Newsletter No. 75 - Serving
Vancouver Island's Environmental Community - Sept. 1998
WHEN THINGS START TO
This summer, there have been many indications
of troublesome times ahead, which are causing people to start worrying.
It's not just one thing, like the collapse of
the west coast salmon stocks. It's a whole pile of things coming on top of each other,
which causes a deeper kind of concern. They come in three main categories :
(a) The first real shocks of climate change.
The first 7 months of this year have been the warmest on record - July itself was almost
1C warmer than normal. (To put this in context, the Earth has taken the last 100 years to
warm 0.5C). Linked with the remnants of El Nino, this has brought unprecedented forest
fires across Canada, blistering heat and droughts in Texas and Oklahoma, tremendous
flooding in China, the ice-storm in Quebec (record precipitation turning to sleet and
ice), the Fraser being too hot for the salmon, and so on. These disasters all have an
impact on the economic bottom line, as well as destroying people's lives and livelihoods.
Still with climate change, the 'big one' that
is lurking is the possible break-up of the west Antarctic ice-sheet. Three years ago,
concerns about this circulated in small obscure newsletters. Today, it's in Scientific
American, where the fall issue (pp 28 - 35) looks seriously at a potential ice-collapse,
accompanied by a 5 metre rise in sea level. Yes, you read that correctly. The ice-sheet
sits on a bed of mud, primed by a slowly erupting volcano and accelerated by global
warming, with the result that a collapse could be very sudden, not slow, over 100 years.
This makes me want to find a detailed map of Victoria and Vancouver Island that shows the
(b) The far-eastern economic crunch. Japan's
banking crisis, combined with Russia's meltdown, Indonesia's troubles and China's floods,
are putting a real damper on the whole future economic outlook. This is the most
predictable of the three crises - all young economies have to go through their periods of
turbulence before they find a steady balance between risk (which fuels investment), faith
and performance. When the turbulence comes at the same time as the other two categories of
crisis, however, it's time to sell stocks and fasten the seat belts.
(c) The Year 2000 Bug Crisis (Y2K).
This is the much talked-about problem that all computers with date-sensitive chips
in them will read the year "2000" as "00", and think '2000' means
'1900' because they were not programmed to read four digits (Apple Macintoshes excepted).
We know that there is going to be some level of chaos, because we know what kinds of
failure are showing up in tests that are already being run - chemical factories blowing
up, medical equipment failing, gas pipelines closing down, power systems stopping,
financial records going haywire. And that's just in companies where they have started to
fix the problem, and are running the tests. Europe is behind North America, and many Third
World countries are doing nothing at all. Scenarios seen by the Washington DC Year 2000
Group (consisting of US people who head up initiatives to fix the Year 2000 problem in
government and industry) range from complete collapse, chaos and martial law to
"a 20% drop in the stockmarket and some bankruptcies." (Newsweek, May 4 '98)
Taken together, these three waves of
confusion are playing off each other. The climate change wave is going to get steadily
worse for the next 20 - 50 years. The far east economic crisis should resolve itself in 3
- 5 years under normal circumstances; the Y2K crisis will sharpen next year and resolve
itself during the year 2000. Taken together, they imply a very bumpy (and possibly a very
wet) ride for the next 2 years.
How to prepare ? Some people are advising a
fear-based response - get all your money out, stock up on food, and head for the hills.
But whose house ? Whose community ? Whose hills ?
The more sensible response is to prepare for
disruption in the community where you live : form a local street association, and start
planning together, just as you would (and as we should) for earthquake preparedness. The
best defense against confusion is community - a network of local friends who know and
trust each other, and who can support each other in a time of need.
There is much that we can do locally to build
bonds of community - while simultaneously transforming our neighbourhoods and our culture.
Learning to take care of each other and our needs - instead of depending so much on the
state. Learning to grow much more food locally - instead of depending on imported food
from the supermarkets. Learning to create local currencies that we can use to trade with -
instead of depending on currency speculators. There is so much that we can do.
It is often true in life that things have to
fall apart a bit before they can fall back together at a new level. The real choice is
between love, hope, and belief in who we are, and fear. And the best choice is love.
- Guy Dauncey
Published as a monthly service, nourishing
the vision of an Island blessed by the harmony of nature and community, funded by your
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Many thanks to Christian Engelstoft,
Roger Smeeth, Richard Bocking, Kelly Wilson, Pat Kahr, Peter Gardner, Joyce Stewart,
Audrey Woodward, Marlene Markwart, Drew Williams, Valerie Torontow, Kay Wood, Kathleen
Kyle, Marianne Bond, Unlimited Possibilities, James Taylor, Pamela Harbord, Vicki Marston,
Gillian Smith & Bernie Jones.
* Donations can be made to EcoNews, 395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1.
* To receive EcoNews call (250) 881-1304.
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THE ECO-PERSONALS !
* Looking to share home with others, new
family and friendship for Oct 1st or before. Anne, 995-8790
* CRD Environmental Education Speakers Bureau
looking for new members to educate public about recycling & waste reduction through
presentations & displays. Training provided. 360-3166
* Volunteer wanted to look after the EcoNews
finances. Call Guy, 881-1304
* Billets needed for the big November
ecological restoration conference (call 995-0225) and for the Streets are for People
conference Sept 26th/27th (call 388-7040)
* Five members at large needed to represent
the general public on the advisory group for the Sooke Hills Wilderness Regional Park
management plan. Call CRD Parks 478-3344 for an application package. Deadline Sept 11th.
* Canada Millennium Partnership Program -
funding for projects which meet program's goals, including "Support a sustainable
environment & new ways of showing our respect for nature while we progress as a
leading economy". Next deadline October 31st. Details from 1-888-774-9999 or www.millennium.gc.ca
* Funding available for eco-projects from
Environment Canada's Eco-Action 2000 Program. If you have an idea for a project, call
1-800-667-7779, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Website at www.ec.gc.ca/ecoaction. Next
deadline October 1st.
* The Rural Association of East Sooke has
engaged a legal counsel in its ongoing battle with Home Equity Investments Ltd to halt the
inappropriate development proposals for Silver Spray Ranch, adjacent to East Sooke
Regional Park. We deeply appreciate any support, financial or otherwise, that you may be
able to offer. Please send donations and encouragement to RAES, Box 1004, Sooke, B.C. VOS
Cadboro Bay Chiropractic
Dr Barry Curran
2571 Penryhn St
University / Gyro Park area
CONSERVATION GROUPS UNITE
for GREEN/BLUE VISION
Seven local conservation groups have joined
up work together on the vision of a sea-to-sea greenbelt reaching from East Sooke, through
the Sooke Hills, up the Saanich Inlet to the southwest end of Salt Spring Island. The
Western Canada Wilderness Committee, the Sea-to-Sea Greenbelt Society, The Land
Conservancy (TLC) of BC, the Habitat Acquisition Trust, the Society for Protection of Ayum
Creek, the Saanich Inlet Protection Society and the Sierra Club Victoria Group have joined
together to coordinate their efforts to piece together a complicated jigsaw puzzle
to realize this amazing vision. For details, call Alison Spriggs 388-9292.
STREETS ARE FOR PEOPLE
Close your eyes, relax, and breathe deeply.
Now imagine that most residential streets have been traffic calmed, with cars slowly
weaving through a park-like setting. Imagine Broad Street as vibrant pedestrian street.
Imagine a complete network of safe bicycle paths and bike-routes, and safe routes to
school. You just caught a glimpse of the future ! To make this vision real, there's a
conference happening Sept 26th & 27th at Victoria City Hall, organized by the Cycling
Coalition, including workshops, an alternative transportation art auction, advocacy
workshops, and a street party on Broad St. "Hey - cool !", as Anne Fritzel, the
coordinator, would say. Call 480-5155.
The Land Conservancy (TLC) has purchased the
stunningly beautiful, ecologically rich Winchelsea Island, off the Parkesville Coast, with
help from a $440,000 mortgage. (Donations are needed to cover the cost !) The island has a
1600 sq ft house on it, which they want to turn into an all-ecological, solar and wind
powered study centre and rented retreat cottage. To do this, they are looking for
volunteers who can help with design, to convert the generator and propane cooker to solar
power, and to convert the septic field to a composting toilet and greywater system. If you
can help with skills or materials, call Bill Turner 361-7693. The Land Conservancy will
also be issuing $25 Sponsorship Certificates as Green Christmas Gifts to help
towards the purchase of lands at Winchelsea Island, the Sooke Hills, and an important
Native Heritage Site. Watch for details !
SIERRA CLUB COMMUNITY
'Alternative Approaches to
Water Management in the CRD'
Wed Sept 9th, 7:15 - 10pm
Fairfield Community Place 1335 Thurlow
Together, Building Community !
AN ECOVILLAGE AT
SOUTH-EAST FALSE CREEK ?
Picture the muddle of old industrial lands at
southeast False Creek, Vancouver. Last year, Vancouver City Council decided the site
should be developed as a model of sustainable urban development. To that end, the Sheltair
Group worked for several months to produce a report called 'Visions, Tools & Targets :
EnvironmentallySustainable Development Guidelines for Southeast False Creek', which
includes targets such as : 100% of the dwellings within 350m of shopping services and
transit; 60% of the street area dedicated to walking, cycling and transit; energy
efficiency; 30% affordable units; locally grown produce; 60% reduced greenhouse gas
emissions; 60% of open green space having habitat value; 25% of the roof area carrying
plant life, etc. The full report includes 25 detailed case studies of precedents elsewhere
in the world, and costs $10 from Vancouver City Planning Department, #406, 515 West 10th,
Vancouver V5Z 4A8. A free, 40-page summary is also available - call Mark Holland (604)
873-7088, or email email@example.com
The final draft will be presented to council in November, and turned into official
development plans by next summer. It's too soon to say if this will really happen, but
it's looking good !
JOHN CAMPBELL FREEMAN 882-4404
THE HUNTING SEASON
In Britain, unless I'm mistaken, September
12th is known in hunting circles as "The Glorious 12th", when landowners and
other hunters are allowed to start blasting their way through the local wildlife.(Or is it
October 12th ?) By a curious coincidence, the tradition is being continued here on
the Island, where September 12th is Death Day for Black-tailed Deer, Black Bears, Cougars
and Wolves. Mountain Goats get their Death Day two days earlier. I'm a vegetarian, not a
hunter, and the thought of killing a free, wild animal for pleasure sickens me. There are
only 200 wolves left on the Island, and they urgently deserve complete protection. Our
Island's wildlife have lived here for 10,000 years or more, ever since the glaciers
withdrew. What more can I say ? If you want to say something, call your MLA, c/o Enquiry
BC at 387-6121. (1-800-663-7867 outside Greater Victoria)
CRD REPORT ON THE
Thanks to the hard work of the CRD Round
Table on the Environment, we are beginning to get the data that tells us (sort of) if we
are making progress towards sustainability. The CRD has just published its 2nd Report on
the Environment, which monitors trends in settlement patterns, bikeways, wetlands and
waterbodies, stormwater discharges, coastal habitat, greenhouse gas emissions, ozone
depletion and toxic contamination. At least, it seems to monitor trends. This is a
useful report, but it has its problems. Toxic contamination cannot be measured by
analyzing contaminated sites - it also requires an analysis of the toxics leaching from
our homes, our cars, gardens, water and food. Cancer rates are increasingly all the time,
which tells us something is seriously wrong. Our progress on greenhouse gases is not
'neutral' (as opposed to moving towards or away from sustainability) : we are very deep in
the doo-doo, and it's about to get much worse. Nor does the data on changing settlement
patterns convince, when it suggests a minimal pace of conversion from rural to urban uses.
By including new subdivisions with lots larger than 0.5 acres as 'rural', the results get
distorted, as the authors admit. It feels as if we are losing much more land to suburban
sprawl than the report admits. It is still an important contribution to our local
knowledge - to obtain a copy, contact the CRD at 360-3162.
GREEN PAGES PROGRESS
In the next few weeks, every
environmental organization in the CRD will be receiving a questionnaire designed to
include you in the Internet Victoria Green Pages, which EcoNews, the Natural History
Society and Random Web Design are creating. It's going to be a fabulous resource and an
inspiration to other towns and cities, so please return your forms as soon as possible.
Launchdate : Nov 2nd !
In Memphis, Tennessee, Judge Larry Potter
presides over an eco-court that has been adjudicating environmental offenses and handing
out fines and other punishments since 1983. We're not talking huge oil spills here, rather
the smaller offenses of daily life that are steadily chipping away at Nature's
biodiversity. Things like tipping that toxic paint-thinner down a storm drain, or
destroying the habitat at the edge of a creek to replace it with concrete. In Fulton
County, Atlanta, which has copied Memphis's model, Judge Hicks often threatens a developer
with community service : "The big developers didn't care. They were just building our
fines right into their contracts," he says. "But if the developer himself has to
come down here and work 120 hours at our recycling facility, well, that changes his mind
about doing it again." These are just two examples of a growing trend towards
environmental courts, financed by a mix of local, state and federal funding, topped up by
the fines from violators. Now wouldn't that be something for us here in B.C. ? What would
it take ? (American News Service story by Paul Karr)
EARTHFEST - HOW WAS IT ?
In a word - fantastic. About 2,000 people
came to the Fairgrounds in Courtenay to wander around a great display of stalls on
everything form solar energy to car-sharing, permaculture, watershed restoration, organic
growing and climate change. The swimming in the Tsolum River was wonderful, the workshops
were often packed, and the concert under the stars was blissful. And with lots of time for
conversations, it was a great way to network, trade ideas, and catch up with old friends.
Let's hope the EarthFest organizers (a voluntary team) will decide to do it again next
August, and make it a permanent feature !
ACTION OF THE MONTH : GREEN
It might sound boring, but it's hugely
important. In the USA, a Friends of the Earth survey shows that more than 70% of the
respondents, representing all voting persuasions, support an environmental tax shift,
increasing taxes on energy sources that pollute the environment, while using the revenues
to reduce taxes on payrolls and income. They also supported a tax on air and water
pollution. The report can be obtained by calling (202) 783-7400.
In a parallel development, the Alliance to
Save Energy (www.ase.org) has published a report which
examines the impact of significantly increased fuel taxes as way to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions, using the revenue to replace income taxes. And before some politician tells you
it wouldn't work, get this ! Their research shows that such a tax-shift would cause a
37.7% decrease in the use of fossil fuels, while increasing GDP by 7.7%, industrial output
by 15.7% and household wealth by 5.5%.
Denmark, Finland, Holland, Norway, Sweden and
Britain all impose carbon taxes ranging from $16 to $172 per tonne of carbon. What are we
waiting for ? This should be a perfect strategy to create jobs, strengthen the economy and
reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. We can meet the Kyoto targets for
greenhouse gas emissions (and go far beyond them), while simultaneously creating jobs and
building the economy in a sustainable way.
ACTION : Write to Joy
McPhail, Minister of Finance, Legislative Assembly, Victoria V8V 1X4, urging her to
substitute Green taxes for taxes on income and employment in her 1999 budget. Tel
387-3751. Fax 387-5594. Ministerial Assistant : David Perry. Outside Victoria, call
Deadline for September: Sept 25th
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for previous issues of EcoNews.
EcoNews, Guy Dauncey
395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1
Tel/Fax (250) 881-1304
Sustainable Communities Consultancy
Author of 'After the Crash : The
Emergence of the Rainbow Economy'
(Greenprint, London, 1988. 3rd edition 1997)
Forthcoming 'Journey into the
Future : 2000 - 2015'
An ecofictional novel
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