Life Off Grid
I found this documentary on those who “unplugged” in our “lands above” to be balanced and highly informative. Jonathan Taggert produced this film in 2016. He visited every Canadian province and territory, including the Northwest territory, the Yukon, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, and talked to the people, most of whom had successfully made a serious transition away from the interconnectivity of modern life: they do not obtain their electricity from a national power grid. In general, they are also responsible for managing their own water supply and disposing of their waste. I watched this movie on the same day that the entire national power grid in Argentina and Uruguay failed, leaving the entire countries in darkness… save for the few hearty souls who live as the people in this film do.
Lasqueti Island, which is located east of Vancouver Island in B.C., is entirely off the grid. Numerous people have made the choice to live there, despite the difficulties. There is no car ferry to the island, for example. The residents have enacted zoning laws that require 10 acres of land per house. This is the minimum amount of land which is considered adequate for off-the-grid living, which includes gathering firewood from one’s property. One of the residents say that people carry a “dream” when they move to the island; he says, however, that the ones who stay are the ones who could modify their dream to fit the reality of life on the island.
Some who move off the grid are dubbed “survivalists,” seeing the imminent end of civilization as we know it (though none are interviewed in this movie). Virtually all those in the documentary seem to have undertaken this serious change in one’s way of life for a mixture of three essential reasons: economic, enhancing one’s knowledge and skill sets, and the joy of living where one wants, in isolated locations. Several seem to be inspired by the philosophy and work of Michael Reynolds, a maverick architect who originated the “earthship” concept of passive solar homes. (Note: I’ll soon be watching a documentary on him entitled “Garbage Warrior”). Building one’s own home out of discarded tires which have been filled with earth, and plastered, is appealing, particularly when there is no 30-year mortgage at the end of the process. It is also appealing to discard those skills needed to maintain one’s position in the “pecking order” of the corporate world and learn basic electrical and plumbing skills. One interviewee said that we must have lost half the skill sets that our grandparents had, from building a proper fire to being able to preserve and can the food we grow in our gardens.
A couple in Northern Saskatchewan built their entire home without a single contractor. How often did they leave their home? Twice a year. Another disabused the viewer from the idea that there are no utility bills; he said I paid for my 30 years-worth of utilities upfront, as he describes the solar panels, the storage batteries and backup generators. One off-the-gridder in Quebec noted the folly of one of his neighbors who had a large array of solar panels but never enough electricity to run his TV – he devoted all his electricity to running hot water pumps instead of having a much more economical wood furnace in the basement. And on Prince Edward Island, a couple said that, although they now had land for their horses, they could not make it economically on tourists who come only two months a year. Both had to get jobs, and the woman said she had never been as stressed out, trying to work full-time, and deal with the additional work of being off the grid.
Virtually all the interviewees seemed to still use the internet and have cars. Few watched TV. A good informative documentary. 5-stars.