Getting used to Finiteness

Tuesday, 14th October 2008 at 12:54 UTC Leave a comment

Whilst reading an article on the threat of electricity black-outs recently, I had a sort of vision of future weather forcasts including, as well as the polen index, the sun index, etc. the forcast for availability of electricity. With power more likely to rely on natural sources, like wind and so forth, hence we might be able to predict many of these black-outs in advance. The fact is, if everyone pulls together, we can actually avoid these grid-failures by a means some of us are quite familiar with…

Water shortages. We have them every so often. Bits of Britain begin looking like a desert. And then the words that every gardner dreads: Hose Pipe Ban. Everyone knows when there’s a hose pipe ban. And everyone, it seems, wants to gossip about who’s using their hosepipe. People realise that driving your car with vague mud splashes isn’t a crime, and that a yellow lawn is still a lawn afterall.

The extent to which such a warning leads to some kind of communal self regulation has always baffled me. Where it falls down in the case of public warnings to take extra care not to overload the electrics is that most people can’t be seen to be overconsuming at home, though perhaps more companies would get complaint letters from locals went caught with all the lights on at midnight. Unlike a lawn, a computer isn’t on display outside the house for everyone to see and berate for its greeness during a crises.

The other problem is that its inherently easier to hide if you have a front garden, or better still, a couple hundred meters of driveway, i.e. you are incredibly rich. In this sense, the richest would still get away with wasting the precious little electricity we have to share.

Whether or not it actually comes to this, or indeed, whether or not this would actually work well enough to prevent black outs, is largely irrelevant: it might be that in poor generating conditions, we in the British Isles will have to heed warnings about areas in the country where generating capacity has fallen too far to guarantee supply. And such warnings might also encourage more people to think about off-grid small scale production, either individually or collectively with their nearest neighbours.

The time when we could view electricity supply as infinite (to the extent that there was always sufficiently more than we wanted to use that we weren’t aware of the existance of a ceiling) are long gone. We must learn to conserve energy, not just to save the planet, but also because otherwise, our entire energy grid might fail, lunging whole cities into darkness. And some method of social pointer, that relies on people and not the state, might become quite an efficient way of keeping the lights on for those that actually need them most.

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Entry filed under: Climate Change, Energy, Environment, Materialism, News, Politics, Sustainability, Technology.

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