A First Nation community in Canada is leading the way out of fossil fuel dependency.
The T’Sou-ke First Nation in Sooke on the south of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, says:
First Nations have lived for thousands of years on this continent without fossil fuels. It is appropriate that First Nations lead the way out of dependency and addiction to fossil fuels and to rely on the power of the elements, the sun, the wind and the sea once again.
They have developed a plan and built a 75 kW solar energy plant, the largest in British Columbia. The vision prepared in 2008 has four goals: self-sufficiency in energy, self-sufficiency in food, economic independence, and a cultural renaissance for the band, with a return to traditional ways and values.
All 86 houses, as well as the fish hatchery, the community hall, band hall and canoe shed, have solar panels which heat water. The households have also all had kits and training as part of an energy conservation program. Band members have been employed in building the project and several jobs have been created. All surplus power feeds back into the electricity grid and helps pay for the project.
Andrew Moore, the program manager, told ICTM that conservation is the most important element:
“It is ten times more expensive to generate electricity than to save it by conservation,” he says. “But it takes work to change old habits.”
The community’s pioneering work in energy has been recognized by the provincial government.
Next year, they will build a state-of-the-art, four-acre greenhouse to grow market vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes. This will use up to 75% less energy than normal greenhouses.
Another greenhouse will grow native plants and add to the tourism draw a revival of traditional T’Sou-ke customs such as salmon barbeque, carvings, paintings and masks.
Christine George, the community’s champion of traditional foods, has started a community garden, teaches jam-making and holds canning workshops and is re-introducing her people to finding food on the beach and in the forest. “When all is complete we will have a Zero-Mile diet,” she told ICTM.
Chief Gordon Planes says:
“We used to live sustainably, and only took what we needed from the land. We need to get back to that.”
Planes says the band is eager to share its knowledge. Almost all of the install work was completed by community members themselves.
Trainees were led through a customized learning program that respects the oral customs of the First Nations who have traditionally learned by talking and sharing stories. The new training option relies heavily on practical application and is being presented to CanSIA (Canada’s solar business association) for further use.
Watch a short film about the community’s solar plans:
Find out more about T’Sou-ke Smart Energy Group, whose slogan is ‘providing environment education in Southern Vancouver Island since 10,000 BCE.’
Image courtesy T’Sou-ke First Nation