Interesting and fun tidbits


Word play

Getting to the root of things
The word ecology comes from the Greek word eco (oikos), meaning ‘home’ and logy (logia), which means ‘the study of.’ Therefore, ecology is the scientific study of our natural household, and looks at the distribution and abundance of life and the interactions between organisms and their natural environment14. The word economy is similarly made up of eco (oikos), meaning ‘home’ and nomy (nomos), which means ‘wise management'. The word economy originally meant ‘household management.’

It is important to understand the roots of these words because – taken together – they say to us: everything is connected, so look after your local affairs responsibly and sustainably! To do this, it isn’t enough to sweep the dirt off of our front porches into our neighbours’ yards. To manage and study our individual and collective ‘households’, we all need to understand how our actions affect our environment and others, and vice versa.

This approach is also called: ‘triple bottom line accounting’ (or 3BL), which is a fancy way of saying that it is important to consider the impacts on people, the planet and profits before taking action. It takes a longer look at the benefits and impacts of our actions beyond a short- term, annual lens.

Key definitions
Cradle to cradle. Imagine a world where you can recycle 100% of everything that you use. In this ideal world we would be able to continually re-use all the components that go into making a car, a computer or a house. This world is on the horizon, as designers and manufacturers explore a concept called “cradle-to-cradle.” Cradle-to-cradle products are made of healthy and safe materials that can be re-used or recycled. At the end of their useful life, these products are taken apart and either turned into raw materials for new parts or returned to the earth as compost. The idea is to try and copy the cycle of nature, where nothing is wasted. Right now most products are built using the “cradle-to-grave” approach, meaning they are made with materials that are hard to recycle and therefore end up in our landfills – and the production processes involved in making these materials waste a huge amount of resources (water, energy, etc.). Some day we'll be mining our landfills for the precious resources we've buried because we didn’t design products intellligently.

Free ecosystem services. Some of the “free” services that the ecosystem provides for us are: natural drainage systems (including help with storms and floods), cleaning the air and water, sequestering carbon, recycling wastes, building the foundation of a fertile landscape, preventing soil erosion, releasing snowmelt slowly over a long summer, growing a complex web of food relationships that supports both us and others (e.g. salmon, bear, deer, birds). Of course these services are not free (they’re just not presently included in our accounting system), and future generations will bear the hidden costs of losing them.

Community resiliency: refers to a community’s ability to successfully deal with multiple environmental, economic and social changes; a primary indicator of a community's health and vitality. When a community is resilient and self-reliant, it can respond to crises (e.g. climate change) in ways that strengthen community bonds, resources, and the community’s capacity to cope.  Community resilience also refers to our individual and collective capacity to respond and adapt to adversity and change.

Deep green: Our vision is that the Cowichan region is the greenest, most sustainably prosperous community in Canada. We want you to know that we don’t use this term ‘green’ lightly. We’re not talking about the trendy kind of ‘green’ that too many people and companies have jumped on the bandwagon to promote. Instead we mean the authentic kind of ‘deep’ green that only grows in the Cowichan. Living ‘deep green’ means making informed choices about how we want to look after our natural capital and each other so that we can grow and prosper today, tomorrow and 100 years from now. Let’s look ahead and lead the way.

Design with nature: is a term that refers to environmental planning on a local level that takes into account everything in the environment (such as humans, rocks, soils, plants, animals, and ecosystems) when planning anything built by humans. A design with nature approach is key to climate change adaptation, as it will enable us to do things like: develop compact complete communities; reduce loads on water, waste and energy systems; protect and restore urban "green" space; strive for lighter "hydrological footprints"; and achieve higher levels of stream, wetland and lake protection.

Green infrastructure: There are two kinds of green infrastructure: natural and engineered. Natural green infrastructure is the interconnected network of open spaces and natural areas, such as greenways, wetlands, parks, forest preserves and native plant vegetation, that – in addition to providing habitat – provides some important environmental services for us (cleaning our air and water, managing stormwater, reducing flooding risk. The term “engineered green infrastructure” refers to human-designed devices that mimic nature in function, or strive to reduce their impact on ecological systems and function. Examples of engineered green infrastructure include: green roofs, permeable pavement, swales, ditches, raingardens, detention ponds. These two approaches are complimentary because they aim to preserve as much as possible of the natural green infrastructure and to soften the footprint of development. Both kinds of green infrastructure usually cost less to install and maintain when compared to traditional forms of infrastructure. Green infrastructure projects also foster community cohesiveness by engaging all residents in the planning, planting and maintenance of the sites.

Natural capital: is all of the elements that sustain all forms of life, such as water and oil, the land on which we live and work, and the ecosystems that maintain clean water, air and a stable climate. Most of these elements are irreplaceable and not renewable. Once we use them up they are gone forever.

Sustainability: Meeting the needs of the present without depleting resources or harming natural cycles for future generations. See also “community resiliency.”

Traditional economies: refers to industries that rely on resource extraction, such as logging, wood manufacturing, fishing, large scale farming and non-timber forest production such as mushroom picking. Community impacts include primary and secondary job losses such as the closure of mills, seafood processors and abattoirs, the failure of related small businesses, and the loss of significant tax revenues.

Triple bottom line accounting: means expanding the traditional way of measuring things like profit and performance to take into account environmental and social aspects, not just financial ones. In other words, this expanded form or accounting considers the impacts on people, the planet and profits. It takes a longer look at the benefits and impacts of our actions beyond a short- term, annual lens.

Fun links

The internet is full of carbon footprints calculators, sustainability quizzes and the like. Please with us (related to our 12 big ideas). We’ll update the postings on this page regularly.

Here’s a few to get us going:

Characteristics of a resilient community

People

  • Community members are involved in significant community decisions.
  • The community feels a sense of pride.
  • People feel optimistic about the future of the community.
  • There is a spirit of mutual assistance and co-operation in the community.
  • People feel a sense of attachment to their community.
  • The community is self-reliant and looks to itself and its own resources to address major issues.
  • There is a strong belief in and support for education at all levels.
  • Leadership is representative of the community.
  • Elected community leadership is visionary, shares power and builds consensus.

Organizations

  • There are a variety of environmental and stewardship organizations in the community.
  • Organizations in the community have developed partnerships and collaborative working relationships.

Resources

  • Employment in the community is diversified beyond a single large employer.
  • Major employers in the community are locally owned.
  • The community has a strategy for increasing independent local ownership.
  • There is openness to alternative ways of earning a living and economic activity.
  • The community looks outside itself to seek and secure resources (skills, expertise and finance) that will address identified areas of weakness.
  • The community is aware of its competitive position in the broader economy.

Community Process

  • The community has an environmental sustainability plan that guides its development.
  • Citizens are involved in the creation and implementation of the community vision and goals.
  • There is on-going action towards achieving the goals in the environmental sustainability plan.
  • There is regular evaluation of progress towards the community's strategic goals.
  • Organizations use the environmental sustainability plan to guide their actions.
  • The community adopts an approach to sustainability, stewardship and resilience that is inclusive and encompasses all segments of the population.