The quintessential Jack Velker – 1945-2009

by Odette Jobidon
     Patricia and Norbert Peters
     Jhan Dudley

JACK VELKER was an outstanding performer, brilliant composer, studio musician and arranger. He was versatile and charismatic with great joie-de-vivre and humility. Guided by a chivalrous code of honour and compassion, Jack extended the same level of respect and kindness to everyone.

photo: A. Zheng

Tribute Gala Benefit 
Sunday, July 12

A special event to preserve Jack Velker’s legacy and pay homage to the memory of this cherished and remarkable performer, composer and friend. The benefit features well-known bands and performers and an auction of Jack’s personal memorabilia, including his favourite hats, photos and accordions.

Fairview Vancouver Pub
898 West Broadway 

Tickets $20 at Cottage Bistro, 
4468 Main St., 
604-876-6138 (Tues-Sun from 5pm) or call 604-709-9703/604-874-4699.

The man

His outstanding performances and genuine love for his audience touched people everywhere. Recently, a gentleman in the audience at the Pan Pacific hotel came to the piano, shook Jack’s hand and exclaimed, "My, you are a serious mother of a pianist!" Jack thanked him and, upon introducing himself, discovered he was shaking hands with Quincy Jones.

Blessed with an amazing memory, Jack, an avid reader of history and philosophy, loved to share and channel his knowledge. While not a religious man, he was highly spiritual, with a kind and forgiving nature. Like many artists, Jack would have been deemed financially poor by North American standards. Nevertheless, he was and always will remain one of the richest men who ever lived for he was a fulfilled, creative, passionate and loving being. Living every moment to its fullest, Jack made our world a much better place and inspired us to higher ideals.

The entertainer

As one of the most versatile performers on the Vancouver scene, Jack maintained a rigorous performance schedule, playing 250 to 300 engagements a year. One night, you’d find him playing the Grand at the Pan Pacific or at the Gotham and the next night, he’d be at the Yale, wailing on the Hammond b-3 or playing the accordion with Mojo Zydeco. You might also have seen him playing for patients at a hospital or at a retirement home.

For the past 20 years, alongside co-host sax player Ross Barrett, Jack took great pleasure performing at the Sunday Soul Service with their highly spirited, eclectic five to 12-piece band. This weekly offering, which first saw the light at Santos on Commercial Drive, continues every Sunday at the Cottage Bistro. Throughout his career, Jack performed with hundreds of acts, including the 49th Parallel, which toured quasi-non-stop for a year and a half in a converted Brewster glass-topped bus. Within days of Jack’s leaving the 49th Parallel, Neil Merryweather called from Hollywood. He sent Jack a substantial cheque, a ticket and the promise of fame and greater riches. Without further ado, Jack gave away his amplifiers and stage clothes and returned to LA where he recorded with Charlie Musselwhite, B.B. King, Barry Goldberg, Mick Fleetwood and Lynn Carey (soon to be a mama lion). After squandering his musician’s wages on 19 months of motel living and endless free performances for record company presidents, Jack managed to escape, never to see Hollywood again.

Jack appeared on the Vancouver scene in 1971 where he joined Joe Mock (Pied Pumkin) and his band Mock Duck as organ player. He also worked as resident keyboard player for Mushroom Studios (a.k.a. can-base). There, he played with Bo Diddley and Chief Dan George as well as what he qualified as a wide array of questionable talents.

The lack of art in his work-a-day world became intolerable. He gave up full-time studio work, preferring to play in odd places to even odder audiences. He played at birthdays, wakes, bikers’ parties, way-out theatrical presentations, on the street and on boats, at office parties, in dope dens and gambling houses. In 1977, he spent the year in England, Spain and Morocco. In 1979, back in Vancouver, he opened for Ray Charles at the Cave and for Paul Revere and the Raiders as well as performing regularly at the Classical Joint and joining the local band Waves.

In the early ‘80s, Jack and I (Odette Jobidon) as artistic director, developed a concept for the creation of a large, professional, multicultural orchestra to perform some of Jack’s exotic scores. In an attempt to keep a fair balance due to our intimate life/work relationship, we invited Ross Barrett to join in as co-composer. The Ethno-Fusion Orchestra Project, involving an international cast of 20 professional musicians, kept us busy for years.

From 1985 to 1993, in collaboration with prominent artistic designer Michael Malcolm and with the help of dedicated teams of volunteers, we created 20 lavish galas called Painters & Players Productions, which featured up to 150 performers, including opera singers, acrobats, ballet dancers, painters in action and human sculptures. BCTV acclaimed these shows "the best entertainment value in the city." Jack continued to perform and tour with a great variety of bands, including an incarnation of the Platters, two cross-Canada tours with tributes to Roy Orbison and Elvis and a Western Canada tour with Virgil Brown from the US. He also toured Germany and France.

The composer

In addition to his busy performance schedule, Jack also spent an average of five hours a day for much of the past 30 years creating a phenomenal, untapped source of diverse works. His compositions run the gamut of symphonic concertos, ballet and film scores, epics, modern space music, healing and new age soundscapes as well as social and sociological satires.

At the time of his passing, Jack had completed 14 pieces towards an upcoming Middle Eastern musical by playwright Joyce Kline. He also wrote the full score for Modern Burlesque Dances, produced last April in Vancouver.

Remembering Jack

by Jhan Dudley

IN THE summer of 2007, Jack and I talked about doing some acoustic blues performances, hewn from the classic styles of players like Jellyroll Morton, Lonnie Johnson and Big Bill Broonzy. In August of that year, we recorded a few tracks, just to try out some ideas and see how we might go about it. We were really just trying to get an idea of what this sort of thing might sound like when done within the framework of our own individual playing styles. We recorded 10 or 12 tunes that night, including a number of takes of a couple of songs. None of it was ever intended for release so we just set up one microphone at the piano and recorded both the vocals and piano into it. Likewise the guitar.

Thus, the sonic quality of the tunes on this CD is not what you’d call professionally recorded. Ultimately though, I think this rawness actually tends to enhance the recordings. What would otherwise be a distraction seems to contribute a kind of authenticity to the sound, putting it in the same rough-and-tumble vein as many of the early recordings from the ‘20s and ‘30s.

Regardless of all that, Jack’s music is soulful and alive and undeniably real. Moreover, it truly exhibits the touching humanity of the man himself, a man who was every bit as remarkable in simple conversation as he was behind the keyboard.

Anyone familiar with his amazingly prolific output, both as a composer and a performer, would know that Jack’s music stretched out to embrace an incredible variety of styles. And yet there was always a common thread running through all of his work. To my mind, that thread is exemplified in this CD, with a purity and simplicity that is truly revealing. As for me, of all the music that he ever recorded, this is what I shall cherish the most, as it is, indeed, in sound and spirit quintessential Jack Velker.

Jhan Dudley is the co-owner of Siegel Entertainment Ltd. (

CRTC hearing all a Twitter


At the recent *CRTC hearing on traffic management (AKA Internet freedom), there was something different in the air. The room still screamed of bureaucracy: decorative flags at the front of the room, the plain suits, the ‘stakeholders’ and the stenographers. But this time around there was buzz in the room and that buzz was literally the Twitter of public discussion that had forced its way into the hearing.

The CRTC’s traffic management hearing attracted more than 11,000 comments, which, in itself, is relatively unheard of. While I stressed this point in my own presentation before the commission, the public’s comments played only a small part in a larger constellation of citizen engagement that appears to be collectively opening up the CRTC’s processes.

Storming the gates

In addition to the well-organized presentations made on behalf of their fellow citizens, Canadians made it very clear they were not about to sit by and allow the discussion to proceed with only the participation of the people in the room. Typically, citizen groups make their presentations, send out a press release and hope that the media relay the public-interest perspective to the public. In the best-case scenario, citizens are brought into a kind of representative-based discussion rather than into direct democracy.

Contrary to the structure of past hearings, in this case, the public engaged directly and left the media to either pick up on the conversation or not. Consumer advocates like Michael Geist and citizen groups such as Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) live-Tweeted and blogged the hearing, while citizens from across the country tuned in to discuss and debate the hearing.

The presence of the online participants was felt so strongly in the room that representatives from Telus began their presentation by giving a shout out to everyone on Twitter. Later in the hearing, Michael Geist invited citizens to post questions they thought the commission should ask Bell Canada. It appeared that at least one of the commissioners was following the conversation online and utilized citizen input when dealing with Bell.

The division between government and the people is breaking down. There is a movement toward openness taking shape in Canada where people are re-imagining government and citizenship, with a renewed relationship between the two. A new relationship where government decision making, as public policy consultant David Eaves puts it, is as “flat and transparent as possible that both nourishes and draws from its most valuable resource: its citizens.”

This is only the beginning

With regard to the CRTC hearing, what does all of it amount to? In the usual tokenistic fashion, the public was invited into the hearing, but this time citizens took it upon themselves to take the hearing out to the public.

People are no longer satisfied with ‘public consultations’ that are not truly engaging. Canadians have an appetite for more – for government institutions and their processes to be open and fully citizen-based in the first place. The CRTC seems to be evolving as a result of public pressure, albeit slowly, and one suspects its decisions will ultimately be all the better because of it.

It’s clear that Canadians are sick of decisions being made in their name that are not reflective of their interests. We’re not waiting for the government to figure this out. In the future, you can expect government agencies and institutions to be confronted with these issues over and over again, provided we have an open communications system that we can use to self-organize.

An open communications infrastructure is an essential component in this evolution of citizenship and government relations. How appropriate then that the first wall to break down should be the one between the communications regulator and the public.

*Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission


Steve Anderson is the national coordinator for the Campaign for Democratic Media. He contributed to Censored 2008 and Battleground: The Media, and has written for The TyeeToronto Star, Epoch Times and Adbusters. Reach him at:

Prevent kidney stones

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

Anyone who has ever had a kidney stone would probably say it is the worst pain they have ever experienced so it’s wise to prevent the formation of these little crystals.

A kidney stone is a hard mass with sharp corners that forms from substances in the urine, one of which is typically calcium. A stone may be as tiny as a grain of sand or as large as or even larger than a pearl. Kidney stones form when the components of urine – water and various minerals and acids – are out of balance. When this occurs, the urine may contain more crystal-forming substances than the available fluid can dilute.

Some kidney stones do pass out of the body with the urine, but when a stone does not pass on its own, it can be broken apart by shock waves (ESWL) or other medical intervention may be required.

One person in 10 is likely to develop a kidney stone; the most likely candidate is a white (Caucasian) male over 40 years of age, for whom there is a 50 percent chance of recurrence. Because kidney stones run in families, genetics may have something to do with it, however, eating patterns also run in families and, fortunately, we do have control over our dietary choices.

Those who have had stones (and managed to catch them on the way out) can find out the type of crystals that were in the stone through laboratory analysis. Of the possibilities, the majority are calcium oxalate stones. The next most common variety are calcium phosphate stones.

Preventing kidney stones:

1. Make it a habit to drink lots of water. Have water with meals. Carry a water bottle. Substitute water for coffee, alcoholic beverages and pop. Fruit juice, lemonade and vegetable juices such as carrot juice are also helpful. (Tomato juice is beneficial too although most brands contain high levels of salt.) Don’t allow yourself to become dehydrated during a long hike or throughout a prolonged period of exercise and/or when you’re sweating profusely. Water helps to flush away the substances that form stones in the kidneys. To prevent the recurrence of stones, drinking 3 to 4 litres or quarts of water a day is recommended.

2. Recent research indicates that, for many people, a shift in the direction toward a more alkaline diet can be a key to prevention. This means eating more fruits and vegetables, which tip the pH of the urine in an alkaline direction and also provide potassium, and less animal protein (meat, fish, poultry and cheese, especially processed cheese), which tip the pH of the urine in an acidic direction.

3. Once the type of kidney stone has been identified, one’s doctor or registered dietitian can provide information on preventing the recurrence of stones. Specific dietary recommendations depend on the makeup of the stone. This may involve reducing one’s intake of salt, sodium, high oxalate foods (such as rhubarb, Swiss chard, spinach, beet greens, chocolate and berries) and sweetened pop. And while it can be important to consume enough calcium, avoid excessive amounts.

4. Excess body weight is linked with the risk of developing kidney stones. An explanation for this may be that those who are overweight or obese tend to have more acidic urine and also may consume greater quantities of the foods linked with acidic urine. Weight reduction and achieving one’s optimal body weight can be helpful. It is also valuable to take health measures to reduce hypertension.




3. Li WM et al. Association of body mass index and urine pH in patients with urolithiasis. Urology Research. May 26 2009

Vesanto Melina is a registered dietitian and author of a number of nutrition classics, including Becoming Vegetarian, Becoming Vegan, Raising Vegetarian Children and the Food Allergy Survival Guide. To book a personal consultation with Vesanto in Langley, call

Symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • extreme pain in one’s back or side (in the kidney area).
  • blood in the urine (the crystal can scratch the lining of tubules in the kidney area).
  • a burning feeling when urinating.
  • fever, chills and vomiting.

Fortunately, the damage is not permanent, although that is of little consolation during the experience.

A day in the life

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

Ever wondered what it’s like to have a garden overflowing with fruits and vegetables at this time of year? I’ll share a day at The 

Garden Path with you so you can get an idea.

Today, I finished preserving the cherry harvest, which was very prolific this year. We have two cherry trees: a Morella sour cherry and a Stella sweet cherry; the amazing part is that we actually got to harvest most of the fruit before the birds. Apparently, this crop provided enough for all of us.

cherriesWhat does one do with eight boxes of sweet cherries and11 pounds of sour cherries? I decided on bottling the sweet cherries in a light honey syrup (1:4 honey/water) and pitted the remainder to dry in the dehydrator. Mashed sour cherries are being turned into a cherry liqueur and we have frozen tubs of cherry pie filling and cherry preserves for rice puddings and oatmeal. This gives you something to look forward to in winter.

Now, I am pulling up the garlic so I invited friends to make garlic braids. We tucked lavender, rosemary and bay sprigs into the braids, which make a wonderful gift. Some of the bulbs were smaller than usual, perhaps due to the deep freeze this past winter. Next time, I’d also remove the hay mulch at the beginning of June, as I encountered some mouldy bulbs not being able to dry out after this long, cool spring.

After a shaky start, the prolonged heat in June helped the garden catch up. Right now, I am tying tomatoes onto their stakes and removing the suckers. Cucumber plants, in five-gallon pots and in the garden, are covered with bright-yellow flowers, which means lots of crunchy cukes this year for pickling too. I can tell it’s a good seed year; the peppers are pushing out lots of fruit and there are large seed heads on rows of bolting lettuces.

Bags of seeds are drying in the greenhouse: forget-me-nots, sweet cicely, aquilegia, chives, salad burnet, rhubarb, Brussels sprouts and Good King Henry spinach. And as their seeds start to mature, I’m keeping an eye on the fava beans, snap peas, arugula, chicory, spinach, parcel, celeriac, watercress and dianthus.

Yesterday, I collected seaweed off the incoming tide after a windy night, so today I mulched the tomato and squash plants with it. Seaweed adds micronutrients, which improve the flavour and health of the fruit. All fruiting and flowering plants appreciate a feed of seaweed at this time of year; use liquid seaweed (available from garden centres) if you cannot get fresh.

Compost tea is bubbling in a 45-gallon barrel – a swath of comfrey got fished out onto the compost pile, which was a nose-holding experience after four days. I dumped a bucket of fresh seaweed in to make a super duper brew. To help them get established, I’ve been feeding buckets of compost tea to plum, pear, apple and nectarine trees that were planted in spring.

Flats of winter veggies are growing behind the house where it’s cooler. These were seeded in mid-June and will be ready to transplant by the end of August. The secret to success is keeping seedlings off the ground away from earwigs, slugs and sow bugs that eat them. The cabbage white butterfly lays eggs on the underside of brassica leaves; you’ll know if green larvae eat the leaves ragged. One squish with the fingers or a spray with Safer’s soap will do them in.

There’s never a dull moment. I am off to pick basil for pesto and tomatoes for a salad; another delicious chin-dripping experience is coming up.

Rooting berries

Choose 4-6” tip cuttings that are not snappy (wood too mature) and not too flexible (wood too green), but somewhere in-between, about a skinny pencil in thickness. Using a chopstick, insert deep into propagation mix. Keep in a cool place in indirect light until new growth appears. When rooted, pot into a growing medium. Protect for winter. Plant out the following fall.

Propagation mix

Mix coarse, washed sand ($2 a bucket from a gravel mart) 50:50 with a lightweight seeding mix containing perlite. Moisten.

Carolyn Herriot is author of A Year on the Garden Path: A 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide. She grows Seeds of Victoria at the Garden Path Centre where she teaches The Zero Mile Diet – Twelve Steps to Sustainable Homegrown Food Production and Growing an Edible Plant

How evolved are we?

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

Evolution is individual; devolution is collective. 

– Martin H. Fischer

When it comes to finding new ways to build things, improvising when something is broken or navigating around obstacles, humans may be inherent problem solvers. We are not so good at solving problems between ourselves, however. Humans can be judgmental, critical, aggressive and adversarial. It would be interesting to see how much of our daily conversation centres on being annoyed with people or gossiping about them.

In the past, being aggressive or adversarial probably helped primitive man to survive. If someone threatened to take away a man’s hunting catch or his woman, for instance, it was probably best to dispense with him, or, at least, put up a good fight to protect what was yours. There was no small claims court then!

Whereas, the biological impetus towards aggression once served humans in frequent fight or flight, life or death situations, we rarely encounter such dramatic conditions now. Yet the aggressive/adversarial impulse is still strong. We take adversarial stances in relation to sports (often extending way beyond healthy competition), eating (vegetarians and meat eaters judge each other,) gay rights, stay-at-home vs. working mothers, religion and politics.

This kind of human behaviour is so ubiquitous that it is rarely questioned. Parents do it so their children do it too. Politicians do it so if that is how the country is run maybe that is just how it is. But does it have to be?

Much of our world still seems to run on the principle of “survival of the fittest,” a term coined in the 1860s. But in the 1970s, Jonas Salk talked about “survival of the wisest.” He held that wisdom, not power and force, was what we needed to evolve as a species. He wrote about this almost 40 years ago, but things have not changed all that much. True, it is no longer okay to hit your spouse or your children, but much of human interaction is still pretty primitive at times.

It is not that we do not know better. We may be appalled and even embarrassed by the childish behaviour of government officials. We may be annoyed when someone says something hurtful to our child. Yet there may be times when we act in very much the same manner.

What is going on here? While most of us have the wisdom to recognize decency and integrity, ego is easily triggered and doesn’t care about those qualities. Ego is out to protect and defend itself, often regardless of the cost. Ego sees the world in terms of right or wrong and good or bad and believes it is on the side of good and right, which automatically makes the other bad and wrong.

We all have aspects of ego as well as a higher self. However, higher self/wisdom characteristics are still often seen as the territory of Mother Teresa and Gandhi types and not related to the common man. Herein lies the problem. If we see that kind of goodness as special and unique, how can we expect to manifest it?

If a six-month-old throws food on the floor, we do not get too upset. If a five-year-old does the same thing, we see his behaviour as completely unacceptable. Once you know something is inappropriate, you are expected to act accordingly.

Adults, it seems, hold themselves to a different standard. They may dress in suits and hold important positions, but at times still conduct themselves like unruly kids in the playground. And they may be well educated and good at their jobs, but still gossip like grade-six girls.

It is true that evolution takes time. It is not easy to change the world. What we can do is make changes in our world. Humans learn by watching others. As more individuals choose to claim the wisdom that exists in their higher selves and behave in more evolved ways, the more others might begin to feel uncomfortable with their own more primitive behaviour.

Gwen Randall-Young is a psychotherapist in private practice and author ofGrowing Into Soul: The Next Step in Human Evolution. For more articles, permission to reprint and information about her books and “Deep Powerful Change” personal growth/hypnosis CDs, visit

Caught hook, line and sinker


The End of the Line looks at greed and fisheries mismanagement.

Out on August 14, Adam is a romcom with a twist. It’s a tale of a beautiful girl meets boy with Asperger’s syndrome, which is a mild form of autism. Adam (British actor Hugh Dancy) has the ability to encyclopaedically recall facts and numbers – particularly anything to do with space – but he is not wired to comprehend nuance, innuendo, irony or suggestion. He takes everything literally. Any subtleties of body language or tone of voice go over his head. Naturally, this makes social situations and meeting people incredibly awkward and stressful for him.

This might not sound like promising material for a romance, but the film pulls it off reasonably well. Following his father’s death, Adam lives alone in a Manhattan apartment. Egged on by his older friend and mentor Harlan (Frankie Faison), he begins to woo – in his own inimitable way – his attractive, upstairs neighbour Beth.

Naturally, there is scope for awkward situation comedy as the romance follows a bumpy path and Adam is drawn into Beth’s social circle. Fortunately, writer-director Max Mayer doesn’t overcook these scenes, which constitute the best part of the film. The relationship between Adam and the gruff Harlan is also portrayed with gentle humour and warmth.

As Mayer seeks a credible resolution to his set-up in the second part of the film, the story gets weaker. A secondary plot, in which Beth’s father (a smooth-talking Peter Gallagher) is put on trial for fraud, leads to some rather forced speechifying about the nature of truth. The story feels contrived, but it’s not a total disaster. The performances are strong, holding the film together.

Quite different in tone is the documentary The End of the Line (31st), which presents an all too familiar story of global fisheries’ mismanagement and greed. The vividly shot documentary is based on the book by Daily Telegraphenvironment editor Charles Clover, seen here tracking near-extinct, blue fin tuna to posh London restaurants and lambasting the response of politicians – “you can’t negotiate with biology” – when dealing with no holds barred, fishing industry titans like Mitsubishi.

A series of marine scientists concur that, having fished the big stuff out, we’re now working our way down the food chain. Eventually, there quite simply won’t be any fish left in the sea. On the positive side, Clover, an engaging English gent, suggests that unlike many ecological problems on terra firma, if we act now, by creating marine parks and policing the oceans properly, we will see an almost immediate improvement in the situation. Canada is well represented, with footage of angry East Coast fisherman following the Atlantic cod fisheries collapse and interviews with Canadian marine biologists, including voices from UBC. Rupert Murray’s team brings memorable footage from around the world to connect the dots between consumer tastes and ocean depletion. The film is grimly fascinating and offers prescriptions for better fisheries management.

Rounding off this month are a couple of music documentaries: Soul Power(out August 7) is a funky documentary that revisits the music festival that took place in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Congo), just weeks before the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. The film offers more than a dozen performances by musicians at the top of their game, including six songs from James Brown, “the man who will quiver your liver… splatter your bladder… freeze your knees.”

In It Might Get Loud, rock’n’roll axe heroes Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), The Edge (U2) and Jack White (White Stripes) find themselves together on an empty sound stage sharing stories and cranking out some tunes. (Out August 14.)

Robert Alstead made the Vancouver documentary You Never Bike He writes at

The five laws of sustainability

EARTHFUTURE by Guy Dauncey

It happens so easily. The oil spill on the driveway you hosed down the drain. The spray-on chemical that found its way into your body. The quick trip to the store that released ancient carbon into the atmosphere.

Every day, we do things that break the laws of sustainability, without being penalized in any way. Our culture may be civilized, but it is not naturalized. Why didn’t someone tell us the oil was going to kill the fish?

When our ignorance is fragranced with the perfume of freedom that companies like to use when they lobby governments against creating new laws, it becomes even harder to know what is or isn’t okay. We grow up pickled in ignorance about the natural world and we carry that ignorance into our adult life. How many cabinet ministers understand the carbon cycle? How many supermarket managers understand the marine food chain for the fish they sell?

During this century, all this must change, and if we don’t change, we’ll be toast, butter-side down on the scorching sands of an overheated planet.

Parents will need to demonstrate the laws of sustainability to their children. Schools will need to teach them. Colleges will need to make ‘Sustainability 101’ a prerequisite for acceptance. Candidates running for political office will need to show that they understand them. Businesses will need to enshrine them in their activities, as the carpet company interface is doing with its goal to become 100% sustainable by 2020. Municipalities will need to build their operations around them – as Whistler is doing.

In my definition, sustainability enables the present generation of humans and other species to enjoy a sense of social well-being, a vibrant economy and a healthy environment without compromising the ability of future generations to enjoy the same.

And what are the five laws of sustainability? The first four derive from The Natural Step, a process developed by Swedish cancer specialist, Dr. Karl-Henrik Robèrt, used around the world by companies and municipalities working to go green. The fifth law is my addition.

The first law of sustainability says that we must live, behave and flourish in such a way that there is no progressive build-up of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust, such as heavy metals in the soil, plastics in the ocean or an excess of carbon in the atmosphere. This means we should strive for renewable energy, zero waste and zero emissions from all our activities.

The second law says that we must live, behave and flourish in such a way that there is no progressive build-up of chemicals and compounds produced by society such as dioxins, PCBs and DDT. This means a shift to green chemistry.

The third law says that we must live, behave and flourish in such a way that there is no progressive physical degradation and destruction of nature and natural processes, such as over-harvesting forests, paving critical wildlife habitat, draining wetlands, exhausting the world’s oceans or warming the atmosphere.

The fourth law says that we must live, behave and flourish in such a way that all humans are able to meet their basic needs. In the words of Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef, this means everyone should have access to a subsistence income, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity and freedom. Whatever we do, we must include the needs of humans, for we are part of Nature.

To cap things off, the fifth law states, “If it’s not fun, it’s not sustainable.” In all our work and activities, we must strive to live, behave and flourish in such a way that life sparkles. This spreads joy and reminds us that it is our attitude to life that determines whether we experience it as grumpy or great, miserable or miraculous.

Future generations will think of sustainability the way most people now think of justice and human rights – as being both natural and obvious. The challenge to our generation is to cease breaking the laws as quickly as possible so that future generations of humans – and all other species – will have a chance to flourish.

Guy Dauncey is the publisher of the free, monthly newsletter, EcoNews; sign up to receive it at

Ecology and economy inseparable

SCIENCE MATTERS by David Suzuki with Faisal Moola

We often point out that ecology and economy have the same root, from the Greek oikos, meaning “home.” Ecology is the study of home and economics is its management. But many people still insist on treating them as two separate, often incompatible, processes.

At its most absurd, the argument is that we simply can’t afford to protect the environment – that the costs will be so high as to ruin the economy. But if you don’t take care of your home, it will eventually become uninhabitable and where’s the economic justification for that?

Others argue that the economic advantages of some activities outweigh the environmental disadvantages. This, too, is an absurd argument. A recent posting on the website points to a number of studies and articles showing that many of these activities are not even beneficial from an economic standpoint.

Take coal mining. Research from West Virginia University found that “coal mining costs Appalachians five times more in early deaths as the industry provides to the region in jobs, taxes and other economic benefits.” And, according to Grist, the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development found that “the coal industry takes $115 million more from Kentucky’s state government annually in services and programs than it contributes in taxes.”

The website also refers to a peer-reviewed study in the journal Science, which concluded that logging in Brazil’s rainforests offered only short-term gains in income, life-expectancy and literacy and that the gains disappear over the long term “leaving deforested municipalities just as poor as those that preserved their forests.”

Often, the problem is not so much with resource exploitation itself, but rather with the way we exploit our resources and the reasons for the exploitation. With CEOs looking at quarterly results and politicians looking at three or four-year terms of office, the incentives for long-range thinking are not always clear.

One of the most horrendous examples of this worm’s eye view can be seen in Canada’s tar sands. As author Andrew Nikiforuk argues in his award-winning book Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, this resource could be used wisely to “fund Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Instead, industrial interests and the Alberta and federal governments are hell-bent on full-scale liquidation. And so we will end up with some short-term profits and a seemingly healthy economy in exchange for massive environmental damage and the rapid depletion of a resource that may still be necessary for some time to come – along with the negative economic consequences of all that.

Part of the problem lies in the real reason for much of our resource exploitation and industrial activity. Much of it is done not out of necessity but out of a desire for a relatively small number of people to make lots of money quickly. And when the money is rolling in and jobs are being created, the politicians who foster the activities look good.

We may need fossil fuels – at least for now – but do we really need them so that one or two people can propel themselves to the grocery store in a massive SUV made from tonnes of metal?

We also see, not surprisingly, that the dinosaurs of the fossil fuel and other industries will go to great lengths to protect their interests. If that means spreading misinformation and outright lies about the consequences of their industries, well, so be it. And even though the scientific proof for human-caused global warming is undeniable, we have the coal and oil industries funding massive campaigns to cast doubt on the science and we have politicians implying that the world’s scientists are involved in some sinister plot – all so we can continue to rely on diminishing supplies of polluting fuels instead of creating jobs and wealth through a greener economy that may save us from catastrophe.

We need only look at recent events in the US to see that the people standing in the way of progress on the environment are often just as ignorant about the economy.


Take the Nature Challenge and learn more at

Swine flu vaccine scam? – Big pharma stands to gain


We’ve been told by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the swine flu is a pandemic and spreading rampantly, with two billion people expected to die globally in the next two years. But the numbers don’t add up. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the regular, garden-variety influenza claimed 24,000 lives during the last flu season. Yet, in what it is citing as a pandemic, WHO has attributed the swine flu with 700 to 800 deaths worldwide to date (as of Common Ground’s press date July 29). Pandemic? It’s difficult to understand the logic until one pays attention to the underlying motives.

Who stands to gain from the H1N1 virus? Well, some researchers are raising questions. Dr. Tom Jefferson in the UK claims that the search for a vaccine is driven by vested interests, including academics, governments, the WHO and drug companies, who all stand to gain. “By declaring pandemic, they’ve pushed the button on this juggernaut that they’ve created and, of course, antivirals are a part of that and vaccines are part of that and the whole panoply is part of that. Let’s act with a little bit of caution and common sense and let’s look at the evidence, the hard evidence,” Jefferson says.

Even WHO’s assistant director-general Keiji Fukuda cautions against rushing vaccine production too soon. “There are certain things which cannot be compromised. And one of the things, which cannot be compromised, is the safety of vaccines. There can’t be any questions whether the vaccine is safe or not,” Fukuda explains.

Pharmaceutical companies in the business of making swine flu vaccines include Baxter International, Sanofi-Aventis SA, Novartis, and GlaxoSmithKline. Jefferson notes that Glaxo will be charging about $6 per dose while it costs the company about $1 per dose to produce the vaccine. That’s a nice profit for the drug giant. When asked to comment about its profit margins, a Glaxco representative noted the company “did not recognize the figures.”

Nothing drives Pharma better than profit. Leading UK virologist Professor John Oxford has stated quite succinctly that, in the past, the production of flu vaccines have been highly unprofitable and most companies producing such vaccines pulled out of the US a long time ago. But it looks like for Pharma, the H1N1 virus is turning out to be a real pig for profit.

GlaxoSmithKline is currently reporting a 14 percent increase in its value of vaccine sales, including a worldwide order of 195 million doses of its pandemic flu vaccine. And here in Canada, our government has a contract with GlaxoSmithKline to purchase the vaccine. Interestingly, Glaxo owns a flu vaccine plant in Ste. Foy, Quebec, reportedly capable of producing 3.5 million to four million doses every week. A recent CBC report states that the federal government has already purchased 50 million doses of TamiFlu, which may or may not be of any benefit.

In the US, the National Biodefense Safety Board has recommended that the pandemic swine flu vaccine should be fast-tracked, with vaccinations starting in mid-September – soon after schools open. But as senior medical writer Daniel J. DeNoon from WebMD Health News has noted, “Getting swine flu vaccine by September means skipping all but the most preliminary clinical tests of vaccine safety and effectiveness.”

Washington, D.C.-based investigative journalist, author, and syndicated columnist Wayne Madsen notes, “In addition to the money to be made from the vaccines that will be rushed to market without adequate safety trials this fall, GlaxoSmithKline, which manufactures Relenza, and Roche, which manufactures Tamiflu, are already raking in the money and will make billions more as orders for these two antivirals continue to come in from around the world.”

While Big Pharma rushes to produce a vaccine, according to some health experts, soap and water may be just as effective in preventing the disease. But that’s not great news for the pharmaceutical giants. Soap and water aren’t going to make them any money. They would much rather you succumb to the threat of death from this so-called pandemic and line up for your shot.

• swine_vaccine_090727/20090727?hub=Health
• /20090717/swine-flu-vaccine-fast-track

Healing your toxic emotions

by Deepak Chopra

Emotions are mysterious and often dangerous things. Thirty years ago, mind-body medicine made the connection between emotions and illness. The so-called cancer personality had its vogue, preceded by the Type A personality linked to early heart attacks. Despite advances in drugs for depression and anxiety, toxic emotions are taking the same heavy toll as ever, playing their secret part in causing all manner of illness.

The most toxic emotions are hostility, anxiety, stored-up resentment, guilt, hopelessness, and depression. What makes them toxic is that they disrupt the immune system and drastically alter hormone levels. Researchers long ago proved that lab rats raised under conditions of high stress are much more prone to sickness and early death. But human beings have much more control over the toxic effects of their feelings.

The cycle of all emotions always goes back to the mind-body connection. Some people make it; others refuse to. I’ve found that there are definite steps anyone can take to heal this connection, and when that happens, the flow of emotions – good and bad – is restored to its healthy state.

1. Own your emotion and take responsibility for it. You can’t blame your feelings on anyone else; they are all yours. If you become enraged with bad drivers, the cause isn’t with them but with you. The external stress is far less important than how you deal with it and people who look to themselves as the source of their own feelings have made the all-important step toward healing. Instead of saying to someone, “You made me angry (or jealous or afraid or resentful”), change your reaction to “This situation is causing me feelings of anger.” It’s not just a formula – it’s the truth.

2. Focus on the sensation of the emotion, not its content. All emotions have physical results; that is why they can make us ill. But we all tend to focus instead on the who, why, what, when and where of a feeling. This is called rationalization. Fortunately, the mind can’t pay attention to two things at once. If you stop thinking about who stressed you out and why, but instead put your attention on your body, feeling where the discomfort lies, you break the cycle of obsessive thinking that makes a toxic emotion keep on going, long after it should. You don’t need to figure out your emotions so much as dissipate their harmful energy.

3. Label your emotion on two levels. The first level is obvious: we all know when we are angry or unhappy. But anger is the easiest emotion and unhappiness doesn’t end just by letting it run its course. At a deeper level, there is always a second emotion. If you are habitually caught in a situation that makes you feel stressed, ask what lies behind the mask of your first emotion. Are you feeling unheard? Is your anger a cover-up for insecurity? Are you secretly afraid? Until you get to the second level, you aren’t dealing with the toxic part. In my experience with hundreds of patients, if they trace their feelings somewhere in the body, inevitably the second level of emotion lies in the heart or the stomach. This is where the emotional glue causes negativity to stick to you. Just as inevitably, the second-level emotions are recurrent – people have been carrying around resentment or anxiety for many years; it is their own personal drama. When you see that your patterns have been with you for a long time, it is easier to see that they belong to you, not those whom you blame.

4. Express all your emotions, without exception, but do it through a healthy outlet. Emotions want to move; their natural flow is halted by denial, repression and ‘holding it in.’ Keeping a journal of feelings every day has proved extremely helpful for many people, since no one lives in an environment where all emotions can be expressed outwardly. In any event, don’t aim your emotion at anyone. If you feel terribly hurt or mistreated by someone else, write down every detail of that feeling in a long letter. Don’t leave out any scrap of resentment, hatred, jealousy or hurt. Edit the letter tomorrow to make sure it is complete then throw it away. You need to express your emotions to yourself first of all, not to others.

5. Release your emotions in a significant way. In other words, don’t just pass them off. Your body wants to know that you are aware of your feelings. Talk to it; say that you are going to deal with a sudden outburst of negativity, even if you have to postpone your reaction until later. And keep your promise. If you need a walk outside, time alone or a few moments to vent in private, carry out those intentions. The important thing is to discover your own process or ritual for releasing an emotion. Choices might include vigorous exercise, praying, getting a massage, laughing, deep breathing – the range of possibilities is very wide.

6. Share your process with a loved one. This is the crucial step that makes all emotions positive. As soon as you find the lesson that your negativity wants to teach you, it becomes positive. Perhaps you feel deep down that anger is always wrong or that guilt must not be faced. It is your belief system that makes these emotions ‘bad’ and therefore toxic. Every emotion you deal with makes you a healer. Share that with your spouse or closest friend. Let them into your process and you will find that negativity begins to lose its grip much more quickly.

7. Celebrate yourself. When you take one step toward healing a toxic emotion, you have made a step toward personal freedom. Instead of your emotions using you, you are learning to use them. That is cause for celebration and you shouldn’t skip the moment of victory. Nature abhors a vacuum. When you let go of negativity, fill the space by congratulating yourself and allowing healthy pride, satisfaction and self-esteem to fill in the gap. You have restored the mind-body connection; now, let the good things flow across it. This is just as important as getting rid of the bad things. When you can see your emotions as the best part of yourself, you have become a true self-healer.

Join Deepak Chopra and David Simon for a week of self discovery and transformation in Whistler, Aug. 23-29.