No. 130 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island -
FOREST FIRES – AND OUR PLANET
Forest, forest, burning bright, in the nightmare
of our nights.
If only it were just BC. Then perhaps we could
argue that it was just one of those things, caused an exceptionally
dry hot summer and the steady accumulation of forest debris from
years of fire suppression.
But it’s not.
In the 1970s, Canada lost 1.5 million hectares
to forest fires. In the 1990s, we lost 2.8 million hectares. The
increase mirrors the rise in global temperature. Increased forest
fires, increased pest damage, increased periods of prolonged drought
– these are exactly what the climate models predict for a warmer
In Russia, satellite analysis shows that 23 million
hectares of forest had burned by mid-August. The total for all
2002 was 11.7 million hectares.
It’s not just Kelowna and Cranbrook, either.
There were 300 homes lost to fire in southwest Arizona this June.
Portugal’s forests have been ablaze. In the US, last year was
one of the most catastrophic fire seasons in history.
And then there are the heat waves. In Europe,
the current estimate is that 20,000 people died in France, Spain
and Portugal when the temperature got stuck in the low 40s for
weeks on end. Parts of Europe have been a consistent 5 C warmer.
In Baghdad, where the summer temperature has been 45–49 C in recent
years, it hit 54C on August 11th. 54 degrees Celsius.
Professor John Schelinhuber, former chief scientific
advisor to the German government, said "The heat is consistent
with a worst-case scenario of global warming that nobody wants
to come true. Most of us were thinking that in 20 – 30 years time
we would be seeing hot spells like this. But it’s happening now."
In the Alps, Mont Blanc – the famous white mountain
– has been closed to tourists after 200 years because the snow
has all gone, and the exposed rocks are too dangerous. "No-one
has ever seen a year like this", said local officials in
In central Africa, temperature rises in Lake
Tanganyika have dramatically altered the nutrient balance of the
lake, reducing the fish population that local villagers depend
on. In Alaska, the year-round temperature has risen by 5 F since
the 1960s; 2002 was the hottest year in their history; 98% of
Alaska’s glaciers are retreating or stagnant.
This list goes on and on. The ten warmest years
on record have all been since 1990, with the warmest being 1998,
2001 and 2002.
There are still some lost-in-their-dreams people
who claim that it’s just a natural cycle. But it’s a fact that
global CO2 levels are higher than they have been for 20 million
years, because of our use of fossil fuels, and it’s a fact that
CO2 traps heat. If this is what things are like in 2003, and we
continue to burn coal, oil and gas, what will it be in 2010? In
BC’s forest fires are in fact the lesser of BC’s
two forest disasters: the other is mountain pine beetle. Normally
controlled by cold winters, it is spreading in an epidemic of
catastrophic proportion from Kamloops to Prince George, an area
twice the size of Vancouver Island, larger than Sweden. Larry
Pedersen, BC’s chief forester, said last fall: "It’s November,
and the beetles are putting on suntan oil in the balmy 10–15 degree
C temperatures currently being experienced in the north."
The cost to BC taxpayers in lost stumpage fees is approaching
We have to wake up. We really have to wake up.
This is for real – not some abstract theory put about by a few
disgruntled environmentalists. And by all accounts, it’s speeding
Here in BC, there is one very simple and immediate
measure which our government can take to contribute to the global
effort: scrap the plans for the 265 MW Duke Point natural gas
power plant in Nanaimo that BC Hydro is so determined to build.
There’s a simple, clean alternative that BC Hydro
refuses to look at: Seabreeze Energy is proposing a 450 MW windfarm
at Knob Hill, on the tip of the Island, which is going through
assessment, and Green Island Energy is proposing a 250 MW biomass
plant at Gold River. For both of these projects, the local community
is totally behind them. After dividing the windfarm’s capacity
by 3 to compare it to natural gas, since the wind only blows 8
hours a day, that gives us 400 MW.
Stopping the Duke Point plant is the most immediate
thing we can do. The fossil-fuel dominated National Energy Board
has approved it, so now it’s up to the federal cabinet to give
a final decision. (Aee Action of Month).
After that, it’s up to each of us to demand that
our MLAs get with the program. BC doesn’t have a scrap of a plan
to address global climate change. They scrapped the previous plan
the NDP government had prepared, and have not come up with anything
And it’s up to each of us to reduce our personal
emissions, in our homes, vehicles, schools, businesses, clubs,
churches, and city governments. There’s a direct link between
the fires of Kelowna, and the things we consume in our everyday
Forest, forest, burning bright, in the nightmare
of our nights.
monthly newsletter, funded by your donations, that dreams of a Vancouver
Island and a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures
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Many thanks to Helen Anderson, Pat McGinn,
Mick Collins, Marilyn Thaden Dexter, Katey Bloomfield, Pru Moore,
Ida Wellwood, Jerold Rothstein, Fran Ashwell, Maggie Salmond, Jenny
Fraser, Martin Weideman, David van Stolk, Mary June Pettyfer, Jocelyn
Braithwaite, Milorad Nikolic, & Louis Ray.
Donations can be sent to EcoNews,
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Hell is a mall. The survival of wilderness
surroundings is fundamental. Eliminate the landscape, and you erase
all memory – Briony.
$1/word (non-profits, low-income free)
1" box $40, $2" box $70, insert $180
* CJay’s Painting, 15 years experience.
Interiors only, reliable and friendly service. Call Chris, 598-6847.
* Mature, responsible, NS woman will care
for your home, pets and plants beginning September 25, or share
your quiet eco-conscious home in Victoria. References. Leslie 250-653-9631.
* Cob/Strawbale - Looking for land partner/renter
to finish house on beautiful 60 acre Comox Valley farm. $60,000
negotiable. Susan Holvenstot, 250-334-2375 email@example.com
* Garry Oak Restoration Project needs your
help. Could you be a restoration assistant, site steward, photopoint
monitoring assistant, photographer, community educator, web site
assistant, historical researcher or data entry assistant? Call Pat
Johnston 595-5600 www.gorpsaanich.com
* Sept 15-24th -- Fasting
and Raw Food Health Retreat with Ray Kent, master iridologist,
Qualicum Bay, contact Susan Holvenstot, 250-334-2375 or firstname.lastname@example.org
. $65/day, 5 day minimum , "Never be sick again"
* For Rent: Rural cottage with greenhouse
attached, own garden plot, on small farm with most mod cons. Suit
single/couple. Must have car; no boozers! $650. 652-2613.
ONE EARTH, ONE CHANCE
The Sierra Club of Canada is one of our premier
environmental NGOs, and the BC Chapter has done incredible work
to help preserve our forest and ocean ecosystems. That’s not to
say we’re winning, but we’d be a lot worse off without its efforts.
It is the Sierra Club’s members who make it what it is, and help
keep the work going. From endangered species to toxic waste, food
issues to sustainability, pesticides to climate change and conservation
policies, the Club stands out from other environmental organizations
by turning protest into effective policy, such as the Kyoto Protocol
and soon-to-be wild salmon conservation policies. Right now, we
need more members to increase our influence in local, regional,
and national conservation, research, education, and advocacy efforts.
With your help, we can make this happen, and make more of a difference
than ever. To sign up, call 1-888-810-4204, and say that you are
an EcoNews reader. And congratulations to Kathryn Molloy, on being
appointed the new Executive Director of the Sierra Club of BC! See
‘Naturally Cleaning Your Way’ Serving all areas.
Call Tobi for a free estimate.
Are you a non-profit environmental organization
grappling with legal issues? Is hiring a lawyer just a pipe dream?
Well, look no further. The Environmental Law Centre at UVic is a
group of students, working under a supervisor, dedicated to providing
legal information to groups like yours at minimal or no charge.
Each semester, eight students each take on an environmental law
project, providing professional quality legal research. Our clients
have included the Denman Island Residents Association, the Georgia
Strait Crossing Coalition, Esquimalt Residents for Clean Air, the
Sierra Legal Defence Fund, and a CRD working group; we have covered
conservation covenants, regulation of logging roads, air quality
concerns, and aboriginal water rights. We can’t tell you what to
do, but we can get you the legal information to make a more informed
decision. If you think we can help, call 250-721-8188 email@example.com
Jim Merkel is a radical man with a simple idea,
which he has been living for the past 14 years: in order for us
to live in peace, fairly and equitably on this Earth, he believes,
we must live within our planetary means. The Earth has 28.2 billion
bio-productive acres, and there are 6.35 billion of us – that’s
4.4 acres each, which we need to share with the world’s creatures.
If we take 1/5th for our own use, we have to live and
produce all our necessities on 0.8 acres each. The Ecological Footprint
method calculates the land needed to produce everything we consume,
and absorb the CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels: the average
Canadian uses 18 acres. Right now, the wealthiest 20% of the world’s
citizens are consuming 80% of the resources; in 1998, half of the
1.2 billion people who lived on less than $110 a year had stunted
growth or mental retardation from insufficient caloric intake. Increasing
numbers of young people are growing up with anger at the injustice,
and it’s only a short step from anger to violence. Back in 1989,
Jim was an engineer in the military-industrial complex, designing
military computers. The Exxon-Valdez oil spill shocked him into
sanity, and he quit his job. He went on to become an activist, and
a student of simplicity, living on $5,000 a year for the past 14
years. In the Global Living Project that he and his partner Rowan
have created (www.globallivingproject.org
), they encourage people to live on ‘one wise acre’, by simplifying
their lives right down. He has travelled extensively, often living
close to nature, and in Kerala and Tibet he has seen first hand
how simply people can live, while still being happy. Jim has worked
out that if every family had just one child, by 2011 the world’s
population would fall to 1 billion. If 3/4 of the land was left
for other species, each human could have 6 acres. Jim’s new book
Radical Simplicity (New Society Publishers www.newsociety.com
)) explores all this in detail, and offers us three tools that we
can use to simplify our lives, including an ecological footprint
scorecard. It’s a very thought-provoking and inspiring guide to
a radically different way of living, which offers a challenge to
anyone. Jim’s on a two-month bicycle tour, and he’s speaking in
Victoria on Sept 9th (see Diary), co-sponsored by Munro’s
Books and the Green Party of BC.
Remember Seattle, in 1999? Well, the World Trade
Organization is meeting again in Cancun, Mexico, Sept 10th
– 14th. The two big issues on the table are agricultural
subsidies and trade liberalization. The developing nations want
subsidies eliminated to give their farmers a chance. The US, for
instance, pays its corn farmers $10 billion a year, encouraging
them to produce a surplus that is dumped in Mexico for less than
the cost of production, making it tough for Mexican farmers to compete.
America’s 25,000 cotton farmers received $3 billion in subsidies
last year - $230 per acre. But in west Africa, 11 million people
who depend on cotton as their main income can’t compete with the
US cotton, which has 40% of world exports. The same applies to sugar,
wheat, and many other crops.
At the same time, the developing nations want
the movement towards trade liberalization stopped. They see it as
a massive figleaf that hides the rich countries desire to rape their
economies under the disguise of trade. The EU, Canada, US and Japan
want to put the liberalization of investment and government procurement
on the table. Big business tried to get an agreement on investment
through the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), that was
defeated by the mobilized efforts of citizens around the world.
Now they are trying again through the proposed WTO investment agreement,
arguing that more investment will bring economic growth – but Martin
Khor (Third World Network) says "they are not aimed at regulating
investment, but regulating governments so that they can’t regulate
investment." Here are some rules the EU wants removed:
* Cameroon – foreign companies must create at least
one job for every $6,250 of investment.
* Chile – Investors must stay for 3 years before
transferring profits abroad.
* Bolivia - foreign companies must establish local
companies if they want to trade on a regular basis.
* Taiwan – foreign companies cannot purchase land
for agriculture, fishing or hunting; nor can they buy mines, forests,
or sources of water.
The biggest challenge – how to transform the global
economy so that it no longer operates like an army of gigantic parasitic
leeches on Earth’s ecosystems – is not on the agenda. If you come
to the Council of Canadians Teach-In on Tuesday Sept 9th,
however, it certainly will be. See Diary.
More than just an Organic Produce Box
Join us, nurturing local food production
* Supporting local organic farmers
* Farmers in Transition to organics
* Fair Trade Products
When the history of the world’s fair trade, eco-sustainable
economy is written, the name of Garstang will be present - the little
town in Lancashire, UK (pop’n 4,000) that showed what could be done.
Three years ago, Garstang’s Oxfam group invited the town’s civic
leaders to a slap-up meal of fairly traded and local produce. The
meal was a hit, and now 90 of the town’s 100 businesses, both its
schools, and its council, chamber of commerce, churches, garages
and hairdressers all either sell or promote fair trade food that
pays a fair living wage to developing country farmers, along with
a social premium. This includes coffee, tea, sugar, fruit, chocolate,
wine, honey, chili peppers and meat. International trade has increased
six-fold since 1990, but the real price of commodities such as coffee
and sugar is 30% lower than it was 20 years ago. The Garstang group
started their campaign in 1995; in 2001, they were declared the
world’s first Fairtrade Town. Garstang has also twinned itself with
New Koforidua, in Ghana. Following Garstang’s example, 80 other
towns and cities have applied to be fair trade communities too.
If you want to help spread fair trade coffee in Victoria, call Blaise
Salmon 384-1842. And how about Victoria twinning with Kapasseni,
in Mozambique, which the Getting Higher Choir is building such a
close relationship with?
AH - COLLEGE CUISINE!
From fair trade to local bioregional trade – the
dining hall at Berkeley College, Yale University is transforming
its cuisine into a showcase for fresh, organic, locally grown food,
or what the students enthusiastically call "real food"
– such as Japanese eggplant parmesan, instead of a big mac. The
kitchen staff at Yale have fallen under the influence of Alice Waters,
proprietor of Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, California, and founder
of Berkeley’s Edible Schoolyard. When her daughter entered Yale,
she approached the university, and ended up founding the sustainable
food project with the goal to convert one of the university’s 12
dining halls, serving 450 students. Because of the tight dining
budget (just a few dollars per student per meal), there will be
18 items on the menu this year, instead of 34, with one fully organic
menu at every meal. The cost of that meal will likely double, but
it may fall as more local farmers come on board. The college has
hired local organic farmer Josh Viertel to set up a campus-wide
composting program, and to convert an overgrown field into a 3/4
acre organic garden to grow food for the college, and serve the
educational aspect of the program.
PRAVDA, FOX, CNN
"The biggest difference between the Russians
and Americans was that Russians recognized that ‘the Party Line’
was propaganda from the ruling elite, and Americans who receive
‘the Mainstream Press’ fail to recognize it as ‘propaganda from
the ruling elite’ and mistake it for ‘reality’." - Bill Moyers,
on NOW Magazine
GROW A GREEN GARDEN
Talking of gardens, City Green is booking free
Green Garden Visits through the end of September. A one-hour consultation
will provide you with information on winter organic food gardening,
saving seeds, local sources of organic seed, winter cover crops,
natural lawn care, building a fall compost pile, and natural pest
prevention. This is a good time to look at how this gardening season
has unfolded, and make plans for next year. Each visit is tailored
to your needs, by donation. Josh, City Green 250-381-9995 firstname.lastname@example.org
ACTION OF THE MONTH
DUKE POINT VIGP
The federal cabinet has the final say on approval
of the Vancouver Island Generating Plant (VIGP) at Duke Point, planned
for Nanaimo. It is an insult to the fire-fighters, and to the citizens
of Kelowna and the other communities, to build a plant which will
increase the risk from global climate change, when clean alternatives
are ready now, and for a lesser cost. It’s time to change course
to clean energy, and we want to start here on Vancouver Island –
Action: Write to Jean Chretien, PM, Parliament
Hill, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Fax: 613-941-6900 email@example.com
Ask him not to approve the plant, as part of the government’s commitment
to Kyoto. Copy to David Anderson.
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
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