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

Executive director of The Solutions Project

 

 ECONEWS


Newsletter No. 57 - Serving Vancouver Island's Environmental Community - January 1997


A BLIZZARD OF SELF-ORGANIZING NEIGHBOURHOODS

One of the most rewarding aspects of the recent blizzard, while acknowledging the damage and the losses, was the way in which we self-organized ourselves on our streets and in our neighbourhoods. The government wasn't there - and in its place, a natural instinct for mutual self-help emerged.

Good government is essential : at its best, it expresses the same spirit of mutual self-help. When not at its best, (which can be often) it becomes an obstacle to community self-organizing, instead of a support. Bureaucracies become self-important, and begin to think they are "in charge", resenting intrusion by 'the public'. Instead of the experience of "we" which happens at the local level, it becomes an experience of "them".

What would happen if we took self-organization a small step further ? There will be other crises, whether earthquake or flood, food crisis or economic collapse. When a collective crisis really hits, it is at the street and neighbourhood level that we need to respond. It is at this level that we know each other personally, and can reach each other on foot.

For a start, each street or block could create its own Directory, listing its residents by name and phone number, showing the skills, equipment, interests and enthusiasms that we share. In the old days, we would have known all this simply by hanging out on the street. Today, we have to build this knowledge from scratch.

By building a foundation of shared knowledge, and getting to know each other's names and interests, we also get to trust each other (and to know who cannot be trusted). We are building the social web, the primary basis of relationship outside the family. From that web, a thousand things can happen. Without it, a street can be very vulnerable.

In the blizzard, on some streets the web grew quickly, and everyone worked together to clear people's roofs, unblock drains and make sure everyone was ok. On others, not even footpaths were cleared, except to people's own houses. The instinct to work together is there in all of us, but it takes leadership and organizing to bring it out.

This simple thing, working together to help each other, can be the basis of a whole new way of life, transforming communities. We can apply it to growing food together, overcoming poverty, tackling unemployment, local traffic calming, even designing whole new neighbourhood centres, so that we can walk to our local stores and not be trapped in the suburbs, as many were after Christmas. Self-organizing is a huge political principle, for which the government and welfare state are no substitute.

When the little town of Bonaparte, Iowa (pop'n 450) lost its only shop, and saw its life collapsing, the people got together, raised the money among themselves, and re-opened the shop as a community business. From that point on, they have gone from strength to strength.

In the Swedish village of Husa, when the population fell from 900 to 90 after the copper mine closed down, the village shop closed, and the school was under threat. But the citizens rallied round, writing and presenting a play about their village's history, which was a great success. From that, they went on to persuade the shopkeeper to re-open his shop and since 1979, they have created no less than 15 different co-operatives and associations, to tackle various social, economic and recreational projects. They even bought the mountainside where the copper mine used to be to establish a community-owned ski-lift, with 4 pistes, a restaurant and chalets. Much of the work is done by their own voluntary effort.

In the Stockyards, a declining urban blue collar low-income neighbourhood in Cleveland, Ohio, where unemployment is twice the national average, a community development society has launched an initiative to get computer ownership into 35% of the households, jumpstarting the local culture into the '90s. By obtaining recycled computers, and setting up a buyers club for low income families, they are already part way there after just a year. There are 1,000 similar tales to be told, where communities are self-organizing themselves. It is one of the oldest principles of nature, if not the oldest - so we ignore it at our peril.

The difficult message we have to get used to is that because of our social and ecological screw-ups, the 21st century will see many more such crises, not fewer. The turbulences of climate change will bring us storms, droughts, floods, heatwaves and freeze-ups. The coming food crisis will bring an urgent need to grow more food locally. The imminent collapse of antibiotics will bring a huge health crisis. The real lesson of the blizzard is that our strength is not in government, but in ourselves : government's role must be to help us to self-organize better.

There is a joy in self-organizing. We saw it on the streets in the smiles, the lifts willingly shared. Barriers came down, and hands reached out. We should build on this experience for the future - not forget it as soon as the snow is gone.

- Guy Dauncey


"NEVER DOUBT THAT A SMALL GROUP OF THOUGHTFUL, CONCERNED CITIZENS CAN CHANGE THE WORLD. INDEED, IT'S THE ONLY THING THAT EVER HAS."

- Margaret Mead


ECONEWS

Welcome to 1997 ! And another wonderful year, where opportunities sit like flowers in an alpine meadow, waiting to burst into colour. So many hopes to be expressed, so many visions to be fulfilled.

Published as a monthly service, nourishing the vision of an Island blessed by the harmony of nature and community, funded by your donations.

Nov Dec Jan
Circulation: 2000 2000 2000
Cost: $700 $757 $720
Donations: $405 $2323 ? ? ?
Advertising: $25 $25 ? ? ?
Balance: $213 $1804 ? ? ?

Development Fund $180

Look at this response ! You've all been so incredibly generous, and said so many kind things. I'm sorry I can't thank you all personally. Many thanks to Maria Stewart, Jason LeSage, Jean McKenzie, Peter Schofield, Fran Thoburn, Valerie Torontow, Al Lubowski, Murray Sutherland, Gil Parker, Dorothy Bishop, Kay Look, Audrey Woodward, Margaret Fear, Coastal Connections, Dave and Debbie Secco, Alan Greatbatch, Brian Lupton, Judith Cullington, Blaise Salmon, Brad Andrews, Freda Knott, Diane Angus, Chris Garrett, Craig Harrold, Ken Wardroper, John Azar, Moireen Philips, Bruce Torrie, Lois Sprague, Roger Pollard, Daphne Taylor, Gail Schacter, Deryck Thomson, Susan Gage, Eileen Sowerby, Ira Robinson, Bev Sawatsky, Sharon Hazelwood, Bill Moffat, Michael & Barbara Clague, Peter Schofield, Felix Lion, Tom Gore, Emma Faulkner, Brian Burchill, John Lammers, Sylvan Foreman, Doug Crow, Andrew van Iterson, Ann McDonald, Mallory Pred, Dr Elinor Powell, Colin Graham, Bill Wheeler, Henry & Margaret Schubart, Maurice Tozer, Mavis Gillie, Barbara Benoit, Nikki Basuk, Heather McAndrew, Laurence & Judith Fetter, Lynn Husted, Alan Dolan, Susan Day, Bob Mitchell, Ruth Masters, Monica Oldham, Robbie Andersen, Barbara Houston, Mark Whitear & Rosalie Beach, Bamfield Preservation & Development Society, Peggy Olsthoorn, Ann Gower, Gail Schultz, Brian & Peggy Dallamore, James Whiteaker, Vivian Chenard, Laurie McBride, Bis Whitby, Hal Knight, Don Shaw, Steven New, Mary-Wynne Ashford, SAGE Foundation, Greg & Sharon Foster, Kathleen Gibson, Art & Marg Simons, Dan Harper, Centre for Studies in Religion & Society, and Tom Read, in LA.

Donations can be made to EcoNews, 395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1. If you don't want to receive EcoNews, or are going away, please let us know - it avoids wasting the postage. To receive EcoNews call (250) 881-1304, or email guydauncey@earthfuture.com


TOP TEN GOALS FOR THE YEAR 2000

Denmark has set the goal that 20% of all of its farm produce will be organic by the year 2000. Finland has determined that 25% of its commuting trips will be by bike. Britain has given $100 million to fund a massive Earth Centre on the site of an old coal mine as a centre for sustainable living. Why are we seemingly asleep? To greet the new year, here are EcoNews' Top Ten Goals for the Year 2000 for Vancouver Island :

10. 10% of all Island timber to be grown according to the Forest Stewardship Council's ecocertification standards.

9. 50% of all our garbage to be recycled.

8. 20% of all our commute trips on the Island to be done by bike or on foot.

7. 10% of all new developments to be planned along ecovillage and ecotown principles, as an alternative to sprawl.

6. 50% of local OCPs to enshrine blue and green spaces protection.

5. 10% of all food grown on the Island to be grown organically.

4. 10% of all our personal investments to be invested in socially responsible funds.

3. 20% of our streets to have local Street Committees to help us self-organize.

2. The E & N Railway to be running as a thriving tourist & commuter route.

1. 100% of all school-leavers to be required to do a month's community or environmental service as a pre-condition of receiving their high school diplomas.


LIVING WITHOUT GARBAGE

Roger Smeeth has been having an interesting discussion with Victoria's City Hall lately. He says that since he generates no garbage, he should be removed from the garbage collection service, and the $120 a year utility billing for the service. City Hall has been supportive, but ultimately they say that garbage collection is require by law - if they started letting some people off it might encourage others to dump their garbage in the creek. Currently, Roger has 17 categories of recyclables at his 1818 Leighton Road nest : All foodwastes for composting (bones are buried or burned) 5 different categories of paper & card 6 different types of plastic for collection by Chris Mowat (642-3530) (excluding type 3 PVC which is an ecological no-no) Steel and aluminum, including bottle caps All glass, except broken glass Batteries Discarded clothes & household equipment. Roger takes the remainder, a single bag of miscellaneous non-recyclables, directly to Hartland Road once a year. Here's to a local hero !


WHO IS YOUR LOCAL CRD DIRECTOR ?

These elected mayors and councillors are responsible for making regional decisions about our environment, planning, transportation, health services and a host of other things. Cut this list out, and keep it : it's your key to involvement in our local democracy :

Don Amos (Sidney) 652-6290
John Bergbusch (Colwood) 474-5619
Diane Bernard (Sooke)
Denise Blackwell (Langford)
Kellie Booth (Salt Spring)
Bill Camden (View Royal) 380-0500
Jacques Campbell (Outer Gulf)
Chris Causton (Oak Bay) 595-4543
Bob Cross (Victoria) 478-6127
John Garrison (Saanich)
Wayne Hunter (Central Saanich)
James King (Esquimalt)
Frank Leonard (Saanich) 479-6710
David Mclean (Victoria) 598-4432
Bob McMinn (Highlands) 478-4403
Linda Michaluk (North Saanich) 656-4144
Carol Pickup (Saanich) 382-6424
John Ranns (Metchosin) 478-3446
Larry West (Langford electoral) 478-2759
Ray Williams (Saanich) 658-5647
Geoff Young (Victoria) 388-7875

You can write to them all at CRD, PO Box 1000, Victoria V8W 2S6, and fax them at 360-3130.


FERRARA - THE CYCLING CAPITAL OF ITALY

The City of Ferrara, on the river Po, has 100,000 bicycles for its 135,000 inhabitants. There are 33km of cycle tracks, and cars are banned completely from several streets. There are special bike stoplights, even ride-in phone-booths where you can make a call without dismounting. The 'bici-buses' have large luggage compartments designed to store bicycles, and there are plans for a network of cycle lanes leading out to the surrounding villages. Farrarans love to cycle - 30% of all trips are made by bike. 20% are made on foot, 14% by public transport and just over 33% by car. The area is completely flat, and Ferrara is the poorest town in the region, so many people have not been tempted to splash out on cars. Now, as many towns and cities are tripping over their wealth, Ferrarans are appreciating the virtues of two-wheeled simplicity. (European)

Mediated agreements save time, money, & your work and personal relationships PATRICIA LANE Lawyer*/Mediator 598-3992 *Law Corporation


$4,000 IN PRIZES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SOLUTIONS

Are you a post-secondary student with a keen inventive mind and a concern for the future of the environment ? The Canadian Intellectual Property Office, in conjunction with the tri-university service known as PATSCAN, is offering prizes of $1,000, $600 and $400 for college, undergraduate and postgraduate students who come up with the best innovative solutions to environmental challengers - and a further $500 prize for the best recycling concept. You are encouraged to research patents to review the novelty of your innovation (with help from PATSCAN), and the deadline for entries is Feb 28th 1997. The top finalists will be judged by a panel of technology transfer professionals, and the winners will be announced in March. Don't worry - you'll get full confidentiality for your innovation until it is patented. For details, call Ron Simmer at PATSCAN on 822-5404 (rsimmer@unixg.ubc.ca). Good luck !


THE WORLD MICROCREDIT SUMMIT

What happens when you think about world poverty, and the millions of women, men and children who live in the most wretched conditions barely finding enough to eat each day ? If you have not yet learnt to push the thought away into the part of the brain that is used for storing things that are 'hopeless' or 'impossible', you probably feel an oppressively heavy weight at the burden of pain so many of our fellow people live with on our planet. 'World hunger' has always seemed so huge a problem, without solutions. Not so, however, and one of the most imaginative solutions that has been found this century, microcredit, is about to have its first major world conference in New York, Feb 2nd - 4th. Blaise Salmon, a Victoria investment adviser and EcoNews reader, is helping to organize the summit through a group he belongs to, called RESULTS. Microcredit schemes allow the very poorest of the poor to obtain loans as small as $30 to help them develop microenterprises, and lift themselves out of poverty. From its birth in Bangladesh with the Grameen bank, microcredit now reaches more than 2 million poor women, with a repayment rate above 97%. The goal of the Summit is for microcredit to reach 100 million of the world's poorest families by 2005 (5 million in industrialized countries). You can help by mailing the enclosed postcard to Jean Chretien, encouraging him to attend the Summit. And if you want to learn more, or give further help, call Blaise at 384-1842. More on RESULTS in the future.


GARRY OAKS IN SAANICH

Can you help the Garry Oak Society with their inventory of Garry Oak trees in Saanich ? They need 20 volunteers who would be willing to walk the streets this spring and summer, and record the oaks on a map.
Call Paul Gareau, 592-9089.


FOREST ACTION ALERTS

The Sierra Club of BC has started sending out monthly Forest Action Alerts to help you protect the province's ancient forests, fish and wildlife. The action needs one letter a month. To receive the Alerts, call the Sierra Club on 386-5255.


THE PEACE OF THE WILD THINGS

            When despair for the world grows in me
            and I wake in the night at the least sound
            in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
            I go and lie down where the wood drake
            rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
            I come into the peace of the wild things
            who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
            I come into the presence of still water
            and I feel above me the day-blind stars
            waiting with their light. For a time
            I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

            - Wendell Berry



ACTION OF THE MONTH : "VIRT"

No, it's not the latest musical to hit town. Would that it were ! It might be more fun.

It stands for the Vancouver Island Resource Targets plan, and that is 'resources' as in 'logging'. It's the Master Land-Use Plan for crown lands on the Island. Hey - how did that happen ?

VIRT is the offspring of CORE, but whereas CORE was a very participatory process, VIRT has been devilishly backroomish. The VIRT team will have a new draft plan ready in January, and is moving straight to the final version for Cabinet approval, with no public process.

So what's in it ? VIRT proposes 3 types of forest zone for the Island (think of it like urban zoning, but without any Public hearings for zoning changes). 50% of the forest has been designated High Intensity Area (HIA), with a relaxed Forest Practices Code. HIAs are intensive logging zones where other values are secondary. Only 8% has been designated Low Intensity Area (LIA), 20% of which has already been clearcut from top to bottom, including Mt Paxton. Only 13% of the Island is protected - 6.6% of the original ancient forest. In CORE, LIAs were supposed to be 'vanguard areas' for ecosystem management, but that's all being backtracked, with virtually no provisions to protect wildlife habitat, or strategies to protect threatened species such as the marbled murrelet. The rest of the Island is designated as GFA, or General Forestry Area.

Tourism and recreational values have hardly been considered. One of the stated objectives of the plan is "to substantially increase the supply of timber from scenic areas". Maybe they figure if they cut enough, it'll no longer be scenic, and then they can take the lot. There's only the bare minimum of fish habitat protection.

So what's to do ? It's time to bring out all the saucepans, and make a big noise. We've been shafted, and it's almost too late.

Action : Call, fax or write immediately to Paul Ramsey, Minister of Environment (387-1187, fax 387-1356) and David Zirnhelt, Minister of Forests (387-6240, fax 387-1040). Outside Victoria, Enquiry BC (1-800-663-7867) will connect you for free.

Tell them the plan is just not acceptable, and ask that the final draft be delayed until you've had a chance to comment. You can also call Rudi Mayser (751-7130) and ask to attend the January meeting of VIRT. For more information call the Sierra Club 386-5255. Let's go !


NOTICE

EcoNews provides this electronic version of the newsletter free of charge even though it costs time and money to produce. Please feel free to repost. You can help by making a donation, whether $5 or $100, to:

EcoNews, 395 Conway Road, Victoria, B.C. V8X 3X1, Canada. Thanks !


Click here for previous issues of EcoNews.


EcoNews, Guy Dauncey
395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1
Tel/Fax (250) 881-1304

Available free by mail or email

Author of 'After the Crash : The Emergence of the Rainbow Economy'
(Greenprint, London, 1988. 3rd edition 1997)

EcoNews is printed on Tree-Free paper from Ecosource