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Cultivating Community Resilience

May 2015

Celebrating SPEC’s 45 years of environmental work  

 The celebration of SPEC’s 45th Anniversary was a gratifying success. We had a full house, easily half of whom were people from the 70’s to 90’s. It was, in fact, successful on many levels. The committee displays and the food were terrific and the atmosphere of the community connecting was, in the words of one funder, palpably present. Musqueam elder, Debra Sparrow, welcomed us to the Land, Deputy Mayor Andrea Reimer and Park Board Commissioner (and ex-SPEC President) Stuart Mackinnon also brought greetings.
Over the past few months, we’ve engaged in an historical review of SPEC’s work and the first presentation of the evening was the unveiling of SPEC Through the Ages(1). Beautifully illustrated by a professional designer, it allowed participants to see how campaigns unfolded over 4.5 decades. That, along with the outreach to bring back the “early-timers” made the evening particularly festive as old friends greeted each other and shared their memorable experiences. Terry Chantler, lead Energy Researcher in the 70’s, Ivan Bulic, Campaign Coordinator from 96-05, and Karen Wristen, ED from 05-09 brought stories of the work, the people, and the internal dynamics of SPEC during their eras.
The keynote position was shared by two speakers, Tsleil Waututh elder Amy Grant and retired Vancouver City Councillor and ex-SPEC President, David Cadman. Amy spoke about her work on opposing Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion project and her witnessing of the devastation of bitumen extraction from the oil sands in Alberta. She admonished us to “warrior up” for the coming years of opposition to the ongoing government and corporate determination to get and transport the oil at any cost. David turned our attention towards the hopeful signs and particularly towards the role of municipalities in providing that hope. Did you know that last year carbon emissions leveled off for the first time during a global economic growth period? There’s a long way to go but stopping the upward spiral is the first step. As retiring president of ICLEI, ( an international organization giving leadership in sustainability in cities around the world, David has seen the work of municipal leaders who are not waiting for action by senior levels of government but taking up the challenge in their own cities. As the ICLEI website says, “They are the early movers, shakers and adopters of sustainable change.” Vancouver, of course, is one such City and a model for many other municipalities around the world with their “Greenest City Action Goals” (2) and recent (April) pledge of 100% Renewable Energy (3).
The age range of participants spanned from 3 year old Etta Fox to 102 year old Margaret Brunette.  A particularly moving moment was Debra Sparrow’s gift of her hand-designed blanket to Margaret as the elder of our community. Thank-you Debra for your generosity. It touched us all. And thanks to Etta, Betsy, Tomas, Simon and other children of our community who inspire our work. Thanks to the entire SPEC Board who worked diligently for several weeks to prepare for this and particularly to Kate Menzies who led the team in this celebration. The energetic send off at the end of the night was towards an even more spectacular celebration in 2019 when SPEC turns 50. As Canada’s oldest environmental organization, we’ve done amazing things together over the decades. Stay involved or get involved and continue to be a voice for Vancouver’s environmental community.  
  1. SPEC Through The Ages will be put into digital and booklet format over the summer.  In the meantime, if you’d like to see more of the historical material, you can access the files on the SPEC website here

Cities ranking on solar energy policies

SPEC has just released the first ranking of Canadian cities based on solar energy policy. The ranking looks at the cost of municipal requirements for installing a 5 kW residential photovoltaic systems, and highlights the significant range of regulations across the country. To learn more about the ranking and SPEC’s recommendations visit our Energy Committee blog and sign our petition here

Where is the rain?  

by Dr. Carole Christopher, VP SPEC

I’ve been gardening for 35 years and May was the driest I’ve ever experienced – by far.  Typically I don’t need to water until July but this year I’ve been at it since mid- May and there’s no end in sight.  Even the trees are starting to drop leaves like it’s August.  Average rainfall in May in Vancouver is 60mm and it rains 15 out of 31 days.  This year we’ve had 4.2 mm or 6.5% of our usual May rain.  It is decidedly and officially the driest May on record.  Victoria is the same with only 2mm (average 37mm) and so is Prince Rupert with 3.3 mm (average 138 mm!).

California has been in a draught for several years.  Agricultural land is suffering intensely and they’re back to the “yellow is mellow” policy of toilet flushing.  Washington State just declared an official draught, their driest May on record.  This draught has stretched up into BC and I wonder what we’re doing to conserve and whether we’re considering the consequences or only enjoying the sun?

It’s hard to adjust so quickly from being a rain forest to being in a prolonged draught.  But, in fact, it’s been happening over the past 15 years.   The Meteorological Society documents that our summers are getting hotter and drier.  Adequate snow pack and summer rains keep the streams flowing (think fish) and carry us through these longer draughts.   But this year was the 2nd lowest snow pack on record (13% of average) and maintenance of the underground water table depends on rainfall – need I say more?  All of this indicates potentially severe impacts on ecological systems in the months to come.
Last week I read an article in the Courier titled, “No water shortage expected for City” quoting   North Vancouver Mayor, Derrell Mussatto, speaking with his Metro Vancouver hat on,  who says there’s no cause for alarm about the low snowpack, “it’s not as big an issue as people think it is.”  Really? Hasn’t it been a Metro Van Mantra forever how important the snowpack is for our drinking water supply?  “It’s not the snowpack but the rainfall that restocks the drinking water” says Mussatto. But that’s looking a little unreliable at the end of the driest May on record and the forecast of a hot and dry summer.  The cheerfully upbeat article went on to say that Metro Van has water reserves in its back pocket.  And it’s true that Metro Van has made expensive upgrades and has reserves which are meant to be foolproof, but no amount of jigging the system or stages of restriction will work if there isn’t adequate precipitation to begin with.  A quick look around the west coast of North America suggests the big back pocket strategy needs to be conservation.

In point of fact, when I looked deeper into this article I discovered that the original article was published in North Shore News and was much longer and included the topic of conservation.  Even still, when conservation was mentioned, it was discussed last and least, after an undue amount of reassurance.  I wonder how Metro Van views the slant of the Courier article.  Is this the slant they provided?  I hope not because I know they usually speak the conservation language and I trust they recognize the importance of this issue.  Although it’s politically unpopular to tell folks they may need to stop watering their lawns and washing their cars and even limit their toilet flushing,  we need to adjust our thinking and embrace a conservation ethic in light of recent lack of rain here and elsewhere. It is due diligence to manage healthy reserves in alpine lakes but it is also incumbent upon the user to not treat water like an endless resource.

Reassuring the public that the bases are covered and we won’t run out of water is important, but we need at least as much emphasis on conservation, which isn’t sexy or cool but is wise and forward thinking.
Ironically, we are having the first real rain in a month on the day this is published.  I hope it is not diverted to Houston and is lavishly abundant across all your gardens. 

For important information on water restrictions in effect as of June 1st,

Dinner at Graze Restaurant to support SPEC

Graze Restaurant, located at 3980 Fraser Street, has kindly offered to donate 20% of their June 9 dinner revenue to SPEC. Enjoy excellent local, organic fare and support SPEC all at the same time! The restaurant is open from 5-10 pm; to make reservations call 604 620 8822 or email

Make sure to mention SPEC when you arrive so that they can make the donation! Bring your friends, families, co-workers!

Sign the "Take Back the Tap" Petition

By guest writer and Take Back the Tap Campaign coordinator Kelly Newton

Vancouver is said to have the best tap water in the world. We have a new state of the art filtration system in place filtering water from our Seymour and Capilano reservoirs (which supplies 70% of metro Vancouver's tap water). Not only that, but our water is supplied from mountain reservoirs located upstream from local industrial, agricultural and human effluent. Although our tap water is considered to be excellent drinking water, many Vancouver residents are still opting to buy bottled water. Not only is this an extreme waste of natural resources, but it is also contributing to the global waste crisis. 
Even with recycling efforts, 6 out of 7 plastic bottles consumed are “downcycled”—sent somewhere out of sight and out of mind where, for the next millennia, toxins from degrading plastic containers can leach into watersheds and soil. An estimated THREE MILLION plastic water bottles ended up in Metro Vancouver landfills per year.
A petition was recently started in Vancouver to ban the sale of water bottles (1 litre in size or less) and to encourage people to take advantage of the city’s high quality tap water. This petition is called “Take Back the Tap Vancouver” and so far has over 7,430 signatures. It can be found at:
Not only is bottled water bad for our planet, it’s not so nice on your wallet either. Vancouver's tap water costs about $0.00065 per liter, while a one liter bottle of designer filtered water can fetch as much as $1.75 -- more than 2,500 times the price.

Local food is everywhere these days: CSAs, farmers markets, farm-to-table dining. That local food is grown and cooked with … local water! It’s the invisible part of the sustainable, healthy food you eat. 

San Francisco has recently passed new bylaws banning the sale of personal-sized plastic water bottles. Vancouver has the opportunity to follow suit and be at the forefront of sustainability, and a leader in Canada. Help us make this change possible! Please sign the petition and educate your friends and family on this issue. 

Please read more about this petition by visiting the following news links:
For updates, “Like” Take Back the Tap VAN on Facebook. 

A big thank you to Kelly on behalf of SPEC for her great work on this issue.

Hewer Home Hardware offers 10% discount to SPEC'rs

We are delighted to share with you that our longtime supporter Hewer Home Hardware at 4459 W 10th Avenue (10th & Sasamat) is now offering a 10% discount on all garden supplies to anybody who mentions SPEC when making a purchase. Shop at Hewer when you are looking for gardening and other supplies and you will be supporting SPEC and a great local business!.

Save water: Buy a rain barrel!

It is shaping up to be another dry summer throughout the Lower Mainland, and to help residents conserve water the City of Vancouver is once again promoting rain barrels. Water collected in rain barrels is a source of chlorine-free, ambient temperature water which provides a great drink for your garden.
Rain barrels cost $50.00 each and can be pre-ordered. June 13 is the next special sales date in Vancouver.
For more information from the City on ways you can conserve water, click here.

Grant News


Thank you to Telus for a very generous grant of $10,000 to SPEC's School Garden Program. This grant will support food education for children at Thunderbird Elementary School in Vancouver. 

Thank you to Whole Kids Foundation for a generously donating $4,000 towards SPEC’s School Garden Program. This grant will benefit children at General Brock and Sir Wilfred Grenfell Elementary Schools in Vancouver.

Come to the SPEC Volunteer Appreciation day!

We love our volunteers and we don't say thank you enough! So come and be thanked, and meet other SPEC volunteers at our annual summer volunteer appreciation day.  We are meeting up at Kits Beach on June 20th from 11AM - 1PM. Look for the SPEC tent close to the BoatHouse restaurant! We will have some snacks available but you are welcome to bring something tasty to share! We are looking forward to seeing you all there! For more information contact
Upcoming Events

June 8 – World Oceans Day: Jericho Beach Cleanup, 5:30 - 7:30PM at Jericho Beach East, Vancouver. For information and to register, visit here. Look for SPEC's blue tent.
June 9 – SPEC Fundraiser: Graze Restaurant, open 5-10 pm, 3980 Fraser St, Vancouver. Graze will donate 20% of the bill from your table to SPEC. For contact info, visit here. Make sure to mention SPEC when you arrive!
June 16 Go Solar Tour, 7-8 p.m. at MEC (130 West Broadway, Vancouver). For information and to register for this free event, visit here.
June 20SPEC Volunteer Appreciation Day, 11-1 pm at Kits Beach – look for the SPEC tent. Enjoy a potluck picnic with other volunteers. For more information contact
June 21Car Free Day Main Street, noon to 7 pm, Broadway to 30th & Main. Look for SPEC beside the Village Vancouver Demonstration Village, around 13th & Main. For information, visit here.
June 25 – Urban Farmer Field School: Introduction to Canning, 6-9 pm at Kitsilano Neighbourhood House, 2305 West 7th Avenue, Vancouver. For information and to register, visit here.

Volunteer for SPEC!

Our committees are always accepting volunteers. If you are interested please contact us at for more information.
Donate today - We depend on community members like you to run our projects
And you can follow us on the following blogs:
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