Bill Rees 2 


By Carol Crenna

What type of mark, or footprint, are modern humans leaving for our future descendants to discover? This conjures images of Godzilla’s foot crushing everything in its path.

It’s particularly alarming for people like Dr. Bill Rees who study our destructive impact on the Earth’s fragile ecosystems. 

Bill Rees, PhD, is best known as the originator of “Ecological Footprint”, which has become a universal term for measuring environmental impact. Doctor Rees, who wrote the book Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth, now supervises many eco-footprint projects involving globalization and urban sustainability. The award-winning professor’s new book asks, “Is Humanity Inherently Unsustainable?”

Here is PART 2 from our interview.

CAROL: Why don’t we recognize that we’re animals and that we can’t use more than is produced in nature, or add more waste than can be absorbed by it?

DR. BILL REES: When I was in university, I was constantly in search of what I thought should have been obvious: the study of human beings as a species. I failed miserably to find any course that treated human beings as an organism that’s intricately connected to the planet and reliant on it for survival.

We have become in our Western techno-mechanical world so psychologically alienated from nature that we do stupid things. Humans have a natural tendency to think more about the here and now, the immediate pleasure and pay off, than to consider the future and its costs.

This thinking had survival advantages 50,000 years ago, but it doesn’t any longer.

So we make up foolish lies to tell ourselves that we are “sustainable” if we do certain things to actually be able to continue doing exactly as we were. So we tell ourselves that we are “sustainable” if we carry fabric grocery bags while driving our hybrid cars to the supermarket, and take farmland to develop 4,000 square foot “ecologically designed homes.”

We put a new label on it that makes us feel better. 

If we didn’t lie to ourselves, we couldn’t face these deplorable acts and would have to do something about them; they prevent us from looking at the truth.

For example, we allow Alberta all of the waste that it wants because otherwise it might “hurt the economy,” not recognizing that climate change is probably now doing more global damage to the economy than all gains of growth.

CAROL: Should we try to bring others up to standard, or lower ours? 

DR. BILL REES: Most of us intellectually realize what has to be done, especially when science has proven that we must have an 80 percent reduction of fossil fuel to decrease global warming, for example. But we would prefer to buy “carbon credits” so that we can continue using the same amount and try buying our way out.

We make new “environmental” technology such as bio-ethanol or bio-diesel fuel, which are catastrophic steps backward rather than steps forward, actually doing more damage to the planet, but allowing us to keep driving our SUVs.

CAROL: We don’t see these promoted as much as they were a few years ago. Could you explain why? 

DR. BILL REES: The rationale for bio-diesel is to reduce CO2 emissions. But where do we grow bio-diesel? In tropical forests that have been burned to produce oil palm plantations — the carbon that has been released into the atmosphere by burning those forests, and then not having that rainforest there to absorb CO2, is vastly larger than whatever would be saved by using bio-diesel.  

CAROL: What about ethanol?

DR. BILL REES: Ethanol fuel – the biggest bio-crop in North America right now, produced in the billions of gallons – uses one fifth of the US’s corn. Corn is the most ecologically damaging crop – producing 10 to 20 times the rate of soil erosion of other crops due to pesticides, ground water contamination, and machinery required.

The argument is that this is replacing fossil fuel, but scientific studies show that the fossil fuel used to get the bio-fuel from corn – the heavy equipment,  fuel-based fertilizer and pesticides, shipping it to factories, and very intensive manufacturing – uses more to create it than the ethanol that is produced to replace it. You would be better off driving your car using fossil fuel than ethanol. 

Due to ethanol, corn prices have increased 300 percent, which  caused food riots in impoverished Mexico because they can no longer afford corn to make basics like tortillas. 

So it becomes a moral issue. We’re growing more corn, not to feed people, but taking it away from people to feed SUVs. This translates into more land taken away from grains and other basic food crops around the world to produce fuel, which raises food costs over 100 percent in poorer countries. 

Our short-term gratification tells us that we would prefer to buy carbon credits so that we can continue drive the same amount and try to buy our way out.

CAROL: Should we no longer drive? 


DR. BILL REES: It isn’t about no longer driving. I drive an Echo which is three times more efficient than most cars (and I ride by bicycle a lot for transportation). If everyone shifted from a 290-horsepower ego-gratifying SUV to a compact Smart Car, we’d save far more energy than all ethanol produced. 

CAROL: Why do you suppose that we act like aliens or parasites in our own land, collapsing natural sources of food, and depleting and contaminating our own environmental home?

DR. BILL REES: One of the ways humans get gratification is to appear better than our neighbours. If I’m relatively poor but am doing a little better than my neighbours, I get a certain amount of gratification. If I am extremely rich and doing a little better than my neighbours, I get the same amount of gratification.

It is completely relative. What is important is being able to feel superior to someone else. 

CAROL: So you are saying that our lives are driven by ego. 

DR. BILL REES: I am saying that in order to make more than my neighbours, I help grow the economy. But what if the costs of growth outweigh what economic gains I made – to my health and my environment?

If we did a true global benefit cost analysis, we might now be able to show that the total global costs of growth would exceed the benefits. A rational species would stop growing – since we’re going backward.

But the problem is that the rich and powerful are getting the benefits, and the poor and weak are getting the costs.

We keep making decisions to keep growing to serve the pseudo benefits of those in power (pseudo because they’re not even happier, healthier or feeling more secure). Growth is happening in the wealthy countries, and poor countries such as Africa are in decline. 

CAROL: You say that even the wealthy aren’t happy, and that indicators of human welfare – longevity, literacy, health, sense of wellbeing and happiness – are proven not to increase after wages improve beyond a very minimal amount. Why do you think we continue to seek wealth then? 

DR. BILL REES: Obviously we all need a good income, and there is a positive effect of it on your welfare. But there reaches a point where further increases provide no true benefit, and that point has been researched to be about $10,000 globally.

Psychologists who study people’s sense of wellbeing find that wealth does not necessarily increase people’s happiness. In fact, some of the happiest people on the planet live in places like Kerala, India, where per capita incomes are about one-sixtieth of those we find in the US. 

This is great irony. I don’t know why we are engaged in this incredible rat race to maintain ourselves at the leading edge of the income pack. 

CAROL: Can we change this in a country as expensive to live in as Canada?

DR. BILL REES: In Canada, people are working longer hours rather than fewer hours. For the first time in the history of the industrial world, we have the capacity to give people more leisure time, to spend more time with our families, to create community, but we aren’t. 

I think it is time to begin to question the morality, the ethics, and the assumptions underneath these models. Wouldn’t it be better to start examining options of changing our behaviour patterns?

We are sacrificing many of the happiness indicators such as safe cities, a secure sense of community, and a healthy environment – the very things that would improve people’s welfare – in exchange for rising incomes.

As Herman Daly (author of Ecological Economics) said, “Growth is an uneconomic proposition where the quality of life for people is deteriorating even as their incomes increase.” 

CAROL: This sounds like we’re verging on insanity. 

DR. BILL REES: We’re a conflicted species because we know on one level that what we’re doing is insane, but we’re so addicted to it that we don’t change.  Therefore, we keep driving the forces toward our fatal, unsustainable collapse. 

CAROL: What can we do?

Bill Rees on his bicycleDR. BILL REES: One of the greatest environmental think tanks, The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, concluded that the Western world must reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent, and reduce our consumption of goods by 50 percent; and we can do both without damaging our quality of life.

In practical terms, that means: 

1. Reduce what ever you currently buy by half – buying what you need, not what you want (Do you really need another pair of shoes or new techno-gadget?)

2. Consider your habits – walk to the store; take the bus to work; drive a small, fuel efficient car; change to super-efficient heating, lighting, appliances; stop using destructive chemical cleaners

3. Help small eco-companies like local organic food suppliers and Canada’s electric car companies

4. Push governments to change their policies to reflect the needs of average people, not just help the rich get richer at the expense of the poor.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          



Bill Rees 2


By Carol Crenna 

We all know what a footprint is, and how its impression, if left without disturbance, can last millions of years on the land, like prehistoric fossils on a rock. But what type of mark, or footprint, are modern humans leaving for our future descendants to discover? It’s a sobering thought.

William Rees, PhD, is the internationally renowned bioecologist and university professor who originated “ecological footprint,” an award-winning concept for measuring environmental impact that has become a household phrase. 

He wanted to find out exactly how much energy, material consumption and waste each of us should take responsibility for when he helped devise this tool. It’s now used globally by governments, universities and many organizations. Dr. Bill Rees and co-wrote the book Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth with PhD student Mathis Wackernagel, which is now available in nine languages. 

Here, in PART 1, Dr. Bill Rees offers straight forward and fascinating insights on the state of the planet. (PART 2 will be in next week’s blog.) 

CAROL: How does the “ecological footprint” calculator work?

DR. BILL REES: Pick a population, examine it for a period of time, and then calculate the total land and water ecosystems needed to produce all of the goods and services that the population consumes, and to absorb all of the waste that it produces.

For a typical American or Canadian, the total is 4 to 6 hectares. There are only 1.8 hectares per person available on Earth of productive land and water. To bring everyone up to the West’s standard of living would take four planet Earths. 

CAROL: What about using the oceans to grow food?

DR. BILL REES: Although it’s enormous, only about 10 percent of the ocean is productive. Most of it is a biological desert. 

CAROL: You said “ecological footprint” is very controversial because the World Bank, United Nations, and most governments assume that the world can “grow its way to sustainability.” What do you mean?

William_Rees_Oct_2008DR. BILL REES: Economists believe that as a country develops, in early stages there will be pollution so the environment will deteriorate. But as it gets richer, it can afford to put catalytic converters on cars, pollution controllers on smoke stacks, and force environmental regulations on cities so the environment gets better.

Therefore the best way to improve your environment is to become rich. 

This is a rationale for economic growth as the means to “buy” ecological sustainability. Economists recognize that poverty is a problem. But since we wouldn’t consider sharing our wealth with other people, the best way to deal with poverty is to grow their economy, which results in the “trickle down” effect: once there’s enough money circulating in the country all will benefit.

But ecological footprint says, “Wait a minute; growing the economy in Canada is destroying what it’s based on – our environment.”

For example, we grew the fisheries economy on the East Coast and destroyed the fish; we grew our fossil fuel economy to the point that it’s so depleted we now have to destroy far more of the environment with crude oil exploration. 

Industrial Pollution photoThe world is in a state of “over-shoot,” exceeding the capacity of the planet, and if we continue, it will lead to economic collapse, whether it’s climate change or loss of biodiversity. The “get richer” argument says that if we continue a little longer on the same path we’ll get rich enough to substitute all the lost resources with something else. 

In other words, whereas ecological footprint says we’re destroying our fish and soil that grow the economy, economists say that we will simply replace them with fish farms and fertilizer.

We then end up with two even more unsustainable practices that replace originally unsustainable practices. But the point will come, perhaps even in my lifetime, that we won’t have the resources to be able to buy any more time using short-term stopgaps. 

CAROL: Why won’t improved technology and energy efficiency help solve the problem? 

DR. BILL REES: So we can continue to grow to satisfy the needs of everyone if we simply get more efficient use of energy and material? 

Research proves that in the world’s most technological, economically-efficient countries such as Japan, the US and West Germany, as technology has improved, and as efficiencies have increased over the last decades, so has per capita consumption of materials and per capita production of wastes. 

CAROL: You found that the environment doesn’t actually improve in wealthy countries. 

DR. BILL REES: Yes. There are two reasons. Canada seems much cleaner because we only look at our localized obvious pollutants – car and factory toxins, for example. We don’t look at increased carbon dioxide, or think of it as a waste product, yet the richer a country gets, the more CO2 is produced. And it is the biggest waste product of every industrial economy on the planet. 

We also don’t look at the fact that our dirty industries – manufacturing, cutting trees, waste disposal – haven’t disappeared; we have simply shipped them to China, the Philippines, Malaysia and other countries in the developing world.

China is an ecological disaster, but it is our consumption that demands they manufacture our endless need for cars, technology, household goods and therefore our “ecological footprint” in China.

What we import from China may have a worse impact, globally, because China’s environmental regulations are not as well enforced as ours (not to mention the long-distance shipping).

CAROL: So you ask, “Where are those catalytic converters for our less polluting cars made, and what impact did they have on the environment to make them?”

Obvious_water_pollutionDR. BILL REES: Right. The resulting toxic chemicals end up in China, not here. If you continue the “rich” argument, you’ll realize that when China gets richer, there is nowhere that it can dump its dirty industries into because there are no more Chinas. So that China, which used to be food-self-sufficient, is now a huge importer of food because its farmland is being used for industry. 

But this assumes that the rest of the world will be able to provide food to feed China – a massive demand that, again, it was able to support until increased industry. For example, if every Chinese person gets a little bit richer and is able to afford to eat one additional chicken each year, that totals 1.3 billion chickens.

If you calculate the amount of grain required to raise that many chickens it equals one half of Canada’s entire annual grain output. A small increase in richness results in a huge global impact.

 CAROL: You said that creating compact, urban cities isn’t a sustainable way to house our population, and that they’re the human equivalent of “cattle feedlots.” Why? 

DR. BILL REES: Governments think that by living in a city we are less dependent on nature because we don’t make our incomes from it, but it actually makes people more dependent on it. A city occupies not only the area within its physical boundary but neighbouring regions – several hundred times larger than it – used for its consumption.

The city is the feedlot, but the area the “cattle” need for food supply, manufacturing and minerals far exceeds it because as a city’s wealth increases, its need for material assets increases.

 And if I think that I can always import my needs from somewhere else, there is no incentive to conserve local agricultural land. There is enormous pressure in some Canadian cities from developers for agricultural land to be developed for housing and industry, but the assumption is being made that California and Mexico will always be able to provide the food we need.

That was valid 50 years ago, but it’s no longer true. 

California reported that, at current rates of water use and with climate changes, it won’t be able to sustain its production beyond 2050; and it currently produces 70 percent of North America’s table vegetables.

Where are we going to get it from if we have paved over southern Ontario’s growing belt and BC’s Fraser Valley? 

CAROL: But you also said there are ecological advantages of dense concentrations of people. 

DR. BILL REES: There are many, but we’re not taking advantage of them. Rapid transit, and walking and cycling to work would drastically reduce emissions compared to two cars per household.

If each family that drove an SUV in the city had it heavily taxed to provide public transit, the available money could enable individualized transit service with immediate pick-up at the door whenever they needed it. 

Bill Rees on his bicycleRight now we don’t want to give tax money to “transit” because most of us feel we don’t use it. Meanwhile, we give millions of dollars for building roads, parking, traffic police, and car insurance. 

Within cities, the many combined industries provide real opportunities to reduce energy and materials — the waste output of one kind of activity can be a resource for another; cities make treatment of industrial wastes and recycling possible because of the economies of scale. But we have to use these fully. 

CAROL: Why don’t you like the term “environment,” and prefer “ecosphere”? 

DR. BILL REES: The environment is something we made up; before the 17th century there was no such thing. It underlines Western thinking which separates humans from their surroundings. The only place humans are separate from the “environment” is in their mind.

The reality is there is no “environment” around us because we are the environment; as animals deeply embedded within this ecosystem (and the sum of all ecosystems called the ecosphere).

As long as you consider an “environment” that is outside you then you’ll have a place to dump your waste because you think that by throwing it away, it will no longer be a part of you, and you can do damage without hurting yourself. 

Because the scale of the world’s human economy is now so large, it almost coincides with the total ecosphere, so the concept of environment as a separate entity becomes positively dangerous.



PRINCE CHARLES: The Man Who Would Be King PART 2


Prince Charles: The Man Who Would Be King 


By Carol Crenna 

Prince Charles’ enlightened approach to saving the planet


Although Canadians seldom hear more about the Prince of Wales than his personal life, there is another story that must be told.  

I was able to speak to Prince Charles briefly when I met him in Vancouver at InspireHealth, but I was not able to interview him, so I spoke with his official biographer and friend, David Lorimer,  to understand the Prince and his message. (David Lorimer’s book Radical Prince outlines Prince Charles’ principles but it is not available in Canada or the US.)

Lorimer says that Prince Charles has a passionate commitment to organic agriculture, developing communities in underprivileged countries, complementary medicine, and even raising the consciousness of humanity. And in an age when leaders have forgotten how to lead, his example is inspiring. 

Here is PART 2 of our interview (PART 1 precedes this blog):

CAROL: Prince Charles admitted when he was in Vancouver that if he wasn’t born into royalty he would have liked to be a healer.

He has often angered the medical-pharmaceutical establishment in Britain because of his views on integrative medicine.

Prince Charles In Indonesia - Day 4

DAVID LORIMER: His role in promoting complementary medicine in the UK began in the early 1980s as President of the Royal Society of Medicine when an extremely controversial plan was drafted to change medical practices to incorporate homeopathy and other natural medicine.

Though he was continually attacked, he made dramatic progress. After two decades of confrontation by the medical community, in 2004, in cooperation with the Department of Health, the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health was able to push through his plans, making osteopathy, acupuncture, aromatherapy and homeopathy covered under the patients’ government health plan. 

In defending his beliefs to the United Nations, he said, “I believe that the proper mix of proven complementary, traditional and modern remedies, which emphasize the active participation of the patient, can help to create a powerful healing force for our world.” 

CAROL: In December 2009, Prince Charles was most critically attacked after calling for supplements and herbal medicine to be regulated. This was to enable the public to continue buying and using them and to protect herbalists and naturopathic doctors under threat from new EU rules. These EU rules dramatically limit product availability, and are similar to what Health Canada is trying to pass now to limit our access to natural health products, based on lobbying from the pharmaceutical industry.

“Coincidentally” soon after the controversy, allegations of fraud in early 2010 forced Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health to close after 25 years. 

CAROL: He is criticized for his views on farming, too.

DAVID LORIMER: He is often accused of being anti-science because he criticizes GMO foods. Those who ridicule are molecular biologists from the universities who think in terms of molecules and particles, not of the greater picture, so don’t understand the problem.

The GMO companies have such close ties with the universities here that they put pressure on them with funding. 

The Prince never rests on his laurels, though, and is actually quite restless — always trying to find the next thing to do, and more ways that he can help. 

CAROL: I read that he insisted on serving organic food at his wedding to Camilla to send a clear message.

DAVID LORIMER: He made his estate at Highgrove in Gloucestershire into a famous organic garden, where the public tour and buy organic produce.

He converted the Duchy of Cornwall home farm to organic production, and began selling ecologically raised beef there, too. He started the market about eight years ago after converting his estate to organic farming in 1986.

CAROL: Unfortunately, Prince Charles was forced to close his organic vegetable store The Veg Shed recently because of “falling trade and rising prices,” according to Reuters.

CAROL: Does he live what he “sells”? 


DAVID LORIMER: He lives a very healthy lifestyle, is very fit and trim, and only eats organic food.

CAROL: What does he feel is a key to changing our world view? 

DAVID LORIMER: He feels that the core of society’s emptiness and disconnection with each other, and their increasing materialism, can be rectified simply by reconnecting with nature and with spiritual principals.

We are entering a post-secular stage with two distinct movements – one is regressing to religious fundamentalism while the other is an evolving consciousness within a rebirth of grassroots religion; Gnostic wisdom of the heart.

This is a form of knowing that is not rational or well organized, but is powerful and widespread. 

CAROL: How does he stay so balanced and able to keep his vision clear?

DAVID LORIMER: He spends a lot of time in quiet reflection. He built a special sanctuary in his Hygrove garden and also regularly visits a retreat in Mount Ethos, Greece (he is half Greek).

He goes to Balmoral Estate in Scotland, which is a very isolated forest. As such a public figure, his privacy becomes very important. He also paints watercolours.

 CAROL: Prince Charles officially assumed new Royal Duties recently to prepare him for the throne. Queen Elizabeth II, who is 87, will not be abdicating (and all rumours that Prince Andrew will be the next King are false), but she stated officially that she feels it is time he took a greater role. (Charles has been the longest time heir to the throne in British history.)  



PRINCE CHARLES: The Man Who Would Be King PART 1


Prince Charles: The Man Who Would Be King  


By Carol Crenna 

Prince Charles’ enlightened approach to saving the planet

I had the opportunity to meet HRH Prince Charles when he was in Vancouver. He had just finished meeting with physicians at Vancouver’s InspireHealth, an integrated cancer clinic. 

Although Canadians seldom hear more about the Prince of Wales than his personal life, there is another story to be told, one that constantly influences the world’s progress. And this is the story that his official biographer and friend, David Lorimer wants known.

I was able to speak to Prince Charles briefly, but I wasn’t able to interview him, so I spoke at length with David Lorimer, who is based in Scotland, to understand the Prince and his message.

 He said that Prince Charles is an independent thinker with passionate commitment towards organic agriculture, developing communities in underprivileged countries, complementary medicine, and even raising the consciousness of humanity.

That’s a tall order, but since he has a personal relationship with most of the world’s leaders, he’s in a position to do it. And in an age when leaders have forgotten how to lead, his example is inspiring. 

Here is PART 1 of our interview: 

CAROL: Why is your book about Prince Charles (which is not available in Canada or the US) called Radical Prince?

DAVID LORIMER: It refers to the literal meaning of radical, which means “going back to grassroots thinking.” The Prince of Wales insists that we have to rediscover our roots in traditional living in order to have a sense of meaning and direction.

He identifies the root cause of many of our problems as our values, which then show up in our attitudes about the environment, agriculture and health. 

He “radically” feels that a change of thinking must happen. He  says we must deal with the cause through action, rather than tinkering with symptoms, and the best way to demonstrate this is through his own example. The core theme is a need for harmony between head and heart, action and contemplation. 

CAROL: Can you tell me this in his words?

prince charles 2DAVID LORIMER: He says, “We need to restore the balance between heartfelt reason of instinctive wisdom and the rational insights of scientific analysis. Neither is much use on its own. Only by employing both aspects of our nature will we live up to the sacred trust that has been placed in us by our creator or ‘Sustainer’ as ancient wisdom refers to It.” 

This has been attacked by many as “a return to superstition and ignorance.”

 CAROL: Prince Charles is often criticized for his views. Why?

DAVID LORIMER: I feel that it is because his views are in direct contradiction to the prevailing materialistic world view, and to the views of all other leaders in developed nations. He has a more spiritual agenda which has been mistakenly described as “looking backward,” stifling progress.

He is saying that we shouldn’t throw out the best values and principals of the past, which are timeless. His deep sense of connectedness with nature and its sacredness, which he’s had since he was a child, influence these views.

CAROL: Why do you say his type of leadership is one of the arguments for keeping the Monarchy?

DAVID LORIMER: Being of the Monarchy is a vocation whereas presidency is an achievement. Since he was born into the position he doesn’t have the same self-serving ambition to achieve recognition. 

Since he can’t be fired, he feels that he can simply go about doing what he feels is right regardless of attack or criticism. 

CAROL: Could you explain?

DAVID LORIMER: As a wealthy Prince, he could simply mind his own business and not be concerned with the world. Yet he is very aware that since he was given this position of incredible power by birthright, he has the capacity of accomplishing great things that others can’t.

He feels a clear, strong obligation and duty. Nobility creates an obligation. Our culture has a tendency to reduce and criticize others’ motivations for good, however, which is very corrosive.

As Plato and Solomon articulated, kings were, at one time, wise sages. Though he is the member of the Royal Family who receives the most flack, he is the only one that has launched 16 progressive charities of his own and is a very active patron of over 270 other non-profit organizations.

CAROL: What are they?

DAVID LORIMER: These are found within his Prince’s Charities, which work in 38 countries and form the largest charitable enterprise in the UK, raising $200 million each year, and The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation, one of the largest independent foundations in the UK.

CAROL: What does he focus his work on? 

DAVID LORIMER: He currently focuses on “the built environment,” responsible business and enterprise, young people and education, and global sustainability.

Within this, sales of his famous Duchy Originals and Highgrove Products are donated to charities in Britain in addition to helping underdeveloped countries that make them. 

If people took an interest, they would be amazed at what he has accomplished. 

The Queen is someone who never expresses her opinions publicly about anything, which is one of the great differences between the two, and some supporters fear that when he becomes king he will also no longer be able to promote his opinions. 

CAROL: What non-profits has he launched?

DAVID LORIMER:  He has worked tirelessly with the Prince’s Trust that gives unemployed 16- to 25-year-olds opportunities to fulfill their potential. It enables them to develop their skills and launch very creative and financially viable businesses without any of the usual bureaucracy that would hold them back.

Over 58,000 young people have been supported, creating over 45,000 new businesses! Of those, the top 50 businesses they launched turn over 148 million pounds and employ 2,255 people. Over 8,000 people currently volunteer as their business mentors.

And he has many other charities including his Business in the Community schemes in which he helps to regenerate rural and urban communities, making them thrive in their own right. 

CAROL: What are his agricultural initiatives? 

prince charles 3

DAVID LORIMER: He founded Duchy Originals organic products to raise funds for his charities and aid organic producers, and it is now a leading organic brand with over 50 product lines, making over £35 million last year.

Suppliers are not only sourced in the UK. He works with Third World governments to redevelop land no longer farmed to use for organic production.

In Guyana, he spoke to the President and now has redeveloped their long lost cocoa crop, worked by a cooperative of farmers and their families, and he buys all of the cocoa beans they can produce, and at fair market value.

He has done the same with organic sugar in Guyana, creating a sustainable, dignified lifestyle for workers. He is also extending Duchy Original work to India, helping farmers on plantations there to grow spices and other ingredients he needs.

CAROL: Why does he do this? 

DAVID LORIMER: He says that all of his life he has been driven to “heal the festering wounds of the land” produced by what he believes is distorted thinking.

He says he wants us “to heal the landscape, to heal the soil, to work in harmony with nature once again, to build in a way that respects the sacredness of the land, as a living, growing tradition, not a dead thing.” 

CAROL: What else has he stated about this? 

DAVID LORIMER: He also said, “Believing ourselves to be separate from the Earth means having no idea how we fit into the natural cycle of life and no understanding of the processes that we are affecting.

We are then attempting to chart the course of civilization by reference to ourselves alone. If we don’t change, our children will inherit a wasteland. Our species used to flourish within the intricate and interdependent web of life, but we have chosen to leave the garden.”

CAROL: Why does he feel this has happened, and we can’t seem to fix the situation?

 DAVID LORIMER: He says that too many so-called solutions to environmental problems miss their mark because they don’t recognize the nature of the societies which put them into effect. Unless there is real critical analysis of all components of each role – roles of men, women and children – the proposals will be unworkable.

CAROL: Can you give an example?

DAVID LORIMER: In India, working with the government, he helped enable people to have tenure over the land they were working, with secure access to water, which has not only transformed their lives, but has also given them incentive to rehabilitate their environment.

 He says that this simple formula of meeting basic needs, empowering communities and safeguarding the environment not only works, it’s where the solution to everything else starts.

 Human spirit must first be unshackled, with international conventions on human rights, for environmental protection and development to happen. 


COLIN JAMES: On Gardening, Great Gadgets, and Getting Away To His Home

Colin James 3

COLIN JAMES: On Gardening, Great Gadgets, and Getting Away To  His Home 

By Carol Crenna

Singer and guitarist Colin James looks youthful and energetic for his 48 years. And that obviously has influenced his latest achievements that keep him really busy.

Recently inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, and releasing Twenty Five Live a month ago, and also travelling a lot on tour, and accepting more award nominations to add to the others spanning his 25 year career, you wonder whether he is ever home.

But he is. Here, the BC musician sounds practically like a homebody as he kicks back in his garden at his ocean-view home.

CAROL: You have a beautiful house.

COLIN JAMES: We bought this home, a ’70s rancher, in 1996 just north of Horseshoe Bay (near Vancouver) and began to dissect it. The house was very dated, with sunken living room and brown plush carpet, so it was difficult for me to see its potential.

My wife, Heather, had the vision though, and we both kept focusing on the views, which had been wasted on small windows that sweated condensation.

We ripped the roof off and added an additional floor to create three levels, though from the road it looks like a single level because it recedes down a bluff toward the ocean.

We replaced every window in the home and can now see Howe Sound from the living room, and Anvil Island while washing dishes in the kitchen. 

CAROL: Do you wash the dishes?

COLIN JAMES: Yes, sometimes.

CAROL: Did you play a part in the house’s design?

Colin 2COLIN JAMES: We hired West Vancouver architect Leith Anderson to design it — we loved the elements at the resort called Middle Beach Lodge in Tofino which he designed, so added them to our home. It’s a blend of earthy, natural and contemporary (but not cold) styles.

We completely refinished the floors in recycled fir and slate, and rebuilt the fireplace to be heat-efficient with propane. When we built an extension to one side of the house for the family room, we came close to missing its point.

At the last minute we completely changed the window positions, and now the TV is eclipsed by a view that makes you not want to turn the TV on. 

CAROL: Where do you work? 

COLIN JAMES: I made a studio downstairs and we have produced all guitar overdubs and vocals for records here for the last 12 years. Though it’s a nice space, today a modular studio simply means a laptop, good software, a couple of preamps, and your voice and guitar!

CAROL: What’s your favourite room? 

COLIN JAMES: My favourite area is the dining room. It’s hard to believe that the original owners had installed tiny windows in this room because the view now is like looking at a painting.

CAROL: Do you like to entertain? 

COLIN JAMES: Yes, so I love our dining table. It was made by furniture designer Nathan Weins. He owns The Chapel Arts funeral-home-turned-gallery in East Vancouver.

The table is very big – seating 10 people – and round, cut in two and a half inch thick fir, and sits on a simple cylindrical pedestal. 

CAROL: Is the house practical as well as beautiful? 

Colin 5

COLIN JAMES: Two of the house’s best features are for cleanup. In the kitchen, which we totally remodeled, we installed a self-contained vacuum cleaner beneath the cabinets. It’s an automatic dustpan so whatever falls on the floor gets sucked up.

CAROL: Do you cook.

COLIN JAMES: Heather does most of the cooking.

CAROL: Any other practical gadgets? 

COLIN JAMES: I also love our laundry chute that reaches from the top floor to the laundry room. We almost decided against it because it was difficult to install, but now it means one less trip down the stairs with your arms full.    

CAROL: You like to be outside.

COLIN JAMES: Outside, I do all of the gardening.

CAROL: Why? 

COLIN JAMES: I find it relaxing. 

CAROL: Did you landscape it?

COLIN JAMES: I added a pond and planted Japanese maples around it, pond lilies in it – the whole bit. I tried to have fish repeatedly but they just became sushi for the raccoons.

I have been very pleased with the way the seasonal displays turned out, staggering flower blooms over the entire summer and leaf colour in fall. 

CAROL: You have another home, too. 

Colin James

COLIN JAMES: We also have an ocean-view cottage on the Gulf Islands. I come from Saskatchewan so crave ocean views.

We have solar power there and rarely need to run the generator since it’s a small space – just big enough for four with our son and daughter, and we’re there whenever we can be. 

Original By Carol Crenna, featured in Canada Wide Media’s BC Home Magazine