This wiki is an online collaboration for residents of the City of Ottawa, seeking to share an interest in envisioning and shaping the possibilities for the community they call home. We invite you to read and contribute your ideas and experiences about the Ottawa you would like to see develop -- its characteristics, its capacities, its quality of life.
Why is this important? Communities are essentially human systems that are shaped by the many ongoing conversations that take place among their members. A community's history, buildings, economy, culture and even its infrastructure are all artifacts of these conversations because they express the world views, values, assumptions, priorities, hopes and mutual commitments of community members. Communities ultimately make choices based on the nature and quality of these conversations. Therefore if you want to transform a community you must first transform the nature of the community conversation.
This wiki is an ongoing online conversation. In it we would like you to consider the Ottawa you want and in particular we would like you to consider the issues of food security, peak energy and climate change as they are likely to impact the City. The availability of quality food at affordable prices; access to sufficient energy to fulfill all our needs; and stemming additional contributions towards a warmer climate are all inter-related concerns. In the next little while, the choices we make as residents and citizens, either directly or by default through others, will determine the nature of the community we have -- even if it is not the community we want.
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An Ottawa Community Dialogue
As a community we continue to design and make decisions about our City as if energy will always be cheap, our climate will remain more or less the same as we've known it for the last few decades and that the food that comes to our grocery shelves after traveling more than 2,000 kilometers (on average) will remain inexpensive and plentiful.
A lot of people are talking about how these conditions just won't last (explore this site to see what's being said) . If they're accurate, then what impact will that have on our life styles and quality of life, on the safety of our homes and families, and on the prosperity of our community? Isn't that worth thinking about?
But even if oil doesn't go to $300 a barrel, or if the world's average temperature doesn't rise by 4-5 degrees, or if we don't have to stop getting cheap food from far away places, are we happy with the community we have built for ourselves on the foundation of cheap energy? Can we imagine better?
Are we happy with the daily gridlock to get to jobs we can't wait to leave, with sitting in our homes alone next to anonymous neighbours, with big box stores with their big parking lots and featureless architecture, with food manufactured for looks but devoid of taste or with the existence of local food deserts. Are we happy with our larger homes and even larger mortgages even though there are fewer people actually living in them? Are we happy with an economy that may benefit other communities more than it does Ottawa? We're richer certainly but are we happier?
In essence, can we imagine a city that fosters prosperity without growth and that doesn't pass along the cheque for our own indulgences to our children and grandchildren? Even if the doomsayers are shown to be wildly mistaken, the character of our community remains inextricably tied to the flow of energy we consume and the sustainability of both our economy and environment. We can do better.
We would like to encourage you to think about these issues of food security, peak energy and climate change and consider the Ottawa you want and whether that possibility can be consistent with stable sources of quality food, sufficient access to the energy we really need, and reducing our carbon footprint so as to do what we can to lessen the impact of climate change.
In the coming months we hope to provide many opportunities, both online and offline, to engage with thought leaders and with neighbours on these topics. Your contributions will be valued.
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BBC Radio interview with Fatih Birol
The chief economist at the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, speaks about Peak Oil, China's growing energy consumption and Greenland's offshore oil drilling. September 2010
Why is Food an Issue?
Food is directly related to both the issues of energy demand and climate change.Most produce that reaches your grocer's shelves has traveled some 2,500 kilometres, according to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture's Food Facts. For multiple ingredient foods such as yogurt, that distance was 3,700 kilometers.
"According to research done on food miles, in 2001, the average weighted average source distance (WASD) for locally grown produce to reach institutional markets was 65 miles, while the conventional WASD for the produce to reach those same institutional points of sale was 1,494 miles, nearly 27 times further. Conventional produce items traveled from eight (pumpkins) to 92 (broccoli) times farther than the local produce to reach points of sale". More...