In The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible, Charles Eisenstein very clearly distinguishes that we are in the process of transitioning from an Old Economy, that ensures our demise, to a New Economy that is essential, not optional, if we are to survive as a species. (He is very clear that the transition from New Economy to Old Economy will not be smooth.) I think it might be useful to frame the incorporation debate inside our necessary transition to the New Economy.
Water. In 1992, I sat on the SSI Sustainable Roundtable and we distinguished that what mattered most to SS islanders was the quality and availability of water. We identified many water management problems that needed a holistic solution.Twenty five years later we are in the same place, if not worse.
Inside the New Economy what could the water situation look like on SSI? We could harvest rainwater, all of us. The Water Works could be a group of people who help you with your rainwater harvesting issues. The urban model of chlorinated, piped water could be a thing of the past, as could the associated overheads. We actually no longer need the expensive, chlorinated distribution systems that we have. Rainwater harvesting technology is available and being widely used around the world, residentially and commercially. Undoubtedly the transition will be difficult and messy. Considering that only one of our water districts needs $28M just to stay operational, and there are many other water districts, the difficult and messy transition has got to be worth it. When the transition is complete, we will have removed an enormous overhead from our books. The lakes could take a rest and go back to their historic ways.
Toilets. They use 25% of our water and we combine that precious water with our personal waste. This ends up in our septic tanks and septic fields or, in Ganges results in effluent and sludge. The effluent gets deposited at the end of Ganges Harbour and the sludge is currently trucked to Vancouver Island. Septic tanks get their sludge pumped out every 5 years or so and that is then trucked to Vancouver Island at ~$1k per pop. That’s the Old Economy. In the New Economy, we can use foam flush toilets that use 3 oz of water per flush instead of the 162 oz of water used in today’s high efficiency toilets. The waste drops into a Clivus Multrum composting system that separates the grey water from the solid waste which composts into soil. Nothing gets shipped off island and fertile soil is the result. The Old Economy needs places to dump effluent and sludge and wastes precious water. The New Economy takes responsibility for human waste without downstream issues, and saves a lot of precious water.
Buildings. They consume 40% of our energy and create 50% of our landfill material. The Living Building Challenge has distinguished 351 toxic chemicals (the Red List) that are routinely used in construction. Our current buildings are not designed to last over 50 years and often don’t reach that age. In the last half of their life they routinely are infested with mold. That’s the Old Economy. On SSI we use Step 1 of the BC Building Code, the lowest possible standard. By 2030 we will be forced to use Step 5, the Passive House standard, a reasonable transition standard, but only focussing on energy consumption. The New Economy in building is best represented by The Living Building Challenge, where no Red List materials are permitted, the building has to be net zero in energy, net zero in water, independently handle its own waste, and last for 250 years. These building were thought to be impossible only 10 years ago and now are being built all over the world. This is how development can create positive legacies, instead of toxic waste. It is also how we remove energy, water, personal waste, and construction waste from the public taxation domain.
Visionary Building: Museum of Roman Artifacts, Narbonne, France. SIREWALLs made from local soil, was selected for its strength, beauty, and hygrothermic (temperature and humidity control) properties.
China’s first LEED Platinum resort. By SIREWALL. About 4 hours drive
south of Shanghai in Moganshan is Naked Stables, a high end nature retreat featuring 40 of these SIREWALL 440 sq ft “round huts”.
Electricity– the Old Economy believes it is better to centralize the power generation (BC Hydro) and incur the distribution impacts (transmission losses and high voltage line impacts). The New Economy believes that local power removes those burdens and empowers SSI with sovereignty over their power supply and costs thereof.
Roads. People say this is the biggest issue in the incorporation debate, as it will cost plenty to have SSI roads kept up to MOTI standard. The Old Economy says that we need to travel at the maximum safe speed and comfort to our SSI destination. Driving from Southey Pt to Ruckle Park currently will take 37 minutes (what if it took 45 minutes?). The financial and environmental cost to maintain this standard will be significant. The Old Economy says this is important. The Old Economy also says that we need asphalt under our rubber to maximize the smoothness of the ride. The Old Economy says it is sufficiently important that we bring off-islanders to pave our roads with toxic materials, and then periodically recoat them with toxic sealers. The Old Economy says that it is ok to run such roads through our drinking water watersheds. The New Economy says that spending money on roads is far down the list of priorities behind clean and abundant water supplies, clean soils providing healthy foods, clean air, and healthy, durable buildings. If we need to drive slower over bumpy roads to achieve a healthy environment, great! When roads do get to the top of the list, after more important things are taken care of, then the New Economy would rebuild our roads so that they can be maintained by locals and are built with non-toxic materials such as soil cement and/or enzyme enhanced soils.
Cars, trucks and bikes. The Old Economy has our transportation dependent on gas and diesel. The New Economy provides plenty of charging stations and expertise in maintaining electric vehicles.
Food. The Old Economy says that we should buy whatever food is the cheapest regardless of the environmental and social impacts of those purchases. The New Economy says we should take care of our land, our farmers, and ensure that we are not dependent on off-islanders for our survival. Food sovereignty, right on!
Buying Stuff. The Old Economy says that the lowest price is the law and whoever or whatever is damaged by that model, tough. What’s in it for me (WIFM) is the only way to get ahead and only fools care about others. The best way to save money is to shop off-island at Costco or Amazon. The culture of separateness is an essential Old Economy prop, and directly responsible for the global mess we’re in. The New Economy recognizes that there is no “away” and there is no “other” to get damaged. When we hurt others or the environment we are hurting ourselves, or perhaps our children and grandchildren but the hurt does not go away. When we buy on-island we are nourishing our neighbours and creating island prosperity.
And finally, today’s question………what governance model gives us the best chance to embrace the New Economy, presuming there is an appetite for the inevitable turmoil of change that it entails?
Meror Krayenhoff is owner/ founder of Salt Spring Island’s Sirewall.com and has been awarded BC’s most environmental builder, is a three time winner of Best Homebuilder in BC awards, and has been featured on David Suzuki’s “Just Build Green.” Krayenhoff now works globally as a green building consultant specializing in modern rammed earth. He believes that with our current bottom tier building standards, we will continue to attract the worst developers. With incorporation, we could put in the highest building standards, remove development concerns, become part of the new economy, and lead the way to a sustainable future rather than dragging our feet fending off nasty development.