Shock and Horror

Listening to the radio on the way in (yup, driving the fancy Landy today - the other one provides engine noise instead of airwaves), the same-old same-old subject is the energy crisis in SAafrica. With good reason too. This is no small thing, this running out of electricity business.

So far we've had:

* Mines close down for a week. Losing 6 million a day in profit...

* Local fuel manufacturer decide to stop making fuel until further notice. Thanks to Friday night's power failure in Cape Town, which plunged the entire city into darkness for a good few hours (but hey, we saw the stars! :-) ). Caused, apparently, by damage to the backup system when a veld fire dropped by. Anyhoo the fuel place takes a week to restart after a blackout, and they aren't willing to take any more chances.

* Oh, and fuel prices went up yesterday - but the rush on filling stations was dampened by not being able to find one with power to pump the stuff within a 40km radius.

* Sudden unexplained water cuts in various suburbs. And apparently there's water contamination issues up north too.

* Our venerable Minister of Parliament urging us to go to bed early as a solution to the evening darkness problem. See increase in births a few months hence - if one can find a hospital with power to deliver them.

* Supermarkets complaining they're losing tons of fresh goods every time the lights go out, generators notwithstanding.

* Locals complaining their electric and electronic goods are being damaged beyond repair - and having to shoulder the costs.

* Small business complaining that home-run businesses are going to be badly affected by the new power quotas.

* Big business complaining about loss of revenue.

* SPCA complaining that the animals are suffering too.

* The only ones not complaining are cable thieves and burglars - no power, no risk!


So it's with shock and horror that I listened to the rapidly-heading-downward spiral of problems - as I battled the latest one caused by the traffic lights not glowing. (Probably would have been more shocked if there were power available of course)

It's very very easy to be paralysed by fear and helplessness in the face of big-corporation actions. We are, after all, the little people - those who rely on the big guys for our water, our electricity, our fuel, our daily bread (let's not go there shall we - price-fixing allegations and associated price hikes by the bread guys and the milk guys only add to the burden!). It's easy to be so overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness that you start packing for Perth (or whever folk are fleeing to these days).

And yet...

I'm the eternal optimist - much to Favourite Man's chagrin at times. :-) I believe in finding the positive through seemingly insurmountable issues. I believe in not letting them drown you, but using them as an opportunity to create something better.

And I believe that this seemingly endless crisis is a call to action.

South African infrastructure has been crumbling for years. Roads, power stations, inherited buildings have gone unmaintained by new management. It's a common occurance when a country changes political hands - the new blokes don't necessarily think they should do preventative work until it's way too late. They've moved in to an established set-up that looks just fine - for now.

We've seen this one coming. We've had hints and rumblings of problems on the horizon, we've hit the potholes in the road and watched the fuel price climb. And all too often we've shrugged and said "that's life". But now it's starting to get to the stage where we cannot ignore it and hope someone sorts it out anymore. Where it's time for creative thinking, innovation and plans to kick in. I've said it before in one of my other lengthy ramblings - this is the time for the inventors to shine.

So this morning, as I sat listening to the bad news in traffic, I got thinking. What can I do to ensure my life isn't over-run by the Big Business problems? How can I make certain my efforts at making a living aren't undercut by things I can't control?

There's electricity needed for a project or two - I need to work out how much will be used and see if there's a way to ensure a self-generated or backup continuous supply. We've got wind, we've got sun, and there's always a generator if necessary. Off-grid is looking more attractive daily. As are other solutions.

Fuel shortage affecting the commute? - well, it's a good excuse to get that Atom.. :-) Or work from home.

Bread prices going up? Hey - I can bake (provided my stove is eventually replaced - it's been 3 weeks and we're still waiting for it to happen).

Milk prices? Hmmm... no grass outside to keep a cow on - but I know there are local dairies that supply on a bring-your-own-container basis at a reduced price. May not be as homogonized & processed as the one the big guys do, but it's milk - and it's likely to be better for me than the mass produced stuff anyway.

I'm rethinking container gardening to provide a few fresh veggies - I've done loads of research on square-foot gardening in the past, and merely have to put it into action. No actual yard-dirt required - a good thing, as ours is paved front and back. Could even put in a patch of lawn with the SFG method!

There's much to be said about returning to a simpler, more self-sufficient way of life - not reliant on the Powers That Be....

OK, I'm not going to give away all my secrets. There's still a lot rattling around in my head, plans and research and (energy-saving) light-bulb moments hitting randomly.

But I reckon we'll survive this one. Africa isn't for sissies, and there's an inbred make-a-plan that's starting to poke it's head out. Which, to tell the truth, is pretty cool indeed.