Private Generators Are A Reflection of Failure

Nov 26, 2012 by

TreeHugger

Lloyd Alter
Design / Urban Design
November 26, 2012


Generac/Promo image

A year ago I wrote about generator envy, suggesting that personal generators were a sign of the decline of society:

This stuff is pretty standard among the very rich in Central and South America: generator sets, very big tanks of diesel fuel, high walls and lots of security guards. All of which, no doubt, will be the next status symbol for the 1%.

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times notes that private generators for the rich are a sign of the times, where the wealthy do private workarounds.

It’s manifestly silly (and highly polluting) for every fine home to have a generator. It would make more sense to invest those resources in the electrical grid so that it wouldn’t fail in the first place.

It’s an issue that we have been discussing all year, the question of whether resilience and self-sufficiency are a good thing, or should we be putting our energies into collective action, sharing, and building networks. Cameron Tonkinwise noted in a comment on an earlier post on the subject:

‘Self-reliance’ is precisely the catch-cry of the TeaParty-ists attempting to defend suburbia from the UN-ICLEI-Agenda21 conspiracy to self-deport all us into highly interdependent cities. Sustainability is precisely the argument that what appears to be autonomous about non-urban living is what imperils the resilience of us all. So resilience, without sufficient emphasis on interdependencies plays right into the hands of the enemy.

Alex Steffen has made the same point in an old Worldchanging post reprinted on his website:

While individual preparedness and government response continue to be vital, perhaps we need to be putting a lot more thought into how we make the neighborhoods in which we live less vulnerable to disasters in the first place. Working with our neighbors and local government to increase the resilience of our communities might be one of the smartest moves we can make.

Kristof is right; Private generators are a reflection of failure to build a society that works for everyone, instead of little private castles in the country.

We welcome your comments!