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That may seem a strange question when we are trying to tackle such enormous problems as global warming, species extinction, and the need to redesign our whole way of life so that it doesn’t trash the way our children and grandchildren live.
But where is the music that makes us feel the inevitability of victory? Our culture is producing and listening to more music than ever, yet there is this big piece missing.
We have new age music that celebrates the purity of nature; punk, hip hop and heavy metal music that denounce the injustices and stupidity of the world; and folk music that mourns the loss of beauty and the dying of species - but where is the music that celebrates a future in which we succeed in building a sustainable world, and makes us determined to get there?
It is impossible to recall the South African struggle against apartheid without the stirring music of Nkosi Sikeleli and a host of other songs.
It is impossible to recall the French Revolution without the stupendous music and lyrics of La Marseillaise, and its furious call to defend their newly found freedom:
O Liberty, can man resign thee
Once having felt thy generous flame?
Can dungeons, bolts or bars confine thee
Or whips thy noble spirit tame?
Nor can we recall the movement to end slavery without its music:
When Israel was in Egypt's land,
Let my people go!
Oppressed so hard they could not stand,
Let my people go!
Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt's land.
Tell old Pharaoh
To let my people go!
What would the US civil rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s be without its utterly determined lyrics:
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome some day,
Oh deep in my heart,
I do believe,
We shall overcome one day.
Pete Seeger in full voice
Today, we face a peril like no other, and people all around the world are working overtime to tackle the multiple threats to Earth’s ecosystems - but forty years after the first Earth Day, in 1970, where is the global Earth Anthem we can sing together to celebrate our determination to succeed?
No-one has written it. That is the surprising reality.
There are songs that address environmental themes, including many by Victoria’s singer/songwriter Holly Arntzen, but where is the all-commanding anthem that will draw us together with words of such joy and determination that they give us the strength we need to persist with the work and overcome the many setbacks and obstacles on the road to victory?
Its absence, I believe, lies in our failure to articulate what “victory” means, or even to believe that it is possible. Too many people think collapse and failure are inevitable; some even welcome the prospect, believing it is we greedy consuming humans who are the problem, and the sooner we are gone the better.
Some believe that the best way to mobilize people is by attacking the greedy polluting corporations and their evil capitalist ways, destroying more forests, polluting more oceans, and selling us more garbage for the sake of a buck. It may be true, but it does not convey a vision of victory.
Victory has to be more than a successful defence - protecting a forest, saving a beach, stopping a housing development. Victory has to be the shining city on the hill, a utopian vision similar in power to those that inspired people to work so hard to achieve public health care, public education, pensions, the end of child labour, and votes for women - things for which we are enormously grateful, even if we take them for granted.
The vision of victory, sufficient to inspire the world’s first Earth Anthem, must offer a shining vision of Nature protected, our economies and banking systems transformed, our food supply secure in our own hands and the hands of organic farmers, our energy being entirely renewable; our neighbourhoods being resilient and full of celebratory cooperation; our nations working together to restore Earth’s ecosystems; our hearts full of respect for each other no matter the colour of our skins, the way we love each other or the amount of money we carry in our pockets.
These things are all possible - and if we believe them not to be, it is only because we have forgotten our history, and the astonishing things we have achieved in the past. Creating global harmony with Nature is no larger a challenge than ending slavery or creating democracy. It takes innovation, struggle and persistence, but above all it takes vision - and an Earth Anthem that will inspire our hearts to sing.
As soon as that song is written, we will know it - and from that moment on, victory will be that much more possible. We need to believe in the future. Earth’s creatures and our own children and grandchildren ask nothing more.
- Guy Dauncey
Action of the Month
NO ARCTIC OIL DRILLING
This is such an important moment, with the oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. We need a firm commitment that there will be no drilling for oil in Canada’s Arctic or in BC’s west coast waters.
$1.00 a word. Max 5 lines; non-profits, low-income free. 1" box ad $50
Need a great looking website? Want help with branding? Modern Love Design Studio offers prompt, affordable, friendly service. No detail overlooked in making your organization stand out. Non-profit discount available. Contact email@example.com. www.modernlove.ca
Lovely room to rent, close to ocean, downtown, $30/night, 250-382-3810.
Want to become a zero waste household? New Pacific Mobile Depot location at UVic, 2nd Sat, 9-12pm to recycle old electronics, styrofoam, soft + hard plastics, tetra packs. To volunteer: Derek Juno firstname.lastname@example.org. For all Victoria and Vancouver pick-ups see www.pacificmobiledepots.com
Can you help? I need 3 hours a week voluntary office help preparing for my open ocean swims in support of marine sanctuaries. Renate Herberger 250-656-1312. www.costaricamermaid.net
Have a Green Children’s Birthday Party at the Greater Victoria Compost Education Centre - no hassle or waste. Fun exciting atmosphere, promotes sustainable living. 250-386-9676.
Wanted: Organically-minded people required to help Dave Friend develop and expand Mr. Organic's Educational Programs to school students. 250-655 9156. email@example.com
Wanted: House and large yard for long-term urban permaculture homesteading in Victoria. Open to renting, leasing to own, sharing/labour exchange. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Green Party in Victoria is seeking volunteers for special events, telephone canvassing, etc. Help us build a better Canada. Contact Sue Dakers 250-478-2477 to join our team.
The Sierra Club of BC’s Education Program is seeking three educators to translate program materials into French, deliver classroom programs and coordinate youth sustainability projects. See www.sierraclub.bc.ca
Follow@GuyDauncey on Twitter for links to important news stories.
HANDS ACROSS THE SAND
The oil is still gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, with recovery efforts being slowed by the first hurricane of the season. Global shock is subsiding into resignation, since there’s little anyone can do, but the public will to accelerate the shift to safe renewable energy is much stronger.
On June 26th, people met in over 850 locations to link their Hands Across the Sand, saying NO to more offshore drilling and YES to clean energy now. On Hornby Island, 100 people linked hands at Tribune Bay; on Salt Spring, 50 people linked hands around Fulford Harbour. Here in Victoria, 400 people linked hands at Willows Beach in a great event - we almost covered the entire length of the beach (see photo below). Many thanks to Renee Lindstrom and Lisa Cole for taking the initiative to organize this.
SAN DIEGO’S ELECTRIC CARS
One of the ways we’ll be able to travel without oil is the electric car - so what’s happening? The Nissan Leaf EV is being rolled out this fall, costing $20,000 in the US after tax incentives (more in Canada).
The US EV Project will put 5,700 Leafs and 2,600 Chevrolet Volts into home garages in five states, along with 14,650 charging stations and 310 fast chargers.
In San Diego, where there will be 1,000 Leafs, each driver will have a home charging station in the garage, and there will be 1500 public charging stations and 50 fast charge stations where a battery can be topped up in minutes.
The purpose of the trials is to find out how this affects the grid. In San Diego, drivers will pay a price varying from 7 cents/kWh for super off-peak charging to 38 cents during peak summer demand, in the hope that they’ll heed the price signals.
Survey results are not encouraging - it seems EV drivers may willingly pay more for the gratification of an immediate recharge.
The solution may be smart charging - you plug in when you get home, and your charger communicates with the grid to determine the optimal time to recharge. That requires a smart grid.
In June, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a comprehensive plan to digitalize the state’s power system, enabling smart metering and a smart grid for everyone. A similar approach is being planned for BC by BC Hydro.
THE GLOBAL FOREST
There’s a major new excitement pulsing through the global mind, and it comes from Diana Beresford Kroeger, an Irish-Canadian botanist and biochemist who has just published her new book, The Global Forest.
Diana shakes up the normal thought that forests are a habitat for nature, a place of beauty, or a source of timber by seeing the forest’s trees as a living miracle, with a pattern of intelligence we have scarcely begun to understand.
She comes from a deep Irish background. After her parents died in a car crash when she was 11, she chose to live with her bachelor uncle, a chemist, natural philosopher and lover of Buddhism and Gaelic poetry, who took her to meet her elderly cousins. “They were Irish speakers, and they knew all the old stories and the old cures. They showed me everything. They taught me to meditate, to focus my mind. They talked to me about survival.”
Over in Canada, with a doctorate in biochemistry, she found herself a renegade scientist, appalled at the influence of the corporations and the threat posed by pesticides. By contrast, she was trying to bring together aboriginal healing, western medicine and botany as she researched the biochemical and medicinal properties of trees. At Carraigliath, her 160 acre estate near Merrickville, Ontario, she has transformed the Canadian bush into a leafy sanctuary for over 100 types of tree.
Her new book is opening people’s eyes to the miracle of trees, such as their ability to remove air pollution: children who live in tree-lined neighbourhoods have 25% less asthma than those in treeless neighbourhoods. In a walk through an old-growth forest, “there are thousands if not millions of chemicals and their synergistic effects with one another.”
Among other things, trees produce aerosols, including a compound called alphapinene that stabilizes a child’s breathing mechanisms and has a mild narcotic action on the brain, allowing the child to calm down and be smarter. The Japanese have a phrase for this - they call it shinrin yoku, or “wood-air bathing”.
Trees produce a spectrum of light we can’t see that monarch butterflies can, and infrasound we can’t hear but birds can. Half of the world’s oxygen comes from trees - and they have been producing it for 380 million years.
Diana’s new book is a call for us all to think far deeper about the trees that surround us. “There’s an enormous difference between old-growth forests and tree plantations,” she says. Much as Merv Wilkinson did for 60 years at his Wildwood Forest, near Ladysmith, she recommends using stock from old-growth forests to grow new forests, to benefit from the advantage of their genetics. Her book has been praised as much for its poetry and lyrical nature as for its scientific content.
Victoria’s Stephen Legault has set his latest crime thriller - The Darkening Archipelago - in the dark waters of BC’s Broughton Archipelago, where the crusty and alcohol-imbued environmental organizer Cole Blackwater finds himself thrown into a potent stew where poverty, racial tension and fish farming combine to murder Archie Ravenwing, a native fisherman and activist who is determined to save the wild salmon from a deadly assault by sea-lice.
If you have not yet discovered Legault’s dark and deliciously sinister writing, and if you enjoy gritty realism, treat yourself to his new book for a good summer read. This is the second in a trilogy. In Legault’s first novel, The Cardinal Divide, Cole Blackwater gets caught up in another murder while trying to save a precious piece of the Rocky Mountains Kananaskis Country. NeWest Press, $19.95.
THE SHRINKING SPERM
Take a good farmyard bull. 90% of its sperm are normal, and its sperm count is up to two billion per milliliter. Now take a healthy man from the 1940s: sperm count over 100 million per milliliter.
Fast forward to the 1990s: the average male sperm count has fallen to 60 million, and 20% of healthy young men between 18 and 25 have an abnormal sperm count. Today, one in seven couples is classed as infertile.
This has trouble written all over it, even though helps reduce our human population. Why is it happening? It’s not genetic, since the change is too fast, so it must have a lifestyle or environmental cause.
The evidence points to something that’s causing damage during the mother’s pregnancy: when pregnant mothers were exposed to the chemical dioxin following an industrial accident in Italy, their sons had lower than average sperm counts. When a mother smokes during pregnancy, her son will have a 40% lower sperm count. When mothers eat large amounts of beef during pregnancy, it has the same grim result. What’s needed is research to differentiate between organic grass-fed beef and cows raised in industrial feedlots, full of hormones and antibiotics.
Women who are overweight also produce sons with poor sperm quality. Is it the fat, or the harmful chemicals stored in the fat? Whatever the answer, the advice is clear: if you are pregnant, and you want grandchildren, do everything you can to avoid industrialized meat, smoking, and anything that smells like a chemical. Avoid alcohol too, since heavy use causes both fetal alcohol syndrome and birth defects.
GIRLS’ PUBERTY BEFORE TEN
This story is probably linked to the one above, though the scientific jury is still out. During the 19th century, the average onset for puberty in girls was age 15. By the 1960s, it had fallen to age 12. Today, growing numbers of girls are reaching puberty before the age of 10, which is very distressing both for them and their parents.
Scientists think the cause may be linked to chemicals in the food chain, junk food, or obesity - children certainly eat more than they did in the 19th century. Bisphenol A, found in the lining of canned food and babies’ feeding bottles, is one suspect.
But so is this: researchers at Bristol University, UK, found that 49% of girls who ate meat 12 times a week at the age of 7 reached puberty by the age of 12½, compared with 35% of those who ate meat four times a week or less. Again, is it the meat, or what’s in the meat? If I ate meat, I would avoid all mass-produced, industrialized meat like the plague.
ORGANIC ISLANDS FESTIVAL
If you are free the weekend of July 10/11, treat yourself to the Organic Islands Festival at Glendale Gardens, off Interurban Road. Now in its 6th year, it is a joyous celebration of all things green, with great speakers, music, booths, displays, and unhurried conversation among friends. All solar-powered, and near-zero-waste.
Carolyn Herriot is also speaking and launching her new book The Zero Mile Diet - a Year-Round Guide to Growing Organic Food there on Saturday July 10th at 2:30pm. See you there! See www.organicislands.ca
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If you can help by making a donation, whether
$5 or $100, that would be most welcome. Please send it to: EcoNews,
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if you want a receipt, please send a stamped addressed envelope).