Things To Be Thankful For

Written by Denise Deby.

Rideau River - Strathcona Park - D. Deby photo

Here are a few things I’m thankful for these days:

Advocacy: I’m grateful to all the wonderful people around who are speaking up about what needs to be changed, finding creative solutionsorganizing opportunities for others to make a difference, and inspiring the rest of us to think, live and act more mindfully.

Art: Ottawa has many impressive people who through their art, music, films, stories and other creative pursuits are not just spreading the work about environmental and social issues, but helping us see that different ways of thinking and acting are possible. (Don’t miss the Walking With Our Sisters memorial, a powerful tribute to missing and murdered Indigenous women, at Carleton University’s Art Gallery until Oct. 16, 2015.)

Being a part of nature: Getting outdoors is calming, rejuvenating and a reminder of our connection with other things. Right now the air is crisp, the colours magnificent and local forests, parks and recreational paths plentiful. (Gatineau Park and Greenbelt trails can be crowded this time of year, but they’re splendid, as is the South March Highlands. Going for a bike ride, or a walk through a park or neighbourhood, are other things that make me happy.)

Biodiversity: Although we’re losing ground on biodiversity, it’s what keeps us resilient. Fortunately, there are organizations and individuals helping us rebuild biodiversity in our food system, and protect species and habitats. (Try USC Canada’s 10-minute game to get family or friends talking about biodiversity and why it matters, or read up about it.)

Food: This is of course the time of year to celebrate the harvest. (A visit to a farmers’ market or pumpkin patch is a great autumn activity.)

Water: I’m thankful for water and its life-giving properties. I’m worried about threats to it, and grateful to groups working to protect water sources locally and farther afield. (Check out these suggestions of water issues to raise with your federal candidates.)

Other things I’m thankful for: family, friends and community; health; time (including time to be thankful!); and oh, so much more.

You’re welcome to share some of the things you’re thankful for, in the comments—I’ll be grateful. : )

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.


Chaudière Falls and The Islands

Written by Denise Deby.

Photo by Shanta Rohse on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
Photo by Shanta Rohse on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

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.

You can find out more about the area and the vision at and

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.

If you’re interested in finding out more:

Indigenous Peoples’ Solidarity Movement Ottawa is inviting people to a Decolonial Picnic at Chaudière Falls on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. Walk or bike from Dundonald Park (Somerset and Bay) to Victoria Island with a group starting at 1:30 p.m., or meet at Victoria Island at 2:30 p.m. Includes a tour of the Island and the Falls and a discussion about the proposed development, as well as food and music. Check the Facebook page for details.

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 for details.

The next morning, Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, there’s a rally to support the vision of an inclusive site. It’s at the Human Rights Monument outside City Hall starting at 8:30 a.m.; see for details.

See also APTN’s recent story.

Ways to Mark Canada Day

Written by Denise Deby.

Ottawa River from Victoria Island D Deby (2)

You already know about the Parliament Hill events, the neighbourhood barbecues, the fireworks. Here are a few other ways to make Canada a more liveable and just place:

1. Learn more about this country of ours by reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. The Commission sets out what happened at residential schools and recommends how non-Indigenous and Indigenous people can renew their relationships based on understanding and respect. Make reading the Executive Summary a Canada Day or summer project; listen to Indigenous people across the country reading excerpts of the report.

2. Chances are there’s a river or lake near your Canada Day celebration, and chances are it’s not protected by law from industrial pollution or other risks. Ask the Canadian government to reinstitute protection of lakes and rivers (in the 2012 “budget bill” they reduced the number of protected lakes and rivers from 2.5 million to just 159). Read about Gwich’in ultramarathoner Caribou Legs’ run from Vancouver to Ottawa calling for protection of water, and sign the Council of Canadians’ petition to the federal government.

3. Youth from the Algonquin community of Kitigan Zibi and from Wakefield and Chelsea are paddling the Gatineau River from Maniwaki to Ottawa together, arriving at Victoria Island on July 1. Learn more about Chimeda, “a journey of unity and love for our waters,” and their efforts to protect the watershed for everyone, here or here. (Also take a few minutes to read about the significance of Chaudière Falls and Chaudière, Victoria and Albert Islands in the Ottawa River.)

Water, Water, Everywhere

Written by Denise Deby.

Water footprint by Tom Magliery on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
Water footprint by Tom Magliery on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Today is World Water Day, a reminder that water is central to life.

The choices we humans make—the water we drink, the food we eat, the products we consume, even the way we vote—all have consequences for water and the earth.

Here are some ways to make a difference, starting today:

1. Get to know the water around you. Visit one of the city’s rivers. (Did you know that the Ottawa River, the city’s main drinking water source and an important recreation site, is home to more than 300 bird and hundreds of other species?) Learn more about Ottawa’s water and sewage systems and how you can help reduce run-off and sewage overflows (at home, and through the Ottawa River Action Plan).

2. Use environmentally friendly household products.  (Did you know that you can make your own cleaning solutions using vinegar or baking soda?) Avoid household and personal care items that contain toxic components such as triclosan, found in some cosmetics and toothpastes, for example. Keep harmful substances from going down the drain and getting into the water system.

3. Check the “water footprint” of commonly-used household items with the help of Ecoholic Adria Vasil and journalist Stephen Leahy’s Your Water Footprint. (Did you know that it takes 400,000 litres of water to make a car, and more than 15,000 litres to produce 1 kg of beef?) Buy secondhand and recycle whenever possible.

4. Speak up about how water is managed, and how industry is allowed to use water:

5. Learn more about the right to water and how to ensure that everyone has access to safe water and sanitation.

(Here’s more about World Water Day and Canadian Water Week.)

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