Author Archives: Gulf Islands Alliance

Gabriola bridge defies Trust Act

Despite protests by Islands Trust and many residents, the idea of building a bridge to Gabriola Island from Vancouver Island is not yet dead in the water.

A ‘Do you want the bridge?’ question may be part of a public survey on the island possibly by the end of March.

Opponents say a bridge would encourage the urbanization of Gabriola, tarnishing the Islands Trust objective to ‘preserve and protect’ the Gulf Islands.

The controversy surfaced last fall when the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee (GFAC) asked whether Vancouver Island University staff and students might be prepared to conduct a transportation survey on Gabriola.

This drew attention to the fact the GFAC is accountable to BC Ferries, not to the Gabriola community. And particularly not to the Trust and its official community plans for Gabriola and Mudge Islands which outlaw a bridge link.

At the time, Trustee Sheila Malcolmson (now Islands Trust Chair) pointed out that the GFAC terms of reference oblige its members to be “responsible for representing the policies of their official community plan in the discussion of local ferry service issues.”

In response to the initiative for the survey Gabriola’s Local Trust Committee proposed setting up an island transportation committee. Its terms of reference could be ready for review in the next few weeks.

This first report appeared in the spring 2009 GIA newsletter.

Misty MacDuffee new GIA chair

Misty MacDuffee of Pender Island is the new chair of the Gulf Islands Alliance (GIA), replacing founding chair Christine Torgrimson of Salt Spring who was elected to Islands Trust in November.

Misty was elected at a December GIA board meeting on Galiano Island. She holds a bachelors degree in biology and environmental science and has been working on salmon conservation and management issues, advocating for fisheries reform for 10 years with both government and non government organizations.

Several years ago, Misty traveled around North America and abroad with a 4,000 pound cedar stump from Clayoquot Sound to raise global awareness about temperate rainforest destruction on Vancouver Island.

She was chair of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation from 1999 to 2007 and a board member of the Land Conservancy of BC.

If the Islands Trust was a ‘perfect’ institution, the Gulf Islands Alliance wouldn’t exist, she says. But, of course, it’s not. And Misty confesses to being a strong critic, once telling a CBC radio show that, “Since the Islands Trust was established in the 1970s with a mandate to ‘preserve and protect’ the Gulf Islands, the mandate has rarely been upheld.”

But she insists that for GIA to be credible and effective — to the public and Islands Trust — it must be fair, honest and positive in its criticisms and positions. And GIA takes seriously its duty to speak out freely, it has no ties to the Trust or any environmental organization, she says.

If GIA believes that any land or fore-shore across the islands is being rezoned and developed contrary to the Trust mandate, it will say so boldly, she says. “Two types of people are drawn to the Gulf Islands,” she says.

“There are those who see the islands as a beautiful, rare, fragile archipelago and feel privileged to live, travel or vacation here. They value the minimal infrastructure, rural-feel and emphasis on ecological integrity and heritage.

“The others look at these islands as a gold mine just waiting to be dug up. They buy land with the intention of development whether it’s needed or wanted. They work to change the zoning by-laws and official community plans.”

It’s ‘exhausting’ for residents to stay vigilant to the constant applications to rezone and amend, she says.

Misty was distressed last year when the decision to rezone 40 percent of Galiano was only narrowly defeated by the former Trust Council. Some trustees saw their role no differently from any other municipal politician, she says.

“But GIA applauds the trustees who voted to uphold the trust mandate.”

Christine Torgrimson welcomes her replacement.

“Misty will be a marvellous chair,” she said. “She has the experience, passion and ability to help carry GIA forward in effective and exciting new ways.

“I am proud of what GIA has built in two years. It’s a strong inter-islands organization with almost 300 members.

“We have weighed in on many issues: the Galiano forest-lands; the intent of the Trust object, with a legal opinion to support it; the need to resolve conflicts between the Private Managed Forest Land Act and the Islands Trust Act; an appeal for more public process when planning decisions affect a major portion of any island; support for improved Trust local planning services; licensing for hydro-fracturing of wells; prohibiting LNG tankers in Trust-area waters; no bridge to Gabriola; and releasing the Trust from any land-use planning restrictions imposed by the TILMA inter-provincial trade agreement.

“We have great potential to grow into a powerful citizens’ voice for preserving and protecting the Trust area.”

50 ways you can help cool the planet

Global carbon dioxide emissions are increasing and contribute mightily to global warming and its dire consequences for humanity. Here, from the U.S. Department of Energy, is the emissions picture at a glance. (The bracketed figures are 1980 emissions, in million metric tons, and the unbracketed are 2004 emissions):

  • North America (5,439.17) 6,886.88
  • Central America, South America (623.36) 1,041.45
  • Europe (4,657.92) 4,653.43
  • Eurasia (3,027.53) 2,550.75
  • Middle East (494.75) 1,319.70
  • Africa (534.47) 986.55
  • Asia, Australia (3,556.07) 9,604.81
  • Total (18,333.26) 27,043.57

Here are some ways you can fight global warming:

Transportation– Buy a small vehicle that is fuel-efficient – Drive less – Drive 80 kph (55 mph) or less – Car pool – Keep your tires properly inflated – Walk or use a bike instead of driving – Fly less – Work from home when you can; telecommute when possible – Consolidate your errands – Use and advocate for mass transportation – Advocate for walking and biking pathways

Home energy use – Install a solar or ‘on demand’ hot water heater – Turn down the temperature on your hot water heater – Use the clothes dryer less – Hang clothes outside or on an inside drying rack – Insulate your house more fully – Ensure that your windows and doors have good weather-stripping – Reduce your water use, particularly hot water – Buy energy-efficient appliances – Use programmable thermostats to turn down the heat at night – Use energy-efficient light bulbs – Design and live in a small, energy-efficient home – Incorporate solar, wind or geothermal energy into your home – Ask your energy company to provide power from renewable sources

Food – Grow and produce your own food – Buy locally grown and produced food – Buy organic food – Avoid buying processed and packaged food – Modify your diet to include less red meat – Compost your garden waste – Use re-usable grocery bags

Political – Get involved with others working on climate change – Lobby for local, provincial and federal policies that reduce greenhouse gases – Encourage your school or business to reduce energy use and emissions – Invest in businesses that are part of the solution to climate change – Contribute funds to and support organizations and efforts working on climate change Overall

consumption – Have a smaller family – Consume less-ask if you really need it – Consider the total energy and transportation costs of your purchases – Buy second-hand – Rent, share, or borrow – Buy things that last – Buy things without excess packaging – Buy from climate-friendly companies – Recycle – Try not to waste paper – Carry your own cup or refillable bottle – Buy organic cotton clothes

Education – Talk with your friends and family about climate change – Read more about climate change – Write letters to the newspaper – Buy books about climate change for public and school libraries – Ensure that your schools are educating children about climate change – Re-read this list once in a while to remind yourself that you can be a part of the climate change solution in more than 50 ways

Everyone can help uphold local bylaws

Bylaw enforcement action in the Islands Trust Area increased nearly 25 percent from early 2006 to the spring of 2007 when there were 166 investigations underway.

In four years the average number of annual cases has almost doubled.

Most involve land use zoning contraventions, such as operating a business not allowed in a residential area. Other infractions include siting, density, short-term vacation rentals and development permits.

Three Trust enforcement officers work three days per week. Their priority is to achieve voluntary compliance through consultation with the property owner. If that fails, the owner will receive a letter from a Trust lawyer. Litigation is the last resort.

An investigation can be triggered by a written complaint from the public or an enforcement officer observes a violation, including an advertisement for an illegal use.

The goal of preserving the Gulf Islands can’t be achieved with weak or non-existent bylaw enforcement. Because they’re sometimes held to ridicule, unenforced bylaws are worse than having no bylaws at all.

To borrow a phrase: the only thing necessary for the triumph of the unlawful exploitation of the Gulf Islands is for good people to do nothing.

Individuals can file a complaint, either electronically by going to the Trust website at www.islandstrust.bc.ca or by letter to the Islands Trust at #200-1627 Fort Street, Victoria, BC V8R 1H8, 700 North Road, Gabriola Island BC V0R 1X3 or 1 – 500 Lower Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 2N8.

Trust asks how it can be more effective

In 2007 and 2008 the Islands Trust was navel gazing and wanted the public’s help doing it. It looked at possible changes to its structure so it could do a better job.

Here’s GIA’s report at the time on the governance review:

Because local government generally plays a bigger role in our lives than senior governments, it’s a time for us to be extra vigilant.

A consultant has released a 39-page report on ways the Trust might change. (It’s available at www.islandstrust.bc.ca. Open ‘Trust Council,’ select ‘Governance Task Force’ and then open ‘Islands Trust Governance Review Report.’)

Much attention is given the fact that the Trust is no sterling example of representation by population. Rather, its unique mandate is to protect a special area as much or more than be responsive to local wishes. Each of its 13 island areas, no matter how big or small their populations, elects two trustees. However, island populations and related demands on the Trust have grown substantially since the Trust was formed. Salt Spring, in particular, is feeling that pressure. Consequently the report considers whether more trustees should be added to Salt Spring’s Local Trust Committee or even to other LTCs, as well as whether the additional Trustees should sit on Trust Council.

The report also looks at how the Trust relates to the overlapping of jurisdictions of regional districts, such as the Capital Regional District.

The trust formed a 13-member governance task force last year in response to public demands for changes needed to “meet new challenges and better represent issues and concerns,” said Trust Chair Kim Benson.

If, for instance, the Trust wants to add a third and fourth trustee to Salt Spring’s roster and/or reduce North and South Pender’s complement from four to two, or adopt a ‘double direct’ election process which would enable more local trustees to be elected while continuing to send only two from each island area to Trust Council, it will need provincial legislative approval by next spring to be ready for local elections later the same year.

Because it won’t act without resident and property owner input, 11 public meetings were held this spring.

This month Trust Council will decide whether to recommend amendments to Trust Act.

Needless to say, governance is a complicated business. What may be suitable for a small island may not work well on a big one.

The Gulf Islands Alliance has one over-all concern – that no changes made to Trust governance lead to weakening the Trust’s preserve and protect mandate. At this point in our young life, we’ve reached no conclusions about what changes we can collectively support.

We sympathize with trustees from the more populous islands who cope with heavy workloads. We feel unease when fingers are pointed at perceived inadequacies of the Trust. We hear those who say a move toward municipal status would be a serious political and financial threat to the effectiveness, if not the very existence, of the Trust.

We encourage all Trust advocates to support changes that will sustain, even strengthen, the Trust and all its islands together.

Elevate ecology over economy: Neil Dawe

This provocative report by Neil K. Dawe, director of the Qualicum Institute, appeared in the spring of 2008 in Salt Spring Island Conservancy’s newsletter, the Acorn:

For unnumbered centuries of human history the wilderness has given way. The priority of industry has become dogma. Are we as yet sufficiently enlightened to realize that we must now challenge that dogma, or do without our wilderness? — Aldo Leopold

In March, 2005, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) was released. This report, based on the work of over 1,300 scientists, is the most comprehensive look at the state of the Earth’s ecosystems ever completed. It reports some significant conclusions:

“Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.

The provision of food, fresh water, energy, and materials to a growing population has come at considerable cost to the complex systems of plants, animals, and biological processes that make the planet habitable.”

After over a century of conservation efforts around the world, 60% of the 24 ecosystem services the MEA reviewed were either being degraded or used unsustainably; they noted that “Human activities have taken the planet to the edge of a massive wave of species extinctions, further threatening our own well-being.”

The 2007 IUCN Red List for Threatened Species supports the MEA findings, noting that over 20% of the species in the groups where most of their species have been assessed (Gymnosperms, amphibians, birds, mammals) are now in danger of extinction. And only 3% of the world’s 1.9 million described species have been assessed.

Other studies have shown similar results. The Global Ecological Footprint analysis to 2003 indicates that humanity exceeded the carrying capacity of the biosphere in the mid-1980s. The Living Planet Index, shows that we have eroded about 40% of our natural capital since 1970, a little over one human generation.

Now, consider this: today we have more wildlife professionals and environmental organizations and volunteers working on more ecological research, and environmental awareness, education, and stewardship programs than ever before; we have more rules and legislated regulations in place to protect biodiversity; more conservation and ecosystem restoration projects; and more protected areas than ever before. Despite all this effort, there is more environmental degradation than ever before. What conservationists are collectively doing is not working. And yet we keep doing it, environmental business as usual.

One of the main reasons we, at the Qualicum Institute (www.qualicuminstitute.ca) believe this has happened is quite simple: for the most part we’ve only been addressing the symptoms of the problem rather than the root cause. We spend our efforts, acquiring habitats, cleaning streams, dealing with endangered species through recovery plans and so on, but we fail to address the root cause of these environmental problems. If we continue in this vein there is little doubt we’ll fail in virtually all of our conservation efforts.

So what is the root cause of these problems? A number of scientific and non-governmental organizations-including the Qualicum Institute-have concluded that it is economic growth. To understand this fully, one must have some appreciation of our conventional economic model and of economic growth itself.

Economic growth is an increase in the production and consumption of goods and services and is a function of increasing population and per capita production and consumption. Thus, it can also be considered an increase in throughput, or flow of natural resources, through the economy and back to the environment as waste.

This required throughput unavoidably results in the removal of structural ecosystem elements; the depletion of non-renewable resources; actual displacement of healthy ecosystems, their biodiversity and their life support services; and degradation of the remaining ecosystems with wastes. So, as the GDP continues to rise we know that somewhere, ecosystems are being degraded or displaced or both, along with their biodiversity and life-support services. Since everything humanity depends upon comes from global ecosystems, economic growth only occurs when natural capital from the economy of nature is appropriated for use by the human economy where it is converted to manufactured capital and consumer goods. Because of the tremendous breadth of the niche that we occupy, the human economy grows at the competitive exclusion of wildlife in the aggregate. This is fundamental to our understanding of the basis of our economy and biodiversity loss.

The conventional or neoclassical economic model, under which much of the global economy operates today, assumes that infinite economic growth on a finite planet is possible; the economy is considered to be the whole rather than a subset of the biosphere and is not governed by physical and ecological laws and principles such as thermodynamics and carrying capacity. The economy is seen as a perpetual motion machine that can run forever on its own output.

But the flow of economic throughput is not circular. It flows one-way from low entropy (useful) resources to high entropy (used-up-ness) waste, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. To grow, the economy must take more and more useful matter and energy from the finite biosphere to produce goods and services; wastes are inevitable by-products. Ultimately, all our goods become wastes as well. The economy cannot function simply by using only its own labour, manufactured capital, and waste as input.

While mainstream economists may think we can ignore carrying capacity and the laws of thermodynamics, “Facts do not cease to exist just because they are ignored,” as Huxley observed.

Biologist and ecological economist, Brian Czech, using an ecological analogy, identifies economic growth as a limiting factor to wildlife conservation. He shows that there is a fundamental conflict between economic growth and ecosystem health, including biodiversity and the ecosystem services on which we all depend.

As conservationists, we can no longer ignore the fact that an economic model based on infinite growth on a finite planet with finite resources-a model with no connectivity to the biosphere-is fatally flawed and is causing the loss of ecosystems, their biodiversity and the life support services upon which we all depend. Even many of our so-called “protected areas” are no longer providing secure habitats for the wildlife dependent on them as the effects of economic growth continue to impact them directly.

If economic growth is the limiting factor to biodiversity conservation, economic growth is what has to be addressed. Otherwise, everything else we do to try and conserve biodiversity will be for naught, as the economy continues to steamroll over more and more ecosystems further reducing biodiversity and the ecosystem services that support all life on the planet. That, appears to be what is happening.

There is a solution to this dilemma: we can choose to move towards a sustainable economy with a reasonably stabilized population and levels of consumption: an economy that ecological economist, Herman Daly, calls a “steady state economy.” He summarizes the concept:

The main idea of a steady-state economy is to maintain constant stocks of wealth and people at levels that are sufficient for a long and good life. The throughput by which these stocks are maintained should be low rather than high, and always within the regenerative and absorptive capabilities of the ecosystem.

The scale of the steady state economy must be sufficiently below the ecological limits so that enough natural ecosystems and biodiversity remain to allow the maintenance of the planet’s biodiversity which is integral to normal ecosystem functioning and the provision of the ecosystem services necessary for life.

So what can we do? Well first we have to choose to make the change from doing only the “sexy” tasks of dealing with the symptoms and start to include significant efforts to address the root cause. Once that choice is made, here are some other choices:

1. learn as much as you can about our current (neoclassical) macroeconomic model and its replacement model from ecological economics. You can do both by reading the excellent book Ecological Economics, by Herman Daly and Joshua Farley.

2. learn about the steady state economy. The Society for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) web site has an excellent resource centre with papers that discuss a number of aspects of this topic: http://www.steadystate.org/CASSEResources.html

3. join the over 1,500 individuals who have signed on to the CASSE position statement on the fundamental conflict between economic growth and ecosystem health: http://www.steadystate.org/CASSEPositionOnEG.html

4. encourage all the environmental or social justice organizations you belong to, to adopt a position statement on the fundamental conflict between economic growth and ecosystem-and thus our own-health. Have them register their position with CASSE (to see position statements that other professional organizations and NGOs have adopted, go to: http://www.steadystate.org/CASSECompilationPositions.html) and publicize their decision.

5. talk to your local, provincial, and federal politicians/decision-makers about dealing with the fundamental conflict. Ask them, e.g., to explain how the economy-a human construct that is totally dependent on natural resources for its growth-can keep up its perennial economic growth when those resources are finite. Ask them to explain-if growth is so good-why the disparity between the rich and the poor keeps growing, why our taxes keep rising despite the growth, and why environmental quality worsens and biodiversity declines despite the fact that the GDP continues its astronomical rise.

6. talk about the fundamental conflict between economic growth and ecosystem health to the people you know who may be able to influence decision makers. 7. hold a dinner or dessert party and talk this topic up among friends and colleagues. Include the viewing and discussion of documentaries such as The end of suburbia or What a way to go.

8. work to have your community begin to prepare for the oncoming effects of peak oil, climate change, and biodiversity loss. What will these changes mean for your community if food no longer arrives from afar with regularity, if sea level rises a metre, if temperatures increase and precipitation decreases? What is the human carrying capacity of your region in terms of food and water, considering the experts views of the upcoming changes?

9. call into talk shows, write letters to the editor, and voice your opinion on the fundamental conflict between economic growth and ecosystem health. We need a critical mass of people to change from our fatally-flawed economy to a sustainable, steady state economy.

10. encourage invitations to the Qualicum Institute or others, such as conservation ecologists and ecological economists (e.g., Bill Rees), to speak on the fundamental conflict at conferences, chambers of commerce, etc. It is important to understand that Smart Growth concepts are good liveability concepts but they’re not sustainability concepts and that technological optimists are not speakers to effectively address these issues. Common sense tells us that we have more technological progress than ever before in the history of civilization and yet at the same time, the ecosystems of the Earth are in the worse shape they’ve been in recorded history. We all need a good dose of reality.

Finally, while we may know all these facts, that is not enough; we also need to act. Recall the words of Robert F. Kennedy: “It is not enough to understand, or to see clearly. The future will be shaped … by those willing to commit their minds and their bodies to the task.”

GIA invites islanders to help save Gulf Islands

MAY 8, 2008 PRESS RELEASE

The Gulf Islands won’t be protected from uncontrolled growth and development without more help from residents and other property owners, says the Gulf Islands Alliance. In its campaign to rally island citizens, the Alliance has delivered information/advocacy packages to 7,300 households in the Islands Trust area.

“Preserving and protecting our islands is not a radical notion,” says Alliance Chair Christine Torgrimson. “In fact it’s the guiding principle of our unique governance system, the Islands Trust. While we think that most islanders embrace this Trust mandate and become upset when certain land-use activities threaten their natural and social neighbourhoods, too many believe nothing can be done. Well, they – and we — can do a lot. Our mail-out package explains how.

“For starters, it contains a simple guide to the Trust. It clears up many misunderstandings about what the Trust is and what it’s supposed to do, and helps people engage more effectively in their local government. We particularly want people to understand how unique the Trust is and how fortunate we are to have it, as it is one of the very few conservation-mandated governments in the world.

“Our letter to island residents explains why our group was formed just over a year ago – we already have about 250 members across the 13 major islands – and it dispels many popular misconceptions that discourage people from doing what’s needed to protect their local and islands-wide community.”

Torgrimson explained that the Alliance is a grassroots, volunteer group that has no affiliation with the Islands Trust or other government or private agencies.

-30-

Province must let Trust oversee private forest land

The Gulf Islands Alliance (GIA) is pushing to make sure a key initiative affecting land use on Galiano Island isn’t forgotten.

The non-profit grassroots group, along with the Residents and Owners Association of Galiano, have been pressing the province and Islands Trust to clear up the jurisdictional conflict between the Islands Trust Act and the Private Managed Forest Land Act (PMFL). The issue has been studied by Islands Trust for the past four years and needs to be resolved.

The effect of the conflict exposes Galiano to unregulated land use development and weakens the Trust’s mandate to preserve and protect the Gulf Islands.

“We wanted to have this settled by a provincial Order in Council,” said GIA’s chair Misty MacDuffee. “We have to make sure the good will and intent shown by the province and our trustees continues.”

Following a GIA presentation at the Islands Trust Council meeting in March, many trustees favored a pilot project to try the proposed Order in Council. This would give the Trust more land-use control over Galiano’s private managed forest lands, an area which could amount to roughly 40 percent of the island. The issue was then taken to the province by the Trust’s executive committee.

Background to the issue:

The Gulf Islands Alliance is a three-year-old grassroots organization of islanders who support the Islands Trust in achieving its legislated object of preserving and protecting the Gulf Islands.

The Act includes a policy statement to protect “natural processes, habitats and species including those of the old forests, Coastal Douglas-fir forests, Coastal Western Hemlock, Garry Oak/Arbutus forests … [and plan] for the cumulative effects of existing and proposed development to avoid detrimental effects on watersheds, groundwater supplies and Trust Area species and habitats.”

But this enlightened mandate is undermined by competing legislation, the Private Managed Forest Land Act (specifically Section 21) that prohibits a local government, such as Islands Trust, from doing anything “that would have the effect of restricting, directly or indirectly, a forest management activity.”

Section 21 also provides ‘extra-territorial’ power, a fact that “creates layers of uncertainty for a Local Trust Committee attempting to perform their statutory duties even outside the boundaries of the PMFL lands,” MacDuffee said.

The issue becomes further complication by Galiano’s imminent Official Community Plan (OCP) review. Trevor Swann, chair of the PMFL Council, has said that critical portions of the PMFL Act are inoperative for Galiano because the current OCP was adopted before the PMFL Act. Many residents are concerned that the ‘grandfather’ advantage will be erased when the new OCP is adopted.

“It’s safe to say that without a clear and unequivocal resolution to the PMFL issue, a comprehensive OCP review cannot be carried out, as community resistance will be too great,” MacDuffee said.

The majority of island voters during the last three-year term of Islands Trust endorsed the position that no legislated resolution of the Galiano Forest Lands controversy was possible without an OCP review. The former local trustees unsuccessfully attempted to pass an OCP amendment and land use bylaw without a review.

GIA has met with senior government officials over the past few months urging them to implement a section of the PMFL Act that provides a mechanism to resolve this situation. It allows the Lieutenant Governor in Council to “make regulations exempting a person, place or thing, or class of persons, places or things, from a requirement of this Act.”

Because circumstances may be different on other Gulf Islands, this current initiative applies solely to Galiano.