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….
After three days on the road for the 1,000-kilometer drive to Cochrane, via our niece’s wedding in Toronto, we’re finally on the Polar Bear Express to Moose Factory today.
Homesol is heading north to train a team of MoCreebec Eeyoud Energy Advisors who will soon be able to help their Northern Ontario communities to live in healthier, more comfortable and energy-saving homes.
The Honda Fit is fully loaded with supplies and strapped down to the flatbed car at the front of the train, and we’re enjoying the five-hour trip to James Bay, gearing up for whatever lies ahead.
Wherever we go from one end of the train to the other, we know from all the laughter that whatever else may follow on this journey it’s going to be fun working with Cree First Nations!
In order for a home to be eligible for an EnerGuide rating, please be sure these conditions are met before booking your evaluation:
Required mechanical systems must be on site at the time of the evaluation. The space heating system must be present and appear to be (or have been in the case of heating system failure) capable of keeping the interior living space at 21 °C (69.8 °F) in the winter.
Windows, doors and skylights
Windows, exterior doors and skylights must be installed and intact. A maximum of one window, exterior door or skylight can be missing provided the opening is temporarily air sealed in accordance with the airtightness test. Any broken glazing shall be air sealed for the duration of the airtightness test.
The building envelope must be in a suitable condition for an airtightness test. Exposed ceilings, exterior walls and exposed floors, including the interior finish, windows, doors and skylights, and foundations must be intact. Exterior finishes not intended to be a component of the air barrier system do not need to be complete where the validity of the airtightness test is not compromised.
Any renovations that are under way at the time of the Basic Service can affect only interior partitions and must not alter the building envelope. In exceptional circumstances the air leakage may be assumed based on the year and condition of the house, but subsequent air sealing would not qualify for any incentives.
Electrical power source
There must be a 15 amp, 120 volt (3 prong) alternating current (AC) power source and receptacle available to operate the blower door test equipment. This may be a temporary power source, such as a generator.
Nova Scotia Homeowners
Ross is a regular guest on Lake 88 in Perth. Hear about the new Home Energy Conservation Program grants, learn about new and existing homes energy ratings and certifications, and get some guidance on where to invest your home energy retrofit efforts for best results.
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