Off Grid is an LARP

From servers, sewers, alienation:

You’d think this “independence” might drive a person toward that problematic pioneer fantasy, but it only underlines to me how self-sufficiency is a LARP. Sure, we might not be billed for sewer, but what would we do if the larger society didn’t have someone we could call to pump the septic tank?

When #vanlife — drive a converted van from Alaska to Patagonia — pivoted, due COVID, to #offgridlife — build a place with solar panels in the wilds of Panama (or Nova Scotia, or Umbria, or Massachusetts) — I ended up immersed in the YouTubed lives of young couples building privies and windmills and greenhouses.

As maya points out in her piece, though, there’s no real going “off grid”: Home Depot, the Internet, hospitals are all part of the “grid,“ regardless of where your electricity comes from.

We are interdependent, whether we like it or not. While #offgridlife might be an enjoyable (and challenging) LARP, it’s hard to see how it fits into a larger ecology (we’d all do better to live in cities, sharing infrastructure, and limiting our need to commute).

I know the urge to self-reliance, the wish to not have to rely on anyone else. It’s why I have my own electric lawnmower, one identical to those both neighbours have, for our 30 minutes a week of mowing. It’s why I am considering solar panels for the roof. It’s why I host my own website, despite the cost and complexity. It’s why I have a car in my driveway, an expensive asset that I use a few hours a week.

But I know a healthy future lies in embracing our interdependence, and that means giving up the isolationist strands of a Whole Earth redux and finding an ecology much more rooted in density and cooperation than a bunkered rural utopia.