Energy Action in Ottawa and Beyond

Solar panels image via publicdomainpictures.net

Welcome to Ottawa! Including to everyone driving big trucks en masse from across the country into downtown in the next couple of days. We’re so glad you could join us for Climate Action Week.

Climate Action Week is all about sustainable and renewable energy, focused on practical solutions to energy challenges. Yes, there are solutions, and yes, it’s time.

I get it. I want to be heard, be treated fairly and keep my family warm, healthy and safe too. My family roots are in fact in rural Alberta and small town B.C. and Saskatchewan, where my ancestors settled on Cree and other Indigenous lands and made a living there. I currently depend on fossil fuels that others work hard to provide.

The thing is, that’s what unsustainable means. An energy economy and livelihoods that are built on unsustainable energy sources—not to mention on trampling on Indigenous rights and damaging the environment that we all depend on—can’t last. We have to stop investing in this and make the transition to alternative sources, together. That—not fear and frustration and hatred—is what should unite us.

If your purpose in coming is to spread hatred and chaos, don’t bother. We have no room for that in this city, or this country.

If you’re a public figure trying to score political points from this mess, you should stop, and repair the damage you’ve caused.

If you’re concerned about all of this, help draw attention to the people, groups and businesses who are finding solutions. That’s the way we will all survive.

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Climate Action in Ottawa

In January, Ottawa City Council voted 19-3 to change the name of the City’s standing committee on Environment and Climate Protection to Environmental Protection, Water and Waste.

This change in wording may seem minor, but it signifies something important. The new title suggests a view of the “environment” as something separate from our regular day-to-day existence, something we can allocate some small space to in our backyards or parks and tend from time to time. It conveys the perspective that the environment is primarily a municipal service to be delivered, rather than the very context in which we live and breathe.

Dropping the “climate” part goes counter to the urgency of taking action to address climate change, as underlined yet again by the world’s scientists and experts in calling for “‘rapid and far-reaching’ transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities” to limit global warming and its consequences. It’s a disconnect from the reality of the weather extremes that we’re experiencing and that are projected to worsen if we do nothing or too little.

At the same meeting, Ottawa City Council did discuss incorporating a “climate impact lens” across all committees and departments, but not right away.

Some municipalities, including Vancouver, Halifax and other cities around the world, are declaring climate change an emergency requiring immediate action. Here in Ottawa, political leadership at all levels—municipal, provincial and federal—is sorely lacking. Some positive measures have been introduced, but leadership has often been coming from community members and groups, including young people, instead. Some examples:

  • Inspired by Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, high school and university students in Europe, North America and elsewhere are organizing school strikes for climate action. Groups have been meeting on Parliament Hill and Confederation Park every month or weekly on Fridays to press for change.
  • Powershift: Young and Rising is happening on Algonquin Anishinabe land (Ottawa) from February 14-18, 2019. Hundreds of people, particularly young people, are expected to gather at this climate justice conference, to share ways to prompt climate action and create an alternative vision of equitable, sustainable living, through art, organizing and other strategies.
  • Ecology Ottawa has launched a campaign calling on Ottawa City Council to make climate action a priority in the 2019 budget and next Term of Council Priorities, and is asking people to sign a petition on their website.

Also:

  • 350.org Ottawa will be hosting Elizabeth May on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 to speak about the connections between the tornadoes that hit Ottawa last October and climate change.
  • Several groups are taking part in Climate Action Week 2019 in Ottawa, February 14-23, 2019, hosting a series of activities focused on transitioning to sustainable energy sources.

We do have climate leaders, climate solutions and people who care. The shift is coming.

Indigenous People’s Rights Before Pipelines

Image of Gidimt’en Checkpoint sign – from International Day of Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en Facebook event page

It’s 2019—time to be the change we want to see in the world.

Today, there’s an opportunity to stand with Indigenous peoples who are asserting their rights to their traditional, unceded lands.

The International Day of Action in Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en takes place in Ottawa and other communities on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at noon on Parliament Hill.

The gathering is in support of members of the Wet’suwet’en People who are peacefully protecting their territories from construction of a natural gas pipeline by Coastal GasLink, a subsidiary of TransCanada.

Yesterday, RCMP moved in and arrested 14 people, on the grounds that the RCMP were enforcing a B.C. Supreme Court injunction to clear the way for construction of the pipeline.

The land protectors say this is a violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and of Wet’suwet’en law.

It signifies that Canada and Canadians are putting corporate profits and environmental degradation before Indigenous rights and any hope of a better relationship with sovereign Indigenous nations.

The Ottawa action will start at noon at the Parliament Hill front gate.

#timeisnow #Wetsuwetenstrong

 

 

Vote for a Sustainable Ottawa on October 22 2018

What’s the most important thing you can do for the environment on Monday, October 22? Vote.

Our municipal government is responsible for many of the systems that affect our ecological footprint as citizens and determine the city’s environmental health.

The people we elect need to lead the creation of sustainable, equitable and safe systems in many areas: planning and management of our built urban and rural environment (including development, infill, and affordable housing); action on climate change (including renewable energy); protection of our environment (including greenspace, trees, flora and fauna, water sources and quality); transportation (prioritizing pedestrians, cyclists and public transit users); a strong local food system; and waste and recycling. They need to prioritize these in funding decisions. They need to value and support community engagement, local action, and accountability to residents as essential dimensions of our city’s governance. They need to work toward a different and better relationship with the Indigenous peoples on whose land we have built this city.

Some of the candidates for mayor and councillor have clear platforms on these issues (some may have even written the book on them). Others have positions or track records that indicate that these are not among their priorities.

If you need more information on the candidates for mayor, city councillors and school trustees before you vote:

  • Ecology Ottawa has done a survey of all candidates about their positions on local environmental issues.
  • The Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital has posted the results of a survey of municipal candidates on environmental issues.
  • The Ottawa Food Policy Council’s survey of candidates covers food issues.
  • OttawaStart has published a list of links to municipal candidate Q&As and debates.
  • The City of Ottawa website has lists of all candidates, including their websites, as well as information for voters about how and where to vote.

See you at the polls on Monday, October 22.

 

One World Film Festival 2018

The annual One World Film Festival in Ottawa is on from Thursday, Sept. 20-Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, with a bonus film on Thursday, Sept. 27. The Festival is jam-packed with documentary films from around the world on environmental, social justice and human rights topics.

Among the environment-themed films:

  • The short film Earthrise (USA 2018), about the power of the first photo of our shared planet taken from space, on Friday, Sept. 21, 6:15 p.m.;
  • Not in My Neighbourhood (South Africa/Brazil/USA 2017) on struggles for land and housing in São Paulo, Cape Town and New York, on Friday, Sept. 21 at 7:15 p.m.—highly relevant in light of the evictions of the Timbercreek Heron Gate community taking place in Ottawa;
  • The Wapikoni Indigenous short films program on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 1:30 p.m.

There’s also a post-festival screening of Anote’s Ark (Canada 2018), on climate change, rising oceans and people’s actions on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 6:45 p.m.

See the One World Film Festival website for details.

Ottawa Election 2018

The municipal election is still a couple of months away (Oct. 22), but it’s time to be hearing from candidates about their plans for a greener Ottawa.

Ecology Ottawa has a useful tool to help understand candidates’ positions on environmental issues. They’re doing a survey of mayoral and councillor candidates about their plans for climate change action and an active and green city, and are posting the answers.

So far more than 50 candidates have answered the questionnaire, but more than 60 have yet to reply. You can help by contacting the candidates to ask them to make their views known by Friday Aug. 10.

There are additional questions that candidates need to be asked—about plans for cleaner rivers, and for restoring Chaudiere Falls and the islands, for example—but the survey covers a wide range of important issues.

“For example, in the last budget round, the city committed only $500,000 in new money for Energy Evolution while committing over 80 times that amount – $43 million – on new road building and expansion. …Environmental leadership is needed at City Hall. Ottawa needs a greener city council and the 2018 election on Oct. 22 is an important opportunity to make it happen.” – Robb Barnes, Executive Director, Ecology Ottawa in the Ottawa Citizen

See more about Ecology Ottawa’s municipal election campaign on their website.

Town Hall in Ottawa on KM Pipeline

The recent heat wave is a reminder that climate change is contributing to more extreme weather events here in Ottawa as well as around the world.

All the more reason to focus on sustainable energy alternatives. With the federal government’s subsidy of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and the Ontario government pulling the plug on cap and trade and the green energy programs it funded, getting to sustainability is going to require a lot of people power.

Ecology Ottawa, 350.org and the Council of Canadians are hosting a community town hall on Canada’s investment in the Kinder Morgan pipeline. The event includes a discussion and a screening of Directly Affected: A Pipeline Under Pressure, a short film by B.C. filmmakers.

The town hall takes place at the Ottawa Public Library Main branch auditorium on Wednesday, Jul. 11, 2018 at 7 p.m. See the Facebook page for details.

Directly Affected: Pipeline Under Pressure from Directly Affected on Vimeo.