I recently wrote about a question that could garner some interesting responses from students: “what does civilization as we know it rely on?” I suggested electricity would be high on the list of technological advancements and after a 24+ hour period last week without power, I have some additional thoughts about something we take for granted.
1. Having no power even for a few days had me wondering about premodern and modern sleeping patterns. Without electricity, one would really benefit from getting up with the sun rising and going to sleep at dark. Were there night owls before electricity or is this a modern condition?
2. Having refrigerators and freezers helps remove us from the process by which food is made. The daily process of purchasing or producing fresh food is unnecessary with electricity but is more likely if one can’t store food for long periods of time.
3. Most of our modern entertainment and information gathering relies on electricity.
4. Natural light within a house becomes much more important without the possibility of electrical lighting. The trend in recent years is toward more natural light and while this may be aesthetically pleasing and more green, it also provides some insurance when there is no power.
5. If we get to a point where we all have electric cars, what happens then in a power outage? Is this an added bonus of the Chevy Volt which also can run on gas?
6. I would be interested in knowing how the electrical grid is set up. While I know this is secret information (trade secrets plus avoiding mischief and crime), I wonder how redundant the grid is. That is, how many homes and businesses are connected in such a way that electricity can reach the building by several paths meaning it would be more difficult to knock out the power?
7. Why not include short-term, a few days or so, backup systems or small electricity generators (solar, gasoline, etc.) in new homes? Between electricity outages and people worried about a collapse of modern society, might there be a market for this?