March 2012 Newsletter


MARCH 2012

The Sustainable Environment Network Society (SENS) Newsletter

Environmentally active for over 40 years!

Support Us! You can become a member (Family - $20.00, Individual - $15.00, Basic - $5.00), attend our monthly meetings (the 4th Thursday usually), donate, and/or volunteer. Mailing address: SENS, c/o the Boys and Girls Club, 3300-37th Ave., Vernon, V1T 2Y5. Website:

*** SENS provides tax-deductible receipts for donations ***


March 22, Schubert Centre – FREE! SENS Seed Swap and Sale, AGM, and Speakers: 6:30 pm - Seed Swap (bring envelopes!)Bring plants too?; 7 pm – SENS AGM; 7:15 pm - Gord Hiebert on Permaculture; 7:30 pm - Dave Doncaster on GM Foods and Your Health. Discussion encouraged.

What Makes A Community Resilient? Across the world, communities are facing peak oil, climate change and shaky economic times, and are starting to think about how best to transition into greater resilience and lower fossil-fuel energy dependence. Come out and provide your input at an introductory “Transition Towns” video and sharing night, March 8, 7 pm, Schubert Centre.  We want to hear your positive vision for how Vernon and surrounding areas can make the transition... Practical action ideas welcome! Vernon In Transition (


1. Winter Markets: The Green Croft Market will be held every Wednesday, 2 - 6 pm, at Coldstream Women’s Institute Hall across from the school. The Enderby Market will be on the 2nd and 4th Fridays of each month (Mar 9, 23), 2 pm - 5.30 pm, at the Enderby Senior Citizen Complex. The Armstrong Market is every Thursday, 1 – 5 pm, at Odd Fellows Hall, Bridge St.


2. Courses for Water Harvesting in B.C.: Courses in Composting, Forest Gardening, and Syrup Production are being offered by the Okanagan College, Kal Campus under the Horticulture heading. Check out this brochure for more information.

3. Excellent Local Magazine:North of 50” is on-line for subscribers at $12 per year. Check it out, and then order your monthly copy!

4. Enderby’s Annual Seed Swap/Sale: (and many tables of local farm/garden items for sale, too!) Enderby’s Secondary School, March 3, 10 – 2:30pm. Bring your own coffee mug!

5. Hikers! Kal Lake Park Unexploded Explosive Ordinances Public Information Session: Tuesday, March 6, 7 pm, Schubert Centre. Briefing on history of military history in the Park, risks, how to stay safe, and DND’s future plans.

6. “Match Madness” Month: Check out the activities at and use the site to register to become a carpooler, play transportation trivia, share stories, pictures and more. You’ll be entered to win numerous prizes!

7. Food Action Volunteers Required! Are you a tech-savvy food enthusiast who wants to make a difference in the community? The Food Action Society is looking for volunteers to be a member of our Website and Social Networking Committee and oversee the development of the Food Action website, particularly its interactive features: the Local Food Directory and Map, the Food Events Calendar, and the Local Food News Bulletin. No time for the Committee? We are also looking for volunteers in the short term to help us update our Local Food Directory/Map. Check our website: Reply to: or

8. Short Film Competition: The Regional District of North Okanagan and City of Vernon are hosting the 2nd annual Inquisitive Clips Short Film Competition.  This year, the theme is “Water in your Backyard.” Entry rules and requirements can be found here:

9. Environmental Leadership will be honoured in 2012 through both the City and RDNO in a variety of categories. Know of an outstanding green leader or a local eco-initiative? Applications at and

10. Seniors Green Survey: SFU gerontologist, Gloria Gutman, is conducting a survey of individuals over the age of 55 on their attitudes in respect to the environment. To participate in the survey go to The survey will be on line from February 1 - March 31, 2012.

11. Canada Water Week, March 19 – 25: Info here:!/CanadaWaterWeek. An average Canadian consumes almost 6400 liters of water daily – and 90% is due to food, clothing and electricity choices – for example, a pair of jeans may have come from heavily irrigated cotton fields thousands of km away…how are you reducing your local household water use?

12. Fueling Conflict: Numerous Canadian Corporations are involved in the Shwe Gas Project in Burma and these corporations are invested in by our Canadian Pension Plan. However, these corporations are complicit in human rights abuses in Burma. Provincial finance ministers can call on the Canadian Pension Plan to divest these support shares if given motivation. Details and action letters through Canadian Friends of Burma:

13. Award for Local “Waste” Use: Click here to read about the winner of the FCM Sustainable Communities award for the Shuswap.


1. Support for Land Conservation: Click here for more information. Here too!

2. Food Security News: For news, check out

3. Scientists ‘Muzzled’: The Canadian government is being accused of "muzzling" its scientists. Communication of vital research on health and environment issues is being suppressed as a result. Read the entire article here.

4. Smart Meters On YouTube: Check out this great video slamming these dangerous devices.

5. Water Conservation in China: Saving water seems to be the new M.O. in China. Just last year, it invested 345.2 billion yuan ($54.75 billion) in water conservation projects. This investment, including funding for rehabilitation of reservoirs, and improvements in agricultural irrigation and water conservation infrastructure, provided safe drinking water to more than 84 million residents.

6. Switch Off The Lights: A new invention out of UBC could harness the natural light of the sun and use prismatic light guides to reflect and transport that sunlight into building interiors…bye-bye electric lighting! Full article:


1. Peeling Back the Pavement: This handbook on rainwater management is now out. It outlines the problems with conventional stormwater management and examines solutions for moving toward sustainability. Rethinking the way we deal with rain and snowmelt in our cities is one example the handbook tackles. It also has a comprehensive blueprint that outlines the steps communities can take to move from the current system of stormwater management to one that focuses on rainwater. Download it as a PDF here.


1. Misreading Research: Excerpt: “When it comes to science reporting on environmental causes of cancer, calls for precaution regarding potentially harmful substances are being lost in media reports that misinterpret or minimize important findings. ... Readers can be misled by titles that present an absence of information as reassurance. … When facts are misrepresented ignorance rules the day, and the public shoulders the consequences.” For the entire article, go here.

2. Fracking and Cancer: Fracking for shale gas to extract natural gas combines several techniques, and releases many toxic chemicals into air, water and soil at every step of the process. For example, air sampling from an area near fracking operations found four known carcinogens as well as toxins known to damage the nervous system and respiratory irritants. “Fracking and shale gas pose serious and irreversible multiple health risks, including cancer, respiratory damage and endocrine disruption that can lead to birth defects and increase cancer risks… [T]here is abundant evidence of exposure to carcinogenic substances from these operations.” For the entire article, as well as nine points on fracking and cancer, go here.

3. The ‘Dirt’ On Incinerators: Incineration is the most polluting and risky waste disposal option. Residue from mass burns is large, hazardous, and toxic. Despite this fact, Metro Vancouver may be next! The reason: Subsidies. The incinerator industry is salivating at the prospect of using public gas tax funds to pay for their incinerators. Subsidies also come in the form of lucrative Power Purchase Agreements. Ultimately, subsidies for incineration only serve to distort the market, displace truly “green and clean” forms of energy such as wind and solar, stunt local job creation and reward a dirty industry that mostly exports their profit. Please review PCN’s incineration “tool kit” to become better informed, take action, and let your political representatives know that you oppose incineration of solid waste in RDNO. For entire article and links, visit here.


1. Protecting Orca Habitat: In a recent judgment, the Court of Appeal unanimously upheld a ruling that confirmed the federal government is legally bound to protect killer whale habitat. This win means that protecting their habitat is no longer a matter of choice for politicians – it’s the law. Not only that, but the ruling will help protect more than 90 threatened or endangered marine species who also depend on the killer whale habitat to survive. For the full story, click here.


1.Healthy Cycling In Holland: 40% of primary school and 75% of secondary school kids bike to school… their parents know it’s safe. Groningen’s main railway station has parking for 10,000 bicycles. Groningen was a car-dominated city, but in 1972 council changed the planning emphasis, making the city centre the ‘living room’, and integrating town planning with transport policy. Now, 78% of residents and 90% of employees live within 3km of the city centre and 60% of all trips are by bicycle.

2. Local and Global Subsidies: Public funds are supporting the gas/oil industry at about $3 billion yearly, yet those companies are operating at a large profit. Why? Ask your MP!

3. NATURE’S SOLUTIONS: March Editorial by Guy Dauncey

So here’s the carbon problem, in an organic walnut shell. Every year, we add 10 billion tonnes (10 gigatonnes, 10 Gt) of carbon to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, making cement and cutting down the Earth’s ancient forests.

This is mostly carbon that’s been stored underground for hundreds of millions of years, that we are releasing in a single splurge of industrial euphoria.

In the atmosphere, it is additional to the natural carbon cycle, which has been recirculating the carbon from plants, forests and ocean organisms for as long as they have been on Earth.

 Before we started our industrial age adventure the atmosphere contained 560 Gt of carbon. Today, it has over 800 Gt, increasing by 5 Gt a year. The other 5 Gt of carbon are being absorbed by the ocean, causing it to grow more acidic every year, with ominous consequences for the coral reefs and other marine life.

 We need to tackle the problem from both ends. We need to stop the flow of carbon from below by building a global civilization that can do whatever it needs without requiring any coal, oil or gas. That’s completely possible - we just need to get on with it.

 And from above, we need to suck 400 Gt of excess carbon out of the atmosphere and bring it back to the soil and trees where it belongs.

 There have been various complicated proposals to do this, ranging from seeding the ocean with iron dust (which would make it even more acidic) to building synthetic trees that would convert the carbon into sodium carbonate, to be stored away underground in old oil wells.

 Nature has been recirculating carbon for hundreds of millions of years, however, so it already has the solutions we need. We need to listen to the soil experts, not the oil experts.

 In the forests, the older a forest, the greater is its capacity to store carbon. Best is to protect as much as possible as wilderness and parks, but where we do need to harvest timber, the longer the harvest rotation, the more carbon can be stored. In the Pacific Northwest, a 160-year rotation will store 590 tonnes per hectare, compared to 363 tonnes in a 40-year cycle. Compared to clear-cutting, variable retention silviculture in old-growth zones stores 111 more tons of carbon per acre. (All references are in my book The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming, see

Globally, if nations could adopt a Forests Solutions Treaty designed to maximize carbon storage, the British climate scientists Tim Lenton and Naomi Vaughan found that the Earth’s forests could draw down 50 to 100 Gt of carbon by 2100.

Next, there is farming. The Rodale Institute has found that organic farming stores 2 tonnes more carbon per hectare than conventional farming, because organic farmers pay so much more attention to building the soil. If there was a global Organic Farming Solutions Treaty by which all farmers agreed to go organic on 1.5 billion hectares of cropland, this could draw down up to 30 Gt of carbon a year, or 200 Gt by 2100.

As a side benefit, they would increase their yields, eliminate the danger from pesticides and GM crops, grow much healthier food, restore wildlife and biodiversity, and earn more money. Not bad for a solution to one of the world’s biggest problems.

So finally, we turn to the Earth’s grasslands, which have been storing carbon for as long as animals have been grazing on them. Here the story is fascinating, for the real guardian of the grasslands carbon is the wolf.

When wolves are around, grazing animals cluster together for safety. In so doing, they heavily impact the soil and fertilize it with their manure, creating the perfect environment for seeds to take root – and the roots of prairie perennial grasses can go seven metres deep, storing carbon all the way.

When the wolves are killed, as farmers have done all over the planet, the grazers turn into picky delicatessen eaters, and never impact the soil – they just scratch and scuff the surface. The native grass seeds fail to take root, and the carbon is lost.

Restoring the wolves would be ideal, but when farmers and herders graze their cattle in a way that replicates their original behavior, keeping them clustered tightly through rotational management intensive grazing, the old patterns are restored and the carbon returns. Australian farmers call it carbon farming, and they’ve discovered that it also stores more water in the soil, making it a useful response to drought.

Globally, if the world’s grasslands farmers all did this on the world’s 3.4 billion hectares of grasslands, storing an additional tonne of carbon per hectare per year, they could draw down 350 Gt of carbon by 2100.

Taken together, these three methods could in theory draw down 600 Gt of carbon by 2100, which is much more than we need – and in practice, there is a limit to the soil’s biological ability to store carbon.

But it’s there, staring us in the face. We just need to pay heed to Nature’s solutions and respect her wisdom.

Co-Edited by Egan Mandreck