allowing the sale of military jets to the Indonesian government,
flouting the UN's condemnation of Indonesia's actions, and when Andrea Needham and three
other women from the British East Timor Ploughshares group learned that no amount of
protests or reasoning would stop the sale, they decided to enter the military factory and
damage a fighter plane. Using household hammers - one painted with the words "All
Life is Sacred" - they smashed the weapons control system in the cockpits, wings and
fuselage, and then called military security. After six months in jail, they went to trial
in November 1996 before a jury, where they argued that they had lawful excuse to disarm
the jet, since they were using force to prevent a crime - the future bombing of the
Timorese people. They were acquitted ! Andrea Needham is visiting the Island, and will be
speaking on Nov 17th at UVic (see Diary). (Thanks to Focus on Women)
The Indonesian (and Chinese) leaders will be
visiting Vancouver for the big APEC meeting starting November 25th. Watch for the action
on UBC Campus, where students are daily expanding the APEC-Free Zone with its statue to
the Goddess of Democracy, in protest against the hospitality Canada is giving to countries
such as Indonesia, ignoring the thousands who have died at their hands. For details, call
at collectively reduced prices Grains, beans, nuts, pasta, oils & more
Packaged locally in re-useable paper bags
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No minimum order policy.
For free catalogue, call Kevin, 598-7822
ACTION OF THE MONTH :
THE KYOTO CONFERENCE ON CLIMATE
This December, the leaders of the world's
nations will gather in Kyoto, Japan for a hugely important meeting to decide on a globally
binding treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The problem is no longer disputed : the
world's scientists agree that the greenhouse gases we produce by burning fossil fuels are
brewing an enormous problem for the future.
So far, the Canadian government has not come
out with its negotiating position - the Albertan oil and gas lobby is making a fearful
noise, afraid that there might be a carbon tax. Yes, there should be. So too could there
be a revolution in energy efficiency and renewable energy. We stand on the brink of a
solar/hydrogen revolution, clutching our barrels of oil. The paradox is that the new
revolution could bring many jobs and benefits - the Canadian Wind Energy Association says
there could be 33,000 new jobs if we invested in wind energy the way Denmark is doing. As
a country, we are asleep, soothed by the slosh of oil.
The scientists are ringing the alarm bells,
but it has not become a public issue. Jean Chretien hasn't got the message.
Take 20' to write to Ralph Goodale, demanding
that Canada take a strong negotiating position at the Kyoto conference in favour of
reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. Send a copy to the Premier and to Christine
Stewart, Minister of Environment, and to your own MP. (Post to Ottawa is free)
Hon Ralph Goodale,
Minister of Natural Resources,
Ottawa K1A OA6.
Fax (613) 996-4516
This is also a VISION 20/20 Action and an Earth Action Alert, so in writing, you will be
acting in accord with 1500 citizen groups around the world.
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395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1
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Author of 'After the Crash : The
Emergence of the Rainbow Economy'
(Greenprint, London, 1988. 3rd edition 1997)
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