Doomsday Unplugged

Just before I engaged in my usual morning routine of preparing breakfast, the power went out. There’s a lovely hush in a house when the power goes out, not unlike the quiet you get in the far north on a calm winter’s day. In the north there are places with no cars, no planes, no electronic hum and no noise. You stand still and the immensity of silence surrounds you. You pause and listen, hearing only the sound of your heart beating. It’s a marvelous sensation but different from the thoughts that occur when the power goes off in your house. The reality hits! I don’t particularly like cold cereal.

Now I do have a few advantages over some of the neighbors. At least I have heat and hot water, thanks to a fireplace and hot water tank powered with gas. Before the proliferation of cell phones, your land line phone wouldn’t work unless it plugged directly into the phone jack and had wire running from the handset to the main unit. These days I have to think long and hard to remember where I put my old emergency phone with it’s coiled wire and direct plug.

But the disadvantages of having no power quickly mount. No lights, no TV, no computer, all the electrical appliances are out: no stove, no microwave, no blenders, a fridge you shouldn’t open, etc. etc. etc. In fact, you’re soon left in a state not unlike the average citizen before the 1940’s.

It starts to make you wonder how long North Americans would survive if the power went out for good. The skills of the bushmen in the Kalahari Desert would be worth a lot more than any of our geniuses that need power.

And it’s not just electrical power, which is, after all, a renewable resource. Think of the finite amount of oil on the globe and the addiction most of us have for cars. Have you ever thought about the number of cars in our cities? In my neighborhood I can count ten to twelve cars every three to five houses I pass. Aside from the cost of gasoline and maintenance, put a new car value on every vehicle. Even in small cities the total is staggering. If we put an equal amount of money into public transportation that we put into buying and maintaining private vehicles, you’d be able to deliver anyone, anywhere and at just about any time of the day or night.

We rarely think about power as we complain about high gas prices – and we still drive our cars to the corner store. But, like the doomsayers of old, we’d better start keeping an eye on the horizon. There are four horsemen coming our way, bringing an apocalypse. You can’t miss them. They’ll be riding an SUV with its gas gage on empty, a TV, a stove top and a laptop with a dead battery.

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