Off-grid in the city

This guy disconnected from the electrical grid and water for eight months — in Manhattan. (Joshua Spodek; He learned a lot; great article. Many of his experiences are similar to mine.

I actually have been thinking about this very thing lately, as we had a significant electric repair bill last week and are now facing what might be a significant plumbing repair bill.

Was just thinking about this. So many permie-oriented people romanticize moving out to the sticks and “living off-grid.” I do it in my urban place when I want to, and would do it all the time except I have “civilian” housemates who I need to provide running water & electricity for.

If it were just me here or if i had permie housemates, I’d very likely just turn off the watermain; we have enough rainwater, and also have a well (which a friend helped me retrofit with a hand-pump).

I’ve always felt like having indoor running water was a bit overrated for the cost & risk. At one point I lived without running water inside my home for 10 years, and this was in the heart of a city. I came home to my trailer one day to find a flood. Rather than call a plumber to find and fix the leak, I just shut the indoor water off. And bought a six-gallon water container with a tap. I’d refill the container every few days from an outdoor tap.

And re electricity, when it comes right down to it, I really only need electricity to charge my phone (although i cook on an electric burner & heat water with an electric kettle because it’s convenient).

None of this is to brag. I just want people to be able to work around outages; know they have options; not feel they have to panic; not get charged inordinate amounts of money for repairs.

Go read that article; he describes in detail how he did it and how he ended up making some changes permanent.

I really like his attitude, as embodied in this quote from the article:

“Attitude was more important than technology, though. Attitude made my setup doable. I’m not suggesting that “because I could do it, you can do it,” but I did tell myself that if humans could do without power for 300,000 years, then I could do so for a month.

“The experiment inspired me to learn from indigenous cultures about their practical knowledge of doing without power, including from guests on my podcast who lived among the San in the Kalahari Desert, Hadza in Tanzania, Kogi in Colombia, Tsimane in Bolivia, and Matsés in Peru. Some cultures have lived tens to hundreds of thousands of years with no electrical power—talk about resilience—and continue to choose not to adopt it.

“From them, I learned to appreciate cultural activities with friends, family, and community, like preparing food, making clothes, gathering plants, singing, dancing, and storytelling. I switched from seeing these things as luxuries to experiencing them as time and money savers. I still live in Manhattan, but I now feel I’m living in a different culture, one that values resilience, creativity, humility toward nature, and responsibility to others affected by my actions.

“Regardless of any wider effects of my experiment, it has been important to me personally. A biography of Abraham Lincoln led me to a quote of his: ‘Nothing is more damaging to you than to do something that you believe is wrong.’ In polluting as much as I was for my comfort and convenience, I was doing something I believed was wrong. Resolving that issue has at least helped me sleep better at night.”