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Executive director of The Solutions Project
No. 98 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island - October 2000
– REINVENTING THE WORLD
1999, the world’s population passed 6 billion people. Everywhere, global ecosystems
are in retreat, but our numbers keep growing. At this rate, we’ll reach 10
billion by 2080.
means that we’ll need to find room for another 4 billion people - in ways
that are socially and ecologically sustainable. Our grandchildren, who will
be living in this world, have every right to enjoy its wildlife and its beauty.
So where is everyone going to live? And how are they going to live?
late 1960s, Columbian activist Paolo Lugari found himself asking these same
questions. Columbia is a huge country, but if you drive east from Bogota,
out of the Andes mountains, you come to the rain-soaked savanna of the eastern
los llanos region, just north of the Equator, where almost no-one lives because
the soil is so poor. Go further east, and you’re in the Amazon.
over the area in 1965, Paolo realized that if people could live here, they
could live anywhere. He staked a claim to 25,000 acres at a place called Gaviotas
(after a local bird), and asked his friends at Bogota’s many universities
them, they invented a way to mix soil with cement to make buildings, dams
and drainage pipes; they invented a light-weight pump which the kids could
work by riding a see-saw; they designed a windmill (after 58 attempts) that
would catch the slightest breeze and run for years without repair. They designed
a solar water heater that works in the rain and is so cheap and effective
that they set up a factory in Bogota, staffed by street kids turned solar
technicians, installing the heaters all over Bogota. All this, without registering
any patents, so that the world could enjoy their technologies for free.
manufactured their windmills, installing thousands all over the country. They
made biogas generators, and invented a solar pressure-cooker, and a solar
kettle which provides safe, clean drinking water. It took six years to perfect,
but in a world that is running out of fresh water, the implications are enormous.
needed food, but the soil on the riverbanks was too poor, so they grew vegetables
in containers of nutritionless rice hulls, washed by manure tea. By the late
1970s, they had a third of a square kilometer covered with hydroponic greenhouses.
They built a solar hospital, cooled by the wind and heated by the sun, named
by a Japanese architecture journal as one of the 40 most important buildings
in the world.
end of the 1980s, Gaviotas began to run into trouble. Columbia’s embrace of
global free trade was flooding the market with mass-produced food, driving
local farmers to the cultivation of coca. The oil industry was booming, and
the market for their windmills and solar collectors was declining. The Gaviotas
pioneers were not the kind to give up, however.
for a plant that could survive the harsh llanos soil, they had found a Caribbean
pine from Venezuela which would grow if the roots of its seedlings were dipped
in a fungus which was missing from the local soil, so they planted 20,000
acres. As the pine forest grew, it provided shade for a host of seeds dropped
by birds or blown in on the wind. In front of their eyes – and to their total
surprise - the rainforest started to return, with plants, shrubs, jacarandas,
saplings, deer, ant-eaters, armadillos, capybaras and eagles.
discovered that they could tap the pines for resin and process it into turpentine,
replacing the imported petroleum products used in paints, glues, cosmetics,
perfumes and medicines. They designed a zero-emissions factory to distill
it, and found a new source of income. They realized that by planting the pines
in ever-increasing circles and harvesting the resin, they could restore the
llanos to a fertile rainforest. Now they are working with the Guahibo Indians
to research the 250 new species of native plant which have appeared, seeking
their ethno-botanical properties.
Gaviotas is a self-sufficient village of 200+ people. Its residents live by
their creative endeavors, powered by the sun and the wind. They manage their
growing forest, and ship clean drinking water to Colombia’s many villages.
In one of the world’s most violent countries, they have created an oasis of
peace, health and fulfillment, filled with music and birdsong.
can we learn from Gaviotas, here in BC? That it is of paramount importance
to let people experiment and work together, to invent a new future; that universities
have a lot to contribute, if students and profs are allowed to work outside
the normal constraints; that land offers an incredible opportunity if people
are allowed to live together and experiment. As Gaviotas founder Paolo Lugari
puts it: "If we can do this in Colombia, there's hope that people can do it
full story, read Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World, by Alan
Weisman (Chelsea Green, 1998). Available from Munro’s bookshop, 382-2464
information, and pictures, see
note: the Green Diary has moved, click here to view.
as a monthly service, nourishing the vision of an Island blessed by the harmony
of nature and community, funded by your donations.
to Roger Colwill, Barb Hourston, Dorothy Beach, Tony Embledon, Kay Look,
Rob Wickson, Philippa White, Jean Mackenzie, Debra Barr & Anne Moon.
this issue, the bank will be very empty Donations can be made to EcoNews,
395 Conway Rd, Victoria V9E 2B9. For a receipt, send stamped addressed envelope.
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Call Guy, 881-1304
A big welcome to the GroundWorks Learning Centre at 521 Superior
St, James Bay (360-0799), which LifeCycles and Community Mapping Centre
have set up together. Drop in for a visit on Tue 9-4, Wed 1-8, to see what’s
Xmas dinner: organically fed, free range Gulf Islands goose. Orders
taken for Dec. Also lamb & chicken 250 629-3964
Weekend Trailbuilding Campout starting, needs experienced folks, especially
trail leaders. Syd, 381-1141
Reach for Unbleached bulk office paper buying club. Deadline Oct 13th
for chlorine free, high recycled paper. $53.50/box (5000 sheets). Pre-payment
essential, (604) 879-2992 firstname.lastname@example.org
Congratulations to Fin Donnelly on his amazing 1400 km ‘Spirit of
the Salmon’ swim of the Fraser, to draw attention to the plight of BC’s
largest. What a swim!!! www.fraser2000.com
Travel Map and information on Upper Walbran Valley available from Western
Canada Wilderness Cte, 388-9292 www.wildernesscommittee.org
Study Circles in Voluntary Simplicity and Deep Ecology starting now.
North West Earth Institute. Jackie, 361-9446
Nov 2nd is the deadline for Habitat Conservation Trust
Fund proposals – habitat restoration, conservation, land stewardship,
environmental education, habitat acquisition. Call 1-800-387-9853 or see
FOOD IN SCHOOLS
they can do it, perhaps we can too? Last year, the Berkeley school board
passed an optional organic food policy, through which all 10,000 students
are being introduced to pesticide-free, GM-free food, some of which they
are growing for themselves. 12 of the 15 schools have organic schoolyards;
the goal is for schools to grow 25% of the organic produce needed, with
local family farms producing the rest. The project was started by parents
who were dissatisfied with the food being served in the school cafeterias.
The new policy sets goals and obtainable objectives, and provides abundant
information to the public through full disclosure, profit and loss statements,
business plans, and the nutritional breakdown of all meals served. The district
is attempting to keep costs down by working with local growers and buying
in bulk; the program has reported a 6% increase in meals served, which means
more kids are participating. The policy also bans the use of genetically
engineered foods, irradiated foods, and dairy products from cows injected
with the recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). Other goals include establishing
a child nutrition advisory committee and eliminating food additives, and
high-fat, high-sugar snacks and entrees. For details, see www.foodsystems.org
FAMILY COUNSELLING CENTRE
Hohert, MSW, RSW
Fort St, Victoria
you concerned that the ideals and the practice of sound land-use decisions
don’t often meet? Most people are beginning to accept that we need urban
greenbelts and ecological protection to control suburban sprawl and protect
nature, and yet projects such as the Costco megastore in Langford, Silver
Spray in Sooke and the Hulls Field wetland proposal in Langford continue
to make their way through the approvals process. Does nature stand for nothing,
when it comes to making a dollar? William Honachefsky's new book, ‘Ecologically
Based Municipal Land Use Planning’ will revolutionize the way communities
plan their land-use. Though US-based, most of the principles apply well
in Canada. Drawing on more than 30 years of experience and the investigation
of thousands of cases of environmental abuse, Honachefsky presents a powerful
combination of strategies that restore the Municipal Master Plan (OCP) to
its rightful dominance over zoning; incorporate a host of new and unique
"ecological indicators" with which a community can assess the health of
the natural resources that sustain it; apply GIS to problem-solving; and
make the preservation of a community's ‘ecological infrastructure’ the paramount
priority of the Master Plan (OCP). His book is about empowering ordinary
citizens, and crafting scientifically-based land use plans that will withstand
the most withering judicial scrutiny. In future, no community will be able
to say it did not have the tools to stop sprawl in its tracks. CRC Press/Lewis
Publ, Boca Raton, FL. 1-800-272-7737
YORK GREEN BUILDINGS
are slow to use tax credits creatively in BC to encourage green behaviour.
In Oregon and Maryland, they give tax credits for the purchase of Energy
Star efficient appliances, home insulation and retrofits, and efficient
vehicles. In New York, the state is now offering a ‘green building credit’
to developers who build environmentally sound commercial and apartment buildings
with improved indoor air quality which use recycled and recyclable materials,
and use 65% less energy than the state’s Energy Code. 10% of the cost of
ozone-friendly air-conditioning, 30% of the cost of hydrogen fuel-cells
and 100% of the cost of built-in solar PV panels can be recouped as a tax
credit. The state is laying the groundwork for a state-wide shift to environmentally
progressive building technologies, and aiming to set the pace for future
federal legislation. This is one of the building blocks of a green economy.
for co-buyer for
old Courtenay home
gardens, solar, community activists. Your share - $60 - $90,000.
Susan, (250) 334-2375
Ronald writes: You’ve sailed or kayaked on the waters; you’ve admired
them from the ferries; you’ve been whale-watching on them with your visiting
relatives; but how much more abuse can they take? Orca Pass is a stewardship
proposal for an international marine conservation area in the transboundary
waters between the Southern Gulf and the San Juan Islands. Named for the
Orca whales that live in this ecologically rich subtidal area, the proposal
seeks to help local species recover from heavy fishing, pollution and other
human impacts. It is being advanced by the Georgia Strait Alliance, People
for Puget Sound, and a coalition of individuals and citizens groups on both
sides of the border who are using science and traditional knowledge to map
the area for ecological values, including eel grass, kelp beds, rockfish
and other bottom fish habitat, marine mammal sightings, and sea bird colonization.
Our goal is to identify and create a network of fully protected marine areas
within Orca Pass. The proposal straddles Boundary Pass and Haro Strait and
includes Portland, Moresby, Sidney, Waldron, Matia, Sucia, Patos, Tumbo,
and southern parts of Saturna and Pender Islands, a world renowned area
for biologists and recreational boaters alike. This is the major marine
conservation initiative in the Sound and Strait area, which complements
the federal government's National Marine Conservation Area and Southern
Gulf Islands National Park initiatives. To learn more, visit www.georgiastrait.org,
and call Peter Ronald at 361-3621. The proposal needs your support and endorsement!
other jurisdictions are finding ways to build a green economy, the BC government
has set its mind on a technology which will create more pollution and increase
greenhouse gas emissions. The name of the project is the GSX (Georgia Strait
Crossing), and uncovering its origins requires a level of sleuthing to make
David Duchnovny proud. The government (through BC Hydro) is saying that
two of the electricity cables from the mainland to Vancouver Island are
wearing out, and that the cheapest way to replace them is to run a gas pipeline
from Washington State through the proposed Orca Pass in the southern Gulf
Islands and through the Cowichan Valley’s farmland to fuel three gas-fired
electricity cogeneration plants, one in Campbell River (built, but not started),
one in Port Alberni (approved, but not built; the owner has backed out and
no-one else is buying), and in one possibly in the Duncan area. To bolster
its case, BC Hydro is using inflated figures for future demand, an artificially
low figure for the future price of natural gas, is ignoring the potential
for energy conservation, and the fact that the cogen plants require large
amounts of river water for cooling (threatening fish survival), and is saying
"no problem" to the surge in greenhouse gas emissions that the
pipeline will cause because they’ll buy carbon offsets - such as planting
trees in Guatemala to absorb the C02 emissions. The project doesn’t make
sense, and most people don’t want it – they want to see an energy future
for the Island based on conservation, smart policies, and renewable energy
from biomass, microhydro, wind, tidal, solar, and renewably-derived hydrogen,
not gas. In Sumas WA, where there’s a similar proposal for large cogeneration
plant, a woman from the gas company was recently pelted with eggs in a supermarket
car park, and resigned her position. The peasants are angry! So why is the
government persisting? We suspect that it stems from Glen Clark’s love of
megaprojects, and his hopes to build a big aluminum smelter plant in Port
Alberni. For that, you need lots of cheap power. Clark is gone and the smelter
never happened, but we’re left with the gas pipeline project; the government
also gets huge revenues from gas licenses. This is one of those "turnaround"
decisions where the opposition has its feet stuck in. We need your help!
busy season on the "stop GM food" front. The Pacific Rim Biotechnology
Conference and BioExpo 2000 is set for Vancouver, Nov 12th –
16th, with 1500 delegates from biotech corporations, governments,
laboratories and lobby groups (www.biotech.bc.ca).
There’s a big Teach-In on Nov 10th organized by Trading Strategies,
a coalition of over 40 groups, with speakers including David Suzuki and
Maud Barlow. To sign up for the bus that’s going over, call 472-4558 – and
see the Diary for linked events.
Abel and friends have been leading a courageous and persistent campaign
to persuade local councils to ban the aerial spraying of pesticides in their
municipalities, and force a review of the BC provincial legislation. To
give Michael a hand, call (250) 384-9001. For the details, and to send your
local council a letter by mail or email, see www3.telus.net/aerialsprayingbylaws
OF THE MONTH
"YES" TO ACTIVE GREENHOUSE GAS REDUCTION
at the North Pole, the summer ice has melted for possibly the first time
in 50 million years – and all because we are using more cars, playing with
more appliances and burning more fossil fuels. Without the summer ice, the
polar bears can’t hunt for seals, and can’t survive the winter. It’s an
awful thought, but the way we are going the polar bears may become extinct,
except perhaps in zoos. On the other side of the world, people in Assam,
west Bengal and south Vietnam are seeing their homes swept away by a level
of flooding that is far more intense than usual. These are all signs of
global climate change – but alas, they’re only the beginning. In Mid November,
the UN hold its fifth climate conference in Holland, when the leaders of
170 nations will meet to thrash out the details of the treaty signed in
Kyoto in 1997. Canada will be there, along with lobbyists from the coal,
oil, gas and auto industries. It is very important that the government hears
from people who are concerned about more than profit from fossil fuels.
Write to Jean Chretien, with a copy to David Anderson (House of Parliament,
Ottawa K1A 0A6), and urge him to commit Canada to strong actions to reduce
climate change emissions. Express your concern about BC’s plans to generate
its future energy from gas (see GSX this page), and request an Independent
Panel Review of the Georgia Strait pipeline project to include an examination
of the project’s greenhouse gas emissions, and alternative ways to meet
the Island’s future power needs.
If there is a postcard from the David Suzuki Foundation with this EcoNews,
please send that off too. You can also express your views on this at two
new websites: www.clickforcleanair.org
(great graphics!) and www.ecoaction.ca
for October 2000: August 24th
Green Diary has moved! Click HERE
to see whats happening!
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of 'After the Crash : The Emergence of the Rainbow Economy'
(Greenprint, London, 1988. 3rd edition 1997)
'Earthfuture : Stories from a Sustainable World'
(New Society Publishers,
An ecofictional novel
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