A couple of years ago when our family spent time in and around Jemez Springs, New Mexico, I met several local residents who aspired to “live off the grid.” By “the grid,” they meant the electricity grid to which most of us in the “developed world” are connected every minute of our lives, and without which most of us could hardly conceive daily life. All of these “green living” people I met had “unplugged” from the electricity grid, but several still used propane for cooking and other household power needs. They were not entirely “off the grid.” Yet.

The March 2008 issue of Smithsonian magazine includes a fascinating interview with journalist Doug Fine, who lives off the grid in southwestern New Mexico. According to Doug’s website and blog:

Adventure journalist, NPR contributor and Cosmos-nudger Doug Fine speaks several languages, including suburban American, rural American and Alaskan American. He has reported and sent panicky emails from Rwanda to the Arctic Ocean. At last sighting he was living in New Mexico with too much livestock and just the right smear of stars.

In the article, Doug explains his motivation for wanting to live off the grid in as a public experiment. He relates:

I wanted to see if I could reduce my oil and carbon footprint but still enjoy the amenities that we expect as Americans. In other words, to continue driving a motorized vehicle and have power at my house—not live like a total Grizzly Adams. Can I enjoy Netflix and the Internet without fossil fuels?

Solar energy and a diesel automobile converted to run on waste vegetable oil from restaurants provide the energy Doug’s lifestyle requires. He raises and grows his own food, offering the following advice for those of us who might respond with a comment like, “I’m just too busy to do all of that:”

Growing your own food takes an hour or two a day. But I would suggest that if one doesn’t have an hour or two to work on one’s life, one might be too busy.

Too busy. That’s an affliction I think is all too common these days. It’s refreshing to learn about Doug’s journey and the real possibility of living off the grid. The following five minute YouTube video summarizes much of Doug’s adventure living off the grid, which he has also documented in a new book “Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living.”

Certainly many people might read this entry and view this video with a noticeable air of doubt and even distain. “I could never do something like that.” “That’s just not realistic.” “How could our family ever take such a radical move?” There certainly are folks who take an even more extreme approach to green living than Doug, but personally, I like his approach. He hasn’t given up Netflix or Internet access! Are these life choices sustainable over the long term? Time will tell. I think, however, that technologies SHOULD provide us with options in our lives rather than dictate we live a prescripted existence. Doug Fine certainly is demonstrating that this ideal is not merely theoretical, it can be a lived reality.

Additional video interview segments from Doug are available in the YouTube video, “Farewell, My Subaru – Stories & Soundbytes,” which includes footage not used in the “main” five minute video segment linked above.

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One Response to Tales from an adventurer living off the grid

  1. @Wes
    Thanks for sharing. It certainly looks like it will be a book worth reading. The lifestyle might even seem more attractive if the ranch wasn’t so cluttered but hey that is just my OCD talking.

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