grid down experience
Grid Down Experience
I just returned from 3 weeks of “grid down” living (DR Congo, rain forest area) and provide here observations on how people coped in this futuristic energy scenario.
Energy limitations truly dominated lifestyles. The biggest city (Kinshasa) had a “grid,” which was down randomly half the time and people were in the dark often (I did not see a single operating freezer or anything frozen because of unreliable power). In the rain forest, no grid ever existed. (I built a 4 kw solar grid in a rainforest area town which very successful-well received). This led to requests by politicians both locally and nationally to convert their diesel systems to solar, but that is another story.
Four types of energy dominated .
Solar electric with lead acid battery storage for modern electronic devices: cell phones, TV (in the city areas), flashlights, night lighting LEDs. Most houses/huts had a 10-200 watt solar panel propped on a chair feeding a 10-50 lb lead acid battery for this. Battery charging kiosks existed everywhere to charge cell phones etc for a nickel a charge and was a major profession.
Burning charcoal, plastic bags, garbage outdoors (sometimes indoors) for cooking. Half of these were merely a few rocks stuck together to hold a pot with space to insert garbage/sticks below for burning. Charcoal making and selling was a major occupation.
Fossil fuel stringently used for transportation: mostly 100 cc 4-stroke (5-8 hp?) motorbikes with typically 3 persons on each as taxis that pick up two people at a time. This seemed to be the biggest occupation /way to make money. Diesel generators often are used for charging cell phones by public officials, who had public money to burn diesel (5 kw generator to generate about 50 watts to charge cell phones and flashlights). Big restaurants and cell phone companies in major cities kept their noisy smelly diesels running to provide lights and (sometimes) slightly cold drinks for customers.
Hand/foot power. Sewing machines (one man clothing repair kiosks etc) were plentiful and hand/foot powered.. A modern well driller was adapted to drilling through rock by harnessing 6 people who manually turn a large drill bit in place of a motor. I did not see a single electric washer anywhere where the people lived. All washing clothes and hands and most baths done via buckets of water manually carried about. Soap was made by hand and sold as large crude brown molded cakes, sometimes from recycled cooking oil. Meat storage avoided energy often by smoking or by live carry: chickens were harvested and eaten on the same day when needed, (and therefore a little tough to chew) and small crocadiles were trussed up with a carry handle and carried around for periods of time until the live meat was needed.
With the exception of solar electric for modern electronics, older, simple-to-repair technology was reverted to everywhere. Motorbike transportation was extremely efficient and convenient/rapid via a 50 year old simple design motor with single cylinder/one spark plug simple carburator. This was extremely primitive (and of Indian make) compared to modern machines found in other Asian countries such as Thailand. People often were fixing their own bikes on the side of the road with anything they could find. Sewing machines were of 50-90 year old easy to repair design. I even saw an exact copy of my grandmother’s foot treadle 1930’s Singer used for making clothes. Charcoal was made by hand in small batches and a flimsy metal charcoal burner was made by hand. Repairs to boats and cutting sheet metal etc were done by the same tool, a machete. Simple manual tools were used to make new boats, completely out of tree trunks. Screwdrivers were hard to find and modern wood screws non-existent (I searched constantly for these without luck).
The only fiberglass I saw was World Wildlife Foundation’s imported fiberglass boats (nestled alongside dugout canoes), who were there to teach the people how to live sustainably. Aid agencies and the UN had expensive energy guzzling 4 wheel drives and constantly running diesel generators and air conditioners, and were detested by the people for lording over them with energy profligancy and not including them in decision making. To address this simple problem one agency imported an expensive PhD cultural anthropologist to “talk” with the people the first week I was there. I learned from him that, on the bright side, the aid agencies had a common goal of preventing the World Bank from a. cutting down the rain forests for profit, b. leaving a few pieces as “parks” for profit, and c. removing the natives from their lands to allow a and b.
To save on energy costs, people would sit outside or attend marketplace in the complete dark having lively conversations punctuated by brief uses of flashlight when necessary. I suppose that campfires were not used because being at the equator, temperatures were in the 90s most of the time.
Despite the apparent poverty and lack of energy, most everyone in the city areas had a cell phone and had developed the habit of constantly staring at the screen, touching various regions on the front surface, and interrupting real-time conversations with family and friends in order to service demands from the beast.
Thank you for writing these up.
Your experience confirms what a "World Made By Hand" will look and feel like. A lower energy existence is a very different place to be, with only super micro-economic opportunities and the return of muscle power as a primary energy source to perform work.
Sad to hear that 'the beast' lives and binds just as effectively there as anywhere. Someday we may yet appreciate what we've lost in service to The Beast. Or maybe not.
I seriously think that if we ever entered a world without cell phones a great many people would determine that to be the insult they could least stand…and opt to check out rather than live without the device that rewired their brains and addicted them to constant dopamine rushes.
Thanks again for writing this up!
Thank you for your incisive comments.
Regarding the beast: it seems that the next war based on control has already started as seen by cell phone and internet control.
In America, the deep state funds and controls the Washington Post, New York times, google, (including youtube), and facebook.
In China, the Washington Post, New York Times, google (including youtube) and facebook are officially banned and access is denied to the netizens. Instead other services such as we chat are used exclusively for life (to buy anything for example). All aspects of a person's life, including using a taxi (when and where) must go through the government websites, and netizens are warned on the bullet trains that any infractions will cause a demerit in their government appraisal report cards (according to annoucements in Chinese and English).
I suppose that the winner of this next contest, waged via information control will be determined (as it has always been) by which side can remain closest to reality. So far the U.S. information team "beast" seems to rely a great deal on fake news, so I am not optimistic for them. The U.S. side is out-numbered and out engineered by the Chinese side, and doesnt realize for example that the fastest computers (by far) are Chinese, with original Chinese software and original Chinese hardware that is not copied or inspired by anything from Silicon Valley. Further, the best new devices (small chips used for communication and control of the internet of things) are Chinese invented, Chinese manufactured and barely understood by American engineers who dont understand the hardware but can read instructions for how to implement and program their use in the internet of things (ask any American electronics engineer less than 50 years old if he or she knows how a transistor works or understands hardware and you will likely get a blank face from an app programmer who does not know the back doors or basic operation of the Chinese chips he/she is programming). How many people realize that there is a brain drain into China and that the Chinese people are increasingly patriotic and very optimistic about the future, wherein it is easier for a Chinese young person to buy a new house than it is for an American young person. I was in a very populous Chinese city recently wherein more than half of all street traffic was via electric vehicles (mostly motorbikes of less than 5 horsepower, very silent and no smoke albeit slower movement). At the same time the beast was informing the Americans via its "news" that America was far ahead of China in electric cars.
Sorry to be off topic, but this is very important to our future and no one is talking about it……………. your PP website is a place where many people now go in search of the truth.
The current Snow Hurricane battering the mid-atlantic needs to be watched closely. Another learning moment and scenario for preparing.
Hope all is will in Mass where temps will drop to -10 or less. May the Power be with you!