Tuesday, October 16, 2007


We attended the KAIROS event at Mount Mary Retreat Centre in Ancaster on Friday 12th October. Emily and I staffed the booth and we many some interesting contacts.
Our wonderful volunteer Betsy Agar was registered for the conference and was able to staff the booth as well when she wasn't in the workshops.

She wrote up a report which I have edited below;

Transportation and the future of cars

Presented by: Liz Benneian (Pronounced Bennyan)
President, Oakvillegreen Conservation Association


Key Transportation Issues: Peak Oil and Global Warming

Peak Oil

Oil is a finite resource and the world’s geologists estimate that half of our oil reserves have been used. Peak Oil is not to be confused with running out of oil. Peak oil is a point at which demand exceeds supply, which carries with it tremendous social impacts.

Citing the statistic that 20% of our fossil fuel energy is used in transport, Liz made the direct connection between transportation and Peak Oil. In fact, she refers to Peak Oil as a transportation issue, reasoning that built environment energy needs have so many alternatives available. As such, she projects that we will travel less in the future.

Global Warming

She spoke briefly of the limited fuel alternatives currently proposed for transportation: biofuels, ethanol and sugar cane.

Biofuels are not the answer because of the threat to food production.

Ethanol she discredits as an energy loser. That is to say, it takes too much energy to produce ethanol.

Sugar cane is the most promising alternative energy for transportation, but this option is not without drawbacks. Sugar cane is associated with deforestation and monocropping. Field burning is a practice that facilitates harvest but also produces pollution. Finally, sugar cane fuel production is another energy intensive process. The Return on Investment (ROI) is 8:1, which is significantly less than oil’s ROI of 40:1

North-South, East-West

Liz drew audible gasps from her audience when she reported that that the U.S. is responsible for 45% of global auto emissions, and that SUVs in the U.S. emit as much as the sum of 55 of their biggest coal-fired power plants. She is particularly concerned with the land use patterns developing nations are adopting: they are building suburbs; they are repeating our mistakes.

Environmental (In)Justice

She briefly mentioned the environmental impacts of the practices of the developed world, not to diminish their importance, probably to reserve attention for the social justice issues that, in my view, are often overshadowed by more locally relevant environmental issues. She highlighted our intense use of energy and raw materials.

Social (In)Justice

She directly connected our car culture with an undeniable rise in obesity rates, as well as pollution related illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases. The prevalence of road accidents and our perception of risk were also discussed. We seem to have accepted these risks or somehow discounted their importance.

However, impacts not easily ignored but not often felt by people in developed nations, such as Canada include wars, civil conflicts and food scarcity. Without mention of every environmental activist’s favourite target, she drew attention to the immoral choices made in the name of oil. She linked the lack of action in Darfur to China’s import of Sudanese oil. Taking action in Darfur could, and likely would, threaten Chinese-Sudanese relations.

She illustrated the connection between food scarcity and Peak Oil, using corn as the example. Corn-based fuels increase demand for corn. Corn prices rise. Corn becomes expensive for consumption and farmers begin to cater to fuel producers. Also, excess corn is no longer available for humanitarian aid.

Under the heading:

“Why it is hard to change?” Liz suggested 10 reasons why these problems persist:

10 biggest companies in the world (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/global500/2007/)

  1. Wal-Mart

  2. Exxon Mobil

  3. Royal Dutch Shell

  4. BP (British Petroleum)

  5. General Motors

  6. Toyota Motor

  7. Chevron

  8. DaimlerChrysler

  9. CononcoPhillips

  10. Total (Petroleum)

Her technique was effective. She stirred her audience, but did not leave them feeling helpless. She then proposed a challenge.

Envisioning the future

To begin the interactive portion of the workshop, she explicitly reminded:

  • We can’t take more than we give back

  • We can’t give back petroleum

Then she formed six groups of 5. Each group was to envision an ideal living scenario and work backwards to determine the necessary steps to achieve that ideal.


What – Explore visions/options

How – Strategize how this ideal can be achieved

Who – Examine who will have to take action

When – Examine short and long term goals to set out a timeline for action

Following the small group exercise, she invited the whole group to discuss their results. The following are some of those suggestions:


  • self-reliant community

  • walkable cities

  • individual involvement in community

Short Term

  • eat locally

  • dense living

  • lobby government to cut oil and gas subsidies

  • pesticides will disappear, they are petroleum based

Medium Term

  • systemic change

  • leadership

    • from the people

  • workplace “Green Team”

  • mandatory local civil service

    • like German model

Her final point was that no matter what the demographic, every group she meets with calls for a re-engineering of society. She has promised to post her slides online, which will be very valuable as she suggests a number of personal and corporate actions that can be taken. The highlights of her suggestions include:

  • Policy changes happen at the budget stage, the planning(?) stage is too late

  • Public transportation must be in place before people move in or they buy two cars

  • Bus rapid transit is the cheapest most flexible public transit option

The other workshop report from Betty is

Greening Sacred Spaces

Presented by: Rory O’Brien
GSS Coordinator, Faith & the Common Good


Rory was not originally slated to speak and chose to screen their movie: Greening Sacred Spaces, the research for which is credited to Rory O’Brien. The following are notes from the movie.


  • good stewards of Earth; calling for people of faith

  • multi-denominational

  • balance utility of space with environmental requirements

Energy Audit (In shortened version)

  • insulation

  • air leaks

  • appliances

  • water conservation

    • municipal subsidies may be available

  • HVAC distribution systems

  • Guide available at http://www.faith-commongood.net/docs/gsspracticalguide.swf

Light Green

  • place to begin

  • hand wash dishes

  • Recycling program

  • Compost

  • Environmental cleaning products

    • Recommended types?

  • Fair trade products

  • Plant trees

  • Low maintenance plants

  • Rain barrels

  • Community garden

  • Congregation participation

Medium Green

  • more time and money

  • longer term payoffs

  • educate congregation

  • structural engineering analysis

  • churches are landmark buildings

    • lead by example

  • High efficiency furnace

  • Geothermal or ground source heat pumps

  • HVAC

    • Sophisticated distribution system

  • Natural lighting

    • Skylights

Deep Green

  • long term project; time to deliberate

  • LEED certification

    • Reuse of materials to divert waste

    • Daylighting

    • Reducing water use

  • Link between architecture with theology

  • Passive solar collection

  • Displacement ventilation

    • Cool air from raised floor

      • Fake floor; plenum

    • Hot air rises and is redirected

      • Into floor plenum in the winter

      • Outside in the summer

  • Living wall

  • Fundraising

  • Volunteering

  • Congregation involvement

Four Major Barriers

Following the video, Rory discussed the major barriers to greening sacred spaces.

  1. Motivation

    • For those not convinced of the social or environmental purpose, good energy conservation is just economic sense

  2. Knowledge

    • Guidebook available on website http://www.faith-commongood.net/docs/gsspracticalguide.swf

    • Maintain HVAC systems

    • Retrofit

    • Energy audit

  3. Organizational

    • Develop a green team

  4. Financial

    • Audit can cost thousands

    • Recommendations can be very expensive

    • Long term benefits provide whole picture and convince it is worth while

Energy Audits

Green Communities Canada is an umbrella organization of Canadian energy auditors. Hamilton’s own Greenventure is a founding member (http://www.greenventure.ca/gv.asp?ID=100). A guidebook for going green is provided on the website of Faith and the Common Good, and it includes a “walk through” energy audit template. He strongly supports a professional audit, suggesting that the walk through audit starts people thinking and prompts behavioural change.

No comments: