Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thoughts on Sustainability

Due to some issues we've been having as of late with our power source, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about what it would be like to live where I do without fossil fuels.

We live off-grid, so we must generate our power ourselves. In the summertime, we're able to charge our system almost exclusively with solar power. However, our summers here in the Yukon are brief.  The rest of the year, we use a gas-powered generator to charge up our batteries.  Ideally, we should be able to run the generator every couple of days to charge up the batteries, and then draw off of those. So, take the gasoline out of the picture, and we're left with no power source, for the majority of the year (and at the darkest time of the year).

So what would we do, if suddenly there were no more fossil fuels? Everything about our lives would change. We live off-grid, but we still enjoy most of the same luxuries as people living in town. No electricity for most of the year would mean no more computer. It would mean no recorded music or electric lights. We'd light the house with oil lamps and candles.

Where would we source those things? We'd have to get them in town (assuming supplies were still getting to town...they'd have to come by the river, like they did up until the 50's). To get to town without fossil fuels, we'd need a horse and cart, or a dog team in the winter.

The wood stove is our sole heat source. Without fossil fuels, we could no longer use a chainsaw to fell trees. Instead, we'd have to do it the old-fashioned way. To get the wood home, we'd be using our horse again...that means we wouldn't be able to take the large loads that a truck and trailer allows: we'd be spending a lot of time cutting and moving fire wood.

Unless we dug a well on the property, we'd be taking the horse and cart down  to the spring, about 2 km from the house, to fill our blue jugs with fresh water.

What about food? Right now, Dawson has zero food security. All of our food comes from far, far away. Without fossil fuels, P and I would be growing and gathering all of our food right here. We would hunt and fish for fresh meat...I don't think we could keep chickens for eggs, because it would take too much to keep them alive through the winter. There is an abundance of wild food here, if one knows what to look for and how to process it. We'd take that horse and cart to town every once in awhile for things like flour and sugar (assuming they were still making it up here).

Considering these things gives me such respect for the Han people, who survived in this region long before the first traders and prospectors arrived in the mid-1800's. It was a lean, hard life they must have lived, moving almost constantly according to the seasons, always in preparation for the long, cold winters.

Seeing the ice shushing down the river this past week, I think of the stampeders settling this area in the early 1900's, watching the last river boat steam away from town. Once that boat was gone, there was no more food coming in from Outside, no news, no visitors. They used to have great big storehouses, that'd be full of the town's supplies until the river broke in the spring. And back then, that sometimes meant June before the first boat.

Would I be up to the challenge, without fossil fuels? In a way, life would be much simpler. Each day would be focused on the bare essentials of living...growing, gathering and preserving food. Hauling fresh water. Gathering wood for heat. Repairing the house, thinking of innovations to make things easier, tending to the horse (and the dog team!). But I feel like down time would be that much sweeter, harder earned. We'd learn to make our own music. We'd tell each other stories. We'd celebrate when the days started to get longer, because it would mean burning the lamps and candles less. We'd savour each bite of food, knowing exactly where it came from and what went into getting it on our plates....

In all honesty, I don't think it's a life I'm ready to's harder, meaner, most likely shorter. Without fossil fuels, I'd be terribly isolated here.  However, there are so many aspects of it that I would like to incorporate into our lives now: growing and gathering more of our own food is at the top of that list. And there is certainly nothing wrong with learning to savour each day more fully...

How would your life change without fossil fuels? Could you do it?

1 comment:

  1. I just ran across your blog through reading Lara's. I love your thoughts on sustainability! In fact, these are things that me and my husband discuss on a frequent basis. Though we live in northwestern Pennsylvania, so our winter's are not as harsh as yours. I actually had to look to see where Dawson City was. You are sure up there! When we finally buy our own farm, it is a goal to go off grid. I can't yet fully imagine what changes we will have to make to do so, but I look forward to the challenge. I look forward to reading more of your blog.


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