Opinion – Old Ottawa East Seniors Can Do More For the Planet With Their Time, Voice and Money

By Roy Culpepper

Photo by Emma Bider

Photo by Emma Bider

Another blazing hot summer is upon us. It’s that time of year when you appreciate all the neighbourhood has to offer: Shade from old, robust trees, and a cool breeze off the Rideau River. But, as we all know, our climate is changing for the worse.

Sadly, our beautiful trees are not things we can take for granted. According to climatologists, Ottawa had the driest May in 75 years. The water table remains low, and the lack of regular rain is especially hard on our trees. However, as we saw in September 2018, when six tornadoes ravaged Ottawa, extreme weather can also spawn violent storms and severe flooding.

It is easy to feel defeated by this summer’s news, even as we regain our lives from COVID-19, but now is not the time to give up.

It’s my belief, as one of the neighbourhood’s older residents, that those of us who find ourselves with valuable time, expertise and investments, can make a difference when it comes to climate change. It is for this reason that I became a founding member of Climate Legacy, an organization dedicated to connecting seniors to climate action.

The project came about because many seniors wish to leave a much healthier planetary legacy to their children, grandchildren, and generations to come, but often aren’t sure where to start. As my colleagues and I have had the pleasure of witnessing, our generation can and does make a difference at the local to national levels. We are dedicated to highlighting these efforts, in the hopes that they will inspire other seniors. I’ll offer just a few examples.

We have built a network of over two dozen organizations engaged in action on climate change. Some, like the Canadian Association for the Club of Rome, provide a space for discussion on global, national and local climate issues. Others focus on specific actions to change policies or behaviour. For example, Below 2C in Ottawa is part of a #FireYourFossilBank campaign, encouraging folks to move their savings and investments away from Canada’s Big 5 Banks, who regularly fund fossil fuel expansion.

The campaign offers tools to move your money and has even inspired a few protests across the country.

Similarly, seniors are talking to their pension fund managers about divesting from fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy and green technology. The movement to divest is picking up steam—there are easier ways to maintain a green portfolio every day, as financial institutions begin to realize which way the wind is blowing.

As an economist, I’m focused on how our money can be mobilized for climate action. But that can also mean being pickier about what you consume and from where.

We have Nu Grocery in the neighbourhood, the Green Door Restaurant and the Main Farmers’ Market where we can connect with local producers, in addition to other eco-conscious, local businesses to patronize. These are just a few examples, but they serve my point.

And then of course there are the basics: plant a pollinator garden. Talk about climate change with your friends and family. Join our Old Ottawa East community association and Sustainable Living Ottawa East (SLOE) and see what environmental work they are doing.

Clearly, there are numerous ways for seniors to do their part, and Climate Legacy is a resource for those who are interested but not sure where to start.

After all, now more than ever, we need everyone’s help to defend our natural heritage.

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