They Might Be Giants have already given us the last word on why the sun shines:

The sun is a mass of incandescent gas
A gigantic nuclear furnace
Where hydrogen is built into helium
At a temperature of millions of degrees.

Stay tuned; there may be more to the story. Our sun is a medium-sized star, but  recent developments suggest it’s about to get a whole lot bigger, at least among the fifth-grade set. Sun, you’d better get yourself an agent. The buzz out there is that you’re on fire.

For reasons that remain hard to fathom, I was recently asked to voice the part of the sun in an animated CD-ROM containing vizualizations about reducing school bus emissions. The CD is being produced by Hamline’s Center for Global Environmental Education as part of  Project Green Fleet, a partnership of Minnesota governmental agencies, non-profits, businesses, and school districts to reduce diesel emissions from buses. The CD-ROM will be included in a set of curriculum materials distributed to elementary classrooms.

The hero of our story is a not-so-bright school bus named Bus. Through a charming and informative series of dialogues with birds, squirrels, trees, kids, and the sun, our dim protagonist gradually awakens to the detrimental environmental effects of his diesel emissions. Chastened and enlightened, he vows to clean up his act and join Project Green Fleet.

Bus and Squirrel have an undeniable chemistry, a tension simmering beneath the playfulness of their verbal sparring that elevates them into the pantheon of the greatest feuding couples: Kate and Petruchio, Taylor and Burton, Sam and Diane.

My part, on the other hand, isn’t so flashy. The sun as he’s imagined in this production is an avuncular, professorial type—kindly, but a bit self-indulgent and prone to lecturing:

You see, Bus, my sunlight provides energy to the earth—incredible amounts of energy, all day, every day. Some of this energy gets stored in plants and animals. And I’ve been at this a long, long time. Millions of years ago, trees and other plants lived, grew, and absorbed the energy I gave them. When they died and became buried for millions of years underground they slowly transformed into fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. The energy I gave them when they were alive is still stored in fossil fuels today.

Rumor has it my riveting performance has been short-listed for an Oscar, or a Grammy. Or was it a Greeny? I expect to be mobbed for autographs the next time I visit a fifth-grade classroom. I’ll be the star-studded one wearing the sunglasses.

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