Newsletter No. 76 - Serving
Vancouver Island's Environmental Community - Oct. 1998
WHERE HAS ALL THE
FARMLAND GONE ?
October brings the culmination of summer, and
celebrations for the bounty of the harvest. Tomatoes, zucchinis, squash, carrots, peppers,
potatoes, apples, pears overflow, as we give thanks for another season, get up off our
knees, and dance!
At the same time, around the world, hundreds
of millions of people go to bed hungry.In the Caribbean, at the end of September,
Hurricane George ripped through Dominica and Haiti, destroying 97% of their crops. It
flashes by in the newspapers for a day, then it was gone, while for them, the suffering
has just begun.
The increased incidence of hurricanes in the
Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico and of typhoons in the western Pacific is a direct
consequence of the fossil fuels we burn in our homes, industries and cars. So is the
increased flooding which has inundated Bangladesh, southern and northern China and the
Chiapas region of Mexico this past summer, destroying yet more cropland. In terms of
climate change, the cat is out of the bag - the carbon dioxide is out of the fossil fuels
and into the atmosphere. There is little that we can do to stop continued climate chaos,
droughts, storms, floods and cropland devastation for the next 100 years.
This year, the prairie farmers have landed a
bumper crop, and the grain bins are bulging, but prices have fallen dramatically. Many
farmers may go out of business, defeated by debts and bank loans, just when the global
demand for food is at its highest.
Why ? Because the demand from Asia has
collapsed, due to the financial crisis over there. Indonesia (with 120 million people) has
seen the value of its rupiah fall by tenfold or more. Like almost every country in the
world, they depend on imported grain - but when the price of imported grain increases
ten-fold, who can afford to buy ? The rich will find a way, but the majority will see
increased hunger - while here in North America, some farmers can't afford to grow. What's
wrong with this picture ?
There are several underlying reasons,
starting with the century old trend towards the control of the world's food supply by
larger farms and corporations. That, in turn, has been driven by change to larger
machinery, more use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and the introduction of
genetically altered crops.
Here on Vancouver Island, we have many farms
(19,266 acres of Agricultural Reserve Land and 639 farms in the CRD, 75% of which are
legally in farm use), but we depend almost entirely on imported food shipped in by ferry.
The word is that we have only enough food on the island for two days supply. If there was
a major disruption of supply, whether from climate change, a ferry strike or the Y2K
computer bug, we would soon be going hungry. (The CRD has 300,000 people. If we were all
vegetarian, we would need 150,000 acres.)
Most people clearly aren't worried - local
fruit trees go unpicked, gardens sit idle, empty lots grow scrub and brambles. And many
hobby farms, those corners of agricultural paradise that give their owners a tax-break in
exchange for a harvest of hay, the sale of a few trees or the lease of grazing to a few
horses, are far more 'hobby' than 'farm'.
We need to be much more self-reliant, not
just here, but everywhere. Our supermarkets are flush with exotic crops from Mexico and
Central America, while the workers who grew them, who inhaled the pesticides and
fungicides used to grow them, often can't afford to feed their own children. It's an old,
old story, of the land not being controlled by the people who work it. In Ireland, during
the worst of the 1848 potato famine (1 million dead), food was still being exported from
Ireland to England at the orders of the absentee landowners. The same thing is happening
today - we see the results on our supermarket shelves.
Locally, the demand for organically grown
food far outstrips the supply, in spite of all that empty land. The larger Organic Brown
Box distributors such as Freshpiks Organics have to ship in their food from California and
the Fraser Valley. Why can't we grow more food locally ?
The answer is that we are starting to. There
is a huge interest in more home-grown food, including winter vegetables (we can grow 40
varieties locally). We need more learning, more co-operation, more community allotments -
and more customers, committed to locally grown food.
We need a change in the rules governing the
Agricultural Land Reserve to allow the development of compact agricultural villages, on
condition that 70% (for instance) of the residents' income came from agricultural
activity. This would enable more people to live and work on a farm, instead of the current
limit of one house plus one for a farm worker. Too much good ALR land is sitting empty,
while too many people who want to grow food are unable to get their hands into the soil.
October 16th is World Food Day, and there are
many events to witness it. So let's start getting back to basics, and growing more food !
- 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 Elly Roelofsen, Marlyn
Horsdal, Michelle Popadynec, Dawne Burron, Ira Robinson, Alan Dolan, Patricia Lane, Martha
Orr, Nicki Basuk, Anne Moon, Sid Tafler. The bank will be empty after this issue.
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THE ECO-PERSONALS !
Raincoast Conservation Society looking to
rent 2-3 bedroom house in James Bay, Fairfield or Saanich peninsula, for a
living/working space. Asap. Under $1,000 pm ? Chris 370-9902 Misty 655-9490
Volunteers needed for the Community Gypsy
Moth Project, to recover the pheromone traps & avoid the need for pesticides in the
Volunteers needed to collect data for the
Victoria Green Pages in these categories : First Nations; Marine & Fisheries; Salt
Spring; outer Gulf Islands. Guy 881-1304
SIERRA CLUB COMMUNITY
Lawns & Pesticides : Alternatives
Wed October 14th, 7:15 - 10pm
Fairfield Community Place 1335 Thurlow
Together, Building Community !
WALBRAN PEACE CAMP
Following the Rainbow Gathering and the Rave
in the Walbran forest, a peace camp has been established to publicize the planned new
clearcuts. The campers are looking for ways to stay the winter and need donations of
woolen socks (need not match), rubber boots, rain gear, blankets, sleeping bags, foamies,
rolls of plastic or tarps, camp tools, propane bottles, camp stoves, rope & food. The
Carmanah Forestry Society is discouraging people from interrupting logging, since there is
an injunction still on the valley left over from 1991. Maps are available by fax (250)
389-1848 or phone 381-1141.
Facilitating creative and gentle
Affordable sliding scale
(Ms) Robbie Andersen 391-0067
CHANGING THE WORLD ONE
BITE AT A TIME
In honour of World Food Day (Oct 16th),
EcoNews offers these selected statistics from a forthcoming book by Joseph Pace:
Amount of land needed to feed average
Canadian for 1 year: 4 acres
Amount of land needed to feed Canadian on plant-based diet for 1 year:1/2 acre
Kg apples that can be produced on 1 acre of prime land: 10,000kg
Kg potatoes that can be produced on 1 acre of prime land: 20,000kg
Kg of beef that can be produced on 1 acre of prime land: 250kg
% of Atlantic coastal marshes that have been converted to agriculture: 65%
% of southern Ontario wetlands that have been converted to agriculture:70%
% of Prairie grasslands converted: 90%
% of Central American rainforest cleared for cattle ranching: 25 - 50%
% of Amazon rainforest cleared for cattle ranching: 50 - 85%
Amount of rainforest destroyed for each 1/4 pound of rainforest beef: 55 sq ft
Kg of rainforest beef consumed by Canadians each year: 20 - 40 million kg
% Canadians eating plant-based diet: 3-4%
% of world's grain harvest that is fed to livestock: 40%
% of Canada's net cereal crops that is fed to livestock: 77%
Years longer the average person eating a plant-based diet will live: 7-15 years
Remember the vision ? A greenbelt of
wilderness and parkland from Goldstream Park to the Sooke Basin. One of the links is a
small property between Ayum Creek and the Galloping Goose trail. On Sept 10th the
Sea-to-Sea Green/Blue Belt Alliance (a new coalition of seven local conservation
organizations) appealed for $50,000 to complete the purchase of the property. Within 5
days, a donor pledged $25,000, another $6,000 was given in donations, and then Pacific
Coast Savings kicked in with a mortgage. Wow ! Tax-deductible donations can be sent to The
Land Conservancy of BC, 5793 Old West Saanich Rd, Victoria V8X 3X3 (361-7963). The Habitat
Acquisition Trust (HAT) has also opened a new Land Stewardship Office above the Field
Naturalist at 1126 Blanshard St, Victoria, open to the public Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays
and Saturdays (12 - 4pm) as a one-stop-shop for information on land stewardship
initiatives. Do you own land where you want to protect a piece of valuable habitat? Or can
you volunteer time, to help the new office ? If so, call Andrew MacDonald, (250)
BC GOVERNMENT CENSORS
GRIZZLY BEAR REPORT
"There is no ecological, biological,
ethical or social justification for continuing to hunt Grizzly bears." This is the
conclusion of a 30-page paper written by BC government biologist A. Dionys de Leeuw, and
distributed to key government personnel including regional directors, wildlife/habitat
managers and other biologists. The document spells out why de Leeuw felt the Grizzly bear
hunt in BC should be stopped, including a proposal to scale the hunt down to a more
sustainable level. The government's reaction ? Every one of the 80 copies was confiscated
by the Ministry of Environment, and distribution was prohibited. The paper reveals that
the Grizzly hunt quota is set by 3 bodies - the BC Ministry of Environment, the BC
Wildlife Federation (a hunters' lobby group) and the BC Hunting Guide-Outfitters
Association. This is a clear conflict of interest - BC's bear hunting policy is being
designed for hunters by hunters. The paper also explains that the number of licenses
issued is set according to the previous year's kill-rate - the lower the kill, the higher
the number of licenses issued. For more information, call Anthony Marr, WCWC,
TOP TOXIC TOFFS IN TOWN
Isn't that an appalling heading ? But if you
read the Green Diary, you'll see that there are four world class speakers in Victoria this
month as part of the 'What on Earth are Toxic Chemicals Doing to Us ?' series put on by
the UVic Law School, the Skies Above Foundation and the BC Environmental Network. Anita
Roy (Oct 1st) is living proof that we can reverse the toxic tide - she sought election to
her municipality in Quebec solely to pass a successful by-law restricting community
pesticide use. Mary O'Brien (Oct 8th) goes inside the breast cancer scandal, to look at
toxic environmental causes; Khosrow Adeli (Oct 15th) has done ground-breaking research to
produce a one-day test which allows scientists to determine if specific chemicals cause
DNA damage; and Paul Johnson (Oct 22nd) is Greenpeace's principal scientist, part of a
team which has been exposing the chemical industry for doing things like manufacturing
toxic plastic toys that children chew on. The series is followed by the BC Environment
Network's Fall Conference, at UVic (see Diary). This is an unprecedented opportunity to
become informed of this insidious threat to our health, including our children and
wildlife, and to start to turn the tide.
COHOUSING HOMES FOR SALE
Now is your chance to live in a place
where everyone knows your name,
where it is safe, and where
neighbours look out for each other.
Cardiff Place Cohousing Community
has several condominium units for sale
in an ideal Fairfield location.
1246 Fairfield Rd, near Moss St.
Call 920-7488 for more information.
We've just had the world's hottest summer on
record - and according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, stabilizing
Earth's climate requires at least a 60% reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions.
The average American household produces 23,380 pounds of CO2 per year. Could solar
and efficiency technologies reduce this by 60%? To answer this question Randy Udall,
director of the Community Office for Resource Efficiency in Colorado, added a solar hot
water system to his home, installed a 1.8 kilowatt photovoltaic system and replaced an old
fridge with a more efficient one. The retrofit cost $15,800. Before the retrofit, the
home's yearly electricity consumption was 7,900 kilowatt-hours. Today, the house uses
2,100 KwH. Annual energy savings: 5,800 KwH. Daily CO2 emissions were lowered from 43 to
11.5 pounds, a 73% reduction. During the next 20 years the retrofit will keep 229,950
pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.(Details from Atmopsphere Alliance). A
mortgage for $15,800 at 6% costs maybe $100 per month; his fuel bills have fallen by maybe
$50 per month ? That's the difference, where subsidies are needed to be transferred from
coal and oil to solar. Here in BC, BC Hydro offers loans of up to $12,000, repayable
through your hydro bill, for a free energy assessment and energy upgrades that include
draft proofing, ventilation, insulation, thermostats, windows and doors. Details,
MAI RETURNS !
Far from dead, the Multilateral Agreement on
Investment returns this month at the Paris meeting of the OECD, when high-level talks will
either seal the deal, set a formal deadline, or shift the talks to the World Trade
Organization. According to the OECD, the text is 90% complete - but according to the 565
non-profit organizations which led the charge that derailed the MAI last April, it is
still as outrageous as ever. This is the time to call your MP, and urge Canada to reject
the proposed treaty. For MP's numbers, see the 'Blue Pages' of your phone book.
David Anderson 363-3600; Keith Martin 474-6505; Gary Lunn 656-2320.
FRUIT TREE PROJECT
Do you have a fruit tree in your yard ? The
Victoria Fruit Tree Project wants to start a registry of fruit trees, and to arrange for
the harvesting of unwanted fruit, pruning, care of the trees, the development of
fruit-based micro-businesses, etc. Call Lee Herrin & Matt Strand, 480-1413.
ACTION OF THE MONTH :
SILVER SPRAY, SOOKE
The 164 acre Silver Spray Ranch Lands are on
the west side of East Sooke Park, in an area of incredible ecological value and marine
habitat, which the CRD originally intended to purchase as park, but couldn't afford to.
The land is zoned for 10 acre rural lots, but the owner, Home Equity, wants to build a 96
home subdivision, resort lodge, marina basin, ferry terminal, ball park and 100 car
parking lot. This has been the subject of tremendous controversy, and is really an
inappropriate place for such a development. On October 14th, the Sooke Regional Director,
Diane Bernard, will make a final decision on the rezoning proposal.
ACTION : Write to Diane Bernard, 2205 Otter
Point Rd, Sooke V0S 1No Fax 642-5274, urging protection of the land in its existing
10-acre rural status.
Deadline for November: Oct 25th
The Green Diary has moved! Click HERE to see
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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
EcoNews is printed on Tree-Free paper from Ecosource
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