Any electrical power failure in a developed or developing society has serious consequences. So many people need electricity in order to work, whether it be in a factory where the power and machines work in tandem with people to produce goods, or whether it be in an office where banks of workers are working behind computer monitors with telephones headsets strapped on. When the power fails work stops and often life saving procedures stop. Our dependence on electricity is astonishing.
I remember working when Edward Heath was Prime Minister and at odds with the coal miners, who went on strike. The miners were responsible for producing fuel for electricity and when the coal stopped so the electricity was cut off or cut down. The law office in which I worked were, like the rest of the country, subject to a three day week. On three days the power worked and on the remaining days we were not allowed to use electricity.
As it was winter time and it was cold the firm bought camping gas stoves and gas lighting. Without too much thought to health and safety (this was the early 1970s, after all) the workers in the law office worked on, reading the papers by gas light while the secretaries bashed out on their manual typewriters. In fact the circumstances were such that I am sure that our productivity increased during the three day week.
But today there are no manual typewriters in offices and without power we come to a stop. This has happened several times in London over the past year, with the longest power break being no more than half a day.
I therefore wonder what it must have been to experience the complete loss of power recently for two days that happened to 600 million souls in the northern part of India. Three in Northern India grids broke down, we are told, when some States took more power than they were entitled to take and this caused a grid trip which created the grid breakdown. Power cuts are a feature of many parts of India but a two day power cut is unprecedented.
It seems to me that we waste power wherever we live. We waste it on advertising by the road side and street side, a garish display which I suspect persuades no one to buy anything. Even is these neon displays were effective in selling, at what cost to the rest of us. The neon lights harm the environment in their appearance and in the energy they consume and the emissions and particulates that the energy they consume leaves as a by product of producing the electricity which is then wasted.
It is hard for most people not to over exploit a luxury. If we produce food in abundance we tend to become fat. If we produce heat in abundance we tend to become too hot. If we produce flowing water everywhere we use it until we lose it. Power tends to corrupt and electrical power also tends to corrupt as anyone who lives in a modern city at night knows; as we all know, you can simply have just too much of a good thing and that is when the good thing ceases to be good.