Letters: Climate change and Tim Hortons

Sooke resident talks about unsustainable economies

On Wednesday, Feb. 20 the Sierra Club Victoria screened the film, White Water Black Gold, an environmental movie tracing a drop of water from its shrinking glacial source in the Rockies along the Athabasca River to the tar sands in Fort McMurray and beyond. The film clearly demonstrates the devastating environmental impacts of the tar sands development on the region and on the world and how our government institutions facilitate this development. To produce each barrel of tar sands oil requires 3.5 barrels of water with 80 per cent of the water being discharged into leaking toxic tailings ponds so large that they can be seen from space. There is currently no technological fix to clean up this enormous, ever-growing poisonous waste and there is not enough water in the river to support the expanding tar sands mining operations.

The message was clear — to stop all development of fossil fuel infrastructure (pipe lines, oil upgrader plants, etc.) and to move to renewable energy resources. The audience of approximately 30 people was encouraged to share this film with others in the community to raise greater awareness of climate change and to motivate people to act individually to conserve energy and to act collectively to lobby government to stop subsidizing the oil industry, improve environmental regulation and support the development of renewable energy.

It also became evident from the ensuing discussion that renewable energy has its own environmental costs and we need to find ways to consume less, as our current consumption driven society is unsustainable. Climate change, polluting tar sands oil, and other destructive human impacts on our global environment are but symptoms of this overriding problem of overconsumption. The underlying cause of this problem is the moral ideology of materialism – the insatiable acquisition of material goods far beyond personal needs, becoming the very purpose of life. For many people, material possessions have become their dominant status symbol, the presumed source of happiness in their lives. Our current capitalist system is designed to promote consumption and is dependent on an ever-growing unsustainable economy in which wealth is being accumulated by powerful global corporations for the benefit of a few stakeholders at the expense of the rest of us.

The ultimate power to resolve this problem and its destructive consequences is with each of us individually and more importantly all of us collectively. We can choose the moral values we want to live by and we can choose, what, how much and where to buy our goods and services based on these values not just price. Our world will survive and prosper to the extent that we can develop sustainable, cooperative local economies founded on spiritual principles or what some call human values. By owning, producing and consuming locally as much as possible, we can create a vibrant, prosperous local living economy. We have a particular opportunity here, as the Sooke region is an ideal ecologically sustainable region.

Tim Hortons is a publicly traded international corporation with all the trappings of global corporations. Through clever marketing, it has become a cultural icon in Canada, which is becoming known as the Timbits Nation. Tim Hortons commands 76 per cent of the Canadian market for baked goods (based on the number of customers served) and holds 62 per cent of the Canadian coffee market (compared to Starbucks, in the number two position, at 7 per cent). Tim Hortons outsources its baked goods. Doughnuts, which used to be made at night in order to be ready for the morning rush, are now fully cooked and then frozen and delivered to every restaurant in Canada from Brantford, Ontario. Each restaurant bakes and finishes the product throughout the day. As of April 2007, many of the various muffin batters were revoked, as frozen, pre-made and pre-wrapped muffins were introduced to all bakers at Tim Hortons locations. (Source – Wikipedia)

The restaurant buys nothing locally; most of the revenue and all of the profits leave the community; and some restaurants even import foreign workers rather than hire locally.

My question is would you buy good tasting inexpensive coffee and locally baked goods from a local, cooperatively owned restaurant or would you rather eat pre-made food, with the appropriate chemical additives, from Brantford, Ontario and support Tim Hortons expansion in the Sultanate of Oman?

Don Brown

Sooke