THE GALLON ENVIRONMENT LETTER
Institute for Business and the Environment
410-0432, Fax: 416 362-5231
Vol. 13, No. 8, October 3, 2008
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Welcome to the first of our exclusive “current
affairs” issues, responding to our readers’ expressed desire for more but
shorter issues of Gallon Environment Letter (GL). Rather than stating that there
is no feature topic in this issue - features focussing on specific topics will
still appear in alternate issues - we would prefer to think that every article
is a feature. As always we welcome your feedback.
If you are wondering what has happened to the
big issues and why governments are focussing on the smaller issues, take a look
at our editorial. GL suggests that Canada’s environmental NGOs are at least part
of the problem. Drs. Robert Page and Mark Jaccard recently discussed climate
change strategies on CBC Radio’s excellent and popular Quirks and Quarks
program. It was one of the best such discussions GL has heard in the media for a
long time. We provide a brief summary and tell you where you can find the
complete radio program.
The broadcast media has been covering climate
change and the environment with greater intensity recently - not only the above
mentioned Quirks and Quarks show but also a morning radio show about the “tar
sands”, and a Colbert Report segment with Bob Lutz of General Motors, a company
which apparently still falls into the camp of climate change denyers. We have
received and share with you a letter from the OECD on our coverage of their
Environmental Performance of Agriculture report. Our Guest Column this issue is
very relevant to the current debate about the economy: it is entitled Slow
Money, Manure and Prudence and it is from Woody Tasch, Chairman and President of
Slow Money and is reprinted from Green Money Journal. Our “GL Takes a Flyer”
feature looks at another absurd environmental claim, we update our past coverage
of an environmental fable for children, and we draw to your attention that not
only is Canada’s reputation on Kyoto Protocol leadership highly tarnished but
now we are even at risk of losing our reputation as leading hewers of wood.
Our next issue, in just a few days, will be
our Canadian Election Summary. We will report on the green issues, the
platforms, and our expectations as to how these will affect the business of the
environment for at least the next two or three years.
NOT THE WAY TO
GET THERE FROM HERE
In response to a political environment in
which progress is challenging, many in Canada’s environmental movement seem to
have adopted a strategy of trying to execute quick hits on perceived bads.
Unfortunately this strategy will most likely delay progress on the real issues
because it allows governments to present themselves as making environmental
progress while actually ignoring the real issues.
Among the bads targeted this year are such
things as Bisphenol A, cosmetic use of pesticides, bottled water, and industrial
polluters. If all were banned in Canada, as many environmental groups have
argued, if the governments used proposed approaches, the planet would arguably
be in a worse mess than it is today. Certainly none of the most serious
environmental issues would be significantly improved.
Following a massive campaign, Canada’s federal
government was persuaded to consult on a proposed ban of Bisphenol A from baby
bottles for children up to 18 months.* The ban does not include anything else,
so Bisphenol A will still be found in many types of plastic goods. Baby bottles
and other packages going to developing countries, indeed to all other countries,
will still contain Bisphenol A. One might even want to make a case that banning
Bisphenol A in Canada while doing nothing about it at the international level is
a form of environmental racism. More importantly, Bisphenol A is one of a large
number of endocrine disrupters not to mention suspected carcinogens that are in
use in commercial products all over the world. In the grand scheme of things,
Canada’s ban on Bisphenol A from baby bottles is barely a blip on the global
problem of toxic chemicals and BPA is one of the least important of the
chemicals that should be of government concern. However, it was an easy hit and
gave some Canadian environmental groups the opportunity to pat themselves on the
back and claim to be doing something useful while rewarding the government even
when the usefulness of the effort is trivial.
The cosmetic use of pesticides issue provides
an example of how over-enthusiasm can produce negative results. In the province
of Ontario local and provincial groups were making good progress in persuading
municipalities to ban cosmetic use of pesticides on residential properties. So
far so good, but the issue attracted such a high level of interest that, in the
last provincial election, the Liberal party made the promise to extend the ban
to the entire province. The Bill has passed; it is much weaker than the bylaws
that municipalities had been steadily implementing, and it disables existing
bylaws and prohibits municipalities from passing their own bylaws in future. The
biggest problem with the provincial legislation is that it allows cosmetic
use of pesticides in the event of an “infestation” of insects or disease. Most
homeowners will claim that they experience an “infestation” of cinch bugs in
their lawn or ants or caterpillars in their garden every year. Hence a
Bottled water has become a significant issue
for a wide range of alleged environmental offences, from depletion of Canada’s
water supplies to production of excessive amounts of garbage. Some municipal
officials have even expressed the absurd view that sale of bottled water is
reducing municipal revenues from sale of tap water. The big problem is that no
one has studied the effects of a bottled water ban.*** GL’s expectation is that
banning the sale of bottled water will simply increase the sales of flavoured
waters, soft drinks, coffee, and other packaged beverages, all of which have an
environmental footprint significantly greater than that of bottled water and are
much less healthy in terms of calories and sugar than water. People in
communities that are experiencing boil water orders, currently several hundred
across Canada use bottled water for good reason. Using bottled water has a
significantly lower environmental footprint than boiling water to make it safe.
A positive strategy to make safe drinking water available everywhere across
Canada, in homes, workplaces, and commercial establishments, would do more for
public health than any ban of bottled water.
In the current federal election campaign the
Conservative Party has promised to toughen penalties on industrial environmental
offences. We’ll be reviewing election campaign promises of all parties in more
detail in the next issue of GL, but suffice to say for now that the promise has
been structured in such a way that it will have virtually no effect, just as
similar increases in penalties by provincial governments have had virtually no
Our major environmental challenges need
strategies and programs, not quick hits that allow governments to appear green
while actually achieving very little.
The J. W. McConnell Family Foundation has
recognized the weakness of Canada’s environmental movement. In a 2005 paper
prepared for the Foundation Jerry DeMarco, formerly with Sierra Legal Defence
Fund, stated "The word movement should connote some sort of planning or
arrangement, as it would in music. I believe that the Canadian environmental
movement is a long way from being a coordinated entity. It is more a medley than
a movement. National environmental leaders seem to rarely convene for movement
level strategizing and action planning outside of issue-specific coalitions. We
seem comfortable acting within mission boxes despite our holistic rhetoric
around sustainability and the ecosystem approach."
In a review of the effectiveness of the
McConnell initiative, Betty Plewes, former CEO, Canadian Council for
International Cooperation, stated:
"All the organizations felt
that this three year focus on capacity building helped them take a major step
forward in their organizational development and for most the timing of the
initiative helped them take the organization to a new level. For some it helped
sharpen their strategic vision, for others it improved efficiency and staff
It is less clear what the
impact has been beyond individual organizations. There was an expectation that
there would be more sharing and collaboration between annual meetings and
between organizations. It is not entirely clear why this did not happen, apart
from some very useful work on human resource systems. One observation was that
the organizations in the program although all environmental organizations were
very different in focus, style and the issues they were working on."
Plewes review concludes "The impact on the
broader environmental sector will become evident over the longer term as [the
McConnell] Foundation and others build on the learnings of this program". GL
hopes that this optimism will yet be realized and that more environmental ngos
will spend their time on strategy and policy rather than on quick hits that at
best provide little environmental benefit and at worst actually divert attention
from the real issues.
Paid subscribers see links to
original documents and references here.
ON CARBON EMISSIONS AND PRICING
CBC's Quirks and Quarks Bob McDonald hosted a
show on carbon emissions and pricing that far exceeded the quality of debate
among our political leaders. Matt Bramley of the Pembina Institute spoke of the
numbers of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions in The Carbon Quiz. Two guests
spoke on carbon pricing: Bob Page, TransAlta Professor of Environmental
Management and Sustainability at the University of Calgary's Institute for
Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy and Dr. Mark Jaccard, Professor at
the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University.
These three and Bob McDonald did a great job of summarizing the importance of
taking seriously the threat of global warming. Although Canadians look on the
Green Shift about as favourably as they would a bottle of poison, GL thinks the
Q&Q show did a great job of conveying the message that carbon pricing is
here to stay and the $40 per tonne proposed in the Green Shift will have to rise
to over $200 in the not so distant future. Whether a cap-and-trade system or a
carbon tax matters little except that a tax is less costly to implement. Over
time, a combination of both are likely. The show is posted online for those who
POINTMAN FOR THE ALBERTA TAR SANDS
The former President of Shell Canada, David
Collyer, is the new President of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
and was interviewed by Anna Maria Tremonti, host of CBC Radio One's The Current,
on October 1. While he promoted the industry's environmental actions, he didn't
focus as much on what GL usually deplores - industry spokespersons who say that
was then, this is now: we used to have problems as an industry but that is all
in the past. He did say that the oil sand industry's environmental efforts stand
up well in regard to water use as more water is being recycled and reduced
energy use with less CO2 emissions. He didn't answer some questions at all such
as on the Green Shift because he said they were too political but as a broad
principle supported the need for policy to stimulate action to reduce CO2
emissions: technology, innovation, and equitable treatment across sectors with
shared responsibility for reducing CO2 are preferred.
When Tremonti asked him how the industry was
affected by California's aim to curb imports of oil sands, he said that oil
sands production emitted only 10-15% more CO2 than conventional oil. Canada
supplies 12% of the US oil and the industry wants to retain those markets. The
current financial crisis is not good news for the industry. Tremonti said he was
quoted as saying economic concerns overshadow environmental concerns. He said he
welcomed the opportunity to correct the misperception: both economic and
environmental concerns are important.
There is no longer a question about whether
climate change is real. Growing the business means that more money can be
applied to energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage. The Alberta
government is funding $2 billion for the first round of demonstration projects
on carbon capture and storage. Industry will pay its share but it is not unusual
in early stages of technology development for government to provide support. As
GL mentioned before, the industry doesn't like the term "tar sands": he
corrected Tremonti when she used the term "tar sands" suggesting "oil sands"
The oil sands produce 5% of the total
emissions in Canada and Canada produces 2% of the world's greenhouse gas
emissions so the oil sands represent a very small portion of world emissions.
Tremonti pointed out the oil sands are projected to produce 41-47% of Canada's
increase in GHG emissions. He said that emission intensity is only slightly
higher than conventional oil and the industry is working towards reduced
emissions. Energy demand is projected to increase and hydrocarbons will continue
to be part of the mix for the next 50 years. The oil sands contain a potential
for 173 billion barrels of oil to fill that demand.
Currently about 470 sq. kilometres have been
disturbed out of a potential of 3,500 sq km. Companies are rehabilitating the
areas in consultation with the First Nations as they go.
He suggested that it has only been the last
12-18 months that the industry has become "more progressive" about environmental
He didn't accept that the industry was
responsible for any significant seepage of tailings chemicals into fresh water
to cause cancer and other health effects such as reported in Fort Chipewyan by
Dr. Charles O'Connor.
If Collyer is not just talk, it is a good sign
that the oil/tar sands companies might move faster and further towards better
Paid subscribers see links to
original documents and references here.
SUNSPOTS GET IN YOUR EYES
What a contrast to David Collyer (see above)
was Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman Product Development at General Motors, who appeared
on the comedy show The Colbert Report (there seems to be more reality in comedy
these days) and couldn't keep his mouth shut about his climate sceptic views
while promoting the new GM 2011 Volt. He said 32,000 scientists agree with him
as he doesn't "believe in the CO2 theory" but that global warming was occuring
but is due to sunspots*. [GL interprets this to mean natural causes nothing
to do with humans]. The blogosphere had much to say with some of the responses
said that it didn't matter what he said, it was the car that counts while some
have said it shows how GM management continues to stand in the way of action
against global warming.
In a GM blog. Lutz expressed his view that his
interview with Stephen Colbert went well but seemed to apologize for the pauses:
he said he paused to "discard the truly dangerous answers!". He was pleased to
talk about the Volt: 40-mile electric range, great overall range, advanced
lithium-ion battery technology and so on. Those facts are now known to the huge
Colbert Nation," The blog attracted comments which GL found hilarious for the
contrast between the outside-GM and inside-GM. The regular blogosphere had many
slaps while the GM one was mostly "Great interview!" and "I'm a great fan of
yours" but there were a few responses that criticized his position on climate
change, ""You are doing good with the Chevy Volt - However, your claims on
global warming are either ignorant or deceitful.", "You look like a fool when
you say scientists don’t agree on the cause of global warming." and ""I hope you
understand that Colbert made you look like an idiot and totally dominated you in
the hot seat. Global warming doesn’t exist?? How much did you post in losses
CYTD [Calendar Year to Date]?" One of the blog posting listed some of the
actions GM had taken to reduce energy and CO2 such as solar panels on several
factory roofs, the development of the Volt fueled by electric power and highly
efficient, several hybrid vehicles on the market and in-the-works hydrogen
fuel-celled vehicles. One employee commented that they were only allowed to
comment on things GM had already made public and GM had not publically taken a
position on global warming. GL suggests that when a key executive of the company
explains his views opposed to the science that it would be easy for the public
to understand that the company management shares that view.
Paid subscribers see links to
original documents and references here.
LETTER TO THE
GL V13 N7 OECD Agriculture Report
Many thanks for reviewing the OECD report I
prepared on the Environmental Performance of Agriculture in OECD Countries since
1990 in the 6th September edition of your newsletter.
You might like to draw to the attention of
your readers that there is a dedicated website for this report at www.oecd.org/tad/env/ indicators where you can freely download the specific
chapter on Canada (in English and French) and other sections of the report. In
addition, the website contains an interactive database of agri-environmental
indicators since 1990, both by country and/or environmental theme (e.g.
In addition the website contains related OECD
reports, such as the Proceedings of the OECD Expert Meeting held in Ottawa
Canada on Soil Organic Carbon and Agriculture.
If you or your readers need any further
information please do not hesitate to contact me.
Kevin Parris, Policies and Environment
Division, Trade and Agriculture Directorate, OECD,
2 Rue Andre-Pascal, 75775 Paris CEDEX 16,
Kevin.Parris[[oecd.org Tel: +33 (0) 1 45 24 95
68 [Replace [[ with you know
Wayne Richardson Retiring: Wayne Richardson
will be known to many in the Canadian environment sector as he led the federal
TEAM climate change technology demonstration program for the last ten years. The
program supported 140 Canadian clean energy and environmental technology
projects in 16 countries with an investment of CAD$1.3 billion. He writes with
pride of the work done on these project, "Those of you who have worked directly
on these project know what a great effort it requires to actually commercialize
new technology. I have also been very proud of the contribution and influence
that our modest TEAM GHG measurement and reporting (SMART) work has made on the
ISO and the global carbon measurement and reporting community. If you have not
already done so, I urge you to visit the TEAM web site at www.team.gc.ca
SLOW MONEY, MANURE AND PRUDENCE
By Woody Tasch
We have, of late, begun to get religion about
carbon in the atmosphere. We have begun to pour venture capital into clean tech,
searching for ways to maintain our lifestyles and grow the economy, while
dramatically reducing our ecological footprint. This vision of ecological
footprint is, in a great many respects, a mechanical one, asking only: How can
we design new machines that work more cleanly?
No one, it seems, is asking a corollary
question: If we cannot create wealth without degrading soil fertility and
draining the vitality out of local economies, how can we, no matter how clean
our machines, hope to thrive, or, even, survive?
Last August, at the 25th Anniversary Gala for
the Rocky Mountain Institute, eminent panellists tried to answer yet other
questions, posed by moderator Thomas Friedman: "If this is a win-win-win, if
these new technologies and design solutions are so elegant and so profitable and
so clean, what is holding them back? Where is the resistance to these
innovations coming from?" To my surprise, since this was not a finance
conference, the group discussion zeroed in on CEO compensation, short-sighted
financial incentives and the structure of capital markets.
Inventor Dean Kamen opined from the dais:
Venture capitalists have great enthusiasm
but short attention spans. We are stuck in a 19th century way of thinking that
leads to large scale, centralized production and power generation. We don't have
the mindset to really invest for the long-term in small-scale solutions that
would improve life for billions of people.
Such questions and observations lead to the
premise for a new kind of financial intermediation, going by the improbable name
of slow money.
That premise is this. The problems we face
with respect to soil fertility, biodiversity, food quality and local economies
are not primarily problems of technology. They are problems of finance. In a
financial system organized to optimize the efficient use of capital, we should
not be surprised to end up with cheap food, millions of acres of GMO corn,
billions of food miles, dying Main Streets, a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico
and obesity epidemics side by side with persistent hunger.
Speed is a big part of the problem. We are
harvesting from the soil in decades fertility that was created over millennia.
We are extracting generations-worth of economic and cultural vitality from our
communities. We are acting as if the biological and the agrarian can be
indefinitely subjugated to the industrial and the urban without significant
consequence. We are, as the colloquial saying puts it so eloquently,
beginning to believe our own
Which reminds me of a story...About 15 years ago, I was turning a horse stall into my
office. My first project was to shovel out the dried horse manure and shovel in
sand, in advance of the construction of a wooden floor. One day, reflecting on
the transition from equine to intellectual, I realized, "How appropriate:
from horseshit to bullshit."
No consideration of the disconnect between
capital markets and the land is complete without at least one reference to
If slow money is going to be effective, it is
going to be in part due to inspiration derived from the celebratory,
lifeaffirming, pleasure inducing humanism of Slow Food.
Slow Food began as a protest against
McDonald’s, but it quickly evolved from a single act of protest into an
international NGO, on the strength of a family of pro-biodiversity, pro-small
farmer initiatives dedicated to restoring and preserving quality of life.
Similarly, slow money seeks to support the creative power of entrepreneurship to
build new commercial relationships that enhance quality of life for farmers,
food consumers and their communities. In a world of monoculture and special
interests, the emergence of for-profit social entrepreneurs, whose companies
integrate private enterprise and public benefit, is particularly intriguing, and
worthy of support.
Just as is the case with Slow Food, slow money
needs an approach that dares to be cultural, agricultural, economic, historical
and biological. We will need to fight against over-specialization, putting the
jargon of the specialist, the technician, the quant in its place. We will need
to define new benchmarks, being unafraid to assert the importance of qualitative
"Money only knows one speed," the scion of one
of America's wealthiest families once said during a public discussion. "Money
only goes fast, faster, fastest. Try to slow it down, and you'll just end up
with sloppy investing."
To which I say: If insanity is doing the same
thing over and over again hoping for a different outcome, then it is insane to
think that by continuing to create wealth via an extractive system, so that we
will have more money to give away, we will be able to adequately address the
urgency of the current global moment. Both unfettered fast money, and its twin,
philanthropy, which has an odd non-speed all its own, create and depend upon
broken social relationships. We must seek to build an economy in which healthy
relationships remain integral to the wealth creation process.
Prudence-as in the Prudent Man-can no longer
be defined completely by tens of billions of dollars of fast money pouring into
high-tech venture deals. Such prudence is incomplete.
We must find new ways to steer capital to tens
of thousands of independent enterprises that promote the health and diversity of
communities and bioregions. For every $1 billion that zooms around the planet-or
is it cyberspace?-looking for the highest return and lowest risk, and supporting
globalization, consumerism and unlimited economic growth, we must invest $10
million or $100 million in enterprises that support what is going by many
virtuous globalization, localization, local
living economies, natural capitalism, restorative economics.
Reconnaissance with respect to this new
prudence comes from author Michael Pollan in a recent New York Times Magazine
The story of Colony Collapse Disorder and the
story of drug-resistant staph are also the same story: Both are parables about
the precariousness of monocultures. Whenever we try to rearrange natural systems
along the lines of a machine or a factory, whether by raising too many pigs in
one place or too many almond trees, whatever we may gain in industrial
efficiency, we sacrifice in biological resilience. The question is not whether
systems this brittle will break down, but when and how, and whether when they
do, we'll be prepared to treat the whole
idea of sustainability as something more than a nice word.
Pollan reminds us that the particular
challenges that face us in this or that sector of food or energy or health
actually have much deeper roots, reaching all the way to an historic struggle
between the industrial and the biological. His reference to parable is telling.
As easily, he could have referred to myth.
We are quick to assume that no battle between
myths, or no myth at all, could hold sway over the modern mind. Yet could it be
called anything other than myth, the story that is powerful enough to have us
believing that unlimited economic growth is not only possible but desirable,
despite the rapidly accumulating data to the contrary? What else but a myth
could be powerful enough to convince us that what made sense as an economic
organizing principle in a 1 billion person planet or a $1 trillion dollar global
economy would still be appropriate in a 6.4 billion person planet and a $24
trillion dollar global economy? What else but a myth could be powerful enough to
convince us that there is no such thing as a company that is too big,
intermediation that is too complex or money that is too fast? What else but a
myth could make the violence of the modern economy invisible to the modern
I believe that social investing can best be
understood, with its roots in Quakerism and anti-apartheid divestitures, as an
expression of the ethos of non-violence in the context of fiduciary capitalism.
Of necessity, this expression manifests itself in partial adaptations, pragmatic
mutations and imperfect applications. Lots and lots of half-steps. After all,
who can ignore how daunting it is to look at the Fortune 500 or the Russell 5000
and think: What would I invest in if I really wanted to do no harm?
Our success in moving beyond half-steps
depends upon acknowledging, unabashedly, without scapegoating, without undue
recrimination, and with a commitment to looking forward, the violence of the
This is the violence of the modern economy: by
prioritizing markets over households, community, place, land, it does violence
to the relationships that underpin health and that give life sustaining
meaning-family relationships, community relationships, relationships to
particular places, relationships between consumers and producers and between
investors and the enterprises in which they invest, relationships between
companies and the places in which they do business, relationships between wonder
and awe and the universe that gave us plutonium, lightyears, fertility,
sentience, poetry, fugue. All of these relationships are attenuated, or, in the
extreme, deracinated, by the modern global economy.
This is violence of the most fundamental kind.
It is no accident that such an economy would find it easy to support, and to
depend upon, the building of nuclear weapons, the waging of wars in distant
lands, the selling of cigarettes, the flying of trillions of air miles, the
commodification of leisure, urban and suburban sprawl, gated communities and
favelas, toxics in the food and water, and kids who watch an average of four
hours per day of TV, paying more attention to instant messaging than to people
in the room.
In these first few decades of the 21st
century, it is our "inescapable duty," to use Wendell Berry's words, to change
not only our light bulbs, but our myths. And along with them, our concepts of
entrepreneurship, investing and philanthropy, which will have to be amended,
expanded, and, perhaps, even radically transformed, as part of a new vision of
Article by Woody Tasch, Chairman and President
of Slow Money, which is currently holding Slow Money Institutes in several U.S.
regions, in anticipation of launching a first Slow Money fund in 2009. He is
also Chairman of Investors' Circle ( http://www.investorscircle.net - See GL article below) and author of the forthcoming
book "A Bee's-Eye View and Inquiry into the Nature of Slow Money," which is due
out fall 2008 from Chelsea Green. Reprinted with permission. Green Money
Journal. Summer 2008. http://www.greenmoneyjournal.com/article.mpl?newsletterid=44&articleid=604
Kelsi Boyle of Investors' Circle based in San
Francisco wrote, "Investors' Circle acts as an intermediary, connecting our
nation-wide network of angel and institutional investors to early- or
expansion-stage businesses that aim to address significant environmental or
social issues. In particular, we are looking for companies or venture funds in
the following industries: Energy & Environment, Food & Organics,
Community & International Development, Education & Media, and Health
& Wellness. Our investors seek companies with financing needs under $10
million that have the mission and potential to grow on a national or
international scale. For more information on our targets and criteria, please
Entrepreneurs that are accepted by Investors’ Circle are introduced to our group
of investors through an online company database and monthly e-newsletter. Most
importantly, accepted companies will be considered for a presentation
opportunity at our next venture fair event. A total of $12 million was invested
in roughly 1/3rd of the presenters at our last three venture fairs." The
application deadline for the next Venture Fair located in Boston, November
10th-12th, was August 1st.
See also Guest Column by Woody Tasch
The original article by Woody Tasch above was
in Green Money Journal's Special 15th Anniversary Summer 2008 issue. Founder
Cliff Feigenbaum is still the publisher and managing editor of this quarterly
which received an Utne Independent Press Award in 2003.
Among recent articles in the magazine and
online are topics such as:
- The Organic Marketplace: From Food, Fashion
and Flowers to the Future of Farming.
- Community Development Banking
- Sustainability Challenges such as Allan
Savory's holistic approach to land, livestock, people and
- Competitive advantage of bioregions
- The limits of biocapacity: risks for
- Socially responsible investing around the
- Interview with George Siemon, CEO of Organic
FABLE BECOMES A PLAY
Four years ago, one of the GL issues brought
our readers a fable from Loon Laughter: Ecological Fables & Nature Tales by
Paul Air, professor of Forest Conservation Policy at the University of Toronto
(And Now for Something Completely Different GL V9 N5 March 4, 2004). This summer
one of the fables became a one-act play for children. Beware the Falling Trees!
Lorraine & The Great Moraine Adventure was written by Amy Henkel &
Anthony Leo presented by Resurgence Theatre Company in cooperation with the Oak
Ridges Moraine Foundation in ten outdoor performances in York Region ending
August 15. Thirty more performances will be held in elementary schools in the
Greater Toronto Area October 6-24.
The storyline provided by the press release
is: "The Oak Ridges Moraine is one of Ontario's prominent landforms. So when
Lorraine the deer discovers that her friend Winston plans to cut down all the
trees on a section of the Moraine and build a giant disco, she has to take
action. But what's the big deal about cutting down a bunch of trees? Lorraine
and her friends find out as mystic toads, militant salamanders and
out-of-this-world dance numbers abound on their journey to save the Moraine.
Recommended for young audiences."
GL TAKES A
GL thinks the term “greenwash” is easy to
sling around but lacks precision and is often unfair by isolating environmental
labelling from all the other labels which the consumer deals with. What might
help is to explain more how labelling is being used in the marketplace and how
these relate to what Canada’s Competition Bureau has set out in its
environmental labelling guidance. Of course, marketing ingenuity being what it
is and environmental issues moving along too, the old labels which were
originally used in the 1990s are not as much used as they were even though the
updated guide still covers mostly these. So this series explores some of the
labels on products as well as in media such as flyers, television and magazine
ads as well as blogs and other communications which may not so readily be
identified as marketing.
Seen on several different cloth bags: "100%
GL comment: The use of 100% for non-numbers is
becoming very common and is mathematically meaningless although GL suspects many
people would understand it to be a wordplay meaning “all of it”. One of the bags
has 100% Gorgeous as another label. Still just because it is nonsense doesn't
mean that the regulator might not take it seriously. GL wonders what 90%
reusable or indeed 75% Gorgeous might mean.
The bag with the reusable claim meets the CSA
guide, "A product that claims to be reusable must have been designed
specifically with the intent that it shall be reusable" and "The design of
products that claim to be refillable and/or reusable must be such that they can
be reused for their original purpose." and "facilities or products exist that
allow the purchaser to reuse or refill the product or package." In theory, the
term reusable is also supposed to have been "conceived and designed to
accomplish with its life cycle a certain number of trips, rotations or uses for
the same purpose for which it was conceived."
The guide doesn't specify how many trips so
presumably even if the bag were reusable only one more time, that would meet the
requirement of the claim of reusable. The bags we bought are made of cotton and
aren’t in any danger of meeting only such a low standard as they are sturdy and
would provide many reuses saving on a number of single use bags whether paper or
Whether the 100% reusable bags actually are an
overall benefit compared to disposables is not so clear as it depends on factors
not always readily assessable by the consumer and depending also on which
factors one considers most environmentally/healthwise/socially relevant, for
example the growing of cotton is a significant contributor to world use of
pesticides and the light colour of one bag may require more washing using
detergents, water and energy. Consumers tend to think reusable is always better
and it often is if waste reduction is the highest priority but lifecycle
assessment over the life of the product from raw material to final disposal
sometimes concludes that disposable is just as good and sometimes even better if
different priorities are chosen. During a severe water shortage, more garbage in
landfill might be preferable to more washing.
A single attribute may make the reusable
product less preferable: for example, thousands, probably millions, of reusable
water bottles were trashed due to consumers being persuaded that bisphenol A
used in polycarbonate, a hard durable plastic, was a hazard to their health and
the environment. In this case, waste reduction was not the highest
Paid subscribers see links to
original documents and references here.
LEADERSHIP IN HEWING OF WOOD THREATENED BY MAINE
If the Governor has his way the State of Maine
may soon overtake Canada as North America’s leader in hewing of wood.
In January, in his State of the State Address,
Maine Governor Baldacci announced a "Wood-to-Energy Initiative" to bring
Maine-made sources of heat to the homes and businesses of Maine. He immediately
established a multistakeholder committee to explore what could be done.
As a first step in this initiative, the
Governor said he would pursue a transition to biofuels such as wood pellets and
wood chips, identifying those state buildings where conversion to wood pellets,
wind, or other renewable sources of energy can reduce costs by 30 to 50 percent.
He pointed out that this not only saves money for Maine taxpayers, it generates
the investment and business activity to grow Maine’s economy .
Last month the Task Force issued its final
report. Among its findings:
- Maine is the most oil dependent state
- Biomass applications are commercial in scale.
Biomass with bark and leaves is currently used in wood fueled electricity
generation facilities, is used in pulp and paper mills for steam and
electricity, and can be used in large scale central heating systems. Properly
combusted, biomass is relatively efficient and clean-burning.
- Modern wood chip fueled systems can provide
heat at a cost of less than half of #2 oil fueled systems. Modern wood chip
systems are efficient and clean burning.
- Fully automated wood pellet fueled home
heating systems that use a boiler to heat hot water for baseboards and
domestic hot water are common in Europe but not in the United States. For
example, 80% of new homes in Sweden and 76% of new homes in Austria are now
built with pellet fueled central heating systems. These systems are
transparent to the owner in that all they have to do is set the thermostat and
the home or business is warmed to the setpoint. Pellet fuel is delivered in
bulk from delivery trucks similar to oil delivery trucks into basement storage
tanks that hold from several months to a full winter’s supply of fuel. A cube
seven feet on a side holds about a half a winter’s supply for the typical
Maine home. For that sized bin, compared to the typical 275 gallon oil tank,
delivery frequency would be halved (reducing diesel use and emissions). These
systems are also very efficient and clean burning. They use premium pellets
and thus produce about a cubic foot of ash for every two tons of pellet
- According to the Maine Forest Service, if
forest management and harvesting practices evolve, Maine can, over time,
increase sustainable and environmentally responsible yield per acre
substantially above current levels.
- If 10% of residences in Maine were to convert
to wood pellet fuel, it would require approximately 650,000 tons of green wood
per year to make approximately 340,000 tons of pellet fuel per year. The Maine
Forest Service has shown that the Maine woods do have the capacity to
sustainably produce wood pellet fuel at those levels both in the short term,
by improving utilization by harvesting stock that is available but is not
being harvested and/or by entering stands not previously considered
commercial, and in the long term by implementing forestry management practices
that increase the sustainable per acre yield of Maine’s forests.
- In the northwest regions of the north Maine
woods approximately 600 bonded Canadian labourers have been long-term
operators of logging equipment. It is estimated that they produce 20-25% of
the volume of annually harvested wood. These bonded labourers are part of a
program caught up in the national debate on immigration reform, and similar to
the shortages from these workers in Maine’s hotel industry, fewer loggers are
available currently until the program is extended for additional years. 600
loggers out of an estimated 2500 – 3000 total loggers is a significant
shortage in logging capacity.
balance between the growth of the wood-to-energy sector and the ability of the
harvesting infrastructure to bring the wood to market must be considered as a
keystone in securing price stability. However, the wood-to-energy sector will
grow based on the demand from the consumers not on some mandate from
government. Thus the government must act to facilitate the sustainable supply
of wood and wood fuels to meet demands for all stakeholders that depend on
Maine’s most valuable renewable resource .
The State of
Maine has already teamed up with a local bank to provide homeowners with US made
pellet stoves as replacements for fossil fuelled home heating
Paid subscribers see links to
original documents and references here.
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