Be The Change! – Environment and Sustainability in Old Ottawa East

Peter Croal & Judith Kennedy

The Mainstreeter is proud to publish the first in a recurring series of environment and sustainability columns entitled Be The Change and coordinated by Judith Kennedy, Peter Croal and Jayson MacLean and open to all members of the Old Ottawa East community who harbour a particular expertise or passion about climate change or related issues affecting our environment.

It’s a tough world we live in. News about climate change and its effects arrive almost daily, with evidence increasingly suggesting that the warming of our planet is connected to a whole host of calamities both far and near: forest fires in Australia, melting polar ice and, closer to home, the Ottawa and Gatineau floods and tornadoes.

Old Ottawa East residents are also experiencing the effects. Our new normal is warmer, wetter and windier — and more unpredictable: we love our winter activities, but did you know that over the past 20 years we’ve already lost ten days per year to enjoy them each year? Hate potholes and the increased taxes to repair them? Brace for it: the increased number of freeze-thaw cycles are causing our roads to deteriorate faster, and those same cycles are also weakening your window seals. If you’re thinking of a renovation or new home build in the next five years, building codes that withstand these changing conditions will likely increase our costs.

The warming of our planet is connected to a host of changes in our climate - warmer, wetter and windier become the new normal. Photo by Peter Croal

The warming of our planet is connected to a host of changes in our climate – warmer, wetter and windier become the new normal. Photo by Peter Croal

The Rideau River has a greater risk of spring flooding which could translate to increased insurance premiums and property taxes for those living nearby. If you love the shady streets and parks of Old Ottawa East, generally drier conditions are affecting some of our tree species, too, while less severe winters have allowed the emerald ash borer larvae to survive to destroy most of our white ash trees.

The reality is that not only is the problem huge but actually doing something about it seems just as daunting, almost bordering on the impossible.

But from here in our little corner of the world, this is what we think: It’s not too late. The choices we make today will decide the future for our community, and we are capable of taking the individual and community actions to help ourselves, our city and our planet.

Many Canadians feel that climate action is the responsibility of more populous nations. It’s true that Canada’s carbon emissions are relatively small on a global scale. But, as a developed nation, we have been emitting for a longer period of time than emerging economies, and on a per-person basis Canadians have among the heaviest carbon footprints. The silver lining is that taking action can return other benefits to our community, such as cleaner air, less noise pollution, less congested commutes, reduced household costs and better health.

At the local level, in response to declaring a Climate Emergency, the City of Ottawa has created a Climate Change Master Plan. The plan identifies targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions for the City as a corporation and at the community level. As the City identifies priority areas and actions, Old Ottawa East residents can play a role in that discussion.

In fact, there are many viable fronts for action on climate change. There are energy generation and conservation, food production and waste, building efficiency, city infrastructure and transportation — and each of these can be broken down into multiple potential actions to pursue, offering plenty of ways for citizens to make a difference.

But that’s our view. We want to know what you think?

We are members of Sustainable Living Old Ottawa East (SLOE), and we’ve started this ongoing column in The Mainstreeter to hear from people in the community about how climate change is affecting them. It’s meant as a forum to share ideas and as a way to hear from people with particular expertise or passion on the subject.

Old Ottawa East residents wishing to join SLOE to help be the change we want to see in the world are invited to share your thoughts by contributing a submission of your own to this column or by contacting SLOE about its ongoing projects at sloe@ottawaeast.ca.

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