EnviroCentre Edition - Spring 2016
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Catherine Mageau-Walker (SustainLowertown Coordinator), Annie Mercier (LCRC Community Developper), Mathieu Fleury and Angela Palma Herriot at a Good Food Market in Lowertown.
Photo courtesy of SustainLowertown
Otesha: Bringing a Message of Hope
In November, I attended "An Organic Affair", the annual tea and fundraising party held by the youth-run environmental organization Otesha.
The Ottawa-based organization, which celebrated its seventh anniversary in October, is well known on the local and national levels for the amazing work of its volunteers and the inspiring message they send.
Dishes at An Organic Affair Photo by Clara Lagacé
Otesha teams bike from city to city and perform skits which take on the theme of consumption choices. I found the skit they performed at the party both hilarious and intelligent. Because Otesha performers travel by bicycle, their skits cannot require heavy decorations or many costumes. Did you know that it's very simple to contort yourself into a fan, a fridge or a television? All it requires is a little imagination, of which Otesha is not lacking.
The venue in the basement of St. Joseph's parish was filled to capacity. People of all ages, from young environmentalist-to-be toddlers to silver-haired ladies, filled every single seat in the room, leaving standing room only for latecomers. Besides the refreshing message of hope sent by the play and the numerous speakers, we were also treated to delicious, fair-trade, organic, vegan cupcakes served on reusable plates. Otesha partnered with Katimavik, another notable Canadian volunteer organization, to help serve the refreshments.
Full House at St Joseph's parish photo by Clara Lagacé
Otesha recently sustained the tragic loss of one of their team members. On September 16th, Andrew Wolf was struck and killed by a transport truck while cycling during the early days of the Highlands and Islands tour. The Otesha community was devastated. Yet they bravely decided to continue their journey in order to spread Andrew's message.
At the party, Otesha members presented a touching memorial they had made in Andrew's memory. The event concluded, not with a moment of silence, but rather with a minute of cacophony and joy, as Andrew would have wished it. Once again, Otesha's constant hope shone. It is truly that which differentiates it from other activism groups.
At the end of the evening, we followed the crowd out of the building into the cold night air. Getting into the car, I couldn't help but notice the enormous piles of bikes stacked against the church walls. As I looked on, an ocean of heavily enveloped cyclists emerged, armed with helmets and bicycle lights to brave the ride home. I watched them cycle happily away with a light heart, knowing that each one of them was doing their best to protect our planet and to create a better world for us all.
As we started the car and heard its engine roar, I couldn't help but ponder my own life choices. Do I really need to drive? How can I change my lifestyle to make it more sustainable? With these thoughts in my mind and inspiring messages still ringing in my ears, I let the cyclists pass by, knowing that Otesha had changed me.
Alex Cool-Fergus lives in Gatineau, Québec.
Updates: The Otesha Project is now welcoming applications for their upcoming tour s and new initiatives, including a new play and local ten-day tours for participants of all ages. For more information, contact:
The Otesha Project
72 Riverdale Ave
Ottawa, Ontario K1S 1R2
613 237 6065
PERC thanks the above organizations for their support.
Thank you to Envirocentre for sponsoring the Spring 2016 edition of the PEN.