EcoNews
Newsletter #228 - October 2012
Promoting the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island
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Guy Dauncey, Editor
395 Conway Road, Victoria, BC
CANADA V9E 2B9
Tel (250) 881-1304
www.earthfuture.com

Executive director
The Solutions Project

Editorial

ABOUT THAT PIPELINE...

Oct 1st, 2012

Are you upset by Enbridge’s plans to build a pipeline from Alberta’s tar sands, crossing BC’s mountains, forests, rivers and ocean waters, to ship the oil to China?

Enbridge says “no problem” when it comes to the risk of a pipeline rupture, but there were 804 spills on Enbridge pipelines between 1999 and 2010.

Enbridge won’t even own the pipeline. That has been handed to a limited partnership called the Northern Gateway Pipelines Limited Partnership, seemingly with the goal of limiting liability in the event of a spill. The Enbridge spill at Kalamazoo, Michigan, cost $765 million to clean up.

Once the diluted bitumen arrives at Kitimat it will be shipped through waters that are exposed to extremely challenging winter weather conditions with low visibility and high winds. As many as five tankers a week will cross these waters, including possible supertankers, 300 metres long.

This is not gasoline that floats on the surface and then evaporates. This is diluted bitumen, which will sink to the bottom and remain there leaching into the seabed, unless there are submarines to go down and gather it up.

Once Enbridge has delivered the oil to whoever owns the tanker (think Panama or Liberia) it will not be responsible for any oil-spill clean up. The ship’s owner’s liability is capped at $140 million, and while Canada belongs to an international fund that can cover costs up to $1.33 billion, it cost $3.5 billion to clean up after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Estimates for BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico run as high as $100 billion, and Exxon played every dirty trick in the book to delay and avoid paying.

Because of all this, the Coastal First Nations have banned crude oil supertankers from the north coast, and other First Nations have signed a declaration banning the pipeline from their territories in the Fraser River watershed, banning oil tankers from the ocean migration routes of the Fraser River salmon.

Maybe it’s the whole concept of the Alberta tar sands that bothers you, the notion of ripping up the boreal forest, evicting or killing the creatures that live there, in order to keep our oil-addicted lifestyle going for a few more years.

How much longer can we keep it up? How much more of Nature are we willing to sacrifice just so that we, homo shortsighticus, can continue overconsuming, far beyond the biocapacity of the planet to support us?

When we - or the Chinese - burn the oil, where do we think the carbon goes? Into the atmosphere. There’s a reason why the Arctic ice is melting so fast. All that carbon from ancient marine organisms traps heat, and as the heat increases the ice melts. The polar jet stream is disrupted, and global weather patterns go crazy. If you think you understand climate change, but you have not yet experienced a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, you don’t understand climate change.

The oil is going to run out soon anyway. We can continue drilling into the last oilfields under the Boreal forest, under the Arctic, under the Gulf of Mexico, all the time pouring carbon into the atmosphere, but for what?

A clean, green sustainable future without oil is not only possible – it is both essential and desirable. Repeat twenty times.

We are good at innovating. We are good at change. Only a hundred and fifty years ago most transport was by foot or by horse and buggy, and look at us today, zipping around in cars and planes and Skyping our way through global meetings.

Progress towards a green economy is happening, but think how much faster it could happen it there was a proper price on carbon, if the fossil fuel subsidies were removed, and if there were specific policies in place designed to move us to oil-free transport and a low-carbon world.

The pipeline represents everything that is wrong with our world, from the disrespect for Nature to the belief that we can keep on burning ancient carbon without harm to the planet, from the mandatory selfishness that often underlies corporate activity to the corruption of democracy by big oil.

Enbridge believes it can sweet-talk us into ignoring all this by emphasizing how much money BC can earn and how many jobs will be created, without so much as a nod to the real concerns.

What motivates the many who are opposing the pipeline – and the Kinder Morgan pipeline to Vancouver – is far deeper than can be bought off with a few more jobs or dollars or a refinery in Kitimat. It is our whole future on Earth that people are concerned about, and the future of our children.

On Monday October 22nd a major sit-in is being organized in Victoria to oppose the pipelines, the tankers and the threats they pose to the west coast, supported by leaders from the business, First Nations, environmental, labour, academic, medical and artistic communities. If you plan on participating in the anticipated civil disobedience there’s a mandatory training session on Sunday October 21st. See www.defendourcoast.ca.

- Guy Dauncey

Thanks to the Vancouver Observer, Living Oceans, Adrian Raeside, West Coast Environmental Law, Robyn Allan and the Polaris Institute.

 


 

THE ECO-PERSONALS

$5 a line. Max 5 lines, non-profits, low-income free. 1” box ad $50
  • Green fingers? Volunteers wanted at Spring Ridge Commons, Fernwood  http://springridgecommons.ca

  • Can you help Parks Canada restore the Garry oak ecosystem at beautiful Fort Rodd Hill by removing invasive plants and helping in the native plant nursery, with a friendly team of co-op students? frh.volunteer@pc.gc.ca

  • Are you an avid gardener or keen to become one? Join our Lifecycles Growing Schools team. Training on organic gardening, workshop facilitation, pollination, to deliver schools workshops. growingschools@lifecyclesproject.ca
Eco-Stories

A SEA OF WASTE

I often say that everyone should pay at least one visit to their local landfill to realize first-hand the enormity of our consumer wastefulness. When I first arrived in Victoria in 1989 there was a raging debate going on about the need to drain Heal Lake in the Highlands, to fill it with garbage. The lake was drained, and it is now part of the landfill.

That was the last unrecycled straw, and the CRD began a serious commitment to recycling. The 1989 Solid Waste Plan called for 15% waste diversion by 1998. This was later increased to 50% and the current goal is 70% by 2015, which is the threshold set by the Ministry of Environment before burning garbage (waste-to-energy) can be used as a waste management option.

So how are we doing? Our diversion rate was 6% in 1989 and increased rapidly to 42% by 1998. By 2007 it had slipped back to 32%, but it was back up to 46% in 2011, so we’re doing well. But can we get to 70% by 2015?

The landfill at Hartland Road has been following a whole range of best practices, including capturing the escaping methane gas, which is used to generate electricity. 80 different products are now recyclable, and if you have a question you can call the CRD Hotline at 250-360-3030 or explore the CRD’s special recycling website at www.MyRecyclopedia.ca.

So what’s the biggest component of our garbage? It’s our food wastes, which are 24% of the waste stream. Along with yard wastes and other organic wastes, organic wastes come to 30% of the total waste stream. In Oak Bay and View Royal, where 4,000 residents have been part of a kitchen scraps diversion program, those households are diverting as much as 75% of their wastes from the landfill. A full-region-wide program to collect organic wastes can’t come soon enough, if we’re to hit that 70% target.

But what about the remaining 30%? San Francisco claims a 77% recycling rate. In the 28,000 strong community of Neustadt in southwest Germany, where they recycle 70% of their wastes using a variety of programs and A pay-as-you-throw system that makes recycling pay, they believe that getting beyond 80% would be impossible due to a minority of people who still mix their wastes, and people in high-density housing who have no space for outside storage.

Those are soluble problems, and composite products such as running shoes that are impossible to recycle are only 5% of our waste stream; there’s also a mystery category called “other” which is another 5%. So could we get to 90%? The closer we get to zero waste the weaker is the argument for burning waste and the stronger the argument for extended producer responsibility legislation on every product that is not 100% recyclable, making the manufacturer responsible for its ultimate demise. For the 2011 CRD Report, see www.bit.ly/CRDWaste.



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SEA OTTERS SAVE THE WORLD

OK, so that’s an exaggerated headline, but the sea otters sure do their bit. The North Pacific coastal waters were once full of massive kelp beds twelve times larger than they are today, storing far more carbon. In the undisturbed ecosystem the kelp beds are grazed on by sea urchins, which are grazed on by sea otters, who carry them up to the surface, roll onto their furry backs and use a rock to crack them open before tucking in.

Then in the 1700s along came that exotic two-legged invader species homo killicus, which realized how much money it could make by selling those incredible furry pelts to the Russians. Often compelling local First Nations men to paddle out in canoes to capture them, they reduced the sea otters’ numbers from 150,000–300,000 to as few as 1,000–2,000 in a fraction of their historic range.

The sea otters (not to be confused with river otters) are now gradually returning to their native hunting grounds, after a successful relocation effort from Alaska, and have been spotted as far south as Ucluelet, off Vancouver Island.

So here’s the thing. When the otters get back to crunching down on sea urchins the kelp beds recover, storing twelve times as much carbon as they did when the urchins had no sea otters to worry about.

The data comes from a new study by Chris Wilmers at the University of California, Santo Cruz, whose team calculated that the otters remove at least 0.18 kg of carbon from the atmosphere for every square meter of coastal waters they occupy.

If the otters could be fully restored to their historical range the kelp beds could store 10 million tonnes or more of carbon, worth $700 million on the EU carbon-trading market. So as homo sapiens, if we are to live up to our name, we should do whatever we can to restore the sea otters and undo the damage that our ancestors have done when they acted out of such ignorance and short-sightedness.



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PUBLIC TRANSIT - WHAT FARES?

Every three years BC Transit conducts a review of its fares in the CRD. Since the last review, transit ridership has risen by 5%, but costs have risen by 14%. Fares cover 36% of BC Transit’s income. The rest comes from fuel tax, property taxes and provincial funding.

BC Transit is seeking your thoughts about the next stage of transit prices. The object of the game is to increase ridership while balancing the budget.

So should cash fares rise while the cost of a monthly pass falls? Should there be a single cash fare with no discounts, but a higher discount on monthly passes for seniors and youth? It’s a complicated set of things to think about.

BC Transit has laid out four options it’s considering, which you can find at http://bctransit.com/transitfuture/vicfare_fareoptions.cfm, and there is an on-line survey for transit users at http://fluidsurveys.com/s/victoriafares

According to the option chosen, property taxes rise by 7.4 to 8.4%. Feedback is welcome until November 9th.



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YOUNG PEOPLE AND FARMLAND

In the Alberni Valley there are more than 4,000 hectares of quality Agricultural Land Reserve farmland sitting idle. Nothing is happening on them, except that the forest is slowly returning. Meanwhile, the residents of the region import between 90 and 95% of their food – and yet there are many young people who want to farm, but who can’t dream of finding half a million dollars to buy a farm.

The land is sitting empty because the farmers can’t make it pay – they have to have second job. Of the farmed land in the Alberni Valley, 97% is being used for dairy, livestock or animal feedstock such as hay. Only 3% is being used to grow fruits and vegetables, which is where there’s a strong market. And yet in Victoria, one of the authors of the book All the Dirt – Reflections on Organic Gardening is earning $60,000 a year growing fruit and veggies thanks in part to well-organized marketing.

So back to the question – how can we help young people get onto the land? The Agricultural Land Reserve, introduced by the NDP in 1974, is a great piece of legislation. But maybe it needs an update in time for its 40th anniversary in 2014. If so much ALR land is sitting empty, or only growing hay for (non-agricultural) horses, maybe an adjustment is possible.

In traditional farming regions of the world there is a small farm village every few miles. They are tightly clustered, and they add beauty to the landscape while allowing the farmers to live close to their land, where they need to be. (The photo shows a traditional village in Devon, England).

So here's the proposal. Every farmer owning more than 20 hectares of ALR land is allowed to sell one hectare of the land for the purpose of building a small ecologically designed farm village, owned as a community strata-title, with an additional hectare or more per household for sale or lease for farming purposes. To stop the homes from being bought by commuters, the residents must earn 60% of their annual income from agricultural activity. Self-built cob or straw-bale houses are welcome.

It's a small idea which will require careful thought and design to ensure that it meets its purpose, but once legislated it could unleash a rural renaissance as young organic farmers become pioneers, building their homes and villages and farming the land together, growing the fresh, local wholesome food that people want.



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CLIMATE ACTION TOOLKIT

The CRD, BC Hydro and the Library have got together to offer Climate Action To-Go Kits that can be borrowed free of charge from 10 local libraries. Each kit allows you to measure your household appliance electricity use with a Kill-A-Watt Meter; check for air leaks in walls and around windows using a Thermal Leak Detector; try out an LED light bulb and an efficient showerhead; and learn about local solutions to climate change through films and books. And it’s all free. www.crd.bc.ca/climatechange



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THE SEWAGE QUESTION

When it comes to climate change, we know that we must heed the warnings the climate scientists are giving us. Now a group of UVic ocean scientists is telling us that the planned $800 million sewage treatment plant is not needed, and we’d do much better to stick to the present arrangement and put our efforts into more source control against contaminants.

For several years, Mr Floatie dressed up as a turd and shamed the Victorians and the environmental community into believing that of course we must have sewage treatment. To see what the UVic ocean scientists are saying, see www.stopabadplan.ca and attend the October 3rd meeting (see Green Diary).

ACTION OF THE MONTH

Every month, EcoNews features an Action of the Month that is usually addressed to a politician asking them to do something important.

DEFEND OUR COAST – TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS

This month it’s we ourselves that the Action is directed at. Can you tell all your friends about the Mass Sit-In that’s happening at the Legislature on October 22nd to oppose the tar sands pipelines and tankers, and the threats they pose to our west coast? See www.defendourcoast.ca, where you can also join the pledge-takers.

If a record number of us participate in this historic act of peaceful civil disobedience we can make it clear tat Canada's coast is not for sale! I’ll be there, but not risking arrest since I have a big trip on the Tuesday. If you plan to risk arrest, there’s a mandatory training session on Sunday 21st.

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

Deadline for Nov issue Oct 26th

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