Resolutions are related to resolve: a firm determination to do something. A new year is a time for dreaming about the months ahead, and setting resolutions to bring them to fruition. Here at Ecology Ottawa, we’re dreaming about a city filled with trees and teeming with pollinators and biodiversity. A city of people that acknowledge how dire the climate crisis is and acts accordingly - by reducing fossil fuel dependency and emissions, retrofitting buildings, driving less, and choosing active and public transit where possible. A city prepared for extreme weather and that works to be climate resilient, and where neighbours and communities care for each other in tough times. A city that rejects more sprawl and actively focuses on intensification and walkable, social, 15-minute neighborhoods. A city where citizens are fully awake to the gravity of environmental crises, but through education, engagement, and connection find meaning in environmental action. This dream of a green capital city propels our work.
While the past few years have taught us that no one knows what a year will bring, we have a few resolutions for Ecology Ottawa for 2023. Big picture, we plan to dedicate ourselves to building people power across this city, influence decision-makers towards environmental and equity progress, and help cultivate green, equitable, and resilient communities.
More specifically, we have a few resolutions:
Build power across the city - and province - to influence change with decision-makers
Our mission continues to be engaging Ottawa’s residents in a growing environmental movement and galvanizing people power to effect change. We plan to knock on doors and circulate petitions, in person and virtually, and find varied ways to grow the size of the movement and the depth of its influence. We strive to better engage all people and communities in the city, with a particular focus on youth, equity-deserving people, and suburban residents. We are energized to organize with like-minded organizations and their supporters in cities across the province, leaning particularly into the development of provincial power among grassroots organizations.
Lead high-impact, vital campaigns and programs that protect nature and work toward a green, equitable capital
All of our programs aim to engage citizens and push for systemic change. In our Living City pillar, we defend green space, healthy rivers, urban forests, animals and plants. Our Biodiverse-City Pollinator Gardens will be launched this spring, with pilot gardens planted in collaboration with three communities across the city, along with educational materials and events for residents from everywhere in Ottawa. We will also focus on protecting birds and on urban forests, and we are exploring ways to continue our successful, long-running tree campaign that just concluded while pushing to restore the tree canopy. In our Active City pillar, we will continue Breathe Easy, Ottawa’s largest citizen-science campaign, monitoring air quality with an equity lens to see how poor air quality relates to low-income neighbourhoods in Ottawa. We continue to hold to Vision Zero, where streets are safe for all users. In Renewable City, we just launched our Yellow School Buses Go Green campaign, where we are advocating for the full electrification of the school bus fleet, to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and improve air quality and health outcomes for children during intersecting climate and health emergencies. A forthcoming report will outline why and how it is time to electrify school buses, and shows people what each of us can do to advance this transition. We have other programs and campaigns in the works that we are excited to share when the time comes.
Deepen collaboration, and share more of those stories with you
Collaboration is a part of our everyday, though it’s often in one-on-one and coalition settings - out of view. This year, we will continue our collaboration with the People’s Official Plan coalition - like on upcoming City budget consultations - as well as collaboration with other local groups, like in last December’s rally against Ontario’s Bill 23. We hope to work positively with the new City Council, applauding the good decisions and speaking up when we disagree, and pushing for environmental progress that impacts us all. We also collaborate with environmental, municipal-focussed organizations in other cities, too, and will do so all the more this year.
Work towards becoming a justice-centered organization
We commit to work towards justice, equity, diversity and belonging in all areas of our work, including Board representation, team representation, the citizens we engage with, and in the development of our programs and policy recommendations. We are far from perfect, and want to ensure that reflective learning and meaningful action towards inclusion is at front of mind. We expect this to look like collaborating with social justice organizations, making events and programs fully accessible, examining biases, carving out team and board time for training and learning, and designing programs that better reach all citizens in our communities, including equity-deserving people and youth. This is certainly not a one-year project! Rather, this is lifelong work, and we commit to striving to be more equitable and inclusive, and actively anti-oppression.
Strengthen community through joyful, meaningful events
We love being face-to-face with our neighbours and supporters. This year, we are planning an exciting Earth Day event focussed on joy and action, and our Eco Gala will make a triumphant return in the Fall. Between these big signature events, we will be present at and host many more intimate gatherings, such as coffee chats and educational panels, and we look forward to seeing you at community events across the city, like farmers markets, faith gatherings, and cultural events.
Grow our new Citizen City pillar
We have a new pillar to add to our Renewable, Active, and Living City pillars: Citizen City. Civic engagement has always been an integral part of our work and our theory of change. This year and beyond, we will turn out attention to educating, engaging, and invigorating citizens in Ottawa. Environmental anxiety and climate doomism continue to take hold, and a mix of apathy and overwhelm prove to be barriers to concerned people taking action. We believe that effective public engagement around climate and biodiversity is critical to creating change, and also that building visions of positive climate futures and re-learning how to imagine beautiful, equitable, green communities is key to realizing them. We will engage citizens in various ways, including through our recently revitalized Council Watch that monitors City Council and certain Committees and relays information to Ottawa residents, identifying key moments for action.
Like with all environmental action, this will be hard work - and it will be worth it. Knowing how urgent environmental crises are - and how passionate about action our supporters are - strengthens our resolve.