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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Society's to Blame

As oil climbs above $140/barrel, and the mainstream media tentatively starts to stick its toe in the idea that peak oil might be more than a "theory", we'll start to notice that society as a whole is acting, well, a lot like we act in our personal lives.

Evolution - just a theory.

For instance, if our pointy-haired boss decides to give away the store to a rich and powerful customer, leaving nothing for our future job security, do we raise a stink and go over his or her head to get the rascal thrown out?

No, really, I have an open door policy. Just put the bag over your head and come in.

No, we just keep our eyes on the floor and hope the company doesn't go out of business till we retire, leaving the problem for future employees. Thus it is with the Security and Prosperity Partnership, which threatens not only to leave Canadians without the energy they need to live, but could put Canada on the next-to-invade list (after Iran) if we say no to the fixed percentages of our oil and gas that we have to export under the terms of NAFTA.

Let's hope they run out of gas before they reach the border!

And how about that new car? Sure, gas is going over $4 a gallon in the US, and $5 a gallon in Canada, but hell, we've worked hard - don't we deserve to get that shiny beauty we've been dreaming of for years?

It gives me a great view of on-coming Botswana!

So it is with the shiny goodies that our cities, provinces, states and countries have their eyes on. Here in Vancouver, we're expanding our airport, even when the airlines are cutting flights, jet fuel costs are (ahem) skyrocketing, and the number of major North American airports is about to drop from 330 to 30 or 40 in the next two decades. But honey, it's got a sunroof, and Seattle is getting a nice new runway - don't you want to impress the neighbors?

We made ours nice and wide for the new FatPlane 3000!

And how about losing that last 10 pounds? OK, the treadmill was probably a waste of money, but this is definitely the year I'm going to start going to the gym. Just as soon as I fix the rain gutters, and plant that veggie garden. And I've always wanted to learn to read Egyptian heiroglyphics. I can definitely get all that done.

Oh, also, note to self, create Life.

For society, the favorite never-to-be-finished project (besides Iraq) has to be the freeway. Our favorite here in West Igloo is the Gateway project, a massive freeway-bridge combo planned when gasoline prices were about half of what they are right now. Sure, costs will go out of control, as the cement, steel and energy to build it spirals in cost. Sure, the number of cars on the road will plummet long before its finished. Sure, it uses up billions of tax dollars and puts nothing in place for the future we're actually going to have. Sure, it'll probably never be finished, leaving us with our own bridge to Nowhere. But we can't stop now - we've got contracts. You want us to get sued? Best to just keep on doing what we're doing.

With some good signage, nobody'll notice.

Because, really, there is no "society" -- there's just us. Politicians are obviously using the same brains (or lack of them) that we are. We don't really want to deal with all the bad stuff we know is going to happen, and neither do the world's governments. Everybody knows that all change is bad, and worse than that, changing actually requires us to change. You don't hear Obama bringing that up. The only kind of change we really want is a change back - back to before email overload, back to cheap gas and lots of legroom in Economy, back to that sweet spot in between Vietnam and Iraq 1 when everything seemed to be going OK and you could get rich without instantaneous live news feed of every poor suffering shmo in Wherever-The-Frig to make you feel guilty about it.

God, life was good.

Well, a change back is coming. A big ol' boomerang called Overshoot is about to give us a ride down the biggest one-hill rollercoaster in the history of civilization. And if we act fast, it's possible that we'll end up with sunshine, fresh air, clean food, free time and more friends than we can shake a potlatch at. A big new world is in a box on our doorstep, but it's going to be tougher to put together than that treadmill. Start reading the instructions.


Blogger Rory Rickwood said...

CANADIAN ELECTION 2008: Failure to follow environmental guidelines results in a NANAIMO VISITOR BOYCOTT call.

Recent responses derived through a formal environmental petition (#225) to the Office of the Auditor General of Canada have showcased the failure of the Harper government to follow its own environmental guidelines designed to protect the environment at the local level. A controversial development was made possible through the issuance of Fisheries Act S. 35(2) Authorization after a Canadian Environmental Assessment Act screening process (CEAA) was conducted. Conflicting opinions after the fact by the responsible ministers proves Canadians’ have to deal with flawed CEAA screening process.

The environmental petition focused on the placement of a berm with an asphalt Trans Canada Trail and page-wire fencing across a registered sensitive ecosystem inventory. Environment Minister John Baird acknowledged that environmental guidelines were not followed by the City of Nanaimo and responded: “The existing paved trail through the wetland poses a potential risk to wildlife and may impede movement of wildlife, including species at risk. As a general approach, Environment Canada prefers that travel corridors are available for wildlife.” and further wrote, “fencing may impede movement of the low-flying Virginia rail. Environment Canada would have preferred that there be no fencing.” To date, none of the harmful fencing has been removed as stated in DFO Minister response #10.

Both Canada and the Province of BC co-produce conservation manuals and guidelines that discourage inappropriate developments into sensitive ecosystems. An asphalt trail across a marsh is highly inappropriate. Community stewards follow these environmental guidelines and find themselves in conflict with a municipality (Nanaimo) that did not want to be constrained by such environmental protection measures. In identifying the real problem, Minister Baird responded, “However, these guidelines are not supported by legislative or regulatory powers, and cannot be enforced unless a local government chooses to enact and follow by-law legislation based on the guidelines.”

When the City of Nanaimo and the federal government allowed the asphalt trail to be built, they in effect thumbed their noises at the government environmental guidelines. Since then, Local environmental stewards have been fighting a losing battle to have the asphalt removed and have it replaced with the wooden boardwalk that was promised in a Land Use Plan that was develop by the community. Corrective measures to the asphalt trial by local community stewards have been dismissed by Nanaimo City Council. It is also clear that the governments’ stewardship model that we are working under is not effectively protecting the environment at the local level, and volunteer stewards have to go to great lengths to fulfill their stewardship role. It now has become necessary to criticize the conduct of our local municipal government in a larger public forum such as a website that can be easily found through search engines.

This is to inform you that I have deciding to express my views and advance my protest through the construction of a new website called: Running a website and overseeing a visitor boycott is not a preferred activity for an awarding winning steward, but a last resort. A visitor boycott call is a sad, but necessary tool to let Nanaimo City Council and DFO know that their decision to ignore environmental guidelines must end, and that they must approach our environmental issues conservatively and with the utmost care. I prefer to sit down with decision makers to find solution and compromises to the environmental issues they created. Until then, this Nanaimo visitor boycott website will remain a direct consequence of the poor decision making by Nanaimo City Council.

In summary, the boycott website will be designed to communicate to people throughout the world the environmental concerns that have been expressed regarding the harmful effects of building an asphalt trail across an ecologically sensitive area and placing sports fields next to Jingle Pot Marsh Nature Park. Wildlife continues to be harassed by those city-supported developments. I believe the pattern of decision making by Nanaimo City Council regarding the development at the Third Street/Jingle Pot Marsh has been profoundly wrong. Unenforceable guidelines and having ineffective environmental regulations are equally wrong. We need our federal government to created new legislative or regulatory powers to make our federal environmental guideline meaningful and effective.

Please make this local story known. Thank you!

Rory Rickwood
Nanaimo Environmental Steward

Background Information: “Auditor General of Canada website” (See Environment Minister response #13 and DFO Minister response #10) “Blog/Nanaimo News Bulletin News Report”
“Blog/Globe and Mail News Report”
“Times-Colonist News Report” “Website Article” “Click Rory Rickwood to read submission to government website” “for Sierra Legal Defence Fund Media Release”

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