No. 177 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
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THE LOOMING FOOD CRISIS
Living on Vancouver Island,
we take for granted that our shops overflow with food. We grow no more than 5%
of it, however - the rest is shipped in, mostly from California and
Mexico. In the event of an emergency, we have only 3 days food supply.
For the past 50 years, the
world’s farmers and farming corporations have managed to increase production to
keep up with population growth, thanks partly to the use of fertilizers and
herbicides. This has kept food prices low and the stores full. Why bother with
locally grown food when you can ship it in from around the world?
Suddenly, however, everything
is changing. Last year, the world’s stocks of wheat fell by 11%, and corn
stocks have also fallen. The UN’s food price index rose by 40% in 2007, after a
9% rise in 2006. Josette Sheeran, of the World Food Program, said “We are
concerned that we are facing the perfect storm for the world’s hungry.”
This is not a temporary
glitch - this is the start of a serious long-term trend. One cause is the
early impact of global warming. In 2007, the drought in Australia reduced grain
production by 40%, and harvests have been hit by droughts, floods and heatwaves
in many other countries. When temperatures rise above 35°C, crops cease to grow
- in 2003 the Ukraine lost 75% of its harvest due to that year’s heat wave.
Meanwhile, the world
population continues to grow, and as people become wealthier they want to eat
more meat, with the result that cropland that used to feed humans now grows
soybeans for cattle.
And then there is the craze
for biofuel as an erroneous solution to global warming. The US is diverting 20%
of its maize crop is to make ethanol, and around the world millions of hectares
of land are being used to grow biodiesel and ethanol. The world’s 800 million
motorists are moving into a cruel competition for farmland with the world’s 2
billion poorest people.
Add the increased price of
oil as we approach peak oil, and the growing shortages of water around the
world, and it makes for a very troublesome picture.
Globally, these problems all
have solutions, so while there is an urgent need to act, there is no
fundamental reason to worry.
From A Year on the Garden Path - a 52 Week
Organic Gardening Guide, by Carolyn Herriot.
Firstly, if all the world’s
farmers switched to organic methods they could - according to solid
research (see here and here) - grow almost twice as much food. Cancer rates would fall, ecosystems
would recover, soil erosion would stop, and wildlife would return to the
farmland -it’s a no-brainer. The challenge is how to prise control of the
farmlands out of the hands of the agro-chemical corporations who would much
rather we believed that organic farming is deluded and unproductive.
Secondly, there would food
enough even for an eventual population of 9.5 billion people if we stopped
eating meat, and used the farmland instead to grow grains, fruits, vegetables
and nuts for a vegetarian and vegan diet. A vegetarian diet requires seven
times less land than a meat-based diet - and there is solid evidence from
The China Study that people who eat plant-based food have less illness and live
longer lives than those who eat meat. Meat and dairy production also produce
18% of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, so there’s another solid
reason to cut back.
Nor do we need biofuels grown
on cropland to power our cars: plug-in hybrid electric vehicles make far more
sense, using electricity from the wind, sun and geothermal, topped up with a
small amount of biofuel for longer journeys derived from wastes, sewage, algae
Meanwhile, we’re facing a
very serious problem for which the solution has to be a dramatic increase in
locally grown organic food here on Vancouver Island. In summer there is no
limit to the crops we can grow; in winter, we can grow 45 different winter
There are many young people
who want to be farmers - the problem is the price of land, for which we
need a community farmland purchase program.
We could grow far more food
in our backyards - this simply needs encouragement, and workshops where
we can re-learn the food-growing skills our ancestors took for granted.
Wherever there is vacant land
local people should be allowed to use it for community allotments, at one
year’s notice to the owner - such as the multi-acre BC Hydro Lands on
Haultain Street in Saanich, which have sat empty for at least 20 years.
We could allow grow fruit trees
along our city boulevards. We could encourage rooftop gardens in the downtown,
where land is scarce. The Butchart Gardens and Royal Roads could plant showcase
organic vegetable gardens they were proud of.
Locally grown organic food
tastes better, has zero carbon emissions, and has important cancer fighting
properties that non-organic food does not. The arguments go on and on. So let’s
A monthly newsletter, funded by your donations, that dreams of
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Helen 250-544-2064 firstname.lastname@example.org
* Cowichan Valley Recycle
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keep them out of the landfill. See www.cvrecycle.ca
* Natural building &
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speakers, documentary evenings at OUR Ecovillage, Cobble Hill. www.ourecovillage.org
* Syd’s Demo Salvage. Quality
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Earth and the human community are bound in a single journey." - Thomas Berry
Your local Eco Realtor®
Learn how green remodeling
will make your home a winner.
Work with me to buy a greener home.
HOUSE COOLING PARTIES
Do you want to reduce your
carbon emissions and help your friends reduce theirs at the same time? The
Sierra Club is looking for hosts for House Cooling Parties as part of its
campaign to address global warming.
You invite some friends,
co-workers or neighbours over for a party, and the Sierra Club provides you
with a DVD and package of information about practical things people can do
to reduce their carbon footprints. The first Parties will be on Jan 17th,
22nd and 30th. If you’re interested, call 386-5255 ext. 237 or email email@example.com
Aaron Bichard and Katie
Harris live in Duncan, where they run home-based businesses as a photographer
and a radio broadcaster, and when they saw a big ecological problem recently
- the big smelly trucks that collect garbage to truck to a landfill 400
km away - they thought “there must be a better way”. Duncan businesses
are not allowed to mix recyclables in the garbage, but there’s no easy way to
recycle them, so businesses are in a bit of a bind.
Enter Aaron and Katie’s
creativity. They called Tony’s Trailers in Mill Bay (www.tonystrailers.com),
and Tony made them a sturdy one than can haul over 90kg (see photo). They
started in September with 10 contracts, collecting recyclables every Wednesday
and biking them to the nearby Harper’s Recycling. By December they had 40
contracts, all by word of mouth and advertising on the trailer. Way to go! See www.cowichanrecyclists.com .
VICTORIA’S PEDAL TO PETAL
Here in Victoria, the Pedal
to Petal Urban Agricultural Collective is collecting household compostables by
bike for $5 a week, and turning it into compost that will be used in urban
organic agriculture projects that provide fresh produce for low-income
Victorians. Call 383-5144 #1116. www.pedaltopetal.blogspot.com
Carpentry - Woodworking
Flooring - Design/CAD Consulting
Harald Wolf 882-9653
SHARING A RIDE
Ever had this experience?
You’re going to an event where you know you’ll meet like-minded people, and you
think “If only I could share a ride with someone.” We’d burn less fuel, create
less traffic, and have a generally happier time. The good news is that we can,
using www.erideshare.com . If you click
on any region of North America you can see who wants or is offering a ride. If
you are organizing an event you can set up a group with its own password,
enabling people to link up. We just need to get into the habit of doing so for
our meetings and various events. For the EcoNews Mailout Party, for instance,
the website is http://econews.erideshare.com (password EcoNews).
WHAT HAPPENED IN BALI?
This December, the world’s
nations gathered in Bali, Indonesia, to create a roadmap for a new treaty that
will replace Kyoto when it expires in 2012. Now this is serious stuff. If we
continue to produce carbon emissions as we have been, global warming will bring
an ugly end to all civilization, and most species. If you doubt my words, read
Six Degrees by Mark Lynas.
The Europeans wanted a
reduction in emissions from the developed world by 25-40% below the 1990 level
by 2020. (BC’s goal is 10% below 1990 by 2020.) Canada, Japan and the USA all
objected (boo!), arguing that unless countries like China and India also made a
commitment, the industrialized countries should not be required to set binding
The pressure on Canada was
huge, including a petition with 300,000 signatures organized by the group
Avaaz, and Canada did back down, withdrawing its objections. The US continued
to insist that any reference to firm targets should be deleted, and in the end,
they had their way. After the targets were relegated to a footnote that
referenced a report, the US delegation finally agreed to sign onto the
This is a “victory” as far as
it keeps the US at the table. Otherwise, it is a victory for the corporations
that control US policy-making. The hope is that with a new President in the
White House in January 2009, US intransigence will give way to a more constructive
approach. The developing nations do also need to reduce their emissions, but it
is wrong to insist that the developed nations - which have produced the
lion’s share of the emissions so far - should sit back and do nothing
unless China and India also play along.
TOP TEN CLIMATE SOLUTIONS
- #3: THE BICYCLE
How easy can this be? The
bicycle is quite simply one of the best inventions ever made. With almost no
extra effort, it enables us to travel at four times the speed of walking. In
Copenhagen, Denmark, 33% of all journeys to work are by bicycle. In Davis,
California, the number is 17%.
Here in Victoria, Canada’s
cycling capital, it’s only 6%.
Davis (population 64,000)
started planning for cycling 40 years ago, and has two full-time cycling
coordinators. It was the first to paint bike-lanes on the city streets, in the
1960s, and the entire university campus is closed to vehicle traffic. With over
100 miles of streets with bike lanes, trails, and other bike routes, and 25
grade-separated intersections keeping bikes and cars apart, Davis shows us
As a global warming solution,
cycling has to be one of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective. Operating a
car costs $7,000 a year. A bike costs $120 a year. A US study found that 40% of
all trips are within a 10 minute bike ride, and 54% of commuters live with 10
miles of their work, a distance that takes much the same time for cars and
Cyclists are generally more
fit, more alert, and more productive at work. They are also happier, and have
fewer hospital visits. For shopping and deliveries, there are bicycle trailers
of every size, and if you can’t manage the hills, adding an electric motor
($350 to $1,400) will costs you just 1 cent per 20 km for the electricity.
How should we proceed? Every
community should have a Bicycle Advisory Committee, and 25% of each community’s
transport budget should be invested in measures to encourage more cycling until
it reaches a goal of 25% of all commuting trips being by bike.
The best way to get there?
BC’s cycling advocates need to be far more pro-active and involved in promoting
cycling as a solution to global warming.
SEEDS OF VICTORIA
Certified Organic - Locally Grown
2008 Seed catalogue online at:
A great selection of heritage seeds
THE BEAR MOUNTAIN PROTEST
Ben Isitt writes:
A major battle in underway in the Capital Region, between citizens opposed to urban sprawl and proponents of the Bear Mountain resort. The sprawling 1100-acre resort on Langford’s Skirt Mountain – which features a Whistler-esque village centre, a Westin Hotel, luxury homes, and two Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses – needs a new highway to double in size.
Bear Mountain was made possible by backroom deals, which saw hundreds of acres of Crown land transferred to Western Forest Products and then LGB9, a development company headed by former NHL hockey player Len G. Barrie. Bear Mountain expanded to include 180 acres of former Forest Land Reserve land – sold by Langford city councilor John Goudy for $1.25-million and an assurance of $10,000 for every lot sold.
In February 2006, Councillor Goudy seconded a motion at city council to spend $750,000 on “Bear Mountain Interchange Design Development.” Earlier, land near the interchange site had been rezoned to allow 600 residential units, 150 hotel rooms, and 110,000 square feet of commercial space. In November 2007, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation added $5 million to the pot. Now Langford proposes to begin logging and blasting as early as January 2008.
A group of committed environmentalists have maintained a “tree sit” in the threatened area since April 2007 (accessed off Leigh Road between Goldstream Ave and the Trans-Canada Highway). They pledge to protect the Goldstream River watershed and ecological features that include the 50-metre long Langford Lake Cave; hectares of Douglasfir, Garry Oak, and arbutus forest; and habitat for the red-legged frog and other species.
The Bear Mountain Interchange (rebranded “Spencer Road interchange” in early 2006 to deflect public opposition) is needed to achieve a “build-out” valued at $2.5 billion. Bear Mountain plans to build 40-storey condominium towers located near the Skirt Mountain summit – on the remnants of a cave considered sacred by First Nations people at an elevation of 1000 feet. Viewscapes would be further degraded as these towers approach the height of Mt. Finlayson. Climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions would increase so rich golfers can reach their mansions in record time.
It’s time to stop the ecological and cultural disaster known as Bear Mountain – by stopping the Bear Mountain interchange project.
This summary draws from a
detailed research study. For a copy, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-382-8494.
SAVING PEDDER BAY’S HOMES
Where do many people on low
incomes live? In trailer parks, where they often enjoy a strong community life.
For 30 years, a small community of people has lived in the trailer park at
Pedder Bay, Metchosin, including seniors, veterans, widows, people with
disabilities, single parents families, trades people and professionals. The
trailer park has been their home, and they have invested time and money to
landscape and renovate their trailers.
In today’s real estate
market, however, all land has a dollar sign hanging over it, and in January
2007 the owner of the land, Bob Wright, of the Oak Bay Marine Group, (who recently
made a wonderful donation of $11 million to support ocean and climate change
research and education at UVic) issued all 29 home-owners with a 12-months
eviction notice so that the land could be freed up for development. By way of
compensation, they have been offered $4,300 each.
This is how homelessness
starts. During the last 12 months, the stress of the pending evictions has led
to illness, bankruptcy and marital break-ups. The residents are doing what they
can, and have fund-raised to pay for a lawyer to defend their right to their
homes, with a trial that starts on January 7th. Law students from UVic have
kindly offered to help, but the legal fees may still reach $50,000.
This should never have gotten
this far. The Province, as part of its drive to end homelessness, should help
the residents to organize a Community Land Trust, enabling them to take out a
loan to buy the land, as often happens in the US. In the meantime, the
residents dearly need financial help. Donations can be sent to Pedder Bay Residents
Society, #1 - 925 Pedder Bay Drive, Victoria V9C 4H1. For details,
Terrill Welch 250-539-5877.
ACTION OF THE YEAR: YOUR
January is the time to make
the commitment. Can you reduce your carbon footprint by 5%? If you keep that up
for 12 years, it’ll be 60% lower by 2020.
Buy a notebook where you can
track your car’s mileage, your fuel usage, your heating and hydro bills, your
flights, how often you eat meat and dairy, and your garbage - all of
which produce heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
Next month, I’ll remind you
how to convert your numbers into your carbon emissions. Just 5%. Yes?
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
Some noteworthy sites that
have passed my way:
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395 Conway Road, Victoria V9E
Tel (250) 881-1304
Executive director of The Solutions Project
Design by Dave Shishkoff,
Victoria's Fastest Vegan on Two Wheels!