Saturday, January 13, 2007

How's your battery?

The BBC recently conducted an experiment where one of their staff agreed to live without electricity for a week. That meant no appliances of any kind - cooker, phone, fridge, light, radio, tv etc.. I only heard a small extract of his thoughts on the experiment, but he got me thinking.

He described cooking dinner and checking if something was cooked, with his candle dripping wax into the pot. His experience of preparing and cooking food in semi-darkness was extremely difficult, and he wondered if that was the reason that, in earlier times, people used eat their main meal in the middle of the day.
He described the difficulty of trying to read by candlelight - he had to give up because of the eyestrain involved.

He speculated that the pace of life for our ancestors must have shown very significant seasonal variations - very different in the short winter days to the almost endless days of summer.

Nowadays, we have 24-hour everything - radio, tv, internet, take-away pizza. We are in constant light - even at night in cities the street lights and reflected light off the sky (clouds?) means that city-dwellers rarely, if ever, experience anything like total darkness.

Our lifestyles have adapted to these changed circumstances, we are instantly contactable by phone, email, text etc.. Cars and planes have transformed the way we commute, work and play, though each comes with it’s own brand of stress. We are bombarded by media of all types, far too much choice and far too much dross.

All this change has happened in the space of not much more than 100 years (remember that in Ireland, rural electrification only happened in the 1940s & ‘50s!).

So here’s the thought: a species will adapt naturally to accommodate/exploit changed circumstances in a slow process known as evolution. This would normally take several thousand years - or hundreds at least.

We’ve had to do it all in decades, and it’s still ongoing - faster than ever. Is it any wonder that people fell stressed by the pace of life and the demands of modern society?

We’ve turned ourselves into battery hens!

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