sustainable living

Relieve the stress that is already on the existing power grid and you could serve jail time. Sounds reasonable, right? Photo: Off Grid World

The Inertia

No matter how vastly different we are from one another, we were all brought up with the most basic understanding of right from wrong. Do the right thing; be rewarded. Do the wrong thing and, well, don’t. It seems today, however, that idea is being turned on its head.

As it just so happens, doing this planet a great service and choosing to live sustainably is being met with strong opposition from local and state governments. In fact, some people are even serving jail time for it.

The problem emerges when unduly city and county ordinances and zoning restrictions discourage off-grid lifestyles by making it illegal to do certain things on your own property, like camping, collecting rainwater, and being disconnected from local utilities. (Read about zoning laws, what they mean, and where they apply, here).

In contemporary society’s constant state of war, crime, and hate – not to mention the unprecedented stress being put on the environment – people are increasingly opting to get away from the tech-driven habits of modern consumerism to live an alternative lifestyle. Rather than being indebted to oil, water, and gas companies, people are more frequently choosing to provide their own utilities through, for example, solar power and collecting rainwater. According to Home Power Magazine, some 180,000 families are living off the grid in the United States, a number that is rising exponentially each year.

In Costilla County, Colorado, for example, a combination of soft zoning regulations, cheap property, and an already thriving community of self-reliant, off-grid dwellers has lead to a major influx of residents in the San Luis Valley. After thriving for over 20 years, the community of roughly 800 people is now being threatened by county officials who are making moves to essentially regulate and license the lifestyle into the grave.

“We are residents who have come to live off the grid,” 20-year resident Paul Skinner told Colorado Public Radio. “It’s all our land. These are harsh economic times. We have nowhere to go.”

“We’ve been regulated out of life,” community resident Robin Rutan continued. “I came here because I couldn’t live by the codes [in other regions].”

Interestingly enough, the issue in Colorado is just one of thousands of disputes over questionable “violations of the law.” For example, in Canada, a woman named Cheryl Smith is being forced by local Nova Scotia officials to connect to the grid after choosing the minimalist lifestyle some three years ago.

“I just don’t want to leave a big footprint on the Earth,” she told CTV Atlantic. “If what we’re trying to do is move the world into a greener place and make it more environmentally friendly so there’s something still left for our children, then why am I being forced to rely on electricity or fossil fuels?”

Smith’s father, Don, tried to wire her home, but she told him to stop, saying she won’t give in to regulations. Don says his daughter deserves the freedom to choose her own way of life and style of home.

“She wants to live the way her grandparents did back then,” said Don. “It’s a decision a lot of people may not agree with, but I mean, it’s not a decision that’s going to hurt someone else.”

Hearing about the cases in Colorado and Canada makes you wonder: Is this really the home of the free? Shouldn’t we be entitled to do what we want on our property? The fact that an authoritative body would force someone to hook up to the public services that were already being provided in a sustainable way makes me think our government is failing us miserably. Advocating this minimalist lifestyle should not only be legal, it should be strongly encouraged.


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