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A green future lies in our hands

Forget the world’s oil crisis; it’s not important.Don’t worry about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or invading…

Forget the world’s oil crisis; it’s not important.

Don’t worry about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or invading the Mideast for black gold — we don’t need it.

The planet’s future won’t be fuelled by hydrocarbons; today’s environmentalists are looking to the sea and the sky to power the next generation.

Humans have ridden out technological advances from the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age through to the Industrial Revolution, and beyond.

Today society is living in the Petroleum Age, but now it’s time to move into the Renewable Energy Age, says Guy Dauncey, a Victoria, BC-based environmentalist, writer, activist and an extremely engaging speaker.

He’s working to steer Canada into a new age of clean, sustainable technologies.

Imagine plugging in your car, instead of stopping at the gas station, says Dauncey.

Instead of creating the car’s power with liquid fuels, why not just put electricity straight into the car?

It’s less costly for the environment and the pocketbook. It takes about $150 to keep a  car fuelled for a month, but it would cost $10 to run a car off of electricity for the same length of time.

“The sun is not going to give us a monthly bill, nor is the wind; it’s free,” he adds with a laugh.

There’s a lot to be done and we all have a part, he says, while sitting near a sparking woodstove in a friend’s cozy Lobird home.

He’s in Whitehorse this week to speak Thursday at the Northern Climate ExChange event: Climate Change The Greatest Show on Earth — an evening of science, songs, snacks and solutions at the Beringia Centre.

“We’re so used to having people who can dwell on the problems and make people depressed,” says conference organizer Katherine Sandiford.

“We, ourselves, are sick and tired of being depressed over the issue and here’s a guy who’s full of enthusiasm; he’s optimistic about what this means for the world, and that’s something we don’t have enough of.

“We hope people leave the Beringia Centre excited and motivated and feeling positive,” says Sandiford.

Dauncey is also hosting workshops for local elementary and high school teachers on how to teach students about climate change — by focusing on the potential solutions, not the potential problems.

“I tell them, if you’re not going to discuss solutions don’t do it at all. It gets too depressing,” he says.

Dauncey sees a world where gas and oil are obsolete. Everything from cars to refrigerators to TVs all rely on wind, sun and water to work.

And, like all change that matters, this will happen slowly.

“Only 100 years ago we were all on horseback; if you said we’d all be driving around in cars today nobody would have believed you,” says Dauncey.

“It’s completely inevitable that we will succeed,” he says with wide eyes and a warm smile. “We have no other choice.”

The dire warning signs are here — the Arctic ice is melting, oceans are rising and entire cities like Shanghai are going to end up underwater.

True sustainability is only common sense — it’s a choice between intelligence and stupidity, says Dauncey.

“If the whole world lived at the level we do (in North America) we’d need three planet Earths to sustain it.

“The whole planet is going to change its energy regime.”

And this will proceed country by country.

Already, the majority of cars in Brazil can run off of gasoline or ethanol — an alcohol made from sugarcane.

And change is happening in the Yukon, says Sandiford. A year ago, climate change wasn’t an issue, but now the government is looking at drafting a plan to deal with global warming and, last year, Premier Dennis Fentie attended a climate change conference in BC.

The effects of rising temperatures are seen more clearly in the North, so the territory may as well lead by example.

Get the turbines on top of Haeckel Hill up and running, says Dauncey.

As an isolated northern city, Whitehorse relies on vehicles and airplanes for our tourism industry, he says.

What is going to happen when fuel costs rise? It will affect everything from getting a carton of eggnog at Christmas, to tourists driving through in gas-guzzling RVs in the summer.

Dauncey concentrates on creative solutions.

“Somebody told me that sled dogs run in circles when they’re restless. Well, if you can tie the dog to something it can in turn act as a dog turbine,” he says.

But how do you get people to think about the long-term health of the planet.

Spend more money now installing the solar panels and energy-recycling technologies to save money and the environment over the next 100 years.

It takes forethought, says Dauncey. “We’ve learnt to think ahead in terms of children’s shoes — we know children will grow so we buy them a little bigger.

“We’ve learnt to think ahead in terms of earthquake protection. Down in Vancouver there has never been an earthquake that we know of, yet every building is built to earthquake standards.”

And it takes commitment from all levels.

Change happens through the butterfly effect — it starts with one person and grows and grows until its global, says Dauncey.

And just as one person can be a role model, one government can be a role model.

The Danish wind revolution began with one man who saw a better future for his children. It was driven by social and environmental concerns rather than dollar signs.

If it was driven by money the country would have turned to nuclear energy, he says.

But today, 30 years later, that commitment is paying off. Danish firms expect to take 60 per cent of the global market in manufacturing wind turbines, according to information from MSNBC.

Self-employed, Dauncey forges his own path by studying, and becoming an expert in what interests him.

He founded the British Columbia Sustainable Energy Association, and in 2001, he authored Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change.

His interests range from environmental sustainability and stopping the war on Iraq to discovering the root causes of cancer.

During his down time in Whitehorse, he’s hard at work on his white laptop co-authoring his third book, Cancer: 101 Solutions to a Preventable Epidemic.

“Change doesn’t come through whining, complaining and blaming,” Dauncey adds.

“People say we’re going to hell in a hand basket; I say we’re going to heaven in our own hands.”