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Ecology Ottawa has an excellent calendar of local eco-events.
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Green IT

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Green Audits for Faith Communities


Faith community representatives are addressing the climate change crisis by implementing green energy audits across the nation. They have recognized that the human contribution to global economic and environmental decline is the result of a spiritual deficit. Mardi Tindal, United Church of Canada Moderator, spoke at an Interfaith Forum on faith and climate change last October.
"I believe the ecological crisis is one of the most urgent moral challenges in human history.

Just as racial segregation and discrimination, and before that slavery, were in their times, responding to this moral challenge lies with us, and the time is now," Tindal said. Tindal explained that science has been an integral part in showing the causes of climate change, and how we can now track its progression in the atmosphere and ocean. She implied that since climate change developed as a result of our overconsumption, we are ethically obliged to take responsibility.
Faith & the Common Good (FCG) and its Greening Sacred Spaces (GSS) program has conducted green audits across Canada. This program has been assisted by the United Church's commitment to fighting climate change, which helps congregations with lowering their energy expenditures, creating a healthier, more ecologically sustainable building.
Churches, gurdwaras, mosques, synagogues, temples, and many other faith buildings have been audited to address the ecological crisis. Faith & the Common Good is one of the 26 communities and faith-based organizations that are signatories to an important document calling for leadership and action on climate change. The green energy audit pilot program is a crucial step toward reaching these important goals.
Professional energy auditors normally start by conducting a detailed walk-through of the facility, bringing specialized equipment and techniques, such as the "blower door" test for air leakage. After a professionally detailed audit, a report will be completed to make the appropriate recommendations for retrofits and a cost-benefit analysis on each retrofit. Heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, cooking, insulation, hot water, and the use of cleaning products and appliances are all analyzed in this report. Along with the energy audit report, other reference materials that committee members can use for an action plan will be distributed.

Modern high-efficiency furnaces use significantly less fuel. This fleet of furnaces at Bell's Corners United Church is new and well maintained. The church could also seal air leaks and add insulation as the Green Auditor suggested.

Photo: David Patterson.

Faith & the Common Good Energy Coordinator David Patterson is looking forward to the expansion of energy audits across the country.
"There are over 30,000 faith communities in the country, with over 7,000 in Ontario, and 1,100 in the City of Toronto," Patterson said. "Over 20% of the population attends a place of worship regularly, representing over 2.5 million people in Ontario."
It is a question of whether we can look beyond ourselves that will determine whether our efforts to combat climate change will mark significant achievement. The consumer has a great amount of power in what they demand. Being able to realize this means that we have the chance to demand more sustainable products and services at a better price.
The major plan for Greening Sacred Spaces in 2012 is to implement an energy auditing tracking system that can mark the progress of climate change initiatives happening across the nation.
"At present, there is no tool available to measure energy efficiency or the reduction of greenhouse gases within faith communities, and furthermore, faith communities are not measured as are other sectors," Patterson said. "We believe that a measurement tool would be readily adopted by faith communities; they would engage from both a spiritual and practical point of view. Faith communities consider themselves unique and environmentally astute. They will respond to a measurement tool that helps them monitor their energy savings and compare themselves to other faith community buildings."

Click here to view a video on the Green Audit Process

Faith communities are showing the world that a sustainable economy can be achieved through values of restraint, cooperation and reciprocity. Many have witnessed disconnect between what we profess to believe, and the consumer choices we make. How we eat, travel, shop, and the entertainment we consume are an integral part of our current state of ecological decline. But there is an opportunity for collective awareness and transformation. It is the ability to find a relation between our beliefs and our actions that will determine our relationship to the Earth itself.
Many countries are far more affected by climate change than others. World consumption has grown at an unprecedented rate over the past 100 years. We spend more on luxury products than what it would cost to reach the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Twenty percent of the developed world represents 86 percent of total global consumer spending. Canada and the United States alone are responsible for 31 percent of global consumption.
There is an opportunity to take responsibility for our rampant appetites. Unlike the undeveloped world, we have the resources to respond to the crisis of climate change. The Canadian Interfaith Call for Leadership and Action on Climate Change believes all nations need to use energy policies that create actual emission reductions to a fair and safe global level.
For more information on a Green Audit for your faith community, contact David Patterson, Energy Coordinator and Green Auditor ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

Ryan Moore is studying Professional Writing at Algonquin College.


In this issue..

Energy East -- A Present Danger
A project to pipe massive amounts of bitumen-based oil from Alberta to Canada's east coast is drawing opposition from communities along its proposed route.
TransCanada Pipeline's Energy East project is being promoted as a means of moving oil from Alberta's tar sands to ports in Quebec and New Brunswick, primarily for export overseas. TransCanada claims this project will expand oil refineries and related industry and create jobs. Energy East would be larger than either the Trans-Mountain, Northern Gateway or the controversial Keystone XL projects.
The issue motivated a discussion, "Energy East: Our Risk - Their Reward," hosted recently in Ottawa by the Council of Canadians and Ecology Ottawa. The meeting was one of a series of forums organized by the Council with local concerned groups in towns along the possible pipeline.
The evening featured a panel composed of Eriel Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians, and Graham Saul of Ecology Ottawa.
Eriel Deranger stated that Treaty number 8, an agreement signed by (among other First Nations) the Chipewyan people and the Crown in 1899, guarantees its First Nations signatories hunting, fishing, trapping, and cultural preservation rights. These rights, which were later reinforced by the Canadian Constitution and Bill of Rights, are now threatened by the oil sands development in the Athabasca region.
Tar sands, she said, are destroying local ecology and poisoning First Nations peoples. Many Chipewyan have no running water or are subject to years-long boiling water advisories. They suffer increased cancer rates.
Water pollution 
The Tar sands reportedly use four barrels of water for every barrel of oil. Tailings ponds are suspected of leaking millions of litres of toxins into the McKenzie and Athabasca Rivers daily. The mining has caused acres of forest to be cleared, disrupting animal habitats and migratory patterns. Tests on local wildlife indicate probable contamination and a risk to the First Nations practice of sustainable hunting.
Deranger stated that the Harper government threatens democracy and environmental protection. She cites Bill C-45 (2012), which deregulates the management--and protection--of lakes and waterways, as an example. Critical habitats are now vulnerable.
The ACFN, she said is suing Shell Oil Canada for failure to honour agreements with the Chipewyan First Nation regarding resource exploitation on their land. Furthermore, the ACFN is legally protesting the Federal government's approval (with stipulations) of Shell's proposed Jackpine mine project to expand tar sands production.
"Canada has become the playground for oil companies. " Deranger commented. "Aboriginals' traditional territory is being sold."
Maude Barlow explained that TransCanada's use of Benzene (an organic chemical compound) to facilitate the flow of piped bitumen makes spillage extremely toxic. In such an event, the oil would sink into--not float on--water and make the clean-up "a nightmare." Some of the pipes TransCanada uses are old and ill-equipped to handle pressure.
Energy East, she said, will cross 90 waterways systems and provide "a new threat to the Great Lakes, which are already in danger." Barlow explained that U.S. authorities allow fracking wastewater to cross the Great Lakes, with spillage a constant possibility.
The global water supply, Barlow said, is itself threatened.
"The planet," she said, "is running out of water. "
Water is being pumped out faster than it can be (naturally) replaced. The Great Lakes are being drained of so much water that they might be depleted in 80 years. Half of China's rivers have disappeared since 1990. The dumping of waste water into oceans adds further damage.
"We have a responsibility not to destroy this water," she stated. "This is part of a larger struggle."
Local impacts
Part of the Energy East pipeline will cross the Rideau River just south of Ottawa, along with the Oxford aquifer, and a groundwater recharge area [a pumping station is planned in Stittsville]. A spill could thus close down Ottawa's water supply.
Barlow advocated building a strong movement against Energy East. She recommended that citizens tweet and otherwise contact representatives such as Jim Watson to have a risk assessment done regarding an oil pipeline in the Ottawa area.
Graham Saul stated that the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently found that, while global warming will increase by 3 ¼ to 4 ¼ if coal and gas are continually burnt for energy, mitigating this is still possible. The IPCC says that alternative energies do not, despite what their critics say, really damage economies.
Saul explained that while Norway and Germany are increasingly using energies such as solar power, Canada does the opposite. The Harper government has reduced federal energy programs while promoting "radical, reckless, ultimately unethical projects such as the tar sands."
Saul said that Kitimat, BC recently held a non-binding plebiscite on the construction of a pipeline and an oil tanker terminal for Enbridge's Northern Gateway project. Enbridge claimed that Northern Gateway would create 180 jobs locally. Nonetheless, 60 per cent of citizens rejected the project. This, Saul said, proves the power of grassroots opposition. (The plebiscite motivated a BC environmental group, Dogwood Initiative, to campaign to have Northern Gateway subject to a popular provincial referendum). He said that communities in New Brunswick and Quebec affected by Energy East are mobilizing against it.
Saul advised that citizens in the National Capital Region lobby the Ontario Energy Board and the federal government regarding the risks associated with Energy East. People should express their concerns to candidates in the upcoming Ontario provincial election.
"We have to stand up and say we do not want this pipeline," he stated. "The time to organize is now."
David Mills writes on environmental and social justice issues.

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