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AG00119_.gif (2913 bytes)EcoNews reaches thousands of people each month, including every MLA in BC and every CRD municipal politician. It’s 95% funded by donations from readers like you. If you value the information it provides, will you support it with a donation?

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Contact Econews

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. 146 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island - February 2005


MAKE POVERTY HISTORY: OUR GLOBAL CHOICE

We stand at a moment of enormous choice in our world.

The suffering of the people caught in the Asian tsunami has opened peopleís hearts, and a tsunami of kindness is flowing towards them. Over 200,000 people died as the waves of water swept over them.

But around the world, in the worldís poor countries, over 200,000 children die every week, mostly from easily preventable diseases. Thatís ten million children dying every year.

At the end of World War 2, in 1945, much of Europe was a shambles, its cities bombed and wrecked. Soviet communism offered jobs, food and homes, and was seen as a major threat.

George Marshall, US Secretary of State, proposed a massive package of aid for western Europe to help them rebuild their economies, but Congress resisted his proposal.

Finally, after Soviet-supported communists took over the government of Czechoslovakia in 1948, Congress passed the European Recovery Act of 1948 (the Marshall Plan) and agreed to spend $13 billion dollars rebuilding and supporting the economies of 15 European countries.

It cost the US just 1% of its GDP, over four years. Was it worth it? Absolutely. The US reaped its reward a 100-fold as Europe rejoined the world economic community.

Today, we need to do the same for the poor countries of the world that are struggling under enormous poverty, aggravated by unjust debts, unfair trade rules, and IMF debt repayment conditions which demand the dismantling of public health care.

When young men filled with passion are filled with anger and rage at the injustice of what they see, the call of a "blame the enemy" ideology such as Muslim fundamentalist jihad seems attractive. Toxic conditions of poverty and injustice breed rebellion, just as poverty bred communism in the 1940s.

In Britain, a huge campaign called MAKE POVERTY HISTORY has begun, with over 100 charities, trade unions and campaigning groups forming a powerful coalition.

"There are moments in history when civilization redefines itself. Times when momentum builds to bring down a status quo that people are no longer willing to accept. The abolition of slavery was one. So was the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the end of apartheid. When it comes to the wanton loss of lives to extreme poverty and disease, 2005 might be such a moment." (Bill Gates & Bono).

Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the UK, has called on the G8 nations to back him in a "quantum leap" in aid to relieve poverty in Africa. Barbara Stocking, Director of Oxfam, has urged Blair to press the G8 nations to cancel all of the debt.

The campaign calls for four things:

1. That as rich countries of the world, we should double the amount of aid we give as foreign assistance.

2. That we should cancel the poor countriesí debts. Like a household with a VISA debt at 20%, they have already repaid us many times over.

3. That we should change the unfair trade rules that prevent the poor countries from becoming self-reliant.

4. That we should provide funding for a global HIV vaccine enterprise, to halt the spread of this epidemic that has created 10 million AIDS orphans in Africa, and threatens to produce another 10 million by 2010.

All this is possible. Yunus Mohammed, the Bangladeshi economics professor who started the Grameen Bank in 1977, which led to the establishment of microcredit banking around the world, said: "My aim is to eradicate world poverty. In the Middle Ages the great scourge was the plague. That was eradicated, and is now just recorded in history books. We could do the same with poverty, if we really want to."

Here in Canada, we spend just 0.26% of our GDP on aid, way down from the 0.46% of ten years ago, and nowhere near the 0.7% that the United Nations asked for, 34 years ago.

In Action of the Month (see below), EcoNews is joining Results Canada to ask you to write to Ralph Goodale, Minister of Finance, and ask him to increase Canadaís aid budget, and support the call for an International Finance Facility to double global aid flows. See www.makepovertyhistory.ca.

EcoNews is also asking you think about poverty here in Victoria, and affordable housing in particular, and to ask your local city councillors to support the proposed Regional Housing Trust Fund, which would establish a $1 million annual fund to support new affordable housing initiatives (see below).

In its blueprint for the future, Joint Vision 2020, the US Department of Defence calls for "full spectrum dominance", "to defeat any adversary and control any situation across the full range of military operations."

This is the reality of our world today. We are balanced in a very precarious position, with one nation seeking "full spectrum dominance", while the citizens of the world scramble to respond.

We need to counter their vision with full spectrum love, and a tsunami of kindness powerful enough that it will move the world in the opposite direction. What does this mean? That is for each of us to ask, in our hearts.

Guy Dauncey


ECONEWS

AG00119_.gif (2913 bytes)A monthly newsletter, funded by your donations, that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, & the joys of personal fulfillment, protected and guided by active citizenship.

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

Donations can also be sent by PayPal, please send to GuyDauncey@EarthFuture.com, be sure to 'earmark' it to EcoNews.

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ELEPHANTS OF PHUKET

From the chaos of the Tsunami disaster comes this account from Jim France of the Pavilion Hotel Group in Bangkok. At a resort on Phuket, one of the popular attractions was elephant rides into the forest. About 20í before the first wave hit, the nine elephants became extremely agitated and unruly. Four had just returned from a trip, and their handlers had not yet chained them. They helped the other five tear free from their chains, then they all climbed a hill and started bellowing. Many people followed them up the hill.

Then the waves hit. After the waves subsided, they charged down the hill and started picking up children with their trunks and running them back up the hill; when all the children were safe, they helped the adults, rescuing 42 people. Then they returned to the beach and carried up four dead bodies, one of a child. Not until the task was done would they allow their handlers to mount them. Then with their handlers atop, they began moving wreckage. (www.happyyoga.blog-city.com). The elephants are apparently now being freed to return to the wild, since the tourists whose rides pay for their feed and upkeep have gone.

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THE LORDS OF NATURE

The editorial which EcoNews ran in December 2004, telling how the US Administration in Iraq has created rules which prevent Iraqi farmers from saving their own seed, is a good lesson that "If it seems too good (or too bad) to be true, it may not be". I took the story from GRAIN, a reputable NGO which promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity. (www.grain.org). Chris Hemming from UBC dug into Order 81, and his reading is that it only applies to patented plant varieties registered under the Order (ie GM seeds), not to traditional varieties. Shalini Bhutani from GRAIN has acknowledged that this is true in her response to a letter from Chris.

What IS still true is that the thrust of agricultural development policy in Iraq under the American occupation is towards more chemically intensive GM crops: just as it is in Canada and the USA. If you want to farm or grow your garden in a different direction, then take the time in February to visit Seedy Saturday in Victoria and Salt Spring, the famous community seed show, and also the big BC Organic Food Conference thatís happening in Sidney, Feb 25th Ė 27th. See Green Diary.

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ADOPT A VILLAGE

In the wake of the Tsunami, inspired by the efforts of a church in Nelson, the community of Squamish and the Campoverde Social Club in Vancouver, a group of Canadians (myself included) are working to set up the Adopt a Village Global Registry. Our purpose is to make it easy for communities, churches, schools or clubs to adopt a stricken village, and help it rebuild. The challenge that they face will go on for years; our initiative is intended to build a tsunami of kindness that will help them rebuild their lives, and our world. If you think you may be able to help, please call me at 250-881-1304. See www.adoptavillageregistry.com.

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OAKLANDS GREENWAYS

In true community spirit, the Oaklands neighbourhood is rallying together to save a steep hillside city-owned lot from private development. Although overrun with invasive plants, it is rich in Garry Oaks, ferns, mosses and other native plants. The Ryan Hill lot and its frontage are key components of the Ryan Greenway, part of a Victoria-wide Greenway plan. Both protecting and enhancing the features on the lot is a local priority, until a comprehensive plan for the Greenway can be developed. See www.blockcommunities.com or call Ludo Bertsch at 592-0487.

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A PLACE TO LIVE

Some years ago, when I worked in London UK as a holistic careers consultant, I discovered that three things would prevent a person from being able to visualize a clear pathway to fulfilling work. They were (1) not having a secure place to call home, (2) needing to work with a therapist to end self-sabotage, and (3) needing a holiday. Those of us who have a place we call home are very fortunate.

Here in the Capital Region, there are 22,000 families for whom their housing is either unaffordable, too small, or a threat to their health. There are others who have no home at all. Our housing shortage is critical, and our rental vacancy rate of 0.6% is the lowest in Canada, meaning itís the toughest in which to find a place to live. If you are one of the many who can only find limited income, finding any housing, let along good housing, is tough.

Behind all this, thereís these daunting facts: in 1973, the 10% richest families in Canada had 21 times more income than the 10% poorest families. In 1996, they had 314 times more. (All my facts come from the Community Councilís Quality of Life Challenge).

So whatís the solution? The answer is to establish a Regional Housing Trust Fund, a stable, annual $1 million fund that could be used to leverage private investment dollars and build affordable homes similar to those established in Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg, and in Langford, Colwood, Richmond, Whistler, Vancouver, Kelowna, Surrey and North Vancouver.

This proposal is before our municipalities right now: all that it needs is your support. If you believe in the need for our world to be more just, and more kind, please call your local councillor. Yes, it means we would pay a small tax increase; sustainability means nothing if we canít support our own. www.communitycouncil.ca

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TODDLERS AND TELLY

Holy poo. A study from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that watching television as a toddler is linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). For every hour of television watched between the age of 1 and 3, a child has a 10% higher chance of developing ADHD by age 7. If your sweet darling watches 3 hours a day, he/she has a 30% higher chance.

ADHD affects 12% of all US school children; its increase matches the growth childrenís TV, starting in the 1950s and spiking in the 1980s when VCRs and home videos became common. This comes as a shock: 26% of US children under 2 have a TV in their bedroom, often watched from the crib, and 36% of families leave the TV on almost all the time. Watching TV rewires an infantís brain. In contrast to the speed of an infantís life in real life, the pace of TV is greatly speeded up, with frequent scene changes. This changes the way the childís brainís neural pathways develop, and sets him or her up for a lifetime of Special Ed classes, behavioural therapy, family screaming, and ritalin.

As the child sits mesmerized by the TV, other neural paths are not being developed, and the TVís insistent noise may also interfere with the development of "inner speech", by which a child learns to think through problems and learn to restrain impulsive behaviour. When doting parents buy "educational" videos such a "Baby Einstein" or "Baby Mozart", they might think theyíre rearing a genius, but in reality, theyíre rearing nothing but pain, suffering and grief, plus a healthy chunk of money to the drug companies.

So whatís to do? The Academy of American Pediatrics: "No child under age two should watch TV at all". As well as slow food and slow Islands, we need slow babies. We also need a government thatís willing to step forward and ban all sales of videos designed for children under two. (For more, Google "Jean Lotus" +ADHD)

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SOLVENTS AND CHILDREN

More from the pediatricians. A study published in October 2004 in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine showed that the children of women who were exposed to common organic solvents during pregnancy have an average IQ 8 points lower than the children of mothers who were not exposed, along with less verbal ability, worse memory, less dexterity, and less visual acuity and colour perception.

The study looked at womenís exposure to solvents at work in manufacturing plants, hair and nail salons, medical laboratories, embalming, and school science. The conclusion? "Women who are pregnant should not be exposed to organic solvents during the duration of their pregnancy."

So what are these solvents? Toluene, used in polyurethane, paints, glues and gasoline. Hexane, used in pesticides, wood stains and printing; cetone; phenol; trichloroethylene, used in dry cleaning (but not by Elite Cleaners in Fairfield). The study was of exposure at work, but the same risk applies in the home, to a lesser degree. Many household cleaners, polishers and deodorizers use solvents.

The solution? We need to treat pregnancy as a time of incredible care; as a sacred time for pure food, pure air, pure water, and pure love. And we need to legislate an organized transition from chemical to water-based solvents, so that we no longer have to live with substances that are so harmful.

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In some difficult situations a broker/lender fee may apply

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CANADA ON GREEN LIST

A team based at Yale and Columbia Universities has just released the 2nd Environmental Sustainability Index, which ranks 146 countries for their progress towards sustainability. The ranking is based on 75 measures of sustainability, including natural resource endowments, past and present pollution levels, environmental management, water quality, overfishing, and the rate at which children die from respiratory diseases. "No country is on a sustainable trajectory", said Gus Speth, dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Finland emerges top of the list, followed by Norway, Uruguay, Sweden, Iceland and Canada. On greenhouse gas emissions, Canada ranked 107th. On efforts to ease pressure on the environmental globally, Canada ranked 144th out of 146. See www.ciesin.columbia.edu/indicators/ESI/

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THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB

Some noteworthy sites that have passed my way:

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ACTION OF THE MONTH (LOCAL):
A PLACE TO LIVE

Please call or email your local councillor, and ask him or her to support the Regional Housing Trust Fund Bylaw. Here are all their contact details.

Out of interest, I have rated each council for ease of access to its councillors, who are our publicly elected and paid democratic representatives. Most do very well, but four are very bad. They clearly do not want to anyone to contact their councillors. Oak Bay wins the award for being the most obtuse and hard to contact. Nevertheless, please persist: we MUST have this Regional Housing Trust Fund!

Victoria:
www.city.victoria.bc.ca/cityhall/mayor_cprof.shtml (Score: 10)

Esquimalt:
www.esquimalt.ca/COUNCIL/municipa.htm (Score: 10)

Saanich:
www.gov.saanich.bc.ca/municipal/clerks/council/council.html (Score: 10)

Colwood:
www.city.colwood.bc.ca/departments/home/index.asp (Score: 10)

Highlands:
www.highlands.bc.ca/municipal_office/committees.html (Score: 10)

Metchosin:
www.district.metchosin.bc.ca/councilmembers.htm (Score: 10)

Sooke:
www.district.sooke.bc.ca/mayorcouncil.htm (Score: 10)

View Royal:
http://town.viewroyal.bc.ca/towncouncil_meetcouncil.php (Score: 9)

Sidney:
www.sidney.ca/PageFactory.aspx?PageID=54 (Score: 5)

Langford:
www.district.langford.bc.ca/newsarticle.asp?TopicID=10 (Score: 3)

Central Saanich:
http://district.central-saanich.bc.ca (Score: 2)

North Saanich:
www.northsaanich.ca/PageFactory.aspx?PageID=69 (Score: 1)

Oak Bay:
www.oakbaybc.org/contacts.htm (Score: 0)


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EcoNews, Guy Dauncey
395 Conway Road, Victoria
V9E 2B9
Tel/Fax (250) 881-1304

Author of "Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change"
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