Off-grid isn’t a state of mind. It isn’t about someone being out of touch, about a place that is hard to get to, or about a weekend spent offline. Off-grid is the property of a building (generally a home but sometimes even a whole town) that is disconnected from the electricity and the natural gas grid. To live off-grid, therefore, means having to radically re-invent domestic life as we know it, and this is what this book is about: individuals and families who have chosen to live in that dramatically innovative, but also quite old, way of life.
This ethnography explores the day-to-day lives of people in each of Canada’s provinces and territories living off the grid. Vannini and Taggart demonstrate how a variety of people, all with different environmental constraints, live away from contemporary civilization. The authors also raise important questions about our social future and whether off-grid living creates an environmentally and culturally sustainable lifestyle practice. These homes are experimental labs for our collective future, an intimate look into unusual contemporary domestic lives, and a call to the rest of us leading ordinary lives to examine what we take for granted. This book is ideal for courses on the environment and sustainability as well as introduction to sociology and introduction to cultural anthropology courses.
Table of Contents
1. Grids 2. The pull of remove 3. Involvement 4. (Off)Roads 5. Power constellations 6. Comfort 7. Convenience 8. House building, DIW-style 9. Slower homes 10. Breaking Waters 11. Camping, out on the land 12. The New Quietism 13. A Better Way of Life?
Phillip Vannini is Canada Research Chair in Public Ethnography and Professor in the School of Communication & Culture at Royal Roads University in Victoria, BC, Canada.. He is author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters, and author/editor of ten books.
Jonathan Taggart is a Vancouver-based photojournalist and member of the Boreal Collective. He holds a MA in Intercultural and International Communication. His photography exhibits have captured national audiences and his pictures have appeared in magazine and newspapers across the country, such as (for example for this project) Canadian Geographic, Yukon: North of Ordinary, BC Business, and The Tyee. Amongst other awards, he is the recent winner of the 2012 Western Canadian Music Award album cover design.
"…meaningful, thoughtful, honest… if you're thinking that off-grid might be something you want to look into or if you think it might be a good fit for your lifestyle, this is the book to help you figure out the way-to that. With Phillip Vannini's writing style it makes this an enjoyable read, he's a not just a scientist, he's a great story-teller. It's a rare moment when research is so captivating that I'm unable to put the book down." – The Garden Coach
"Off the Grid is an exemplary more-than-text based on exemplary ethnographic research. Many have spoken of the possibilities of utilizing more media in ethnographic work. Vannini and Taggart make this real, using photographs, video and sound recording as well as writing clearly and movingly about their subject matter in this book and related website. Through the engaging writing and the interwoven sound and visual media we are invited to explore the fascinating worlds of those who chose to live off of the grids of electricity and gas. In doing so we get a glimpse of life beyond other forms of power too, in ways which are richly suggestive of the ways we might all inhabit future worlds. Off the Grid is destined to stand as an exemplar of sensitive, creative ethnographic research for students, practitioners and the public at large." – Tim Cresswell, International Affairs, Northeastern University
"In this theoretically sophisticated yet highly accessible book, Vannini and Taggart have provided us with an exciting, handsomely detailed account of those intrepid off-gridders who have set up home in the sparsely populated, isolated vastness of Canada. In dispelling any stereotypical notions that these folk are socially awkward refugees from civilisation or romantic eco-obsessives, the lives and conversations featured here - and richly augmented by evocative and informative hyperlinks - reveal that they are inspired by diverse motivations, beliefs and enthusiasms. Yet they are united by an extraordinary resourcefulness, an ability to make do in circumstances that would force most of us to flee back to a connected world. These off-gridders may be pioneers of a future in which energy supplies have diminished but at the very least, their ingenuity may help us to consider how we may live in a more balanced relationship with the earth." – Tim Edensor, School of Science and the Environment, Manchester Metropolitan University
"In Off the Grid Phillip Vannini and Jonathan Taggart describe how people, living in relatively remote Canadian locales, are able to live beyond the pale of contemporary civilization. Using sensuous description and crafting compelling narratives, these gifted storytellers demonstrate how a life beyond the constraints of "provided" energy can challenge our assumptions about social life in modern society. Indeed, Vannini and Taggart's ethnographic portraits of "off-the-grid" people provide an inspiring example of how we might confront the serious environmental challenges that irrevocable climate change promises to produce in the future. Off the Grid challenges us to confront our future with a spirit of innovation and invention. As such, this highly original work has the makings of a classic ethnography that will read, savored and debated for many years to come." – Paul Stoller, anthropology, West Chester University, author of Yaya's Story: The Search for Well-Being in the World, and 2013 Anders Retzius Gold Medal Laureate in Anthology
"Through artful prose... Vannini and Taggart invite us to reflect on what we collectively and individually want and need to live more sustainably, how these needs change and transform in relation to the technologies, infrastructures and environments in which we are embedded, and the various means by which we might create more sustainable alternatives. The end result is a remarkable project which takes us a step closer to what one potential future might look like."— Yolande Strengers, Energy Research & Social Science