No. 143 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
WE ARE THE ANSWER
We are the problem, and we are the answer.
What is causing the
precipitous decline in wildlife around the planet? We are. What
is causing the sharp rise in the Earth’s temperature? We are,
through the fossil fuels we are burning. What is causing the
surge in the human population, and humanity’s desire to consume
whatever it can? We are.
We are the bipedal
ape that evolved along with the other species over millions of
years, which left the forest three or four million years ago
and learnt to walk upright on the plains of east Africa. We are
the ape that evolved amid nature, that is related to every other
plant and animal on the planet, in which Nature evolved a brain,
an intelligence, and a capacity to use tools. We are the ape
that can fly to the moon and come back again, and yet which cannot
understand the simple concept of ecological limits, or co-existence
with other species.
Yes, there is a problem.
An enormous problem. All around the planet, species are falling
because of our activities. The frogs, the birds, the fish, the
mammals, the other apes, the orca whales. All are falling, as
we push forward with our powers.
Fossil fuels, chemicals,
genetic engineering, housing, fishing, logging: all are expressions
of our imagination and our tool-making, and all are responsible
for our assault on the natural world, the cradle in which we
Ours is a crisis of
ignorance. There have always been bi-pedal apes who were selfish,
greedy, or just plain callous and indifferent. There have always
been leaders who were deluded, who believed that God ordained
their bloodthirsty acts with divine purpose.
Today, however, four
hundred years after we began to engage seriously with science
and technology, we have stepped into an enormous crisis, entirely
of our own making.
When the Babylonians
built their irrigation systems many thousand years ago, they
didn’t know the irrigation would salinate their soil, and cause
the collapse of their civilization. When Thomas Midgley invented
the CFC gases in 1932, he didn’t know they would destroy the
Today, our ecological
ignorance, combined with our liking for new and shiny things
and our lack of wise leadership, is causing what looks to be
a melt-down in the life-systems that support us and our cousin
species: the atmosphere, the oceans, the topsoil, the waters,
the forests, and our own physical bodies.
you might think, "that doesn’t look good!". But remember:
this is all of our own making, and just as we made it, we can
There is only one
remedy that is needed to turn our behaviour on a different course:
personal commitment. The Babylonians drifted to disaster, trusting
in their engineers. They didn’t have the Internet, offering them
the full wealth of the world’s knowledge. They didn’t have the
freedom to learn, to organize, to run for office, to challenge
the drift to disaster, and lead their society in a different
direction. We do. You do. I do.
By the time you read
this, the US will have a new President. If it’s a re-elected
President Bush, we will suffer four more years of danger, as
the US continues to flex its muscle for the benefit of the corporations,
the neo-conservatives and the Christian right. If it’s President
Kerry, we will start with enormous hopes, and then gradually
realize that he is just one person among many, doing what he
can, and that all our problems remain.
The greatest hope
for change does not lie with elections. It lies with you, and
Wangari Maatthai is
a Kenyan woman, born in 1940, who started planting trees. In
1977, she founded the Green Belt Movement to organize poor rural
women to plant millions of trees to combat deforestation, and
replenish their source of fuel for cooking. She decided, she
committed, she persisted. Over the years, her movement’s members
have planted 30 million trees. Wangari went on to campaign for
women’s rights and for greater democracy in Kenya, and to challenge
state policies that threatened Kenya’s parks, forests and wildlife,
getting herself beaten and jailed in the process. This December
in Stockholm, she will receive the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.
Within every one of
us, there is hope. We all have skills. We all have the ability
If there is one secret
that has not yet been fully understood, as we struggle with the
enormity of the crisis that is unfolding around us, it is the
secret of our inner connectedness to the greater whole of which
we are a part. When the laws of ecology say "everything
is connected", this includes the spiritual realm.
If you want to know
how best you can help, and how best you can share in being a
part of the answer, all you have to do is this: ask. Go to a
place in the world where you feel deeply connected, be it a church
or a mountain, and ask: "How can I serve?" Tell Nature,
or God, or the Source, that you are here, and ask to be shown
your way. Then get out there and play, while you watch for the
monthly newsletter, funded by your donations, that dreams of
blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, & the
joys of personal fulfillment, protected and guided by active citizenship.
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A very big thankyou to Tim Henderson, Katey
Bloomfield, Hannelore Ioannides, Claire Lynch, Susan Coward,
Joyce Hale, Christy
Gain, Maria Bos, Bob Peart, John Azar, Robert Main, Saltspring
Seeds, David Rothkop, Joan Werner, Art & Marg Simons, Gail
Schulz, Lani Miyoshi Stevens, Nina Corley Smith, Anne Clemence,
Pippa Blake, Penny Goldrick, Ann Radford, Bud & Anne Wilson,
Marion Cumming, Barbara Graves, Bob McMinn, David Stott, Ed & Jean
McKenzie, Irene McKennitt, Anita Galitzine, Lani Royce, Marlene
Rice, Peter Lamb & Jean Gelwicks, Elli Boisvert, Mila Cotic,
Salt Spring Raging Grannies, Andreas Demmers, Philippa White,
Dave Secco, Ron Rayner, Margaret Schubart, Wayne Madden, Mary
Aldrich, Neil Neate & Deborah LeFrank, Sharon Nicholson,
Miriam Thorn, Andrew Glen, Elaine Nowotniak, Barbara Hourston,
Lynn Conall, Joseph & Vilma Dubé, John Stephen,
Julia Menard, Kate Stevens, Jean van Cuylenborg, Sherri Hohert,
Arnold McCutcheon, Joanne Manley, George Jolyon Briggs, John & Eileen
Kenwood, Gary Moonie, Vivian Chenard, Betty McInnes, Edith
Gulland, Earth’s General Store Edmonton, Mel McDonald, Daphne
Taylor, The Land Conservancy, Corporation of District of Saanich,
Ray Travers, Louise Irwin, Shelby Grayson & Dr Sheel Tangri.
$5/line (non-profits, low-income free)
1" box $40, $2" box $70. Insert $180
* Room wanted near downtown for vegetarian
woman. Ideally in a house with 2-3 others. Leave a message
for Brooke at 385 - 1788.
* Dogwood Initiative, a non-profit
environmental land reform organization in Victoria, seeks volunteer
web designer/co-ordinator or Flash animator and volunteer web
marketing assistant. 370-9930 www.dogwoodinitiative.org
* Educator, traveller, health therapist,
peace practitioner, l-pet/house sitter seeks "gap-home" where
I can stay when not house-sitting.Room with amenities, barter
basis. Call 383-5144 Ext 3007
* For sale: electric Geo Metro. 35-45
km usable range, top speed over 140 km/hr. Randy, email@example.com
* Active grandmother seeks bright,
affordable apartment in congenial family home. Involved in
painting, music, gardening, TLC volunteering. Prefer up to
600 sq ft. References. 381-1037.
* Ecoforestry Institute needs volunteer
webmaster. Please contact Peter Jungwirth: firstname.lastname@example.org
or 250-334-4559; www.ecoforestry.ca
* Wanted: basement or garage space
to store recycled wood from demo houses. Flooring, heritage
moldings, baseboards, windows, just about all you need for
a house. Call Syd 381-1141
* Wanted: Carmanah Forestry Society
seeks volunteers, including scouting and exploring endangered
species habitat areas slated for logging. Syd 381-1141
* Wanted urgently, for EcoNews. Envelopes
from organizations that have changed address. We will delete
the address, and re-use. Call Guy, 881-1304.
Wholistic Counselling Core
Energy Work with People, Animals, Spaces and
Marianne Sämann-Wyss 382-3582 email@example.com www.islandnet.com/~msw
FROGS IN TROUBLE
"In trouble" is rather an understatement,
I’m afraid. A major global study of amphibians around the world,
published in October, showed that almost a third of the world’s
frogs, toads, newts, and salamanders face extinction. The 3-year
study, involving 500 scientists from more than 60 countries,
found that a third of the world’s 5,743 known species face
extinction, and that 427 species are so endangered they could
disappear tomorrow. Why? The biologists suspect a mixture of
water pollution, climate change (higher temperatures), exploitation
for food and medicine, and habitat destruction. Amphibians
are uniquely sensitive to man-made changes in the environment,
since their skins are vulnerable to water-borne toxins and
infections. But they are also disappearing from pristine habitats;
in one Costa Rica protected site, 40% of the amphibians disappeared
in the late 1980s. Some think ozone depletion may be a culprit,
through exposure to UV rays. Rising temperatures may also be
encouraging the spread of a fungus called chytrimycosis. It’s
a huge problem for the conservation biologists, since the decline
is both dramatic and enigmatic. It is highly unlikely that
it’s ‘natural’. Five thousand species don’t survive for millions
of years, and then lose a third of their family in twenty years.
It’s us. www.globalamphibians.org
TB IN 2004?
Extract from new essay by Rob Wipond. For
the full version, see www.robwipond.com/diseasethatbinds.htm.
To be published in Focus, November 2004. www.focusonline.ca.
"… With the advent of antibiotics in
the 1950s, Canada's TB rates dropped steadily. Today, five
people per hundred thousand are diagnosed with TB annually.
It seems reassuring. However, in northern aboriginal populations,
prisons, and downtown Vancouver and Toronto, the rates are
now nearly as bad as in 1950--a staggering sixty or more times
as high as most other regions. What's happening? This ancient
contagion has mutated to new levels of resilience and antibiotic
BIRDS IN TROUBLE
It’s the same story. The National Audubon
Society released its first State of the Birds report in October,
covering North America. Almost 30% of the bird populations
on the continent are facing significant decline. The group
studied data from 1966 to 2003 for 654 bird species that live
in grasslands (70% decline), shrublands (36% decline), forests
(25% decline), wetlands (13% decline) and urban areas (23%
decline). All of the declines are compounded upon earlier losses,
prior to 1966. Wetland and forest species continue to suffer
from the effects of poor land management. "Like the canary
in the coal mine warning the miner of the danger ahead, birds
are an indicator of environmental and human health", said
John Flicker, president of the Audubon Society. "Birds
also contribute to the bottom line in more subtle ways, providing
free pest and weed control, distributing seeds, and pollinating
flowers and crops." The paradox is that birding is one
of North America’s most popular hobbies, with 18 million North
Americans spending $32 billion annually on gear, services,
and trips. Most of the losses can be attributed to habitat
loss, resulting from poor land use, clear-cutting, the draining
of wetlands, and suburban sprawl. Just think what an impact
it could have if all those birders decided to get organized,
and work together work to save threatened habitat, and reduce
the use of pesticides. The Audubon Society lists 12 things
you can do to help reverse the losses, starting with making
your yard a haven for birds by creating a pesticide-free habitat
of native plants. See
In a third study released in October, the
largest ever comparative study of conventional and organic
farming showed that organic farming increases biodiversity
at every level of the food chain, from bacteria, plants and
earthworms to beetles, mammals and birds. The study reviewed
data from Europe, Canada, New Zealand and the US. Out of 99
comparisons, 66 found that organic farming benefited wildlife;
8 concluded that it was detrimental; and 25 produced mixed
results. According to the researchers, organic farming helps
biodiversity by using fewer pesticides and inorganic fertilizers,
and by adopting wildlife friendly practices where there are
no crops, such as not weeding close to hedges, and mixing arable
and livestock farming. In England, two species of bat were
found only on organic farms, and foraging activity by bats
on organic farms was up by 84%. We are the answer.
ORGANIC GARDENING CLUB
Gardeners can help. If you’d like some support
in learning the how’s and why’s of organic gardening, the Society
of Organic Urban Landcare (SOUL) is launching its Organic Gardening
Club right here in Greater Victoria on Sunday November 7th,
at the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific. (See Green Diary).
The club will bring gardeners together to share their experiences
and tips, enjoy outings, and have a sustainably good time.
For details, call Carolyn Herriot, 881-1555.
ADOPT A FROG (or OWL)
The Land Conservancy writes: We invite
you to do your Christmas shopping through our 2004-5 Green
Gifts Catalogue. Every gift helps us protect our natural
and cultural heritage, and we can only do this with your support.
TLC is a charitable land trust established in 1997, modeled
after Britain’s National Trust. Our goal is to protect biodiversity
and cultural and natural heritage areas in BC. Your generosity
helps TLC do its work; our gifts reflect our love of nature.
Call 383-4627 Thankyou for sharing our vision!
Do you long for a faith community with a
You'll be welcome at our place
NEW COMMUNITY GARDEN
Jackie Robson writes: We at the Urban
Harvest Initiative in the Hillside-Quadra area have been promised
a community garden space by University Canada West, the new
developers of the old Blanshard Elementary School site at Douglas
and Blanshard. We want to plan a Garden Launch Day using creative
thinking to gather people, and donations of food, tools, equipment,
plants, soil amendments, water system, sheds, etc. Feel inspired?
Come to our planning session on Mon Nov 1, 7pm at the Blanshard
Community Center, 901 Kings Road. Jackie, 381-7284.
Our use of chemical pesticides is a big part
of the problem: it’s a problem for the amphibians, a problem
for the birds, and a problem for ourselves. A comprehensive
survey of 1300 Americans done by the US Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention in May 2004 found traces of weed-killer
and bug-killer in every single person tested. The average person’s
body contained 13 different pesticide chemicals. 99% of those
tested had DDT residues, and 55% had residues of 2,4-D, the
target of municipal pesticide bans here in Canada. Health Canada
has done no comparable survey: they say they rely on US data
to estimate what Canadians may have in their bodies. And to
drive the point home: women who have breast cancer are five
times more likely to have residues of DDT in their blood than
those who do not. The hardworking volunteers on the CRD Round
Table on the Environment have developed a Community Action
Plan and looked at model by-laws, and there are two Public
Meetings coming up in Victoria and Colwood on November 3rd and
9th (see Green Diary). If you want to do something,
and help promote the answer, please take the time to attend.
WORKSHOP & BOOK
Simplicity & Success
Sat Nov. 13, 9-4:30pm
To register: www.BruceElkin.com
NUMBERS THAT SING
* Number of people who enjoyed Fairfield’s
Car-Free Day in the Village this September: 3,000.
* Percentage of Victorians who walk or cycle
to work: 15%.
* Health care costs we’d save each year if
we increased the physically active population by 10%: $2 billion.
* Amount of fruit gathered by the Victoria
Fruit Tree Project this fall for distribution to food banks
and community groups: over 30,000 lbs.
WE’RE TALKING RESULTS
RESULTS Canada works to eradicate hunger and
the worst aspects of global poverty. They’re having their big
fundraiser bash on November 13th, with Nelson Mandela’s
grandson. So what has this small group achieved over the past
12 months, with its $145,000 annual budget from donors?
* A $70 million increase in Canada's funding
for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria.
* A $4.3 million grant from CIDA for bednets
for Togo, estimated to prevent 150,000 cases of malaria and
save 6,000 lives a year.
* Bill C-9 passed, enabling access to generic
medicines in poor countries.
* The Mayors of 8 cities proclaimed Fair Trade
Weeks, encouraging the purchase of fair trade goods.
* Net Result: each $1 donated helped to generate
over $500 for global health programs. www.results-resultats.ca
SALT SPRING CALENDAR
This spring, the Islands Trust Fund is launching
an Opportunity Fund to provide funding for priority land protection
in the Gulf Islands. In preparation, they have produced a birthday
calendar that features island properties it owns and covenants,
featuring local photographers and the extraordinary beauty
of these places. It costs $17.95 or two for $29.95, and it’s
in local businesses, Island Trust offices, and local conservancies. www.islandstrustfund.bc.ca 405-5186
Now or When?
Featuring David Demers, CEO of Westport Innovations
Nov 24th, 7:30pm Union Club, $5
RSVP Pinch Group 405-2420
ACTION OF THE MONTH
Please vote for
David Suzuki as The Greatest Canadian. He is working for the
whole planet: www.cbc.ca/greatest
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