The Ottawa Folk Festival 2012

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who writes on local and global social and environmental issues.

The Ottawa Folk Festival, happening September 6-10, 2012, is offering lots of great music. It also has plenty of hands-on activities, including an Envirotent with workshops on environmental topics. Everything takes place in scenic Hog’s Back Park, right off the recreational pathway.

For several years, the Festival has made a point of being environmentally-friendly: it’s a plastic-bottle-free zone (meaning no bottled water is sold there); you can fill up your own water bottle at water stations. The Festival has a reusable dish program (it shares the dishes with other organizations) and has introduced compostable beer cups. It also offers two supervised bike parking areas, at the north end of the park near Heron Road and the south end near Hog’s Back Road.

Envirotent workshops on Saturday, September 8 and Sunday, September 9 include:

  • An interactive presentation on food with the Otesha Project (Sat. 2 p.m.);
  • A talk on Wild Edibles by Peggi Calder (Sat. 3 p.m.);
  • A presentation by Fair Trade Ottawa Équitable on what people can do to help make Ottawa a Fair Trade city (Sun. 1 p.m.);
  • A participatory session by Rebel Crafters for people to contribute to making a quilt about the earth (Sun. 2 p.m.);
  • A seminar by Planet Botanix’s Heather Garrod on how to make cosmetics using natural ingredients found at home (Sun. 5 p.m.);
  • Other seminars covering health, saving Ottawa’s ash trees and going solar.

Details are at (click on the link “Workshop Descriptions”).

You can also pick up refreshments at the Festival’s Envirocafe, or check out the vendors and the Community Tent. Of course while you’re there, do check out the music performances, as well as music workshops, kidzone activities, jamming sessions and more. See the Festival website for information and ticket prices.

The Ottawa International Children’s Festival 2012

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who writes on local and global social and environmental issues and enjoys being a kid again sometimes.

The Ottawa International Children’s Festival is always fun, but every year the organizers include more environment-themed activities. In this, the Festival’s 27th season, you’ll find plays, puppet shows, music and storytelling with performers from around the world, as well as tons of free activities. Everything happens at LeBreton Flats Park and the Canadian War Museum, this year from May 30 to June 3, 2012.

One of the shows this year is The Man Who Planted Trees, by Scotland’s Puppet State Theatre Company. It promises a mix of comedy, puppetry and storytelling about the adventures of a man who sets out with his dog to transform a wasteland, one tree at a time. Check the website for show times and prices; it’s best to buy tickets in advance as most Festival performances sell out quickly.

The Children’s Climate Change Project is an exhibit of drama, music and media projects done by students in collaboration with artists and scientists, expressing their ideas about climate change and how to address it.

In The Banana Workshop, presented in collaboration with the Otesha Project, kids get to explore where food comes from and how our shopping choices affect the planet. Otesha is also holding Bike Love, in which festival-goers can hang inspiring messages made of recycled materials on bicycles they come across.

At Cycling Safely In the City, Capital Vélo Fest will offer kids and adults a chance to learn about safe bike riding and bike maintenance. (You don’t need your bike with you to participate.)

The Children’s Garden is hosting The Secret Life of Seeds, where kids can choose and plant seeds to take home.

You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the Ottawa International Children’s Festival, so check it out at


GreenLivingOttawa’s founder, Alette J Willis, will also be participating in a children’s event this weekend.  She  will be reading from her award-winning children’s novel “How to Make a Golem (and Terrify People)” at Collected Works Bookstore on Sunday, June 3rd, from 3pm-5pm.  Her book, which is aimed at children 8 to 12 years of age, deals with the bad decisions people make when they act out of fear and features a wind-powered mud-monster.  The event is free.  Collected Works is at 1242 Wellington Street West.

3i Summit on Sustainability May 4 and 5 2012: Collaborating for Action in Ottawa

by guest blogger  Laura Leet, 3i Summit Project Coordinator

For the first time in Ottawa, leaders and change agents from many different sectors are coming together to collaborate and take action toward realizing Ottawa’s potential to be an environmentally sustainable city.
The “3i Summit on Sustainability: Collaborating for Action” will be held on May 4 & 5 at Dow’s Lake Pavilion. Local leaders and change agents who want to advance sustainability in Ottawa are encouraged to take part.
A goal of the Summit is to expand and tap into the pool of leaders and mentors from different sectors that can support new community greening projects and eco-business ventures. Catalyst leaders such as Moe Garahan, Executive Director of Ottawa’s Just Food, Stephen Guilbeault, Founder of Québec’s Equiterre and Tom Heintzman, Co-founder of  Bullfrog Power will provide inspiration. A cultural celebration of the community’s accomplishments will take place during the Friday evening Sustainability Soirée.
Register on-line now at  Two-day registration is only $75 and includes two lunches and the Sustainability Soirée.   Passes for the Soirée only may be purchased for $25. For more information visit or contact Laura Leet, 613-656-7800.

What Could the Peace and Environment Resource Centre Become?

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who writes on local and global social and environmental issues.

“What could the Peace and Environment Resource Centre become?”

It’s a question that Ottawa’s Peace and Environment Resource Centre (PERC) is asking. PERC is inviting anyone with an interest in the environment, peace and social justice to meet on Thursday, September 22 2011 to explore what PERC does – and what it could do. The session will take place from 6:30-9:00 p.m. at St. Giles Presbyterian Church, First Street at Bank.

PERC has been promoting social justice and the environment in Ottawa for years. It’s a volunteer-run, charitable organization that raises awareness, links groups and individuals working on similar issues, offers a resource library, and provides alternative media coverage of social and environmental matters. It publishes a print newspaper, the Peace and Environment News (PEN), 6 times a year – recent issues have covered sustainable energy, food, green business, mining and human rights, and more. The PERC website offers news, highlights from the PEN and links to other resources.

PERC provides a forum for groups and individuals to keep in touch and informed on important issues, thanks to a core of dedicated people who keep it going. Still, PERC’s board, staff and volunteers are thinking ahead. They’re opening up the discussion to get people’s thoughts on what PERC could be. The public meeting is a great opportunity to have some input. (They can always use volunteers year-round, too – see their website for details.)

Another Environmental Movie Event: Breathtaking on April 4th

A new movie by Canadian film-maker Kathleen Mullen will be shown in the auditorium of the Ottawa Public Library (120 Metcalfe Street) at 7pm on Monday April 4th. The screening is free and there will be a panel discussion after with the Director, Kathleen Mullen and special guests.

Breathtaking takes on the asbestos industry through a moving and personal investigation into the death of Kathleen’s father from Mesothelioma, and the confounding present-day use of asbestos that continues to exact a human toll. Valued since pre-history and commercially mined since the Industrial Revolution, asbestos was nicknamed the ‘magic mineral’ for its fabric-like properties and its capacity to protect against fire, and was used in everything from brake pads to oven mitts. After it was discovered to be carcinogenic, asbestos use was banned from use in many countries and limited in others. But Canada, along with Russia and several other countries, still mines asbestos and exports it for use in developing nations.

With moving clips of her dying father’s legal testimony, family photos, and Super 8 home movies as a narrative springboard, Mullen takes the audience on an investigative journey from her family’s home in British Columbia to Quebec, India and Detroit, painting a global, yet still personal picture of the many lives affected by the continued use of asbestos.

Monday, April 4, 7:00 PM
Breathtaking: a personal investigation into the present-day use of asbestos
Auditorium of the Ottawa Public Library, 120 Metcalfe – OTTAWA
Admission free

For more information contact through gmail with the address of breathtakingfilm or see the website:

This special screening is co-presented by the Ottawa &a p; District Labour Council (ODLC) and the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) and supported by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), Canadian Building Trades, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), Women’s Healthy Environments Network and Prevent Cancer Now (PCN).

Upcoming Food Events: A Thanksgiving Post

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who writes on local and global social and environmental issues, even when they don’t involve food.

Maybe it’s because I’m writing this on Thanksgiving, but everything right now seems to be about food. Or maybe it’s because this coming Saturday, October 16 is World Food Day, or just that Ottawa’s markets are bursting with goodness. In any case, here are some opportunities to discuss, celebrate and support sustainable and accessible food:


Starved for Attention: The crisis of childhood malnutrition: Public talk October 13 and Multimedia Exhibit October 13-31

On Wednesday, October 13, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is holding a public talk by Marilyn McHarg, MSF Canada General Director, and Susie Tector, Medical Doctor. 6:30-7:30 pm in the amphitheatre, Saint Paul University, The Atrium, Guigues Hall, 223 Main St. Registration is limited and free at

From October 13-31, visit Starved for Attention, a free multimedia exhibit in the Atrium of Saint Paul University, 223 Main St. MSF says, “Blending photography and video, the exhibit features the work of award-winning photojournalists from the VII Photo Agency, who travelled to malnutrition hotspots around the world to shed light on the causes of the crisis and approaches to combat this condition.”


Kitchen Table Talks: Public talks about access to food in Ottawa, October 14 and 18

Just Food, in connection with the national People’s Food Policy project, presents:

Thursday October 14: Access to Healthy Food in Urban and Suburban Ottawa. 7:00-9:00 pm, Dominion Chalmers United Church, 355 Cooper St.
Monday, October 18: Poverty and Access to Food in Ottawa: Building Solutions. 7:00-9:00 pm, Dominion Chalmers United Church, 355 Cooper St.


Empires of Food: World Food Day forum with Dr. Evan Fraser, October 15

A USC Canada public forum about avoiding global food disaster. In his new book, Empires of Food, Dr. Fraser chronicles the fate of societies which depended on favourable climates and unsustainable farming practices. Dr. Fraser will speak about parallels between those fallen “Food Empires” and our modern global civilization, and what we need to do about them. Friday, October 15 at 7:00 pm (meet & greet at 6:15) in the atrium of Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington St. Free admission. For more information contact Kate Green by email or phone 613-234-6827 x228.


Organic Week October 9-16: Check out events in and around Ottawa.

And speaking of food, everyone is welcome to join Ecology Ottawa for Eat, Drink, Vote! Ecology Ottawa’s 4th Annual Dinner on Wednesday, October 13: an evening of vegetarian food, silent auction, local live music, speeches, and the Ecology Ottawa Community Leadership Awards. All proceeds to Ecology Ottawa. 5:30-11:00 pm (dinner at 7:00 pm), Christ Church Cathedral Hall, 420 Sparks St. For information or to reserve a ticket, email or phone 613-860-5353.

AQUA and the Ottawa River

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who has worked in international and community development, and sees local-global connections everywhere.

I’ve been thinking about water again. And not just because last week’s temperatures of 32° with humidex of 43 made me want to jump into a lake, or because of this week’s forecast of rain.

Last week my family visited the renovated Canadian Museum of Nature, including its special AQUA multimedia exhibit – which, I’m sorry to say, was here only until September 6.

A group of about 30 of us, adults and kids, entered the first of three AQUA viewing areas. There, we were each invited to pick up a “raindrop”, a glowing blue light shaped like a drop of water, which we carried throughout the half-hour performance. After passing through a water “curtain”, we were presented with a mix of 360° film projections, music and narration, props and special effects. The exhibit’s messages were compelling, delivered heavily at times and joyfully at others: that water is essential for life, that it is at risk from pollution and overuse, that it is inequitably distributed, and that everyone has responsibility for it.

Actually, I came out feeling angry – that I had to explain to my 9-year-old why one child in the world dies every 8 seconds from lack of clean water, and that it’s taken years for the United Nations General Assembly to recognise water as a human right, which they did on July 28 this year. (Even then, 41 countries including Canada abstained from the vote.)

In Ottawa, we’re fortunate to have an excellent water system. Still, our water source is at risk: from municipal and industrial wastewater, stormwater and agricultural runoff, dams, and floodplain and shore development, according to the Ottawa Riverkeeper. The Ottawa Riverkeeper is inviting residents to sign a petition asking municipal and local leaders to make river management and protection a priority. And their Ottawa River Summit on August 27 brought together First Nations leaders, elected officials and municipal staff from Ontario and Québec to discuss the health and future of the Ottawa River watershed.

If you didn’t get to the AQUA exhibit, you can read about it online at, where you can also pledge to take on an action to reduce water consumption and preserve clean water.

And you can still visit the Museum of Nature’s new Water Gallery, a permanent exhibit with a wealth of information about water in the world and in Canada – what it contains, what lives in it, and how we use it. (You can book museum tickets online as well as purchase them at the museum; a friend also alerted us to the 2 for 1 admissions coupons available through Attractions Ontario.)