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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. 71 - Serving Vancouver Island's Environmental Community - April 1998


MAI DEFEATED BY INTERNET ACTIVISM

There is a whole new game being played on the world stage, which most people are only dimly aware of.

It started with the collapse of the communist bloc in 1989, and the disappearance of socialism as a coherent alternative to free market capitalism.

With the ideological opposition in tatters, the world's financiers and corporations took heart. Wouldn't it be great, they thought, if there were no obstacles to the free flow of capital around the world ? No social or environmental impediments, no constraining labour rules, no nationalistic protectionisms ?

With this in mind, the OECD - the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, a club of 29 wealthy nations - started work on a new treaty, to be called the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). The OECD's trade representatives started negotiating in 1995, and though they claim there was nothng secretive about it, they certainly made no effort to tell anyone, even though the proposed treaty would have huge impacts on national, provincial and even municipal legislation around the world. As late as mid 1997, MPs in Ottawa were insisting that no such treaty was being negotiated. They simply didn't know - that's how effective the 'Zero PR' strategy had been.

This is a heroic drama, so let's be duly heroic about it. Early in 1997, the word somehow got out to the world's non-profit community that this was going on. Emails started flying, as disbelief spread. It was someone in the non-profit community who first posted the draft treaty on the Internet - though the OECD would later claim that this was evidence that they were not being secretive. Maude Barlow and the Council of Canadians put on their swords, along with Friends of the Earth International and a host of other social and environmental groups around the world, and battle was engaged.

At this point, let me step back for a moment. In the Middle Ages the flow of information in Europe was controlled and policed by the Catholic Church. Their monks wrote the manuscripts, and their priests controlled the content. If you said or wrote the wrong thing, you were liable to be burned. When Guttenberg developed his steel printing press in 1457, everything changed - from now on, anyone could print information. The Renaissance, the Reformation and the Scientific Age only became possible because of the printing press.

Today, the amazing revolution of the Internet is allowing a free flow of information in an unprecedented manner. Like the revolutionaries of the 16th and 17th centuries, we no longer dependent on third party sources for our information. An enormous revolution is about to unfold. Now back to the story.

In 1997, as word about the MAI spread around the world, so too did people's instinctive rejection of this blatent attempt to hijack democracy. They boasted that they were writing the constitution for a single global economy, and we responded. At the time, there was a sense of outrage, anger - and despair, for how could anyone stop such a juggernaut in its tracks ?

Patiently, the world's non-profit community organized, and as word flashed around the world by email, the pressure on national negotiators grew. People wrote to their MPs and got the MAI raised on TV; an alliance of 565 global non-profit groups signed a joint declaration of protest; the World Council of Churches expressed its 'alarm'; the European Parliament voted 437 to 8 in favour of a series of resolutions that demand far greater thought and study before the MAI is signed; the Czech government said that it could not sign at all; and finally the MAI's chief negotiator, Frans Engering, admitted they would not be able to reach an agreement by the April deadline. The MAI is now off the tracks for at least a year; maybe for ever. A global treaty on investment may be a good thing - but not one that seeks to trash everything else that is good in the world.

Let there be no doubt that this is a huge victory for the world's non-profit community. We should be astonished at the speed of our success in derailing a sinister plot by the world's top financial forces. And it's all because of the Internet, the new means of global communication that allows us to organize on an unprecedented level. The MAI victory is only one battle, however. Already, the forces are re-organizing to sidestep their defeat. There are moves to take a similar treaty to the World Trade Organization, and far more sinister moves to rewrite the International Monetary Fund's articles to grant capital the same freedoms that the MAI would have allowed. We have to re-engage the battle, and start all over again. But let us not be mistaken - this new strength that we are seeing in the world's non-profit community is just the beginning.

To get on-line with the MAI, send a message to adhoc@igc.apc.org, or visit their site at www.infohabitat.org/mai

- Guy Dauncey


ECONEWS

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Feb March April
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Cost: $916 $907 $900
Editorial $150 $150 $150
Donations $280 $504 ? ? ?
Advertising $130 $20
Balance $1283 $750

Many thanks this month to all our angels - Barbara Lopusynski, Ann Gower, Unlimited Possibilities, Joan Hurwood, Hannah Main, WB Moffat, TL Danlock, Ian Graeme, Judy Walker, Barbara Scott, Lou Ray, Crosspoint Strategies, Roger Colwill, Caroline Larsen, Mel Moiliet, Roger Pollard & Gail Schultz.

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


SIERRA CLUB COMMUNITY NIGHT


'Where there's a Worm there's a Way :
Composting for Every Household'

Wed. April 8th,  7:00 - 10pm at the Fairfield Community Place, 1335 Thurlow.
Together, Building Community !


PACIFIC COAST SAVINGS

Are you one of the 100,000 people in Greater Victoria who are members of Pacific Coast Savings ? If so, you are entitled to vote for the Directors of your choice. Now is election time, with April 3rd as the final day for voting. You will have already received details of the 8 candidates who are standing for the 3 positions on the Board - but who to vote for ? My personal recommendations are Patricia Lane, a mediator and conflict resolution teacher who is standing for her 2nd term; Bernie Jones, who has 30 years background in community development; and Kathryn Molloy, co-founder and coordinator of the Victoria Car Share Co-operative, active with the Gaia Project and other initiatives. These 3 will provide a strong voice for a progressive, community-based approach, in conjunction with the existing directors, as will Ross Peters, who has been helping the new Greater Victoria Community Economic Development Corporation. Make sure you vote before this Friday !


JUST SAY NO TO JUNK MAIL !

Under Canada Post's new arrangements, if you don't want any junk mail, you just have to say so, with a clear sign by your mailbox. Nationally, 1% have gone junk-free. Salt Spring scores 11.3%, Saturna 10%, Mayne 4.8%. Does anyone know the figures for Victoria ?


CABINET CONTACT LIST

Legislative Assembly, Victoria V8V 1X4

Premier, Youth. Glen Clark 387-1715 Fax 387-0087. Gurmeet Sall, Exec Secretary 356-6370.

Aboriginal Affairs. Dale Lovick 387-0886. Fax 356-1124. MA Trevor Jones Advanced Education, Training & Technology, Intergovernmental Relations, Andrew Petter, 356-2771. Fax 356-3000. MA Jim Rutkowski

Agriculture & Food. Corky Evans. 387-1023. Fax 387-1522. MA Pratik Modha

Attorney General, Human Rights, Multiculturalism. Ujjal Dosanjh. 387-1866. Fax 387-6411. MA Joanne Moody

Children & Families, Lois Boone, 387-9699; Fax 387-9722. MA Christine Skrepetz

Education. Paul Ramsay, 357-1977, Fax 387-3200. MA Brian McIver.

Employment & Investment. Michael Farnworth. 356-7020; Fax  356-5587. MA Jessie Uppal.

Energy & Mines, Northern Development. Dan Miller, Deputy Premier, 387-5896; Fax 356-2965. MA Robert Simonds

Environment. Cathy McGregor, 387-1187. Fax 387-1356. MA Dave Cubberley. Finance, Corporate Relations. Joy McPhail. 387-3751. Fax 387-5594. MA David Perry.

Fisheries. Dennis Streifel, 356-2735; Fax 356-2961. MA Kenn McLaren

Forests. Dave Zirnhelt 387-6240. Fax 387-1040. MA Bill Duvall.

Health, Seniors. Penny Priddy, 387-5394 Fax 387-3696 MA Donna Cameron

Human Resources. Jan Pullinger,  387-3180. Fax 387-5720. MA Norm Wickstrom

Labour. Dale Lovick, 356-6348. Fax 356-6595. MA Dan Barrett.

Municipal Affairs, Housing Jenny Kwan, 387-3602. Fax 387-1334. MA Par Sihota

Small Business, Tourism & Culture. Ian Waddell, 387-1683. Fax 387-4348. MA Maria Ciamiello

Transportation & Highways. Harry Lali, 387-1978. Fax 356-2290. MA Michelle Kemper

Women's Equality. Sue Hammell. 387-1223. Fax 387-4312. MA Thelma Oliver.

No excuses now, when you want to share your thoughts or ideas ! For a full version of this list, including the Deputy Ministers and all the various assistants, call 387-1337 (Cabinet Policy and Communications Secretariat).


MAJOR UK SUPERMARKET SAYS NO TO FRANKENFOOD

Extracted from a recent article in The Guardian, by Paul Brown : In a decision which should test the nerves of agro-companies like Monsanto, one of Britain's biggest supermarket chains announced last week that it would refuse any use of genetically modified plants or bacteria in its own-brand food products.

From May 1st, the company known as Iceland will guarantee that nearly 400 grocery lines will not contain rogue genes. Malcolm Walker, the founder, chair and CEO of Iceland, which runs 770 stores, said "Consumers are being conned. The introduction of genetically modified ingredients is probably the most significant and potentially dangerous development in food policy this century, yet the British public is largely ignorant of it and they are likely to be eating genetically modified foods already without their knowledge."

He quoted Professor Philip James, head of the British government's new Foods Standards Agency, who said "The perception that everything is totally straightforward and safe is utterly naive. I do not think we fully understand the dimensions of what we are getting into." Dr Michael Antoniou, senior lecturer in molecular biology at London University, said "Combining genes could create a mutant that would never occur naturally, with potential untold consequences. Once released into the environment, unlike a BSE epidemic or chemical spill, genetic mistakes cannot be contained, cleaned up or recalled but will be passed on to future generations indefinitely."

Iceland's market research shows that 81% of its customers are concerned that they could be buying genetically modified food which they would otherwise avoid. Iceland has spent 18 months finding substitutes for modified foods, and is now buying from farms in Canada and Brazil which are inspected by independent scientists from Switzerland. Tesco, Safeway and Sainsbury's have all agreed to label genetically modified food by the end of 1998, but not to phase it out. The list of products which Iceland is replacing includes chocolate, ice cream, crisps, beer, bread, biscuits, baby foods, cooking oil, pies made with pastry, ready-made chips, cola, maize-based snacks, sausages, fish in batter or breadcrumbs, and a whole range of ready-made meals : chicken burgers and nuggets, vegetarian lasagna, many sorts of pasta, and Indian and Chinese cuisine. The review has been a major challenge, since genetically modified soya is now used in 60% of all processed foods.


THE CAT'S MEOW

Bunk & Breakfast
595-8878
Quiet, comfortable alternative
accommodation in Fernwood.
Shared $17.50     Private $43.00


PLANNING FOR OUR FUTURE

The CRD is halfway through a 4-year process to develop a Regional Growth Strategy for the next 25 years. This is a major affair, which needs our involvement. The CRD Board is proposing a 'Framework For Our Future' based on a combination of existing Official Community Plans and the Regional Blue/Green Spaces Strategy, identifying 6 areas where there are significant challenges - Managing and Balancing Growth, Transportation, Economic Development, Environment and Resources, Housing and Social Wellbeing. All this is described in 'Foundations for our Future No 5', which you can pick up at any library or town hall. Now we come to the important bit. On April 24th & 25th, there is a Capital Region Public Forum (see Diary), when 40 people or groups will be allowed to make spoken submissions - the details are in the 'Foundations' document. If you have an idea which you think is important for our future, now is the time to speak out ! Details from the
CRD at 360-3133.


SAFEWAYS BIKE-TRAILERS

In the little town of Totnes, in south Devon, England, where I've just been visiting old friends, there's a huge new Safeways store, with a tiny difference. As well as the normal supermarket trolleys, you can tow your groceries home with a bike-trailer ! You pay a $25 deposit and have to return the trailer within 4 days. How about it, Thriftys ?


FAXING THE FEDS

Anne Moon writes : If you've got email, you can use the federal fax numbers in last month's EcoNews to fax the Feds by using following format: remote-printer.<FirstName_LastName>@1<fax no>.iddd.tpc.int     To fax Jean
Chretien, you would send your message to: remote-printer.Jean_Chretien@16139416900.iddd.tpc.int

For details, see  FAX the FEDS www.net-efx.com/faxfeds/


"Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of Life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."

- Albert Einstein


THE GARDEN PATH

Organic Heritage Plant Nursery
Open Tues April 21st - Sun June 7th
10 - 5pm (closed Mondays)
1834 Haultain St


WATER MONITORING KIT

The Global Rivers Environmental Education Network has developed a low cost Water Quality Monitoring Kit,  packaged in a 3" x 5" unbreakable plastic canister, price US$25.00. The kit includes reagents, instructions, a waterproof sampling glove and safety guidelines so that citizens can safely test surface water for dissolved oxygen, total coliform bacteria, pH, biochemical oxygen demand, temperature change, nitrates, phosphates and turbidity. The kit includes background information on how to incorporate water monitoring activities into school and community-based initiatives. Contact David Schmidt, (734) 761-8142  dschmidt@green.org


PERSONAL UV METER

With summer coming, it's time to tune into its dangers, especially for children. SafeSun is a personal UV meter that measures the sun's UV intensity and exposure doses. See www.safesun.com or write to SAFESUN Pty. Ltd, Unit 3, 321 Arden St, Coogee NSW 2034, Australia.


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 !

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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)

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