This wonderful weekend to discover the city is happening on Saturday, May 7 and Sunday, May 8, 2016.
Jane’s Walk Ottawa-Gatineau is a weekend of walks that explore and create conversations around the history, culture, ecology, design, politics and communities of Ottawa.
The walks this year include edible plants in the city, the potential of Stittsville Main Street, the turtles of Petrie Island, an Indigenous perspective on Lansdowne Park, the Poets’ Pathway in the Sawmill Creek wetlands, the history of the Deschenes Rapids, the parking lots of Parliament Hill, the Ottawa tool and seed libraries, conservation in the Pinhey Sand Dunes, l’art et la nature sur l’Île-de-Hull, and many more. All walks are led by knowledgeable and engaging volunteers.
Catch This Changes Everything again on Wednesday, Apr. 20, 2016 at Carleton University with a screening hosted by Carleton Climate Commons Working Group, 350 Ottawa, Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op and Carleton Cinema Politica.
Also on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, Impact Hub Ottawa hosts What’s next after Paris? Community action for a post-carbon future. Panelists Mitchell Beer (Smarter Shift/The Energy Mix), Mike De Souza (National Observer), Andrea Flowers (City of Ottawa), Graeme Cunningham (Bullfrog Power), Janice Ashworth (Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op) and EnviroCentre’s Carbon 613 will talk about getting involved in creating a sustainable world.
For inspiration on understanding and protecting nature and ourselves within it:
Local conservation biologist and author Robert Alvo launchesBeing a Bird in North America at Octopus Books (Glebe) on Saturday, Apr. 9, 2016. It’s a book that uses humour and science to provide a new perspective on birds.
Celebrated primatologist Jane Goodall will be speaking in Ottawa on Monday, Apr. 11, 2016 about her lifetime of research and her sustainability work with youth. (Proceeds from the event support the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada’s conservation, humanitarian and youth programs.)
The City of Ottawa is hosting Engaging Citizens in Science to showcase groups that are involving people in understanding and documenting nature. As well as speakers Dr. Jeremy Kerr (University of Ottawa, co-founder of Bumblebeewatch.org) and Andy Kenney (University of Toronto, Neighbourwoods Program), several groups will present their citizen science and research initiatives. It’s on Tuesday, Apr. 12, 2016.
The Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club has several upcoming birding and other events. Check details on their website.
For inspiration on making Ottawa a more sustainable city:
Janette Sadik-Khan led New York City’s program to create safer, more liveable streets, and wrote about the experience in Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution. She’ll be speaking in Ottawa on Wednesday, Apr. 27, 2016 at Streetfight: NY’s Urban Revolution Comes to Ottawa, a discussion organized by Ecology Ottawa and other groups.
You don’t even need to brave the elements to take part in some of these environment-related activities.
Ecology Ottawa is calling on people to get involved when the city’s Environment Committee meets on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016—in what Ecology Ottawa calls a key moment for climate action in the next 12-18 months. The Committee will be considering a Renewable Energy Strategy, the climate change management plan and a motion that includes strengthening Ottawa’s greenhouse gas reduction target and other measures. (See more here and here.) Attend the meeting (9:30 a.m. at City Hall) and/or contact your councillor and the mayor.
The Environment Committee is also reviewing a report that has implications for whether the city will support harvesting of fruit and nut trees for citizens and groups in need rather than treating it as waste. Find the report here.
The National Capital Commission is hosting The Urban Forest: From Science to Poetry through its Urbanism Lab series. The session will look at the importance of forests in the city for biodiversity and health. Speakers are Dr. Tom Smiley (Bartlett Tree Research Laboratory, North Carolina), Dr. Jérôme Dupras (Université du Québec en Outaouais) and Diana Beresford-Kroeger (author and scientist), moderated by Michael Rosen (Tree Canada). The event on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016 from 6-8 p.m. is full (there’s a waitlist), but it’s available live online. (Hope the discussion includes the at-risk South March Highlands.)
There’s another Urbanism Lab event on February 24 on cycling and Sunday Bikedays.
There’s something not quite right with planning and development in Ottawa.
The process for rejuvenating LeBreton Flats has resulted in two proposals. Both have some positive features, but both are monumental in approach, rather than human in scale, with condo towers and concrete (not to mention automobile museums). What’s lacking is a vision of public space that is inclusive, accessible, people-oriented and in keeping with the area’s natural setting and heritage.
Over on the Ottawa River, development plans for parts of the area known as Asinabka—the three islands of Victoria, Albert, and Chaudière, along with Chaudière Falls—are contested, especially by Indigenous groups. Greenspace Alliance, CPAWS, Ottawa Field Naturalists and others have also called for a reconsideration of the development.
One of Ottawa’s most biodiverse areas, the South March Highlands, is facing continued destruction through development that our decision-makers can’t seem to stop, despite legislation that should protect the habitat and species at risk there.
In these and many other cases, citizens are presented with plans for development and invited to comment, or to choose between limited options, but without significant engagement in the discussion about what the sites should be in the first place. Instead, we’re left to support or oppose–or try to find out about–a plan that’s likely to go ahead.
In a letter at Unpublished Ottawa, Michelle Reimer refers to “the repeated cycle of D.A.D. (decide, announce, defend)” that is “exhausting for the average citizen but works favorably for developers and policy makers.”
The South March Highlands is a unique area in Ottawa. It’s not well known, yet the forests, wetlands and rocky Canadian Shield within it are ecologically, geologically and culturally significant.
Home to more than 800 species, including at least 20 at risk, the Highlands contain some of Ottawa’s densest biodiversity. They also serve as important “green infrastructure”—storing and filtering water, cleaning the air, moderating climate and temperature, providing eco-corridors for species to survive, and offering trails for walkers and bikers, for example.
* Contact Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna (Catherine.McKenna@parl.gc.ca), and ask her to get the National Capital Commission to declare the entire South March Highlands a National Interest Land Mass that can no longer be developed. (If you post your message to UnpublishedOttawa.com, too, more people will see it.)
If you’d like more information on the South March Highlands and what can be done, check out these links and video:
Municipal governments have a lot of influence on the environment. Their decisions affect how we manage waste, use energy, take transportation and nurture green space. Through their actions, or inaction, cities influence air, land and water health, climate change, and the distribution of resources and benefits among citizens.
Urban governments can also be at the forefront of spurring positive environmental change, sometimes even when other levels of government fall short.
Vancouver is one city that has committed to being “the greenest city in the world,” with 2020 as the target date. Vancouver’s plan includes developing renewable energy systems, enhancing sustainable transportation, creating zero waste, strengthening the local food system and taking action in several other areas.
Can its commitment inspire Ottawa? On Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, Vancouver city councillor and deputy mayor Andrea Reimer will be here to talk about her city’s plan. Joining her are Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams, who is active locally, nationally and internationally in prompting decision-makers to address environmental and social justice, and Ottawa city councillor and chair of the city’s Environment Committee David Chernushenko.
The event, from 6-9 p.m. at City Hall, is organized by Ecology Ottawa, which in addition to its regular campaigns, promotes environmental leadership and stewardship at all levels of government, including federal.
In the Ottawa River, between Ottawa and Gatineau, the Chaudière Falls and three islands—Albert, Victoria and Chaudière—are a hidden but significant area with a lot of potential.
They’re home to a closed Domtar factory and largely cut off from public view, but a debate is raging about future plans for the site.
The area is sacred to Anishinaabeg. Local Algonquin Elder William Commanda had a dream to restore it as an internationally renowned gathering and interpretive centre and park for all people. Celebrated architect Douglas Cardinal worked with him on this, and continues to promote the vision.
At the same time, Windmill Development Group is planning to build a mix of condominium towers and townhomes, commercial space and public areas on Albert and Chaudière Islands. They’re incorporating environmental sustainability into the design, but there’s a basic disconnect between the two ideas. In one, the islands are another residential-commercial development enjoyed by the people who live and pass through there; the other offers a national site at the centre of Canada’s capital where everyone can celebrate the river and land’s heritage, wander, meet, heal, build cross-cultural understanding and welcome people from around the world.
At the heart of the conflict are unresolved questions about who owns the unceded land, and who speaks for the different communities involved.
The answers? We as citizens need to understand that what our decision-makers choose will have an effect not only in Ottawa-Gatineau but across the country, where we are only just beginning to grapple with what reconciliation means.
A free screening of DamNation takes place on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. The documentary looks at experiences of dam removal and river restoration in the U.S. At the Ottawa Citizen building, 7-9 p.m.
There’s a discussion session on Chaudière Falls and the Islands on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015: what’s happening with the area, the importance of the land and waters, and what could be done. Noon-5 p.m; see FreetheFalls.ca for details.