One Hour without Electricity

Earth HourHave you ever noticed how quiet it gets in your house when there’s a power outage? Once you’ve gotten over the inconvenience, isn’t it actually rather lovely?

A few years ago I had the pleasure of sitting in a circular house of straw bale and mud, the guest of a lovely woman named Emma who had founded a community farm that operates completely “off the grid” in West Wales. We sat on a thick, warm rug made of woven, unprocessed wool, sipping home made herb tea that had been made over the wood fire burning in the grate and most magical of all was the exquisite silence of NO electricity. It was Emma’s choice to live this way and my thoughts seemed to quiet themselves as I felt my energy expand in gratitude, the way you sigh with relief when the roadwork outside your house stops.

On Saturday, March 27th, from 8:30 to 9:30 pm local time, people around the world are invited to turn out their lights and electronic devices for one hour in a symbolic gesture to their government that they are ready to reduce their use of cheap oil. It’s called Earth Hour and you can find a lot more about it, and sign up to show your support, at the Earth Hour website. (And yes, I’m sure you could turn off your fridge for an hour without negative consequences). Last year I was in England with my son and his wife for the event and we spent a hilarious hour playing charades by candlelight. Each year, more people join in. Some people meditate alone, some party with friends and family. Hey, it’s an opportunity to remember what people did to spend the time BEFORE electricity!

Emma’s community is Brithdir Mawr. This was my first visit to see another longtime resident, Tony Wrench, a friend of mine over many years. As we made our way down a muddy lane, hoping we’d followed the directions properly through back country Wales, we saw a tub rotating in the rushing water of little stream beside the road and knew we were in the right place. “I detect funk,” said I, as we realized we had found their clothes washing “machine”. They farm with plough horses, generate all their own power, grow most of their own food, and each resident has a way to support themselves financially.

Tony and his wife Jane live in another roundhouse with its own website, which describes, amongst other things, the long battle they’ve had with the local planning commission to keep it standing. So far they’re still there, and with their simple lifestyle they’ve proved that it’s possible to reduce your carbon footprint to a globally sustainable level (and that is a real feat in the western world) without sacrificing everything and living in a home built from what was right there on the land. Check out the video on their website…

Well it’s not the same in a city, you say. Well yes, but for the story of someone on a one year jag to reduce their consumption in the Big Apple, there’s the film No Impact Man (here’s the trailer), where a New Yorker and his wife and small baby lived without electricity for six months. While he has finished with that particular experiment, you can read his ongoing blog.

If you are ever in Wales, I recommend a visit to Brithdir Mawr (their website tells you how). And if getting to Wales seems a long way off, you can create the specialness of a non-electric hour for yourself on Saturday, March 27th between 8:30 and 9:30 pm.

There’s a cool map of the USA on the Earth Hour website that shows how many have committed to this so far, state by state. How about putting the date in your calendar now so you remember to do this very radical thing, and join a growing number of folks around the world who are determined to do whatever it takes to align their living style with what’s sustainable and fair for everyone on our beautiful planet?

A Brit who came to the US in 1988 and found California and the Transition movement to be a perfect fit. Now my life is replete with a dear husband, a small but productive permaculture backyard, a loving family and a very full calendar of work I love.

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Posted in Uncategorized on March 11, 2010