Ottawa in Transition

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who has worked in international and community development, and is still trying to figure out how to connect the local with the global in her everyday life.

World leaders may have missed an opportunity at Copenhagen, but change was quietly taking place here in Ottawa last fall.  On September 15, without much fanfare, Ottawa became a Transition Town.

What this means is that a small group of Ottawa residents gained official recognition from the global Transition Town movement of our community’s commitment to taking on challenges of climate change and peak oil.  Peak oil, the start of a decline in the rate of production of the world’s oil (making it less cheap and plentiful), will have significant effects on our oil-dependent economy and lifestyles.

Transition Ottawa intends to bring together and support community initiatives that contribute to a more resilient and less oil-dependent city.  The idea is that efforts by individuals, families, neighbourhoods, businesses and local groups are all important in transitioning to lower energy use and lower carbon emissions.  And that these local efforts are a crucial part of the bigger picture that includes municipal, national and international initiatives.

Right now Canada has a growing number of Transition Towns – about a dozen – that have joined the hundreds of others worldwide.

The Transition Towns concept originated in the UK.  It’s about doing things like meeting more food and energy needs locally, reducing car use and promoting alternative modes of transport, using sustainable building materials and reducing waste.  It’s also more than that.  The Transition movement’s premise is that communities actually can plan for, and bring about, a low-energy future.  This idea is gaining more respect.

What’s also exciting is that Transition Ottawa is about solutions that are both practical and imaginative.  When you take a look at the ideas being generated, you see that it’s not just about reducing energy but also about creating the kind of city that Ottawa residents want, a city that’s sustainable and supportive.  Some of it may sound idealistic until you see that many of these things are already happening:  community gardens, farmers’ markets, information meetings on solar energy, shared cars, improved bicycle lanes, associations and networks like Sustainable Living Ottawa East and Sustainable Living Ottawa West, and much more.

Transition Ottawa’s site lists these and other initiatives, events and resources.  It also provides a space for discussion among interested people.  It’s a forum to “exchange ideas, share resources, learn from what others are doing, become inspired, encourage each other, and come together as part of the larger ‘Transition’ network.”  Worth checking out.

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