Making Cycling Safe in Ottawa

Chalk tributes and calls for action for safe cycling, Ottawa City Hall, May 22 2019 – D. Deby photo

Update:Rolling for Justice Bike Ride and Gathering will take place on Wednesday, May 22 at 7:45 a.m. to show respect for the person who lost their life and to press for safe cycling in Ottawa. Everyone is welcome to cycle, roll or walk together, starting at the southwest corner of Nicholas and Laurier at 7:45 a.m. and ending at City Hall. Organizers encourage people to wear black and to ride silently. Further details on the Facebook event page, and/or follow #ottbike and #ottbikeaction on Twitter.

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Sorrow, anger, fear.

These are some of the feelings prompted by yet another death of an Ottawa resident, while he was cycling on one of Ottawa’s designated bike routes.

Sorrow—for the person who was killed, his family and friends and their loss.

Anger—that infrastructure- and driver-caused injuries and deaths are normalized in our city and that prevention of those injuries and deaths is not treated as a priority.

Fear—that while I’m cycling to and from work or errands my life is at risk. My own routes often take me on the Laurier Bike Lane, or through the Parkdale-Ruskin intersection. While the city has made some welcome improvements in cycling infrastructure, cycling in Ottawa is still unacceptably dangerous.

Improving it requires collective action and investments in better infrastructure, including changes in the way we think about and value those who use non-vehicle modes of transportation. As a cyclist, I try to bike safely and defensively, but all the helmets, lights, reflectors and bright orange vests I personally invest in are not going to keep me safe.

What was heartening yesterday was the groundswell of people, including city councillors, who spoke up, gathered outside City Hall, and left tributes to the cyclist. Hopefully this will be a turning point in our tolerance for cyclist and pedestrian injuries and deaths.

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Jane’s Walk Ottawa 2019

Jane’s Walk Ottawa poster “Explore, share stories about your community, and connect with neighbours” courtesy of Jane’s Walk Ottawa

Jane’s Walk Ottawa is happening on Saturday, May 4 and Sunday May 5, 2019.

This wonderful annual series of urban and neighbourhood walking tours is a celebration of the built and natural environments and how residents shape those environments through their daily lives.

This year Jane’s Walk seems particularly poignant, as communities in Ottawa-Gatineau pull together to address flooding, both shaping and being shaped by the rivers, urban and rural landscapes and infrastructure, and weather.

If you can, check out some of the impressive walks this weekend—the Jane’s Walk Ottawa schedule includes more than 50. Walks are led by knowledgeable local residents, are held in English and/or French, and are free.

Here are some examples:

There’s also a celebration to mark what would have been the 103rd birthday of Jane Jacobs, with a reading from Walking in the City with Jane by author Susan Hughes, colouring with Ottawa in Colour, games and cake, on Saturday, May 4, 4-7 p.m.; and a Jane’s Walk Wrap Party on Sunday, May 5.

Jane’s Walks celebrate, challenge and enlighten our perspectives on the city and the choices we make that influence it. Do check it out!

Consult the schedule of walks and interactive map on the Jane’s Walk Ottawa website.

Thoughts are with everyone continuing to deal with the flooding.

Image of Canadian Museum of History with Jane Jacobs quote “Designing a dream city is easy – rebuilding a living one takes imagination” courtesy of Jane’s Walk Ottawa

Faith Communities and Creating Green Cities

Trinity Presbyterian Youth Wildlife Garden – photo courtesy Katherine Forster, Faith & the Common Good

Guest post written by Katherine Forster, Faith & the Common Good.

Faith Communities as Allies in Creating Ecologically Green Cities

Whether it is an expansive turf lawn that can be changed into an urban meadow, or a flat roof on a community hall that can support a new living ground cover to soak up rain, or whether it is a new grouping of native shrubs that provide food & shelter for migrating birds, faith communities can help add beneficial green to a city, starting with their own landscape.

Many times faith communities are a prominent part of a neighbourhood’s “main street” or are in a central location of a local community. They become community hubs, improving the quality of life for local residents through offering services, seeking community partnerships and by providing meeting space for various programs for all age ranges, from scouting groups, to addiction support groups to gardening clubs for example. Community gatherings in these beautiful spaces provide that extra green benefit. Neighbours meet each other at local community gardens or in serene courtyards where music concerts are held or at special community events such as labyrinth walks or historic cemetery strolls. Many place of worship gardens are open to the public, offering a safe space, quiet reflection and a welcoming message to all. These green spaces are integral to community life and contribute to the wider neighbourhood as a sustainable and ecological example allowing biodiversity to flourish within cities.

Sustainable and Ecological Gardening Support for Places of Worship

Faith & the Common Good, a national environmental non-profit with a local active Ottawa Chapter, has been working to address this need in our city by offering support to Ottawa faith & spiritual communities that want to envision their properties in this new way.

In the past two years, the Ottawa Chapter has provided an Outdoor Greening program offering education, inspiration and funding support to local faith & spiritual communities that are interested in ecological and sustainable gardening. Resources and support include:

  • Ten Outdoor Greening fact sheets (how to on various subjects including drought resistant native plants, wildlife gardening and sustainable garden tips);
  • Ten Local Case Studies (showcasing local gardens including Sacred Medicine gardens, Labyrinth gardens and Community gardens);
  • Sustainable Garden Audits (which included plus a written Audit Reports that includes next steps);
  • Interfaith Sustainable Garden Network (providing updates about local initiatives, garden events and tips for beautiful and environmental gardens).

Along with the above resources and support five faith communities received free native pollinator wildflower plants from Wild Pollinator Partners (a new initiative in the Eastern Ontario region).

Winter Garden Presentations to Inspire Spring Gardening

As a follow-up to the outdoor audits and free native plant donations, this winter the Ottawa Chapter of Faith & the Common Good is providing educational gardening presentations & sharing their resources to other keen gardeners in preparation for the upcoming spring gardening season. It’s a pleasant way to spend a cold winter evening, talking about beautiful native blooms, lovely scenic landscapes and potential garden visitors like butterflies and birds! And it is also a wonderful opportunity for people of faith to learn how to “Care for Creation” in a very direct and tangible way.

Our new local network hopes that as this green garden movement grows (pardon the pun!) it will increase local habitat, provide more healthy green linkages and it start changing the ecological fabric of the city for the benefit of all.

Contact Faith & the Common Good if your faith or spiritual community would like to be the next ecological green space for the city! Contact Katherine Forster to learn more about how you can transform your property.

Local & National Environmental Foundations Fund These Important Programs!

Faith & the Common Good’s 2018-2019 Outdoor Greening Program in Ottawa is funded by TD Friends of the Environment, Ottawa Community Foundation and the City of Ottawa’s CEPGP program who have made possible the opportunity to visit 15 faith communities, support 2 new gardens and educate over ten new communities on the benefits of a sustainable and ecological garden. Many thanks to these granters for the generous support to our program!

Peaceful Community Garden Open to All – photo courtesy Katherine Forster, Faith & the Common Good

Momentum for Climate Action in Ottawa

Update: Ottawa City Council declared on Apr. 24 that the city is facing a climate emergency. Councillors passed a motion that includes attention and funding to get the city back on track on its renewable energy and other climate change-related plans and measures.

It’s an excellent step that needs to be followed by further action, but it speaks to the priority that our elected officials are willing to give to this. Thanks to City Councillor Shawn Menard for putting forward the motion, the majority of Councillors and the Mayor who voted in favour, and Ecology Ottawa and all of the individuals and groups–particularly young people–who organized to let Council know residents want to see action on climate change.

See Ecology Ottawa’s helpful Explainer for a detailed analysis of the climate emergency motion and its significance for Ottawa.

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Kudos to Ottawa’s Environment Committee for passing a motion for the City to declare a climate emergency and to intensify measures to address greenhouse gas emissions.

There was recognition that climate change is affecting Ottawa, that action on climate change is needed now, and that coming generations are counting on us to move quickly.

Much respect to Ecology Ottawa and to all the people and groups who shared their views with their elected officials, showed up outside City Hall and at the Committee meeting.

We’re looking forward to the full City Council passing the motion on Wednesday, Apr. 24, 2019.

 

 

Creating the Impetus for Climate Action in Ottawa

Snow and ice on an Ottawa street – D. Deby photo

April’s snow and freezing rain, on top of several months of seemingly erratic weather, is a reminder that climate change is not a future scenario but a current reality.

Last week the federal government released a report, Canada in a Changing Climate. The report gathers the science on the effects of climate change in Canada, and sets out what is expected to happen with and without significant climate action.

One of the report’s main findings: Canada’s climate is warming more than twice as fast as the global average, due to a complexity of factors.

With climate change, we’ll continue to experience increased weather extremes and their effects: hotter temperatures, higher likelihood of high precipitation, flooding, changes to snow and ice cover, and risk of freshwater shortages, to name a few.

The report indicates that the degree to which we will experience these changes depends on how much and how fast we act.

For example, in Ontario, if greenhouse gas emissions are kept relatively low, the number of days over 30 degrees Celsius will increase by four in the latter part of this century. If emissions are high, the number of 30+ degree days is projected to increase by 38. The lower emissions scenario requires “rapid and deep emission reductions.”

Making those reductions requires concerted effort at all levels: individual, local, national and international. It’s daunting, but here’s a place to start:

Everyone is welcome to follow and contribute perspectives to the federal Canada in a Changing Climate initiative.

Infographic on Canada’s Changing Climate, from “Canada in a Changing Climate” report https://changingclimate.ca/CCCR2019/

 

Energy Action in Ottawa and Beyond

Solar panels image via publicdomainpictures.net

Welcome to Ottawa! Including to everyone driving big trucks en masse from across the country into downtown in the next couple of days. We’re so glad you could join us for Climate Action Week.

Climate Action Week is all about sustainable and renewable energy, focused on practical solutions to energy challenges. Yes, there are solutions, and yes, it’s time.

I get it. I want to be heard, be treated fairly and keep my family warm, healthy and safe too. My family roots are in fact in rural Alberta and small town B.C. and Saskatchewan, where my ancestors settled on Cree and other Indigenous lands and made a living there. I currently depend on fossil fuels that others work hard to provide.

The thing is, that’s what unsustainable means. An energy economy and livelihoods that are built on unsustainable energy sources—not to mention on trampling on Indigenous rights and damaging the environment that we all depend on—can’t last. We have to stop investing in this and make the transition to alternative sources, together. That—not fear and frustration and hatred—is what should unite us.

If your purpose in coming is to spread hatred and chaos, don’t bother. We have no room for that in this city, or this country.

If you’re a public figure trying to score political points from this mess, you should stop, and repair the damage you’ve caused.

If you’re concerned about all of this, help draw attention to the people, groups and businesses who are finding solutions. That’s the way we will all survive.

Climate Action in Ottawa

In January, Ottawa City Council voted 19-3 to change the name of the City’s standing committee on Environment and Climate Protection to Environmental Protection, Water and Waste.

This change in wording may seem minor, but it signifies something important. The new title suggests a view of the “environment” as something separate from our regular day-to-day existence, something we can allocate some small space to in our backyards or parks and tend from time to time. It conveys the perspective that the environment is primarily a municipal service to be delivered, rather than the very context in which we live and breathe.

Dropping the “climate” part goes counter to the urgency of taking action to address climate change, as underlined yet again by the world’s scientists and experts in calling for “‘rapid and far-reaching’ transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities” to limit global warming and its consequences. It’s a disconnect from the reality of the weather extremes that we’re experiencing and that are projected to worsen if we do nothing or too little.

At the same meeting, Ottawa City Council did discuss incorporating a “climate impact lens” across all committees and departments, but not right away.

Some municipalities, including Vancouver, Halifax and other cities around the world, are declaring climate change an emergency requiring immediate action. Here in Ottawa, political leadership at all levels—municipal, provincial and federal—is sorely lacking. Some positive measures have been introduced, but leadership has often been coming from community members and groups, including young people, instead. Some examples:

  • Inspired by Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, high school and university students in Europe, North America and elsewhere are organizing school strikes for climate action. Groups have been meeting on Parliament Hill and Confederation Park every month or weekly on Fridays to press for change.
  • Powershift: Young and Rising is happening on Algonquin Anishinabe land (Ottawa) from February 14-18, 2019. Hundreds of people, particularly young people, are expected to gather at this climate justice conference, to share ways to prompt climate action and create an alternative vision of equitable, sustainable living, through art, organizing and other strategies.
  • Ecology Ottawa has launched a campaign calling on Ottawa City Council to make climate action a priority in the 2019 budget and next Term of Council Priorities, and is asking people to sign a petition on their website.

Also:

  • 350.org Ottawa will be hosting Elizabeth May on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 to speak about the connections between the tornadoes that hit Ottawa last October and climate change.
  • Several groups are taking part in Climate Action Week 2019 in Ottawa, February 14-23, 2019, hosting a series of activities focused on transitioning to sustainable energy sources.

We do have climate leaders, climate solutions and people who care. The shift is coming.