We often dream about returning to the simple life of our pre-modern ancestors, back when the idea of barricading ourselves in an office every day would have sounded like a fictional depiction of a nightmarish future. Indeed, the good old days, when humans roamed free, unconstrained by alarm clocks, bills, banks, debts, lawyers and bosses.
But nostalgic fantasies of a past that is alien to us are short lived, because we can’t help but admit how modern-day interconnectedness is not only convenient, it’s the only way we know how to live. How many of us are truly capable of letting go of our smartphones, our cars, the simplicity of grocery shopping, and modern medicine?
Come to think of it, we’re living in a kind of utopia. But there’s a catch, actually there are two. For one, the luxuries offered by this lifestyle often rely on places far away. The price of food is subject to events in distant lands. Floods in another part of the world can raise the price of our favorite meal at home. The same goes for the cost of our daily commutes, and our vacation packages, as turbulence in the Middle East can cause oil prices to skyrocket.
The global economy is an intricate system, more complex, and delicate, than many economists admit. Current events, like the trade war with China, impending ones, like Brexit, and potential ones, like war between the US and Iran, might alter the value, or even the amount, of those precious funds in our bank accounts.
The situations mentioned above may or may not have a major impact on our everyday lives, at least not on their own. But that’s where the second catch comes in, the fact that this utopian way of life is completely unsustainable. Our addiction to fossil fuels and meat has been altering the Earth’s atmosphere in myriad ways.
As our planet continues to heat up, floods, droughts and hurricanes are becoming more intense, and are expected to become more frequent in the coming years. The warming we’ve experienced thus far is just the tip of the (melting) iceberg, and it’s expected to get much worse. A rapidly changing climate has the potential to drive up food prices, and history shows that when resources are scarce, large scale conflicts often follow, as mentioned in great detail in Jared Diamond’s book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005). Considering how interconnected every aspect of our modern lifestyle has become, there may be no easy way out of this one.
Does this mean the only way to protect ourselves is to abandon our bank accounts, our vehicles and even our own homes, perhaps taking residence in a tepee somewhere? Not necessarily. But many who are privy to our fragile situation are choosing to live off the grid, or at least prepare themselves for an abrupt shift in how our civilization works.
There are a number of great books available for those interested in learning how to live off the grid. But for those who aren’t exactly prepared to take such drastic measures, there are many steps we can take in case a natural catastrophe (or a series of them) deprives us of modern-day luxuries, like electricity. Considering recent events in the Bahamas and Spain, items such as solar powered generators may soon become a necessity, especially for those living in areas prone to natural disasters, which may soon be the new normal. Taking steps to replace fossil fuels with solar panels can also reduce our carbon footprint significantly, and quite possibly stave off the worst effects of climate change.