No. 163 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
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VISION IS THE MOTHER OF HOPE
If the Swedes can do it, so can we.
The Swedish people have collectively decided, through their government, to eliminate all major environmental problems within one generation – by 2020. They don’t want to hand them on to their children and grandchildren.
They have established 16 policy goals, and if you go to their website, they track the progress on each of the goals. They’re not doing very well, but at least they’re honest about it.
We live in a time of incredible opportunity. Never before in the history of humankind have we had so much access to knowledge, learning, information, and the skills that are needed to implement change.
At the same time, we live in a time of the most disastrous portents. Almost every week, a new science report warns of the direst consequences if we do not act very quickly to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
They also warn of the urgent need to stop consuming so much, to stop polluting the oceans, to stop accumulating toxic chemicals in our bodies, and to stop destroying farmland.
On August 31st, John Holdren, the incoming President of the American Association for Advancement of Science, said "If the current pace of change continues, a catastrophic sea level rise of 4 meters (13 ft) this century is within the realm of possibility; much higher than previous forecasts."
We truly live in a time of enormous crisis, environmentally and politically. The solutions required must therefore involve enormous vision, to match.
I have recently found myself saying: "There are only two problems in the world today. The first is the sum total of all our social, environmental, and economic problems. The second is the belief that we cannot solve them."
When you sit down to study the problems, it quickly becomes apparent that there is no shortage of solutions. What’s lacking is the appropriate vision, determination, and political will.
Not the kind of vision that prays that Jesus will return to solve our woes, but vision that stems from a love of life, love for this Earth, love for humanity.
Listening to the Earth, by Gilbert Williams
The corridors of far too many schools, universities, businesses, and governments are filled with people who live comfortably on their salaries and look forward to retirement, while acting on the stale ideas and beliefs of the last century, with no concept of how great a barrier to change they are, or how wearily exhausted their ways of working have become. Often, they do not go home happy. They too are troubled by what is happening, but they feel powerless to effect change.
Meanwhile, our children see the world they are about to inherit, and feel fear.
But pause to imagine. We can work together as nations when we choose to.
Imagine a global solar treaty calling for the installation of solar PV on all new homes starting in 2010. With such a level of demand, the price would fall, making it affordable for all.
Imagine a global Sustainable Energy Fund, funded by a carbon tax on all fossil fuels, with the income being used to finance a rapid transition to non-fossil-fuelled energy systems.
Imagine teachers all over the world demanding the right to teach environmental curricula in their classes, and for healthy, organic food to be served to their children.
Imagine an annual Day of Hope, when normal work stops, and people spend the day to meeting their neighbours, and working to make a better community and a better world.
Imagine a Global Organic Treaty, in which every nation commits to convert its farmland to organic practices by 2025, increasing the global supply of food while building health, tackling cancer, and restoring rural ecosystems and farm incomes all over the world.
Imagine a Global Forests Treaty, in which all nations commit to convert all of their forestry operations to Forest Stewardship Certification by 2025.
Many will object that big global corporations would never allow this to happen - so imagine a new Global Corporate Charter, which requires any corporation wishing to adhere to a new set of responsibilities that reflect social and environmental, as well as financial goals.
If you are cynical, you will laugh at the naiveté of this, because of course, the global corporations control the world through the Carlisle Group, and the people can never change that.
But who says? Even corporate leaders have grandchildren, and some pass sleepless nights worrying about their future.
All this can happen – or none. If we leave it to governments, or someone else, nothing will happen. It is you and I who have the power and the responsibility to make it happen.
If we believe that it is possible, and if we act on this belief, we become part of the solution, part of the hope.
Our children are looking at us, asking what we are going to do.
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THE JOY OF WALKING
In Kelowna recently, my hosts were keen walkers and cyclists who encourage their 16-year old daughter to do likewise. Their daughter’s friends, however, think otherwise. One calls her father to pick her up even if she is 200 metres from home. Her father obliges.
What’s going wrong here? Statistics show that people who live in suburban areas walk less and are more obese than those in urban areas. They also die more often in car accidents. We’ve got to get our kids back on their feet, and stop the morning and afternoon school rush hours when parents jostle SUVs to be sure their darling children are safe.
International Walk to School Week is a global effort that happens every October, involving schools from 39 countries.
Brentwood Elementary achieved a record turnout on their first walking day this September. Last year, they tracked their efforts on a gigantic map of Canada, and over 2 years, the students 'walked' across Canada and back from Victoria to Ottawa.
The Way to Go! School Program organizes iwalk activities in B.C. schools October 2nd – 6th, creating fun walking adventures that make our streets safer, our neighborhoods friendlier, and our air cleaner. We need to see almost all our children walking or cycling to school, if they’re not coming by bus. Some schools don’t even have safe places where students can lock their bicycles.
Suzanne Kort. 388-0781 firstname.lastname@example.org See www.waytogo.icbc.bc.ca and www.iwalktoschool.org.
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THE JOY OF RAW FOOD
Pat Newson writes: I turned vegan 10 years ago, just before turning 50, because I knew that what animals went through to become food was wrong. This was a huge turnaround for me. My health improved and my consciousness changed. Denial lifted and I was able to see how eating animals underlies much of the harm we do to the planet.
As I approach 60, I have evolved to a raw vegan diet. It makes sense – eating food as Nature designed it, rather than changing it through heat and chemicals. My health has improved dramatically, along with another shift in consciousness. I am closer to Nature, and I trust my body as a miracle that is perfectly able to maintain balance and heal itself so long as I feed it the nutrients it needs. I am bypassing the pharmaceutical tyranny and I know I am contributing to the healing of my great mother, the Earth. See www.rawbc.org
THE JOY OF LEARNING
The BC schools science curriculum includes astronomy, but not environmental science or climate change. No wonder we’re in trouble. For the 16 years I have lived in Victoria, the Adult Education scene has been no better, with both UVic and Camosun failing miserably to offer anything relevant.
Royal Roads University has now stepped boldly into the breach with a stunning array of environmental courses, some of which you will find in this month’s Green Diary. Their art, culture, healing, wholeness, business leadership and global issues courses are equally rich. www.royalroads.ca/continuing-studies
PESTICIDES, PLASTICS, PERFUMES, and HYPOSPADIAS
Perfumes and what? A hypospadia is a rare sexual birth defect that is becoming increasingly common among baby boys, doubling in the past 25 years. It’s a deformation of the penis where the hole lies underneath or at the base the shaft, or underneath the scrotum (see www.netterimages.com/image/1372.htm).
Scientists in Denmark believe they’re being caused by chemicals called phthalates that are found in everyday products such as pesticides, plastics, carpets, make-up, food packaging, cosmetics, anti-bacterial handwash, and sun screen.
We all begin life in the womb as female (inviting all sorts of philosophical insight), and during the first 3-4 months we receive a hormonal message that tells some of us to become boys.
Phthalates are hormone mimics whose signals confuse the real hormones, causing development to go awry. They are also a contributing cause of cancer (www.ourstolenfuture.org).
The surgery involved to repair the flaw is very delicate, and some surgeons make things worse with some boys ending up with three or even five holes to urinate through. In Britain, one of out of every 150 to 200 boys is being born with hypospadia; in North America, it may be more.
Governments all across the world must ignore the whining of the chemical industry and ban the offending phthalate chemicals. The Canadian federal government should include a ban in its new Green Plan.
STUDENTS ECO-BILL OF RIGHTS
Calling all parents, students, and School Trustees! The Labour Environmental Alliance Society, based in Vancouver, has developed a Students Environmental Bill of Rights which they invite all School Boards to adopt. Children are more vulnerable to toxic chemicals than adults, so it is essential that schools should be free of them.
The Bill of Rights, when signed by a School Board, entitles students to know about hazards they are being exposed to, to receive protection, and commits school officials to actively seek alternatives. See www.leas.ca
CARBON NEUTRAL HOMES
In Santa Monica, California, a developer of pre-fabricated homes has received the highest LEED award from the US Green Building Council for creating homes that are "Zero Energy, Zero Water, Zero Waste, Zero Carbon, Zero Emissions". The houses include on-site solar PV, solar water heating, radiant floors, reclaimed water, LED lights, and low-e glazing. They range from 650 to 6,000 sq ft, but since they are custom built, they cost $250 US per sq foot, plus $70-$90 for design, permits, etc. See www.livinghomes.us.
The Rocky Mountain Institute, meanwhile, has embraced a new initiative called the 2030 Challenge, formally adopting it for all future green building work. It calls for all new buildings and renovations in the US to be carbon neutral by 2030. The buildings must either use no fossil-fuel generated energy, or their operators must offset their emissions through the purchase of certified CO2 reductions or sequestrations. The Challenge calls for 50% of all new houses to adopt the standard now, rising to 60% in 2010, and 100% by 2030. www.rmi.org
CARBON NEUTRAL GOVERNMENT
The British government has made a commitment that by 2012, its entire nation-wide government operations, worth CAN $300 billion a year, will be carbon neutral. The implications are enormous, not just for the purchase of energy efficient cars, buildings, and appliances, but also for the carbon trading market which invests in products, companies and sustainable forms of energy that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Britain’s target for CO2 reduction is 60% by 2050. California’s commitment is 80% by 2050. My belief is we need 100% reduction by 2025.
GLOBAL SOLAR POTENTIAL
The full potential of solar energy is beyond most people’s imagination. The Earth receives 970 trillion kWh from the sun every day, 3000 times more energy than we use for all purposes. The price of solar PV is falling steadily as demand increases. In the 3rd edition of their Solar Generation report The European Photovoltaic Industry Association and Greenpeace International predict that the global PV industry could power 2 billion homes by 2025, displacing the power of 140 coal-fired power plants.
If governments around the world were to act collectively, bringing in building codes that required the use of passive solar designs and 2 kW solar systems on all new homes, and on all existing homes at the point of sale, the market would expand far more quickly.
THE PINE BEETLE ADVANCES
While the BC government twiddles its thumbs and approves coal-fired power plants, the mountain pine beetle is advancing rapidly. By 2013, a new BC government report says, it is expected to have killed 80% of all saleable pine in BC’s major lumber region. It now affects 8 million hectares of forest in central and northern BC, and has killed 14 billion cubic feet of merchantable pine, increasing its hold by 45% over the past year.
The epidemic is a boon to the big forest companies, which are scrambling to harvest the dead pine, but once it’s gone, in ten years or so, BC’s central interior economy will suffer an enormous collapse. And all because of climate change, which has stopped the cold winters that used to kill off the beetle, and keep it under control.
CFAX: THE GREEN CITY
Everyone at CFAX 1070 Radio has seen Al Gore’s film on global climate change film An Inconvenient Truth (which shows at the Odeon Oct 10th, see Diary), and in October they’re airing a special series called "The Green City" every day after the 9am, noon, and 5pm news, ending with a Public Forum at UVic on Thur 26th. CFAX 1070, on the AM dial. This is a great move for a local station.
ACTION OF THE MONTH
IS MINISTER NEUFELD A CLIMATE SKEPTIC?
Richard Neufeld is BC’s Minister for Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources. He approves of burning coal to make electricity, and hopes the moratorium on drilling for offshore oil and gas will be lifted. His Ministry is just finishing a major review of the Province’s 2002 Energy Plan without holding a single public meeting to ask the citizens of BC – who pay his salary – what they think.
Before entering provincial politics, he owned and operated a business in Fort Nelson, and he has been involved in the oil and gas industry for most of his life. With global climate change becoming recognized as such a dire threat, it is critical that we know the answer to this question: Is BC’s Minister of Energy a climate change skeptic?
Action: Write to Richard Neufeld, on paper, and ask him (in your own words) if he accepts the work of the world’s leading climate scientists who say humans are predominantly responsible for global climate change, or if he thinks it’s caused by natural variation, or something else.
Rt Hon Richard Neufeld, MLA, Rm 134, Parliament Bldgs Victoria, V8V 1X4. Richard.Neufeld.MLA@leg.bc.ca
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