IN ADDITION to the fanfare and edge-of-your seat excitement, Canadian tennis marvel Bianca Andreescu’s stunning U.S. Grand Slam victory in New York City surely served as a reminder that virtually anything is possible.
Such athletic feats are mesmerizing and fun, but other developments far from the glamour of the international tennis circuit are arguably equally amazing and should also be worthy of our attention.
Don’t get us wrong. We can all agree that, at only 19, Andreescu is a phenomenal player. As her weekend victory demonstrated yet again,, she is also one of the nicest, down-to-earth athletes sports fans the world over have ever had the pleasure of watching on a tennis court.
But amid all the hoo-ha, here’s some perspective: the US $3.85 million cheque she received by defeating veteran American powerhouse Serena Williams could have covered more than half the cost of a new solar-power facility at Gull Bay First Nation.
Andreescu is hardly alone when it comes to the many, many millions of dollars professional players have earned — Williams notably among them — just by playing a game with a racquet and a little green ball. Playing it extremely well, mind you, but at the end of the day it’s only a game and of little consequence. And yet as a society, we put such a high value on such spectacles.
The new “micro-grid” solar station at Gull Bay will substantially reduce the reserve’s reliance on polluting, diesel-powered generators. Gull Bay is located too far away from the provincial electricity grid. Connecting to the grid would be financially prohibitive, although it probably would not cost nearly as much as the collective salaries of many professional athletes.
Gull Bay’s chief, Wilfred King, is offering to showcase the Giizis facility to leaders of other remote First Nations who may want to employ similar technology. The clean-energy game offers nothing as exciting as a well-delivered overhead smash, but it’s nonetheless a game worth playing. Significantly, Giizis was developed in conjunction with Ontario Power Generation, the provincial utility which this spring unveiled a $100-million solar project along the shore of Lake Erie. That 44-megawatt facility also involves a First Nations partnership. How many tennis fans sweltering under a hot sun while watching their favourite star perform know about it?
Though its output is a fraction of the former coal-fired Nanticoke generation station being dismantled nearby, the Lake Erie utility is a massive project: 192,000 solar panels spread over 260 acres. Week in, week out, global leaders wring their hands about the consequences of a warming planet, and yet solutions seem to be right before our eyes.
Serena Williams, and now Bianca Andreescu, are household names on a long list of famous athletes. We go ga-ga over their accomplishments, and they inspire us, but so many lesser-known achievements are much more important.