Electricity: Things Have Not Always Been So

 60 mph wind gusts brought down a host of trees yesterday in Southern Vermont. Route 7A was closed down at several locations from downed power lines. My car only puttered into our driveway after weaving through a maze of fire trucks. I knew that something was wrong when the garage door disobeyed my finger that pushed in the button. The power was out.
No power means no heat, no hot water, no oven, no electricity, and therefore, no light. And when there is no light, I wax reflective. Julie groans.

In the flickering light of candles and the strange mixture of scents, I muse upon the current state of humanity. Until the 19th/20th Centuries, the vast majority of humans did not have electricity to provide illumination en masse. Without electrical power, we cannot light our rooms as if it’s day time. We cannot read very well, watch TV, use the microwave, keep as warm as we would like, etc.

There is nothing like deprivation to reveal how dependent we have become on electricity. My life-style demands a lot of time on the computer, light for reading in the morning and evening, a functioning array of appliances in the kitchen, and warm water every morning for a shower. Those who preceded myself somehow got along with electric coffee grinders, oil heat, steaming hot water, etc. And yet to myself it feels like life itself has come to an end. I’m roughing it, suffering, and praying, yes praying, for it all to end.

Electicity has changed so much in our world. It powers our machines, allows us to work longer and faster, and increases our abilities to both consume and produce. We are no longer slaves who labor under the bidding of the sun. We have created our own sun, and therefore have created a world that is unlike any other that has existed. We don’t have to talk with one another, computers and the TV take care of that. We can work long hours and not worry about eating a good meal, microwaves will provide. If anything, it is striking how different our times are from any that have ever existed, and yet they seem so incredibly normal to us.
Our lifestyle is fragile, threatening to our environment, and therefore threatening to ourselves. Non-renewable fossil fuels create pollutants when generating electricity, heat, and fuel for our cars. Nuclear generators provide energy, but at what cost for future generations? There are a host of other renewable and clean means of producing energy, but they simply have not received enough attention. We are too mired in the present to take the necessary steps forward. (link to info about energy sources)

After the power outage, I am more aware of how I spend my time. Am I burning the mid-night oil and frittering time away around the house/on the computer, or am I going to bed when I’m tired and getting up with the sun? Do I need so many lights on every night? Does the heat need to cranked up so high? Do I need a hot shower every morning? Perhaps . . .

Lifestyle and class. My class determines my lifestyle. Money allows me to overcome inconvenience and unpleasantness.  I don’t have to worry about the consequences. I can dip into a well with a very real bottom whenever I please as if it didn’t have one.

The solution? Renewable energy needs some more funds behind it for sure. Energy conserving light bulbs are also a good idea. Perhaps some can cut back on heat, water, or whatever else may be excessive. Overall, I think it goes back to our lifestyle and expectations. Humanity got along just fine without light bulbs until the late 1800’s. Could we?