Why is a One Planet Neighbourhood so important? Climate activist Greta Thunberg explains why.
Greta Thunberg in Vancouver - Oct 2019
The One Planet Living model was created by Sue Riddlestone and Pooran Desai, in 2003 in South London. These two environmental entrepreneurs wanted to incorporate more sustainable ways of living into their projects. (For example the BedZED eco village) There are now One Planet Living communities on five continents, including right here on Vancouver Island!
The One Planet Living framework is made up of:
The Oaklands Neighbourhood Plan is using the ten principles to guide the questions we ask and the recommendations we make in the final report.
I noted last week that Saanich is one of five municipalities around the world participating in a One Planet Cities initiative organised by Bioregional, a UK-based NGO. The idea is simple: How do we reduce our overall ecological footprint (about half of which is carbon emissions) to just take our fair share of the Earth’s resources, instead of the 3 – 5 planet’s worth we currently use?
Based on Bioregional’s ten ‘One Planet’ principles, the initiative addresses the ‘usual suspects’ of sustainability – energy, transportation, food, materials and waste, water, green space and so on. But Bioregional begins with three principles about people and community: Health and happiness, equity and the local economy, and culture and community. This helps us focus on why we are doing this; to enable us all to lead good quality lives, within the ecological constraints of our one small planet.
During the first year, which just ended, twelve Saanich-based organizations have created One Planet Action Plans or Scans. In addition to the municipality iteself, these include several schools, a college, businesses, NGOs and a church (see www.oneplanetsaanich.org for details). So what exactly are they doing, or planning to do?
First, Saanich itself has conducted a Sustainability Scan of the municipality. Based on Saanich’s Ecological Footprint, the report identifies several priorities related to reducing food waste and adopting a more plant-based diet, reducing the energy consumed in our buildings and infrastructure, reducing dependence on fossil fuel-based transportation and reducing the overall consumption of ‘stuff’ (consumable goods).
Importantly, the Scan notes the many potential areas of synergy between the ten areas of action defined by the Principles. For example, it looks at how a focus on local and sustainable food production with reduced meat and dairy consumption and reduced food waste can improve health and wellbeing, reduce environmental impact from animal wastes and intensive agriculture, strengthen the local economy, reduce water consumption and waste production and reduce the energy use and greenhouse gas production that contributes to global heating.
We can see how these ideas carry forward in the action plans of the twelve pioneering local organisations. The four schools (Artemis Place, Reynolds Secondary, Claremont Secondary and Mount Douglas Secondary), as well as Camosun College, all have initiatives that address food production, consumption or waste and provide hands-on learning in school gardens, land conservation or farming. In addition, there are projects in rainwater collection, a clothing swap and surveys and advocacy in support of public transportation.
Among the private sector participants, Beespot is working to build compact Green Passive House neighbourhoods, while the purpose of Bumblebee Electric Vehicles, which is a Community Contribution Company, is to accelerate widespread adoption of electric vehicles and solar energy products. In addition, both the Uptown retail centre and the Mt. Tolmie branch of the VanCity Credit Union are taking a number of actions.
The two NGOs are Haliburton Farms and Creatively United for the Planet. Haliburton is a community organic farm that has been advancing sustainable food in the region since 2001; it is linking its education work to the One Planet Principles and is accessing clean transportation options for deliveries with Bumblebee. Creatively United is focused on the arts and communication, and is creating videos to showcase local leaders who are providing positive and sustainable solutions. Finally, the Unitarian Church has initiated a Carbon Challenge to motivate members to change their driving and flying habits, install electric vehicle chargers, share recipes to encourage low-carbon food choices, and undertake advocacy to senior levels of government about climate action.
A celebration of the first year of work was held in June at the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific, and both the Mayor of Saanich, Fred Haynes, and the CRD Chair, Saanich Councillor Colin Plant, were there to acknowledge these pioneers. This is important, because we need political commitment to move this approach forward, increasing the number of participating organisations and expanding it to the whole of the CRD and beyond.
But while we can show leadership locally, we cannot do this alone. An important part of our local footprint comes from the activities of the provincial and federal governments and large corporations elsewhere. They too must become One Planet organisations, for all our sakes.
© Trevor Hancock, 2019
Tomorrow, July 29, is Earth Overshoot Day, according to the Global Footprint Network; the day each year on which “humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year”. In other words, it is the day on which our overall Ecological Footprint (EF) exceeds the carrying capacity of the Earth.
The Network measures the EF by converting our demand for food, fiber products, timber, land for urban infrastructure, and forest to absorb our carbon emissions from fossil fuels, into a single unit: the land and sea area in hectares needed to meet that demand. Actually, it is an underestimate, because it does not include some impacts that cannot be measured that way: air pollution or toxic chemical wastes, for example, or species extinctions.
This ‘footprint’ is then compared to the biocapacity of the Earth, which is the amount of land and sea (forest lands, grazing lands, cropland, fishing grounds, and built-up land) needed both to replenish the resources we use and to absorb the wastes we produce. The most important of those wastes is carbon dioxide, the main driver of global overheating; it has more than doubled since 1970 and now makes up 60 percent of the entire global EF. At the same time, this should serve to remind us that climate change is not the only challenge we face; 40 percent of the EF is not carbon dioxide, but our use - and over-use - of forests, foodlands, fish, minerals and other materials.
We have been exceeding the Earth’s biocapacity for 50 years, beginning in 1969 – ironically, the year we set foot on the moon. At the global level in 2016 (the latest data available), we used the equivalent of more than 1.7 planet’s worth of biocapacity overall, which is clearly unsustainable – we only have one Earth. The Network estimates that if present trends continue, we will need the equivalent of two Earths by 2030.
The date of Earth Overshoot Day has gotten steadily earlier in the year, as population has grown and the economy has boomed. The good news is that the rate at which Earth Overshoot Day moves up on the calendar “has slowed to less than one day a year on average in the past five years, compared to an average of three days a year since overshoot began in the early 1970s”. However, it is still moving in the wrong direction.
But high-income countries such as Canada use far more than their fair share of the Earth’s biocapacity, which means they have a much earlier Earth Overshoot Day. Canada’s EF in 2016 was the equivalent of 4.75 Earths, putting our Overshoot Day on day 77 of the year - March 18th. Ever since then, we have been using more than our fair share of the Earth, while others get much less – in fact, not enough in many cases to meet their basic needs for adequate levels of human and social development.
So what should we take from this? Perhaps the most important point is that while the climate emergency is real and must be addressed urgently, at the same time we have to act on all the other aspects of our EF. We need not just a climate strategy but a One Planet strategy; how do we reduce our EF to the equivalent of one planet’s worth of biocapacity – our fair share - which would be an almost 80 percent reduction for Canada as a whole. And how do we do so while maintaining a decent quality of life and good health for everyone who lives here?
The Earth Overshoot website has some useful ideas, focusing on five key areas for action: How we design and manage cities, how we power ourselves, how we produce, distribute and consume food, how we help nature thrive, and how many of us there are.
Overall, they estimate that in order to use less than 1 Earth before 2050 we need to move Earth Overshoot Day back by five days every year. This is of course a huge challenge – but so was getting to the moon. Its amazing what we can do when we put our minds to it.
© Trevor Hancock, 2019
Last week I critiqued the errors and distortions in an article by Gwyn Morgan presenting what he claimed to be a set of ‘little-known facts’ and myths about climate change (“Climate change myths and utter hypocrisy”, 4 August 2019). This week, I turn to some of the other examples of misrepresentations, half-truths and obfuscation in that article.
First, Morgan completely misrepresents the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in writing that they “would have us believe that fossil-fuel emissions are the sole reason for climate change”. They do nothing of the sort. In fact, in the IPCC’s 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers, Figure SPM.2 shows that in 2010 CO2 was accountable for 76 percent of total annual anthropogenic (human-created) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; the remaining 24 percent is due to other greenhouse gases – methane (which does come in part from the fossil fuel industry), nitrous oxide (also comes in part from fossil fuel combustion) and fluorinated gases.
The chart also shows that CO2 from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes accounted for 65 percent of all GHG emissions in 2010 – up from 55 percent in 1970, while CO2 from forestry and other land use accounted for 11 percent - down from 17 percent in 1970. So while the contribution of fossil fuels has grown since 1970, the IPCC is clear that it is far from the sole reason.
Morgan also asks: “But what about urbanization and deforestation”? As noted above, the 2014 IPCC report also shows that forestry and other land use contributes to GHG emissions. Indeed, just after Morgan’s column was published, the IPCC released a special report on climate change and land, which is hardly ignoring the issue.
Morgan then minimises the data on rising sea levels. Again citing NOAA data, which states that sea levels “continue to rise at the rate of about one-eighth of an inch (3.2 mm) per year”, he writes, correctly, that “At that rate, a house built 10 feet above sea level today would still be nine feet, seven inches above sea level in 40 years“. But this serves to downplay the serious and legitimate concerns about sea-level rise. In fact the same NOAA website notes “Sea level rise at specific locations may be more or less than the global average due to local factors”.
Indeed, a recent Government of Canada report projects 75 – 100 cm (2.5 – 3.25 feet) increases in sea level along Canada’s Atlantic coast by 2100, with northern BC and the lower mainland seeing 50 – 75 cm (1.6 - 2.5 feet) increases. In referring to the report, Professor John Clague, an earth sciences professor at Simon Fraser University, notes "[A few millimetres per year] may not seem like a lot to many people . . . But if it's accompanied by strong storms, you really have an exacerbated effect”.
Morgan also seeks to minimise Canada’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, writing that we contribute a “miniscule 1.6 percent” of global CO2 emissions; what difference can we make, he implies. Well, apart from ignoring the fact that we are only 0.5 percent of the global population – so we are emitting more than three times our ‘fair share’ - this is simply an argument for doing nothing. If this attitude were adopted by all governments it would result in no action; exactly what much of the fossil fuel industry wants.
Morgan also derides the declaration of a climate emergency, claiming it is not a national but a global emergency. But a recent Environment and Climate Change Canada report – which Morgan fails to note - reports that Canada is warming twice as fast as the world average, and Canada’s North is warming even more rapidly, which certainly makes it a national issue.
In fact, the reason it has become an emergency is largely due to the deliberate misrepresentation of the science, and attacks on the scientific community by the fossil fuel industry and its political supporters over recent decades. This has resulted in ‘business as usual’, eroding the window of opportunity for action, so what was not an emergency has become one, threatening the health of millions of people. This is a cost the fossil fuel industry seems willing to impose on us.
© Trevor Hancock, 2019
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