Green Living Ottawa’s 200th Post

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who writes on local and global social and environmental issues and was more surprised than anyone to realise she has just completed her 63rd guest post for Green Living Ottawa.

You’ll know if you read this blog that Alette Willis created Green Living Ottawa a few years ago as a way to share positive ways of living sustainably in Ottawa.

When Alette mentioned to me recently that this post would be Green Living Ottawa’s 200th, I couldn’t help but use it to say congratulations to her, and thanks – thanks for making this a space for information, conversations and inspiration on how we in Ottawa can live “green,” do what we can, and not feel alone in doing so.

Alette’s been living in Edinburgh, but had the idea to open up the blog to guest bloggers while she’s away, to enable Green Living Ottawa to continue. She’s warmly welcomed our contributions and perspectives, and keeps the blog going despite the time and energy it takes.

So congratulations, Alette, for over 4 years and 200 posts of Green Living Ottawa, and for making Ottawa (and beyond) better.

October Food Events

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

It’s food, glorious food in Ottawa for the next couple of weeks. It’s harvest season, and October 16 is World Food Day, resulting in some appetizing as well as thought-provoking events locally.


World Food Day Forum

USC Canada is hosting a World Food Day Forum called From Field to Fork: Building a Better Food System. It’s on Thursday, October 13 and features a great line-up of speakers: journalist, activist and Locavore author Sarah Elton, chef and 42 Fine Foods owner Susan Jessup, and organic farmer and National Farmers’ Union leader Colleen Ross. 7 p.m. at St. Paul University Amphitheatre, 223 Main St.; free admission.

At 6 p.m., before the Forum starts, there’ll be a Marketplace where people can try local cheeses and fair trade beverages, check out Octopus Books’ display, and meet representatives of Just Food and Canadian Organic Growers. You can also register for a Seed-Saving Workshop taking place from 5-6 p.m. with organic farmer Daniel Brisebois from Le Ferme Coopérative Tourne-sol. For information contact


Food for Thought

Oxfam Canada is calling October 15-22 GROW Week – a week to celebrate food and encourage food justice and equitable access to food. On Thursday, October 13, Oxfam will host Food for Thought, a discussion about food and the international food system. Speakers include Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, and Courtney-Anne Craft from Oxfam Canada. It’s at the University of Ottawa, 7-9 p.m. at Café Alternatif (Simard Building basement). Contact for information.


Book Launch

Author and food system expert Pat Kerans will launch his book A Pessimist’s Hope: Food and the Ecological Crisis on Tuesday, October 18, 7-8:30 p.m. at the Ottawa Public Library, Main Branch. Kerans’ book sheds light on our unsustainable food system and how we might improve it.


Reel Food Film Festival

The Reel Food Film Festival is back. On Thursday, October 20, see Our Daily Bread, a film about Europe’s industrial agriculture, by Nikolaus Geyrhalter (Austria, 2006). (The organizers advise viewer discretion as some scenes are difficult to watch.) Then on Thursday, October 27, see Fresh: The Movie, by ana Sofia joanes (USA, 2009), a film about some of the people who are re-inventing the American food system, moving away from unhealthy and unsustainable food production toward healthier, sustainable alternatives.

Both films take place at the Ottawa Public Library Auditorium, Main Branch, at 6:30 p.m. Free admission ($5 donation appreciated); contact for information.


Harvest Noir

Harvest Noir is billed as “Ottawa’s secret picnic feast and black tie dance party” – kind of a flash mob picnic in which attendees find out the location only just before the event. Guests bring their own picnic, with emphasis on locally-harvested seasonal fresh food; the evening will include a DJ and live dance music. Saturday, October 15 at 4 p.m. Admission $37 plus tax.

World Food Day – [insert your own event here!] – at your convenience

Another option: you can celebrate the UN’s World Food Day your own way, with a local twist. USC Canada suggests hosting your own event. They have tips for organizing things like a potluck supper using local ingredients and movie night, a seed-saving workshop or a local-food challenge. Similarly, Oxfam’s World Food Challenge suggests people share a meal by organizing dinners that use local, fair trade and organic food – they have a number of ideas and resources on their site.

Bon appetit!

Climate Change Solutions in Ottawa

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

In Ottawa we usually don’t make a big deal of internationally-designated days, but this year’s UN World Habitat Day on October 3 seemed significant. The theme: Cities and Climate Change.

According to UN-HABITAT, the world’s cities are responsible for up to 70 per cent of harmful greenhouse gases. Transportation using fossil fuels and industrial activity are particularly significant sources of urban greenhouse gas emissions.

So cities are big contributors to climate change – but people in cities are also affected by the consequences of climate change, like flooding. And cities are, arguably, a big part of the solution.

The City of Ottawa has said municipalities can play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In Ottawa, transportation and buildings’ energy use each account for 40 percent of greenhouse gases, with the remaining 20 percent from the waste sector. The City has had a climate change management plan to address these. But there’s a long road ahead of us.

One of the problems is that climate change here isn’t that obvious, so it’s easy not to think much about it. But the City says our hottest days are getting hotter and more frequent, and declining air quality is a big concern. In 2005 the City recorded 290 deaths and 750 hospital admissions attributable to air pollution, and projected increases in these numbers over the next 25 years. Climate change is affecting our health, changing our environment and costing us in many ways.

Individual action helps – people riding bikes instead of driving, choosing locally-grown food when possible, and turning down thermostats. We need more from all levels of government, though. And we need to be talking about it a lot more.

I think this is happening. Just last week, for example, we had the Ottawa Action to Protest the Tar Sands, a Museum of Nature screening of the film Carbon Nation, and – if you happened to attend the Kickass Talks for CARE on October 2 – Ottawa’s Richard Weber sharing evidence of climate change from the Arctic.

There’s another event coming up this week. It’s part of the System Change Not Climate Change initiative launched by the Council of Canadians’ Climate Justice for People and the Planet campaign to build awareness and inspire people to find alternatives to climate change. Members of Transition Ottawa are hosting a presentation and discussion about what system change means and how environmental and social justice are linked. The event is on Thursday, October 6 from 7:30-9:15 p.m. at 2 Monk St. (one block from 5th Avenue and Bank St.) in the Glebe; RSVP at

It seems daunting, even impossible, to do anything about climate change. But groups and movements like Transition Towns, System Change Not Climate Change, and Worldchanging and its successor are coming up with solutions that are feasible yet retain what’s best about our cities. Check them out when you have the chance.

Upcoming Eco-Events in Ottawa

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who writes on local and global social and environmental issues (which covers just about everything, really).

Interpretive Programs in Gatineau Park

Oct. 1 and 2, Gatineau Park will run an interpretive program called Follies of the Fall Forest at 12:30 in English and 2:30 in French at the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre, Chelsea. The 2-hour program is free, led by a naturalist, and includes a guided trail walk.

Café scientifique at the Canadian Museum of Nature

The Canadian Museum of Nature is holding a “Café scientifique” on Friday, Sept. 30 from 6:00-10:00 p.m. The Café includes a dinner and a screening of the documentary Carbon Nation, described as a climate change solutions movie even for those who don’t believe in climate change. According to the film’s website, it’s “an optimistic, solutions-based, non-preachy, non-partisan, big tent film that shows tackling climate change boosts the economy, increases national & energy security and promotes health & a clean environment.” Following the movie, environmentalists Bruce Yateman and Bernie Couture will lead a discussion about the feasibility of having a small carbon footprint. Tickets $35 ($28 for Museum members). Register in advance at 613-566-4791.

If that’s not enough, it’s also a good time of year to check out a Farmers’ Market or go for a hike and enjoy the start of autumn.

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.)

Honouring Elder William Commanda

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

A bright light has gone out in Ottawa. The ‘Morning Star,’ though, continues to illuminate our way.

On August 3, Algonquin Elder William Commanda – whose name, Ojigkwanong, means Morning Star – passed away at the age of 97 at his home in Kitigan Zibi near Maniwaki.

Commanda, also called “Grandfather,” was a spiritual leader, teacher, former chief and much more – a trapper, guide and expert canoe maker, and a spokesperson for the environment and for peace among cultures. He was active internationally, but his efforts to promote respect for the earth often centred on Ottawa. He spoke out against pollution of the Ottawa River and destruction of the South March Highlands. He described the South March Highlands as a site of irreplaceable biodiversity and archaeological heritage, and “a most sacred landscape.” I heard him speak eloquently in January about the need to preserve the Beaver Pond Forest.

Grandfather Commanda was also working toward the establishment of an indigenous centre, Asinabka, on Victoria Island and at Chaudière Falls to serve as a national historic site and a peace-building and environmental centre.

He was given the key to the City of Ottawa in 2006, named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2008, and received a lifetime achievement award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards Foundation in 2010. He greeted the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela during their respective visits to Ottawa in 1990 and 1998, received numerous other awards and honours for conservation and peace, and featured in several documentaries including the National Film Board’s Ojigkwanong: Encounter with an Algonquin Sage.

Grandfather was also keeper of three sacred wampum belts, which he said documented and guided relationships among people and between people and nature. He founded the Circle of All Nations, a group “committed to respect for Mother Earth, promotion of racial harmony, advancement of social justice, recognition and honouring of indigenous wisdom and peace building.” He advised on ecological issues and appeared at several United Nations conferences.

His messages of reconciliation and environmental stewardship inspired many people. Earlier this year, after he said that the Beaver Pond Forest was sacred, Daniel Bernard Amikwabe kept a Sacred Fire burning at the Forest to protest its destruction. Others have spoken of the importance of carrying on his work.

In a letter dated January 6, 2011 to Ottawa’s Mayor and City Councillors about the South March Highlands, Grandfather wrote: “…in the final analysis, we are all connected – with the water we drink, the air we breathe, with the food, medicines and gifts the earth provides us, with the animal teachers, with the larger universe, and with each other.” Words that ought to continue to guide our decisions and choices.


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An event to celebrate the natural world and honour Grandfather Commanda will take place at Beaver Pond Park, at the end of Walden Drive in Kanata, on Saturday, September 10 from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. The event will include a Sunrise Ceremony and Sacred Fire, Barbecue Lunch and Dinner, an edible plant walk with Martha Weber, a cycle with Kurtis Benedetti, a photo contest, music, guest speakers and more. See or!/event.php?eid=258047284219720 for details. Everyone is welcome, and donations and volunteers for the event are also appreciated.

Eco-Events in Ottawa Area, end of July 2011

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

Some upcoming events worth checking out:

Support the South March Highlands at the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights monument (in front of City Hall on Elgin St.) on Thursday July 28 at noon. Speakers include Sierra Club of Canada President John Bennett and Kurtis Benedetti, a 23-year-old Ottawa resident who is arriving home after cycling from Cape Breton to Ottawa – 2100 km – to raise awareness about the South March Highlands. Organisers will also read messages from Order of Canada recipient Grandfather William Commanda, Greenpeace and other supporters. After the rally, people are welcome to ride with Kurtis for the last leg of his journey, to the South March Highlands (about 20 km).

From the event press release: “Ottawa is believed to be the only major urban city in the world to have such a biodiverse, old-growth forest harbouring large mammals and endangered species within its urban boundaries. (Vancouver, with Stanley Park, is a distant second.) The forest contains provincially significant wetlands and has two provincial nominations as an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI), putting it on a par with Algonquin Park. Archaeological artifacts have been found nearby showing evidence of pre-contact occupation, and the area is believed to have high potential as a

World Heritage Site. Algonquin Nations have been vocal in calling for a new comprehensive archaeological assessment of the area. Despite being officially declared as Environmental Area in 1970 and officially “protected” for more than two decades, only a third of the original South March Highlands remains….In 2011, the International Year of the Forest, with the blessing of the Ontario Municipal Board and Ottawa’s newly elected City Council, developers clear-cut a large portion of the area known at the Beaver Pond Forest. Despite the loss, some 15,000 Canadian citizens, First Nations and organizations vow to continue the fight to save the remaining South March Highlands.” For more information:, and

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The Rideau Canal Festival takes place July 28-August 1 at several spots along the canal including Confederation Park, the Ottawa Locks (at Bytown Museum), and Dows Lake Pavilion. The Festival is a celebration of the Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and features a range of activities. New this year are an art show and world heritage concerts (which include environmental storytelling for children), and a Bicycle Chic fashion show. Admission applies to some events.

As part of the Festival, the Energy Ottawa Ecosphere Environmental Fair takes place starting July 30. This “environmental and green building fair” is organised by Group Ecosphere, a non-profit organization, and includes exhibits from companies and organisations about green building, new technologies, organic farming, alternative medicines and other services. For more information: and

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Pinhey’s Point Historic Site has a Campfire and Storytelling event on July 29 at 7:00 p.m. Gather around the campfire, roast marshmallows and listen to First Nations stories and legends. Reservations required; cost is $6 per child, $10 for two or $16 per family. For more information on this and other great local museum programming: