On the day before the 2014 Ottawa municipal election a candidate was urgently calling the Ecology Ottawa offices, wanting the organization to post his environmental positions on it’s web site.
Earlier Ecology Ottawa developed a candidate survey on the group’s primary concerns..including water. The reason for the survey was to see which candidates would make water a priority, not just if they liked clean water. We can all agree that clean water is important, but we have to move beyond blanket statements and find a way to make water advocacy emotive. We all connect with water in some way so let’s use this connection to empower people to enact change.
Many environmental organizations wrestle over policy, only to be met with silence when the blood , sweat , and tears of the organization are published. Being right is not enough. In the lead up to the 2014 election Ecology Ottawa focused on being seen , heard, and counted..the candidates must know there is a large group that cares about the environment. Policy could come second to being heard and recognized. The candidates could then reach out to that group. The organization’s surveys forced the candidates to clarify their position on water and it’s level of priority.
Founded in 2000, Lake Ontario Waterkeepers wants to create a swimable, fishable, and drinkable future for Lake Ontario. In looking at what connects people to water they have come up with the Waterkeeper Swim Guide, a website and app that gives up to date information on beach swimability. Using this technology they hope to assist with people connecting with the water. Having easier access to water quality information is good , but they want to be heard, to be heard they need more voices.
Both Ecology Ottawa and the Lake Ontario Waterkeepers are trying to empower the community through collaborative efforts to influence the water discussion. For example, in the Ottawa Municipal election the candidates realized they could not ignore the environmental discussion as survey responses started to be discussed at the election debates.
Gord Downie speaking for a Lake Ontario Waterkeeper project.
The candidate who called Ecology Ottawa the day before the election, wanting his position on the environment to be posted on their web site unfortunately went down to defeat. The winner did have excellent environmental answers on the survey. In fact 17 of the 23 councillors provided great in depth survey answers.
Clean water is now on the table
From an article in Water Canada May/ June 2015, Emotional Connections by Stu Campana.