Thank you for seeing through the smoke and mirrors, dispensing with red herrings, writing for truth and with great intensity, and supporting journalism of the highest quality. And for a magazine I read cover to cover because it’s so interesting, relevant, hard-hitting, beautiful and…funny in the right places!
Grandstanding? Or grand gesture?
While I found Judith Lavoie’s reporting very interesting, I am far from convinced that the proposed class-action suit, supported by Victoria’s mayor and council of ideologues led by Ben Isitt, is anything but grandstanding. Andrew Gage of West Coast Environmental Law is hardly unbiased in his assessment of the litigation’s eventual success. The question is: how many decades and how many billions? Looks like a win/win for the legal profession on both sides. This is political over-reach at it worst.
In the March/April Focus I was surprised to learn that a City of Victoria councillor sees carbon taxes and road-user charges as the “biggest and best tools” for climate-change action. This view is inconsistent with the landmark UN IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (October 2018)—a report with over 6,000 references and 42,001 expert and government review comments.
Given the dire state of the climate crisis according to evidence-based science, and the need for policymakers at all levels to take responsibility, I think it’s incumbent on elected officials to have read the full IPCC report, especially those who make public statements on climate action.
The IPCC report clearly states that the emerging body of studies—that focus on the performance of various policy mixes—affirm that a range of measures and complementary mix of policies are required to generate a 1.5°C pathway to avert risks of environmental breakdown and catastrophic suffering. The report elucidates unequivocally that—according to evidence and theory—while relevant, carbon pricing alone cannot reach the incentive levels needed to hold temperature increase to the essential goal of no more than 1.5˚C.
The report highlights the need for accountability at all governance levels, including local, and describes at significant length the numerous ways cities play a key and essential role in climate mitigation and adaptation strategies. It emphasizes the requirement for rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes, stressing that there’s no time to delay.
Reading the full IPCC Special Report would aid more informed and responsible councillor public comments. I’m grateful to the mayor and other councillors who—in accord with evidence-based science—are taking climate action seriously, understand the essential role that cities have in climate action strategies, and the urgency required.
Young people in rapidly growing climate movements around the world are demanding immediate and serious climate change action by policymakers, that they tell the truth about the climate crisis we are in, and that they follow the science.
I invite people to do their own research by reading the actual scientific documents—and not just rely on those professing their economic credentials nor just the analysis of mainstream media. One can then make their own informed decisions about responsible climate action.
Genevieve Eden, Ph.D
As the tipping point nears
In Ms Duivenvoorden Mitic’s article on the lack of a clear plan to combat climate change, she urges people to focus their despair and/or frustration on the positive glimmers of progress.
However, the people who “are getting pissed off over inaction,” are unaware of their involvement with the pollution of the Earth’s air with vast amounts of pollutants. Most consumer goods bought by North Americans are manufactured in China. One-third of the world’s pollution is produced with no environmental controls in place by Chinese industry, thus making North Americans complicit with China in polluting the air. Add to this scenario the shipment of coal to help heat the homes of hundreds of millions of people in China, and we’re left with the realization that no amount of effort will alter climate change.
The case for ending the herring fishery
In the mid 1990s I was involved in the herring spawn dive surveys, where every 1500 feet along the beach in spawning areas, a diver swam along a lead line starting at 30-foot depth into the beach with a quadrant. Dive records had been kept for 30 years and the DFO managers had some solid evidence to base their herring stock abundance estimates. Unfortunately that method of assessment was dropped for sonar surveys, with no overlap of methods so the new sonar methods could be calibrated.
The derby fishing by seine boats was madness, often leading to over-harvesting of allowable catch by 25-30 percent. Now, thankfully, the over-fishing has been replaced by boat quota shares in a slower fishery wherein the catch can be truthfully reported. Still, with prices paid for roe so low, we have to wonder if this is really a fish pellet production fishery for pet food and salmon farms.
Stephen Hume’s comments are factual and accurate. I have witnessed the decline of our fishery since my arrival on the West Coast in 1974. The most significant deterioration began in 1996 and continues to this day. Politicians fiddle while our precious fish and the natural environment burn. I have no doubt that our leadership-deficient Prime Minister Trudeau will claim that those decisions are made in the interest of preserving jobs. This near-sightedness will soon eliminate our salmon and the related fishery jobs, to be followed by both the sports-fishing and tourist economy. Should we be prepared to see government-sponsored commercials for contaminated, foreign, farm fish?
We need to make changes if we are to save our planet, our environment and our fish.
Noel Murphy, Squamish Streamkeeper
The major problem with commercial fisheries is the term “harvest.” Fishing is not in any way like farming. It is hunting. And all societies—except enlightened science-based ones—know that if you over-hunt something, it is gone forever.
The Care Index
I am jazzed about this techy way of outing those making sensational claims about how to reduce auto-dependency. Bike lanes alone won’t do it.
But the cameras are also a distraction. Five percent of greenhouse gases is a contribution that still has to end.
We know what has to happen to cars—just abolish them. E-cars too—most in the world are charged with a fossil fuel source. Their production and use are a fossil-fuel-subsidized privilege of the world’s 20 percent. They have no place in an equitable and carbon-free future.
For a rational, nature-respectful transit vision, watch on YouTube Taken for a Ride—The US History of the Assault on Public Transport in the Last Century.
It basically says that public transit must be free and accessible everywhere, and will need billions of dollars to make that happen. That’s one of the the Green New Deal’s key elements.
Ever been to Manhattan? Five out of six folks there don’t own a car. You can get everywhere on public transit. It’s skanky yes, but people aren’t kvetching to own cars.
The Uber infatuation is a consequence of the US and Canada spending grotesque amounts on militarism (nearly $2 billion per day in the US; $30 billion/year in Canada if the Liberals get their way) rather than on public transit.
China is spending billions for electric buses. What a farce that we’re more concerned about Huawei than doing the same thing here!
I appreciate the latest project of detailing the increase/decrease of assorted modes of transport at intersections across Victoria in order to discern if all the alternative transportation-encouraging measures are having an effect. It is certainly a head-scratcher (warning sign of endemic insanity?) when swathes of mature trees are being cut down for bike lanes. And putting the onus on us drudges to clean up our fossil fuel addiction when pater government is merrily guzzling away with their cronies is indeed maddening.
But I did find several slants in the article a bit disconcerting. Climate change has really brought to the forefront the burning question: is there actually any evidence for scientific evidence? The continuum of “scientists have said” runs the gamut from climate change is a hoax and lots of CO2 in the atmosphere is good for the planet, to projections of drastic, life-as-we-know-it-stopping changes occurring within 10 years.
Having read quite a few reports from several points along the climate-change spectrum, I do find David Broadland’s suggestion that “the time frame over which that full temperature increase (between 1.5 and 4.5˚C) would occur could take hundreds of years to play out—perhaps more than a thousand” to be overly generous in its outlook. As in “oh goodie…I don’t have to make any serious changes in how I live or relate to the world just yet.” Some have even called the recent IPCC report that gives us 12 years to make “rapid and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” to be overly generous. And I’m not so sure that one can even tidily put the climate crises “in a nutshell” as Broadland has done. The Arctic, for example, has already had temperature increases considerably over 4.5˚C, resulting in serious melting of ice and potential release of methane pockets, both of which will impact weather for the rest of the planet. This is just one of many feedback loops that need to be somehow figured in to climate disruption projections. Add in our rapid destruction of life-supporting ecosystems such as forests, soil, air and water, and it becomes tricky to make nutshell explanations or credible predictions at all. A very good read on this topic is the recently released book End of Ice by another investigative journalist par excellence, Dahr Jamail.
I understand the impulse to point out all the hypocrisies and inconsistencies and downright why-bothers of the sudden municipal drive to force and cajole us, the public, into lowering our communal carbon footprints. But it seems to be so easy for us beleaguered humans to use someone else’s refusal to change their eco-destroying actions to justify carrying on with our own. This is totally understandable, which is perhaps why we need to avoid putting even one toe into enabling that propensity.
Instead, what this time in history, which many have called unprecedented in its scope, is blatantly pointing out to us Earth-dwellers is our requirement to come back to our original understanding of the sacredness of and respect for the ecosystem that supports us and our fellow creatures, and from which we have veered mind-bogglingly off course. We don’t need any prompting to look at our neighbours’ or at other parts of the world’s wrongheadednesses as an excuse to not bother. We need to bother. For our own spirits to not wither.
Editor’s note: Broadland accurately paraphrased information provided by US NOAA senior science writer Rebecca Lindsey in her article “How much will Earth warm if carbon dioxide doubles pre-industrial levels?” Broadland wrote:“The arithmetic suggests that by 2060 it will have reached 550 parts per million, double that of the pre-industrial era. At that point, scientists tell us, the planet will be committed to a temperature rise of between 1.5° and 4.5° Celsius. The time frame over which that full temperature increase would occur could take hundreds of years to play out—perhaps more than a thousand—according to scientists. But they also say that by the time CO2 has doubled, average temperature will have increased between 1° and 2.5° Celsius.”
I am writing to thank you for the recent “The CARE Index” article in Focus. Hopefully, local politicians will use it to shape their thinking and make evidence-based decisions.
David Broadland correctly points out that unintended consequences follow decisions that are not well-grounded. “For example, the City of Victoria’s well-intentioned ban on plastic bags appears to have created an unintended consequence. A survey of garbage bins in my neighbourhood shows that many households are simply replacing the no-longer-available thin plastic bags their groceries were packed in with heavier, brand-new plastic garbage bags. In trying to eliminate single-use bags, the City appears to have eliminated two-use bags and replaced them with heavier, single-use bags.”
The size of a typical plastic grocery shopping bag is 15 x 12 inches with the handles reaching an additional 6 inches. The smallest purchased garbage bag I could find was the Glad Kitchen Catcher, measuring 16.5 x 20 inches, which is more plastic per bag than the shopping bags. Many of the purchased bags are treated with an air freshener so more chemicals are being introduced into the landfill.
I predict that in a few years’ time we will see another unintended consequence as our non-recyclable re-usable shopping bags wear out and enter our landfill in large volumes. The handles will detach, holes will appear, and seams will rip. Repeated washings will weaken the fibres and hasten deterioration. Unlike plastic bags, the reusable ones are not recyclable so it will be interesting to see what happens as these bags are disposed of. I wonder if our local politicians have a plan in mind. I wonder if we will be seeing similar bans in the future for the reusable grocery bags that are now being lauded as “the answer.”
Charlotte Gorley, PhD, CEC, Qualitative Researcher
A recent California Air Resources Board climate report says California needs to reduce per capita car travel by 25 percent in just 11 years to meet their climate targets, even with a tenfold increase in electric car sales. We need to achieve at least as great a reduction, just to meet BC’s inadequate targets.
However, it is important to understand how the carbon footprint of transportation can be reduced in cities. Automobile traffic, and the resulting greenhouse gas pollution expands and contracts with the amount of available road capacity and parking. Therefore, projects like the McKenzie Interchange make congestion and the climate emergency worse. Conversely, anything that reduces road capacity for cars makes traffic disappear—and the climate pollution disappears with the traffic. This does not depend on generosity, just common-sense decisions by people.
Numerous experiences of disappearing traffic have been documented. As the Seattle Times reported, “The cars just disappeared” after Seattle’s Alaska Way elevated freeway, which carried 90,000 cars per day, was closed in January and the predicted traffic chaos didn’t happen.
Making Government Street a pedestrian priority zone would be an effective climate action, as would replacing parking with trees. Measures like bus lanes and protected bicycle lanes both make traffic disappear, and provide low-carbon mobility.
The carbon footprint of construction is also an important issue. Reducing the amount of concrete and steel used to build underground parking garages, by replacing parking minimums [for housing units] with parking maximums as Mexico City recently did, is one way our municipal governments can make a big difference.
Cities cooperate globally on climate action. If we stand out from the crowd (as Mexico City just did in parking policy) the power of Greater Victoria’s good example will be felt around the world.
Eric Doherty, Professional Planner
David Broadland replies: In reality, the traffic in Seattle didn’t disappear. The elevated Alaskan Way Viaduct was replaced with a $3.3-billion tunnel and, following demolition of the viaduct, a new 8-lane vehicle highway will be built on the surface above the tunnel.
Halifax regional government provides an interesting approach to transportation planning as well as insight into effective regional governance. Certain questions arise from this example relevant to mobility and growth in the Capital Regional District.
Yes, senior government plans to look at south Island mobility issues. That is good, especially given problems with the Malahat corridor and prospects for the E&N corridor.
Meanwhile there is the CRD itself, and its mobility and growth issues needing a regional response, as in the case of Halifax. But does governance in the CRD have the powers such as Halifax has to act? If not, and that appears to be the case, where will plans for action and action itself—such as those we see in the Halifax region—come from in this region? Is there reason to be concerned that, as things stand, they may not, or not adequately, or not in a timely fashion? A region of some 500,000 people is in view. How well will it function?
BC Ferries should build ships at home
In March, BC Ferries’ CEO told media that in order to keep ferry fares low he has to contract foreign ship builders to build new BC ferries. In other words, he wants BC tax money and ferry profits to go to support the economies of political systems of other countries—a policy promulgated by a former premier of BC who decimated the province.
The neo-liberal globalization ideology, espoused by the BC Ferries CEO, is being discredited all over the world. It is now recognized by many that it is the cause behind the economic crashes and recessions, the dislocation of millions from their ruined economies, and the rise of right-wing populism and violence.
Under this ideology, our tax dollars and profits from most, if not all of our purchases, go to support the economies of other countries (and the off-shore tax-haven bank coffers of the super-rich) whose political, social, and economic systems and ideologies are ones we would not want to emulate. They offer cheap manufacturing, low taxes, and minimal, if any, social services and labour protection because their people live desperate lives. Back in the days when Canada was discussing globalization, it was argued that the corporation- driven form of globalization proposed would lead to only one thing: a race to the bottom. Since many of our taxes and profits are “repatriated” to off-shore coffers, that money is not recycled into our own economies and communities. So funds from and for this community are slashed, and taxes and profits left over go to ensure the infrastructure needed by huge international corporations are provided to them for free (’cause they don’t want to pay taxes!).
The rich and powerful know darn well what they’re doing, and why, and its effects. Governments have been made their lackeys. They are doing all they can to increase unemployment, destroy job benefits, and eliminate workers’ rights so that corporations can become “competitive” with other nations’ corporations. And then the added benefit is that they can point at the underclass they’ve created—the unemployed, the under-employed, and the working poor here in BC and Canada—and say “Look at those slackers! Do you want your tax money going to support them? No! Canadians want lower taxes and lower prices and they want those lazy bums to go get jobs! See where your taxes are going?? So we’re gonna cut them. Yay, us!”
We need some new thinking. We can start simply by abiding by the UN Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms—and perhaps, just perhaps, others will see our success and emulate us. And if they don’t, at least we’ll have lived our lives uprightly and honourably.
Heaven? Press 35.
Gene Miller’s concern, and mine, is that we—civic leaders, developers, and citizens—have placed too little emphasis on those things that truly define this place—naturally, culturally, and emotionally—and have instead embraced rather more modest objectives for our built environment.
This is an instrumental approach, one that meets (barely) the essential needs, but misses entirely the opportunity to inspire, to evoke a positive and uplifting emotional experience of place in our citizens.
Miller rightly notes that healthy “urban culture must be authored and constantly renewed. And land use, urban form and urban design—what goes where, and why, and with what consequences—is central to that process.” For inspiration in this regard, and a compelling point of comparison with so may of the recent land-use decisions Downtown, one need look no further afield than the City of Calgary and its extraordinary new public library.
Modelled on the Chinook clouds that are native to the Alberta foothills, built using local materials, and celebrating “education is the new buffalo” as both an homage to the city’s past and a harbinger of its future, this is so much more than a building; it is a point of civic pride. And a physical and cultural landmark that is authoritatively rooted in a sense of place. This is the mysterious “why” to which Miller refers, “the secret sauce” that becomes a story in itself, a story that can unite a people or divide them. What is the equivalent here?
Toward the end of his column, Miller wonders if Victoria can “remain or re-become an identifiable and coherent urban community, not simply a crowd of people to whom the future happens?” He doesn’t answer his query directly, yet surely knows that his call is about worldviews, institutions, and technologies, and the way in which they are discussed, designed, and used here.
Worldviews are the mental networks of concepts, beliefs, and values—often emotionally charged—that allow people to interpret things around them and plan their actions. Institutions are a community’s rules that include the subtle and unwritten social norms in a culture about what behaviour is appropriate at specific times and places. And technologies are problem-solving tools that are used to define a place at a moment in time.
I would respectfully submit that it is past time for Victoria to be explicit about the way in which worldviews, institutions and technologies are used to shape this place we call home. Failure to do so will result in the slow, and not-so-slow, erosion of all that makes this place sacred. Time to set aside the merely instrumental and reach for something greater; time to reach for Heaven in our Downtown.