Category Archives: Eco-Sense Updates

The Last Decade

Gord loves his local winter veggies.

The Last Decade…sounds gloomy doesn’t it?  Well hindsight is 2020…isn’t it.  Just look at Australia (oops that is 2019 and that is short sighted, perhaps with a stigmatism like Gord).  But tonight, it’s New Year’s Eve and time to party like there’s no tomorrow.  Then, come morning of Jan 1, 2020, it’s time for clear vision.   For this reason, Gord and I have written this blog post to share a different way of looking at the climate crisis that is useful from a personal and a community perspective.  We all must step up to the plate and take action.  Personally, we have continued to make changes in our own life.  Our motivation is three fold:

Home made candles from tallow…scrounged as food waste from a local butcher.

  1. Action prepares us for the future that’s coming.  It’s unavoidable, so we are embracing change with lifestyle choices that support Low Carbon Resilience (LCR).  For us this means even more local food, a shift to electric bikes as primary transportation, and renewed energy for building community resilience.  Action is fun, healthy, and meaningful, and we’ll be less impacted with rapid climate shocks (food, water, energy) as we have already voluntarily transitioned.  Being proactive is ALWAYS better then reacting in a crisis.
  2. Walking our own talk motivates us and gives us credibility as we advocate for more political and personal action.
  3. Personal action helps us to fight off doom and gloom.  There is endless news of death, destruction, and suffering of all life; grief is an ongoing process that we must learn to accept…it’s not going to suddenly stop with everything turning out alright.  It’s not alright and it won’t be – get over it!  We have very little time left (and maybe none), to avoid catastrophic climate and ecological tipping points.


In simple terms, it’s the remaining carbon emissions allowed to be released to the atmosphere – the budgeted carbon we have left to emit.  Our remaining global carbon budget only gives us 8 years at current emissions to avoid 1.5 deg C.  There’s a lot embedded in that statement, so Gord created a series of a few images to explain what a carbon budget is, how it’s calculated, and what it means for our home, our community, and for all of us as individuals.

Home made jewelry. My wedding ring.

Focusing on carbon budgets is far less confusing than discussing abstract ideas like 45% reduction in GHGs by 2030 and zero carbon by 2050.  A carbon budget is like a bank account…once it’s gone, it’s gone, and if you go into carbon debt, who exactly is going to finance that debt?  Your neighbour? Your children?  Poor people?  Think of the atmosphere as the central bank and Mother Nature as the  earth’s top economist.  I get a sneaky feeling that’s she’s going to charge big interest (requiring enormous carbon sequestration), and show zero compassion when we go into her garden of eden to renegotiate our debt.  Creating a larger carbon budget (like quantitative easing), is simply not possible as you cannot print more room in the atmosphere.  Welcome to physics!

Graphic Novel Format of Our Carbon Budget  (complete with stick figures)

If we do what the science says we must, we have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5 deg C rise in global average temperatures. This is thought be our final chance of avoiding catastrophic climate tipping points. However, for reference the coral reefs are pretty much toast even at 1.5 C.

The IPCC SR1.5 gives us a global carbon budget of 420 Gt as of Jan 1, 2018. Given that humanity emits 42 Gt/year, we have, as of Jan 1, 2020, 336 Gt of global carbon remaining. Divide this by the global population and we have 43.1 tons of carbon person. THIS IS LIKE OUR INDIVIDUAL BANK ACCOUNT.

We have worked out the carbon budget for our small community, the District of Highlands (DOH). This carbon budget is for all the people that live here including all of our municipal services.  The total remaining carbon budget for the entire DOH is 95,895 tCO2 as of Jan 1, 2020. What does this mean and how shall we use our budget? More on this later.

People in our community have a large carbon footprint. We emit about 8 tCO2 per person every year whereas the average global citizen only emits 5 tCO2. The Highlands community emits 17,800 tCO2 each year.

If we take Highlands remaining carbon budget divided by what we collectively emit, we will have used up our entire budget in only 5.38 years. LET. THAT. SINK. IN.

Gord and I have prepared a short presentation for our community as a snapshot of current reality. As a council we have declared a climate emergency, but we have yet to define what this means.  In early January, Highlands council will be meeting to discuss our strategic plan and how we move forward.

As you can imagine, we have ideas, but for now let’s focus on the climate budget and what that means.

Here’s how carbon budgets look in other municipalities in our region:

Climate leadership Caucus with municipal elected officials at UBCM

The Hard Questions for Local Governments and Individuals to Consider:

  • Are we going to live within our carbon budget?
  • How will we use our budget and what are our plans to get to zero carbon?  For reference, to reach targets of 45% reduction by 2030, we must reduce by 7% per year.
  • If we don’t have a plan to live within our carbon budget, are we willing to pay others for the use of their unused carbon budget?
  • If not, does this mean that we are taking the budget of others without compensation or permission? (The EQUITY question).
  • If so, who’s budget are we willing to take without compensation? Our kids and grandkids? People of different cultures and colours? Poor people with a very small footprint? Indigenous peoples around the world?
  • Are we willing to pay loss and damage to all the others being hit first by climate impacts?   Help those being hit first by climate impacts?
  • What do we want to save (i.e. health care, education, food)?  What will we relinquish?  Something to think about as we work out our personal and community budgets.

Some low carbon food photos.

100% local meal: chicken (old hen that mink killed), oven fries, homemade ketchup, steamed greens.

Mostly local lunch: Apple crisp (oats not local), boiled egg, pear, fermented pickle, tomatoes, peppers, persimmon. YUMMY

Roasted mini sweet potatoes, steamed greens, meat loaf with local pork and lots of veggies in the loaf. 1 pound of meat makes 6 servings

Squash, greens with half local beef sausage per serving, steamed Apios americana (ground nut). A perennial veggie very high in protein and exceptional flavour.


Some useful CO2 numbers for reference: (estimates for perspective)

  • CO2 to manufacture a new 2015 EV (not hybrid):  8.8 tons. (regular gas car is 5.6 tons)
  • Build a new 2500 ft2 house on Vancouver Island:  77 tons
  • Build the McKenzie interchange/overpass:  millions of tons (we have no idea really…just seems like an insane amount for the purpose of having more cars).  May have made more sense to buy everyone an eBike.
  • 1 return air flight from Victoria to Toronto:  1.1 tons
  • 1 new laptop computer:  0.35 tons
  • CO2 to manufacture an eBike:  2 tons
  • Average food carbon footprint (processed, packaged, not-local, meat from industrial agriculture):  2.3 tons/person/year

The Humorous Side

Our stay-cation this year – local hiking trips.  Gord looks way too serious…smile dammit!

The funniest thing about this is… wait for it… sorry…there isn’t anything.   Get the joke?  No, neither do we.  Our humour and patience is pretty much used up.  All of us have to individually manage our financial budget, and ALL local governments must manage financial budgets.  We all get this, and we have to make trade offs as to what we spend on and what we save up for.  Carbon budgets are no different.   Local governments are increasingly working towards defining their carbon budget, calculating yearly expenditures, and making carbon budget decisions.  We all know that this carbon budget will only get smaller (no revenues), and we must look at time frames for when this budget will be exhausted (the pun intended…but not very funny).

If you’re going to get pickled, make sure it’s fermented.

Many say that individual change doesn’t work, however, system change at the UN COP25 is a compete failure to date.  Which of course brings it back to the people.  We must change and we must make our governments change.  We need both.  Many good friends, our families, and community climate leaders, who are very aware of the climate crisis, continue to fly, buy, build new, and eat through their carbon budgets.  Not funny…but we still love them though find it increasinglyhard to be around them.  Maybe after this post they won’t love us…even less funny.  However, many of our friends are walking their talk…and we are very grateful for your personal efforts and inspiration.  Thank you.

Emerging Myths:  (there are many, but here’s three)

  1. EV’s will save us if we get every Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle swapped out with an EV.  Humorous and delusional.  Just look at the carbon budget.  15-20 years ago it would have been a great step, but there is not enough carbon budget remaining to perform this transition.  We’ve squandered that opportunity.  And unless electricity was fully zero carbon to manufacture the EV with recycled materials, the embodied footprint of an EV compared to and ICE vehicle is not that different.  The embodied carbon footprint of anything we buy is the UP FRONT carbon footprint.  The operational carbon footprint of an EV is obviously much better than ICE vehicle, but timing of the CO2 emissions is VERY important in such short time frames.  Solution:  Electric public transport, EV taxi’s, shared EV’s, eBikes, personal small EV’s factored into the individuals carbon budget.
  2. Building passive homes will save us.  Once again same argument.  Passive homes are great for long term energy efficiency, but the carbon footprint up front is enormous.  Solution:  Passive homes built with materials that sequester carbon.  See
  3. Just switch to green energy and decarbonize our economy.  Hilarious, that some actually think this is the holy grail to “Fix” the climate and ecological crisis.  Just look to the hybrid cruise ships being built…wow, they can run for short periods of time completely on electricity.  Ack.  Hello?  Physics?  Critical thinking?  Don’t get us started on the electric plane.

Actions – the fun side

There is so much that we must do, including creating a green energy grid, decarbonizing our economy, more EV’s, building carbon sequestering buildings, eating low carbon diets, local food, regenerative agriculture, increasing energy efficiency of existing buildings, stop clear cut logging, circular economy, etc, etc, but primarily we must buy less stuff, live and eat locally, and share material goods.  However the two BIG ELEPHANTS in the room are that none of this can happen unless we change our economic system away from economic growth and the whole debt and interest thing, and to do that we need a new political system with more community participation.  And for icing on this year end cake, we simply must re-wild half the Earth…our biological long term survival depends upon this (and by the way, the climate models demand this).  We must create an ecological economy based on equity, well-being, re-wilding, and public participation.  Ooooh, I like the sounds of that.

“Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” ~ Václav Havel

Winter lemon blossoms

We have much work to do in this decade. I think of it like we have 10 years to treat a potentially fatal diagnosis. We know what the treatment is, we just have to do it and then “hope” for the best outcome. If we are unsuccessful in this decade, the work does not stop, we just move into palliative care for people and all creatures. Life doesn’t end in ten years.

Below is just a few great links for inspiration and reality checks.

Happy New Years everyone,

Ann and Gord

Re-wilding:  This video is an awesome demonstration of nature re-wilding.

Sequestering Soil Carbon: This podcast is great.

Failure of COP 25 Climate talks:  Here’s a video summary.

Greta Thunberg’s speech at COP 25:

For books, check out the End of ICE by Dahr Jamail.



Life & Death & Everything in Between

This gallery contains 18 photos.

It’s been a long time since our last post, but today being a beautiful sunny day, the first morning of frost, Gord’s oldest “kid” turning 22, and also our 15th anniversary of falling in love, it seemed a good time … Continue reading

Summer Nursery Details

The Summer Season:  We are open for private appointments all Summer and will go back to regular hours come fall.  Please email to book a private appointment in the nursery.  If you plant trees and berry bushes now remember they will need regular water and attention in order to thrive.

LOTS of our fruit and berry bushes in the nursery have fruit set on them, so if you are keen to have a harvest the FIRST year, make your appointment soon!



Feel free to send us an email to book your private appointment in the nursery.

Making notes and lists on what to propagate and graft for this summer.

Our summer nursery work will include doing some summer propagating and specialty grafting for lots of our fall nursery stock.  We are setting up misters in the lower greenhouse for this purpose and also planning our big plant order for the next year.

Annual Garden TIP:  Anyone have problems with wood bugs eating the stems of newly planted starts?  Our solution is to plant the start, water well, put dry sand around the base, and place a plant pot with the bottom cut out on the little plant.  Works like a charm.  See photos.

Happy summer everyone!

Last Weekend of the Spring Season

Red walnut flowers. Catkins hang below.

NURSERY:  May 18th and 19th are the last two NURSERY days of the SPRING SEASON…and what beautiful planting weather it is.  We have been doing happy dances out in the gentle rains.  However, the ground is still really dry as is evident when we dig holes to plant more trees.

Sea Kale shoots are starting. YUMMY raw, steamed or stir-fried

SPECIAL ITEMS we would like to sell this weekend:

  • Sweet potato plants:  perfect time to get into the ground.  Must grow in greenhouse or under a hoop cover to get big crops.  SALE: $3
  • SEA KALE:  we have begun to eat ours and will for the next month.  Tastes like a cross between broccoli and asparagus.  Takes 2-3 years to mature then eat for the rest of your life.  $3 each.
  • FREE TABLE:  Some items we just want to go to a good home…some unknown grapes, other unknowns and oddballs, and weird looking specimens.
  • OCA plants:  Our favourite tuber.  Beautiful vegetation looks like clover.  $3 each
  • LOTS of fruit trees and berry bushes with fruit already set on them…just saying.  FRUIT THIS YEAR

Name that chicken breed

NAME THAT CHICKEN BREED:  Our baby chickens are growing rapidly…but they are not Rhode Island Red as we were told.  Any ideas what kind of chicken they are other than cute chickens?

DUCK UPDATE:  For those that have been following along over the years you’ll remember quite a collection of duck stories over the years with MUD-PUDDLE and DUG a source of endless fun including countless people taking selfies with one of our special ducks.  The latest story is now about Cocoa-Pop who lost her partner last winter when he dove under the ice and didn’t resurface until spring thaw.  (we scooped him out, put him in a hole by the pond, and then topped him with an asian pear).  Pear is growing extremely well by the way.  Anyways, for months we had a very depressed duck with very little will to live, but now she is thriving and follows us everywhere. She’s our little helper for all things soil, mud, compost or mulch related.  Our evening walk is so much fun with dog and duck following along.

And if gardening does not intrigue and fill your vessel, perhaps the 30 second Bill Nye the pissed Off Science Guy video will do it.

Safety Glasses Off 2

Happy gardening!

Ann and Gord




Last two weekends in the Nursery

It is 30 C° out there folks, and there are two items that suffer at that temperature… Ann planting things, and things just planted.  We will keep the nursery open for two more weekends (May 11th & 12th;  May  18th & 19th).  We will NOT be open on the 25th or 26th.

Sat and Sun from 10am-2pm at Eco-Sense.  

3295 Compton Road.  For everyone that shows up and asks, “do you still have SEA KALE and Sweet potatoes?” The answer is YES.  We also have lots of great selection of berry bushes, nut trees, and fruit trees…even OLIVES and many others.  We have Blight resistant hazelnuts, so no need to go on to a two year wait list.

Unless you have a diligent water regime planting when it is over 30 can be a little troublesome.  That said, you know what we get to do when the nursery closes?  We get to plant!  We are planting out the pond area, where the old nursery used to be.  The irrigation system in.

The smells are incredible at the moment, with the lilacs, Ann’s Dad’s azalea, and Solara’s clematis.  The trees seemed to fill out instantly this year – so very strange.   Most of our persimmons are showing flower buds, so this year should actually be a big crop.  Maybe this is the year for the first walnuts?  Even more exciting, perhaps this is the last year for all the rotten nuts (be creative in your imagination).

Lunch with Nina. She’s 3.5 years old. Maybe 10 more years we will be blessed with her company… if we are lucky.

When you know your dog has only 10 +/-  years to live, does this mean you decide to not love your dog?   When your planet, your only home, is so close to collapse due to the pesky exponential trend lines (of pretty much everything that matters), do you consider giving up trying to do something about it?  What’s the difference?  Do we not love both the dog and the earth?  Do you give up on the dog because it’s going to die…one day?  Giving up 1 million species is the track we are on.  It is OK to be pissed, sad, and scared – it is also OK to speak up, and crack a few rotten and crazy nuts.

A few cheerful links:

Three day old chicks first look at the world…LOOK, kale! Life is good.

Short and sweet, have a great weekend.

Gord and Ann