If you’re like me, you probably find it hard to roll out of bed at this time of year, when the days are so short and the natural light so weak. It’s a SAD state of affairs, you could say. During the past few weeks, predictably, it’s become increasingly difficult to generate the energy required to get to work on time, and then actually perform some work, much less brave the crazed crowds at the malls after work to finish off the annual Santa shopping chores.

Indeed, if I obeyed my inner child I’d be spending most days on the couch cocooned in a pile of blankets cuddling a bucket of microwave popcorn as I zoned out to the fake fireplace channel that, mysteriously, always reappears in my 500-channel universe at this time of year.

Either way, even when I’m trying to avoid expending much energy, I’m consuming an awful lot of it. Without the power that lets me meditate on my televised fire, or for my corn-popping microwave, or the electric heat in my living room, or for everything else we take for granted in our energy-guzzling northern climate, I guess I’d be huddled in a pile of furs on a bed of spruce boughs in front of a real fire. Not an unattractive notion, certainly. At least until the inevitable trek out into the dark frozen wasteland to gather more fuel for the fire.

Most years, debates over energy can be counted on to dominate a good proportion of news coverage in Quebec. Another good bet is that the Cree of Eeyou Istchee will find themselves at the centre of wrenching decisions over how, or whether, to develop those energy resources.

This year was no exception. From the additional hydro-electricity generated by the diversion of the Rupert River, to the painfully slow progress on developing the abundant potential of Cree wind energy, or, finally, how to deal with an aggressive uranium-mining industry that enjoys the Quebec government’s political and financial support in its lucrative quest to supply the global nuclear-power industry, the Cree of James Bay once again seemed to face a disproportionate amount of responsibility over how to deal with these difficult questions.

This responsibility is always accompanied by intense pressure to cede to powerful corporate and political interests and accept the exploitation of the natural resources of Eeyou Istchee, even more so for energy-generating resources. This reality needs to be acknowledged even over what must seem to most like the obvious choice made in the recent decision by the Mistissini Band Council to oppose the development of a uranium mine in the nearby Otish Mountains.

As the Nation has documented over the year, the Strateco proposal for the Matoush uranium mine project is fraught with vague generalities, wishful thinking and, to put it generously, incomplete research. The risks of uranium mining are conclusively and exhaustively documented. But Strateco didn’t come close to alleviating concerns over its proven dangers.

Nor is it only the Cree and their territory threatened by the mine’s long-term collateral damage in this case. The proposed operation is at the headwaters of Quebec’s major waterways, including those that drain west to James Bay and south to the St. Lawrence. The horrifying and permanent consequences of just the smallest miscalculation of a future uranium operation at this site should shame those politicians – Chibougamau Mayor Manon Cyr, for example – who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge any downside whatsoever of the uranium mining industry.

Both the mayor and the company have made it clear that they are not giving up on the project. Their common refrain, curiously almost word for word, is that the project’s backers simply didn’t adequately explain the details. The insinuation is pretty clear: those who oppose the mine just don’t understand it. Maybe if the forces promoting the Matoush mine used shorter words, those difficult people who have the most to lose might finally grasp its wisdom….

One obvious lesson of all this is that the project is far from dead. The Cree and the environmental movement should be prepared for a long battle and longer odds given the power and determination of those in favour of establishing a uranium mining industry in Quebec.

This issue could actually go a long way to helping heal some of the wounds inflicted by the deep divisions over resource development projects in Eeyou Istchee over the past decade. At the same time, it’s one that’s not likely to go away. Even many environmentalists are now saying that nuclear energy is an inevitable choice in the effort to reduce dependence on greenhouse-gas producing resources in the fight against climate change.

Whatever the larger issues, those who depend on the immediate environment have no choice but to look to their own long-term interests. Does the economic development promised by corporations and governments outweigh the high probability of serious impacts on the health of the land and the people who live there?

It’s enough to shake one out of their couch-potato lethargy, turn off the TV and head outside for some fresh air, no matter the temperature. Sounds like a good idea to try in 2011. Happy New Year!