Transition Ottawa

Building Community Resilience Through Action

Redesigning Ottawa: A Response to Climate Change and Peak Oil

Hi Transition Ottawa Members,


My organization, the Canadian Biodiversity Institute, has been working on a major report to the City of Ottawa for the last year or so on the topic of what and how the city should, and needs to be doing to mitigate and adapt to climate change and peak oil, in both the short and long term.  We are looking at issues and solutions for resilience and sustainability.


Our report will be a compliment to the city's own Choosing Our Future process, but with more of a public voice and we are able to push the envelope more with our recommendations. Our report will be presented to the city (politicians and staff), as well as made available publically. Both reports will be released this coming late fall.


We have been doing a lot of public consultation through workshops, discussion groups, individual interviews, literature research, and other methods, and now would like to have your feedback on ideas and suggestions you have for what the city should be doing and how it can do it (and how it could get out of the way of, or assist citizens who are trying to become more resilient and sustainable on their own).  Topics in the report that you could send comments on include: Food and Agriculture (growing, land use, production, distribution, etc.); Transportation (cars and road infrastructure, cycling, freight, trains, etc.); Water Use and Conservation (ground water, surface water, natural features, stromwater, wastewater, etc.); Energy (use, production, distribution, alternative/green, existing systems, etc.); Biodiversity and Living Natural Systems (forests, wetlands, fields, land use and development, preservation of biodiversity, ecomonic valuation of eco-services, etc.); Waste (consumption, landfills and bio-gas, leachate, 3Rs and beyond, packaging, etc.); Green Buildings, Green Business, Human Health, Community Consultation and Engagement, and more. 


We will be including specific sections on walkable cities, complete streets, index of well-being, energy descent action plan, ecological footprint analysis, and many other topics.

Send us your visions (for what the city could look like in 20, 30 and 50 years), your recommendations, innovative ideas, and suggestions for best practices (articles, reports, videos, other references, etc.) from other cities, business, organizations, individuals, etc.


If you have anything that you would like to contribute please send it to this discussion before the end of September. We look forward to having your input and know that there will be many interesting and valuable contributions.


Many thanks for your participation.


Heather Hamilton

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Dear Heather:


Here is  a  vision Of Ottawa's  future 100  years  from now   By Roy Anderson,  which forecasts that   we will  have only about   %10 - %20 of current energy  supplies available in 100 years,  even with  alternative non fossil  fuels  becoming  more available


 It  would be an interesting  exercise to   figure  out  how  Ottawa   could  function  with only  %20 of the  current energy and how  enegy  would be rationed.  


Sadly  there is a limit on how  much individuals  can do on their own, as most people  need to  find work  to  raise  families  which  requires participation in the  current economy.  In fact  individual action   to  reduce  energy consumption ( Green  buildings, reduced car  use etc)  can make things  worse,  since   individual  reduced  consumption  increases   the energy  available  for others   decreasing its price , promoting increased  overalconsumption  (  Jevons Paradox).

My view is  that  as  fossil  fuels   become  more scarce and costly,  energy prices will  rise   and  force  individual change.  Governments   will  then be forced  to subsidize  the  energy  costs of  the increased   number of people   (  Energy Poverty) who  will  be unable  to afford  the energy prices.  Public transportation services   will  need  to be  reduced due  to high energy  costs, forcing people to relocate  closer  to work  etc. People   will only be able  to afford  to  heat  a single  room in their  house  during the winter.  Only local  food will  become afordable  due to  high transportation costs.

In  short  we will  learn  to  adapt  and learn to live a  mid  19th  century  lifestyle.  

I do  not see our  governments   and  businesses taking the  lead  on  this adaptation, as their  time  horizon is  at most  3-5 years.  An effective energy rationing  system is perhaps  the  best   we can expect from Government.(  Eg  TEQs)


Don McMaster



I recently had the opportunity of visiting Hawthorn Valley Farm in upstate New York. It is a farm run on biodynamic principles, meaning that everything left over from produce is literally plowed back into the farm. They absolutely avoid any pesticides, toxins, artificial fertilizers etc, and promote local understanding of the farming principles. Biodynamics was founded by Rudolf Steiner, who also founded the Waldorf schools. So people working on the farm are required to know Steiner's philosophy known as anthroposophy. Without exception, the people that i spoke to on the farm were enthused, excited and happy to be there, they felt they were priviledges to have the opportunity to work there. We met several children who were in summer camps on the farm. They are required to assist on the farm in many capacities, and learn to love the animals and understand the principles behind sustainability first hand. The Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School is closely associated with the farm, as located just across the road, and the students get plenty of opportunity to work and learn on the farm. There is also a produce store on the farm, which sells farm produce and produce from other local organic and sustainable farms and producers. They had a very wide range of products.

I think this would be an ideal use for the our Green Belt. Instead of letting the land out to large concerns that use toxic chemicals, and exhaust the land using phosphate based artificial fertilizers instead of organic animal and plant waste, we could let the land to a number of small concerns who are committed to an organic way of farming, and have a few of these farms along the Green Belt, each with its associated Waldorf style school or schools. These schools should however be under the auspices of the OCDSB because allowing them to be private schools would bring up the issue of cost and exclusivity, limiting access often to those who can most benefit from it.

The skills learnt on a farm, the contact and caring for animals, the awareness of where our food comes from and what is involved in producing it, and how to further process the products of the farms for longer storage (canning, baking, preserving etc) would be invaluable to our communities, and make people more in contact with and caring of our earth. 

The communities connections encouraged through a system like this would also strengthen the Ottawa community ties as well.

Also, having this production of local, healthy produce would be a great buffer if problems with supply arise elsewhere, allowing Ottawa to be more resilient and robust in times of upheaval.

Although I am not very familiar with anthroposophy I have been told by people I trust that the philosophy is sound. Whether one would want to adhere to it strictly would be a matter of individual farms' concerns.

I do not for a moment suggest that we clear the wild areas of the Green Belt. Those are necessary for community understanding of wild areas an as reservoirs of biodiversity and threatened species. In fact I think the swamps and marshes in the east of the city should be incorporated as they are as wildlife preserve to help conserve wetlands, which are so important for the health of our planet. I would, by preference, also include the South march Highlands for the same reasons, especially since it is home to several threatened species. 

I would love to see this happen within the next 5-10 years, before more land is cleared, or more toxins are poured into those ares or more endemic species are endangered or wiped out. The Greenbelt should belong to everyone in Ottawa,and not serve as the means of enriching a few, even for the rents that brings into the city coffers. I believe that the educational value and the health benefits to our residents and especially children would more than pay for the running of the farms. The savings in health costs for all in Ottawa, and thus to the taxpayer base by keeping the lands free of artificial chemicals, helping to keep our local streams healthy, and possibly increasing the tree cover where possible to help clean the air, as well as the reduction in health costs from stress reduced by having this healthy environment and sanctuary in our city, on their own should amount to substantial savings. In addition, the farms would earn income from produce, from courses for adults in sustainable agriculture and produce preservation, as well as other courses which could be related - farm machinery maintenance, joinery and carpentry, cabinet making, watercourse preservation, and general awareness of what we are doing to our planet and how to reduce our impact on it. I am not even talking about global warming, though that is obviously a major issue. I am more concerned with the more direct results of our unsustainable practices - pollution of our water, air and land, the resultant respiratory diseases, gastric complaints and cancers, depletion of our resources faster than the environment can replenish them (like clean water, healthy soil, clean air) Issues that people can see directly, and feel directly - such as an improvement of health due to less toxins in the immediate environment.

This approach to our environment, rebuilding extended communities, and relearning basic skills such as small-scale farming, food preservation and cooking are essential if we are to be at all sure of bequeathing our children and their children a planet anywhere near as lovely as the one we took into trust from out parents.

It would also be a good thing if local industries that are not run on sustainable line or are not run cleanly - avoiding putting toxins into the environment, should be made aware that if they do not clean up their act they will be required to compensate the local people, clean up their mess, or risk expropriation of their property for further extensions to the biodynamic farming system, but I suppose that is getting a bit too idealistic.


I hope you can see you way to including a plan of this sort in your overall plan.




Tess Frost, Nepean

I would also like to see the strong expansion of public transit, greater discouragement of private vehicles through co-ops, effective, affordable and regular transit systems, intercity railways increased to improve goods transportation and reducing the number of large trucks on the road, decentralization increased to reduce commuting. I am not at all sure how these things would be implemented, but I believe they are essential to a better life for all.

Further, by reducing work-weeks and increasing vacations, along the lines of the very successful practices now in place in Europe (which also increase employment), encouraging people to use less and thus spend less, moving away from a consumerist economy which is inherently unsustainable, and encouraging the formation of extended, supportive communities, we will be able to increase the quality of life, reduce stress and the associated health costs, probably reduce the incidence of crime (by reduction of need-induced crime, and decreasing anonymity without actually using Big Brother systems, as well as increasing personal support of those who are vulnerable to falling into criminal ways), tap into the very real human need (See UBC studies) to be useful and kind to others instead of grasping and suspicious, and be able to focus on happiness instead of wealth is a measure of success in life.

Thank you for the opportunity to add my ideas to the table.


Tess Frost, Nepean



One can plan wonderful designs for bike paths, organic foods, alternative fuel sources, green housing, etc., but all this is for nought if the air and water is poisoning us.


The brutal truth of the future of the planet (and our cities, and ourselves) is that we are quickly approaching the dangerous point where air quality and water quality threaten rather than help us thrive.


Wake up. It's time to prioritize.

Do your bit, even if it seems insignificant (or silly) to you.


If you do the following, you will be making a positive change to your natural environment:


NEVER, ever burn firewood or use firepits! (Did you know that burning wood releases small, sharp particles that get impended in lungs and over time greatly increase reported cases of asthma and lung cancer?)


NEVER use air fresheners, dryer sheets, scented detergents (avoid scented products of ANY kind)


AVOID synthetic items as much as possible (I shudder every time I see Little Tikes items - plastic is still a major air and water pollutant). Substitute waxpaper for saran wrap, for example.


AVOID using anything that produces smoke of any kind (such as gas lawnmowers, barbecues (a proven cancer risk, see )-- even burning just a few candles pollutes indoor air considerably)


NEVER throw anything down a sink that you wouldn't put into a fishtank! (By the way, did you know that flushing toothfloss is costly to the City of Ottawa's water treatment plants? Learned this at Open Doors!!!)


Let's hope that through our efforts the next generation will be able to find edible fish in our waters and breathe clean air deep into their lungs!


Now THAT would be a redesigned Ottawa!




My studies focus on urbanism, the science of people living in close proximity to save energy and expand creativity and diversity.  We need to understand the dynamics of sprawl, of how zoning, the use of the automobile, and retailing become the tail wagging the dog in cities.


I am now reading "Perverse Cities" (2010) about how sprawl-inducing individual decisions are the result of bad pricing (of utilities and property taxes and development charges) and outright subsidies.  The author (Pamela Blais) is from Toronto and has mostly Ontario examples.  I would add that there is a lot of mythology involved in individual decisions about where to live, work, study, and play.


I am also preparing the next issue of the e-journal for the Canadian Association for the Club of Rome on reducing car populations through shared fleets (car 'coops' was mentioned by someone else above).  Private ownership of large vehicles is totally wasteful of resources, but also works against walkability and living truly locally with a small footprint.  We need to re-enfranchise the freedom of movement and association for seniors, children, disabled, and the poor, not to mention those I call 'simplicists.'  It wouldn't hurt the freedom of AAAs (active, affluent adults) either.


Retailing is something that has missed being targeted at the local level, especially since it is becoming so internationally controlled.  Downtown, where car-lite people live, has only Rideau Centre and neighbourhood convenience outlets [for the four Fs: food (stores and restaurants), fix-its (hardware stores), financial banks and payday loans), and 'farmacueticals].  The newest trend, bog-box retailing, eshews older areas because of a lack of (cheap) land of large dimensions and our insolence toward their main abetter, the car.  We need to 're-store' the core! (I hear the semi-industrial lands along Catherine Street along the Queensway may be getting some of them).  We also need to provide for neighbourhood 'recycling' (second-hand and fix-up depots), human-powered delivery services, tool 'libraries,' and a new road culture that returns the onus for safety to the endangerers (not the victims, or 'endangerees').


Chris Bradshaw

Sandy Hill


I'm working on a blog aimed at constructive pressure on Ottawa City Council toward climate change action and am most interested in your report. It's at
Thanks for posting the request for input on your blog, Charles.  I'll look forward to hearing from more people.

Charles Hodgson said:
I'm working on a blog aimed at constructive pressure on Ottawa City Council toward climate change action and am most interested in your report. It's at
Some great replies to your post, Heather!

Sorry I'm late with this Heather!


Biodiversity for Ottawa:


  • What does this mean? A healthy ecosystem with many different species that offer a rich diversity and in turn a resiliency to the urban environment.

  • Biodiversity can get watered down into mean “any nature that is present – i.e. A park is more biodiverse than the downtown core of concrete and buildings. This needs to be watched as one of the values of true biodiversity is the opportunity for the entire ecosystem's resiliency (ability to respond to change).

  • Nature in of itself has value in terms of its healing properties, calming/relaxing properties and other ecological services (like groundwater retention, cleaning the air, etc.)

  • How do we do this? There are great examples in other cities. ICLEI has a great library of Canadian Case Studies on biodiversity projects:

    • This includes projects like the first ever pollinator park (in Guelph)

  • Also ICLEI hosted a Urban Biodiversity workshop in August this summer and had many interesting presentations by various cities in North America and Europe.

  • Some of the projects/policies that stand out from this event were:

    • citizen action through bioblitz's, planting trees, frog and bird counts and a whip-o-will count program in Sudbury (where you call in to report if you hear their call)

    • many cities are measuring baselines so that they can measure their progress (percentage of green space, percentage of protected space, # of city trees & new trees planted each year)

    • more green walls (there is a lot of talk about green roofs but this is also a great opportunity) for example Paris planted 30 new walls in the last 10 years.

    • Pesticide Ban – w a public awareness campaign (signs, workshops, etc)

    • Increasing wetlands/ponds – for example Paris has added many to their network in the last 10 years and there is a drastic increase in the number of birds and other wetland fauna in these areas.

    • Creating refuge zones for birds and for fish spawning

    • Changes in the bylaws for building renovations to include the need to repair/replace any ledges, cavities that were used by birds for nesting (rather than losing these spots when renovations happen) – another example from Paris

    • identifying “green lungs” for the capital and the city's ground water recharge zones and protecting these from development and contamination

    • working with developers to protect up to 25% of habitat (this was done in St. Anne-de-Bellevue in Quebec) – this not only benefits the community but also the developers as they can value the remaining properties higher by marketing them well: “close to nature”, “in natural ravine setting”

    • fragmentation of habitat is dangerous – mapping the remaining green, natural and protected spaces and identifying key land that offers linkages or less fragmentation is key to a healthy ecosystem, biodiversity and resiliency. (Minimun of 25 acres of forest – with a healthy interior is the minimum to provide “forest habitat” for many bird species)

    • some non-natural areas can offer opportunities for biodiversity such as highrises with falcons, etc.

    • Portland has “Weed Warriors” local citizens who go out and help eliminate invasive species from parks, forests, etc.

    • Brussels has a large public awareness campaign for local endangered species to educate local citizens on the important species in their area

    • They also have created an “ecological certification” for parks that identifies certain parks as having a larger ecological function and certifies them as sustainable (using mulch, keeping snags (dead wood) and using native plants are some of the requirements)

    • low maintenance parks are key now with governments looking for ways to cut back on maintenance costs: considering drought-resistance plants, removing lawn (less grass cutting maintenance) or have a “no-mow” policy in certain areas are key as is growing a volunteer base that can help with gardening (“adopt-a-park” programs)

    • Edmonton (Alberta) has a “master naturalist program” where they offer 35 hours of training if citizens provide back 35 hours of public service. This has been very successful as many of the “certified naturalists” will donate much more than just the 35 hours back.

    • Edmonton has also done a survey on how much “walkable” nature it has – which means how many people can walk to nature in 15 mintues (very similar to bus stop planning which has a minimum -maximum distance from all homes to a bus stop). This survey will be mapped and will help the city identify what locations should be prioritized for new acquisitions.

    • City of Edmonton also advocates for putting in an ecological plan before a development starts.

    • “Getting people to love their parks – guarantees the park's survival”.

    • Saint Charles, Quebec took out a walled river and reintroduced a more naturalized river bank and native species.

    • Guelph has an education program for its citizens regarding how to garden more sustainably (after they implemented a ban on pesticides). Also teaching people about water-efficient gardens.

    • Regarding Urban Tree Management Plan the City of Guelph has found that education is more effective than bylaw enforcement.

    • City of Montreal has organized “Ragweed Pulls” with their local health partners (in terms of alliviating allergy symptoms, etc)

    • In the U.S. certain cities/schools have organized “walking school buses” to parks for kids after school. This is done with local police departments to help children identify safe walking routes and where to go nearby in case help is needed.


Forgot these two things:
  • Urban meadows is another idea that Mathis Natvik (MLA graduate in Guelph also owns Natvik Design) is trying to introduce - the loss of true native meadows in North America is large and there are many habitat specific birds that need meadows to survive - he is proposing to increase these meadows in cities - on campuses, federal property (where there is alot of grass) and along green corridors (such as the parkways in Ottawa)
  • Mason Bee Condos - a project in Vancouver - to increase the biodiversity of pollinators in the city!


Thanks again for the opportunity to provide input!

Very local (for each few blocks even) community centres (perhaps in existing houses bought by ciy for the purpose?) - where people can walk and find a partner for scrabble or chess, buy a cup of coffee or local produce (from greenbelt/s preferably) such as a litre of milk or loaf of bread when they run out unexpectedly, let people know about goods or services to offer or needed, get rid of the kids for a break while knowing they are still safe - so that neighbourhoods can become more integrated (ie people will actually get to know each other) kids can meet and start building local friendships, people can share knowledge/skills, arrange housework parties (I hate housework, but always have more energy to do other people's because I know it helps them, and it is much pleasanter when it is a social occasion instead of drudgery), participate in joint projects or just hang out with people who want to do things (eg a local friend and I want to start getting together to do art related stuff, because it is pleasanter and more focussing to do these things with someone) - it would be lovely to have a place within easy walking distance where anyone could come along and do crafts, arts, cookery, learn how to make jams or sew etc. etc. and so on and so forth and likewise and continued.

Rebuilding communities and helping people to reach out to each other (and learn to tolerate the curmudgeons and (generally rare) freeloaders) and find common interests etc is, I believe, the way to start breaking down our tendency to be suspicious of others, to only look out for oneself and immediate family, more quickly integrate new immigrants (from other countries or other communities), and make people feel they have value beyond their qualifications, other resources than money, and less easily fall through the cracks.

Let us know if your report includes some of the ideas from here? We'd love to know that not only are we being provided with a great opportunity to air ideas that may shape our futures, but also that we are being heard.

Thank you!



Thank you so much to everyone who has participated in this discussion.  There are some great ideas and, for sure, many of them will be included in the report, Tess.  When the report is finished -- sometime in November - I'll post it on the Transition Ottawa website, and it will also be available on other sites, as well. 

My main goal is to provide information, input and encouragement to our city's decision-makers on how to start doing things differently and working towards real resilience, not just for our city, but for the region of Eastern Ontario. As I get closer to doing the final report writing, it becomes more and more apparent that I won't be able to include all the great ideas and practices that I have unearthed myself or received from others, and that this project should be on-going in some way, because there are new ideas and best practices popping up all the time. This will require a sustained effort to continue to supply city politicians and staff with this information.  My first goal is to get the report out, and then to figure out how to sustain the effort after that.  I have some of my own ideas for that, but if anyone else would like to make suggestions they are welcome.  I will also extend my deadline for input to the report itself until October 22 if anyone else would like to contribute.


Once again, thanks to all who shared their thoughts.




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