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Cultivating Community Resilience

December 2015

Wishing you a very happy holiday season
and all the best in 2016.

Your ongoing support of SPEC and the community through 
volunteering, donating, partnering, and participating in events 
is truly inspiring very much appreciated.
Comment on COP 21 – Conference on Climate Change

By Carole Christopher

Nearly all climatologists and activists are heralding the COP 21 agreement signed in Paris this past week.   Elizabeth May describes it as historic.  Others think it marks the end of fossil fuels and a turning point in human history. There are voices of caution and words of disappointment. Naomi Klein says its historic, ambitious and inadequate.  James Hensen, top US climate expert, thinks a golden opportunity has been squandered.  It is, at the same time, flawed and the most optimistic scenario for curbing climate change ever agreed to.  The flaws are significant.  The agreement calls for limiting temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees C but the actual provisions in the text would result in 3 + degrees and there’s no provision for bridging that gap.  This is why it’s repeated again and again, “now the real work begins!” The real work of keeping the public engaged and enacting policies that will drive the pace of change fast enough to avoid a temperature rise greater than 2 degrees C.  In fact, delegates from countries most affected so successfully argued for only 1.5 degrees that it has become the de facto “real target.”
We seem to have arrived 
at a tipping point for change but how we get there has consequences that impact lives and affect whole industries.  A key element of change is to focus not on the sacrifice but on the opportunity.  And the opportunities are real; to rebuild our economies and societies around sustainable values and renewable energy sources and to manifest a mature and wise relationship with natural systems.  Many opportunities have short and even longer term sacrifices embedded in them but their pay off makes it worth it.  We make extreme sacrifices in war because we believe our way of life depends on it.  Fighting climate change requires the same commitment. 
There will be dislocations but the dislocations can’t trump the opportunities unless we forget what’s at stake.  We have mechanisms to help remedy dislocations, including the newly forming global consensus that developed nations – which have driven the industrial effects of climate change – should help pay the costs so that developing countries can embrace more expensive but renewable technologies to meet the development demands of their populations.
Sometimes it’s hard to stay optimistic and we lapse back into the “old ways.”  But this is cause for compassion not despair.  Compassion motivates engagement.  Despair motivates withdrawal.  Let’s opt for a state of mind that cares instead of blames.  It’s doable and it’s hugely important. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize of a sustainable future for generations to come.  The faster we move off fossil fuels, the more secure that future will be.  Success depends on civil society pushing the government to meet the commitments we made in Paris.  
2015 BC Hydro Community Champion!
We did it!! SPEC has been selected as one of the five 2015 BC Hydro Community Champions! This means that we will receive a $10,000 conservation award for SPEC's Energy Committee projects.

Thanks so much to everyone who spread the word, and to supporters who took the time to vote.
AGM and End of Year party a big success!

There was an excellent turnout for the SPEC Annual General Meeting and End of Year Party, on Thursday December 3rd at Kits House. Board, staff, volunteers, members and supporters came together to celebrate our work and renew our vision for the future. 

ED Announcement: 
SPEC is very pleased to announce that we have appointed Oliver Lane as our new Executive Director. Oliver has been with us for three years and has steadily grown into the enhanced responsibilities of an ED.  He brings multiple competencies, great people skills, and a high tolerance for the daily surprises of running a small but vibrant community organization. We thank Silvia and his young children for sharing his time so generously with SPEC and we look forward to his leadership. Please welcome Oliver!   

All those leaves...

Ah fall, and the leaves are falling gently from the trees around the Lower Mainland … and as they do the now-familiar, grating sound of gas leaf blowers fills the air.

While no doubt convenient, there are, as many readers know, a lot of problems associated with leaf blowers. Here are some of them:
Air pollution – Leaf blowers emit carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and hydrocarbons. The many adverse health effects of this smog include heart disease and lung diseases like asthma, and COPD. Children, teenagers, seniors and outdoor workers are most effected. Leaf blowers in the U.S. annually emit 2.4 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide. That’s equivalent to 6.4 million barrels of oil.
Noise pollution – Many leaf blowers emit noise levels well above levels required to cause hearing loss. “A gas-powered leaf blower generates more than 75 decibels 16 metres away from the machine. The World Health Organization warns that exposure to loud noise above 75 decibels damages the human ear drum.” (Reese Halter, Globe & Mail). Noise also increases stress levels and impairs communication.
Dust – Flow of air caused by leaf blowers raises raise toxic levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium nickel and mercury. These heavy metals can aggravate allergy and breathing problems and cause damage to brains, kidneys and CNS in children.
In 2010 Parks Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon introduced a motion relating to leaf blowers: "… be it resolved that the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation replace the use of gas powered leaf blowers with more sustainable methods of clearing leaves."  The motion did not succeed.
Around the lower mainland there have been efforts to deal with the noise pollution created by leaf blowers.  In the City of Vancouver leaf blowers can have a maximum of 65 dBs; no leaf blowers are permitted in the West End; and there are day and time limits. Other cities in Lower Mainland have less restrictive regulations for example, Burnaby and New West permit no more than 87dBs in North Vancouver City the limit is 85 dBs.
For more information see Reese Halter’s Globe & Mail article and the Canadian Lung Association website.

Please do keep in mind that many of these leaves could provide a great source of brown material for composting so please consider this before blowing them away or bagging them for disposal.
Annual Fundraising Drive Underway

Nikoo, SPEC's School Gardens Coordinator, teaching children at one of our schoolsSPEC’s Fall fundraising drive is underway and we are at 70% of our goal to raise $10,000. Help us reach our goal!
With your gift you can have a direct impact on the number of children who are able to learn about ecology and nutrition in our School Gardens Program. With your support we will be able to get more gardens to more children in 2016 in schools with high needs.

You can donate here
or contact Oliver Lane at or 604 736 7732.

Thank you!
Who is this man?

This picture is from very early SPEC days, perhaps 1970/71.  We know quite a bit about some of these people but all we knew about Lindsey Bickford was that he was the SPEC electrician for many years. That is until I recently met Barry Monaghan (SPEC member and area director for Toastmasters.)  He knew Lindsey over many years in Toastmasters. Turns out the old SPEC building was the home of the local Toastmasters chapter and Lindsey discovered them while doing electrical work in the building. 

I am excited these days by SPEC history so I took a few minutes to interview Barry who told me that Lindsey, in one of his TM talks, once described being present at the Mallard’s home in Coquitlam in 1969 when SPEC was founded. That’s a new name for the roster of founders and the first time I’d heard that.  Barry’s impressions of Lindsey were glowing with warmth for a man who was wonderful to his friends, who gave very energetically and in numerous ways to his community. He was a vegetarian, had a passion for animal rights, and co-produced “Animal Voices” – still running on Co-Op Radio.  Kevin Annett, a Co-Op Radio Colleague also remembers Lindsey, his techie and friend, as having “an unflagging love for all living beings.”  He felt deeply compassionate towards First Nations guests, “He would spontaneously break into tears when one of my guests would describe their torture, or the death of a friend, at a residential school and would rush out of his booth to embrace them as they left, urging them ‘to stay strong and come back again."  

Lindsey took in US draft resisters and helped acclimate them to Canada.  He helped other Toastmasters film their speeches.  He was a tinkerer, always wore a toque, and Barry mentioned again and again what a wonderful man he was.  But the thing that really stood out was Lindsey’s passion as an activist speaker.  “He was mesmerizing, one of the best.” Barry described him as “a steam kettle” who started out quietly and built a magnificent head of steam as he developed his story into a full and roiling boil.  Barry last saw him two weeks before his death in 2004. It was at Co-Op Radio where he was “over the top” railing against the Military Industrial Complex.  Lindsey, in his mid-70’s, was planning to go for a jog and then a nap.  He decided on the nap first and never woke up.

Over the course of the next year, we’ll try to bring you more on the people from SPEC’s past. 

The Climate is Right for Cycling

It is time for bold action now to enable everyone in BC, including children and seniors, to cycle or walk for their everyday trips.

The BC Government is currently working on their new Climate Leadership Plan. Improved cycling and walking should be a big part of that plan. In addition to reducing GHG emissions, cycling and walking makes our communities more vibrant and safer while reducing healthcare costs and improving the economy. 

Please urge the Government to invest $1 billion in networks of safe paths, protected bike lanes, sidewalks, improved cycling facilities on highways & bridges and safe routes to school in communities across the Province. This investment should be accompanied by cycling education for children and adults.

Sign the petition and spread the word to your friends:

Water Conservation Challenge

For seven years people around the world have been taking the Water Conservation Challenge and severely limiting their water use every day for a month. In order to promote water stewardship we are looking for others to take up the Challenge this March and use less than 25 litres of water each day. We also reach out to schools and community groups to present and educate. Visit the website for more details or contact Kevin at
Over the holiday season Roundhouse Radio and Urban Fare partner for a “Stuff-The-Truck” Campaign benefitting the Greater Vancouver Foodbank Society.  Urban Fare have Food Bank collection boxes in store and $10 Grab-n-Go Donation Bags.  Roundhouse Radio will be on location 9am-5pm stuffing its delivery truck to help feed those who may go hungry.
Drop off your donations at these Urban Fare Locations:
December 12, 2015                 Urban Fare (Shangri-La) 1150 Alberni Street
December 13, 2015                 Urban Fare (Yaletown) 177 Davie Street
December 19, 2015                 Urban Fare (Coal Harbour) 305 Bute Street
December 20, 2015                 Urban Fare (False Creek) 1688 Salt Street

The Lower Howe Sound Christmas Bird Count 

This event takes place dawn to dusk on Saturday January 2, 2016 from Brunswick Beach to Caulfield Cove, up into Cypress Park’s forests, and from Bowen Island to Keats Island to Gambier. Experienced and novice bird watchers are welcomed to walk the trails, or you can send in a list of birds that visit your back yard feeder. For information: Bowen Island only, Richard Wing,; Keats and Gambier Islands and Mainland of West Vancouver, contact Marja de Jong Westman,, 604-921-3382.


Our committees are always accepting volunteers. If you are interested please contact us at for more information.
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Copyright © 2015 Society Promoting Environmental Conservation - SPEC, All rights reserved.

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