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Wednesday, 03 February 2010 15:01

Where ideology meets environmental reality

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The term “off-the-grid” means living in a self-sufficient manner without the services of a public utility. Wikipedia estimates that in 2007 there were around 250,000 off-the-grid households in the U.S. that supplied their own water, electrical and sewer systems.

Living off-the-grid has been characterized by the sustainable living movement as the ultimate step towards reducing energy consumption. It’s more affordable these days than in the past, because of dramatic improvements in wind, water, and solar power mechanics.

In the U.S. “going green” has become increasingly scientific and less and less ideological, but the roots of the environmental movement can be found in the back-to-the-land movement that ran through the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The American back-to-the-land movement was a migration from urban to rural environments that created a blip on the country’s demographic trends in the latter half of the 1960s and the early part of the 1970s. The values of the movement are exemplified in Helen and Scott Nearing’s book Living the Good Life, which chronicles the couple’s self-sufficient lifestyle in a Vermont farmhouse. Published in 1954, the book cites the economic pressures of the Great Depression and the influence of the writings of Henry David Thoreau as driving inspirations.

The back-to-the-land movement drew on both the pragmatic self-sufficiencies celebrated in rural America during the Depression and on the literary and philosophical celebration of the American continent. Also, a growing discontent with government policies and rampant consumerism drove members of the counter culture to search for a divergent set of values, which they found in rural communities that had been resistant to change and maintained closer contact with nature.

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