Wah-chay (greetings) from Moose Factory, a Cree village surrounded by water, at the mouth of the Moose River on the southwestern tip of James Bay. A few days ago, a polar bear was spotted out at the garbage dump.
Kathryn and I have just wrapped up Week 1 of training four new First Nations energy advisors – Eric Gunner, William Cheechoo, Wilbert Visitor and Charles Visitor – who will be helping families in their community save money and stay warmer this winter.
Most homes here use electric resistance heating and electric water heaters, at regular Ontario Hydro rates, and these houses barely even met the minimum energy standards in force at the time of their construction. In a climate with over 6,000 Degree Days C, and long, cloudy winters that get colder than -40 at times, with about 5’ of snow on the ground by February, annual household energy bills of over $6,000 are quite common despite the very modest size of most homes here.
Considering that “energy poverty” is defined as when a household spends more than 10% of their income on home energy, and most families here earn less than $25,000 / year, high energy bills are hurting everyone’s ability to afford good food, take care of their family’s basic needs, have reliable transportation, plan for their children’s education or to maintain any savings in the bank. It’s a serious quality-of-life problem, with relatively simple solutions. Keep following our blog to find out how!
It’s humbling to know our time here in this community is so short, and our contribution in the bigger scheme of things is infinitesimally small. We can’t solve the problems of First Nations housing and energy poverty alone, but we’re going to do our best over the following weeks to leave the new MoCreebec Energy Advisors team with the skills and tools they need to help make a difference in their own and other communities.
The guru can be found in the most unexpected places. I’d like to share a story – a poem, actually – that was passed along to us on the way here by Bill Jones, an 82-year-old fellow who lives south of Cochrane. He was on the side of the road selling blueberries, so we pulled off and chatted for a bit. After we’d paid for our basket of wild berries, he leaned in and gave us some good advice for our journey ahead, something he’d memorized back when he was a child:
Sometime when you’re feeling important;
Sometime when your ego’s in bloom;
Sometime when you take it for granted,
You’re the best qualified in the room:
Sometime when you feel that your going,
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions,
And see how they humble your soul.
Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining,
Is a measure of how much you’ll be missed.
You can splash all you wish when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore,
But stop, and you’ll find that in no time,
It looks quite the same as before.
The moral of this quaint example,
Is to do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself but remember,
There’s no indispensable man.
The Indispensible Man by Saxon White Kessinger
About that polar bear: Black bears are shy, mostly vegetarian and usually steer clear of people, but when a polar bear comes into town it means they’re hungry and dangerous. People are food to them, so there was no alternative for the community than to dispatch the animal, which was done with thanks, regret, respect, reverence, ceremony and offerings, followed by sharing the meat and making use of the hide, nothing was wasted.
We’re learning many life lessons on our journey….