EcoNews
Newsletter #220 - January 2012
Promoting the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island
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Contact EcoNews

Guy Dauncey, Editor
395 Conway Road, Victoria, BC
CANADA V9E 2B9
Tel (250) 881-1304
www.earthfuture.com

Executive director
The Solutions Project

Editorial

TRANSPORTATION, THE 99% SOLUTION

Jan. 1st, 2012

A new year is with us, and a great transformation is underway as we learn how to live on Earth with far less ecological impact.

The transformation is happening in many areas, but let’s pick personal transport, cars and light trucks, to see what we can do. By how much could we reduce our ecological impact?

In 2010, Canadians used 40 billion litres of gasoline in their road motor vehicles. Each litre produces 2.34 kg of carbon dioxide when burnt, so that’s 94 million tonnes of fresh carbon dioxide trapping heat in the atmosphere every year - a quarter of which will remain there for over 500 years. Long after we are gone, and only a fragment of cyber-memory remains of our lives, a quarter of the CO2 from the gasoline we burn today will still be warming the atmosphere, offending our ancestors twenty generations down.

So here’s how we can fix it, to prevent the damage from climate change from getting any worse.

In Step One, we shift 20% of our trips to bicycles and electric bikes, supported by safe bicycle lanes and city bike-sharing programs. In Amsterdam, Holland, 55% of all trips under 7.5 kilometres by done bike, winter and all, so 20% seems reasonable. As a bonus, we get fit, have lower health care costs, and according to the evidence, our cycling kids will be happier. This will reduce our carbon burden to 75 million tonnes.

In Step Two we also shift 20% of our original trips to public transit, rail and light rail transit, assisted by a big investment in LRT and fast-charging electric buses, electronic timetables for every transit stop and smart phone, cheaper fares, comfortable bus shelters and more frequent buses. This reduces the carbon burden to 55 million tonnes.

In Step Three we shift 10% of the remaining trips to ridesharing, using online and real-time ride-sharing tools. This reduces our carbon burden to 50 million tonnes.

In Step Four we shift 50% of our vehicles to electric drive, using renewable energy from hydro, wind, solar and geothermal power. If we were to shift all our vehicles to electric drive, the change would only create an 8% to 15% increase in power demand, which we could produce by making our buildings more efficient. Electric cars are coming onto the market now, and their price will decline as demand and production rises. Their ranges vary from 100 to 200 km, which will increase as batteries improve. The use of feebates could help drive the price down, with fees on the least efficient cars being applied as rebates to the most efficient ones. This will reduce the annual carbon burden to 25 million tonnes.

In Step Five we shift the remaining cars and light trucks to hybrids such as the GM Volt that combine electric drive with fuel capacity. Since 80% of our average daily driving is within range of the battery, the hybrids bring us an 80% reduction in our remaining burden, reducing it to 5 million tonnes.

We’re not done yet, however, for Step Six brings light-weighting - the use of integrated design and carbon fibre to cut the weight of a car by 50% without any loss in strength or safety. This is already underway, as auto-companies seek to make their cars more efficient. A 50% weight reduction brings 50% fuel use reduction, cutting our carbon burden to 2.5 million tonnes. That’s a 97% reduction from our original 94 million tonne carbon footprint.

In terms of liquid fuel, the 40 billion litres we use today is reduced to 1.2 billion litres, which could be provided by biogas, biofuel from wastes or hydrogen. When fast charging for electric vehicles reaches the point when it takes no more than 20 minutes after a 200 km drive, we could dispense with most hybrids, eliminating 99% of the need for liquid fuel.

The cars will still have to be made, however, carries its own ecological cost. The average car is only used for 4 to 8% of the time. With peer-to-peer carsharing, which is happening in San Francisco, vehicle owners are using smart car-sharing technology to put their own cars into the pool, earning up to $300 a month. If car-shared vehicles are used for 30% of the time this would allow for a four-fold reduction in the number of vehicles needed on a street, while still enabling residents to get where they need to go.

We’ll still need roads, and cars will still squash birds, snakes and frogs, so it may not be a 99% reduction in the full ecological impact of personal driving. But it will remove all the associated air pollution and most of the noise associated with cars.

To make all this happen, we will need a variety of policy and tax shifts, and an integrated effort by activists, city councils, transport planners, and provincial and federal politicians. The pay-off will be enormous, however - to unhook ourselves from our dependency on oil, while eliminating air pollution and our carbon burden.

It IS possible. And we are the ones who must prove it so. So let’s spend our energy on creating a desirable future, and spend less time worrying about a fearful one.

Guy Dauncey

THE ECO-PERSONALS

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Eco-Stories

WHAT’S MISSING?

Victoria is blessed with an abundance of environmental groups which work on a wide range of issues, and make no mistake, they make things happen. But conversely, when they are absent, it’s much harder to make change happen. At the local level, we need three things to change the world: (1) a progressive majority on city council; (2) supportive staff at City Hall; and (3) a well-organized non-profit citizens’ organization which can do original work, put pressure on the council, and support them when the going gets hot. So as we begin the New Year, it’s good to note what’s missing, in case anyone feels inspired to make something happen.

ZERO WASTE VICTORIA?

First, we don’t have any group that is focused on reducing our ecological footprint and achieving zero waste. Our Region’s goal is for 60% of our solid waste to be diverted from the landfill by 2013, 70% by 2015 and 90% by 2020.

In reality, our recycling/diversion fell from 42% in 1998 to 32% in 2007, and then climbed back up to 43% in 2010, using the 1989 total waste per person baseline number of 671 kg per year. The CRD’s Solid Waste Management Team does a great job with a host of initiatives, but can they jump from 43% (maybe 45% in 2011) to 60% by the end of next year?

Almost certainly not, unless we put our shoulder to the wheel by forming an active, passionate group. Does anyone feel motivated to create Zero Waste Victoria?

GREEN TRANSPORT VICTORIA?

Secondly, we don’t have an effective group that is focused on transportation planning as a whole, including walking, cycling, transit, LRT, rail, bike-sharing, car-sharing, smart land-use planning, electric vehicles, and all the other components of a zero carbon future.

We have some of the pieces in the form of the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition, the Victoria Car Share Coop, and Island Transformations, but there’s a conspicuous absence of a citizens’ organization that can tie the pieces together and drive the action. Anyone feel inspired to speak to the existing groups, and see what’s possible?

GREEN LEADERS VICTORIA?

Thirdly, I have felt for years that we lack a support and encouragement group for up and coming young green leaders who have an idea but who lack the support, the skills or the connections needed to make it happen. Does anyone feel inspired to organize and lead a monthly group, to see what happens?



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INVESTING IN LOCAL CHANGE

The economy is …. well, where is it? Disappearing into fat cat bonuses? Being invested in the tar sands? Transition Victoria has teamed up with Vancity and Focus Magazine to put on an exciting evening at the Ambrosia Centre about investing your money in local sustainable, ethical businesses that are building a more self-reliant economy. Wow. That’s exactly what’s needed. On Tuesday January 31st they’ve assembled a team of six people who will be informing and inspiring us as to the possibilities. Diary. Pen. Write. transitionvictoria.ning.com/events



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PENDER ISLANDS TRANSITION

They’re two small islands with just 2500 people who live there, but they’ve got a lot happening, including the Farmland Project, Moving Around Pender, the non-profit Recycling Depot, Restorative Justice, the School Nut Tree Project, a new Community Protein and Starch Growing Project, an Energy Research Project, the Farmers Institute with its Farmers’ Market and Fall Fair, the Conservancy Association, the Pender Choir, the Quilt Makers, the Folk Dancers, the New Year’s Lantern Festival - and I’m sure a lot more.

On January 31st Pender Community Transition is holding an Open Pender Organization Conversation for anyone who cares about their community becoming more resilient, connected and Earth-friendly, to discuss how they can combine and cooperate. Imagine if this much activity was happening in each of Greater Victoria’s many neighbourhoods. See www.pendercommunitytransition.ca.



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THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING

As the Occupy Movement takes time out to re-morph and re-organize, YES! Magazine from Bainbridge Island, just across the water, has scrambled to produce a great little book called This Changes Everything - Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement.

The movement named the core issue of our time as the overwhelming power of Wall Street and the large corporations, and the book takes us into the heart of the new movement with contributions from Naomi Klein, David Korten, Ralph Nader and activists who were there from the beginning. It is a great source of thoughtful inspiration, and editor Sarah van Gelder’s essay at the start is maybe the best of all. “The system is broken in so many ways that it’s dizzying to try to name them all.”

Make no mistake, this urgent dialogue, fused with the need to remake our world so that our activities harmonize with Nature will be the defining debate of the coming decade. The book is American, and demonstrates the best of American courage and character, even as the pride of empire dishevels itself into the pandemonium of inequity and anger. It’s just $6.95 from YES Magazine, or $25 for a package of five, and all royalties go to the Occupy Wall Street movement. www.yesmagazine.org



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PROTECT O.U.R. ECOVILLAGE

O.U.R. EcoVillage in Shawnigan Lake has been demonstrating, teaching and inspiring the arts of sustainability for twelve years. During 2011, over ten thousand people passed through to visit, work or learn. They have taken a 25 acre farm, and shown how the land can be protected from subdivision while making a transformative difference in the world.

To achieve this, however, the founder had to take out a  personal residential mortgage to hold the ecovillage lands in trust for the project, as the only means available at the time. This mortgage is now up for renewal, and the Ecovillage aspires to a new model of syndicated community-ownership in keeping with its ideals. To the conventional mortgage world, O.U.R Ecovillage is a very square peg that simply won’t fit into their ready-made round holes.

There is some urgency around the problem, since the  private mortgage expires on March 1st, 2011, and if a solution is not in place by then they’ll be forced to sell the land. To solve the problem, an invitation is going out to anyone who supports O.U.R.  Ecovillage to make a charitable tax-deductible donation to help buy down the mortgage, channeled through The Land Conservancy, or to redirect an RRSP or cash investment into a new syndicated Ethical Investment Mortgage administered by Concentra Financial, which provides financial intermediation and trust solutions to credit unions across Canada. The property appraisal is high, so it looks set to be a very low risk mortgage. 

Over the years, they have developed a new legal structure designed specifically for cooperative and community ownership, so if the new mortgage works out, it will be a powerful model for other non-profits and community organizations.

You can make a donation on-line at www.ourecovillage.org. To become an RRSP partner in the new mortgage, contact protect@ourecvillage.org or 250-743-3067. At the time of writing, they had raised $170,000 towards the goal of $400,000, and they’re working seven days a week to make it happen. If you want to visit, there’s a public tour on February 4th or you can call for a personalized tour.



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ORGANIC FARMING IS MORE PROFITABLE

Yes - repeat those five words over and over, so that they are firmly imprinted in your brain ready for the next time you have a debate with a conservative believer in conventional farming, chemicals and all.

More profitable. And that’s in addition to restoring healthy soil, restoring wildlife, requiring much less energy, storing carbon in the soil, providing the vital nutrients that we need for our health, ending nitrogen-run-off pollution, and removing the cancer dangers that have been linked to farmland chemicals.

And oh, did I mention the equal or better yields? How many times have you heard someone declare that if the whole world went organic we’d have to tear down the rainforests because the yields are so much lower? Well, it’s simply not true.

In the heart of America’s farmland, Iowa State University’s Long-Term Agro-ecological Research Experiment has been raising side-by-side corn, soybeans and oats for 13 years, and they have found that the organic yields are equal or slightly better than their chemically-raised counterparts. Their 12 year study for alfalfa and their 8 year study for wheat show similar results.

And when the day is done, and the dollars are added up, the organic crops earn $200 an acre a year more than the conventional crops. Tell that to your skeptical friends and watch their brain-cells adjust to the new reality.

The Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania has conducted a similar 30-year study and come to similar conclusions, plus the bonus that in drought years, organic yields are 31% higher than from conventional farming. The genetically modified drought-tolerant varieties increased their yields by only 6 to 13%. Yea, organic!

Rodale’s 30-year income comparisons are even better. They show an average net return of $558 per acre per year for organic farming, compared to $190 for conventional - that’s a 300% higher income. How long will conventional farmers be able to resist the lure of more income? Organic wheat was the most profitable at $835 an acre. No-till conventional corn was the least, earning a miserable $27 an acre.

The first three years are the most difficult for organic growers, before the land has been certified organic, but even during these years, their yields remain competitive.

And here’s another added bonus - a UN study shows that organic farms create 30% more jobs per acre. The organic farmer’s money is creating jobs, rather than buying chemicals.

The remaining problem is the huge farming subsidies that chemical farming receives in the US. Correcting this imbalance is now a high priority for US farm activists.



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ACTION OF THE MONTH: CLIMATE CHANGE CAUSES EXTREME WEATHER

If there’s one prediction that’s tragically safe, it’s that 2012 will bring more extreme storms, floods, droughts and wildfires. The new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on climate change and natural disasters, authored by 220 scientists from 62 countries, found that it’s 99% certain that hot days have become more common; 66% likely that climate change has caused more heatwaves, intense rainstorms and extreme high tides; 90% certain that heatwaves will get worse; and 66% likely that hurricanes, intense rain and landslides will increase.

Action: Write to Premier Christy Clark, and urge her to make action on climate solutions a top priority. As well as everything else, the new findings have worrying implications for provincial and municipal insurance, which is often where the bills end up.

Premier of British Columbia
mailto:premier@gov.bc.ca
Box 9041, Station Prov Gov, Victoria V8W 9E1 tel:250-387-1715

- Guy Dauncey


The Wonderful World of Web

Some noteworthy sites that have passed my way

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Guy Dauncey, Editor
395 Conway Road, Victoria, BC
CANADA V9E 2B9
Tel (250) 881-1304
guydauncey@earthfuture.com

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