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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. 147 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island - March 2005


LEARNING FROM SWEDEN

Sweden is a small country, half the size of British Columbia. It is northern and mountainous, much as we are, with around 9 million people. And much as we are, it is a regular free market society.

Here in BC, and Canada as a whole, the environment is often seen as a ‘special interest’ that only needs attention when environmentalists make enough noise or cause enough upset that something has to be done.

Sweden is taking a wholly different approach. In 1999, they established a unanimous national goal that all of Sweden’s major environmental problems should be solved within one generation, by the year 2020.

With the BC provincial election coming up, and parties hoping their policies will wow the voters, it’s worth knowing what Sweden is doing.

In 1999, the Swedish Parliament gave unanimous approval to 15 national targets. There are interim objectives for each target, regional and local objectives to match, and an Environmental Objectives Council to monitor progress towards the goals.

Progress is charted through with 70 national indicators, which track results and show if the country is heading in the right direction.

The Swedes are aware that implementation takes time, and that it needs cooperation and persistence. The environmental goals are part of a larger goal to become a sustainable society, including the social and economic dimensions.

So what are the fifteen targets? It is worth spelling them out in brief.

1. Climate Change

Sweden, along with other countries, will share this global responsibility. Both energy and carbon taxes are being used, and there’s an overall strategy for more efficient energy and transport.

2. Clean Air

..so there’s no risk to human health, or to animals, plants, or cultural assets.

3. Natural Acidification Only

Acid rain is not to exceed the limits that can be tolerated by soil, water, cultural artefacts and buildings.

4. A Non-Toxic Environment

Sweden has committed to phase out all use of hazardous chemicals by 2020. There is a national strategy to develop non-toxic, resource-efficient, cyclical systems for production.

5. A Protective Ozone Layer

The ozone layer must be replenished, to protect against UV radiation.

6. Safe Radiation Environment

Human health and biological diversity must be protected against the harmful effects of EMF and nuclear radiation. Sweden is phasing out all of its nuclear power plants.

7. Zero Eutrophication

Nutrient levels in soil and water must not adversely affect human health or biological diversity.

8. Flourishing Lakes, Streams

Lakes and watercourses must be ecologically sustainable, their habitats and ecological and water-conserving function preserved, while recreation is safeguarded.

9. Good Quality Groundwater

… must provide a safe and sustainable supply of drinking water and contribute to viable habitats for flora and fauna.

10. A Balanced Marine Environment, with Flourishing Coasts and Archipelagos

The North and Baltic Seas must have sustainable productive capacity, and preserve biological diversity. Coasts and islands must have high biological diversity, and a wealth of recreational, natural and cultural assets.

11. Thriving Wetlands

The ecological and water-conserving function of wetlands must be maintained, and valuable wetlands preserved for the future.

12. Sustainable Forests

The value of forests for biological production must be protected, while biological diversity, cultural heritage and recreational assets are safeguarded.

13. Agricultural Landscape

The value of land for biological and food production must be protected; biological diversity and cultural heritage must be strengthened.

14. A Magnificent Mountain Landscape

The pristine character of the mountains must be largely preserved, with biological diversity, and recreational and cultural value. Particularly valuable areas must be protected.

15. A Good Built Environnent

Cities and towns must provide a healthy living environment and contribute to a good regional and global environment. Buildings and amenities must be located and designed with sound environmental principles.

What’s remarkable here is the scale of the vision, and the organized commitment to follow through. And yet this is really just good ecological housekeeping.

As long as our political parties continue to think of the environment as just another item on an agenda of competing interests, we will continue down the current path to ecological collapse, as Jared Diamond warns in his new book Collapse, which shows how societies destroy themselves.

As long as we only fight the negatives, we will always be on the retreat against the forces of business and profit. We need to learn from Sweden, and establish a clear, strong, positive intention, honouring the needs of both business and the environment.

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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A very big thankyou to Deborah Barr, Elizabeth Nuse, Katey Bloomfield, Joy Spearman, Barbara Benoit (for North Cowichan Council), Christina Nikolic, Lynn P Conall, Nutri-lawn, Martin Weideman, Jocelyn Braithwaite, Merv Wilkinson, John Sprague & Alan Cassels.


THE ECO-CORNER
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* Unmailed envelopes always needed for EcoNews. Call 881-1304

* Guest room, very reasonable, near Cook St Village. 250-361-3102.

* Victoria VeganHouse is looking for a new housemate, $335 + utils, April 1st, call 592-8937 if interested!

* Have your taxes done properly by a financial professional, self-employed welcome, reasonable rates. Roxanne Brydges, CFP. 704-2778

* Responsible female seeks house-sit to mid June, or 1 BR large bach + partial rent for gardening or care taking. Local ref. available. Joanne 381-6171

* OUR EcoVillage presents the Natural Building Skillbuilder 2005 and Permaculture Skillbuilder 2005 summer programs. our@pacificcoast.net

* Charming suite available weekly, June and Sept. Top location. 361-3102

* Wanted. Single character house pre-1955, Fernwood/Hillside/Mayfair/Sears area up to $325k. Call Marisa 382-8062

* Environmentally ill Fairfield woman needs helper for few hours/month, primarily for housework, plus errands, brainstorming domestic matters, optional computer work. Mandatory:low-chemical lifestyle, never using fabric softener, never sharing laundry facilities with users, never using items of unknown clothing history (eg second hand clothes). Negotiable wages, basic benefits. Call 920-0036.

* I (above) would also appreciate rides to Nanaimo for specialized dentistry. Payment in thoughtful conversation, reimbursed gas, lunch. 920-0036.

* Lawn-cutting, gardening. Mature, reliable, experienced. $12/hour. (I use your equipment). Nelson 380-5082.

* Professor with sabbatical wishes to lease, house-sit home or cabin Sept 2005 to June 2006. Sunshine Coast, Comox Valley preferred, not required. Single, non-drinker, non-smoker. Broadband connection a plus. Dr. Tom Jones tomj@athabascau.ca 1-866-514-6233 (Athabasca Univ, Alberta).

* We’re looking to rent a small house/cottage in the Comox Valley, $500-600 month. Working couple, well behaved black lab. Call 339-1081.

* Want loving home for healthy cat; goes outside. 598-4568 (Victoria)

* I’m seeking partners to buy land for permaculture, sustainable living, friendship. Ellen, rainwalker@shaw.ca

* House-sitting services available. Excellent references (Guy & Carolyn). Call Jolene 382-7399.

* Organic farmers/hobbyfarmers sought to purchase larger piece of farmland to share. Economies of scale make it more affordable! Victoria region. Mike 652-3692.

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KORANIC DUELS vs TERROR

It’s something we easily label as hopeless: the raging fuel of resentment, anger and hostility that is turning young Muslim men into suicidal terrorists, eager to kill as many as they can, if it serves their faith.

From the town of Sanaa, Yemen, however, comes the sparkling light of wisdom. Two years ago, Judge Hamoud al-Hitar announced that he and four other Islamic scholars would challenge Yemen’s Al Qaeda prisoners to a theological debate.

"If you can convince us that your ideas are justified by the Koran, we will join you in your struggle," al-Hitar told the militants. "But if we succeed in convincing you of our ideas, then you must agree to renounce violence." They would also be given vocational training, to help them find jobs. The western terrorist experts warned that it would end in disaster, but the jailed prisoners eagerly agreed.

Two years later, the Dialogue Committee’s work has been a huge success. 346 prisoners have been freed (they lost the debate), and none has left Yemen to fight elsewhere. Some have led the army to hidden arms caches, and offered advice on how to tackle Islamic militancy. The Yemen government is also using more traditional crack-down methods, but a relative peace reigns in Yemen, ancestral homeland of Bin Laden, which provided most of the recruits for his Afghan camps, and which had been expected to become a fully dysfunctional state.

"If you study terrorism in the world, you will see that it has an intellectual theory behind it: any kind of intellectual idea can be defeated with intellect," says al-Hitar. His Dialogue Committee is now receiving international attention, especially in France.

"An important part of the dialogue is mutual respect," says al-Hitar. "Along with acknowledging freedom of expression, intellect and opinion, you must listen and show interest in what the other party is saying." When we allow our minds to be taken over by fear, hatred and judgement, we harm our own ability to listen, to learn, and ultimately, to love.

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FROM EGYPT, WITH LOVE

Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish was born in Egypt in 1938. He trained in chemistry, medicine and pharmacology in Austria, where he absorbed much European culture. He returned to Egypt in 1975, at the age of 38, and was overwhelmed by the country’s problems.

A vision was kindled in his heart, and he returned in 1977 to establish SEKEM, which means "vitality from the sun"; Egyptians recognize that the sun is a life-giving force, permeating and enlivening the Earth’s entire being.

He started on a 170-acre patch of hard scrabble desert outside Cairo. "I had a vision of a three-fold project that would allow me to contribute to community-building, humanity, and healing the earth. The desert was like the canvas of a painting, but without a frame." In the years since, SEKEM has grown into a rich community of businesses, schools, and non-profit societies.

It started with herbal medicines, followed by herbs and organic fruits and vegetables. Then there was organic cotton clothing, natural pharmaceuticals, rice, tea and honey, and a company to package the goods, which are sold in Egypt, Europe and the USA. Along the way, Ibrahim and his friends formed the Egyptian BioDynamic Association (EBDA), which promotes organic, chemical–free farming in 800 farms, on 8000 hectares, half of it reclaimed from the desert.

The EBDA uses foreign donations to promote organic farming methods in Tunisia, Morocco, Palestine and Lebanon. SEKEM developed a new system of organic plant protection for cotton, which led to a ban on cotton crop-dusting throughout Egypt. By 2000, pesticide use on Egypt’s cotton fields had fallen by over 90%, and 80% of Egypt’s cotton was being grown organically, with a 30% increase in yields.

In pursuit of his vision, SEKEM has also established a kindergarten, primary and secondary school, and a special needs program for the children of the employees and the neighbouring community. There’s a work-and-education program for children from poorer families, a vocational training centre, literacy classes, and a medical centre which helps 30,000 people a year. There’s an Academy for Applied Arts and Sciences, and SEKEM is founding a private University offering degrees in arts, science and technology. SEKEM’s 2,000 workers all contribute a small portion of their salaries to help maintain the schools, clinic, and other programs.

SEKEM has been described as an economic powerhouse in Business Today Egypt, but Dr. Abouleish’s vision involves much more. Its employees are all trained in social awareness and the creative arts, as well as professional skills, "to awaken a person’s senses, encourage creativity, and foster a sense of social responsibility and ethical awareness." (No Dorothy, we’re not in Wal-Mart). They are organized as a cooperative, which addresses civil society issues and democratic rights.

The management of the whole chain is based on principles of partnership and transparency, that SEKEM calls an "economics of love". "All the different aspects of the company, cultural and economic, have been developed out of Islam. We believe that it is possible to derive guiding principles for everything, from pedagogics, to the arts, to economics, from Islam." There is also a deep commitment to beauty.

In 2000, the Cairo Times wrote "It is almost eerily organized and clean for a farm….Beyond the central square, the fields of swaying grass and fragrant herbs give the impression that one has reached the gates of paradise." All deep change comes from the heart, and its inspirations. www.sekem.com

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"Hold fast to your dreams,

for if dreams die,

life is a broken-winged bird

that cannot fly."

-- Langston Hughes

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ELITE CLEANERS

Laura and Rick Nathorst held onto their dreams when they set up Victoria’s only solvent-free dry cleaning operation. The regular method uses perchloroethylene, a nasty toxic and suspected carcinogen. After much research, they were able to implement a German wet-cleaning system that uses banana oil, orange oil, and soy-based additives, 100% biodegradable and environmentally safe. If you care about your health, and the health of dry cleaning workers, check them out.

Rick always wanted Elite Earth-Friendly Dry Cleaners to be a demonstration of what’s possible, and last April, this happened. A Holland America Line cruise ship was in town, and the Victoria driver off-loading toxic waste from the ship was an Elite customer.

He asked Hart Sugarman, Holland America’s corporate executive housekeeper, why they didn’t use a solvent-free dry-cleaning system like Elite’s for their crew, staff and guest clothing. Sugarman jumped in a cab and paid a surprise visit. He checked out the system, found it was a fit with Holland America’s commitment to be a "spotless fleet", environmentally, and by June, the first two ships had been converted, with another 11 on the way. The parent company, Carnival Cruise Line, may follow suit with another 76 ships. They are also switching to solvent-free detergents and finishing polishes.

For the ships, it means no more need for the dry-cleaning staff to wear respirators, no more risk of toxics in the air circulation, no more fire risk, and no more toxic wastes to be disposed of. How can we say thankyou to Rick and Laura? By switching to their company, and ridding yourselves of similar toxic problems.

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Elite Earth-Friendly Dry Cleaners

Victoria’s only solvent free dry cleaner

1019 Cook St. 381-2221 Mon-Fri 8-6. Sat 10-4

www.greendrycleaner.com

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LOCALLY OWNED STORES

A new study by Civic Economics of ten locally owned businesses in Chicago, compared to ten chain stores, shows that the locally owned restaurants, retail stores, and service providers generated 70% more local economic benefit than the chain stores.

For each $100 spent, the locally owned created $68 in additional local economic activity, compared to $43 for the chains. The locally owned spent more on local employees, twice as much on buying local goods and services, spent more of their profits in the local economy, and gave more to local charities.

The study found that 70% of shoppers preferred independent businesses, and 80% preferred urban business districts over strip malls. The local Development Corporation hopes it will lead the city to adopt policies to limit the influx of chain stores, and strengthen local businesses.

In a parallel development, Bennington, Vermont, has banned all new stores over 75,000 sq ft, and requires retail projects over 30,000 sq ft to pass a community impact review to look at job, tax and revenue impacts. The move was made specifically to keep a second Wal-Mart out of the town. www.newrules.org.

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STV

STV? What’s that? Single Transvestite Virgins? Striking Troglodytic Vampires?

No. STV stands for "Single Transferrable Vote" and is the new system of electing provincial MLAs in BC that is being recommended by the BC Citizen's Assembly of Electoral Reform. In 2004, the Assembly, a group of 160 ordinary British Columbians, volunteered their time to study all the various possible voting systems, and then to recommend a new electoral system for provincial elections in British Columbia. See www.citizensassembly.bc.ca

After months of study, with many public hearings and deliberations, the Assembly recommended that BC adopt a customized version of the Single Transferrable Vote, which they are calling BC-STV. Why?

1. It is fair. Each party’s share of seats in the Legislature will reflect its share of voter support. This will mean that voters’ views are fairly represented.

2. It is easy to use. Voters will rank the candidates in the order of their preference: 1, 2, 3, etc. The candidates will be elected based on the voters’ rankings.

3. It will give more power to voters. With more choice on the ballot, voters can select and rank candidates from any or all parties, including independents.

4. It provides effective local representation and fair results by combining several ridings, with each new riding electing several MLAs.

On May 17, 2005 we will be invited to approve the BC-STV system in a province-wide referendum. So do your duty, and check it out, so that you can explain it to your friends and neighbours! www.citizensassembly.bc.ca

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ECONUTS AND ECOBOLTS

A new feature that pulls it all together in a tiny space.

In Exeter, UK, the world’s climate scientists met and agreed that climate change was growing much more serious and alarming than they had previously said.

In China, the government has done an abrupt U-Turn, placing a stop work order on 22 major dams and power projects until their environmental impact has been reviewed.

In Europe, half the species of birds are at risk of disappearing because of intensive agriculture, development, and climate change.

At a UN meeting in Bangkok, Canada tried unsuccessfully to speed up intensive agriculture by overturning the moratorium on terminator seeds.

In San Francisco, two car-sitting electric-vehicle activists forced Ford to do an abrupt U-turn on their plans to scrap their zero-emission Ranger electric vehicles.

And (ahem) in Washington, the White House issued a statement severely regretting its previous commitment to full spectrum dominance of the world (including California). "What were we thinking?", Bush Junior said. "Jesus was a loving man. I think we got this wrong."


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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"
(New Society Publishers)
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