By Miguel Agawin
May 15, 2010

    On Monday, a group of cyclists set off on a two-month journey on the open road across southern Ontario to learn about and promote sustainable living.Starting off in Ottawa, the 20-rider team will pedal all the way to Beamsville (west of St. Catharines) and back, performing plays and providing workshops about the subject at schools, including Bayview Secondary School in Richmond Hill June 9 and Pleasantville Public School June 10.

    The play, which the cycling theatre troupe will also perform at the Unionville Festival June 5, is about a boy’s dream of a dystopian future and through it he realizes his own impact of the degradation of the world. The boy later wakes up and decides to make an individual effort to make a difference. 

    Kelly Anne Wiltshire, of Orleans, Ont., is one of the cyclists hoping to spark students’ curiosity about the environmental impacts caused by the things we consume on a daily basis. She said today’s society has shifted away from the sense of community life while mainstream media has perpetuated unnecessary consumerism.

    “It’s re-examining the way we live – looking at the levels we consciously and subconsciously consume things to feel adequate or accepted,” Ms Wiltshire said.

    Dubbed the Ferocious Farm tour, the Ontario trip is one of three happening across Canada, organized by the Otesha Project, a youth-led charitable organization based in Ottawa that advocates sustainable living.

    During the tour, Ms Wiltshire and her fellow riders will each have a $6-daily food budget and they will lodge at school gyms, farms, church basements and camp sites.

    Riders will also visit farms, environmental organizations and food processing facilities to learn about the spectrum of the foods we consume – where they come from, how they’re processed and the impacts that has on the global community.

    “It’s about going down the chain that exists in the foods we buy,” said Katrina Siks, the Otesha Project spokesperson who was also part of a Canadian prairies tour last year. “We don’t normally see where that money goes.”

    Tania Cheng of Richmond Hill, a recent graduate of environment resource studies at the University of Waterloo, will also cycle on an east-coast tour in September. She pointed out although Ontario grows its own strawberries, most sold in supermarkets in Ontario come from California and Florida and are typically not organic and covered with pesticide, affecting our health, the climate and ecological life.

    “If we continue to look at everything as disposable, we have to start asking ‘where do these things go when they’re thrown away’?,” Ms Wilshire said. “Away exists somewhere and it exists in other parts of the world that deal with all the waste we produce and that’s becoming a really prevalent problem in terms of environmental and ocean degradation.”

    Ms Cheng hopes to inspire youth to lead the change in the future by making sustainable life choices and also to support the local economy.

    Ms Siks said, “It’s the concept of voting with each dollar we spend and realizing we have the power to choose the type of world we want to live in.”

    Diana Dal Bello, principal of Pleasantville, said inviting students in the Otesha Project to their school to raise environmental awareness among young students is a part of the school’s environmental initiative.

    “It’s important to send the message to your kids at a young age so they’ll know what to do to keep the world healthy in the future,” Ms Dal Bello said.

    “Rather than tell you what to choose, we invite you to ask questions about your world and learn more about the decisions you’re already making that affect the world around you,” Ms Siks said.

    “It’s realizing that with every-day-small actions, we each have the power to change the world.”

    Feeling inspired?

    If you’d like to join Otesha’s tour, spots are still available for its Coast to Capital tour, from Vancouver to Regina. Riders must also raise $2,250 to join and some current members still need support. To join or offer support, contact The Otesha Project by phone: 613-237-6065; or visit