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By Mollie Kaye, February 2016

Swain on swing: The 5th Annual Victoria Django Festival.

Oliver SwainFEBRUARY CAN BE A TIME of conflict in many hearts and relationships, as most of us fall into one of two opposing camps: those who would rather ignore the culturally-enforced mass celebration of romantic love in the middle of the month, and those who crave some kind of significant observance. 

By Monica Prendergast, February 2016

Issues around policing and mental health lie at the heart of award-winning playwright Joan MacLeod’s work.

Joan MacLeodTHE PRODUCTION OF The Valley by Canadian playwright Joan MacLeod at the Belfry Theatre is a cause for cultural celebration. We are very fortunate to have MacLeod call herself a local playwright since moving to Vancouver Island in 2004. 

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, February 2016

The yarn that keeps us knitted together, especially through winter.

April CaverhillON A RECENT MOONLESS NIGHT when the wind was once again mitt-slapping rain against the house, I was curled up on the couch with an article about life in Norway’s far north. Winter hits cold and hard in these small tundra towns: Even the sun shrinks away to just a thin, indifferent glimmer on the horizon. You’d think the people who live here would be more prone to seasonal depression, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. 

Focus readers, January 2016

Scientists to CRD: petition the feds

In their call for an “evidence-based approach to developing sewage treatment for Victoria,” the marine scientists (Jay Cullen et al) make some claims that require further discussion.

The authors state, “In light of the experience with PCBs, governments were unwise to allow the use of various polybrominated biphenyl ethers (PBDEs) as flame retardants in furnishings and other products. Their use is also now being banned, but concentrations may continue to increase for awhile. Wastewater is presently an important route to the ocean but sewage treatment is only partly effective.”

By David Broadland, January 2016

A study by DFO scientists found that secondary sewage treatment will have a negligible effect on environmental conditions in our waters.

The CRD is poised to spend upwards of $1 billion on sewage treatment for Victoria in response to new Fisheries Act regulations aimed at protecting fish, yet a recent study led by DFO research scientist Sophie Johannessen says upgrading the level of treatment at two plants in Vancouver and two in Victoria will have a “negligible effect” on environmental conditions in the Strait of Georgia and Juan de Fuca Strait.

Is a mistake of grand proportions about to be made?

By Leslie Campbell, January 2016

The encampment at the law courts grounds provides evidence of our collective failure to meet the need for housing.

The homeless camp at the Provincial law courts grounds might be getting most of the attention these days, but the whole latter half of 2015 experienced gusts of action on the homeless front, starting with Mayor Helps’ and Councillor Ben Isitt’s proposal last summer to devote a corner of Topaz Park to a regulated tenting area for the homeless—something angrily rejected by local residents.

By Ken Wu, January 2016

If the BC government were serious about addressing climate change, it would protect old-growth forests.

Timber-industry rhetoric would have you believe: “To counteract climate change we need to replace our old-growth forests with healthy, fast-growing young trees that quickly sequester carbon.” On an intuitive level, this may seem to make sense—and indeed, it has become the mantra of timber industry ideologues. 

But according to the actual science, is it true? More fundamentally, according to logic, is it sound?

No and no, actually. The reality is that there is a massive net release of carbon from logging and replacing our old-growth forests with second-growth tree plantations. I’ll explain why in a moment.

By David Broadland, January 2016

The Commissioner’s report, by example, challenges other government officials to meet his high standard for transparency.

At the height of calls for Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps to resign as co-chairs of the Victoria Police Board last month, the Times Colonist quoted SFU criminologist Robert Gordon: “If I was in their position I would be stepping down. I don’t know how they can carry on, honestly. There is something fundamentally rotten about the way in which the Victoria Police Board has been doing its business. I don’t know what that is but hopefully it will come out as a result of this blue ribbon investigation.”

Wait a minute. In one breath Gordon says “There is something fundamentally rotten” and in the next he says “I don’t know what that is...” Why, then, was he suggesting Helps and Desjardins should step down?

By Gene Miller, January 2016

The delusional desire for amalgamation.

Just received an email, with the subject line: “GENIUS PILLS Are Changing Lives!!!!—Boost Your IQ. Order Now!”

Should I click “open” and go for it?

Nah, because I don’t take IDIOT PILLS and I know that the lurking electronic predators who produce this stuff would attempt to quickly strip my net worth to the last available penny. 

By Judith Lavoie, January 2016

Is the new government open to hearing scientists’ arguments that DFO cannot protect both industry and fish?

For years Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been responsible for two often oppositional interests: the conservation of fish and the economic health of the fishing industry. It’s an uncomfortable marriage at the best of times and now there is a growing push to dissolve it. 

The two interests rarely dovetail and in the past decade under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, the seesaw tipped alarmingly to the economic development side. Cuts were made to scientific and habitat protection positions at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, while troubling questions about the marine environment, climate change, and aquaculture development were largely ignored.

By Aaren Madden, January 2016

With his unique medium, sculptor Roland Gatin fuses stone to build connections and explore ideas.

When Roland Gatin was 11 years old, he stood in the Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy, and took in Michelangelo’s David. He was a long way from the small town of Lanigan, Saskatchewan, where he was born in 1968, and the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he had lived since he was six years old. Says the 47-year-old artist today, “I can remember this wonderful light, noticing motes of dust floating around and being aware of the smell of that dust as it circulated in that space. My sense of it at the time was that it was the smell of stone dust, but that’s just because I was surrounded by stone…It was more likely just ambient old city soot dust.” 

By Briony Penn, January 2016

Most of New Zealand has been deforested due to agriculture, impacting biodiversity, water quality and the climate.

It is midnight and I am out with my brother in a rare patch of native manuka forest on New Zealand’s North Island. We’re shooting introduced possums that are eating the native birds and their forest habitat. On the next hillside over, young titi (sooty shearwaters, also known as muttonbirds) are settling into artificial burrows dug for them in their ancestral breeding grounds by members of the Maori iwi (the people or tribe), local ENGOs, and a team of scientists. We are all helping with a national campaign to give these birds a fighting chance to fledge from hills they haven’t occupied for over a century. Their burrows are behind a predator fence worthy of Fort Knox. 

By Maleea Acker, January 2016

Cheryl Bryce’s Community Tool Shed.

Last November a group of volunteers, spearheaded by Songhees Band member Cheryl Bryce, gathered at Beacon Hill’s Petting Zoo parking lot. As usual for these monthly gatherings, someone brought tools, including shovels, gloves, loppers and a tarp. Others brought tea. There were geography students, Sierra Club members, and ardent restorationists. All were looking to make a difference to a south coast ecosystem that used to supply food to entire nations of indigenous peoples before the arrival of European colonists. 

By Amy Reiswig, January 2016

Guy Dauncey’s new novel envisions an urban ecotopia.

The new 2016 calendar seems a good time for a story of possibility. And, following the Paris climate conference, for a tale of not just personal but planetary possibility. In his novel Journey to the Future: A Better World is Possible, launching this month, BC Sustainable Energy Association founder and award-winning author Guy Dauncey doesn’t just talk about ways to fight climate change; he shows us a vision of what our lives could look like if we work together to make change happen.

By Mollie Kaye, January 2016

Acclaimed pianist will perform Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.1 on January 23 at the Royal Theatre.

Internationally-acclaimed, Victoria-based concert pianist Lorraine Min revels in the moniker “local artist,” but it took her awhile to find her way back here. Born in Victoria and raised in Vancouver, Min’s passion, talent and professional success swept her away from her family in BC. Many years, many opportunities, and a few countries later, she has finally realized her dream of creating a full and balanced life in the arts, in the city she’d always hoped to call home again.

By Robin J Miller, January 2016

Out Innerspace Dance Theatre premières its latest creation in Victoria, January 29 & 30.

It’s mid-day on a Tuesday in late November, the day after David Raymond arrived home from performing in Crystal Pite’s Polaris at New York City Center. Raymond is still flying from the energy of 65 bodies on stage, the combination of a small core of professionals from Pite’s own Kidd Pivot company and dance students from New York University. “The audience loved it,” he says. “It was fabulous, amazing.”

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, January 2016

2016: A good year for championing everything local.

A few weeks ago I experienced a close and memorable encounter with one lone tree. It wasn’t in the forest, and it wasn’t intact, but it added a whole new and indelible perspective to what I already know to be true about trees—that they have power, majesty and great value. 

My lone tree encounter actually happened in town, at the Robert Bateman Centre. The exhibit known as OneTree is a collection of 42 incredible wood creations all from the loins of a single bigleaf western maple tree. For a century or more this magnificent mother tree graced a Cowichan farm landscape, her crown an avian gathering place, her muscled arms steady under the weight of four gleeful kids gliding on swings below. 

Focus Readers, December 2015

The last strategic vote

Editor Leslie Campbell is far too hasty in writing her obituary for strategic voting in the November 2015 edition. Every electoral system carries its own political calculus and strategic opportunities and it is always a mistake to underestimate voters’ inclinations to utilize them.

Even where proportional representation promises to make every vote count, if some voters feel they can strategically achieve a larger political goal by abandoning their most preferred candidate and/or party they will do so just as much as under our first-past-the-post system. Their disposition toward a particular individual, to a governing party, or to the potential membership of a coalition government can still override any primary personal preference. Much will depend on the strength of that preference and their optimism about the odds of it being a winning choice.

By Leslie Campbell, December 2015

It’s time for Christy Clark to wake up from her LNG dream before it becomes a nightmare for the rest of us.

After 20 years of climate negotiations, most nations now seem determined to take serious steps towards a stabilized climate. However, as delegates from 196 nations meet at the Paris climate summit, there are still huge hurdles to leap before any agreement is made, especially one with the teeth needed to force nations to live up to it. One look at the 51-page draft agreement (available online), with it’s multitude of pivotal options sitting undecided between over 1500 square brackets, and you’ll get a glimpse of the challenge. Getting to yes ain’t easy.