No. 148 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
LOOKING DISASTER IN THE FACE
We’ve got a provincial election coming up in May, when we can
vote to change our leaders if we want to, thanks to the efforts
of our ancestors who fought to give us democracy, rather than feudalism
and monarchy. The very fact that we can change our leaders is important;
I’ll leave aside the debate over other ways to vote for now.
It is our leaders who set the course we are on, and who use our
tax dollars to make progress along the course they have chosen.
What do we do, then, when a huge global study tells us we are
on course to disaster?
Let me leave that question hanging while I tell you about the
report. It’s called the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment,
and it is the most comprehensive survey ever done into the state
of our planet. It has been completed by 1,300 scientists from 95
nations, and reviewed by 805 experts and government officials,
over a period of four years. It cost $20 million, and it runs to
2,500 pages. This is serious stuff. See www.millenniumassessment.org
After studying ecosystems all over the world, on which all life
depends, their conclusion is that human activities threaten the
Earth’s ability to sustain future generations.
Their report says that the way we obtain our resources has caused
irreversible changes that are degrading the natural processes that
support life on Earth.
They found that two-thirds of the ecosystems they studied have
suffered badly at the hands of humans over the past 50 years. Unless
the international community takes decisive action, they warn, the
future will look very bleak for the next generation.
"We are .. putting such strain on the natural functions of
Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future
generations can no longer be taken for granted." (Dr. Walt
Reid, lead author).
15 of the 24 ecosystems that are vital for life on Earth have
been seriously degraded or used unsustainably. The study finds
that a rapidly growing world population after World War 2 drove
an unsustainable rush for natural resources: timber, fish, food,
cloth, minerals, fossil fuels.
To focus on just one area: more land was converted to agriculture
since 1945 than in the whole of the 18th and 19th centuries.
More than half of all the synthetic nitrogen fertilizers ever used
(since 1913) have been deployed since 1985. The resulting run-off
is causing algal blooms in rivers and marine waters which are killing
the fish and other marine creatures by depriving them of oxygen.
Jonathan Lash, from the World Resources Institute, says "This
report is essentially an audit of nature’s economy, and the audit
shows we’ve driven most of the accounts into the red."
So let us return to that first question: What do we do when a
huge global study such as this tells us we are on course to disaster?
If we lived under a monarchy, we would strive to get the report
to the King’s leading courtiers, in the hope that he might read
it, and give the order to change course.
Living in a democracy is more complicated. Our leaders do not
do what they want: they do what they believe we want.
If the public at large pays no attention to the report, nor will
This points to the first necessary step: tell all your friends
about the report, even if it’s a simple email that says "Please
read this, and then forward it on to all your friends: www.millenniumassessment.org
The second necessary step, since we are entering an election,
is to tell every candidate who wants to be an MLA. (Emails on party
website). Then at the all-candidate meetings, ask this question:
"The authors of the huge new Millennium Ecosystem Assessment,
produced by 1300 scientists from 95 countries over four years,
report that human activities are threatening the Earth’s ability
to sustain future generations. If you are elected, what will you
do to change course, so that our children’s and grandchildren’s
lives are no longer threatened?"
It is not as if we do not know what to do. Enough books and papers
have been published describing the needed "mid-course correction" policies,
actions and initiatives to fell a good–sized forest all on their
The core of the problem is our own inertia. We are drifting towards
disaster while we enjoy the spring flowers and plan for our summer
holidays – while carrying on with business as usual in the office
or the factory, seeking more ways to sell more product, and earn
This is a wake-up call, if ever there was. WE are the generation
who carry the ethical responsibility to protect future generations,
and THIS is the election when we need to place this front and centre,
on every candidate’s list of top concerns.
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* Professor with sabbatical wishes to lease, house-sit
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self-employed welcome, reasonable rates. Roxanne Brydges, CFP.
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skills course. Saturdays May & June. Susanna Grimes email@example.com 920-5705. www.biketoworkvictoria.ca
* The Coast Capital Savings Elections are happening
right now (deadline April 6th), and there are two
people running for election who will represent social and environmental
values very well, IF you elect them. They are Elizabeth Woods
and Ragini Rankin, and neither of them has approached me or
asked me to endorse them. But if you bank with Coast Capital,
please vote for them! There’s no need to vote for anyone else,
unless you want to; you actually weaken Elizabeth and Ragini’s
chances of election if you vote for others as well.
* Looking for a community that cherishes the Earth,
challenges the mind, nurtures the spirit? You'll be welcome
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YOUTH & CLIMATE CHANGE
Are you aged 15 to 20, and interested in global climate change,
and what you can do about it? There’s a big Youth Climate Change
conference coming to Victoria at Royal Roads July 3rd to
6th, organized for and by 15-20 year olds, focused
on action, alternatives, and solutions for a changing world.
It’s organized by Alysia Garmulewicz, a 17-year old from New
Denver (who visited Antarctica recently to learn about climate
change) and a team of young people. It costs $340, and the
website contains a Fundraising Toolkit which lists organizations
that might sponsor you. Teachers, parents: can you tell 15-20
year olds about this? www.yc3.net
Can you volunteer to help this year’s EarthWalk on Saturday
April 23? Call Steve Filipovic at 216-5903. To book a table,
same number. If you’d like to help with a donation to cover
costs, cheques to Earth Walk, 1-1723 Bank St, Victoria V8R
4V7. For a charitable receipt ($50+), make the cheque to VIDEA www.EarthWalkVictoria.ca
Elite Earth-Friendly Dry Cleaners
only solvent free dry cleaner
1019 Cook St. 381-2221 Mon-Fri 8-6.
GM FOOD HITS THE RAILS
It’s spring! And all across the northern hemisphere, genetically
modified crops are being sown: sometimes unwittingly. A British
report has revealed that more than two thirds of conventional crops
in the USA are contaminated with genetically modified material.
Just 8 years after GM varieties were first cultivated on a
large scale, half of the conventional maize and soybeans and
83% of the oilseed rape are contaminated. It’s mostly at a
low level of 0.5 to 1%, but it is "endemic to the system",
which does not bode well for the future.
In Britain, meanwhile, a major four-year study, in which conventional
and GM crops were grown on 65 adjacent sites, has shown that
GM crops cause significant harm to wild flowers, butterflies,
bees, and probably songbirds.
Why? Because the ultra powerful herbicides which the GM crops
require kill the broad-leafed weeds which the wild species
depend on. It is only in Britain that such large farm-scale
studies have been done. The study has probably sealed the door
to the public’s acceptance of GM crops in Britain.
Here in Canada, where GM crops are well established, it shows
the importance of growing and buying organically grown food,
and of raising the idea that BC be declared a GM-free area
in the coming election.
THE GARDEN PATH ORGANIC PLANT NURSERY
Open Daily: 10 am to 5.30pm April, May & June 2005
* Organic Vegetables, Herbs , Flowers
* Heritage Roses, Small Fruits & Berries
2-acre Organic Display Garden Saturday Morning Workshops
395 CONWAY ROAD (Off Interurban, past Camosun College)
(250) 881-1555 www.earthfuture.com/gardenpath
There’s an election coming up on May 17th in BC,
so what can you do to make sure environmental issues are top
of the agenda? The Western Canada Wilderness Committee is running
a huge Eco-Election (Vote Wild) Campaign. They’re recruiting
2,000 volunteers who are going door to door raising environmental
issues with the voters. They have already visited 3,000 homes,
out of their goal of 200,000 homes. If you’d like to join the
fun, call (250) 388-9292 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. www.wildernesscommitteevictoria.org .
The Sierra Club has a similar initiative called Vote Environment,
with non-partisan volunteers going door to door to get people
talking about environmental issues and values. They’d love
you to join in, too. For details, see www.sierraclub.ca/bc/vote .
Matt Price and the Conservation Voters of BC are tracking
every MLA for their comments on the environment, and planning
to endorse the green ones, whatever their party stripe. For
details, see www.conservationvoters.ca .
And the BC Sustainable Energy Association is inviting its
400 members to adopt a constituency, to tell the candidates
about the BCSEA’s paper on "Sustainable Energy Policies
for BC", and then to ask them ten questions about their
attitudes to climate change and energy, which they’ll rank
and publish. www.bcsea.org .
And finally, the main players. If you want to re-elect the
Liberals, see www.bcliberals.com .
If it’s the New Democrats, see www.bc.ndp.ca .
For the Green Party, see www.greenparty.bc.ca .
They would all love you to call them up, and offer to volunteer.
And what do "we" think, here at EcoNews? My advice
is to support the greenest candidate who is the most likely
to get elected. And vote for the Single Transferable Vote
in the referendum, for a better voting system next time round.
Residential, Commercial, Indoor, Outdoor
Eco-friendly Carpentry; Woodworking; Flooring; Composters;
Creative storage & much more
Harald Wolf – 250-882-9653 www.wolfweb.ca/allegra
HAIDA SPIRIT RISING
It’s astonishing: there’s a major logging blockade happening
in Queen Charlotte City, on Haida Gwaii, in protest against
Weyerhauser clearcutting the islands for raw log exports, and
there’s been NOTHING about it in the mainstream BC media. Only
The Tyee has covered it.
Haida and non-Haida have come together to form round-the-clock
lines blocking access to Weyerhauser’s log-sorting facilities,
where hundreds of cedars await shipment to mills in the south.
Between 1982 and 2004 some 40,600,000 cubic metres of trees
were logged on Haida Gwaii, and shipped to distant mills in
Washington State. (www.spruceroots.org/Gallery/Logging.html )
One cubic metre is the size of a telephone pole. If you imagine
it all as telephone poles, it would circle the Earth 24 times:
over $6-billion worth of logs.
The Haida want control over their traditional lands and resources,
and they’re saying "Enough is Enough". While the
Haida negotiate their land claims, the Province insists that
it’s business as usual in the forests. The Haida want a sustainable
economy for the Islands, and a land that will support their
wellbeing for a continuing culture. Calling all journalists:
cover this story! For daily details of the blockade, see www.haidanation.ca .
PLUG-IN HYBRID VEHICLES
And now for something completely different: the Plug-In Hybrid
Electric Vehicle (PHEV). As you know, Toyota and Honda have
brought out hybrid cars that have double the fuel efficiency
of other vehicles by running a joint gas/electric engine.
But wait! The Toyota Prius has a switch on the dash which
is not activated in North America. designed to let you run
the car in 100% electric mode. There’s also a space in the
engine which looks as if it’s made for an extra row of batteries.
Always creative, a group of Californians have added extra batteries
so that the Prius will travel 60 miles as an all-electric vehicle
for local travel, with the batteries recharged at night. Future
supplies of 100% green electricity are assumed, and that’s
fine, because there’s plenty of it.
Since many trips are short and local, the car could sometimes
go all month without gas. As a solution to transport worries,
whether because of air pollution, peak oil, or climate change,
the PHEV has everything going for it. If, by 2025, half the
cars were hybrids and half were plug-in hybrids, America’s
need for imported oil for cars would drop by 80%. PHEVs fueled
by wind energy and bio-ethanol would need no gas at all. See www.carcars.org .
Or rather, Olé Molé! Olay’s Regenerist replenishing
cream, beloved by women of a certain age, harnesses "the
latest peptide technology in an exclusive amino-peptide complex".
Sounds kind of scientific, so it must be ok, right? Well, sorry
to ruin your day, ladies, but here’s what’s also in this particular
* Polyacrylamide: probable carcinogen. PTFE (Teflon): carcinogen,
causes birth defects, weakens the immune system.
* C1 16035 and 19140: colourants associated with lymphatic
tumours and allergic reactions in animals.
* Ethylparaben: estrogen mimic, linked to breast cancer.
And a whole lot more (Ecologist, March 2005). If you want
to use a skin cream, choose one that is wholly natural, and
that uses botanicals, not chemicals.
ACTION OF THE MONTH : VICTORIA’S STANLEY PARK
Most of us take pride in knowing the green spaces around our
city, but there is one place hardly anyone knows about. It
is publicly owned, and you can cycle there in 40 minutes from
downtown Victoria. It contains trees that are among the 10
biggest Doug firs in the province (one dating back to the 13th century),
plus hemlock, cedar, Garry oak woodlands, arbutus, Sitka spruce,
A detailed 2 year survey done by a group of Victoria naturalists
has shown that the lands contain a full 13% of the world’s
entire remaining untouched oldgrowth coastal Doug fir forest.
It’s all at risk of development, if its caretakers ignore the
beauty of these lands, and see dollar signs instead.
So where ARE these magic lands? They are the unprotected federal
lands in Colwood around Royal Roads, and west of Esquimalt
Harbour. Connected together, they could become a magnificent
greenway, stretching from Esquimalt Harbour to the Lagoon.
The Department of Defence has declared them "potentially
surplus" to government needs, which means they are probably
seeking to sell them off, tempting Colwood with the prospect
of income from taxes. Royal Roads University has an interest
in obtaining the lands with a 99 year lease, but they’re apparently
uncomfortable about any mention of placing ecological covenants
on them to protect the oldgrowth. An opportunity such as this
needs a lot of people to get involved. If you are interested,
call Norm Mogenson at 477-9114.
"Let us leave a splendid legacy for our children…let us
turn to them and say, "This you inherit; guard it well,
for it is far more precious than money, and once destroyed,
nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price." --
Action: Please write letters asking for the lands to
be protected to The Mayor and Council, Colwood City Hall, 3300
Wishart Rd, Victoria V9C 1R1
LETTER WRITING TIPS
1. The more personal your letter is, the more influence it
2. Hand-written letters are still the best.
3. Be brief, clear, and specific. One side only is best.
4. State your opinion and make your request in the first few
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