July 14 2005

30 Days, Episode 5:Off-The-Grid

Morgan Spurlock’s penultimate episode to the first season of 30 Days ended up having a close to home connection to me, and I didn’t even know it! (more on that later)

This weeks episode focused on taking two fossil fuel loving New Yorkers, and taking them to an Eco-Village to see how they did being more eco-friendly. The two folks taken were friends who work at a bar together, Vito Summa and Johari Jenkins. They were first assessed on their “enviromental footprint”, how much of the Earth’s resources they use. They were told that if everyone on the planet lived like they did, it would take 12.5 planets to sustain us all. Not that I want to be a naysayer, but I call that “math”, questionable at best.

So now that they knew how evil they were (can you tell where this recap is going yet?), they left to move into the Eco-Village. Upon arriving at the airport, they see a bin for brochures that says “What’s Happening In Kirksville”, seeing there are no pamphlets, they comment “Apparently nothing is happening in Kirksville.” HOLD IT! Did they just say Kirksville? As in…Kirksville,MO? As in…where I live? Why….yes they did! I was shocked, but that was the little airport just 15 miles from my house that they flew into! Cool! Upon finding the website for the Eco-Village, I come to realize it is just over in Rutledge,MO, about 40 miles from my house. Nifty.

After exiting the airport, they are greeted by Cecil who is there to drive them to the village in his vegetable oil powered car. I kid you not. Cecil’s hairdo alone may be one of the least eco friendly things in my life as it is just hideouslly huge. Oh well. So on their way to the village they are told the story of why it’s called “Dancing Rabbit Eco-Village“. Cecil tells them they have rabbits there. Vito asks if they dance in a joking manner. Cecil informs him that they do. The car falls eerily quiet.

They get to the village and are told they will be living in a converted grain bin, and they will have no electricity because they do not yet have solar panels. They are also informed that anytime they want to take a shower, they will have to heat the water with a fire. Johari is very upset by this, and relays to Vito that one of the girls in the village says that yes, this is what she has to do every 5 days for her shower. Johari and Vito seem very dismayed at the every 5 days bit. Johari is also upset when she learns she can’t use her hair care products because all run off water goes to a wetlands area, and her products are not bio-degradeable. The fun just keeps coming.

Johari and Vito get to learn about life in the village, how to process “hu-manure” for fertalizing, tending the rabbits, growing the vegtables they eat as they are a meat-free village, and…..wait…meat-free village? Vito is not amused. Vito needs meat. Vito loves meat. VITO MUST HAVE MEAT. They tell him he can hunt rabbits, but he will have to cook them elsewhere. And he can even buy meat, if he can find some raised in an eco-friendly way. Cue the rest of the episode focusing on Vito being obsessed with getting some meat, earning him the nickname “Meato”.

Finally the grain bin gets it’s solar panels and they get their electricity so they can at least have some light at night to read by, instead of the candles they have been living off of. See, this is one situation where I must admit, I would love to do solar power in my life, but the initial setup cost is just so blasted much. They said in this episode that a basic setup will run you around $20,000. Now folks, I am all for solar power, I know it will save you money in the long run, but…I don’t have $20K to just plunk down. And the idea of running my warehouse for work off solar power? I would love it, but it’s a 3000 square foot building…5 computers, tons of lights, phones…we would have to cover the entire roof, and somehow I think that would be more than $20K.

I will say I learned something about lighting, and I just did the research myself. If you replace a standard lightbulb (Incandescent Light Bulbs) with a Compact Fluorescent bulb (CFL), you have a higher initial cost, but a bulb that saves you money in the long run. They last longer, use less wattage and are more eco-friendly. To determine the wattage, take a standard bulb, say a 60 watt, divide it by 4, you would only need a 15 watt CFL to replace that bulb. You can read more on it in this PDF and on this site.

Later on, the village holds a meeting to discuss the impact Johari and Vito are having on the village. They aren’t happy with Vito killing rabbits, and they aren’t happy Johari using perfume. Johari gets pulled aside and asked to stop using perfume because some of the people are allergic, she asks “What if I said I was allergic to BO. What would you do?” She was told they would wear deodarant, but she isn’t, so she should learn to compromise. Um…let’s look at what the definition of compromise is from is, shall we?

1. A settlement of differences in which each side makes concessions.
2. The result of such a settlement.

Gee, the concession I saw was “We say so, stop doing it.” Not the type of compromise I am familiar with, but oh well, Johari gave in.

There were also lessons in making a car run on either vegetable oil or bio diesel. Nice ideas, not very practicle. I am much more interested in hydrogen powered cars myself. They were also taught dumpster diving for items, which thrilled Johari since they let her have a hair dryer she found.

The big thrill for me was when Vito finally got his meat on day 26. He found a butcher who raised cows in an eco-friendly manner. He went to their farm, their shop and into their freezer, way cool since it was….WESTERN’S SMOKEHOUSE! Folks…this place is like 12 miles from my house, and it is so good I drive there just for lunch sometimes! I can not stress to you how much I love this place. I have never once eaten a piece of meat from there that didn’t just send me into a meat coma. And their award winning beef jerky? TO DIE FOR.

Anyway, when the month was up, Johari and Vito were again assessed, and living the way they did, their new ecological footprint was 1.3 earths and….wait a minute…1.3? You mean, even living like this doesn’t put you in perfect synch with the planet? Why do I find this so funny? Oh well, they made some friends. On the last night Cecil and Johari shared some Smirnoff Vodka and….wait a minute…a processed item? That doesn’t seem very eco-friendly somehow. (and we won’t even mention all the screen printed shirts they had…not very eco-friendly either)

In the end it was an interesting episode, but I was not impressed by the Eco-Village at all. To be quite frank, I found them to be a bunch of hypocrites. They want everyone to live in an eco-friendly way, which I am all for, but do these folks have jobs? Are they contributing to society in any meaningful way? Not that I saw. For a planet to be self-sustaining, we would have to get rid of some of the population to have enough land, not an easy task.

What irks me the most is they want to have their own economy and focus on bartering to sustain themselves. Wonderful….why then do you have a donation page for people to send you money? Not to mention your wishlist of items you want people to just give you. Essentially you are asking people to support you in your lifestyle choice. You chose it, you live it.

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