What Hurricane Gustav Taught Me
There is nothing like a good disaster to pop the bubble of human arrogance.Â And there is nothing like a hurricane to push a community back one hundred years in time. We are located in south Louisiana.Â So, we just experienced Gustav.Â We were out of power for five days, other are still out two weeks later.Â Our lives were never threatened.Â We thank God for his care during this time.
Gustav destroyed the entire power grid in our area.Â Our nation has been trying to have a conversation about energy.Â It is during a crisis like a hurricane that you come to appreciate that fact that we have learned to harness different forms of energy to run our lives.Â I know that a number of apocalyptic movies have tried to imagine what life would be like after some self imposed disaster like nuclear annihilation or an escaped, genetically weaponized virus.Â Movies are one thing, try living in hurricane country.
When the power grid is down, you cannot cook, take a bath, wash your clothes or carry out basic entertainment without electrical power.Â Hospitals can operate only so long on back power. When a hurricane comes through, modern life stops and we go back to the 19th century.Â It is strange to be surrounded by modern conveniences like a microwave oven or a refrigerator or, my favorite, air conditioners and not be able to use them because there is no power.
But this is the twenty-first century and those who do a little thinking can prepare for the coming of the hurricane by buying the right kind of supplies, bottled water, and a gas-powered generator.Â We ran our generator and kept our refrigerator cold and ran a small window air conditioner.Â I slept every night on the floor in front of the air conditioner.Â You cannot imagine how hot and humid it becomes before, during and after a hurricane.
But generators require fuel, in our case, gasoline.Â Our generator burned about 15 gallons a day.Â It took $60.00 per day ( $300.00 for five days) to generate 5,000 watts of electricity. So, even though we had gas stored back, I still had to go out several times to buy gas.Â The lines were impossibly long and on two occasions when I got to the pump, either they ran out of gas or their generator broke down.Â Hours were spent just on finding the fuel to burn so that we could be marginally modern in our lifestyles.Â But even generators fail.Â Mine threw a rod, knocked a hole in the block and bled out its motor oil on the carport floor.Â I did not grieve long for my old generator, but went out and bought a new one at a very costly price.Â Five hours later, the power came back on.Â I guess I have a generator for the next hurricane.
I would also like to thank the person who invented the propane gas grill.Â We cooked on a gas grill.Â Without the gas grill, we would have had to eat sardines, Vienna sausages and potted meat (nasty cans of mystery meat, the labels actually say mechanically separate meat, whatever that is)Â three times a day for five long days.Â But we were able to cook bacon and eggs and beans and other items on the gas grill.Â I believe we could have baked on it.Â A tank of propane costs about $30.00.Â When you stop living in the modern world, nothing comes easy or cheap.
The amount of effort to carry out our daily lives is remarkable.Â What time we had, we spent carrying out the efforts to maintain life.Â Â By the time the â€œchoresâ€ were over it was time to go to bed and start again.Â Suddenly we are reminded what it must have been like to live 100 years ago.Â Growing up on a farm, I am well acquainted with chores.Â The animals get fed before you do.Â Certain things must be done even if you are sick, even if it rains or snows or the winds howl.
There are other technologies that failed during the hurricane.Â We have become dependent on cell phones, email, text messaging and the internet.Â Cell phone service failed.Â Apparently they run in a nominal mode because all that would work was text messaging and that was a hit and a miss.Â With no power, there is no internet, and therefore no email.Â And we had to rely on an AM radio to find out information about the storm and conditions in our area.Â The first experiments with AM broadcasting began in 1906.Â Among the oldest commercial stations is WOC in Davenport, Iowa founded in 1907.Â This â€œtechnologyâ€ is more than 100 years old but it was the only reliable way to find information during the storm.
We are about to get over Gustav but Ike is working its horrors on Texas and we certainly felt him when he passed by.Â Moments like this ought to cause us to slow down a little and appreciate the comfortable lifestyles that we enjoy.Â We probably should marvel that we can heat and cool and run our households at a cost per month that is less than it cost us to run a generator for five days.Â We probably should have some appreciation of the effortless way we communicate.Â We flip open a phone in almost any location and talk to our friends.Â We send and receive email, usually some silly saying or picture.Â I even use email on my cell phone. We probably ought to appreciate how delicately balanced our modern lives are and that disaster or greed or neglect or evil men can take it from us in the time it takes a hurricane to make landfall.
But perhaps the best lesson learned is that we can live without all of it.Â We found more time to talk to each other.Â Acts of compassion and love were seen as neighbor looked after neighbor.Â And as one deacon in our church noted, we actually visited each other.Â In some ways being broken down was liberating for a human society.
Each day we have a choice to make.Â Do we take for granted out modern use of energy and all the gadgets that we us?Â Do we lean on them so much that we canâ€™t function if they stop working?Â Do we choose to be humans who use tools or do we choose to be economic units that consume mass quantities of energy for no purpose whatsoever?Â Do we choose to dominate technology or does it dominate us?Â How we answer these kinds of questions will make or break our culture.