Showing posts from 2005


Are there really three species that watch the sunset? And what are they?

Vancouver Election

I am always reluctant to vote since I think that the system of representational democracy needs to be replaced with something less heirarchial and even more democratic. But until that change happens, and while we spend our other days working for that to happen, I don't think that it hurts to cast our ballots in the meantime. And municipal politicians seem to be the most responsive to the needs of the people. So here is who I am thinking of voting for in the Vancouver elections (subject to change): Mayor (1) WEST, Ben (yeah, I know that Jim Green is the lesser of two evils when compared to Sam Sullivan - but I can not in good conscience vote for a mayor from the party that abandoned their election promises, abandoned COPE, supported P3 programs (RAV) and voted to do business with a war criminals (SNC-Lavalin)). Councillors (10) BASS, Fred COPE CADMAN, David COPE DEAL, Heather Vision Vancouver (based on her work with David Suzuki Foundation she seems to be the only one from Vi

Green Festival

I just returned from the Green Festival in San Francisco. One of the most interesting talks I attended was by William McDonough who thinks that businesses must go far beyond "corporate sustainability" and triple bottom lines to something he calls " cradle to cradle design." Another inspiring presentation was by a panel on workers cooperatives that featured the Bay Area Network of Workers Cooperatives . The story of the People's Grocery of Oakland was especially exciting. It was also great to see environmental sustainability coming together with social, racial and economic justice (at least in this presentation). I also went to a couple of presentations on permaculture which I didn't find too helpful but they did encourage me to do more in that area. There were also a lot of interesting products. Recognizing the inherent contradiction of over-consumption as part of a festival about sustainability, I managed to resist the urge to buy anything. However,

Energy Efficiency of Bicycles

I recently came across someone claiming that bicycles were less efficient than automobiles if the embedded energy in food the rider ate was included in the calculations. They quoted calculations from a paper on the energy efficiency of electric bikes . However this claim does not match other data that I have seen. For example one source claims that: A bike requires 350 calories per 10 miles (supplied by the rider) A car requires 18,000 calories per 10 miles And other sources seem to support these numbers Now even if you add the embedded energy of the food which according to the paper is 7 additional calories per calorie of food consumed, that is still only: 2,450 calories per mile for bikes vs. 18,000 calories per mile for vehicles. And this is still not including the embedded energy of the fuel for the automobile or the embedded energy for manufacturing the automobile (about 10 times that of the bike).

First Nations Blockade in the North

First Nations elders are being arrested in Northern B.C. after blockading roads to prevent mining and oil field development. It seems to me that these actions are significant from both the perspective of first nations rights and environmental protection. Yet there is not that much coverage of the issue in the mainstream media. A good blog of the events can be found at

Burrard Bridge Bike Lane Talking Points

Talking points for the Burrard Street Bridge bike lanes in Vancouver: - The bridge currently has over capacity for automobile traffic. - Changing the signal configuration at Burrard and Pacific would overcome some of the problems from the 1996 experiment. - In the past 20 years demand by cyclists and pedestrians has doubled on the bridge while vehicle demand has not changed. - Converting vehicle lanes to cycling lanes as opposed to widening the bridge could save the city $11 million dollars. - People have been seriously injured because of the current narrow bike lanes. If someone is killed the subsequent lawsuit will cost the city much more than doing nothing.
Well there is hope here along the Salish Coast that we may in fact be moving towards a more sustainable future. Vancouver has been the seen some very successful street parties over the last couple of weeks. First huge crowds turned out for the Car Free Commercial Drive festival . And last weekend at least three streets were shut down for pedestrian oriented events - 4 th Ave for the soapbox derby, Broadway for Greek Days and Water Street for the Jazz Fest. And last weekend began with a Critical Mass bike ride that saw over 1,000 riders show up. And tonight City Council rejected the car-oriented developments (Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire) on Marine Drive. On a totally unrealted note, I've been thinking about critical realism .
Hearings began tonight on the Vancouver Wal-Mart store (see previous post). The architect involved tried to claim that the wind turbines would generate power. One of the experts they consulted has told me: “...and my reports keep telling them there isn't enough wind. But Wal-Mart seems to feel their power extends to the weather. The rest of us realize we can't change the weather. I have insisted that it will be a very poor choice to install turbines at a site where they will be standing still most of the time. They remain firm in their belief that they do want the turbines. It's certainly a greenwash on their part.”

Wal-Mart Hearings in Vancouver

My response to an editorial in the Vancouver Sun: It is unfortunate that the Vancouver Sun did not do a more critical analysis of Wal-Mart's proposal for "green" store on Southeast Marine Drive (editorial June 13 th ). For example, the windmill that Wal-Mart is proposing is unlikely to work in an urban environment (which is why the City rejected proposals for a windmill at southeast False Creek). While Wal-Mart was attempting to "green-wash" it's image in Vancouver, it proposed a development on a sensitive salmon river estuary in Campbell River. I also don't think we should ignore the fact that Wal-Mart is consistently ranked as the worst North American retailer for selling products produced in sweatshops. Wal-Mart is involved in the notorious factories of Saipan . While the Sun's editorial references Wal-Mart's own study on the impact for local businesses it ignores the case studies across North America that show the devastating i
Photo by Arthur Cayanan The Vancouver Renewable Energy Co-op installed a solar photovoltaic (electric) system on the SPEC building this past weekend. It is one of the first grid-tie systems in Vancouver. The project still needs inspections before the grid connection can be completed.
One of the campaigns I was working on through over the past year was the " One Less Plastic Bag " at MEC campaign. At the MEC Annual General Meeting a resolution was passed , that will take some steps to reduce the use of plastic bags at MEC. I think they could have gone further but this is a move in the right direction.
The Vancouver Renewable Energy Co-op had a booth at the Better World Handbook Festival last weekend. One person approached me and questioned the viability of solar power here on BC's coast. I pointed out the success of solar power in Germany which receives less annual sunlight than Vancouver. She said I was wrong. So I double-checked. Yes, Vancouver does receive more sun than cities in Germany. And yes Germany does use a lot of solar power. In fact, Germany now has the largest installed solar PV base – 300 MW compared to 280 in Japan and 90 in the US.
I felt compelled to comment on an article about Vancouver's Wal-Mart on the excellent Treehugger blog . This is a classic example of green-washing. While Wal-Mart talks about building this “green” store in Vancouver, it insists on building a store on sensitive riparian habitat not too far away in Campbell River, BC. It should also be pointed out that Wal-Mart rejected some of the engineering plans that would have made the store even more energy efficient. The windmills are also a joke. There is not enough wind in this part of the city to power current wind mill technology efficiently. City planners have already rejected the use of windmills in southeast False Creek for that very reason. Many of us in Vancouver hope that Vancouver will remain a “Wal-Mart Free Zone.”
Although I use a bike for most of my transportation I am a member of a car cooperative because there are still times when I think I need a car. For example when one has to move homes. Or maybe not.... Last weekend myself and seven other cyclists with bike trailers moved a friend across the city. photo by Guy Vera
I came across an interesting article that points out that hydroelectric dams may not be as "green" as we have thought in the past. It also has implications for calculating the ghg offsets for those of us who are installing other forms of renewable energy systems in BC where much of our power comes from hydro-electric dams.
Here are my comments for a public hearing at Vancouer City Hall: We who live in Vancouver often like to consider ourselves world leaders when it comes to environmental sustainability. Will the new South East False Creek development be a world leader in environmental sustainability? There is no doubt that the planners and others that worked on this project have put a lot of hard work into it. It will undoubtedly be one of the most sustainable neighborhoods in the Lower Mainland and British Columbia. But will it be the a world leader? I have concerns that it may not be. An example of a world class environmentally sustainable community being planned is Mata de Sesimbra in Portugal. It is part of the One World Living project. There are two areas that I would like to emphasize when looking at the sustainability of SE False Creek. The first is transportation. I think a large portion (if not all) of the community should be car-free. I know this sounds like a radical idea but in a
One of the organizations I am very busy with right now is the Vancouver Renewable Energy Cooperative . Myself and three other people began this project several months ago as an experiment in democratic economics, community based financing and sustainable energy production. The website has been down but now it is back up (this post is part of my attempts to get it back in Google).
I have been reading a little about the Word Social Forum specifically and Brazil generally. And this got me thinking about the future of economics and communities. Or at least what the future should be. I think that we need to do away with the idea that we need some monolithic “ism.” We need to put both communism (authoritarian socialism) and capitalism in the history bin. And embrace the many wonderful alternatives that are already being developed. Things the like: The Open Source model (currently used for software development perhaps useful elsewhere) and the related ideas of a Creative Commons The Community Supported Agriculture model Cooperatives and Credit Unions Collectives The Emili-Romagna region in Italy Local Living Economies (David Korten's ideas and the BALLE movement) Microcredit Social entrepreneurship (Ashoka) ParEcon