Sustainable Cities Community Classroom

Posted by Denise Deby. Thanks to David Mazur-Goulet, OREC, for information.

How can cities, with their significant environmental footprints, be sustainable?

The Ottawa Renewable Energy Coop (OREC), Octopus Books and delegates of the EU-Canada Municipal Cooperation on Urban Policy are addressing that question in a discussion on cities and climate solutions.

They’ll share “real world examples of people coming together with the common goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

It’s on Wednesday, May 18, 2016, 7-9 p.m. at Octopus Books’ Centretown location (251 Bank St.), $5 or pay what you can.

For more details and to register, see OREC’s or Octopus Books’ websites.

Jane’s Walk Ottawa-Gatineau 2016

Written by Denise Deby.

Jane’s Walk Ottawa-Gatineau Launch Party, Friday May 6, 2016

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.

Check out the full program and more about Jane’s Walk at



April Environmental Events in Ottawa

Written by Denise Deby.

Ottawa-March 27, 2009-First Flowers 6 by Douglas Sprott on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic
Ottawa-March 27, 2009-First Flowers 6 by Douglas Sprott on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic

April is always a busy month for environment-related events. Here are a few coming up:

For inspiration about acting on climate change:

Development and Peace, the Canadian Religious Conference, Equiterre and Citizens for Public Justice are holding a talk on Paris Climate Conference: And After? along with the film This Changes Everything. It’s at Saint Paul University (223 Main St.) on Tuesday, Apr. 5, 2016.

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.

Ottawa hosts a National Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation for industry, governments and organizations Apr. 12-14, 2016.

For inspiration on understanding and protecting nature and ourselves within it:

Local conservation biologist and author Robert Alvo launches Being 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 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 film Love Thy Nature, coming to the Mayfair Theatre Apr. 10, 11 and 13, 2016, explores humanity’s connection with the natural world.

On Thursday, Apr. 14, 2016, Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees plays at the Mayfair. The documentary follows scientist and environmentalist Diana Beresford-Kroeger as she explores ancient trees. (See for details.)

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.

Of course, April 22 is Earth Day. Check for events at

To stay up to date with local environmental events, check out the great event calendars at Green Ottawa, Ecology Ottawa and Transition Ottawa.

What’s On in February

Written by Denise Deby.

Churchill Avenue in February - D. Deby

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.

EnviroCentre and the Healthy Transportation Coalition host the Sustainable Transportation Summit: Building Equity into Ottawa’s Transportation System on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. Sessions cover how to improve equity in transportation planning and delivery, and practical steps that we in Ottawa can take to make sustainable transportation available to everyone. The Summit is 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (with a lunch at 12:30) at City Hall. More information here.



A City for People?

Written by Denise Deby.

Hot Air Ballon Ride by Shanta Rohse on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
“Hot Air Ballon Ride” by Shanta Rohse on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

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.”

Spacing Ottawa has a great write-up about the problems with the LeBreton Flats process, and what people can do about it, at Read it, and have your say at (the National Capital Commission’s site for public input on the two proposals) until February 8, 2016.




Protecting the South March Highlands Now and in Future

Written by Denise Deby.


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.

The Highlands are not protected, though.

Outside the city’s South March Highlands Conservation Forest, much of the rest is slated for development, which has been encroaching on the Highlands for years. Recently, developer KNL has applied to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to destroy up to 120 Butternut trees, as well as Blandings Turtles and Least Bitterns–all species at risk–and their habitats, which are protected under legislation.

What can you do to help protect the South March Highlands?

Paul Renaud, a field naturalist and long-time advocate for the Highlands, has some recommendations:

* Ask the City of Ottawa to include all of the South March Highlands in its Urban Forest Management Plan. Several areas including Trillium Woods and other forest and wetlands are being left out, says Paul. You can write to Mayor Jim Watson (, City Councillor and Environment Committee Chair David Chernushenko (, and urban forester Martha Copestake ( Find more information here.

* Comment by February 3, February 17, 2016 on KNL’s application to adversely affect several species at risk and their habitats in the South March Highlands. You can write or submit comments online at

* Contact Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna (, 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, 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:…/Pres…/2016-01-01_SMH_Overview_v21.pdf

Municipal Action on the Environment: Vancouver, Ottawa

Written by Denise Deby.

Human Rights Monument by Ross Dunn on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
Human Rights Monument by Ross Dunn on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

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.