flora and fauna

Written by Denise Deby.

Super Bee to the Rescue by phrawr on Flickr Creative Commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/phrawr/9446571102/ Attribution 2.0 Generic

Super Bee to the Rescue by phrawr on Flickr Creative Commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/phrawr/9446571102/ Attribution 2.0 Generic

You’ve probably heard–pollinators including bees, butterflies, moths and birds are being harmed by pesticides, loss of habitat, climate change and other negative influences on their health and numbers.

Healthy pollinators mean healthy food. It’s estimated that more than a third of what we eat and many plant-derived medicines need pollinators to grow.

The Ontario government is proposing a plan to enhance pollinator health and reduce the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

The plan, which would come into effect this year, would decrease the amount of land where neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds are planted by 80 per cent by 2017.

The proposal is open to public comment until January 25, 2015. For more details and to comment, see the website.

The David Suzuki Foundation has created a letter you can adapt and sign here.

The Ontario Beekeepers Association supports the direction of the plan and calls for additional steps to protect pollinators. See their example letter here.


Written by Denise Deby.

Sara Stem Saves the Bees book - D. Deby photo

A children’s book with a strong female character who faces an environmental challenge and takes charge with a science-based solution—that’s Sara Stem Saves the Bees.

Local author Julia Cieslukowska created the story of Sara Stem, a girl who realizes something is happening with the bees. Sara uses her knowledge and the resources around her to find and carry out a solution. The book, written for two- to six-year-olds, illustrates that individual actions can make a difference for the environment.

I had the chance to meet Julia Cieslukowska at her book launch on November 16. Julia, who’s also doing a masters’ degree in international affairs at Carleton, wanted to write a book to empower kids, particularly those who don’t see themselves often represented in literature. You can read more about Julia’s motivation for writing the book here.

Julia has set up a Kickstarter campaign where people can purchase the book as well as make copies available to kids in Ottawa who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford the book. She needs to raise $3500 by November 29, 2014—the campaign is getting close to that goal, but if you’d like to check out the book or help out with the campaign you can check it out here.

(To find out what you can do to protect bees and other pollinators, check out the David Suzuki Foundation’s suggestions here.)


Written by Denise Deby.

Hog's Back Falls photo by fw42 on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic https://www.flickr.com/photos/fw42/14646653925

Hog’s Back Falls photo by fw42 on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic https://www.flickr.com/photos/fw42/14646653925

If you’re one of the lucky people who secured a ticket to David Suzuki‘s appearance in Ottawa at Centrepointe Theatre on October 17, 2014, you’re in for a treat.

If not, you should still know why he’s here. It’s important.

The esteemed scientist and environmentalist is travelling across the country for his Blue Dot Tour to raise awareness of the need for Canada to recognize people’s right to a healthy environment.

The Blue Dot initiative makes the point that we have the right to be sure that our food, water and air are clean and safe. That requires including the right to live in a healthy environment in legislation at all levels of government and in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, so that no government can undermine it.

The organizers are calling on Canada to join the more than 110 countries that have already declared the right to a healthy environment as a fundamental human right. That right includes the right to have clean air, water and food, to access nature, to know about pollutants in the environment and to participate in government decisions that affect the environment.

The thinking is that as individuals speak up, governments—from local up—will be convinced to recognize the right. According to the Blue Dot video, it’s about “ordinary people coming together to take extraordinary action.”

You can check out, and support, the effort at http://bluedot.ca/join-us/.

There’s more here about David Suzuki’s reasons for launching the Blue Dot Tour, and background here on why the right to a healthy environment is important.




Written by Denise Deby.

Ottawa Arboretum - D. Deby photo

A new initiative is taking root in Ottawa. Its goal: protecting and enhancing the city’s tree cover.

Tree Ottawa is a citizen-created program to plant, protect and promote trees and the places where trees grow. Housed at Ecology Ottawa, the program connects people to initiatives and resources for planting and caring for trees and tree habitats.

Tree Ottawa recognizes that trees are important. Trees mitigate climate change, reduce runoff and pollution, promote biodiversity, improve human health and well-being, and provide shade, recreation and food. Tree Ottawa also arises from concerns about threats to the city’s trees from extreme weather and climate change, damage from infill and development and the emerald ash borer.

Tree Ottawa’s plan includes:

  • a goal of planting 1 million trees by 2017;
  • an Adopt-a-Tree program to encourage people to sign up to protect existing trees;
  • Tree Map where people can mark and locate trees;
  • guides to tree planting, tree care and native trees;
  • links to information on existing tree initiatives and resources, including city programs and organizations such as Scouts Canada and Hidden Harvest Ottawa that are working to plant and protect trees;
  • a Tree Ottawa Ambassador program, in which volunteers promote tree planting and Tree Ottawa.

Check the Tree Ottawa website for other ways to get involved.

Tree Ottawa’s official launch is on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014 at 9:30 a.m. in Champlain Park. The Champlain Oaks group will plant a bur oak sapling in the park during the event.


Written by Denise Deby.

Creating a City for All campaign image http://www.makingvotescount.ca/#!how-to-get-involved/c5f1

Creating a City for All campaign image http://www.makingvotescount.ca/#!how-to-get-involved/c5f1

Now’s your chance to have an influence on the kind of city you want. Elections for mayor, city councillors and school trustees happen on Monday, October 27, 2014.

The City of Ottawa has election information on its website, including a list of candidates for each ward.

As well, several groups in Ottawa are asking candidates where they stand on key environmental and social issues, as a guide for voters (and to give attention to these issues).

Ecology Ottawa has been working to identify the environmental issues that are important to residents, and to raise these with candidates. Among the issues: sustainable transportation, healthy trees and waterways, action on climate change and stopping the Energy East pipeline.

Candidates’ positions on these issues can be found here.

350.org Ottawa has also compiled candidates’ answers to questions about the city’s climate change plan and the Energy East pipeline here.

Citizens for Safe Cycling has come up with an election platform, based on a survey of people’s priorities, to make cycling more accessible. The platform, “I Bike, I Vote,” calls for investment in cycling and infrastructure, measures to maximize safety and other initiatives. CfSC also suggests questions people can ask their candidates. Candidates’ responses to CfSC’s three biking questions are here.

The Ottawa Food Policy Council is encouraging candidates to support initiatives to bring healthy, accessible and sustainable food to all residents. The OFPC has outlined a set of priorities in a letter to candidates, and is posting candidates’ responses here.

The Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres of Ottawa and City for All Women Initiative have created a campaign to urge politicians to address the housing, food, employment and transportation needs of all citizens, including people living on low incomes. “Creating a City for All” is also encouraging people to vote.

Several non-profits have created Housing Answer, which asks candidates to pledge to invest significant new funding in Ottawa’s Ten Year Housing and Homelessness Plan. Any city resident can sign up, too, to show their support. As well, the Alliance to End Homelessness has identified questions for candidates on housing.

Protect Big Trees is a campaign to get candidates to commit to protecting Ottawa’s tree canopy.

Update: Greenspace Alliance has identified four propositions related to land use and to the city’s advisory committees, and has posted candidates’ responses on their website.

Update: Hollaback! has posted responses from candidates on how they would address gender-based violence in Ottawa.

Update: Acorn Canada has posted candidates’ responses on living wages, tenants’ rights, affordable transit, hydro costs, democratic rights and other issues of concern particularly to low income families.

A couple of non-official sites that have compiled general election information are OttWatch and OttawaStart.

Any other issues you think candidates should be addressing? Remember to vote on October 27 or at one of the advance polls.

Written by Denise Deby.

25th Annual One World Film Festival Official Poster by Christine Nguyen http://www.oneworldarts.ca/film/poster-contest

25th Annual One World Film Festival Official Poster by Christine Nguyen http://www.oneworldarts.ca/film/poster-contest

The One World Film Festival is worth a look. Each year, the Festival brings beautiful and engaging documentaries covering social justice, human rights and environmental issues to Ottawa.

This year, the Festival starts with a celebration of its 25th anniversary and the opening night screening of Above All Else on Thursday, September 25.

Above All Else (USA 2014) tells the story of a group of people in East Texas who try to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline through their lands by building a blockade in the trees.

After the screening, filmmakers John Fiege and Anita Grabowski, and Ben Powless who leads Ecology Ottawa’s #TarFree613 campaign, will participate in a panel discussion moderated by Susan Johnston.

The 25th anniversary celebration follows at 9 p.m. on Thursday and features music by DJ Jas Nasty, cake from Auntie Loo’s and a cash bar.

Two movies are scheduled for Friday, September 26. The first is Virunga (UK 2014), about park rangers, business and military interests in and near Virunga National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home of the mountain gorilla. A panel discussion with John Wall, chair of the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada, Eric Schiller, president of Canadians for Human Rights in the Congo, and moderator Hasnat Ahsan of Oxfam follows.

The second movie on Friday, Song from the Forest (Germany 2013), is about a musicologist who spends 25 years with the Bayaka people in the Central African Republic rainforests and returns with his 13-year-old Bayakan son to New York City.

Screenings of Watchers of the Sky (USA 2014) and On the Side of the Road (Israel/Palestine and Canada 2013) take place on Saturday, September 27.

Watchers of the Sky connects the life of Raphael Lemkin, who raised awareness of genocide, with four people who are keeping his legacy alive in different parts of the world.

On the Side of the Road follows two Israeli veterans coming to grips with that region’s 1948 war. The screening includes an introduction to the film by Tyler Levitan of Independent Jewish Voices.

All the One World Film Festival 2014 events take place at Library and Archives Canada. See the One World Film Festival website for details and ticket information.

Written by Denise Deby.

Photo courtesy Ottawa (de)tours

Photo courtesy Ottawa (de)tours

Ottawa is home to some amazing, creative initiatives that have the potential to make our city a better, more livable one. Ottawa (de)tours, which launched this spring, is one of these.

Ottawa (de)tours are themed walking tours with a difference. The walks, led by knowledgeable guides, reveal the city from a particular lens. For example, the “Food” walk brings home the global food system by showing some thriving community food initiatives, while the “Play” tour passes some of the city’s outdoor and indoor leisure spaces, but with a critical eye to who accesses those places and for what.

On the “Money” tour, you’ll look at how corporate banks and other financial institutions affect people’s lives, and discover some alternatives in our debt-reliant financial system. On the “Feminism” walk, you’ll visit landmarks that shed light on women in Canadian society and where their contributions have or haven’t been acknowledged.

Sound intriguing? Each tours lasts 60-90 minutes and is part leisurely walk, part active discussion and part social gathering—you may start or end up at a café or restaurant. You’ll also get links to resources to help you investigate the topic further.

I had the chance to meet up with Susan Johnston and Dan Monafu, community builders and Ottawa (de)tours co-founders, to find out more about what’s behind the initiative.

Dan explains that the walks are intended to provide an opportunity for people to talk about issues they care about. The tours also link seemly disparate elements of our public spaces, by showing the connections, for example, between the Bank of Canada, payday loan companies, credit unions and other elements of the financial system.

Ottawa (de)tours walks start from a historical perspective, but also critically analyze what is now and suggest what might be possible.

“The bracketed (de) gets at deconstructing terms and…defining complex topics, and using narrative and storytelling to get people to reimagine what could be,” says Dan.

“It’s really important to us to help people have a sense of ownership and agency around these topics, and to keep them slanted in the direction of positive changes possible,” says Susan. “The walk that we do on local food solutions gets into discussions around attractive edible gardens, reducing the barriers to urban agriculture, and what’s involved in learning how to create an integrated sustainable backyard.”

Ottawa (de)tours are an intriguing way to ground discussions of important issues and concepts in physical space, to look critically at the design of our city and to appreciate what we have.

A more detailed description of the themed walking tours is here, and you can reserve spaces online hereEach walk costs a nominal $2 in this, Ottawa (de)tours’ first season. Walks will continue until the end of October.

Ottawa de(tours) welcomes feedback and suggestions. They’re also hosting two special events at HUB Ottawa:

  • A Brown Bag Lunch on Thursday, September 25, 2014 called #SummerOfBeta: Quit, Pivot, or Persist? Susan and Dan will talk about Ottawa (de)tours’ first season of operation and how to know whether to continue a new business venture. Noon-1 p.m.
  • Ottawa (de)tours Wine Down on Friday, September 26, 2014 from 5-8 p.m. Celebrate the official launch of Ottawa (de)tours and the end of their #SummerOfBeta, and help them look forward to their 2015 season.
Photo courtesy Ottawa (de)tours

Photo courtesy Ottawa (de)tours


Next Page »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 171 other followers