The Blog


May 15, 2011

Redefining normal

A few weeks ago I started doing solar cooking. When I told my mother this over the phone she asked “Are you trying to save electricity?”. Yes, I was and that’s a good enough reason on its own, but it wasn’t the only reason. It also makes sense to me. On sunny days when I have time to periodically run outside and check on the cooking progress, there’s no way I can justify a cooking system that uses electricity, transmitted at great loss over a great distance from a mix of generation means that includes climate change inducing burning of coal and 10,000 year lifetime radioactive waste producing nuclear. That would be just plain silly.

And yet that’s what’s defined as normal. It’s abnormal to do solar cooking when you can cook indoors on an electric or gas stove. From her tone I know that’s what my mother was really accusing me of – being silly because I was doing something in a way that wasn’t normal.

Why do people do only normal things? Because, for whatever reason, they fail to ask that very question, why. If they ask why more often then they’d realize how silly it is to always do what’s normal. Instead they leave that definition to the Joneses and just blindly follow their lead.

In an online forum a few years ago we were discussing passive solar houses, and one method of cooling being to open windows on either side of the house to set up a cross breeze, basically causing air to flow in from one side of the house and flow out the other thereby providing a cooling effect. A response to this from one member was that he wouldn’t do this because he “didn’t want to live like Mexicans”. Instead he would use this technique only if it were automated.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. The only way I could reconcile his refusal to incorporate such a simple thing into his life, a thing considered normal for millennia was that in his world someone had redefined normal to be a fully automated lifestyle and the programmed response to anything to the contrary was that it would be “living like Mexicans”.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with redefining normal. I do it all the time and don’t think people do it enough or at all. On a day that isn’t suitable for solar cooking long grain brown rice I cook it using heat retention cooking, a behaviour I made normal for me only a few months ago when I first learned of it.

But what’s normal is getting us, and the generations to follow us into trouble with climate change and ecology misuse resulting in food scarcity, fresh water scarcity and health issues. So if you are going to redefine normal, at least do it with these things in mind. By all means, redefine normal and do it often. Maybe with enough redefinitions we’ll one day end up with a sustainable society.

Have you redefined normal lately?


August 28, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

I don’t know who you wrote this for but you hleped a brother out.

August 28, 2011 @ 7:39 pm

I wrote just to share something I think about a lot, being not normal myself. I’m glad to hear it helped.

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