Thirdeyemom

Life without electricity: A moment of reflection

The last week has been the most crazy stormy summer weather imaginable in Minnesota.  One moment the sky is blue and then without warning enormous, black thundery clouds sweep in and take over the sky leaving us in a downpour of electric lightening and roaring thunder. It has been so wet that I haven’t even had to bother watering my garden (one bonus) but so wet that I can almost see the millions of super sized mosquitoes (which we often joke are the State Bird) breeding in its wake.

Throughout it all, we have experienced two rather annoying mishaps.  First, on Friday afternoon when the sun was steaming and the humidity was rising our central air conditioner collapsed. Soon our house became a hot, sticky sauna and that night was unbearably hot. As of today, it still isn’t fixed and the air is thick, wet and stinky. The paper this morning describes today’s weather as “stinking hot, showery headaches”.  Second, last night as we were all trying to sleep with fans blowing across our face (it had reached 90 degrees F and the dew point was in the 70s), around three am the next wave of sensational storms swept in and blew out all the power in our neighborhood.

This let off a chain of results. First Max was up crying (the storm was insane and even scared me, shaking the house with each loud bang).  Next Sophia was calling my name in the pitch blackness of the house.  And last, since our house was hotter than Haiti it was time for us to all move downstairs to the basement, the only place in the house that was cool and somewhat muted from the roaring thunder.

One by one, we carried our makeshift beds downstairs, walking by flashlight, where we set up our campsite for the remaining three hours of the night. The storm roared on for hours as bolts of silvery white flashed across the sky. By 4:30 am, everyone was finally back asleep except me. I sat there wondering about the rest of the world.  How do the 1.6 billion people around the world who don’t have electricity survive?

Per a recent article on msnbc.com, it is estimated that 1.6 billion people live without electricity.

Earth Day has come and gone, but it’s a fact of daily — and especially nightly — life that 1.6 billion people around the globe have no electricity in their homes. Instead, most use wood, coal or even dung to heat and cook their homes — resulting in indoor air pollution that kills 1.6 million people a year.

Here we are, tucked away in unreality, living the American Dream and staying cool and with power. The moment it goes, we complain, we fight, we argue. We’re miserable. I was embarrassed to admit that I had been rather grumpy myself. Yet instead, life without electricity should be a reminder, a blessing, of what we have and what so many other people around the world are denied. 

This week in Brazil, countries are gathering for Rio+20 a key summit to brainstorm ideas for creating sustainability in our world.  One of the areas of focus is energy and how it impacts mothers in impoverished nations around the world.

Here is an excellent summary of the challenges and impact lack of electricity have on some of the worlds mother’s (this content is all written by Million Mom’s Challenge, “How you can power the world”. For complete article click here).

Energy is a Key Element of Sustainability

Imagine your life as a mother without electricity. When you start your day, what if you couldn’t turn on a light, couldn’t make a cup of coffee with the flick of a switch, couldn’t put the kids’ breakfast in the microwave? 20 percent of the world doesn’t have access to these modern solutions.

Mothers running households without electricity are using very expensive forms of energy that affect their health and take up much of their time. They are relying on kerosene lamps and candles, and open fires that create constant smoke and can leave them and their children with breathing problems and severe burns.

One of the most critical tools in fighting maternal death is access to electricity. Think about going into labor at night and heading to the clinic in labor to find that the medical staff is unable to help — they cannot use any medical equipment, let alone operate if needed, indeed they often can’t even see the patient because there is no electric light.

Million Mom’s Challenge, “How you can power the world“.

The moment I start to complain about how brutally hot it is in this house (an older home, right under the airplane path with poor air circulation), I must remember the unjustness and inequity for so many other mothers like myself around the world.  It is time to stop complaining and start doing something about it. That is why I’ve joined RESULTS Global Advocacy to help others around the world who are not as fortunate as ourselves. It’s time to make a difference and time to give back.

11 comments

  1. That’s my girl! Brava Nicole. Don’t sit bemoaning the inconvenience, do something:)
    Here in Sri Lanka, we’re lucky – only the most remote and isolated villages are without power, and the advent of the photovoltaic power cell has brought the wonder of one electric light bulb to many of these houses. But, a few years ago, when the war was on, and the price of oil was too much for the government to pay, we used to have rolling three hourly power cuts, as a means of rationing. We lived to an alternating weekly schedule based on off at six, or on at six, and I can tell you, we may have become accustomed to working around it, but it was excruciating at night. My friend Mo and I often slept out on the concrete by the well – mosquitos be damned, we just had to escape the furnace of the house!

    • You are right! Every time I start falling into the western world mentality I need to remember how most the world lives! I did live in Chicago during the heat wave of 1995 when 800 people died. I had a small room with no AC and no ventilation whatsoever since it was a row house. I nearly passed out. I remember hanging out writing resumes (I was looking for a job) in my bikini sweating bullets. It was miserable. Then I lived In Marseille during a heat wave again in the same situation. I hate the heat. I can take the cold. Maybe its that nordic blood? On a serious note, I do hope the world can help others at least have some of the bare minimums like electricity, safe water and access to health care. We take so much for granted.

      • I think dealing with heat is more difficult than the cold, Nicole, unless you have access to water. One year during the power outages I spent a lot of the time in the bathtub, submerged for as long as it took to cool my core temperature down again:)

        We can only hope our leaders find the humanity and money to do the right thing at Rio.

  2. We have been having a bad power situation, with scheduled power cuts for upto 2 hours and almost 6 hours in rural areas! Our building does have generator back up, but since we are only four units, running it full time costs a small fortune. It is a blessing at night though!
    Alternative energy is the only answer. I cannot understand why solar panels are not mandatory in all buildings at least for common area lighting. But our policy makers are unfortunately too busy trying to stay in power!

    • Yes indeed Madhu! I heard that the timing of the Rio+20 summit is terrible due to the global economy and European crisis. Thus many leaders are worried about their own economies versus trying to help the people who lack the basic things to survive. Frustrating isn’t it. When I was in Nepal, they had the same thing with outages. WE would be eating dinner in a restaurant than all the sudden, lights out and candles. A way of life. I can only imagine how much energy we burn over here in the US….frightening, isn’t it! And our big cars, too. Something needs to be done.

  3. For us, it was literally “hot as Haiti,” where we rarely had more than 8 hours a day of electricity. We ran the generator for a few hours in the evenings but had to turn it off when we went to bed. That meant not even a fan to circulate the air at night. I often thought about all of the folks living in tents under those conditions. Eventually, I found and brought back a few tiny battery operated fans to sit on the bed and blow on my face–just enough to get to sleep.
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    • That sounds brutal. For me, I have such a hard time regulating my temperature when I’m hot. I am fine when it is cold but heat and humidity are hard for some reason. Did you find that after awhile you got adjusted and used to it? Could your body regulate the heat better? I lived in the south of France and in Chicago during severe heat waves without ac and good ventilation. The summer I lived in Chicago 800 people died of heat! I always wonder if peoples bodies learn to adjust better in their environments or if it is just plain old hot and miserable for everyone.

    • Yes indeed! That is why traveling is so incredibly important. To see it. To experience it. To live it. Although I was agitated with the heat (it hit 94 today) I tried to remember those very simple things.

  4. Thanks for the reminder – life is varied and sometimes we have much to be thankful for. Hope your air conditioning is now working though.

    • It was 95 here today and humid! Finally it got fixed but yes it is so true how much we have. Even the way we live. We have houses whereas many people live in cramped spaces. It is all so different, isn’t it.

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