Living off-the-grid

May 27, 2008 at 2:00 am 2 comments

Kim Photo -- Perky OrangeWell, my last post freaked me out a fair bit. So I was wondering how (or indeed if it’s possible at all) to withdraw from society without hiding out on some remote island. Could you escape the CCTVs and the targeted surveillance and collection of data that goes on around us?

Some research uncovered people who live in the shadows. Known as “living off-the-grid“, these people know how to evade the surveillance society. Here’s something I didn’t know (not sure if it’s legal though, I’ll find out) – if you don’t want your number plate to be read by a CCTV camera at night as you cruise down the highways, use an infra-red bulb to illuminate the number plate – it floods the CCTV cam causing it to have a hissy fit.

Since CCTV cameras are usually perched up high on buildings, off-the-grid people cover their heads (mmm…that will cause ‘hat hair’ for sure!) to evade the cameras. Think I’ll try a hoody instead. Off-the-gridders (if that’s a term) swap Loyalty and transport cards with friends or colleagues – the data is still collected but it’s not data about the off-the-gridder. They are paying cash rather than using credit cards.

To avoid big city living, they are living in boats or caravan parks – not sure how much you evade this way, as you’d probably still need to link into a city’s electricity grid. In the UK, they’re living in urban canals and rivers paying £75 a year to British Waterways for a “continuous cruiser” licence. So they don’t pay for power or council tax.

I really haven’t thought about how this might work in Australia – I will though. I can imagine you could have a water tank (as I do) to collect rain water (but there’s a drought here) and so you might not have to link up to town or city water. I imagine there are still some properties with septic tanks – a small scale sewerage treatment system that doesn’t connect to main sewerage pipes. But I’d think the local Council would eventually track you down and force you onto the main system. They got me and forced me to pay AU$3000 to link up to the main sewerage pipes.

Online I do know that you can encrypt emails through services like Hushmail (yep, I use it). This might stop the Government (or Google) collecting data about your communication patterns. If you want to use the internet without leaving a trail of data behind you, you can use Xerobank, which passes your clicks through an anonymous data cloud and hides the data and computer details that would normally be exposed.

You can participate in social networks by using an assumed name. I have so many assumed names, I’m in danger of confusing myself! But I told you in a recent post about the MySpace mother from hell and the Federal indictment against her, which raises the possibility that if you knowingly create an account under a false name, you could be in breach of a site’s Terms of Service or contract.

I’ve found a book that I’ll be getting. It’s called How to Live Off-Grid by Nick Rosen. Mainly about how to live off-grid in the UK but probably has some tidbits to get me thinking of how to have an off-grid life in Australia. And Rosen’s website is good stuff. It’s called Off-Grid and it even has its own YouTube channel with videos that share practical examples of off-grid living around the world. One of the videos shows the son of a fairly wealthy landowner who appears to have been given a manor to live in and is filling up the huge house with people who wish to live off-grid. You can watch it here.

Some of the videos show off-gridders living in a yurt for example. Not sure why these people seem to want to look like left-over hippies from the 60s. But guess if you’re living in a tent or something in the sticks, having to produce your own power and find water – you wouldn’t doll yourself up and put on the lip gloss!

I’ll be looking into this off-the-grid living. Do you live off-the-grid or try to? Tell me how you would do it. How could you opt-out of the surveillance society?

Entry filed under: Off-the-grid, Privacy, Society, Surveillance society, Useful resources.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Will Chapman  |  May 30, 2008 at 5:30 am

    I’m not sure where you got your figures about living on a boat on the UK’s inland waterways and paying British Waterways (BW) £75 a year. That won’t fill your tank with diesel. We pay BW around £600 a year just for the right to have a boat on the water, then we pay around £1500 for our excellent but no-frills (just water, no power), and another £300 for insurance. As for power – which you imply is free – we generate that from diesel whci at the moment costs around 85p a litre (and rising by the day and predicted to to top £1/litre by the end of the year).

    It is true that a number of continuous cruisers (and probably continuous moorers) don’t pay council tax but it is increasingly difficult to find legal moorings that allow on board living.

  • 2. thinkingshift  |  May 30, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Hi Will

    If you follow the link in the second para, it’s to the Times Online where it mentions the £75a year – I must say I got to thinking a move to the UK would be good if that’s all to pay!! thx for your info, which is clearly more accurate. Are you actually trying to live off-the-grid? I suspect that Councils and the Govt will catch up and force off-the-gridders to cough up taxes and so on.


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