Off grid living: More thoughts on the ‘How to’ literature


In my previous post, I discussed some of the peculiarities within the ‘how to’ literature on off grid living. Here, I continue my ruminations…

I noted before how the concept of being architecturally ‘off grid’ seems to speak to an individualised ideal, as opposed to living in community. This ideal rings true in both strands of the literature, in the ‘down and dirty’ self-sustenance literature, and the works that promote high-modern sustainability. The self-contained lifestyle advocated throughout both strands of off grid living is romanticised, and perhaps understandably as the books are essentially attempting to sell a particular view. It would, after all, be much harder to promote self-sustenance if these books were to focus on the trials and tribulations of living off grid.

But why is there such a tendency towards individualisation? What is it about being off grid and living as a self-sustained, and self-contained, unit that is so appealing?

There is a strong desire throughout the literature that describes an aspiration to manage our own affairs – including building a house, feeding ourselves, and providing our own power. Even in the books that lean towards a high modern aesthetic there is a sense that creating your own off grid house will enable you to minimise the daily grind, and to opt out of the rat race. The very construction of an off grid house therefore not only fosters greater eco consciousness, but will make connectivity (whether technological or social) much more on your own terms. And there is cognisance, here, that building an off grid life does not necessarily mean being wholly disconnected; rather, an off grid life facilitates the ability to wrestle back influence over our own daily existence.

Yet by encouraging an intentional disconnection, an assumption is made about there being an already existing grid (in whatever form that takes). In other words, to be able to make the decision to make yourself and your family unit disconnected, there must already be a connected and functioning infrastructure to disconnect from. And it is, arguably, easier to make this decision individually than communally, as well as being a decision that is largely only available in countries that have a developed and connected infrastructural system.

There are, of course, spaces within highly developed countries that are on the peripheries of grid connectivity, and others that have been largely been ignored or purposefully disconnected by state services. And within these areas, there are communities and individual units that survive off grid. To what extent this disconnect has been dictated by the inhabitants of these area, and indeed how this is managed, is a core part of our project, and I will be writing some more notes in the coming weeks about individual and communal life off grid in Scotland.

Stephanie Terreni Brown