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The whole world seems to be embracing the wireless revolution. Wherever you go, people are skyping on cell-phones, connecting on laptops and downloading on iPads.
It is this kind of connectivity that made the uprising in Egypt possible. It’s also enabling poor farmers in the world’s villages to check the wholesale price for rice in the city, and cut out the middlemen.
There’s a troubling downside to all this, however, especially for children.
France has banned both the sale of cell-phones to children, and their use in elementary schools. Britain’s Chief Medical Officers are strongly advising young people to use cell-phones only for essential purposes.
Their reason is evidence that using cell-phones may lead to brain cancer. In 2010, a 13-country study found that people over 30 who used a cell-phone for 30 minutes a day had a 33% increased risk of developing glioma tumours on the side of the head where the cell-phone is typically held.
Today, much younger people are using cell-phones for much longer, and we know that children absorb more radiation into their brains, bone marrow and muscles than adults do.
There is also evidence that cell-phone use affects the brain’s biochemistry - in February 2011, a National Institutes of Health study found a 7% increase in glucose use in parts of the brain close to the antenna. In her new book Disconnect, Dr. Devra Davis describes scientific reports which show that electromagnetic radiation is causing broken strands of DNA, and breaching the blood-brain barrier.
In Britain, brain cancer has now passed leukemia as the number one cancer killer in children. There has been a 40% increase in brain tumours in Europe over the last 20 years.
If cell-phones are a clear health risk for our children, what about Wi-Fi - the wireless technology that provides an on-line connection whenever you are with range of a wireless router?
Health Canada’s Safety Code 6 says there is no scientific evidence of harm from Wi-Fi - and Health Canada has no plans to review its position.
Dr Olle Johannson has researched electromagnetic radiation for 30 years at the Karolinska Institute Department of Neuroscience in Sweden, however, and he says Canada’s Safety Code 6 is completely out of date, and only designed to protect against thermal heat effects of radiation - not biological effects, which Health Canada says do not exist. Yet it is very clear that there are biological effects.
A Dutch study from Wageningen University found that Wi-Fi routers positioned 50 centimeters from ash trees for 3-6 months appeared to lead to damage in parts of the leaves, with the disappearance of the outer cell layer followed by desiccation and death.
It is becoming accepted that cell-phone masts can cause health problems. In 2008, the British TV program Panorama found that the radiation inside a Wi-Fi classroom during downloads was three times higher than it was outside, by the masts.
Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity has been recognized by the World Health Organization; it suggests that it affects “a few people per million.” The Swedish government says that it affects 3% of the population, and recognizes it as an official disability.
In schools where Wi-Fi has been installed, some electrosensitive children are experiencing headaches, or cardiac arrhythmia - “Kind of weird - it felt like my heart was skipping beats”. There is evidence that Wi-Fi may also trigger seizures, and increase epileptic readiness. Some teachers are complaining that Wi-Fi makes them ill.
There have been thousands of studies on cell-phones and masts, and 50% have found evidence of negative effects; but there have been no studies on long-term Wi-Fi exposure. There is no evidence that Wi-Fi is safe.
Our schools have a legal duty to provide a safe environment for our children - including those who are electrosensitive.
We don’t need Wi-Fi in our schools - the French town of Herouville Saint-Claire has disconnected all Wi-Fi from its schools and public buildings, replacing it with fiber-optic cable, which is faster, safer, and more stable.
The head the UK government’s Health Protection Agency has called for precaution, and told schools publicly to hold off on Wi-Fi until there is more research. The Swiss government, whose radiation guidelines are 100 times more stringent than Canada’s, is providing fiber-optic connections for all schools.
British Columbia should take the lead, and do the same. For more research and evidence on the matter, see these videos and websites:
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COHOUSING AT MARY LAKE
Mary Lake is a beautifully tranquil 107 acre property in the Highlands of Victoria that faces market development as 12 lots - see www.savemarylake.com. It is a valuable dry coastal Douglas fir ecosystem, providing habitat for hundreds of plants and creatures. It is also mid-way between Gowlland Tod and Thetis Lake Provincial Parks, and could provide a critical trail link. The property has an assessed value of $4.9 million, and thanks to incredible efforts over the past two months, people have donated almost $250,000, buying square meters for $10. $1 million was needed by the end of January, however, with an extension granted to the end of February.
The Mary Lake Conservancy team has looked at every possible way to save the property, and given the failure to raise the $1 million, and the urgency of the situation, has given its blessing to Plan B, which would see 10 acres developed in the northwest corner as a clustered cohousing project, providing 20-24 units of community shared living built to the highest standards of green sustainable development - enabling 97 acres to be protected.
Would you like to live in community, surrounded by friends and nature in the heart of the Highlands? The immediate goal is for 10 people to make a commitment, signing a non-binding MoU. Vancity Savings has also expressed an interest in helping. If you want to learn more, email Koi Neah now at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is cohousing? It is collaboratively planned intentional community where you own your own home, and a strata-title share in the land and community facilities including a shared kitchen, meeting rooms, a food garden, and anything else the group desires. There are several successful projects in BC, including Creekside Commons in Courtenay, Cranberry Commons in Burnaby, Pacific Gardens in Nanaimo, Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast, Windsong in Langley, and the Yarrow EcoVillage in the Upper Fraser Valley - see www.cohousing.ca.
An exciting new cohousing project is being planned in the heart of Fernwood, where four lots have been assembled on the corner of North Park and Chambers. The architect-designed 31 small studio and 1-2 bedroom strata units will create a friendly and communal pocket neighbourhood for adult singles, couples and empty nesters who have their own private living spaces, while sharing common facilities. The project will have many green features, including shared cars and bikes. They have ten members now, and are looking for more to join - there’s a Potluck and Celebration on March 12th (see Green Diary) where you can learn more. See www.fernwoodurbanvillage.ca
What makes a great neighbourhood? We do. When I lived in Oak Bay, a neighbour told me that one day she saw a furniture van across the road, so she went over and said “Welcome to the neighbourhood!” They said “That’s very kind of you - but we’ve been living here for seven years, and we’re just moving out.”
Sustainability begins on the street where you live. If we don’t make the effort to feel safe, secure and friendly among our neighbours, how can we expect the world to? It is simple effort that is involved to speak to your neighbours, invite them in for a coffee, or organize a street party. The fewer and the slower the number of cars on your road, the easier it is to do so.
For inspiration and great ideas I recommend The Great Neighbourhood Book, by Jay Wallasper, editor of Ode Magazine. (New Society Publishers). It’s an easy read, packed full of ideas to make your neighbourhood more friendly, sustainable, traffic-tamed, and a great place to hang out. It’s got inspiration in its pages for joint projects such as painting out graffiti, planting fruit trees in the boulevard, planting a community garden, forming an eco-team, making a community bench - everything, in fact, except how to organize a street party - a strange omission! For advice on this, ask the British, who are big street partiers experts - see www.streetparty.org.uk. So treat yourself to a copy, and ask “How can we make our street more sustainable?”
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COLWOOD’S GOING GREEN
Thanks to the persistence of councillor Judith Cullington, and a $3.9 million federal grant, Colwood is embarking on four major new projects. The first will help 1,000 local residents install solar hot water systems, with very generous incentives, and support other sustainable technologies including smart meters and mini-split heat pumps for homes that lack a duct system for a central air-source heat pump. There will also be solar hot water, solar heating and solar PV on Colwood Fire Hall; a “zero net energy” approach for the new 70 unit Colwood Corners project; and rapid charging stations for electric cars in Colwood, creating a “green corridor” for EVs. The project is expected to generate work for 8-12 full time solar installers. For details, see www.solarcolwood.ca.
GROWING YOUNG FARMERS
Dave “Mr. Organic” Friend grew up in a small farming village in Yorkshire, England, where all the food was effectively organic. Arriving on Vancouver Island in 1998, he became a commercial organic grower, and the champion for a number of summer camps and initiatives for young people. In his new program, “Growing Young Farmers’, he and his team will operate a professionally managed program for schools and growers in which students will work on organic farms at least once a week for a school term. They will learn the principle, practices and procedures of growing healthy organic food under the supervision of an experienced food-growing mentor, on a larger scale than a school garden.
Can you help make this happen? Dave needs gifts of:
Volunteers to help supervise students;
Organic soil or compost, for farms that need the existing soil to be improved;
The free loan of a rototiller;
Organic seeds and starter plants;
Used spades, forks, rakes, hoes, trowels, wheelbarrows, watering cans, hoses, potting trays, work gloves and boots;
Sponsorships from local businesses, organizations and private individuals.
Dave’s goal is to get his program into every local school, starting with Claremont Secondary. All of his work and time on the project are voluntary. Can you help? www.friendlyorganics.ca, and call Dave at 250-655-9156.
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LifeCycles has been a vibrant presence in Victoria since 1994, and they have been in instigators of many successful community gardens such as the Michigan Street Community Garden, in James Bay. They also created the Fruit Tree Project, whose 70 volunteers gather people’s surplus cherries, apples and pears and distribute them to local community centres and food banks. Last year, they gathered 28,000 pounds of fruit that would otherwise have rotted on the ground.
Their Growing Schools program has worked with over 1,000 kids and created gardens in 12 elementary schools, using 20-40 volunteer educators, and they have 15 schools on their waiting list. LifeCycles also runs the Urban Agriculture Hub, promoting local urban agriculture, connecting residents to each other, and to the resources, workshops and tools we need to grow food in the city, including a great Calendar of events. www.urbanagriculturehub.ca
All this takes money, and LifeCycles is facing a financial crunch - so there are not one but two fundraisers coming up. On Thur March 3rd there is a benefit concert for LifeCycles at the Victoria Event Centre, with a movie, a great line-up of local musicians, and dancing until late. Tickets are $15-$100, depending on how generous you can be to help LifeCycles through their crisis. See www.HomeGrownCollective.ca.
Then on Tuesday March 8th there’s “Get Fresh In Fernwood” organized by the Transition Victoria Food Group, with a movie, speakers, refreshments and an auction. Tickets are $10 at the door, 6:30pm at 1923 Fernwood Ave. For details see www.lifecyclesproject.ca
THE PENINSULA CO-OP
Do you want to play a governance role in the very successful Peninsula Co-op? The Co-op is owned and operated by its 54,000 local members, and employs 300 people, making it an important breakaway initiative from distant corporate control.
Founded in 1977, it runs 12 gas stations and supplies six Save-On Gas stations with fuel. It also owns the Co-op Food Centre at Keating X Rd; sells home-heating oil; and operates nine commercial diesel cardlock locations from Victoria to Ucluelet.
In 2010 it had a net profit of $6 million, enabling it to donate $400,000 to a variety of worthy causes, and give a 3.5 cents/litre discount to its members - ten times more than the reward programs offered by Shell, Esso and Petro-Canada. As a Co-op, we the members are its shareholders.
In any large organization, there will be times when members have different visions of the future, and now is one such time. One group of members wants to carry on with business as usual, which includes developing a new 35,000 sq ft Co-op Food Store outside the urban containment boundary on farmland on West Saanich Road, while another group, the Co-op Action Network, wants to guide the Co-op in a more sustainable direction.
The Co-op could provide more support to local farming; the gas stations could become a focus for leadership on biodiesel, electric vehicles, ridesharing, and other green transport initiatives without compromising its core profitability, and the Co-op could be run in a more democratic manner, with plenty of consultation with its members.
Six of the nine seats on the Board are up for election: might one have your name on it? It’s a great way to serve the community. If you become a member by March 31st ($27), you can vote in the election that will take place this Spring. For the Peninsula Co-op, see www.peninsulaco-op.com. For the Co-op Action Network, see www.coopactionnetwork.ca, and email email@example.com
Action of the Month
THE JUAN DE FUCA TRAIL
If you live locally, and have not hiked the Juan de Fuca Trail, you have a treat in store. HOWEVER, the popular trail is threatened by plans to build a tourist resort next to its most scenic part, with 257 tourist vacation cabins and a lodge stretching along 7 kilometres of the trail.
The CRD planning staff have recommended the plan, and the Juan de Fuca Land-Use Committee (representing just 1.2% of the CRD’s population - 4,500 local residents out of 373,000) has voted 5-2 to move it forward. The next step is a CRD Open House on the proposed development at 7pm on March 3, at Edward Milne School in Sooke.
This is a public park, and a treasure that belongs to us all, so any decision surely concerns us all, not just the local communities - so we must ask the CRD Directors to vote on it as a whole. Visitors come from around the world to experience such stunning wilderness and beauty; they won’t want to walk past the backyards of vacation homes, with their cars and satellite dishes. Protect the Trail!
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