We live in interesting times. What will we do with the time?
Yesterday I read an interesting post from someone on linked in about the question of “should one live off the grid?” As I read it, I thought about various points the writer was making that just weren’t really experiential, but more what one would think about when noodling the subject of being grid based, grid tied, or off the grid.
To put it in context, I grew up in the United States. What the citizens of the country don’t realize is just how much energy we consume on a global scale versus the average human on the planet. Last I knew it was 25 or 26 times the global average. We don’t just supersize fast food meal. While technology and the brains to run everything is getting smaller, faster and more powerful – we still consume more.
Should you ever get the pleasure to go out into a place in the world where there is nothing and people are just surviving, you quickly realize how nice having reliable power and the abundance of choices in products and services available to you.
The oddest paradox between the two worlds is that in the developed world, we lament how much food we waste that is thrown into the garbage can. In the world with nothing, about 80% of the food that is available doesn’t have the power to be processed and used for future dates. So they don’t waste the food, it simply rots before they ever get a chance to waste it.
I guess it goes with the idea of how we cook in the developed world, versus the third world. Some people have “show” kitchens with all the latest amazing high quality cook top and pots and pans to cook with that might be used to boil an egg. The third world, as the author pointed out has 1,000,000,000 people cooking with wood or charcoal fuel. He didn’t think it was a problem as people have been doing that for ages. I probably used to think the same way, “tis just a little campfire, we cook like that when we go camping (a few days a year) all the time!”
If the 3rd world understood adequate ventilation and didn’t breathe the fumes of the fires all the time, they wouldn’t have so many incidents of lung disease. But then again, “do I eat today? Something warm? Or breath clean air and risk even more parasites with the raw food?”
I studied one particular architect with great interest. Paolo Soleri founded Arcosante as a concept to answer how buildings and structures can co-exist in nature with the optimal impact on man as well as nature. His work actually got me started with the idea of Agrowvillages and has led to this big puzzle called “grid or off the grid” power.
The problem in the west is that the grids do provide reliable and relatively inexpensive power on demand. You don’t have rolling black outs, or even more annoying, “brownout.” (For anyone wondering why we traveled with our own power supplies in the world, there is one of the primary reasons)
The idea off the grid living is nothing new. Since the beginning of man, we have lived off the grid. Until that past 200-300 years, a small fraction of time in mans walk on the earth, we have had the ability to harness power for something more than cooking food and staying warm.
The past 10 years of looking at all the various off the grid, grid tied and off the grid solutions to solve the issue of “can one put a village anywhere in the planet and have the basic tools to link with the rest of the world?”
What it led to, particularly with the idea of the Colorado lab space is that “yes, you can.”
It isn’t until you actually start building and testing all the variables that you realize that there is a lot of room for system operations and redundancy, and when you bring the ability of smart objects, houses and materials into the world of “off the grid” a giant light bulb of sorts goes off. That being, “I had no idea that this ability was really possible, and more importantly, doable.”
Yes, imagine anywhere on the planet you find a great space, “if you want, you can build and live there – in western style comfort.”
The interesting part of yesterdays article was some generalization that people wanting to live off the grid are some sort of survivalists or something.
I am not. I just happen to have found a space that when you add up the cost to run a power line to the site write down the costs on paper and see the data in black and white, “well? Why should I pay a utility the same amount of money for the ability to own my own power plant?”
Btw – the reason we will also test year round food security production on the site is that is what much or the developing and 3rd world deal with. Think back to your great grandparents way of living life. I joked with Agrowbox, which was the first piece of Agrovillage, a modular vertical box farm type system as way to grow as much nutritious food as possible in spaces where wars and natural disasters are prone to happen. We would smile that after researching “what” to grow for nutrition to add to whatever oats or flours we could get in the local market, that “In the west, we eat fast food laden with empty sugar, salt and fat calories. Here we are trying to grow the healthiest and most nutritious diet for starving people! The irony.”
If you want a supply of year round fresh vegetables…you can have them in your house. Just go to the store, buy a generic carrot, an organic one, and then grow some of your own, pick it, wash it and take a bite. Yes, no comparison.
The same idea is what is available with off the grid systems. “What do you really want to do? And where?” is more of the question than the limits of working within the set limits and regulations for designing a mass system.
When I put my futurist hat on and think about the urban building designs of the future, and what is possible with smart sensors and buildings. I have to think about Augmanity and how technology can and will be used to make life very convenient for people. What I don’t agree with is the rush for people to live in a virtual world and not deal with the person sitting next to them at a café, or neighbor. Soon you will be able to live in a world that is virtual. Is it a good thing?
Here is what all that research seems to point me to. Forgive the simplicity of the example, but on one side, I see more of a separation of the wealth divide. There will be fewer wealthy and poorer unless we as a planet come up with some solution to the gap.
I have been looking at designing “morph” living and work spaces for ages. The question is “how can one use the optimal or minimal amount of space, yet, have element move, change, morph, and alter” to give the, “people, places and spaces” the ability to change into anything the person wants or needs. Notice there is “need” as much of the planet will be needing a lot of assistance as we age and our natural bodies will become a dumping ground for more drugs, bionics or lab grown parts to allow a human to live longer. For the wealthy of the urban living world, the future is really amazing and rather cool
What bothers me about this model is that while you don’t need more space as you try to come up with a decent living model for all. The people that have more, will want bigger and more space. I never understood it myself, but I guess there is some sort of competition with insecurity happening over who has more?
I really don’t know what the average urban dwellers life will be like. I don’t think they will have the same luxury or convenience as the wealthy unless the “spaces and places” of the cities become a sort of co-op of products and services?
My question with urban living of the future and higher population density isn’t about how cool the spaces will be. It is “how will man himself change to becoming a better person and citizen to his neighbor?”
The path I am seeing is that he probably will be more selfish.
To explain off the grid, I have to think back when I was getting gout of college. I was from a tiny town in upstate NY, and when you thought of “cool” it was the mystery of the skyline of New York, Chicago, San Francisco and other cities. It was wondrous to go from farmlands to a concrete city with mountains replaced by buildings that people work and live in. When you are younger, the big city is where many want to go for adventure and excitement.
Now I am older, have traveled around a smidgen of the planet, have been lucky enough to see and work in many cities, and in the past 10 years, have realized that for the world to solve its problems, somehow everyone will have to think beyond its nation state or space in the world.
There is a lot of great goodness on this planet; there also is a fair share of misery and suffering. I don’t really know the reason why except for human pride, greed, and the clash of various ideologies and beliefs among the people.
As mentioned, as one ages, while the city life is wonderful that you have so much culture and choices available within a city block or two – as a human being, does living in a concrete jungle speak to your inner heart and soul very much?
I guess what I learned in the past few years, despite the previous 30 seeking answers to how one can use technology to improve, or make tools – is that life is really inside each persons heart and soul.
Nature and being in nature, should you not take the million dollar RV and go to burning man as an idea of going to nature – but rather going off to where there is no grid, few people and just the elements. In a few days, your rhythms will change, if you stay long enough, you will see the world in a different way.
When you go back to the city- you are more aware of how “man made” or “busy” life is and how noisy.
The question is do you want to live a quantitative life? Or a qualitative one?
The off the grid idea is more work, and there is a huge hole that in the past week there appears to be a lot of people looking for how to hybridize, optimize and bring solutions into the off the grid world where one can enjoy the elements of western lifestyle – anywhere on the planet.
That is the benefit of off the grid. While sharpening an axe to chop wood might be wonderful exercise. Man also created chainsaws as a great tool. I use them.
Whether one is living on or off the grid – the next 30-40 years are truly going to be wondrous time for what is possible with how we live and work.
Hopefully, people will take the time to work on themselves and become better people. Truth is, that the most time in a world that wants to push a button and have instant convenience.
Not sure what I babbled about – but that is what you get this post brainstorm day. Now, I use the electric coffee bean grinder, as I only hand grind the high quality ones.
Am I “lazy?” Or is that considered being “smart?”
It really doesn’t take much to have a great quality of life. While having stuff is nice, if you have great people and love that is much better. A surprising portion of our planet is simply surviving. While it probably is a pipe dream, I think everyone should have the ability to live – not just survive. The later is not a great way to live.
What I have learned, and am still learning with the various rules, regulations, corruption, greed and elements of energy and power is that it is nice that the off the grid technologies and people working in them have come so far, and will continue to grow when we blend high tech into system growth and optimization. It will allow the planet to live a higher quality of life.
It will allow people more choices. How man uses them – well, that is one area I have no solution to at this time – but I still invest in Augmanity as a way for man to see himself and make better people, places and spaces.
Perhaps I should edit this – or just stick with my guns…first draft dribble. Call it quantitative.