Newsletter No. 67 - Serving
Vancouver Island's Environmental Community - December 1997
I'M DREAMING OF A
I've been pondering this letter for some
time, letting my mind wander as I sit by the fire.
I'm almost 70 and you're but 17, about to
step into the world, and there's something about Christmas and the midwinter season that I
want to catch while it's alive in my mind.
Some years ago, when the environmental
movement was beginning to reject consumerism in a big way, there was a movement to do away
with material gifts altogether - at least ones that were mass produced. Hand-made gifts
were ok, as were gifts sold by charities and community groups, like Bridgehead organic
coffee, grown by workers co-ops in Guatemala.
There was a feeling shared by many that the
precious midwinter season was being stolen and colonized, that our very souls were being
viewed as vacant territory to be occupied and subdued by the merchants. As we grew to
understand the true ecological impact of all these 'gifts' - the forests that were being
torn down, the rivers filled with waste, the lungs of factory workers filled with
chemicals - the whole affair began to feel sickening.
What was happening to the magic ? Is this
what it meant, that our lust for material satisfaction should be bought at such cost ? Was
this what we wanted for Christmas ?
So one year we decided to do a completely
green Christmas. No material gifts at all, we said, unless they were made by hand. We hid
ourselves away in corners of the house, making things for each other. That was the year
your grandma made the quilt, and when we collected your childhood photos and paintings and
put them together in the album you love so much.
Your dad was working right up to Christmas
night that year, and had no time to make anything. He liked the green Christmas idea, but
the closer it got the more tempted he became to rush out and buy something.
In the end, he started a whole new tradition
- he put together books of vouchers which we could cash in whenever we liked for things
like a trip to the theatre, a whole undisturbed day of his time (two week's notice !), a
mystery breakfast, a full-body massage, a weekend's house-sitting - things like that. His
vouchers were such a hit that in the years that followed we started to dream up more and
more imaginative gifts - I still recall the delight of the mystery tour your mother once
gave us, when none of us knew we would end up in a hot air balloon !
So what is it that I really want to say?
Since making that green decision all those years ago, we have become quite expert at
creating our own gifts.After a few years of abandoning commercial gifts, however, we
relaxed the family rules, and agreed that we could give each other one store-bought gift,
as well as the home-made gifts and vouchers. It was then that I realized the subtle way in
which advertising and commercial pressures seek to colonize our hearts and desensitize
them with their insistent demand to buy, just as a drug pusher does. After the years of
carefully tuning in to create the perfect gifts, going back to the shops felt like
returning to an old addiction. It was so easy to opt for the easier gift of a quickly
chosen 'thing' - it takes such determination to apply the intimate spirit of caring to
shopping in the big consumer stores, where they are trying so hard to push their stuff,
and to overwhelm your sensitivity. Thank heaven for the small, owner-operated stores,
where the owners have found a way to integrate their spirit with their merchandise, where
you know from the moment you walk in that you are in a special place, beyond
It was then that I saw what was happening.
Our ability to give intimately was being colonized and destroyed by commercialism - in
some families, it was being taken over completely. Reclaiming it takes care, but it's so
worth the effort. The more care and love you put into choosing a gift, whatever its
source, the more alive it will be. Christmas, midwinter, the solstice - it's a time of
rebirth, when we celebrate the light at the heart of winter, through candles, stars, and
the love that is rekindled through giving and being together. If you let the stores
colonize your heart, and replace the personal act of giving with the commercial desire
simply to find a 'gift', the process of rekindling will be that much the weaker, and your
family will be that much the poorer. I didn't realize this when I started out - it's a
very profound thing that I'm talking about ! The commercialism of the stores seems so
normal, but in fact it is an invasion, an invasion of our hearts that can steal away our
ability to give simply and lovingly. A long sermon from an elderly grandpa !
Happy Christmas, dearest Emily,
from Grandpa Joe.
Published as a monthly service, nourishing
the vision of an Island blessed by the harmony of nature and community, funded by your
THE WILD FORESTS OF
This is a calendar about the forests that
leaves the trees standing - the Friends of Clayoquot Sound have produced a beautiful 1998
calendar featuring breath-taking views of the Island's last remaining intact watersheds,
all printed on tree-free paper. Copies of the calendar are on sale at Pacific Trekking,
Sri Atman's, UVic bookstore, Munro's Books, Swan's, the Field Naturalist, Bolen's Books,
Ivy's Books and Ocean River Sports. 995-2967.
FED UP WITH JUNK MAIL ?
Aren't we all ? If you want Canada Post to
stop delivering you junk mail, (assuming they deliver you any mail) all you have to do is
put a polite sign out, saying so. If you want to get your name taken off junk mailing
lists nationally, write to the Canadian Direct Marketing Association, 1 Concorde Gate,
#607, Don Mills, Ontario M3C 3N6. If you still get junk mail delivered to you personally,
you should send them to the Association.
A SHORT HISTORY OF
"I have an ear ache."
2000 BC "Here, eat this root."
1000 BC "That root is poison. Here, say this prayer."
1850 AD "That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion."
1940 AD "That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill."
1985 AD "That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic."
2000 AD "That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root."
(From Myrna Kerr)
ACTION 21 FUNDING
ACTION 21 is the Canadian government's
program for funding community-based environmental initiatives - and the next deadline for
applications is February 1st. So get cooking ! The last batch of groups to get funding
included creek and stream restoration projects, native plant propagation, a landowners
contact program to contact landowners about wetlands, streams and riverbanks on their
properties and how they can protect them, and the Mid-Island Community Household De-Tox
Challenge, which is aiming to achieve a 50% overall reduction in the use of toxic products
in 500 households on the east coast of Vancouver Island (the Georgia Strait Alliance got
$52,000 - call the Nanaimno office at (250) 753-3459 if you would like to be one of the
500 households). ACTION 21 will encourage projects that protect, rehabilitate or enhance
the natural environment, and build the capacity of communities to sustain activities into
the future. They are particularly interested in supporting projects which address air
quality issues (including energy reduction, and reducing vehicle emissions), toxic
substances, ecosystems restoration and biodiversity protection. Projects will require
matching funding or in-kind support from other sponsors. The best advice about applying is
to get advice from the ACTION 21 office : Mark Colpitts, Terry Chiasson (819) 997-1441.
"One of the best weeks of my career." "The leadership skills course has
shown me that I have the skills and understanding to be an effective leader in my
professional and personal life." This is feedback from the last Leadership Training
course that Wes Gietz ran in August. Personally, I believe that leadership training is our
biggest single need, as we seek to build a more beautiful, more loving and more
sustainable world, so that we each have the courage to step forward, and enjoy the
fulfilment of acting on our beliefs. The next course starts on Jan 27th, and runs for 13
weeks, Tuesday evenings 7-10pm, in Victoria, costing $225 + GST. If you want to know more,
call Wes at 478-3110.
VICTORIA CAR SHARE CO-OP
GOES ELECTRIC !
"Pretty peppy !" "Not so hot
on the hills." "I did 75 km without recharging !" These are some of the
comments from members of the Victoria Car Share Co-op, who had the use of an electric
battery charged truck during November. The Co-op now has 36 members, and will be launching
a Fernwood pod in time for Christmas. The next neighbourhoods targeted are Esquimalt and
Fairfield ! If you want to save money, reduce your impact on the
environment and drive a new Toyota car or truck, then pick up that phone to find out how
it works ! Call Kathryn at 995-0265. email@example.com
A wind-up radio needing no batteries or
power! Made in South Africa, 99% recyclable; 40% of the assembly done by people with
special needs who are paid competitive wages; for every 100 sold, 12 given to the Red
Cross for areas of need. Here in Victoria, it's the perfect earthquake preparedness gift !
FREE PLAY RADIO
Innovative Technologies Distribution,
PO Box 32052, 3749 Shelbourne, Victoria V8P 5S2 (250) 472-2556
$99.95 + $5 shipping + taxes
Seattle has them; Jacksonville has them; lots
of towns in England have them, and so it turns out does Victoria - except no-one knew it !
We're talking about sustainability indicators, also known as urban quality indicators. In
Seattle, a project known as Sustainable Seattle engaged in a major public exercise in
1992/3 in which 40 indicators were chosen from a list of 99 recommended by a panel of 150
citizens to measure their city's progress towards greater livability and environmental
harmony. The idea of the indicators is to get a hold on what's really happening to our
communities, and to track the trends that really matter, for ourselves and for our
grandchildren. In Seattle, the list includes annually collected data on : wild salmon,
pedestrian friendly streets, open space in urban villages, residential water consumption,
solid waste generated and recycled, vehicle miles travelled, fuel consumption, renewable
energy use, real unemployment, housing affordability, children living in poverty,
community capital, adult literacy, juvenile crime, arts instruction, equity in justice,
low birthweight infants, voter participation, gardening activity and perceived quality of
Here in Victoria, the CRD Round Table on the
Environment, a citizen group set up to advise the CRD in 1990, has produced a set of
indicators focussed on environmental issues (not social or economic). These include data
on settlement patterns, wetlands, marine shoreline pollutants, marine life, greenhouse gas
emissions, toxic contamination and drinking water quality -the details are in 'Report on
the Environment', published by the CRD this June with no publicity - and not mentioned
once at the recent Regional Summit of municipal leaders when they met to start planning
for the next 20 years. So what's happening here ? Why is the wider community being left
? It is intentional - or just an error of omission by a CRD Board of Directors that has
forgotten what community participation means ? We've got our own indicators, so let's be
proud of them, as Seattle is, let's publish them in an easily accessible manner, and let's
add more social and economic indicators, to give us a more overall picture of what's
For those interested, 'Urban Quality
Indicators' magazine is completely devoted to the topic. It costs $9 US for a sample
issue, $28.75 US for 4 issues per year, from 1756 Plymouth Rd, #239, Ann Arbor MI
VICTORIA'S GREENHOUSE GAS
With the Kyoto Summit on climate change
happening in Japan, how are we doing here in Victoria ? From the same 'Report on the
Environment', we learn that C02 emissions from motor vehicles in the CRD have declined by
5% since 1993 to 2.28 tonnes per person, owing to increased fuel efficiency. For the
province as a whole, C02 emissions from motor vehicles per person are rising - the B.C.
figures show that we are producing 3.8 tonnes per person. Overall, B.C.'s C02 emissions
from road transportation increased by 24% from 1990 to 1995. So how come the different
data ? The provincial total includes fuels which are not counted in the CRD, which makes
the CRD data rather suspect. Oh, the perils of being a statistician ! The report also
covers methane emissions from the Hartland Road landfill - methane is 21 times more
powerful than C02 as a greenhouse gas. The scientists estimate that the C02 equivalent of
the methane escaping from the landfill amounts to between 212,000 and 365,000 tonnes per
year - about the same as 1/4 to 1/2 of all the cars in the CRD. At present, only 10% of
the methane is flared off, turning it into the less harmful C02, but improvements over
coming years should see 85-90% being flared, which will help reduce our region's
emissions. What I don't know is how the new composting facility at Hartland will affect
the methane emissions.
FIVE GOOD REASONS TO STOP
THE SEAL HUNT
(1) Since 1996 over 100
sealers have been convicted of acts such asskinning seals alive.
(2) Pups are being killed - 220,000 alone in 1997.
(3) Taxpayers are paying for it - we finance the hunt.
(4) In 1996, the hunt quota was exceeded by more than 300% - up to
500,000 harp seals may have been killed.
(5) Many seals are killed solely for their penises, which sell for up to
$600 as an Asian aphrodisiac.
If you care about this, call Jayson Biggins,
local IFAW coordinator, at 380-0442. There will be an action very soon, when David
Anderson announces the new quotas. firstname.lastname@example.org
ACTION OF THE MONTH
MAI - THE MULTILATERAL AGREEMENT ON INVESTMENT
APEC has come and gone and Kyoto will soon be
over, but MAI remains, moving relentlessly towards its final signing in May. So what's
happening ? The House of Commons Select is just finishing two weeks of testimony, which
no-one expects to make any difference. Terence Corcoran, writing in the Globe and Mail
(Sat Nov 1st) reports that "Mr. Marchi is successfully warding off attempts by
Canadian greens and other anti-free-traders to load the agreement with protectionist
environmental and labour clauses." Maud Barlow, Elizabeth May and people from NGOs in
70 countries have been in Paris attempting unsuccessfully to ensure that the MAI does
include cultural, environmental and labour protection. In their words, "The draft MAI
is completely unbalanced. It elevates the rights of investors far above those of
governments, local communities, citizens, workers and the environment. The MAI will
severely undermine even the meager progress made towards sustainable development since the
Rio Earth Summit in 1992." If passed, the MAI would "liberalize international
investment by severely restricting the ability of communities and governments to control
and challenge the actions of multinational companies."
For the Internet MAI list-serv, write to email@example.com with the following message
subscribe MAI-NOT your name organization
Call your MP's constituency office (phone
book, blue pages), and find out his local fax number. Then fax him or her an urgent
letter, stating your views and asking what his or her position is on the MAI. If you get a
reply, send it to David Weston in Nanaimo (250-754-2386), who is compiling a record of MPs
voting positions. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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)
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