EcoNews
Newsletter #218 - November 2011
Promoting the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island
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Executive director
The Solutions Project

Editorial

NAILING THE JELLO TO THE DOOR

Nov. 1st, 2011

What do we want? If we can’t define what success is and visualize it clearly we’ll never achieve it. The Occupy movement will degrade into an argument over the right to camp on public land or a takeover by rogue elements who aim to provoke the police, and this new generation of activists will trade hope for cynicism, saying “We tried, but it didn’t work.”

How can it be that after so many years, we still don’t know what we want? A vague mish-mash of demands about greater equality, taxing the rich, reducing the power of the banks and ending corporate rule does not have the same punch as the Ninety Five Theses that Martin Luther nailed to the door of Wittenberg church on October 31st 1517, launching the Protestant Reformation that overthrew the Catholic Church.

Why is it so difficult? There’s a clear reason, but first, let’s do some political detective work.

In America, there is clear justification for articulating the Number #1 demand as “Get the money out of politics!”. The corruption of American politics by money is legend. So let’s say it is successful, and Americans achieve what Canada has already done.

Most Americans have no idea that Canadian political parties are publicly funded based on their share of the vote at the last election, and that no-one, whether billionaire or broom-pusher, can donate more than $1,000 to a party.

It is due to controls like this that Canada’s banking regulators are not controlled by the banks, and that Canada did not experience the sub-prime mortgage scandal that is causing such chaos and tragedy in America.

Canada’s tragedy is that Harper’s Conservative government is planning to abolish this very constraint, so one of our demands here in Canada must be “Keep the money out of politics!”

In spite of this, Canada suffers from the same kinds of poverty, inequality, and corporate influence. So what gives? Getting the money out of politics is clearly not enough.

What if we had proportionally elected governments, as they do in Europe? That’s another essential demand, but it has done nothing to prevent the reckless financial gambling by the European banks which has contributed to the eurozone debt crisis.

What if there was a Robin Hood Tax? A tiny tax of 0.05% on stocks, bonds, foreign currency and derivatives transactions could raise $400 billion a year globally to fight poverty and tackle climate change. It’s another essential demand that should be high on the agenda at the G20 summit, but it won’t address the fundamental problems.

What if there were tighter regulations on the banks to prevent speculative investments? In America, the 1932 Glass-Steagall Act separated commercial from investment banking, but it was repealed in 1999 after heavy lobbying by Wall Street. It’s another essential demand, but it still won’t address the core of the problem.

So what is the core of the dysfunction that is plaguing the world? A new analysis by complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a core of 1318 interlocking companies which control 80% of the world’s global operating revenues.

Within these, 147 tightly knit companies (1% of the core) control 40% of the wealth. Most are financial institutions such as Barclays Bank, JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, but the top ten also includes companies that almost nobody has heard of such as FMR, AXA and Capital Group Companies. (See New Scientist, www.bit.ly/onkFR2)

Furthermore, most or all of these companies operate with off-shore tax havens where they hide their wealth and avoid paying taxes. They are like Jello - if you try to pin them down, they simply move their money somewhere else, managed by anonymous trusts that no-one has the power to investigate or control. Collectively, they are a three-foot wide lump of Jello, and our regulatory powers are a single thumb.

So what could crack the core of the problem and nail the Jello to the door? We need to capture the flight capital and close down the world’s tax havens, aided by a Tax Evasion Complicity Law which would make it a criminal offense to knowingly serve as a fund manager, accountant, trustee, lawyer or corporate nominee for a known tax evader.

There’s a whole bunch of other changes that are needed to transform our money-drunk model of deregulated capitalism into a people-friendly, nature-friendly, sustainable model.

This is a global crisis that affects us all, from Cairo to Vancouver. We can’t expect to sort it out locally. Changes such as these need global agreement, driven by public determination that the politicians won’t buckle and bend to the will of the Wall Street lobbyists.

We must unite around a clear set of demands which we can nail to our doors and Facebook walls wherever we go, building the pressure that will eventually force our leaders to act.

- Guy Dauncey
THE ECO-PERSONALS

$5 a line. Max 5 lines, non-profits, low-income free. 1” box ad $50
  • Seeking eco-smart, considerate folks to share character house South Oak Bay.  Garden.  $425 + utilities.  Jan 1st.  ravensprog@gmail.com.

  • Organic Gardener's Pantry - local source for fabulous organic gardening products. Probiotics, mycorrhizae, compost tea, and more. Christina 250-216-3733  www.gardenerspantry.ca

  • Abandoned Shopping Carts: Personal & Spiritual Responsibility by William Bezanson.  Sustainability, Evolution, Spirituality.   amazon.ca or trafford.com (search Bezanson).

  • For sale: 5 acres with 1500 sq ft cob-strawbale home in sustainable rural land share at Dove Creek near Courtenay. Greenhouse, horses, community. $169,000 Susan cvec17@hotmail.com cobstudio4sale.blogspot.com

  • For sale: Spectacular west coast house-site. Kayaker’s dream - wolves, bears, otters, whales. Part of 12 household community on island near Nuchatlitz Provincial Park, Nootka Island, 45 min by water from Tahsis.  $89,000 www.nuchatltiz.ca cvec17@hotmail.com
Eco-Stories

SHARK FIN SOUP

This is a horror story, so if you are eating I suggest that you delay reading it. There are over 450 species of shark in the oceans, and they have been there for millions of years, way before the dinosaurs.

Traditional Chinese culture makes a very big thing of shark’s fin soup - a wedding banquet serving 300 guests can require up to 30 sharks to be killed. To meet the demand, a shark is caught on a long line and dragged onto the boat, where its fins are cut off. It is then thrown back into the ocean. But since it now can’t swim, it sinks to the bottom where it is eaten alive by other fish.

How many sharks are being killed like this? Around 73 million a year; 200,000 a day; more than two a second.

Claudia Li grew up eating shark fin soup at weddings as a child in Vancouver, before she saw the movie Sharkwater and realized how wasteful and ecologically destructive shark finning was.

“I knew at that moment that we had to take action to protect the sharks.” So Claudia set up Shark Truth, and started building a campaign to wean the Chinese off their delicacy. “The fin itself has no taste”, she writes. “The soup’s lip-smacking effect is thanks to the condensed chicken and ham broth, and like a sprinkle of MSG.”

The soup’s status comes from its enormous cost. The dorsal fin of a whale shark can sell for up to $50,000, and a serving the soup says ‘we are fortunate - let us share our fortune with you.’

Claudia’s Shark Truth movement had a huge success in October, when Toronto City Council voted by a 38-4 majority to ban the sale of shark fin soup in the city. Brantford, Oakville and Mississauga have passed similar bans, and Calgary is next in line.

Fin Donnelly, the NDP MP for New Westminster-Coquitlam, is going to introduce legislation that would ban the importation of shark fins into Canada. In a poll that his office commissioned, 83.4% of British Columbians opposed the importation, including 76.8% of Chinese ancestry. In a similar survey in Hong Kong, 85% expressed moderate to strong support for a ban on shark fin imports to Hong Kong.

Is there someone who will step forward to push for similar bans in Victoria and Saanich? See sharktruth.com, sharkwater.com and facebook.com/sharktruth



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MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS

On November 19th, every adult in BC can choose their civic leaders for a new three year term. So what are the issues that candidates should be championing as we continue to work for a green and sustainable Vancouver Island?

#1. Integrated Transport Planning. It’s essential that we integrate our planning for walking, cycling, transit, LRT, rail, ride-sharing, car-sharing and electric vehicles. How can we tell if its wise to spend $800 million on LRT if we don’t know the comparative cost of a large-scale network of safe bike routes? The CRD needs a single sustainable transport authority than can think holistically and make the decisions that are needed.

#2. Food Security. We only have three days food supply on the Island, and we import 95% of our food so a firm commitment to urban farming, community gardens and helping our farmers grow more food is essential.

#3. Persistent Climate Action. Since we are still burning fossil fuels, eating meat and cutting down the forests as if there was no tomorrow our planet is still on track to a 4-7C increase in temperature within the lives of our grandchildren, and the last time the temperature was 3C warmer the sea-level was 25 metres higher - the height of a six storey building. So we need continued action on energy efficiency, green heat, district heating, zero energy developments, local food, green transport and climate adaptation.

#4. Affordable Housing. With the average price of a starter home being $400,000, how can young people ever buy a place of their own? That’s a $2,000 a month mortgage. There are plenty of smart ideas around, from grow-homes to cohousing to allowing more secondary suites and rural ecovillages, as long as we elect the mayors and councillors who will champion them.

#5. Green Space. From the Gulf Islands to Port Renfrew we are going to face challenges from landowners who want to maximize their chance to profit by developing their land, and who will put pressure on local politicians to allow it to happen. We need politicians who will work hard to protect our green spaces at the same time as they encourage smart growth and compact urban development to cater to the growing population, and prevent the price of housing from rising even higher.

#6. The Sleeper - Sewage Treatment. Expect this to come back onto the municipal agenda, as the argument that there are no scientific reasons to spend as much as $1.2 billion ($210 to $500 per household per year in water and sewage charges) on treating Victoria’s sewage dukes it out with the political and ecological consensus that it must be done.


THE CANDIDATES

These are the candidates who have been recommended by EcoNews readers, and who I am endorsing by virtue of my knowledge and research. If there are eight vacancies but you only want to vote for three, there’s no need to cast eight votes. There are some significant newcomers, which is good news for local democracy.

The big ones to work hard for? Change in Saanich, with David Cubberley running for Mayor and Harald Wolf and Rob Wickson running for council; in Victoria with four fresh new faces; and in Oak Bay, with Nils Jensen running for Mayor.

Outside Victoria:

Gabriola Island Trustee: Maggie Mooney

RD Nanaimo Area A: Laurie Gourlay

CVRD Area D: Lori Iannidinardo

Duncan: Phil Kent (Mayor), Judy Stafford, Michelle Staples

North Pender Islands Trust: Gary Steeves, Ken Hancock

Salt Spring CRD: Leslie Wallace

Victoria: There are at least twelve good candidates for eight places - what is one to do? So it’s thumbs up to four incumbents and four newcomers. Dean Fortin (Mayor), Philippe Lucas, John Luton, Chris Coleman, Geoff Young, Lisa Helps, Shellie Gudgeon, Ben Issit, Rose Henry.

Saanich: David Cubberley (Mayor), Judy Brownoff, Vic Derman, Harald Wolf, Dean Murdock, Vicki Sanders, Rob Wickson, Paul Gerrard.

Oak Bay: Nils Jensen (Mayor), Michelle Kirby, Tara Ney, Pam Copley, Cairine Green.

Central Saanich: Christopher Graham (Mayor), Zeb King, Sue Stroud, Adam Olsen, Robert Thompson.

North Saanich: Jack Thornburgh, Elsie McMurphy.

Sooke: David Bennett (Mayor), Maja Tait, Sheila Beech, Ron Dumont, Shauna Salsman, Moonfist-Myke Colbert.

Colwood: Judith Cullington.

Langford: Lillian Szpak.

Highlands: The existing council is being re-elected by acclamation, which is considered very good green news.

School District #61 (Victoria): Bev Horsman, Catherine Alpha, Peg Orcherton, John Young.



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THE RIGHT LIVELIHOOD AWARD

From the local to the global! The Right Livelihood Award were established in 1980 to honour individuals who offer practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges we face, and for outstanding vision and work on behalf of our planet and its people. It has become known as the Alternative Nobel Prize, and is presented every year at a ceremony in the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm, with the 150,000 Euros prize money going to the winners’ ongoing work. See www.rightlivelihood.org

So who are this year’s the Award Winners? They are the Nobel Prize winners of the global sustainability movement…


Huang Ming is a visionary entrepreneur who set up the Solar Valley in Dezhou in northwest Shandong as a realistic alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear energy. He was instrumental in getting China’s Feed-In Tariff passed in 2005, opening the door to a massive acceleration of renewable energy, and he established and runs Himin Solar (above) in Dezhou’s Solar Valley, one of the world’s largest solar city development projects, which receives 1500-4000 visitors a day - and yet he worries that we are just not substituting fossil fuels with renewables fast enough. See www.himinsun.com

Jacqueline Moudeina is a lawyer who works fearlessly to bring the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré to justice, and to ensure that those who committed crimes do not go unpunished. She works on a wide range of human rights issues in Chad, with a commitment to justice as prerequisite for reconciliation. In 2001, she narrowly escaped with her life when the police threw a grenade and shot at her. See www.bit.ly/Moudeina

GRAIN works to help small farmers in their struggle for community-controlled, biodiversity-based food systems. They are a key player in the global movement to challenge corporate power and promote food sovereignty, and have been at the centre of denouncing the rapidly accelerating land grabs, such as the proposed 325,000 hectare land grab in Tanzania by AgriSol, an Iowa investor which wants to develop industrial-style agriculture using Monsanto’s biotechnology, which will cause the eviction of the current residents and threatens the livelihoods of 160,000 people, all in the name of turning Tanzania into a clone of Iowa. www.grain.orgwww.farmlandgrab.org

Ina May Gaskin is a role model for midwives all over the world who want to do more humane obstetrics, giving women the chance to choose how they give birth and feed their babies in the way that feels right to them. Among many other things, she founded the Safe Motherhood Quilt Project. www.rememberthemothers.net and www.inamay.com



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OUR SOLAR FUTURE

I recently gave a detailed talk on Our Solar Future at Camosun College, and you can view my whole presentation at www.slideshare.net/GuyDauncey.



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ELECTRIC BIKES

More enthralling data about the world-changing impact of electric bikes from ETRA, which lobbies for European cycling friendly transport policies:

* Dutch bike commuters travel an average 6.3 km to work. With an electric bike, that increases to 9.8 km.

* For trips up to 4 km, 50% of Dutch people use a bike. With an electric bike, that increases to 6 km.

* 25% of Dutch commuters go to work by bike. 33% of commuters live 5 to 15 km from their work, so electric bikes could increase bike-commuting.

* A Swiss Ministry of Public Health study found that each electric bike sold saved $2,500 in medical costs due to the health benefits of cycling.

* The German Post Office uses 8,000 electric bikes; Britain’s Royal Mail is buying 14,000. Canada Post…??


ACTION OF THE MONTH

THE ROBIN HOOD TAX

The Robin Hood Tax, also known as the Financial Transactions Tax…. oh, why bother explaining when you can learn in a hilarious three minutes by watching The Bankers Tax video at www.robinhoodtax.org?

At the G20 Summit this November 3-4th in Cannes, France, world leaders have a chance do something good for the world by introducing a Robin Hood Tax. It would give billions to the needy and help slow down the casino banking that got us into this mess. Dozens of governments are already on board.

Action: Tell Canada’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to take a stand that will be admired worldwide. Tell him now (before Nov 3-4th) to put the people before the banks, and vote for the tax. 

Write to: The Hon. Jim Flaherty MP
jim.flaherty@parl.gc.ca
613-992-6344
House of Commons, Ottawa K1A 0A6

- Guy Dauncey


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guydauncey@earthfuture.com

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