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Modern Conveniences: Help or Hinderance?

Updated on April 26, 2017
PAINTDRIPS profile image

Loving books and reading new things, Denise shares her book reviews with interesting insight and pathos.

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Nice to have, not necessary.

We are a very spoiled, privileged society. We take the modern conveniences so much for granted that we think of them as necessities instead of what they actually are, nice-to-have-items.

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Look outside sometime.

Yesterday the power went out at my home for about 15 minutes. In the dark for just those few minutes, many things happened to me. I first felt disoriented in my own home. I was panicked and totally at a loss as to what to do. Paralized, I looked around as though I didn’t know where I was. I glanced around the room wondering what had happened as though I had never really seen the room before. Nothing seemed familiar in the dark. I wondered first if I had forgotten to pay my power bill and became anxious about that until I remembered taking care of it only a week prior. I decided there must have been an accident nearby affecting a power line. No lights, no computer, no phone (even that is electric these days), no stove, no running water. After a few minutes, I got up to open the blinds on my windows and let in some sunlight. There was a breeze gently moving the trees, birds flying by and clouds in the sky threatening rain. It was a beautiful day and I hadn’t even noticed until the power went out.

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Hypnotized by the light of the computer.

I have become so accustomed to going directly to my computer in the mornings that I don’t even take stock of the real world weather outside. The light of my computer has become more important to me than almost anything else. Part of that is my work, I realized but still no excuse. I create digital art and so I need my computer, but I’m there more than I need to be each day.

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Alas, Babylon

Years ago I read a SciFi novel about the end of civilization caused by World War 3 called Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. The second thing the bombs affected, after killing millions of people, was that electricity was gone. The story was about how a remote town far enough from the detonations to be spared the radiation fallout, dealt without the modern convenience of electricity. No lights, no refrigerators or freezers, no washing machines or dryers, no sewing machines. Even cars were useless with limited gas left in the town.

Alas, Babylon trailer

What would you do if there were no electricity?

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Barbecue

The people started by having the “steak fry barbecue to end all barbecues” literally, before all the defrosted meat in town went bad. They gave the cars and all the syphoned gas to the one person they wanted to be able to get around: the doctor. The loneliest person in town became the most popular person in town: the librarian. And bartering became the new currency. The beekeeper had honey to trade; the seamstress with the only foot-pump sewing machine became very essential to mend and make clothing; the carpenter kept people’s homes in good repair.

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Coffee, tea, salt, sugar...

Several of the men in town organized a trek to the nearest salt flats for the necessary food: salt. You don’t think about doing without coffee, tea and salt until all communication and contact with the outside world is gone. If anything happened we would be finding ways to do without coffee, tea, salt, sugar, etc., unless you could home grow it or manufacture it yourself. Herbal teas and home remedies would become important. Anyone with knowledge of how to do things the pioneers did would become invaluable.

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15 Minutes in the Dark.

You start to realize that all those things that you thought were essential really aren’t. Shelter, food, safety and health are all that’s really essential. After that, it’s just nice to have.

In those 15 minutes I remembered that book and started to look at my valued equipment differently. When the refrigerator, computer and lights came back on, I wanted to hug them all and thank them for their service. They aren’t essential, but they are so very nice to have.

What would you do in the face of disaster?

Do you know what you would do in the face of disaster? Do you have a plan at all? Or would you just sit in the dark, paralyzed by inconvenience? If we were without power for any real length of time (say weeks) would you be able to function at all? Cooking, heating water, and keeping food cool or from spoiling would all be things to think about. If you rely on your cell phone for everything, how would you be able to recharge the battery? Many people have car chargers today but what if gas was a vital commodity that could not be replenished? Would you use it to charge your phone? Could you live off grid if you had to?

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Emergency Checklist

Do you have an emergency checklist? Maybe it would be a good idea to have things in place (at least a contingency plan) in case of power outages if nothing else. This blackout made me think. Do I have water in bottles? Check. Do I have a cooler to store food so it won’t go bad in a few days? Check. Do I have batteries and solar cells for back up? Check? I found out that I didn’t have but one flashlight and only 3 batteries in the house. Time to make a reasonable checklist and stock up on emergency equipment. I don’t live in a hurricane or cyclone prone area but I do live in California, and we have had earthquakes from time to time. In my area we usually only have the shock waves from the more at risk areas but even shock waves can take out the power lines. How about a first aid kit? Oops. I don’t have one. I did find a first aid checklist to create my own online. This is helpful.

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Community.

What about neighbors? We tend to pull away from our vital team resources: neighbors. In a crisis those people around you would be a key element in survival. We would have to learn the lesson of “stone soup” again. Do you remember the children’s story of Stone Soup? It is a very old story about a traveler who came to a town devastated by famine and war. The winter was setting in and the people were all scared they would not live to see spring. The traveler went from door to door asking for a little food and all the people said the same thing, that they didn’t have any food left. So the traveler went to the town square, build a fire and put a large black pot on the fire filled with water. He made sure that everyone was peering out the windows at him as he carefully selected a large smooth stone from the road and ceremonially dropped it into the boiling water. Overcome with curiosity, one of the men watching came out and asked what he was doing. “Oh, I’m making stone soup for my dinner.” The man was startled. Stone soup? He had never heard of it. “Oh, yes, it’s a delicacy. I have enough for you and your family too. Would you like to join me?” After a while more people came out to watch. The traveler sipped the soup and said it was almost done but if only there was an onion to drop into it too, it would be perfect. One of the men said he had an onion and ran back into the house to get it and drop it into the soup. The traveler sipped again and said it would be perfect if only they had a potato to add. Another town’s man said he had a couple potatoes and ran to get them and add them to the soup. The traveler said it would be so much better if only they had some carrots to add. You guessed it. Someone else had carrots. Eventually they had a lovely soup but only because everyone in town contributed to the mix. Alone, they didn’t have enough but together, they had plenty.

Stone Soup

Life is a collaborative effort.

In a crisis we will need to get to know our neighbors, a commodity we don’t take into consideration today. Today we don’t even know who our neighbors are most of the time. We don’t bother to learn their names or their backgrounds unless we are angry with them, their music, or their pets. It is sad really. It seems to me that life should be a collaborative effort and not a solitary event.

Living off the grid

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Dependent on devices.

Another thing is that our electric devices are deemed essential but before electricity everything was manual. Thomas Edison did really mean for us to get so dependent upon this commodity that we couldn't function without it. They still have manual sewing machines, manual lawn mowers, manual kitchen mixers, and manual washing machines. It can be done; it just won’t be as convenient. Cook stoves without electricity use fire. Fire has certainly been around for a long time and will still be here when electricity is but a memory.

Take a break today.

Give your machines and computers a break today and take a walk. Enjoy the free scenery and lovely weather while you can.

When the Lights Go Out

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Electrifying Comments Welcomed

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
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      Denise McGill 19 months ago from Fresno CA

      Wilderness,

      You know, you are right. In any crisis situation it will be neighbors working together that will make all the difference. We cannot stay isolated from our neighbors forever and expect to survive when crisis comes. Thanks so much for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 19 months ago from Boise, Idaho

      We once lost power for 10 days. Not like Babylon - surrounding towns retained power - but certainly bad enough as roads were blocked for several days. We made out fine, using camping gear to heat and light the home, and several neighbors moved in with us for a few days, bringing what they had to contribute. Water was the only real problem, but the outage was caused by a snow and ice storm so there was water available if it did need melting.

      But one of the keys was neighbors. We got together to clear roads from fallen trees, and to share what equipment and supplies we had. Community is important.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
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      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      FlourishAnyway,

      I'm happy you didn't have to go longer without the "essentials" than that. Thanks so much for sharing.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      This is a good hub. For me, it took a hurricane about 10 years ago and several days of being forced to live without essentials to appreciate what we have.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
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      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      social thoughts,

      Thank you. I always appreciate your thoughtful and insightful comments. I see something coming, I just hope it isn't as bad as I imagine.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • social thoughts profile image

      social thoughts 2 years ago from New Jersey

      Denise,

      This is nicely written, as usual. I took a few classes in college which talked about climate change. I remember one book in particular pointed out how farmers will gain all of the power when we lose our electronics. Pun intended! I'm sure you already see this coming. It's a fascinating topic. It's always great to see people writing about it!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
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      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Jackie Lynnley,

      I'm so glad you found something to help with your hub. Thanks so much for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      This is so true; it is like being a cave person when the lights go out! There you are just entombed to the dark! We are very apt to have some if not many of these emergencies in the near future with the way things are going and emergencies coming from different means. We really should give this some thought and I have a hub nearly ready about that. There is rarely a warning of emergencies.

      Great food for thought and at least one new idea to add to mine! Thanks.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
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      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      teaches12345,

      I have to admit it is all very nice to have. I love having conveniences but dread what that says about me or what could happen if a true disaster happened and we all had to do without. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Cenise

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      We were without technology for days when we lived up north. You learn to live without it but it was so good when it all came back on. You have posted important messages and safety suggestions for people to heed.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
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      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      lollyj lm,

      Wow, I bet you did. I've never had to go more than a few days without electricity before because of disaster, natural or otherwise. But many years ago when finances were very tight we had to work without it for a couple of months because of raising rates. Those were some interesting lessons. We figured out how to cook, clean and even fill a bathtub with hot water for baths. Not easy but not impossible. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 2 years ago from Washington KS

      Very thought provoking hub. We lived for 11 days without electricity in the aftermath of a huge blizzard in the Kentucky mountains. We learned a lot of good lessons that year!!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
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      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Surabhi Kaura,

      Thank you for stopping my and for your interest. I appreciate your comments.

      Blessings,

      Denise

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      Surabhi Kaura 2 years ago

      Hi Denise! What a pleasure to know you! I am sorry I didn't read you before. I can see how much effort you have put into this Hub. Very thought provoking article. I will come back and re-read it. Much thanks :) God bless you.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
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      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      denise.w.anderson,

      What a genius idea! and cool challenge! I think everyone ought to try that just to have an idea of the challenges an emergency could bring. None of us want to live through a disaster but all of us should know what to do if one comes. I love that 72 hours challenge. I may have to try that just for fun. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      A couple of years ago, my family and I took the challenge to live for 72 hours without running water and electricity. It was a real eye opener! We had a lot of things stored, but didn't realize how inconvenient it was until we actually made the commitment to do it! Afterwards, we, too, revised our emergency preparedness plan! It is amazing what person can do without when it comes right down to it!

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      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Thank you, MsDora. I guess it was a wake up call for me that day. I fell better now, in front of my computer, in the warmth of my electric heater, sipping my cup of tea... oh dear, I've fallen right back into my old self-absorbed habits, haven't I? I guess it's one of those things we will have to be reminded of regularly. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      A good wake up call to (1) appreciate the conveniences we have, and (2) to realize that they are not guaranteed to be always there. Very useful. Thank you.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
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      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      emge,

      Thanks for commenting. I appreciate your taking time to read my hub.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
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      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Larry Rankin,

      Hey, Larry, it's a hard one to answer since we spend so much time writing and working online but I think we don't see the light of day often enough. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
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      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      ezzly,

      Thanks for taking the time to visit my hub and for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • emge profile image

      Madan 2 years ago from Abu Dhabi

      Great post. One gets used to a convenience over time, but a human can adjust anyway

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      This is a question I ask myself everyday.

    • ezzly profile image

      ezzly 2 years ago

      Very thought provoking article, thanks for this !

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
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      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Cynthia Haltom,

      That's it. You got my point exactly. I'm not planning on throwing away my computer anytime soon but I sometimes forget to push it away and check out what's happening outside my own front door. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

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      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      CorneliaMladenova,

      You are a very smart person. I don't have candles and matches in every room but probably should do that. Thanks so much for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
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      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Reynold Jay,

      You make a very good point about the Emergency and about the abudance of things and lack of funds. I agree. I have a cell but not one of the latest ones with all the bell and whistles. I really see no need for all that. Thanks so much for checking this out as usual. Happy Holidays.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 2 years ago from Diamondhead

      I believe they are useful. however they can hinder when you forget how to really live.

    • CorneliaMladenova profile image

      Korneliya Yonkova 2 years ago from Cork, Ireland

      Great article. I agree that we are too dependent on today's technologies. Well, I myself am always prepared for the worst. Have a bag with complete set of clothes, soap, water, first aid means and all necessary things to survive and also have candles and box of matches in every room. Don't bother about food because there are more than enough edible plants in Ireland all over the year. The ocean is near too and it offers enough seaweed and fish :)

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 2 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      Hi Denise--I had to read this! You might incorporate the "EMERGENCY" part of this in your headline to draw in readers. You ask a good question. I often tell others we are born into a world and very much accept, "What is." People like the Quakers have rejected all the modern stuff that comes along and are doing quite well I imagine. I'm one of those old folks that does not see a need for a cell phone at all. That makes me odd to some. Then others wonder why they have all this modern stuff and no cash. Many have priorities very well mixed up. Cell phone bill gets paid but not enough for food and rent. etc. HMMM?

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