To what extent is off-grid living the solution to the many problems of Coronavirus?

in hive-123046 •  2 months ago 

My response to @eco-trains' QOTW


To simplify to the extreme I’m going to identify five main problems with Coronavirus:

  1. The relatively high incapacitation rate and death rate among those who become infected with it, getting worse the older and more immune-compromised the individual is.
  2. It’s relatively high level of infectiousness resulting in almost inevitable transmission if you come into contact with someone carrying it within 10 days or so of them having contracted it themselves.
  3. The national level lockdown responses resulting in the restrictions on individual freedom, loss of income and livelihoods and slowdown of international movement and trade.
  4. The uncertainty surrounding the origins and solutions to the virus.
  5. Unhelpful media reporting exaggerating the extent of Coronavirus and promoting fear and suspicion among the general population.

Whether off-grid living can solve any of the above problems depends on how you define off-grid, but let’s take a simple definition in which a household or small community is self sufficient in the following:

  • Water
  • Human waste management
  • Energy (electricity/ heating)
  • 50% of food supply
  • Housing (owned not rented)

Being off-grid probably does make you more resilient to economic shocks...

If you are in a self-sufficient ish set up, clearly you are going to be more shock-proof, so this means that you are better positioned to weather any restrictions in the global supply of food or energy.

And if you’re living a low-impact, low cost of living lifestyle then you’re going to be better positioned to live a reduced income which could easily be the result of any economic downturn caused by the governmental reaction to Coronavirus.

So in short, I don’t think too much needs to be said about off-grid living and its effectiveness at offsetting some of the turmoil to the Pandemic - it’s obvious that you are better placed as an off-gridder compared to someone living in a city working in the hospitality sector, for example!

HOWEVER, most off-gridders aren't completely 'off-grid'...

I don’t think there are that many people living off-grid lifestyles who are 100% off-grid. Many rely on side-hustles like eco-rentals, busking or selling crafts at local markets to generate income they need for the needs they cannot supply themselves, and here one might find more suffering among such off-gridders compared to people in traditional jobs who have benefitted from furlough schemes. Many living off-grid do earn very small, but necessary incomes, from such hustles and these would have been significantly impacted I imagine by lockdown measures.

Of course you can get around this by skill-swaps and bartering, but only to an extent - I mean let’s face it - off-gridding means cars and woodburning stoves and chainsaws, and a whole load of other quite expensive one off purchases that need buying, maintaining, fixing and replacing every now and again, and you’re not going to find a mechanic who will swap you an MOT certificate for some homemade incense.

And if Coronavirus lockdown measures carry on, then you might find that the people who supply these ‘one off off-grid essentials start to go out of business and the price of things like Yurts and solar systems and so on increase, making off-gridding less accessible to the masses!

Then again, radical change may happen as a result of lockdown measures, so you never know, maybe we will move beyond international trade systems as usual!

Off-gridding and social distancing?

In terms of off-gridding being a solution to the spread of Coronavirus that would intuitively seem to make sense at a certain level - if people are more spread out, and interacting only in small networks a virus should spread less rapidly.

The problem is off-gridding isn’t like that is it!? There are so many radicals and free spirits, some of whom dash off to spend the night in the city, come back to their off-grid buddies, get huggy, then those buddies themselves go on little house-calls and also get huggy, so TBH the reality of how off-gridding works means it’s probably a great way of spreading a virulent virus around.

In terms of a longer term solution, well, if you think a vaccine is necessary to prevent a mutating virus from killing millions of people every year, you need a damn medical system, so off-grid can’t sort you out there, but I’m not qualified enough to comment on anti-vaccs measures for combatting Coronavirus.

Final thoughts...

So is off-gridding the solution to the many problems of Covid-19 - sort of?!? But it’s not a panacea.

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Reducing dependence on external services and supplies should make you more resilient. I'm sure there are a few preppers on Hive (where's @pennsif?) who know all about this. Reducing contact with others seems the best way to avoid catching a virus. Just depends on how far you want to take it.

True, it's quite simple.

I think Pennsif is probably done with Hive, he's Powered Down and hasn't posted a thing in ages.

You'd sort of expect a farewell at least!

I never heard him say why he might leave. He still have some HIVE though. Hope he's okay.

I'm sure he's doing fine, probably just had enough of all the drama!

Well, it may sound way too harsh and fatalistic, but I would disagree: reducing contact is not enough, you'd have to completely refrain from any contact to effectively stop the spread. Now I'd say it's up to each individual to decide if it's actually worth it, but the half-assed approach you see dictated by most authorities, I believe, is the worst option.

Nice read and an interesting topic @revisesociology!

It has worked out okay for me I guess. My life has not changed all that much aside from a decrease in my Patreon users because they could not afford to do it anymore. I also have had a decrease in random donations which is something that I have never counted on anyway. Basically I have been scratching by on Hive earnings and liquidating the majority of my profits and not Powering Up as much of my earnings as I would like to be doing.

I did start ordering my groceries and tobacco products online to minimize my exposure but I do still visit the one small feed store in the area to purchase dog food and chicken feed but usually only the shopkeeper is present when I do so.

I have lived in the past in a one hundred percent off-grid fashion but at this place I have access to electricity and pumped well water which is convenient but I know how much any 'convenience' can lull me into a false sense of security so I prioritized setting up my solar panel rig and a rain water harvesting system just to have them on standby.

Although I generally live a much more isolated lifestyle there are other humans on the homestead where I live now and I have to say that although I have come through it all rather unscathed it has played hell on them in a number of ways and to be honest having random out-of-state (and in-state) visitors and them visiting friends etcetra is by far my worse contagion vector and makes me want to scream "What is wrong with you people!"

At first I avoided the heck out of them (my fellow homesteaders and their guests) as much as I could but once I saw their morale breaking down I broke my usual hermit-like ways and began attempting to boost their morale a bit which is a hit or miss prospect for sure and probably not worth the risk to my life. Now that the cases are beginning to surge here I have been debating on whether to start isolating again from them because yeah all that 'huggy we will be okay' stuff is downright dangerous!

It sounds like you've been doing pretty much everything you need to be covid-safe, but I get the impression going solo isn't too much of a problem for you! Same here actually.

I was wondering about whether you could count 'pumped' water as off-grid, my thinking is it's stretching the definition - so many people around here rely on bore holes with pumps that cost $500 to $2000 - depending on how deep.

In this part of Portugal rain water harvesting just won't cut it - the rivers run dry every summer, so I guess bore-holes are a necessity!

Then again if you're going to define solar power as off-grid, I guess fixing your own bore hole pump is in the same league as maintaining your panels.

I guess if people are annoying you, you can use Covid as an excuse for avoiding them - and avoid all that huggy nonsense too!

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I don’t think I will ever be offgrid, but definitely hope to reduce dependencies.

One of the things I’ve not had for eons now is a car and while not always ideal, it has worked pretty fine.

My parents now generate a decent amount of electricity from their solar panels every day. Currently they sell it back to the grid, but they are considering a future upgrade to the more modern panels once home storage capacity becomes a more affordable reality. With climate change, the new generation of panels should make them fully independent of the grid and even allow to sell some back as well, except for in the darkest months of the year — Belgium has recently had some years with barely any “daylight” in some winter months. As things look right now (or will probably turn out), I will be the one mostly benefitting from that upgrade.

Gardening is definitely a thing I will pick up when “back home” as I see little benefit in having such a size of garden just for decorational purposes. If need to maintain it anyway, may as well get food from it.

One of the interesting things is that I already started the process of “reducing dependencies” some years ago. While a minimalist, I always had nice things like a solid sound setup, a small “home cinema” etc. Some years ago I started converting all those things to USB-powered devices. And, interestingly enough, the quality cut0-off was rather minimal. Once accepted that it was only luxury, and rather irrelevant one at that, anyway. It actually feels weird to write that considering that some years ago I would have considered myself on the verge of “audiophile”, verge being that level where prices become utterly ridiculous. Now I have USB-powered speakers and just as satisfied.

I think I'm pretty similar to you in my approach - reducing dependencies rather than going fully off-grid.

I'm surprised to hear that about Belgium and daylight!

Food is the tricky one from a financial point of view - it's just not worth it ATM to grow your own staples (soft fruit is a different matter) - to cheap in the supermarket, but in a real crisis time they could double or treble in value. $3 a kilo of spuds doesn't sound too unrealistic!

I'm lucky I enjoy growing my own, so it's not really a chore, but it does tie you every day to your locality, unless you can sort out an auto irrigation system - which is much easier gridded.

I'd love a way of avoiding power inverters - I think my Mac Book has a USB C port, but charging drill batteries - that still requires a regular plug!

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In summer you should have enough daylight to power a recent solar charger which can fully power your MacBook. I've seen several portable ones which hit more than 30 Watt in brightest daylight.

I think it was last year when Belgium only had 85 hours of daylight in the month of December, the rest was just grey clouds too dark to be considered daylight. You know, like a shitty November early December month in England. But then slightly amplified due to climate change.


I've got a 100 Watt panel and 85 Amp battery, but still need an inverter as I've only got a plug charger for the mac! Not a USB one, it's a bit of a hassle.

What's that per day - 3 hours a day, sounds like a pretty average winter on the Welsh borders, that wouldn't have even been news around there!

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Yeah, 3 hours wouldn’t be enough to be independent if it’s a prolongated period. Not for that house and their amount of freezers (few mostly organic farmers around so they get most veg fresh and then freeze sufficient until next harvest).

Stupidly enough that means they would still need to pay for connection to the grid all year long. Even if just needed for some months.

Maybe it’s worth considering building a little shed with battery storage so they can cut that dependency. Don’t think the ROI would be awesome though, solar is a very longterm project. And a new installation wouldn’t be subsidized anymore, unlike their original one which cut the investment by multiple years before ROI.

Luckily, Belgium has no plans to cut off selling back to the grid. Unlike the UK.

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We used to subsidise solar panels on roofs - it benefitted the middle classes mainly, that's scrapped now.

They need to get into pickling. Store veg that way. Buy them 100 litres of vinegar for Christmas to get them started!

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I wouldn’t mind pickling. But not everything lol. Those chest freezers are pretty much like going to the frozen veg section at ASDA. Everything slightly pre-boiled and sized and packed for one meal.

And strawberry and raspberry jam until it comes out of your ears.

Yeah, back when I was in the UK the subsidy was being scrapped and there were already talks of planning to reduce selling back options. That’s the Tories for you, right. Promise, then pull the rug out under you once you’ve spent (big).

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Great to read your response to the QOTW I'm not responding to myself this time. But yes, I think off-grid is a complicated concept, and thus can mean as many things as there are people interpreting it. Absolutes are very rare, and being 100% off grid would mean zero interaction with industrialized society AND its members. And honestly, who would want that? However, each step toward more independence, self reliance, and sustainability already makes a huge impact on one's self, how they relate to the rest of the world, and ultimately on their health. Becoming completely safe from the virus, however, is a whole different issue, I believe, which is a fantasy (unless you REALLY shut yourself out, but once again, who would want that?)

I certainly don't want to be cut off, for me it's more about better shielding myself from shocks.

A complete cut off might be a nice experiment for a year or two.

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Off-grid living can be a good thing but as I said in my post, it's not for everyone, especially not for those who were born and raised in the city and have never spent time at the countryside. Besides, starting to build your off-grid life now is kind of difficult as it takes time to sort things out, plus till you do, you have to meet a lot of people whose help you need, plus shopping, so in my opinion that's risky.
If you already live off-grid and pandemic happens, that's different.

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I actually feel quite lucky where I am, it's sort of a nice transition to off-grid living, but I'll never be fully off-grid, off-grid ish, just in some aspects - water, electricity, maybe.

It does require a lot to get set up I agree - I'm looking to buy land, but taking my time about it as I know how much work it's going to take to get established.

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Regarding the pandemic and staying "safe" I think if you don't do the total "Grizzly Adams" thing, living off-grid is not that different from most of the "normal" living people. Though you can move more freely, like simply taking a walk, compared to people living in big cities or heavily regulated areas.

I do feel the Pandemic a lot less where I am! I honestly wouldn't know we were in the midst of one if I hadn't have come from Britain.

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I agree: concepts like off-grid living and sustainability are always a sliding scale. It's very unlikely that someone goes 100% self sufficient. But you can take steps to be a little bit more off-grid. And yes, moving to less populated / regulated places already makes a huge difference, even without solar panels.

off-gridding means cars and woodburning stoves and chainsaws, and a whole load of other quite expensive one off purchases that need buying, maintaining, fixing and replacing every now and again, and you’re not going to find a mechanic who will swap you an MOT certificate for some homemade incense.

Its not a panacea, but I will take it. Ive always had this thought of actualizing this sort of living, despite covid. Live offgrid, hook myself up with some solar, (internet) have a little diary and vegetable farm, water system, about 10 dogs, game gear, and I'm good or at least I think...

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Four dogs is enough :)


I guess that it would all depend on what you need the dogs for and the location of course. :)

More of security and company. Plus im a dog lover

Yeah the security aspect is what I was thinking about. I only said four because that is how many I use for that and of course company also. Obviously I am a dog lover as well so I feel ya! 🤠

Certainly better off moving towards that direction!

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You can also live off-grid without the fancy tools, nor electric light.. which would probably male you even more resilient to change. But with all this addiction to internet and stuff it’s kind of hard to achieve 😑

Haha, what people call "internet addiction" starts with a pair of (industrially manufactured) shoes. Or even a decent (forged steel) knife. In that regard, the only truly off grid cultures may be hunter-gatherers in places like the Kalahari (provided they still exist). I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but the vast majority of us, even country peasants, are "addicted" to industrially made goods. My take on it is: if we accept the knife and the shoe, why not the laptop and the internet?

What I mean is that you could go full primitive if your only purpose was to survive and make everything yourself (tools, shoes, etc.) But I doubt you could make a laptop and internet connection all by yourself only relying on the resources of Nature 😅

I agree! In fact, I'd doubt your shoes and knife would be of any decent quality either. So, as much as I'm a fan of taking steps toward off-grid and sustainability, I don't think it's worth it going to extremes.

True, a very lonely path...

Then there's the time it'd take you make and mend and then remake all those natural products.

I mean decent pair of boots can last me a decade, couple of resoles required.

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It's a slippery slope, The Kalahari are still around as far as I'm aware, but I doubt very much if they're not using knives!

They the subject of 'stone age economics' by Marshall Sahlins weren't they?

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I haven't read it, but I suppose they would be, as the San are / were among the last hunter-gatherer societies. Now I really feel like reading Sahlins' book. But they are also the subject of the 1980 film 'The Gods Must Be Crazy' which is what I was thinking about.

I think it's an article, not a book - quite an easy read - but the gist of it was that they only do 4 hours work a day, half the average of what it is now.

Or might have been less than that!

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True, but I know of very few people who are hardcore off-grid!

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...its flu....apart from that, good post!

It's a kind of flu - that's right. But a real aggressive nasty one.

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