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What Are You Waiting For?

| 9/15/2011 8:57:51 AM

 By Cam Mather

A brutal windstorm moved through Ontario this past summer, clearing out a hot, humid afternoon. A massive power outage affected multiple households. Some of them went quite a few days before electricity was restored. Just after this storm I talked to a lot of people who agreed with me that this was the creepiest, nastiest, darkest, scariest storm we’ve ever seen. Perhaps you become used to weather like this in tornado alley in the U.S. but we don't often experience storms like this around here. As I was scrambling to get the chickens into the coop I had visions of that scene from “The Wizard of Oz” where Dorothy’s house is getting sucked up in the tornado and it’s spinning around. I had visions of me clinging to the outside of the coop as it got airborne and started to spin.

Lots of trees came down on power lines and lots of people were without electricity. My Dad’s friend Shirley was taking stuff from her freezer over to his so that it didn’t thaw and go bad. There seems to be a sort of low level mania going on out in the “grid” world as people scramble for generators and to have some semblance of normality when they find themselves without power. But the truth is, they can’t. Life in North America without electricity is chaos.

So how did this happen? How did we come to allow ourselves to become completely dependent on other people for our basic comforts, and even necessities? When did we get duped into believing some guy in a suit in a big city gives a hoot about whether our lights are on or whether we have natural gas to stay warm?

We work away earning an income, and after we pay tax on that money, we take those after tax dollars and send them to that guy in the suit and hope that he’ll manage to send us a little power. Come on people. This is a bad model of human behavior.

For the last decade I’ve been doing workshops on renewable energy at colleges and conferences throughout my province. In January of 1998, Eastern Ontario and Quebec experienced a massive ice storm that crippled the electricity infrastructure. Very quickly, people were in a critical situation. No electricity. No furnace fans. For those living out in the country it meant no water without the power to pump it. No way to cook. People couldn’t shower. They couldn’t prepare food. Pipes froze. Many people couldn’t purchase gas because there was no electricity to run the gas pumps.

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