How are you doing? These are strange and difficult times, and as much as we all know that physical distancing is what’s needed to combat this global pandemic, it doesn’t make the process easier. Here at Ecology Ottawa, we’ve been thinking about how we can continue to engage Ottawans and give you the tools to green-up your communities.
Staying at home doesn’t have to be boring. With spring on its way, this is a chance to learn more about our living city, form community connections and foster more resilient neighbourhoods.
We’re launching a Living City webinar series on all things local and green – from tree identification, to rain gardens, to urban biodiversity. But we need your help to make this happen.
At some point, this crisis period will end. We will once again be able to explore the beautiful natural spaces – like Gatineau Park, the Greenbelt and local parks – that make Ottawa such an incredible place to call home.
For now, our focus has to be hyper-local, but don’t let that deceive you into thinking that this makes it limited. There are entire worlds of beauty and complexity in the plants, animals and natural systems right outside our doors. Let’s discover them together.
During these strange times of self-isolation and physical distancing, there’s no better chance to catch up on reading. Even better, to read something inspiring and relevant to a world that seems to change with each passing hour.
Our Board Member Charles Hodgson recently came across The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis, by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac. We wanted to share his note with you below.
The authors were handed the shambles of the 2009 UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen and turned them into the 2015 Paris agreement. The word “inspiring” seems redundant. The word “crucial” too.
I say “short” because the book is just 169 pages and not very big pages at that. So it’s possible to read it in one or two sittings. You, yes you, you can read it. You should read it. A short book, yet the scope within its pages is broad.
I was primed in advance to appreciate the book in many ways. The authors host an excellent podcast called Outrage and Optimism which I listen to weekly, so I already knew and loved their voices.
These two are among the most qualified people on the planet when it comes to talking about the dangers of climate change. They’ve come to grips with what we’re facing and I know from other sources that they’ve suffered the emotional trauma of facing the prospect—even the probability—of what’s at risk.
The book deals with that. It accepts and honours the past and the present then looks clear eyed at the pragmatic future. We can do this. We have ten years to halve our emissions. Ten years is enough time to plan what we need to do, then carry out our plan.
Is it just me or has there been more coverage lately of scientific findings on how cognitive behavioral therapy and even meditation actually change our brains? This book reminds us that we can control our attitudes by our own force of will and that in this case doing so, taking on a can-do approach, is essential.
The book then gets down to brass tacks; what you can do today, this week, this month, etc. The authors also slice and dice the tasks we must take on into ten action areas that address both personal emissions and our influence on the direction the greater world takes.
They spend only ten pages on the dire outcome we’re now on track towards, with a larger, more optimistic 14 page emphasis on the wonderful world we can and will achieve. (Really wonderful! Think of all the jobs and creativity involved in remaking our economies and environments the ways we’d like them to be. The way they should be. Inspiring eh?)
So I ask you to please read The Future We Choose. And when you’ve done that evangelize it. Crucial!
As the Covid-19 pandemic spreads around the world, cities are struggling to find innovative ways to safeguard public health while providing residents with access to fresh air and exercise.
To slow the spread of this deadly virus, public health officials are recommending physical distancing of around two metres from others on the street.
In normal times, pedestrians are crowded onto sidewalks, and cyclists pass along the edges of roadways, within close range of pedestrians (as well as cars).
Of course, these are not normal times. With the closure of non-essential businesses and a dramatic shift to online work, Covid-19 has upended the daily rhythms of our city. Streets have cleared out in dramatic fashion.
In response, cities around the world are working to re-purpose roadways. Philadelphia, New York City, Bogotá, Toronto and Vancouver are making more streets accessible only to pedestrians and cyclists.
This idea was discussed at Ottawa City Council on Wednesday, March 26. Unfortunately, Mayor Jim Watson has avoided any commitment to implement a city-wide policy for this initiative. Further, the mayor has recommended that any funding for safer streets come from councillors’ small office budgets, as opposed to general municipal funds. This means, if taken, measures will be small and piecemeal. Thousands of Ottawans – especially within denser, urban areas of our city – will lack safe access to the outdoors.
The City of Ottawa has a major opportunity to do much more. With spring around the corner, and with physical distancing measures set to extend into the foreseeable future, now is the time to show leadership by re-purposing under-used streets for the health and safety of pedestrians and cyclists.
by Linzi Redekop
One of our supporters, Linzi, is “very passionate about protecting the land zones currently in place and discouraging urban sprawl”. As part of one of her assignments for her environmental justice class at Carleton, she was tasked to write a story linking to environmental justice theory. She chose to write hers based on the Hold the Line campaign. Enjoy!
Orioles, Robins, Finches and Thatchers alike swam through the branches of a young poplar forest just steps away from the shoreline of the Ottawa River like kids playing tag. They whistled and fluttered around, dodging each other’s reach.
“Are you going to keep playing or would you like to join us?” said Wind, gathered by her siblings. The birds shot eyes here and there and decided to fly off deeper inland instead. “Okay then, say hi to the pines for me”. Wind turned back to her brother, Rocks, and her sister, Water. They were recollecting their memories as they brushed up on their english, “It’s been a while since I’ve heard you speak english, Wind” said Water. Wind continued “Yes, it has been a while since I’ve been asked to speak it”. Rocks stepped in: “Do you think they will be able to hear us this time?”. “I do hope so. It’s been a while since they have listened. Perhaps now that they have given us a seat at their table, things will be different”. Water held herself high “Well, we have to give it a try. I don’t have many tears left to weap… I guess it’s about time then. Let’s head over”. “Indeed. You know how sensitive they are with time” Rocks added. The others nodded in agreement and they set off to City Hall.
Meanwhile, the Mayor was readying himself in his office in the big building of brick people called City Hall in the heart of the hustling and bustling city of Ottawa. He sifted through papers, finding those he would need for the City Council meeting and picked them out to go into his pocket folder. He went through paper after paper after paper. His work was interrupted by a knock at his open door, Councilor Rawlson King peered in: “Mr. Watson, the Council members have all arrived and people are taking their seats”. Awakening from his sorting, he lit up “And my guests, are they here yet?”. “Yes, of course. They were the first ones here”. The Mayor looked at Mr. King with great intent and surprise “Good. This will be a different meeting then, won’t it?” He gathered his papers and buttoned up his blazer. “Let’s not keep them waiting then. Could you please lock up my office?” he said as he followed Mr. King to the council room, leaving his keys with the receptionist.
Mayor Watson took his seat at the head of the meeting table where Water, Rocks and Wind had already taken their seats. Citizens of the city continued to fill in the auditorium. He turned to each of his guests, giving them firm handshakes as he welcomed them, “I wasn’t sure if you folks would make it. It’s great to finally see you. I hope the commute wasn’t too bad.” Water spoke “Likewise. We try to make it out to all of your meetings” Rocks interjected, “Yes, we haven’t missed a single one”. “-Since the dawn of time” Wind added. “Right. Of course… looks like it’s about time then”.
He shifted in his seat and addressed the full house of people:
“Good morning! Thank you to everyone who has come here today for our meeting this Friday, March 20, 2020 to discuss Ottawa’s New Official Plan version 2.3, last updated March 11, 2020. I would like to begin by welcoming three esteemed members of the community: Water, Wind and Rocks. They will be joining in our debate for the Official Plan, in particular, sharing their thoughts on the Land Use Designation in Section 3.12. If there are any appeals or amendments to bring to the attention of the council, please save your written comments for your ward’s City Councilor. Let’s get started then.”
“In Section 3.12 of the New Official Plan proposal, it states: throughout the course of the term, the current zoning for the City of Ottawa will include 60% intensification and 40% greenfield development. Development will encourage the growth of Ottawa’s urban core, creating new space for economic and residential growth. This will be in effect from 2021 until 2041 when the Plan will be revisited and consolidated. Water, you have the floor.”
She lifted herself up in her chair and looked at the Mayor. “Thank you.” She turned to the audience: “It has been a while since you people have invited us to a meeting like this. I’m glad you are finally seeing me with your own eyes and hearing me with your own ears. I remember nurturing each and every one of you and your mothers and your ancestors from the moment you all were conceived.
On my way here this morning I watered the vegetables, I fed the soil, I carried the womb of thousands of mothers, I moved millions of grains across the riverbed. Just as I have been doing every second of every day. That is my responsibility. That is my duty. You people used to leave my freedom undisturbed so that I may do my job. You heard me, you listened to me. It’s been awhile since your past generations have heard me. I have sent floods of messages, yet you haven’t listened to them.
Now, if you choose to destroy and uproot the greenfield to replace it with concrete, you will take away my freedom. You say ‘develop’, I say ‘destroy’. If you do this, my veins will not stretch as far and as wide. If you do this, I will not be able to water those vegetables or feed the soil.
My water drops are living, they want to give life. I cannot give life to the concrete. I cannot water the roads. I cannot give life to the green fields if they are destroyed. My water is everywhere. You carry me with you in every time you swallow, in every thing you eat. Why would you cut my veins?”
“Rocks, you may address the house”
“I didn’t think I’d see the day when you people wanted to hear us again. You haven’t heard our voices in a long time. Thank you all for opening your ears enough to include us: to see us as living beings worthy of listening to.
I have happily supported your weight since time immemorial. I can hold my own and withstand great pressure. I was fine with your little chips and scratches on my surface and I will always be glad to help your bones go back into the soil. That is what I am here for. I am here to give ground and house the little beings you call Lichen. If you melt me down and cement me on top of my brothers and sisters, I will not be as strong. I will not be as grounded. I will be shaky. I have sent earthquakes of messages, yet you haven’t listened to them.
Let me do my job. We want to fulfill our duties to sustain all of Creation- including people- for generations to come.”
“Wind, you’re up.”
Wind let out a deep breath and faced her audience. “My brother and sister are kind to share their thoughts with you. I can feel that you people are different than those who have come before. I see it in the faces of your children, I see it in the way they breathe. They enter into a world of stress and despair, yet they have compassion and hope. I have held myself enough so that they can still play outside, so that the animals can breathe freely, so that I-”
Wind’s lungs let out a big cough and continued with a raspy voice “Pardon me, it’s been harder and harder to breathe these days. I’m sure you already knew that though. As I was saying, I am doing my best to hold up for you and all living beings. I have to. I have to for Water. I have to for Rocks. I have to for Trees. I do not want to keep spreading poison to my brothers and sisters. I do not blame your children. But you are your parents’ children. You know better. I have sent tornadoes of messages, yet you haven’t listened to them.”
The room went stark silent. You could hear the Mayor gulp. He cleared his throat and took the stage with his mic, “Well. Thank you all for sharing your take on our Land Use Designation proposal. We will consider your side of things and do the best we can to ensure the best course of action for the livelihood of all parties involved.”
The meeting continued to discuss other municipal issues and each ward’s initiatives, actions, progressions, policies.
As people gathered their things and put on their coats, the Mayor gave one final goodbye to Wind, Water and Rocks. “Thank you all again for coming. It’s important that we include all voices in this discourse.” The three siblings agreed and they headed out of the big building of brick they called City Hall.
“Do you think they heard us?” asked Water to her brother and sister. “I hope so” Wind added. Rocks echoed the feeling “I hope we won’t have to speak english for a while now- hopefully they will just listen to our messages”.
The next morning, tall stacks of paper with written comments pooled on Mayor Watson’s desk. Tens of thousands of papers from all wards, from all across the city, urging the City of Ottawa to eliminate green field development from the New Official Plan.
With the rapid spread of COVID-19, we have entered a period of crisis for our city and the global community as a whole.
At Ecology Ottawa, we’re monitoring COVID-19 developments and following all recommendations from Ottawa Public Health. Following these recommendations, our team has moved to an online work mode and we are postponing all public events until further notice. If you need to contact us, please connect by email (using email@example.com or our direct email addresses), as our office line isn’t being regularly monitored at this time.
As we watch the many disruptions to the normal patterns of daily life, we hold fast to the idea that bold preventative action taken now will pay off later – in the form of fewer cases, fewer deaths and less pressure on our health care system.
We are confident that Ottawans will rise to the challenge and band together in this time of crisis. We can adapt and find strength in our families, friends, neighbours and communities. We can emerge with a better sense of what is possible when we rely on one another.
We wish you and your loved ones well at this difficult time. Stay safe and healthy, Ottawa.
Robb, Liza, Emilie, Isaac, Erik, Velta, Natasha, Elise, Léa, Jackie and the entire Ecology Ottawa team
We recently wrote Anita Anand (Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada) and Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna with an inquiry on the status of funding for the switch to carbon neutral heating for the National Capital Region district energy system.
Investments in decarbonization of our local energy system is critically important for climate progress in Ottawa and across federal government operations.
Check out the letter below.
This article is part of the Council Watch series, a volunteer-driven program designed to inform Ottawa residents of environmentally significant decisions at City Hall. Council Watch consists in a systematic and strategic attendance of city council and committee meetings. Our goal is to keep you informed and, together, to hold municipal representatives accountable. The views expressed below belong to the author and are not necessarily those of Ecology Ottawa.
This has been a record year for Ottawa with the Climate Emergency, flooding, Vision Zero, phase 1 of the LRT, Climate Strikes, the Official Plan, and the 2020 Budget. Climate change has been on the lips of federal and municipal politicians and there is unprecedented momentum in the environmental community in Ottawa. Let’s look at some key decisions at City Hall from the end of 2019.
$15 million has been added to the $31 million Ottawa has already invested in community-based housing. Although providing affordable housing units is a top priority among councillors, we have to ask ourselves how we want these units built. In a climate emergency, Ottawa cannot afford to be slowed down by Urban Sprawl.
“the Climate Change Master Plan is not going to be what you think it’s gonna be…” -Scott Moffatt
During the November 14th meeting of the City’s Planning Committee, 10 residents spoke out condemning a 10 subdivision development, which would eliminate the “last remaining greenspace in the community.” The motion to approve this long deferred subdivision development was voted for by 8 out of 9 councillors. Citizens questioned the City’s understanding of what intensification looks like, stating that “the densification of our community should not include the destruction of our greenspaces.” Councillor Scott Moffatt replied that: “the Climate Change Master Plan is not going to be what you think it’s gonna be … it’s going to promote intensification across the city.”
And yet the City is committed to preserving Ottawa’s parks. Should urban development be at the expense of natural areas?
But more than looking at where we live, the City is also considering how we heat, cool, and electrify the buildings we live in. Close to half of the City’s emissions are from our buildings. As part of the Official Plan, City Council decided to increase energy efficiency in the construction of new buildings and the renovation of existing ones. The question is to what extent will this reduce the city’s carbon footprint? How radical will these efforts to increase efficiency be? In order to stay on track for its 2050 goal of 80% Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from 2012 reference levels the City would need to take bold, concrete measures to increase efficiency.
One more key area the City is hoping to reduce emission is in transportation, which represents 40% of the total of GHG emissions released from Ottawa. Some relatively ambitious initiatives can be highlighted such as freezing the Equipass rate and the $6 million investment for electric buses. The City’s goal is to have the pilot project buses in place by the end of 2020. The opening of the LRT in September is another major change in our city. Still, in order for it to be successful the City must connect light rail with other forms of active transportation, integrating the LRT and other major transit stations into existing pedestrian and cycling networks.
Although the City is investing significantly in the LRT, its investment in sustainability is extremely modest in spite of the fact that it declared a Climate Emergency. The City stated some quite ambitious objectives which is an encouraging start, but councillors are making decisions that undermine their long term GHG reduction efforts. At this rate, we won’t reach our targets.
Written by Clara Cuny
Clara is studying at Sciences Po Rennes (France) in the field of study devoted to sustainable development and transitions. She is doing an internship at Ecology Ottawa until January 2020. She organized the September 27th Global Climate Strike and currently participates in the coordination of events to continue this movement and inform young people about environmental issues. In charge of the Council Watch campaign, she attends City Council and Committee meetings at City Hall.
A once-in-a-generation opportunity
La version française suit.
Updated March 9th, 2020.
Ottawa City Council declared a Climate Emergency in spring 2019. On May 4th, 2020, the City will make a final decision on Ottawa’s urban boundary. The new Official Plan must be Ottawa’s climate emergency plan. Hold the Line is a necessary city-wide initiative to adequately respond to the Climate Emergency.
Future development needs to be 70% intensification (on currently developed land) and 30% greenfield development (on previously undeveloped land) within the current boundary. The new Official Plan proposal suggests 60% intensification and 40% greenfield development.
The new Official Plan is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the city to hold the line on sprawl by embedding strong intensification targets and ensuring that the urban boundary is not expanded. This will protect vast swaths of greenfield land – vital natural areas and farmland – for generations to come.
Urban sprawl will promote car-centric development moving Ottawa further away from a sustainable future. Intensification will allow to improve current infrastructure and public transportation and will help build healthy fundament for future greener development.
Besides the obvious environmental consequences, city expansion has economic, social and health implications for the residents.
The time is running out and Planning Committee doesn’t seem to listen to our voice!
Here’s what you can do to help us stop urban sprawl in Ottawa:
If you chose to email your councillor, we strongly urge you to edit the automated message to make it more personal. Writing your own personalized email to your councillor would have a huge impact.
This is definitely the most impactful way to express your concern. If you choose to call, try to make your call during office hours. Use the attached cheat sheet, if you need some help expressing your argument.
We will be arranging face-to-face meetings with councillors. If you would like to speak with your councilor about the issue of urban sprawl, please reach out to our Political Organizer Isaac at firstname.lastname@example.org
So far we have met with Laura Dudas, Theresa Kavanagh, Rawlson King, Catherine McKenney, Jeff Leiper, and Scott Moffatt.
Our priority Council members moving forward are:
Last but not the least, please reach out to your friends and colleagues, and share this message as much as you can. It is crucial that Ottawa residents are educated about the importance of the vote on the 4th of May!
Remember that you can influence the future of our city! It’s urgent to ACT NOW!
Ça n’arrive qu’une fois par génération!
Le conseil municipal d’Ottawa a déclaré une urgence climatique au printemps 2019. Le 4 mai 2020, la Ville prendra une décision finale sur la limite urbaine d’Ottawa. Le nouveau Plan Officiel doit être le plan d’urgence climatique d’Ottawa. Stop à l’étalement urbain est une initiative nécessaire à l’échelle de la ville pour répondre adéquatement à l’urgence climatique.
Le développement futur doit être de 70% d’intensification (sur les terres actuellement développées) et de 30% de développement en terrain vierge (sur des terres précédemment non développées) à l’intérieur de la frontière actuelle. La proposition actuelle dans le Plan Officiel suggère une intensification de 60% et un développement entièrement nouveau de 40%.
Le nouveau Plan Officiel est une occasion unique pour la ville de maintenir la ligne d’étalement en intégrant de solides objectifs d’intensification et en veillant à ce que la frontière urbaine ne soit pas élargie. Cela protégera de vastes étendues de terres vierges – des zones naturelles vitales et des terres agricoles – pour les générations à venir.
L’étalement urbain favorisera un développement centré sur la voiture, éloignant Ottawa d’un avenir durable. L’intensification permettra d’améliorer les infrastructures et les transports publics actuels et contribuera à construire des bases saines pour un développement futur plus vert.
Outre les conséquences environnementales évidentes, l’expansion de la ville a des implications économiques et sociales pour les habitants.
Le temps presse et le comité de planification ne semble pas écouter notre voix!
Voici ce que vous pouvez faire pour nous aider à stopper l’étalement urbain à Ottawa:
Si vous avez choisi d’envoyer un courriel à votre conseiller, on vous invite fortement à modifier le message automatisé pour le rendre plus personnel. Écrire votre propre e-mail personnalisé à votre conseiller aurait un impact énorme.
C’est certainement la façon la plus percutante d’exprimer votre préoccupation. Si vous choisissez d’appeler, essayez de passer votre appel pendant les heures de bureau.
Nous organiserons des rencontres en personne avec les conseillers municipaux. Si vous souhaitez parler à votre conseiller de la question de l’étalement urbain, veuillez contacter notre organisateur politique Isaac à email@example.com.
Jusqu’a présent, nous avons rencontré Laura Dudas, Theresa Kavanagh, Rawlson King, Catherine McKenney, Jeff Leiper, et Scott Moffatt.
Notre priorité pour les membres to conseil a ce moment sont:
Dernier point mais non le moindre, veuillez contacter vos amis et collègues et partager ce message autant que vous le pouvez. Il est crucial que les résidents d’Ottawa soient sensibilisés à l’importance du vote du 4 mai!
N’oubliez pas que vous pouvez influencer l’avenir de notre ville! Il est urgent d’agir MAINTENANT!
In 2020, Ecology Ottawa will be distributing 15,000 native tree seedlings free of charge to Ottawa area residents in an effort to re-plant our urban tree canopy. We are doing this because Ottawa’s urban tree canopy is under threat. Since 2008, the emerald ash borer has killed 25% of Ottawa’s trees. In addition to this, climate change, invasive pests, expanding urbanization and infill construction are also major threats to trees. We need to re-plant and keep planting to stay on top of the threats!
Information about the species of trees that we give away can be found here.
At all of the events listed below, our team of dedicated volunteers and staff will be handing out tree seedlings on a first-come, first-serve basis, so check the list of events frequently for one near you: