Powering off: Ease of access leads to excessive reliance on electricity


Art by Michelle Zhuang

Afsah Khan

To Afsah, From Michelle
Art by Michelle Zhuang
In the sweltering heat of a Pakistani summer, the only thing anyone wants is to find a way to keep cool.  With the Indian Ocean hugging the shoreline of the country, the humidity and the unforgiving sun combine to make conditions unbearable during the hottest months of the year.
Throughout the summers I spend in Pakistan, I like to take refuge in any air-conditioned room or sit in front of any fan on high speed. There is no better feeling in this world. The beads of sweat stop rolling down my face, and life seems perfect.
But perfection doesn’t last forever. Several times during the summer, power outages occur because of Pakistan’s poorly organized system of electricity and energy.  In a blink of an eye, all electricity is lost until who-knows-when. My euphoria disappears as the atmosphere begins to warm up, and the sweat starts making a comeback. That’s when I realized how ungrateful I am for the basic resources we have. I realized I take electricity, the simplest of things, for granted.
Imagine battling the bipolar weather pattern of Missouri without any sort of heating or cooling method. Imagine not being able to stay up past sunset, after the gift of natural daylight is gone. Imagine not being able to cook without physically building a fire first. Phones, electronic devices and any sort of technology would be completely out of the picture.
Imagining such a life is like watching a horrible nightmare come true. How would we live? After all, our daily routines rely on electricity. I doubt any one person I know has been able to successfully spend a normal day without it.  Electricity came into use for most households in the late 19th century, just a little more than a century ago. Mankind somehow survived several thousand years of living in the dark, but we can’t even attempt to comprehend how they did it.
If power grids across the globe collapsed tomorrow, would we be ready? Would we be able to adapt to a new life or not? The sad truth, though, is that electricity is embedded in our lives, and we take it for granted every single day, without even giving it a second thought.
By Afsah Khan