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Guy Dauncey, Editor
395 Conway Road, Victoria, BC
CANADA V9E 2B9
Tel (250) 881-1304
www.earthfuture.com

Executive director of The Solutions Project

 

Newsletter No. 115 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island - April 2002


COULD VICTORIA BE A SLOW CITY?

It started in Italy in 1989, when a group of food lovers decided to protest plans for a McDonalds in Rome's Piazza di Spagna. The Slow Food movement was born, to celebrate the joy, the culture and the ecology of local food - eaten slowly, at leisure. A large table, friends and family, fascinating conversation - isn't this is what our culture is all about, they said, not junk McFood? Today, the movement has 65,000 members in 45 countries, including many here on Vancouver Island.

And now the idea is spreading. Paolo Saturnini, mayor of Greve-in-Chianti, a hilltop town in Tuscany, wondered if Slow Food's principles could apply to other aspects of life - to protect and cherish local traditions, to celebrate diversity, and to resist the bland invasion of globalization's forces. Thirty Italian towns joined in, and gave birth to the Slow Cities movement.

"We want to protect real cities. Specialty and particularity are our wealth. They enrich our civilization, they enrich our time, and they enrich our cities. We need to defend them. We need to preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency. This is what real culture is about - developing taste, rather than demeaning it."

Becoming a Slow City is a process, they recognize, with a whole list of goals to be aimed for. These include producing more local organic food, protecting more green spaces, loving our city trees and gardens, improving public transport, and opportunities for walking and cycling, promoting eco-friendly architecture in new developments, calming the traffic on residential streets and in neighbourhood centres, reducing light pollution so that we can see the stars at night, controlling noise pollution, building the local service and arts economy, and promoting an appreciation for your town or city, so that people know what a Slow City is.

What do you think - is Victoria not ideally placed to become a Slow City? People come here to stay, and put down roots. We love our ambles along Dallas Road, our hikes through East Sooke park. We love our gardens, and we are gradually learning to use more native plants and less grass. We love the music that fills the downtown in summer, and the neighbourhood centres where you can linger while you shop.

So how are we doing? Is Victoria turning into just another fast McCity, where there is no more "there" anywhere, or are we building a culture, an architecture and a rural countryside that will cause future poets and singers to celebrate this place as Virgil once did the hills around Rome?

It is possible to see it both ways. On the one hand, we are building more out-of-town shopping malls that will weaken and destroy our local shops; we are cutting back on transit when we should be expanding it; we may be about to lose the E & N railway, which has to be the epitome of "Slow Travel"; and we are buying more cars, too many of them SUVs, and driving them further.

On the other hand, thanks to the work of the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition, we are expanding our cycling network; we are introducing more traffic calming and reclaiming our residential streets from speed-aholics; we are growing our community markets and urban farms. We are slowly breaking the habit of parents always driving their kids to school, thanks to the work of the organization 'Way to Go!' (see www.waytogo.icbc.bc.ca).

We have even, after several grinding years, drafted a Regional Growth Strategy that supports 'complete communities', says all the right things, and does its best to follow up with action. It is weak because it has no teeth; and not all our municipalities on board. Some are just so reluctant to think regionally. Langford appears to have defined its urban containment boundary (so essential to protect the forests and farmland) so as to include almost its entire territory.

Set against that, Victoria City Council has understood the need for higher density, and creative infilling; if they would only turn Lower Government Street into a car-free zone, at least for the summer months; (for the petition to close Government Street, see www.petitiononline.com/vicbike/petition.html) the experience in Europe is that the merchants will come begging for more when they see how popular the car-free areas are. The Fairfield Community Association has the right idea with its Fresh Air/Car-Free day on Dallas Road (Sun April 14th).

A Slow City is about the feeling that we have in our city. Does it nourish our hearts? Does it make us want to slow down, and appreciate the spontaneous eruptions of beauty that fine design and greenery can create? Life in the fast lane is fun, and there should be space for it, but we do not live only to run. We also live to breathe in the satisfaction of a place well-loved and well-designed, where moments of the eternal can co-exist with everyday life. A city must have a soul, and a soul is generally slow. That's why a beautiful city must also be a slow city.

- Guy Dauncey


ECONEWS

AG00119_.gif (2913 bytes)A monthly newsletter, funded by your donations, that dreams of a Vancouver Island and a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community & the joys of deep fulfillment.

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Many thanks to Sue McManus (in memory of Keith Miller, who kept me apprised of global concerns and healthy dialogue about sane, humane and ecological paths), Ed Dyatt, Gary Greenstein, Stan Tomandl, Emile Lacroix, John Bowers, Kathleen Woodley, Denise Dickson, Joan Waddell, Jim Hackler, David Stott, Louise Taylor, Gay Wise, Warren Nickerson, Mel Moilliet, Kay Look, Jan Zwicky & Katey Bloomfield.

Donations can be sent to EcoNews, 395 Conway Rd, Victoria, BC, V9E 2B9. For a receipt, send stamped addressed envelope.


THE ECO-CORNER

$5/line (non-profits & low-income free) 1" box ad $35, $2" box ad $65

* Soft plastic recycling comes to Fairfield on Sat April 20th. Styrofoam & other soft plastics can now be recycled along with hard plastics at all five sites. The sites open for 90' each in rotation, starting at St. Matthias 9:30am, closing Chapman Park 3:30pm. Neil 382-7627
* Journey to Cuba. "Cuba for Beginners" (April 29-May 13). Join a million Cubans on May Day; overview of social, political and economic lives. "Social Justice in Cuba" (May 13-27). $2,350 Canadian www.canadacuba.ca
* Beautiful main-flr, 2-BR suite in house on quiet Vic West street off Craigflower. Private entry, incl French dr to garden. Greenhouse window, gas fp. $890 incl Hydro & shared laundry. NS. Available now. Lind 881-7722.
* Taxes done by qualified financial professional, $35-$75. Roxanne Brydges
Certified Financial Planner, 360-6284 or boxwood@inetex.com
* Office Paper Buying Club Deadline April 30th. When you use chlorine-free, recycled paper, you save trees, water & energy, and cut garbage, air & water pollution. The Buying Club makes it easy: pre-pay your invoice and it's delivered by May 15th. Delores dbroten@rfu.org, 250-935-6992.


THE CIRCLE OF COMPASSION

"A human being is part of the whole, called by us the 'universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." Albert Einstein


THE GARDEN PATH
ORGANIC PLANT NURSERY

Demonstration organic garden, guided tours, workshops and afternoon teas

Open Daily 10-5:30pm
Organic Plants at Great Prices

395 Conway Road
(250) 881-1555
www.earthfuture.com/gardenpath


VOTER E-VOLVEMENT

In Britain, Labour MP Graham Allen wants the rules changed so that the public and MPs can join together to provide alternatives to legislation drafted by civil servants and ministers. He is proposing that MPs should examine new laws for eight weeks before they go before Parliament, enabling the public to e-mail in suggestions for improvements. MPs' discussions would be webcast, and the public would be invited to email in their ideas. "For a Child Support Act, You could be sitting in York with fellow fathers or mothers or whatever group and watch MPs question important witnesses, then e-mail in your thoughts." Officials would put serious suggestions in front of the MPs. (BBC)


The Cycling Horticulturist
Eco-friendly Lawn Care, Landscape Maintenance & Design
Emission-free, chemical-free
Your sustainable landscaping alternative
call Constanze @885-1771
greenwheeler@hotmail.com


IRISH BAGS ARE SMILING

In Ireland, an estimated 1.2 billion plastic bags are handed out at cash registers each year - that's 325 bags per person, and all across the country, plastic bags billow in the breeze on fences and hedgerows. So in March, the government started charging a tax of 20 cents (Canadian) per bag for all except the small bags used to wrap fresh fruit and vegetables. "We need to end our addiction to these wasteful bags, which we use for minutes but which survive for decades," said Environment Minister Noel Dempsey. The two biggest supermarkets, Tesco and Dunnes Stores, have started selling a range of semi-permanent shopping bags.


THE FACE OF OUR WATERS

Take a moment to meditate on the state of the world's water supply.
Displays, booths, action opportunities. Get information; be spiritually challenged
Saturday April 20th 2-4pm
Garden City United Church
4054 Carey Rd, Victoria 479-3430


THAT TREATY REFERENDUM

What to do about the Referendum on the First Nations Treaty process we're being asked to vote on? There's a very useful "Treaty Injustice" website at www.treatyinjustice.org which goes through the eight questions, pointing out the pros and cons of a YES or NO answer to each. If you want to cast a protest vote by writing anything except the answers, or leaving it blank, it will be recorded in the result as long as you complete and sign the certification envelope. If you boycott the process, your opinion will be ignored, and your "non-vote" will lower the threshold needed for 50% +1 approval.


THE WONDERFUL WORLDWIDE WEB

* There's an online petition o save the E & N Railway, hosted on the web by PetitionOnline.com, the free online petition service, at: www.PetitionOnline.com/SaveEN/

* Imagine Government Street full of pedestrians, rollerbladers, cyclists, pedicabs, horse-drawn carriages, bustling cafes, street stalls, buskers... and no car fumes. Ask the City of Victoria to close the busiest part of Government Street to private motor vehicles during the busiest part of the year: www.petitiononline.com/vicbike/petition.html/
Submitted by Andrea Tischhauser

* Here's a new goverment website for anyone interested in the conservation
status of species in BC: http://srmapps.gov.bc.ca:8888/apps/eswp/

* For your amusement: Guerrilla Media (GM) has relaunched it's GlobalBS internet parody portal at http://GlobalBS.8k.com. The GlobalBS site has previously been shut down twice by CanWest lawyers. "The online lampoon delivers timely, over-the-line satire which ridicules the self-interested follies of BC's elites," said GM spokesperson Ann Onymous. "Especially Gordo's Liberal junta and their CanWest cheerleaders."


PRO-REP : TOP TEN REASONS

Pro-Rep stands for Proportional Representation, a more fair system of voting. If the Pink Party gets 20% of the vote, they get 20% of the seats. In a Mixed Member Proportional system, half the MLAs are chosen in the normal way to represent their constituencies, and the half are chosen from Party Lists, to ensure there is proportional balance. This is a hot subject, and everyone is looking for change, including the NDP and the Liberals. Adriane Carr has launched an Initiative to adopt the Mixed Member Pro-Rep system for BC. To succeed, the campaign needs to collect 255,522 signatures between May 13th - August 12th. (There's a 4-page supplement on Pro-Rep in the April issue of Common Ground Magazine). On April 11th, an all-party panel in Victoria will debate the issue, including Rod Donald, the New Zealand Green Party MP who spent four years campaigning for electoral reform. In 1993 New Zealanders voted to scrap their "First Past the Post" system in favour of Mixed Member Proportional; Rod is now co-leader of the Green Party, which forms part of the government. So here are those Top Ten Reasons:

1. More people vote - voter turnout increases to 80-85%.
2. Twice as many women become MPs.
3. More minority people become MPs.
4. More young people register to vote.
5. There is no more need to vote for a party you don't like to stop a party you like even less from getting elected.
6. There are no more governments that are opposed by 60% of the voters.
7. Political parties show less antagonism towards each other and develop a more cooperative attitude.
8. It encourages more citizen participation, and better media coverage.
9. It reduces public cynicism about politics and politicians.
10. It's fair. Everyone's vote counts.

And PS - see the current issue of Common Ground magazine, which has a special supplment on Proportional Representation.


PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION RESOURCES:

* Electoral Systems Index (ACE Project): www.aceproject.org/main/english/es/es.htm
* Fair Voting BC: www.fairvotingbc.com
* Fair Vote Canada: www.fairvotecanada.org
* Free Your Vote!: www.freeyourvote.bc.ca
* Geoff Plant (BC Attorney General) speech on the Liberals proposed Citizens Assembly on electoral reform: www.fairvotingbc.com/Pages/Archives.html
* Is it Time to Reform BC's Electoral System? (NDP): www.bc.ndp.ca/issues/pr.html
* Lorne Nystrom (NDP MP) on Proportional Representation: www.lornenystrom.ca/reform.htm
* Proportional Representation - the Cure for an Ailing Democracy? (CCAP): www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/articles/article297.html
* Proportional Representation (Green Party of Canada): www.votepr.org


FREE YOUR VOTE!

Proportional Representation
Initiative
We need to gather 225,522 signatures
between May 13th - Aug 12th.
Could you help collect signatures?
Call Toll-Free 1-866-PROREP-9
www.freeyourvote.bc.ca


PEACEFUL TOMORROWS

At a time when the US government is preparing to use nuclear weapons not as a deterrent but for the purpose of waging war, it is heartening to learn about Peaceful Tomorrows, an advocacy organization founded by family members of September Eleventh victims, who seek effective nonviolent responses to terrorism; to identify a commonality with all people similarly affected by violence throughout the world; and to promote US foreign policy which places a priority on democracy and human rights. (www.peacefultomorrows.org). Among other things, they want the US to create an Afghan Victims Fund. In the US, where 2,900 people died on September 11th, each family of a victim is getting around $1.5 million. In Afghanistan, where between 1,000 and 4,000 civilians have been killed by the US "precision" bombing, the victims' families are getting nothing. Peaceful Tomorrows is asking for $10,000 per family to help them rebuild their homes. If 2,000 families seek compensation, this would cost $20 million - less than one day's military expense during the bombing campaign.


VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

If you are wondering about volunteering with an organization that's making a difference, there's no shortage of opportunities right now:
* The International Childrens Conference on the Environment (May 22nd - 25th) is looking for a host of volunteers to help when 800 children arrive from all over the world next month. For full details, see www.iccCanada2002.org
* The 14th Organic World Congress, happening in Victoria August 21st - 28th is also looking for many volunteers. Call 655-5652 for details, and see www.cog.ca/ifoam2002/volunteer.htm
* The Global Walk for Justice, on April 27th, would love more help - see www.justicewalk.ca or call 592-8307
* The Land Conservancy has a wide range of practical volunteer openings. Call 361-7693 www.conservancy.ca


ACTION OF THE MONTH:
THE ROMANOW COMMISSION

The Romanow Commission on Health Care is collecting people's responses - see workbook www.healthcarecommission.ca

But are they hearing about the need to reduce chemical pesticides, and air pollution? Are they hearing about junk food? Write to them, and let them know:

Romanow Commission, PO Box 160, Station Main, Saskatoon, S7K 3K4.


NOTICE

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 V9E 2B9, Canada. Thanks !

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EcoNews, Guy Dauncey
395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1
Tel/Fax (250) 881-1304

Author of "Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change"
(New Society Publishers)
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