Generally, I get peeved pretty easily. However, smart meters, to my surprise, haven't irritated me as much as I thought they would. To me, the real nuisance generated by BC Hydro is a more fundamental one. It lies in the awkward knot of lines that stretch out of my house and connect me to the world. I don't fantasize dwelling in a micro-universe of self-sufficiency — I fully understand how utopian the ideal of utter disconnection is — but I find those wires and cables jutting out into the bushes and reaching for the nearest pole indomitably ugly.
I envy Daniel. There are no lines sticking out of his off-grid house on Lasqueti Island. Until recently he used to "really live off-the grid," he tells Jonathan and me as we walk around his front yard under the lukewarm rays of a shy spring sun. He had candles for light, no phone of any kind, no Internet, and no electricity. Compared to that, his current home — powered by solar, with no back-up generator — is nothing special, he says.
Frugality, sustainability, self-sufficiency, resiliency, and thriftiness make up a philosophy that has come to be known as voluntary simplicity. Fuelled by impulses to hamper the reach of consumerism, the urgency to reduce dependence on non-renewables, and the desire for "downshifting," voluntary simplicity has gained many proselytes lately. "Voluntary" refers to a deliberate choice: a realization that global society has spun out of control due to its voracious addiction to consumption. "Simplicity" refers to a drastic willed curtailment of the so-called unnecessary complications of everyday life.
Living simply, off the grid, is not for everybody, Daniel says. "Never mind being off BC Hydro; if you want to understand if you can pull it off, you should try it and go for a week or two without electricity of any kind. No appliances, no phone, no Internet, nothing at all. If you can make it, and if you enjoy it, then you can be off the grid, I mean, really off the grid."
If there is anyone that BC Hydro really irked even before the smart meter debacle that would be Lasqueti Island. The story — though, as everything else on Lasqueti, the "correct version" really depends on whom you ask — goes like this. Two different bundles of electricity lines were being laid out around the island in the 1970s. One was connecting scattered communities north of Parksville to the rest of the Vancouver Island grid while the other was stretching the provincial grid throughout the Sunshine Coast. As BC Hydro engineers were about to connect to the grid to Texada Island the offer was put to Lasquetians to be on the electricity grid as well.