Fish out of water

by Eva Lyman
Shuswap Lake Coalition, Adams River Alliance

The West Beach site and mouth of Adams river. Photo by Fred Bird.

WHEN MY husband and I first discovered the North Shuswap in 1972, it was a quiet backwater where you could get an acre of waterfront for $10,000. Commercial facilities consisted of a Lucky Dollar store and a gas station in Scotch Creek, with a few more neighbourhood groceries along the lake.

The drawing card then was the provincial park and campground in Scotch Creek. It is still one of the main reasons people come here, but in the last five years or so, development has taken off. In the past, young families with modest incomes could camp or rent old, waterfront cabins, but in 2000, things began to change. One of the first of the new developments was a row of 12 waterfront duplexes in Celista, selling for a quarter-million dollars each.

Clearly, this was a different clientele. Things have continued to change at an accelerated pace. In 2005, some of us discovered that, on each side of Shuswap Provincial Park, existing private rental cottages and camping areas were morphing into trendy condominiums costing more than half a million dollars a unit. Other luxurious duplexes have been built on the Scotch Creek waterfront more recently and the last time I checked, they were listed closer to the million-dollar mark.

What does this mean for the area and for the old-timers living on lower and middle incomes? The seasonal residents have become wealthier, clearly. A substantial proportion of them are early retirees, or pre-retirees, who plan to move to their seasonal home full-time, after they retire. This trend has not been lost on developers.

This denser development means more of everything, even sewage. We discovered the developments that were permitted – four in 2005 – had all been given permission to pipe their effluent into the lake by BC’s Environmental Protection Branch. We are not talking about insignificant amounts of effluent; the smallest amount permitted was 5,000 gallons per day, and one developer received permission to dump half a million gallons a day. That is about the same volume that the city of Salmon Arm generates from all its residents. This capacity could service the entire North Shuswap, with a year-round population of less than 4,000 people.

The pipeline for this effluent travels along Wharf Road and when local residents made that discovery, they showed up at the lake with placards. Within weeks, the demonstration resulted in a moratorium on the dumping of effluent into the lake by future, private developers. The victory, however, will be hollow if the half-million gallon permit is allowed to stand.

The functional problem here is that condo residents are still, to a large degree, seasonal. At one of our meetings with government officials in 2005, the head of Interior Health, Mr. Ken Christian stated that, under such circumstances, sewage treatment systems tend to fail when they go from a low volume flow in winter to full use in the spring and summer. This has apparently happened in at least one of the developments; a three-month start-up grace period has been permitted and this, of course, takes us through most of the summer. By sheer coincidence, an older, adjacent subdivision that takes its water from the lake by a deep intake nearby has been on a boil water advisory ever since the condominiums were built.

We are also finding out more about some of the deleterious components of even well-treated sewage. Whoever heard of phthalates a few years ago? We did not know about the persistence of pharmaceuticals, hormones and chemicals common in household use. Now we know they have "gender bender" effects, create trans-gendered as well as hermaphrodite fish and amphibians, and so on. The media run programs on the disappearing male. It’s all in the water.

Recently, another development issue has arisen: a new proposal on the site of an old private campground next to the Adams River delta and Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park to build 160 RV sites, 72 motel lodges, 46 detached motel units, three residences and four lakefront cabins, as well as an 80-seat restaurant, shops and, of course, boat moorage.

Residents were hopeful when local MLA George Abbott, the Premier and the Minister of Environment all stated that the Province would buy out the development site and add it to the adjacent park. That was in April of this year. In May, the developer began marketing his development to buyers.

The Adams River is the most significant sockeye spawning river in BC, if not the entire West Coast. Other salmon spawn here and along miles of the lakeshore as well. While some activists worry about fish farms, and quite rightfully so, are we not missing the fundamentals here? If the fish don’t spawn, or if they and the hatchlings get cut up by boat propellers, will there be any returning salmon left to be attacked by sea lice?

Lawyers in the community are currently studying details pertaining to this proposal. Local citizens hope that the Province’s plan to buy the land goes ahead, but if it does not, they are at a point when they plan to continue fighting for the salmon. This is a critical issue. Back in 1972, there was no Eurasian milfoil growing in Shuswap Lake and there was no slime on the pebbles. Today, machines are used to clear the beaches of the weeds, cutting up any unfortunate fish that happen to be swimming among them.

If sewer pipes pour 25,000 gallons of wastes into the lake on each side of this same campground daily, how clean can the water remain? How can we justify our cavalier neglect to future generations, as well as to the elders who have drank untreated lake water all their lives? This is beyond stupidity; it is criminal neglect.

Festival of climate solutions

EARTHFUTURE by Guy Dauncey

DEAR FELLOW citizens of British Columbia:

Now that my government has been in power for almost a month, I feel compelled to report on an urgent reality that received little real debate in the election.

I will come straight to the point. I am talking about global warming. Since taking office, I have been handed many reports, many labelled “urgent.”

Some merited the title, especially those on homelessness and affordable housing, but even these pale into insignificance next to the report on global warming.

I am not going to debate the science, for it has become abundantly clear that the debate about the causes of global warming is over. Any continuation will only delay the action that is so urgently needed.

During the election, we argued the merits of a carbon tax versus cap-and-trade. Both are important, but neither is sufficient to the urgency of the crisis.

Let me be clear. Because of the world’s continuing use of fossil fuels, our planet is on a warming trend that may see temperatures rise by 6º C by the end of this century. The last time the planet was this warm was during the Permian period, 251 million years ago, when 95 percent of all species became extinct. Most ecosystems took between four and 30 million years to recover.

If we continue burning fossil fuels and destroying our forests, farmlands and grasslands, most of the world’s coastal cities will be submerged by the end of this century. A third of the planet’s land area will be uninhabitable desert. Most agriculture will cease and most humans who survive will become refugees, desperately seeking a new place to live.

US Secretary of Energy Dr. Stephen Chu told the Los Angeles Times recently that 90 percent of California’s Sierra snowpack could disappear, eliminating the water storage that is so vital to agriculture. “We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California. I don’t actually see how they can keep their cities going… I don’t think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen.”

Here in BC, unless we build a sea wall three metres high, most of the Lower Mainland will be under water, submerging parts of Richmond, Delta, Tsawwassen, Surrey, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, the Vancouver airport and BC’s entire marine shipping infrastructure along the banks of the Fraser.

How should we respond? This is the question that has kept me awake at night. It has become clear that the goal adopted under the last government – a 33 percent reduction in our carbon emissions below 2007 by 2020 (10 percent below 1990) – is nowhere near enough. In the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate conference this December, the call is for a 40 percent reduction below 1990 by 2020.

As British Columbians, we live in one of the most advanced societies in the world. We should not sit back and hope that some other country will take the lead.

As your government, we can dream up big policies. We could allow only the purchase of zero-emissions vehicles after 2020 and hopefully incentivize the market to produce sufficient electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars. We could require that every new building be zero-carbon, starting in 2016, as Britain is doing. We could close down BC’s coal, oil and gas industries, using your dollars to compensate the companies and retrain their workers.

Unless there was widespread consensus that such measures were needed, however, they would soon become political footballs, their merits lost in the storm of partisan debate.

The wisest way forward, therefore, is to ask you, my fellow British Columbians, what we should do. To that end, we are launching a three-month festival of imagination, ideas and solutions, designed to make BC a zero-carbon society by 2030, both domestically, and as much as possible, for our imports and exports too.

I am not the incoming premier, but if you send me your ideas, I will reprint the best of them in this column and on the BCSEA’s website, and I will also forward them on to the real premier. Please send them titled “Festival of Climate Solutions” to

Guy Dauncey is president of the BC Sustainable Energy

US sets high standards

SCIENCE MATTERS by David Suzuki with Faisal Moola

LAST MONTH, Barack Obama completed his first 100 days on the job as US President. During that brief period, his administration acted to reverse many of the failed and destructive policy decisions of his predecessor, George W. Bush. President Obama is giving the American people hope that positive change is possible. If only we were offered the same kind of hope in Canada.

The US president has rejected the rigid dogma of previous US leaders in moving to loosen restrictions on Cuba and offering to engage in peaceful dialogue with Iran. He has injected billions of dollars into science and overturned the Bush administration’s ban on embryonic stem-cell research in an effort to return the nation to its historical leadership role in scientific inquiry and discovery.

On the environmental front, he has appointed an outspoken advocate of ocean conservation to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, signed into law the protection of more than two million acres of wilderness and made clear his intention to combat climate change, including a willingness to force automakers to produce more fuel-efficient and less-polluting cars.

Obama’s commitment to implement the US Endangered Species Act has received far less attention. Earlier this year, the US government restored key endangered species protections that were stripped away by George Bush in the waning days of his administration. In particular, President Obama has reinstated rules that will ensure that government decisions receive independent scientific scrutiny before they are allowed to proceed. In announcing the change, President Obama stated, “With smart, sustainable policies, we can grow our economy today and preserve the environment for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.”

The president’s support for the Endangered Species Act signals a 180-degree turn. Under George Bush, the US did just about everything in its power, including breaking the law, to eviscerate this critical piece of environmental legislation, enacted, ironically, by another right-wing republican, Richard Nixon.

President Obama’s support for the legal protection of endangered species couldn’t have come at a more pressing time. Scientists are united in their belief that the planet is in the midst of a biodiversity crisis on par with earlier mass extinction events in the Earth’s history. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, some 16,000 known plant and animal species are currently threatened with extinction.

Some scientists believe the effects of climate change alone could result in the premature extinction of 15 to 37 percent of species within our children’s lifetime.

Sadly, our own government leaders have not come close to matching President Obama’s leadership on endangered species. Canada has had legislation protecting endangered species for six years, but our government has failed to implement the law, known as the Species at Risk Act, according to a report card recently released by the David Suzuki Foundation and its allies.

The report found that only one animal, a tiny snail the size of a kernel of corn (it lives in a few hot springs in an existing protected area), has received the full conservation measures required under the Species at Risk Act. At the same time, some 550 other species, including caribou and killer whales, are wasting away in legal purgatory while the feds dilly-dally on completing and implementing recovery plans necessary to prevent their extinction.

When it comes to environmental problems, such as climate change and species extinction, the attitude of our “leaders” here in Canada seems to be that we have plenty of time before we have to act. But as our neighbours to the south are finally beginning to realize, that’s not the case. The more we delay, the more severe the problems will become and the more difficult it will be to address them. Our own survival depends on the planet’s ability to provide us with clean air, water and food. We must act now. And, yes, we can!


Obama quote:
DSF/Allies Report Card (SARA): SpeciesAtRisk_April29.pdf

Take the Nature Challenge and learn more at

Let’s get it together

SCIENCE MATTERS by David Suzuki with Faisal Moola

THE NORTH Coast of BC is one of my favourite places. If you visit this spectacular and ecologically diverse region, you’ll see mountains, forests, oceans, sea lions, puffins and whales. If you are fortunate enough to dive into the ocean, you’ll see salmon, herring, rockfish, sea anemones, giant scallops, kelp forests, and – deep below – 9,000-year-old glass-sponge reefs.

It’s absurd to think that we could manage our activities in such a vast and complex area by having different government departments oversee individual activities in isolation. But that’s pretty much the way we’ve been doing things.

Fortunately, people are beginning to talk about a new way of managing our oceans, a way that’s being tested in five large ocean areas in Canada. One of these areas is the North Coast of BC, in a region stretching from northern Vancouver Island to the BC-Alaska border, which the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has labelled the “Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area,” or PNCIMA.

The DFO is attempting to engage an integrated management planning process here, in part based on the recognition that everything in nature is interconnected, including human activity. For years, many scientists, resource managers and environmentalists have encouraged government to adopt an ecosystem-based management, or EBM, approach that takes into account all values and interests.

The Federal government’s planning processes in the Beaufort Sea, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Eastern Scotian Shelf, Placentia Bay/Grand Banks and Pacific North Coast could set an example for the EBM approach in all of Canada’s oceans. Until now, there’s been more talk than action.

PNCIMA’s integrated management planning process has recently seen some significant breakthroughs, though. In December, DFO signed a formal governance agreement with First Nations in the area to move forward with a marine planning process. And in late March, more than 380 people – including representatives from government, First Nations, coastal communities, marine industries and non-governmental organizations – took part in a two-day forum to discuss management and conservation options for the region.

That so many people from so many walks of life and so many communities were able to come together to discuss the needs of this area shows not just that cooperation is possible, but also that everyone understands the need for urgent action to protect the health of our oceans.

As with most processes involving a multitude of resources, interests and ecological values, government must continue to play a leading role. Even more importantly, our government must provide enough money for scientific research to ensure that decisions are made according to the best local and scientific knowledge.

We don’t have a lot of time to waste. Many ocean ecosystems are at tipping points, with pollution, resource extraction and industrial impacts contributing to declines in fish, mammal, and other marine-life populations. Add to that the uncertainty about the effects climate change is having on these ecosystems and the need for planning becomes even more urgent.

A credible, long-term plan for any ocean region must include an increase in protected areas where specific types of industrial activity are limited. Canada has the longest coastline of any nation on Earth and 40 percent of our jurisdictional area is ocean, yet the federal government has set aside less than one percent of that as marine protected areas.

I hope governments, First Nations and other interested people will continue the formal dialogue, scientific research and relationship building required to ensure we have intelligent management and conservation in our oceans. I believe most people understand that our own health depends on the health of ocean ecosystems.

I encourage everyone in Canada who cares about the future health of our oceans to let the government know that we want a greater investment in science, management, and conservation so that our oceans stand a fighting chance in an all too uncertain future. For more information, visit

Take the Nature Challenge and learn more at

Your turn to be the change

by Maureen Jack-LaCroix

“YOU MUST be the change you want to see in the world.” This profoundly grounded and compelling call to action by Mahatma Gandhi is the founding principle of the social change program developed by Be the Change Earth Alliance, and it reveals more to me every time I consider it.

Along with the mandate of taking personal responsibility to clarify and live what we value, with this statement Gandhi challenges our integrity to act in alignment with those values.

The challenges of our time are calling for change on a scale we do not yet understand. Even when we start to recognize, through scientific and spiritual insight, the truth of our interconnectedness, the complexity of the natural and social systems in which we operate far exceeds our ability to comprehend.

Whether or not you have moved through decades of personal growth and spiritual exploration, we are now collectively entering a new moment in time that calls us to transform our operating perspective from “I” into “we.” To quote Ken Wilbur, this is a “transcend and include” process. We must not lose the personal responsibility and unique offerings of the “I,” but we must also embrace the collective responsibility and wisdom of the “we.”

We are being asked to trust our collective potential as never before – to let go of our competitive, individualistic tendencies – both personally and organizationally – and to trust more deeply in the unfamiliar, and sometimes chaotic, collaborative approach. There are so many aspects required in this change that one person alone cannot see the emergent social order.

I like Ken Wilbur’s maxim that no theory or model is either all right or all wrong. It opens me up to listen for understanding, instead of agreement. This is a primary protocol for Be the Change circles. When listening for the unique perspective each of us has, we hear the broader collective wisdom that the circle brings.

What a rich and juicy range of issues and changes to consider in the global shift that is underway at this time. That’s the exciting aspect of “The Great Turning” “un-conference’” we have planned for May 23. It is an opportunity to dialogue with a dynamic spectrum of change agents, each speaking to an issue about which they are passionate and knowledgeable. Be they eco-warriors or eco-innovators, social justice missionaries or spiritual activists, they all hold an important piece of the puzzle. Our process is to honour everyone and to challenge everyone, to broaden and deepen our understanding so that we can consider the personal and collective actions we can take to be the change we want to see in the world.

Dr. Joanna Macy stated, “The Great Turning is our essential adventure, as we shift from an industrial world view to one that engenders a life-sustaining civilization.” This systems theorist and honoured teacher is deeply grounded in Buddhist wisdom and she calls us to be both hospice and midwife in these times of great change.

To hospice the old structures and systems that do not serve life on Earth as they fall away. At the same time to mindfully, and with great intention, midwife the emergence of new life sustaining systems and structures that will support the health and well-being of our planet and all members of the Earth community.

We know that we cannot do this work alone. It is essential to connect with others, to share insights and stories of change. We must talk together, feast together and nourish ourselves in a community dedicated to environmental sustainability, personal meaning and social justice.

The Great Turning will help coalesce the collective wisdom that informs our community and generate cross-sector collaborations and collective actions to accelerate the shift that is presently underway. While the pathways to a restored Earth may already be here, no single person or community will lead the way forward. Many voices are needed. Yours is one of them! 

Maureen Jack-LaCroix is executive director of Be the Change Earth Alliance and producer of the first annual un-conference, The Great Turning, Saturday, May 23, Maritime Labour Centre, 1880 Triumph St, Vancouver. Tickets available at or call 604-269-9874.

Growing Citizens – can gardening change the world?

Fertile ground makes good things grow

by Joanna Ashworth

Free Talk 
Gardening as a Catalyst 
for Civic Engagement
Wed., May 6, 6:30-8:30pm, Simon Fraser University, Wosk Centre for Dialogue, 580 W. Hastings. Seating limited. Pre-registration required

More info: 778-782-7925.


WHAT DRAWS you to the garden? Have you noticed lately that one of our most fundamental and pleasurable activities – cultivating food and flowers – has been discovered anew by the denizens of our towns and cities here in BC? Urban farming, guerilla gardening, community supported agriculture and other acts of community building have now become acts of solidarity that offer nourishment for a community, and in some instances, providing places of physical and spiritual healing.

There are many moving stories about how the simple act of planting flowers in previously uncared for public ground, sharing a row of vegetables grown in your back yard with complete strangers, or helping whole neighbourhoods develop a sense of pride in their street life have become profound acts of citizenship. For some, it is not so selfless. For some of your neighbours, the desire to garden may simply be motivated by a craving for beauty in an otherwise dreary, urban landscape. For others, gardening is deeply rooted in principles of ecological engagement and connection to the land.

On May 6, SFU’s Dialogue Programs hosts part two of a three-part series of public dialogues entitled “Heart of a Citizen.” This series is intended to explore why people make the shift from focusing only on their private concerns to actively engaging in creating positive, social change in the public sphere.

The first session in the series began in early April with author and activist Paul Loeb who launched the conversation with riveting stories of well-known change makers. People whose imagination and persistence saw them prevail in spite of tough times and circumstances. Think Desmond Tutu, the archbishop of South Africa, the Dalai Lama, Rosa Parks and Gandhi. Loeb offered participants much to ponder and, in particular, challenged the myth that one person can’t make a difference. He also confronted the rationale of “I don’t know enough about a particular problem,” noting that it isn’t a legitimate reason to stay on the sidelines.

On May 6, the second session of the series presents three remarkable citizen gardeners, perhaps lesser known than the above-mentioned Nobel Laureates, but nonetheless effective at what they do: creating beauty and hope in public spaces.

Sylvia Holland is an urban planner and longtime street gardener. David Tracey is a garden designer and author of a new book, Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto (New Society Publishers). Ward Teulon, otherwise known as “City Farm Boy” is also the founder of CityFarmBoy. The three speakers launch the dialogue with accounts of their own gardening adventures and the unique paths that led them each to embrace the garden and public life in equal measure. As Tracey sees it, “gardening is a an act of hope and… our natural birthright … it creates better cities and a safer planet.”

Ordinary citizens have such untapped potential – skills, abilities and, most importantly, passion – and they want to become involved in making their cities and neighbourhoods better places. In response, SFU’s Dialogue Programs are developing a new certificate program that will launch in September to train people to use civic engagement methods, founded upon principles that encourage effective citizen participation.

Advisors and supporters of the SFU program, including local government, community agencies and private organizations, recognize such engagement as an essential tool for a participatory democracy. In June, the third session of Heart of a Citizen will explore how festivals and the arts serve as vehicles for public learning and engagement.

So what do you think? Can gardeners change the world? Bring your perspective to what promises to be a fertile conversation. It just might get you back to the garden in ways you had never imagined.

Dr. Joanna Ashworth is the director of Dialogue Programs at Simon Fraser University.

Framing the Earth


Scene from Earth Days

APRIL 22 is Earth Day, and has been since 1970, when a bunch of Harvard graduates organized a grass roots teach-in on the environment.

The history of Earth Day is the subject of Earth Days, the closing film at the second Projecting Change Film Festival ( The film fest, which saw 2,200 attendees last year, could itself easily be titled “Earth Days” with its strong environmental focus. (The film festival runs April 2-5 at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, 2110 Burrard Street.)

Earth Days is a well-crafted documentary that, through interviews with key participants in the green movement, taps a rich vein of optimism and hope while acknowledging that an awful lot of damage has been inflicted on our fragile planet. (

The story of Earth Day and the development of the environmental movement are closely intertwined: writer-director Robert Stone’s enjoyable film suggests that you can pinpoint the start of the modern environmental movement to the first Earth Day in 1970. People like Rachel Carson, with her pesticides exposé Silent Spring published in 1962, created a new sensitivity toward the environment, but it wasn’t until millions took to the streets across the US on that first Earth Day that people realized they were linked by a common concern. A political force had been born. Nixon – not generally remembered for his green credentials – created the Environmental Protection Agency to monitor pollutants in the same year.

Stone’s choice of nine interviewees reflects his interest in the political development of environmentalism over the years in the US with inside stories from original Earth Day organizer Denis Hayes, early environmental author and former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall and eco-conscious Republican congressman Pete McCloskey. There’s a sense of achievement mixed with amusement and regret, but perhaps the most poignant moments are when the interviewees talk about their memories of life before land started being gobbled up by post-war development.

Stone reels off copious amounts of archive footage, particularly of utopian fifties’ visions of the future, to put us in the right mindset and contrasts it effectively with the contrarian, ecological warnings of authors Paul Ehrlich and Dennis Meadows and Earth Times editor Stephanie Mills, who chose not to have a child for environmental reasons. They make a good point that their predictions of ecological collapse due to exponential population growth were not necessarily wrong; we just put them off for a while.

The BBC wildlife series Earth has been re-edited into a feature length movie for theatrical release. Expect nothing short of stunning imagery of the natural world, although sanitized of its bloodier aspects for family viewing.Earth comes out on, you guessed it, Earth Day.

Robert Alstead maintains a blog at

Ten reasons for STV

EARTHFUTURE by Guy Dauncey

ON MAY 12, we are being invited to choose a new system of voting in BC. In place of the old “First Past the Post” system, we’ll have a chance to choose a more democratic method. This is an enormous opportunity, but it is one we could easily lose if we are not well organized.

Under the present system, most BC governments are elected by a minority of the voters, with the unfortunate result that the majority of voters feel sulky, angry or irritated because their views are not being represented. This is not the way democracy is supposed to work.

On May 12, we can change this by voting for STV. Does STV stand for a “Sultry Transgendered Vogon” or a “Steaming Tantric Voluptuary?” No, it stands for the Single Transferable Vote and it can be explained in three easy points:

ONE: BC will have fewer ridings (20 instead of 79), but more MLAs per riding. Each riding will have between two and seven MLAs, for a total of 85 MLAs.

TWO: Instead of voting for one candidate, you rank the candidates in order of preference, placing “1” by your first choice, “2” by your second choice, etc.

THREE: The counting is done in rounds. After each round, one of two things happens: (1) if the leading candidate has more votes than are needed to win, the surplus votes are transferred to the candidate’s supporters’ second choices; (2) if not, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and likewise, the votes are transferred to the second choices of those who voted for him/her. This continues until the clear winners emerge.

stvHere are 10 reasons STV makes sense:

1. The Citizens’ Assembly that recommended STV was created by a unanimous vote of the BC Legislature. The Assembly was randomly selected, with one male and one female from each riding.

2. After studying all possible systems of voting and hearing hundreds of submissions from the public, 95 percent of its members recommended STV as the best for BC. STV is not complicated, as its opponents claim. You simply put a “1” by your first choice of candidate and “2”, “3” or “4” (etc) by your follow-up choices.

3. Voting uses paper ballots and does not require a computer unless you want to tally the votes faster.

4. Under STV, few votes are wasted. Eighty percent of voters will see one of their top choices elected, compared to less than 50 percent in the current system.

5. Under STV, there is no need for “hold your nose” strategic voting, which causes rifts and antagonisms between voters who support similar ideas.

6. STV will not produce more minority governments. It will often produce a single-party majority government and sometimes a coalition majority government. In Tasmania, in six of the last eight elections, STV produced a single-party majority government. Contrast this with Canada under the current system, where nine of the last 18 federal elections produced minority governments.

7. STV will create more respect between parties, as they may need to form a coalition government together. This will reduce the polarity and hostility that have been the curse of BC politics for years.

8. In most ridings, voters will elect MLAs from two or more parties, giving you a choice of whom to speak to when you have a concern.

9. STV discourages negative campaigns because winning candidates need second and third-place support from voters whose first choice is a competing candidate. It rewards constructive behaviour.

10. STV does not encourage the election of fringe candidates, as its opponents claim. The preferential ballot weeds out extremists and ensures that the winning candidates have widely based support.

We need to mobilize as much support as possible as we approach May 12. Each side has been given $500,000 with which to campaign and if I was opposing STV, I would claim, “It’s complicated. It’s going to elect minority governments and fringe candidates.” None of this is true.

STV will give us more democratic, accountable governments. The system is used in Tasmania, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Malta, the Australian Senate and in local government elections in Scotland and Cambridge (MA). It would be great to have it here in BC.

To learn more, go to where you can also volunteer.

Guy Dauncey is an author and speaker living in Victoria, BC.

Forests part of climate puzzle

SCIENCE MATTERS by David Suzuki with Faisal Moola

WE KNOW that global warming is a reality and that we humans are its primary cause. And we know that carbon dioxide emissions, mostly from burning fossil fuels, are a major contributor to global warming. But we still have much to learn about the Earth’s mechanisms when it comes to regulating emissions and warming.

Forests – along with grasslands, soils and other ecosystems – are an important part of the equation, and a new report published in the journal Nature sheds a bit more light on their role. We’ve known for a long time that forests are important carbon sinks. That is, they absorb carbon from the atmosphere, thus preventing it from contributing to global warming.

But the Nature study shows that tropical forests absorb more carbon than we realized. Researchers from a number of institutions, including the University of Toronto, analyzed data from 79 intact forests in Africa from 1968 to 2007, along with similar data from 156 intact forests from 20 non-African countries. They concluded that tropical forests absorb about 4.8 billion tonnes of carbon a year, equivalent to about 18 percent of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere each year by burning fossil fuels. The world’s oceans are the other major carbon sink, absorbing about half the human-produced carbon that doesn’t end up in the atmosphere.

That doesn’t mean we can count on the forests or the oceans to save us from our folly. To start, about 15 billion of the 32 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide that humans produce is not reabsorbed on land or sea and ends up in the atmosphere. And the carbon stored in forests can be released back into the atmosphere with natural disturbances, such as fire or insect outbreaks or if the forest is logged. This is because when trees are cut down, die and decay naturally or burn, some of the stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere. And many wood and pulp and paper products are discarded and destroyed in a much shorter time period than the life of an old-growth forest. This means that the carbon is released earlier than it would have been if the forests were left intact.

We humans have upset the balance of nature in more ways than we understand. The scientists haven’t figured out why the tropical trees are growing big enough to absorb more carbon than they release. One theory is that global warming and the extra carbon in the atmosphere are actually fertilizing the trees.

One thing we do know is that we cannot rely on tropical forests to prevent dangerous levels of climate change. But the amount of carbon they store is a compelling argument for protecting them: – they may at least provide a buffer while we work on other solutions, such as reducing our energy consumption and switching to renewable sources of energy.

Clearly, it’s not the only reason to protect forests. The ability of forests to absorb carbon shows us that they have economic value beyond providing lumber. Forests are a source of medicine, food and clean drinking water and are habitat for over half of all land based plants and animals on the planet. Forests also provide spiritual, aesthetic and recreational opportunities for millions of people.

Forest degradation is also contributing to another ecological crisis, a biodiversity crisis on par with earlier mass extinctions. Scientists estimate that 16,000 species are now threatened with extinction, including 12 percent of birds, 23 percent of mammals and 32 percent of amphibians. Habitat destruction is partly responsible for this crisis and climate change is exacerbating it. And although most of our carbon emissions are from burning fossil fuels, one quarter is from deforestation.

This shows how everything in nature is interconnected and how our planet works to find equilibrium. We can’t confront the problems we have created on a piecemeal basis. We must look at them together. Conserving the world’s forests – which can include sustainable forestry practices – is one obvious place to start dealing with some of the most imminent crises.

Take the Nature Challenge and learn more at


A time of wonders

EARTHFUTURE by Guy Dauncey

THIS IS a time of wonders. That statement may seem totally counter-intuitive and blind to the enormous troubles ahead, but I can’t ignore the perpetual voice that sings within me of the incredible possibilities at our fingertips.

If I look one way, I can see that we are racing towards the greatest ecological meltdown since the last great extinction event – the cretacean – that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Time moves slowly and a human lifetime is long and yet we are so close to winning the collective Darwin Award, given every year to those individuals who do such stupid things that they do us the favour of removing their genes from the gene pool. I write these words on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, who I am sure would never have contemplated the possibility of the entire human race winning such an award one day.

Yet, if I look the other way, I see the road to the solar age, shining with promise and hope. I see the successful elimination of fossil fuels, children learning ecological literacy in every school, Earth’s cities becoming urban paradises. I see farms the world over adopting organic, butterfly-loving methods of cultivation and Earth’s working forests being treated like the temples they are, with reverence and love.

I have held this vision for more than 40 years and yet I have never felt it so close, so totally within our reach. My hopefulness does not stem from any recent intimacy with BC bud, but from my knowledge of communities around the world that are making it happen. It stems from Copenhagen where 36 percent of commuter trips are by bicycle; from San Francisco, well on the way to achieving 100 percent zero waste by 2020; from the small town of Güssing, in eastern Austria, whose people have eliminated 93 percent of their carbon footprint by building a variety of solar, biomass and other energy systems. I have just finished writing my new book on global climate solutions and I can feel the vibrancy of so much innovation and effort all around the world.

So what do we need to turn away from the dark path of cynicism, negativity and defeat and embrace instead the brilliance of hope? We need three things and they are all within our grasp.

The first is the willingness to act. By acting, we switch on our motivation, which releases a cascade of possibilities. One phone call asking, “How can I help?” is enough – perhaps to a local non-profit society; perhaps to the BC-STV campaign office (campaigning for the Single Transferable Vote in the May 12 referendum); perhaps to the office of the greenest, local candidate in the forthcoming provincial election.

The second is the willingness to persist. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Nothing of any worth was achieved without persistence. Persistence means learning, training, practising. You may have a vision that takes five or 10 years to fulfill, such as turning the street where you live into a community of sharing people, growing food, installing solar panels and planting trees. Alternatively, it might be kick-started with one rousing street party, organized with neighbours with a few weeks’ notice.

The third is the determination to stay positive and not be defeated by the apparent hopelessness of larger problems, such as the need to transform global capitalism, the domination of the US military industrial complex or the ecological collapse of the world’s oceans. Millions share your hopes, confident that success is possible.

What we need is faith at a deeper level, which does not require evidence at every step. Faith that humans have the ability to succeed in this challenge, just as we succeeded in ending slavery, winning the right of working people to form a labour union, defeating fascism and so much more.

The love that so many people feel for our troubled planet comes from that same deep place and it’s not going away. Our task is to hold onto it and act on it – now.

Guy Dauncey is the author of nine books, including After the Crash: The Emergence of the Rainbow Economy. He is president of the BC Sustainable Energy Association.