News from the Environment Committee or related to the environment and posted by another group
Next year, 2021, let’s celebrate a whole collection of summer holidays (holy days) for one grand summer festival honouring all people and other beings while bearing witness to the challenges that call Unitarians to keep on working for justice…
My covenant group met on Canada Day in 2020 and we shared some thoughts about what we liked and disliked about Canada Day. There were many things we appreciated about Canadian culture and political systems, and also many areas where we felt we still fell short and needed to keep on working. Following are some celebrations we could perhaps honour next year leading up to a more complete and satisfying celebration of Canada Day. (Ah…but who amongst us might take the lead!)
|2021 Jun 20||Sunday||World Refugee Day
This event honors the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homeland under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.
|Jun 20||Sunday||Fathers Day
Father’s Day is an unofficial holiday to celebrate fathers around the world—although the date for celebration varies.
|Jun 21||Monday||Summer Solstice from a scientific viewpoint
It’s the scientific start to summer in the Northern Hemisphere, when this half of the world tilts toward the sun.
Litha – Summer solstice from a Wiccan viewpoint
The Solstice Teaches Us A poem from the UUA Worship Web
|Jun 21||Monday||National Indigenous Peoples Day
A day to celebrate and learn more about the cultural diversity of the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in Canada.
|Jun 21||Monday||International Day of Yoga
Yoga is practiced in various forms around the world and continues to grow as a sport and a lifestyle. Traditional yoga has a meditative and spiritual core in addition to the physical exercises. The result is a wide variety of schools, practices, and goals within the yoga community. It is because of yoga’s holistic approach to body and mind that the UN decided in 2014 to dedicate June 21 to this ancient tradition.
“Yoga is a sport that can contribute to development and peace. Yoga can even help people in emergency situations to find relief from stress.” said Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General.
|Jun 23||Wednesday||Public Service Day
The United Nations’ Public Service Day is held on June 23 each year. It recognizes that democracy and successful governance are built on the foundation of a competent civil service. The day aims to celebrate the value and virtue of service to the community.
|Jun 23||Wednesday||International Widows’ Day
International Widows’ Day was introduced to address poverty and injustice faced by widows and their children in many countries. It was officially recognized by the United Nations in 2010 and is observed annually on June 23.
|Jun 24||Thursday||Fête nationale du Québec (FR)
The people of Québec celebrate their national holiday with more than 750 celebrations held across the province on 23 and 24 June. Organized by nearly 20,000 volunteers, the festivities of the Fête nationale include more than 1,050 events and 360 bonfires, in addition to some of the largest public gatherings in Québec.
|Jun 25||Friday||Day of the Seafarer
In 2010, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), decided to designate June 25th as the International Day of the Seafarer as a way to recognize that almost everything that we use in our daily lives has been directly or indirectly affected by sea transport. The purpose of the day is to give thanks to seafarers for their contribution to the world economy and the civil society; and for the risks and personal costs they bear while on their jobs.
|Jun 26||Saturday|| International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking
to raise awareness of the major problem that illicit drugs represent to society. This day is supported by individuals, communities and various organizations all over the world.
|Jun 26||Saturday|| International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
Rehabilitation centres and human rights organizations around the world celebrate the UN’s International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on June 26 each year. The day serves as a reminder to people that torture is a crime. This event gives everyone a chance to unite and voice their opinions against human torture.
Organizations, including the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims and Amnesty International, have played an active role in organizing events around the world to promote the day. Activities may include photo exhibitions, the distribution of posters and other material to boost people’s awareness of issues related to human torture, and television advertisements.
|Jun 27||Sunday||Canadian Multiculturalism Day
Discover the significance of multiculturalism in Canada — ensuring that all citizens keep their identities, take pride in their ancestry and have a sense of belonging.
|Jun 30||Wednesday||International Asteroid Day
June 30 is the anniversary of the Tunguska impact, also known as the Tunguska event. On that day a large explosion occurred in the sky over the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in Siberia, Russia.
It destroyed about 2,000 square kilometers (770 square miles) of the forest in the area, flattening about 80 million trees. The area is sparsely populated, and there were no official reports of human casualties.
It is thought that an asteroid or a comet was responsible for the blast. The Tunguska event is considered to be the largest asteroid impact on Earth in recorded history.
|2021 Jul 1||Thursday||Canada Day – UCV’s Patrick Dubois’ 2020 Musical Tribute
What do we need to do as Canadian Unitarians to help make Canada Day a time of celebration for all people and not just a settler’s celebration?
The Butterfly Way Project – The David Suzuki Foundation
Further information on 2021 holidays worldwide:
UUA Worship Web – a poem on summer
- Animal Rights Awareness Week – (Mid June) 13-19 June 2021?
- Fish are Friends, Not Food Week! – (Last Week of June) 20-26 June 2021?
- National Pollinator Week – 20-26 June 2021?
The Oak Street Farmers’ Market (OSFM)
A Grand, crazy idea
Back in 2012 a group of intrepid UCV members came up with an idea: Why not start an all-organic farmers’ market in our parking lot? What’s not to like? Under the direction of our sustainable food guru, Grant Watson, we began to make plans.
Bravely we climbed a steep learning curve of city permits, farm visits, grant applications and logo choosing among a panoply of other tasks. One of our most debated tasks was deciding whether to put the apostrophe before or after the ‘s’ in ‘farmers market’. We had our grand opening with music, city officials cutting the ribbon and inspirational speakers and we were off!
Five years of building community ensued with delicious food, great music, artisan stalls, stone soup making with donations from all our farmers, and even a massage chair .
Highlights included being the first market to feature wine and spirits,zucchini races, cooking demos and even a film series on ethical eating. We were proud to nurture first time farmers’ market vendors and musicians, and we welcomed volunteers from the deaf community.
Along with physical and financial backing from the church, UCV volunteers provided a considerable amount of sweat equity. Challenges included the weekly erecting of a huge and heavy piece of equipment that came to be known as the “Frankentent”, dragging multitudes of boxes out of the church’s narrow crawlspace, and keeping the electricity flowing to the parking lot by means of extension cords, covers, and ingenuity.
Navigating the challenges of starting and running the first all-organic farmers’ market in Vancouver proved difficult. Midway through operations, the city decided to enforce its sign bylaw not allowing us to put up signs in the neighbourhood. As well, several other farmers’ markets opened soon after ours in the area.
In spite of having incredibly dedicated members on the OSFM board, after 5 years of operation, we had to close due to our continued financial instability. Our grand adventure came to an end but the memories and the community continue on.
So you want to know about the Burns Bog Pilgrimage. Many Unitarians have heard of this annual meditative walk, usually in conjunction with the Earth Day Service put on by the Environment Team. For others, Burns Bog is a big mystery- what is it, why is it so important, and why would Unitarians help organize a pilgrimage to a ‘swamp’?
Karl Perrin, long-time member of the Environment Team, answers those questions and more…
What is Burns Bog?
Burns Bog is an ancient domed bog in Delta, B.C. It is ten times the size of Stanley Park. It provides habitat for several threatened and endangered species. An NDP provincial govt. had planned to pave half of it as a new site for the PNE. Gordon Campbell countered that if he became premier, he would preserve it. After his government was elected, four levels of government bought out private owners, and designated it as conservation lands off limits to all but a few trained volunteers preserving the wetness of the bog in dry weather. Several members of the UCV Enviro Committee participated in building dams to prevent the central dome from drying out, and potentially catching on fire.
Why Protect Burns Bog?
In addition to being the largest protected urban wilderness area in the world, Burns Bog is part of the valuable Fraser River delta. Over five million migratory birds rest in the estuary on the Pacific Flyway. The acidic water prevents aerobic or anaerobic bacteria from decaying plant and animal matter, so carbon is preserved deep under the surface for millenia. Therefore, unlike forests where wood becomes CO2 and CH4 within a couple centuries, the carbon builds up creating the central dome, and only sphagnum moss thrives in many parts of the bog. Under pressure the carbon would eventually become coal but it is also susceptible to fire. Therefore, human activities have been banned, since in the past, human pollution and sparks from machines led to fires which were very difficult to put out.
Why is wilderness in a city so precious?
Burns Bog is a remnant of the last ice age. It has survived partly because travel in it is difficult. It not only takes CO2 out of the air, and produces O2 for animals to breathe, it also provides habitat for numerous animals such as Sandhill Cranes and other birds, and rare plants, as part of the interlocking ecosystems of the lower Fraser River. It also acts as a giant sponge for rain, but also for spring freshets of the Fraser River. Indigenous peoples have used it for food and medicine for millenia. Its quiet, flat “emptiness” complements the high rise human activity of Vancouver. It is a giant pause, in so called “development”.
Theory: If You Love It, You Will Protect It
The first Pilgrimage to Burns Bog in the 1990’s was a multi-faith walk into the knee-deep bog before it was protected. For decades it had been considered worthless, and the Vancouver City Dump was expanding into it, along with cranberry farms, and peat mining operations on its fringes. That 1990’s multi-faith pilgrimage, working with the Burns Bog Conservation Society and Don DeMill, was the first time a group from Greater Vancouver declared it to be a sacred site. Some like Don, loved it by interacting with it on an almost daily basis, exploring its mysteries in hip waders. Don made a movie about it, “A Road Runs Through It”, loosely based on a movie, “A River Runs Through It”.
Others had discovered its value scientifically, exploring and identifying its flora and fauna. Its unique beauty was quite different from the towering old growth forest of Vancouver Island. It is quite flat, and virtually hidden from view except from the high point at the centre of the Alex Fraser bridge. So it’s hard for humans to feel, smell, taste, hear, or even see it. But once you experience its miniature fauna and flora, maintaining ecological difference from surrounding eco-systems, yet inter weaving with all of them, you will marvel at its stubborn self preservation. Then you may love it, as a pause from bull dozing, and seek to preserve it from advanced machinery and fire. It’s a quiet wet pause in the middle of an urban space.
In April, 2007 Greenpeace activist Rex Weyler gave an Earth Day sermon at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver. He challenged us to remember the residents of Strathcona/Chinatown in Vancouver who, against all odds, stopped a proposed freeway from bull dozing their community in the 1970’s. Rex challenged us to stop the Gateway Project, which would put a freeway through the edge of Burns Bog. It would provide a high speed road for container trucks coming from the proposed expansion of Delta Port. That road was called the South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR). The Gateway Project included the SFPR, the North Fraser Perimeter Road, and the new ten lane Port Mann bridge. Rex challenged us to stop all of it, even though the transport minister declared it a “done deal”, the day he announced it.
And so some of us at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, and other multi-faith nature loving leaders, joined forces to renew the Pilgrimage to Burns Bog in 2008. We met on Annacis Island and announced our religious and political intentions to stop the Gateway Project. With banners and signs we walked across the Alex Fraser Bridge, and rested at the entrance to the Delta Nature Reserve, which includes a boardwalk to a small remnant of Burns Bog. In subsequent years we played with the format, but always with the intention to fall in love with Burns Bog, and protect it from the proposed Highway 17 on its edge. We had a welcome by Aline Laflamme. We had cello music by Nick Epperson, and singing by Singers of the Sacred Web. We had opening and closing speeches by environmental and religious leaders. After about 2014, the Burns Bog Conservation Society made it a permanent part of their annual calendar of public events. It continues as the Earth Day Sunday Pilgrimage to Burns Bog.
What Didn’t Work?
The South Fraser Perimeter, and the whole Gateway Project, was built. We lobbied Gordon Campbell’s Liberal Government, but the economics behind it were too powerful. It addition to preserving Burns Bog, we opposed the urban sprawl engendered by a bridge which would expand cheaper bedroom communities east and south of the ten lane Port Mann bridge. The bridge was built for commuters, which meant more greenhouse gases, GHGs. There was a lot of pent up public demand among existing commuters for a new bridge. The expansion of high speed roads for container trucks was favoured by those who wanted to expand Vancouver’s port status. Burns Bog never attained the wilderness status of Clayoquot Sound’s old growth forest, possibly because it doesn’t have huge awesome trees, and it is not a recreation site for humans. The “If you love it, you’ll protect it” theory only worked as a theory. It’s not an easy place to understand or to love. For most people, it is still a non-place, an absence, not a presence, ten times the size of Stanley Park
What Did Work?
Many of us learned and thought a great deal about how a domed bog works.
We created an alliance of artists, scientists, environmentalists, political and religious workers who continue to fight Climate Change, and the desecration of wilderness and species at risk.
The million tonnes of carbon buried under Burns Bog is still there, and the remaining Bog continues its role as the “Lungs of the Lower Mainland” inhaling CO2 and exhaling O2. No fire yet.
A living Burns Bog is still a contributing part of the Fraser River estuary. The millions of migratory birds, fish, and mammals that depend on it, are still alive, in spite of the threat of Delta Port Expansion. APE (Against Port Expansion), based in Delta, has been fighting the industrialization of the lower Fraser River for many years.
We built a coalition of faith and environmental groups which continues to fight for our planet’s health and beauty. The fight continues locally and globally.
For more information, check out Burns Bog Conservation Society
Karl Perrin, June, 2020
From Margo Elfert:
I have a memory of having a conversation at the retreat in 1995 with someone about starting up an environment committee, The reply I got was “Who told you you could do that?” I was pretty new to the church, so didn’t know the protocol I guess, but we did it anyway. At that time the Social Justice Committee and the Refugee Committee were very strong, but it was a little “new” to have a separate committee on the environment.
One of the first things we did was to work with B&G in consultation with BC Hydro to determined possible energy savings that we could implement immediately. Light bulbs and weather stripping were things we could accomplish. We would have lunches with the menu, and what we were supporting on the sign. I think this is when our “Green Fund” started.
I have my first record of an Earth Day Service in April 1997. We have done a service every year since.
In 2002 we discovered UUA’s Green Sanctuary Project, and it gave us some more direction. We used it as a guideline, but I’m not sure if we ever jumped through enough hoops to get our “Green Sanctuary” plaque.
From Karl Perrin:
Author: Denise Swanson
One of my strongest lifelong interests has been the protection and promotion of respect for animals. In 2007, there wasn’t any committee at UCV with that particular mandate, and the Environment Committee seemed a good choice to work with on this pursuit. Especially so, given that animal agriculture is one of the top industries responsible for environmental destruction.
Most people have goodwill toward other species and the individual members of them. The overwhelmingly largest number of animals in need of protection are those on factory farms. Many are aware of the routine horrors behind factory farming (quite apart from their link to zoonotic diseases). An obvious way to protect them is to refrain from supporting their abuse by not buying – by boycotting – their ‘products’. Thus, I turned my attention to what is fast gaining momentum as an environmental as well as animal protection movement: plant-based eating.
I learned from reliable sources that balanced plant-based diets are nutritionally sound for all life stages. Not only that, they are significantly protective against some of our society’s most significant chronic health problems: heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and various cancers.
I saw the UCV committee lunch fundraisers as an opportunity to raise awareness of the issue and show that entirely plant-based meals were not only possible but delicious . For the next several years, the Environment Committee collaborated to produce dozens of lunches for the congregation. I also worked on smaller-scale plant-based food service projects for other UCV events, such as workshops at the farmers market, a Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale in Hewett Hall, and put on cooking classes to show that preparing these foods is easy and fun.
Another project I worked on with the Environment Committee involved developing some new church policies: using coffee that is organic and fair-trade, and providing plant-based milk options at coffee times.
During this time, I had been involved in several film festivals, and decided to host one at UCV focused on food and the environment. This was another great learning experience for all of us. The warm and energetic support of the UCV Environment Committee is a fond memory!
Denise Swanson and Dave Steele led a forum in 2019 on Plant Based Eating. Here is a list of websites if you would like to learn more.
Brenda Davis’ site: https://www.brendadavisrd.com/articles/plant-based-health-and-nutrition/
Ginny Messina’s site: https://www.theveganrd.com/
Jack Norris’ site: https://veganhealth.org/
Dietitians of Canada: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vegetarian-Diets.aspx
Nutrispeak.com – Local Registered Dietitian Vesanto Melina is author of many books as well as The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian Diets position paper. https://nutrispeak.com/posts/
Government of Canada nutrient search engine. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/nutrient-data.html
The following has links to over 50 vegan recipe blogs! Take your pick! https://theminimalistvegan.com/high-quality-vegan-blogs/
Links from Dave Steele:
https://healthiersteps.com/ (lots of gluten-free recipes here)
Our Outreach Opportunities Fund recipient for the June-Sept 2020 period is the Burns Bog Conservation Foundation, which was set up in 2002 as an endowment fund for the Burns Bog Conservation Society. Burns Bog is a globally unique ecosystem functioning as a major regulator of regional climate and as the “the Lungs of the Lower Mainland”. Endowment funds are also to be used for research relating to peatlands/wetlands and the development of an Education Centre. Read more about the connections between Burns Bog and the Vancouver Unitarians.
The Unitarian Church of Vancouver has just joined an alliance of nearly 240 organizations that have come together to develop key principles for a “Just Recovery for All” from the COVID-19 pandemic. As governments begin to make plans for recovery, organizations are joining together to send a message that we cannot return to the old “normal”. Now is the time to imagine a better future.
The principles below were informed by a month of consultations with over 200 groups and individuals across Canada by https://justrecoveryforall.ca/
You can see the full text and sign on to the principles using this form: https://forms.gle/
Good (Non-COVID) News From the Wild Salmon Action Team
As this April 2 video by Alexandra Morton shows, when floating-net fish farms are removed from BC coastal waters, wild juvenile salmon newly arrived in those locations have no lice. No farms, no lice! Healthy salmon and a chance for wild salmon to rebound!
The Wild Salmon Action Team, a subcommittee of the Environment Team, was formed in 2018 to support coastal Indigenous groups fighting to remove salmon farms from their waters. The fish farms were introducing dangerous levels of bacteria, viruses, and sea lice into the waters directly in the path of migrating juvenile wild salmon. While logging and over-fishing have been detrimental to wild salmon in the past, and climate change is now the government’s explanation for record lows in salmon populations, the one obvious stressor that can be changed RIGHT NOW is to move fish farms out of the path of migrating wild salmon and preferably out of the ocean onto land. The Wild Salmon Action team has held fundraisers and educational forums to support Indigenous and environmental groups in these demands. Since 2019 we have also been working with MPs and MLAs to get the fish farms out of the water before 2025.
The removal of two fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago last summer and the findings of healthy wild juvenile salmon this spring shows us that the scientists and First Nations were right all along. As Jane Goodall said; “Mother Nature can heal. We just have to give her a chance”.