There's No Getting Off (The Grid)



Depends on the local energy supply. Not much reliable photovoltaic power in Canada, but micro hydro might work.

Thanks for sharing. I hope to have an off the gird home someday.

Whenever I am back country or in an off the grid place i cannot help but contemplate and take mental note of all the ways that I am still being indirectly powered by the grid. if you look around at all the items in your cabin or pack, what you are wearing, what you are eating, etc. you quickly realize how many ways we are dependent on the larger system even when disconnected from it. Decoupled from the grid with an air gap but still largely powered by it.


And even then you are still in another kind of a grid. Using wood? Dependent on the ecosystem containing the trees (and the metallurgy for the chopping and sawing tools). Eating plants or animals? Same kind of dependence.

To a small degree you can choose the ties to different overlapping grids; but you cannot be off-the-grid entirely.

I’d suggest to adopt a somewhat restricted definition of The Grid, so the discussions make sense and won’t get mired in philosophizing.


Such a well-written and interesting article. But among the posited motivations of prepping, environmentalism and hedonism, I think emancipation has been left out. Many I’ve heard talking about or actually moving off the grid are motivated by escaping submission to a provider (often a monopoly).

They think the provider costs too much, or is unreasonable with their terms, or does not respect the environmental or social ethics demanded by them, or requires too much invasion of privacy.

They don’t necessarily believe they’ll be more robust off the grid (prepping), or will leave a lighter foot-print on the Earth (environmentalism), or will even enjoy making the switch (hedonism). They just think the available options are inadequate to the extent that they must adopt an alternative. Emancipation.


excellent points.

i personally usually just consider the modern energy/material resource grid when thinking about the grid. so yeah likely the saw or solar panel or compound bow was a product of the grid and you couldn’t produce one yourself without the use of petroleum/electricity/modern manufacturing.

I don’t consider the ecosystem to be a grid. So in that sense it is possible to be 100% off the modern grid, hunting with knapped arrows while wearing deer skin and living in a teepee made from skins and log poles, etc. Look to how traditional indigenous people of any region used to live and I see numerous examples in every culture of truly off grid living.

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I think this is a good question, even if we aren’t actually planning to go fully off-grid. Much like “why become a vegetarian?”. It’s worthwhile examining how and why we accept existing systems, what advantages they give and what the costs are to us, to others and to the world in general. I’m not living off grid by any means, but examining the kind of things that we have makes you question what is actually necessary, and how you can live with less waste and be more connected to things and people that matter. Having a garden is a not particularly economical use of space, but it reduces waste and teaches me and my family about where food comes from, in addition to giving us a sense of the passing of seasons. I’d add a couple of other motivations to the list, such as personal discovery/growth, simplification, solitude, being close to nature (rather than environmentalism per se). I would appreciate the freedom from electronic distractions, the greater sense of exposure to nature (weather, seasons, dependence on independent supply), the personal challenge and the opportunity to build relationships with those near me. As @Willondon pointed out, freeing ourselves from dependence on the owners of the grid and reducing our dependence on the abuse of others in the name of capitalism would be big draws for me.

Plenty of people around the world live off grid, in that they aren’t connected to electricity, internet, running water or other services, or these connections are only intermittent or difficult to access. Is our going off-grid some romantic westerner’s dream or is it actually any benefit to anyone other than ourselves? Driving into a second home in the woods and burning wood 24/7 is not particularly environmentally friendly - as you’d notice if everyone started doing it. On the other hand, examining our relationship with nature and the rest of the world and gaining new perspectives on our consumption is a valuable lesson.


A nice thing to have would be a Toshiba 4S. Settle with it on some cozy island, or in the middle of Finnish forests, feed power to a village or two for exchange for fish and other food and barter, and just enjoy the peace…

So for reasonable comfort at least some products have to be taken from The Grid. Even if as one-time investment or infrequently.

I am sometimes thinking about self-sufficiency in hightech scenarios, but that requires data processing based on other methods than high-density silicon lithography, and chemistry based on grown feedstock and microreactors. With enough sunlight, you can also get quite some energy-intensive processes running with a solar furnace. When I discussed with a friend the problematics of sustainable oxyacetylene welding in the context of the electricity-less “Revolution” series world, I came up to realization that you can get oxygen by mechanically run air liquefaction (the old Linde’s method), and acetylene from calcium carbide obtained in a solar furnace (normally produced in an electric-arc one).
There are some quite interesting concepts to leverage there…


There’s a boat builder in New Brunswick who’s been off the grid for the last few decades.

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Maybe- but the existence of long-distance trade as long ago as the Paleolithic era suggests that ‘the grid’ has been making people’s lives easier & more interesting for tens of thousands of years.


In that instance, see @shaddack’s post near the top concerning a restricted definition of The Grid.


From your link:

Our oak is bought from a family mills in southern New England. We use a minimum of power tools in order to create a quiet and clean working environment. A band saw and thickness planer, powered by a small diesel, do the initial shaping of rough lumber.

So your “off-grid” boatmaker uses money, modern transportation to get the materials to their workplace, power tools, and diesel.

Seems a lot like the Amish and Mennonites, who draw a line in the sand and say: modern technology created after this date, we will not use (unless someone else uses it for us).


Perhaps “the system” would be a better tent-pole around which to build an interesting rumination.

One need not have any further motive to disconnect from “the grid” than Duke Energy’s profit model and corporate ethics. Where I live, their treatment of the river 100 feet from my door is enough to want to find a way to stop doing business with them.

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My dad was the same way about computers; glorified CB’s that were only a passing fad. He figured that if he never touched one, he wasn’t really relying on them. He had no idea how integrated things really were behind the scenes.


Well, there are buses running on hydrogen, or on electricity. Or on LPG or CNG.
(Okay, LPG is derived from oil, and CNG is somewhat close, but it is not oil.)
(And even gasoline can be made from coal. Or from biomass. Fischer-Tropsch is a friend.)

But electrical buses fed from a nearby nuclear plant are the best argument that oil is not needed for riding a bus.

No argument about that. Obviously there is a reason most people live on the grid and enjoy modern amenities. My point was simply that it is truly difficult to get off grid completely, simply cutting the wires to your home doesn’t mean you aren’t relying on the grid in numerous other ways.

Ah, but you still have to build the bus with machinery, and lube them wheels! :smile:


The machinery, that depends on details.

The wheels, well, biobased lubricants cover that.


hopefully those biobased lubricants are made in a factory that uses machines without plastic or petroleum lubricants, and doesn’t use coal powered energy, etc. likely those bio-lubricants are shipped in plastic containers. the rabbit hole goes as deep as you can chase it, really we are a petroleum based society so very little is “oil” free until we come up with and employ mass scale alternatives.

i have mixed feeling about this, on one hand global warming and the environment, on the other what a great time in history to be alive all that cheap energy has propelled humanity quite a long ways and i love so much about this modern world being a tech head.

can’t i have my cake and eat it too? :cake:


From what I have seen tech is vetted by a council of patriarchal elders who will sometimes approve things like PSTN telephones or LPG if wood is too expensive, but in the case of the phone they have to be in an outhouse away from the home to not overdo the convenience and family life intrusion.

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