This is the fourth blog in the Leadership Spotlight series showcasing environmental groups across Canada and the support they receive or lack from political leaders. The series will present a wide spectrum of views that do not necessarily reflect the views of GreenPAC.
If you talk to any Canadian, they’ll tell you the political capital is Ottawa and the green capital is Vancouver. Ecology Ottawa, a volunteer-driven non-profit working to bring about environmental awareness and political change, wants to challenge that assumption.
We sat down with Acting Executive Director Robb Barnes to get the inside scoop on how to green a city and its citizens.
For Ecology Ottawa, it means focusing on three key areas:
Green space, water and trees.
Transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.
Renewable energy, particularly as a means of temperature control for homes and businesses.
“People tend to think of climate change as an international problem, and that’s not wrong. But a lot of the steps we need to take to mitigate emissions and adapt to climate change need to happen at the local level.” Robb says.
Right now in Ottawa, that means pushing for a renewable energy strategy that the municipal government promised three years ago. The Ecology Ottawa team has been educating citizens about renewables, the importance of clean energy, and why now is the time to put pressure on city council.
“This fall, the City of Ottawa has an opportunity to move forward a plan to reduce emissions from buildings and the built environment,” he explains. “We see this as an opportunity to mobilize area residents to demand a real clean energy strategy—something with funding and meaningful policy changes attached to it.”
Robb believes leadership from all levels of government is necessary for substantive environmental policy improvements—citing a win on stopping the spillage of untreated sewage into the Ottawa River in 2014. But he also knows the power of the people in influencing elections, platforms, and policies.
“If you know where to look, you can find leaders in every political party, at every level of government. There are some people who get it,” says Robb. Psst! GreenPAC endorses proven environmental leaders in all major parties provincially and federally. Check out all endorsements here: www.greenpac.ca/campaigns
“But at the same time, I wouldn’t be in this job if I thought things were working perfectly well. We need people and NGOs to drive this change, and we need the change to happen quickly and thoroughly.”
Want to green your city? Have an environmental issue you feel passionate about? Both GreenPAC and Ecology Ottawa encourage you to plug in with the group that shares your values. “We aren’t going to win by one person having all the right answers,” he says. “Real environmental leadership requires many voices and moving forward with a vision of the future that is inclusive and engaging.”
Danielle Pal was a summer intern at GreenPAC. Click here for more on the Ecology Ottawa.