During the day, whenever I can, I take the time to open the blinds and let the sun shine in while I sit at the table to have my breakfast or lunch. The sunlight lifts my spirits after weathering sunless days and gloomy storms. It also keeps me warm without the need to sit beside a furnace vent or a fire.
Even in the dead of winter at the coldest time of the year, the sun is still powerful enough to give us a good dose of light and warmth. In this day and age, most of us take the sun for granted. It just happens every day. There is a day and a night and that is how it has always been, more so that is how it will always be. For many of us, as we sit inside our homes in the winter watching television or glued to the computer, day and night has less meaning. We have electrical power now and we can recreate a little bit of the day during the night and we can hide in our dark corners to sleep during the day.
Many ancient civilizations have one thing in common when it comes to religion and spirituality and that is the realization that the sun plays an important role in our lives. Just about every major religion from early civilization worshiped the sun in one form or another. In traditional North American Native cultures, the sun plays a key part in our spirituality. Many traditional First Nation people are reviving the Sundance ceremony, a significant cultural event that was outlawed by the government for many years. There are many variations to this ceremony but the common symbolism lies in the fact that the event is held during the summer solstice when the sun is at its height during the middle of the year. In the past, life revolved around the sun. The sun provided warmth, safety, security in light and helped our plants to grow so we could eat and feed livestock.
Scientifically, when you are looking at an object like the sun from space, it would be like looking at a central power plant with a series of tiny balls revolving around it. This power plant throws energy in all directions yet we on planet earth receive only a mere fraction of it. This small amount of energy was enough to start and then sustain life on our little planet. It is estimated that on the surface of Earth, when the sun is at its height in the sky on a clear day, the energy received equals 1,000 watts per directly exposed square meter. On top of that, the sun’s energy in heating and cooling down the surface of our planet is what causes the movement of the ocean’s waters and wind. That is a lot of energy.
Strangely enough we are living in a time where you would think we would have more respect for the sun. However we are going to war to grab oil reserves and sources all over the world. We are in crisis mode with our worry about running out of energy. We are holding on to basic technologies that burn fossil fuels in order to create enough energy for our needs and to move our vehicles and power our factories and warm our buildings. We are scrambling for the next big breakthrough to find energy, while the sun radiates down an endless supply of potential power.
The main argument against harnessing solar energy is the high cost that is involved. However, with the increasing cost of fuel all over the world it is starting to become apparent that we should search for other sources of energy. If we really got serious and funded much more research into solar energy development I am sure we would produce new technologies that would be more efficient and we could make use of the sun’s power even here in the north.
For those of us who live on remote First Nations the cost of food and fuel is already astronomically high, the possibility of alternative sources of energy seems reasonable. Today I am paying the same price for gas in northeastern Ontario as I did in Attawapiskat 10 years ago.
With the cost of fuel skyrocketing perhaps it is time to really invest in alternative sources of energy. The sun may not shine so brightly in the north for a good part of the year but combined with other alternative sources of energy like wind turbines we could realize new developments that wean us off of our addiction to fossil fuels.
My people survived for thousands of years by following the rhythm of the sun. I think that we will all have to revert back to our old traditions and we will be following our early sun-worshipping ancestors once again. The future looks bright for alternative energy.