Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The things we take for granted

“Do we have to have so many lights on all the time?”
“What’s your problem? Do you think we can’t afford the electricity bill?”
“It is not about the bill, it is about the wastage. Maharashtra is a power deficit state, in case you don’t know.”
“So what? Bombay doesn’t have power cuts does it? And even if we did have power cuts, do you think one person turning off a light makes any difference to the electricity situation?”

When it reaches that point, in the interest of domestic harmony, I withdraw with whatever grace I can muster.

But in that one statement is the root of practically every problem- does the action or inaction of one random individual make any difference in the larger scheme of things. We choose to believe they do not, and use that to justify not changing our way of doing things. But if even a small percentage of individuals care enough to do things differently, they can bring about a change.

Consider electricity supply. Power tariffs are higher in Bombay than in the rest of the state, so the power plants in Maharashtra sell electricity to the distribution companies that service the city, before feeding power into the state grid. Which enables me to keep the lights blazing even at daytime, but ensures that the rest of the state has scheduled and unscheduled power cuts for several hours a day.

The equation is simple - for every hour that I unnecessarily keep an electric bulb on, I am depriving a schoolgirl in rural Maharashtra a light to study under. When children are forced to study using candlelight, when mothers don’t have any electrical appliances in their kitchen simple because there is no electricity to run them on, when whole families go to bed soon after sunset because there is no TV to keep them up longer – isn’t it almost criminal for me to waste electricity even if I can afford the monetary cost of doing so?

Sure, the only long term solution to the power crisis in the country is to generate more electricity, and to bring down transmission and distribution losses. But in the short term, can’t every one of us make a difference, however slight, by just turning off the fans and lights that we do not need?

And will we as a nation ever realize that while festive illuminations do make the city look almost magical, by turning them off, entire villages can enjoy uninterrupted power.
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Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I had no idea! It's hard to imagine not having enough electricity to go around. I suffer enough when there are storm-related blackouts--it would be terrible not to have electricity when you *expect* to have it. You're good to conserve.

Mystery Writing is Murder

dipali said...

I feel so guilty if I accidentally leave a light on by mistake. Trying to conserve national resources is important, and though my engineer -in-occasional residence can mostly manage to switch things on and not off, he is getting there.
Posted on this long ago

Watery Tart said...

Natasha-though I've known we were twins a long time now, I didn't realize you got stuck with one of my husband's clones! At our house it's the recycling. I am ever picking things out of the garbage and transferring them to the recycling (or hiding them because I intend to still USE them but they were in his WAY) *growls*

I was part of the US electrical blackout about 5 years ago now, and can't IMAGINE knowing the power would die for several hours every day--makes it impossible to store some foods... so more power to you fighting the good fight.

Helen Ginger said...

We are all so used to being able to flip a switch and have electricity. We have to change our ways or that won't always be so. I'm constantly turning off lights. I seem to be the only one in the family who is concerned about the waste and the cost. Grr.

Straight From Hel

Jan said...

Yes one person can make a difference. That is really the only path to change. You are right to be awake however inconveniencing it might be for your family or your own desires. I'm thinking of having a mini-brownout one day a week here just so everyone gets it! Easier going into winter I'm sure - we can use the wood stove and keep our food cool enough. Have a look at No Impact Man site (not sure of the Url) he and his wife did it for a year in Manhatten! And enjoyed themselves too!

Elspeth Antonelli said...

Thank you for posting such an immediate consequence to power shortages. I try to do my best - I turn off unnecessary lights and I've been recycling for longer than I care to remember. My kids have learned to turn off lights as they leave a room. I have to believe that one person makes a difference as soon one becomes a crowd, becomes a community, etc. etc.


Anonymous said...

You're so right. Each of us can make a small difference - and together, these small differences can have an enormous effect!

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Elizabeth - I grew up with scheduled power cuts - they were fun actually, because you knew when the power was going and planned accordingly. But to not have any power at all, that is tragic.

@ dipali - that sounds like my hubby!

@ Tami - Bob does sound like a Ravi clone (or vice versa), thought he will never throw something I need into the bin (too much effort). And yes, I hoard things too, in the hope of using them sometime.

@ Helen - nice to know that however outnumbered we feel at home, we are not the lone crusaders! Though why conservation should have to become a crusade instead of a habit, I do not know.

@ Jan - will check out No Impact Man - I think I read about him some months back, but the details are pretty hazy. I do wish you all the best with your weekly brownouts.

@ Elspeth - it's wonderful you have managed to teach your children too. You are quite right, once you pass it onto one person, and they do it to one more, it can cascade into a movement.

@ Fiona - totally.


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