The Pokey Finger of God

meditations on religion and culture

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Fine Living

April 5th, 2008 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Farewell, My Subaru is Doug Fine’s autobiographical account of his attempt to move “off the grid” to 40+ acres in New Mexico. [Book. Descriptive article.] His adventure began from a desire to “use a lot less oil”, utilize more renewable energy, and to eat more locally.

And not die. He felt pretty certain that significant error lay embedded within the mainstream acceptance of the status quo: “unlike any society that came before, we’ll figure out a way to keep this Super Bowl-watching, espresso-drinking, GPS-guided-car-driving party going no matter what the ice caps, a couple of Jihadists … and some nasty microbes in the Hot Zone have to say. It’s the societal equivalent of not thinking about dying.”

His adventure was hardly on a shoestring: significant investments were made to his land and his vehicles in order to convert from primarily electrical use to renewable energies. He purchased a Danish, solar-powered water pump and had it installed 140′ underground. Not to mention having to purchase and install the solar panels to actually drive it. He had to buy a truck and convert it to using salvaged restaurant grease for fuel. (Although, this would appear to be a foolish excess as the nearest restaurant was 20 miles away.) He had to build fences and outbuildings. He had to buy stock and feed. Part of the message I get here is that not everyone could afford to buy 40 acres, even in New Mexico, and load it up with everything you’d need for .

Another thing is that he does it entirely “on his own”. Setting aside the salient fact that he actually depended upon, and paid, quite a number of people to help him along, he still had to do a lot of work and suffer quite a bit of torment and pain getting things right. The fruits of his labor are his to enjoy. At least until he is no longer able to continue doing the necessary work to maintain his systems.

How does his experience relate to the rest of us? Will we each need 40 acres in order to survive? Danish solar-powered water pumps? Is this infrastructure so individualized that we would each need to build our own? Of course not! This mythic, macho attitude that “getting off the grid” somehow implies monastic isolation is irrational and anti-social. Both the cost and work involved in converting a bit of land into a survival system is far more easily borne by several families, and the benefits can then be afforded to a great many dependents.

Fine shows us how, with enough preparation and willpower, anyone could do this. And apparently, it’s working well enough for him to still be there.

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