Three Privileges of Having Electricity

How many of us have been outside our homes looking for a plug to connect our cell phone that is about to download? If you’re one of those people, this #LecturaGrata is for you.

Only in the first half-hour of the morning, before going to our workplace or study, we have already used at least four appliances that require electric power: A light bulb at least, a fan if you live on the coast or a water heater if you live in colder lands, the fridge to make breakfast and of course, the cell phone. Energy is like air. We think it’s obvious to have it every day that we just stop thinking about its importance when we need it. That’s why the relief we feel when we regain our breath after running is like how we feel when we find where to connect our downloaded cell phone and that just right, we’re in urgent need.

“Energy is like air. We find it so obvious to have it day by day that we just stop to think about its importance when we need it.”

However, some poetize the lack of electrical energy. Like when someone suggests that in the absence of light bulbs, you can see more stars in the sky at night. Or if you don’t have a cell phone, you live more technology-free. However, in the more than 1700 territories in Columbia that do not have electricity or only have powered a few hours a day, they do not think the same. There are daily pleasures that provide us with the energy that you can only realize about them when you have lived, and that hardly makes you see the lack of opportunities as something poetic. This is why in Tierra Grata, we decided to publish this note that shows what energy means to rural communities beyond what most find obvious, rethinking what it means to be well-being and comfort and inviting those who do have electric power to appreciate what seems as infinite to us as air.

1. Drink Juices: Most people will most likely think that the best thing about having electricity is to connect a fridge to keep food longer. Although it is true, in the daily work of Tierra Grata, we have heard other less apparent reasons why rural communities want access to electricity, for example, drinking juices. If you think about it, without a blender, the juice options in your meals are limited. Can you imagine living surrounded by guavas, mangoes, and not being able to prepare them in juices? Without a doubt, drinking more natural and cold fluids is a good reason, especially when the thermal sensation exceeds 32oC.

2. Lengthen the time:  How often have you said something like “I do it at night”? Leaving for later an activity that you could do by day. If you review those occasions, you’re most likely referring to something that requires electrical power, and since you’re sure you have it, it won’t be a problem. But if you live without electric power, you’d instead do your chores before it gets dark, having a light at night, beyond safety, allows you to have more hours of productivity. From Tierra Grata we have seen different behavioral changes that support this: Children playing in the evenings, women preparing dinner after 6, or best of all, neighbors visiting in the evenings to chat; first, because they already have lighting to see the rural roads and be able to move. And second, because your neighbors don’t go to bed so early since they have access to energy.

“The richer you are, the more sound decisions you make.”

3. Decrease stress:  Some say that a life without a cell phone is less stressful. And yes, we know that if you turn off your cell phone, you can make the most of the time. But we also know that if you make this decision, it’s because you have another method to satisfy what your phone solves. Or you simply know in advance that, at any time, you’ll be able to access the power to connect again. What if we told you there are people in  Columbia who walk up to an hour a day just to charge their cell phone? This is a reality. And for these people being incommunicado is a daily situation and not a decision. Getting the call for a job, seeing the message your sick relative has already left the clinic, or just hearing from an invitation on time, allows you to limit the uncertainty you spend unnecessarily when you have no way to inform you quickly.

As you may have noticed, accessing electrical power is more than turning on a light bulb. It’s improving people’s quality of life. It takes away the burden of worrying about activities that others already have solved, such as reading, walking, or cooking at night. As Ester Duflo, this year’s economics Nobel laureate, says, “the richer you are, the more sound decisions you make for you.”

What other not-so-obvious privileges do you know?

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