EcoNews
Newsletter #221 - February 2012
Promoting the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island
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The 2012 Seed Catalogue is now online.

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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

OIL – THE QUEST FOR A SOLUTION

Feb. 1st, 2012

The one supposedly killer argument that is used to defend the extraction of bitumen from under Alberta’s boreal forest is that we depend on the oil, and our global civilization would collapse without it.

“Don’t you use oil to drive to your meetings and fly to your conferences?” defenders of the tar sands ask.

The rational response is to admit that yes, we do, but the tar-sands produce some of the world’s dirtiest oil, and we urgently need to redesign the world so that we don’t need it, whether it goes to China or Houston, Texas.

Out of the 87 million barrels of oil that the world burns every day, the tar sands contribute 1.5 million barrels, but compared to conventional oil its extraction process produces 300% more greenhouse gases per barrel, while eliminating the boreal forest above it and polluting the Athabaska River with toxic chemicals.

Could we plan for an organized phase-out of oil? We must, since oil’s carbon emissions are contributing to the slow disaster that is global warming, and even the most avid oil-junkies know that global oil production will soon peak, if it has not already done so, and then start becoming tight.

Far from expanding production, we should be planning an annual reduction as we make an organized transition to a green, sustainable world.

In North America, 40% of the oil is used for cars and light trucks, and last month’s EcoNews showed how we could reduce this by 99% by embracing cycling, transit, rail and lightweight electric and hybrid electric vehicles.

Finding a substitute for the 28% of the oil that is used in trucks, boats and planes is a much tougher challenge.

100,000 civil ships roam the Earth’s oceans, burning 3.8 million barrels of oil a day (4.4% of the total). Tonne for tonne, shipping is 2.5 times more efficient than rail, eight times more efficient than trucking.

By simply slowing from 23.5 to 20 knots, ships can reduce their use of oil by 25%. Ship owners can save 20% by using Ecospeed, a non-toxic coating, combined with regular underwater cleaning. Annual underwater polishing of the propeller saves 2%. For ships cruising at 10 knots, the addition of SkySailscuts the use of oil by 20%.

These improvements could cut future oil-use by 62%, but if global growth projections for 2050 pan out, there would still be a demand for 4 million barrels a day.

There are ships on the design board that use hull-skins to reduce water-friction and fixed wing solar sails, but they will all need some kind of liquid biofuel or green hydrogen.

Flying uses five million barrels a day, but here too any efficiency improvements will be eaten up by the assumed growth in demand, unless a carbon tax could act as a brake on demand by making oil more expensive.

One calculation found that if the fuel for flying was biofuel made from algae you’d only need 66,000 sq. km., or 0.13% of the world’s farm and pastureland – but that’s only if algae farming can be made to work on a large scale, which no-one has done yet.

Globally, there is a very active search going on for advanced drop-in cellulose fuels, and designer enzymes that can turn wastes or seaweed into biofuel. Big money is being invested to find new sources of hopefully sustainable fuel.

The solutions for trucking may be easier. In Amory Lovins’ great new book Re-inventing Fire – Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era, he and his colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Institute show that various improvements in design and operations, could reduce trucking’s use of oil by 60% below the projected demand for 2050.

48% of North American’s railway capacity is used to transport coal, so when we cease burning coal that will become available, and railways can also be electrified using renewable energy. If we are willing to think adventurously, freight could be shipped in high speed solar-electric tubes, shuttling between cities at 500 kph instead of clogging up the roads on trucks. We could ship the goods by pipeline, instead of the oil.

For all of our shipping, we could reduce our fuel need if we grew much more food locally, and engaged in more local manufacturing.

If we were to approach the crisis rationally, we would agree on a global oil depletion treaty to reduce global oil production each year, and use the income from a carbon tax to accelerate the shift to sustainable energy.

We’ve done it before, when we faced another emergency. At the start of World War II, the Detroit auto-industry retooled to make tanks and planes in just six months, and Canada achieved similar miracles. But that is when we had a national consensus.

Lacking that ability, we are forced to tackle the problem from the bottom up, as our ancestors did when they struggled to end slavery, and win civil rights, and the vote for women.

Oil makes good money for many people. Slavery made good money for many people too, but that did not make it right. Sustainable energy can also make good money. Will we risk our children’s and our planet’s future for the sake of some quick cash? Many people, all over Canada, are saying no.

- Guy Dauncey

THE ECO-PERSONALS

$5 a line. Max 5 lines, non-profits, low-income free. 1” box ad $50
  • Oak & Fern Nature-based counseling. RaineyHopewell.ca 250-380-5055.
Eco-Stories

CANADA’S BATTERY HENS

We keep chickens for their eggs, and we know how they love to scratch around, laze in the sun, and flutter a dust-bath. Their social relationships are a matter of great importance, with friendships among some and chasing by others to enforce the all-important pecking order.

So now remind yourself, viscerally and with your full imagination, that less than 5% of Canadian eggs come from free-range farms. Some 22 million egg-laying hens live in battery cages for all their lives, packed five to a cage 16” by 18” where they constantly push up against the wire and have no chance to stretch their wings, hardly more than half the size of a piece of paper per bird, for all their lives.

On January 1st the last battery hen cage in Europe was shut down, though there are some illegal hold-outs. Switzerland banned the use of battery cages back in 1992, and California will do so in 2015.

Canada has no such ban, and it’s not even on the table, but each year each province’s marketing board decides what share of their chickens will be cage-free. Knowing this, the Vancouver Humane Society created a campaign to persuade college campuses to use only free-range eggs, and Langara College, BCIT, UBC, UNBC, UVic and SFU all signed up. They also have a campaign for cities to end the purchase of eggs from caged birds for city-run facilities, to which 15 communities have signed up, including Victoria. As a result of these efforts, the proportion of cage-free chickens in BC has risen from 2% in 2002 to 12% in 2011, and hopefully to 15% this year. The goal should be 100%.

The Humane Society’s Chicken Out campaign also wants labeling to allow consumers to make educated choices. The Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals wants a legislated ban on battery cages, but the government committee considering improvements won’t even allow them to sit at the table. A 2009 poll showed that 63% of Canadians support such a ban, 69% in BC. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the 26% who oppose the idea. They actually want this horrible kind of cruelty?

For follow-up, see www.chickenout.ca
www.cetfa.com,
www.humanefood.ca/battery.html,
www.choosecagefree.ca,
www.choosecagefree.ca/news/ccf_infographic.html


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HAPPY HAT BIRTHDAY

To us locals, HAT stands for the Habitat Acquisition Trust, an offshoot of the Victoria Natural History Society that has just celebrated its 15th birthday. Thanks to the efforts of the volunteers and staff who sustain it, HAT protects more than 1600 hectares of natural ecosystems in the Capital Region, including the Ayum Estuary in Sooke, the Matson Conservation Area along the Westsong walkway (the last Garry Oak meadow on the Inner Harbour) and Brooks Point on South Pender. Thanks to the efforts of HAT and many others, the Sea-to-Sea Green-Blue Belt is now 90% protected, covering more than 130 square kilometres. HAT has also helped more than 350 householders find ways to make their yards more nature-friendly Yea - HAT! Here’s to another 15 years. To become a member or a volunteer, see www.hat.bc.ca



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LOCAL or CORPORATE RULE?

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the city council voted in November 2010 by 5-4 to adopt a community bill of rights that bans corporations from drilling natural gas within the city limits, putting the rights of people, the community and nature above those of corporations.

In Northern California, the 3,500 citizens of Mt. Shasta are proposing an extraordinary ordinance which would prohibit outside corporations from bulk water extraction and corporate cloud seeding, assert the rights of residents over those of corporations, and recognize the rights of nature to exist, flourish and evolve.

In Spokane, a group called Envision Spokane put a Bill of Rights on the ballot asserting the right to neighborhood control over significant development projects, the right to constitutional rights and collective bargaining in the workplace, the right of the Spokane River and aquifer to exist and flourish, and the right to elevate community rights above those of corporations. At the vote in November 2011 it won 49% of the vote, and its organizers say they’ll be back. See www.envisionspokane.org

Since 1998, 125 municipalities have passed ordinances that place their citizens’ rights ahead of corporate interests. How far might this go? In Pennsylvania, anger about natural gas fracking is prompting people to organize at the state level, helped by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which organizes a Democracy School where citizens learn what is possible. There is one coming up in Bellingham, WA on February 3/4th. Call Naomi Bunis 360-933-4529. www.celdf.org



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YEA for FOCUS MAGAZINE!

The Victoria Times Colonist is sadly missing in action when it comes to thoughtful detailed coverage of important local issues, and Monday Magazine often merits the same judgment. This cannot be said of FOCUS Magazine. The January 2012 issue contains lengthy articles by Victoria writers including Ross Crockford, Rob Wipond, Gene Miller and Briony Penn on local commuter rail, community investment, light rail transit, the First Nations crisis, and the crisis of the bees, as well as great coverage of local arts and culture. So look out for an issue! It’s at a host of locations, and at www.focusonline.ca



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SEEDY SATURDAY

The first Seedy Saturday happened in Vancouver, about 20 years ago, in around 1991 Carolyn Herriot brought the event to Victoria. In those days it was very small. Now it has blossomed to a huge annual celebration of seeds, gardening, food, and everything organic, local and green. The Seedy Saturday season kicked off on Denman Island on January 28th, and Qualicum on February 4th, Salt Spring on February 11th, and Victoria on February 18th, in the Conference Centre on Douglas Street If you’ve not been before, you’ll be blown away by how much energy people have for this.

There are 13 speakers, Master Gardeners, The Seedy Café, the Community Seed Exchange, and people galore. See – see http://jamesbaymarket.com/SeedySaturday/. For the full inventory of Seedy Saturdays across Canada, see http://www.seeds.ca/ev/events.php



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WAKAN TANKA, GREAT SPIRIT

Over on Salt Spring Island, a small group of people with The Institute for Sustainability Education and Action are working hard to produce a not for profit film that might help make this planet a better place for all of us.

Called Wakan Tanka, meaning ‘Great Spirit’ in the Lakota language, it is a hybrid documentary/music video with a fantastic cast and soundtrack. It is the film makers’ hope that young people who see the film will be motivated to learn how to live more sustainably while creating a lasting link to their elders, and connecting emotionally to the possible impacts of climate change.

Eco-Elders such as Guy Dauncey, Bristol Foster, Robert Bateman, James Hansen, David Suzuki, Dan Jason, Raffi Cavoukian and many others, including First Nation Elders, contribute their warnings, their dreams and their deep love for the Earth and their grandchildren. 

For information on the film, and to see the unique promo videos, see www.wakantankafilm.com. To date, the film has been financed entirely through donations, and it will be launched for free online. The project is entering the final phase of production, and charitable tax donations are really appreciated. Margery Moore, sustain@saltspring.comand Patti Bauer,  theblueraven@shaw.ca or Patti.bauer@substantialfilms.co.uk.



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OBESOGENS

We’ve all got an opinion on the surge of obesity, whether we judge it or wish it were happening to someone else. In 2008, 34% of Americans, 30% of Mexicans, 25% of the British, 24% of Canadians, 10% of Italians and 3% of Japanese were obese. Globally, more than 1 in 10 of the adult population is obese and 33% of the world’s children are overweight. See www.hivehealthmedia.com/world-obesity-stats-2010.

For years, the general understanding has been that it was being caused by too much junk food and not enough exercise. That remains true, but it is only two parts of a sinister three-part story. For the third part get used to a new word: obesogens, chemicals that cause obesity. A study in 2006 by the Harvard School of Public Health found that the prevalence of obesity among babies had risen by 73% since 1980. Among babies? They don’t even know what a remote control or a grunge-burger is. So what’s going on? In 2002, a Scottish doctor, Paula Baillie-Hamilton, started wondering why it was so hard to lose weight, and observed that global obesity rates had risen in lockstep with the use of chemicals such as pesticides and plasticizers over the previous 40 years.

At the same time, a team of Japanese scientists found that Bisphenol A, used in a variety of things including the plastic lining of baby bottles and canned food, causes certain precursor cells to become fat cells, and stimulates the proliferation of existing fat cells. In 2006, scientist Bruce Bloomberg from the University of California, Irvine, found that a common disinfectant, when fed to pregnant mice, caused their babies to have a 5-20% chance of becoming obese. What does all this point to? When developing babies are exposed to these obesogenic chemicals, their bodies are programmed to produce more fat cells – and the more fat cells you have, the more places there are where fat can be stored when you eat too much or don’t exercise enough. In other words, if your body was obesogenized during pregnancy or early childhood, you’re going to have to work twice as hard to keep the fat off. (Google says the word obesogenized has never been used before). Even among genetically identical mice, reaction to the obesogens varies – the slightest change in dose or timing can make a difference.

Canada has banned the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in baby’s bottles, but it’s still in widespread use. Tests done by the federal government found that 91% of Canadian children and adults have BPA in their bodies. Environmental Defense is working to extend the ban to cover all food and beverage containers, and other common sources such as cash register receipts. See www.environmentaldefence.ca

The price of obesity on our health and our collective purse is enormous. We need to take to our rooftops and shout, “Keep the obesogens out of our babies’ bodies!”For a recent CBC The Nature of Things which covered the matter, see https://bitly.com/A2E3m. See also www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obesogen



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NATURAL GAS - CAN IT BE WORSE THAN COAL?

After all the talk of natural gas being ‘clean’, and even ‘the bridge to a renewable energy future’, there is alarming new science which shows that at least for shale gas, which is released by fracking – injecting water mixed with toxic chemicals into the ground and hoping it doesn’t re-emerge in the groundwater – it is worse than coal as a cause of global warming.

The reason is that as well as the carbon dioxide that’s produced when you burn it, the extraction and distribution of natural gas also releases raw methane, and molecule for molecule, over 100 years, methane traps 33 times more heat than CO2.

Over 20 years, which is more meaningful since methane’s life in the atmosphere is ten years, it traps 105 times more heat.

All natural gas loses about 1.5% of its volume as methane, and when measured over 20 years, this makes it about as bad as coal. However, according to new research by scientist Dr. Bob Howarth from Cornell University, shale gas operations may be releasing as much as 5.9% of their volume as methane, making it worse than coal, and a complete disaster from a climate perspective.

Measured using the old 100-year yardstick, the extraction of shale gas in BC’s north-east will release 15 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere a year, increasing BC’s greenhouse gas emissions by 22%.

That’s going to make it really tough to achieve the planned 33% reduction in our emissions by 2020. To accommodate the shale gas and still meet its target, BC would have to reduce its emissions by 55%. If we are not going to close down the shale gas industry, it should at least pay BC’s carbon tax on its greenhouse gases, scaled up to account for methane’s greater impact.

Dr. Bob Howarth gave a recent webinar to the BC Sustainable Energy Association on the Global Warming Impacts of Natural Gas Fracking, which can be viewed at www.vimeo.com/35286645 or www.bcsea.org/past-webinars



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RAINFOREST – THE MOVIE

It’s Victoria FilmFest, and among the goodies is a remarkable film about Vancouver island’s incredible. Rainforest. Richard Boyce, the film-maker, was inspired by Kwaxsistalla, a Kwakwaka’wakw clan chief, to embark on a cinematic journey contrasting the tree-farms that dominate the landscape surrounding his home on Vancouver Island with an ancient rainforest on the Pacific Coast of Canada.

“Vancouver Island has always been my home. My passion for ancient trees inspired me to climb high up into the canopy to document the biodiversity of this incredible ecosystem on the brink of extinction.”

The film explores the forest’s aerial gardens where ecologist Dr. Zoë Lindo leads a team from UVic who discovered more than 125 unique species of insect which only live high in the canopy. Guided by passion and a determination to honor reality, Boyce travels to the most remote corner of Vancouver Island, through some of the most intensive logging on the planet, into a wilderness that is on the brink of extinction. You can catch it on Wednesday February 8th, 9:45pm at Capitol 6.



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ACTION OF THE MONTH

THE ENBRIDGE PIPELINE

You may be thinking that it you were not among the 4,000 people who have asked to speak to the Joint Review Panel about the planned Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, that will carry oil and fuel condensate to and from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat, for shipment by oil tanker through the Great Bear Rainforest coastal waters to China, you’ve missed your chance.

Not so, however. The deadline for written comments is March 12th.

Action: Compose your thoughts, and tell the three Commissioners what you think about this planned project, using the simple instructions on their website http://bit.ly/Pipeline-comments

- Guy Dauncey


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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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