Storms and power outages are harbingers of what's to come
Jul 06, 2012 | 12:45 PM
I had to laugh at your epic-length editorial on the subject of Baltimore's power outages ("Feeling powerless," July 3). It exemplified the frustration of city dwellers with BGE for leaving them high and dry after the freak storm that passed through Baltimore.
It's not often that Baltimore suffers a loss of electricity for days at a time. Not so where I live, however. It happens so frequently here in Harford County that most of us have become well-schooled in the art of patiently waiting for our electricity to be restored.
Not everyone here has a generator, and after being left without power by a freak storm we have had to survive for days on end without water, air conditioning, heat and all the other amenities that depend on electricity.
Yet no editorial was ever written about our plight, no words of recrimination were piled on BGE on our behalf, and no public apologies were issued by BGE to smooth our ruffled feathers.
As a child growing up in India, I was subjected to rolling blackouts every day due to power shortages. Where I grew up, the climate varied among three seasons — hot, hotter and hottest.
In April the tar would melt on the streets and run like a liquid. The humidity sent people scurrying into their homes.
Water was scarce. Every household had a designated water collector, who would wake up early each morning to pump water or collect it in pots, pans and buckets from taps.
Most of India is monsoon dependent. If the monsoon failed to come, as it often did, drought would follow. In the scorching heat, the water storage facility would run low and rumors would fly about the tank being nothing more than an empty hole.
The municipal water came in dribs and drabs and only during certain hours of the day. People had half a bucket of water to bathe and a few pots and pans filled with water for cooking.
You had to be a clever conservationist to stretch the supply. During the most acute and unbearable shortages the government would assuage voters by sending in trucks to deliver water. But that meant having to stand in long lines and fighting off all the people trying to cut in front.
People subjected to repeated deprivations of life's necessities grow acclimated. They develop hardier genes. They evolve into beings who sense the futility of complaining. They resign themselves to a frugal existence.
They learn to turn off the lights when they leave a room, to fan themselves with newspapers and to move as little as possible during the hottest part of the day in order to reduce their need for water. And they don't waste a drop of it.
How long can Americans carry on their profligacy? We are looking down an abyss of depleted resources. The American West already is suffering the effects of climate change. Water shortages will become ever more common there. Texas and Iowa are already in the throes of drought, and when the agricultural heartland is hit food prices will rise.
Your editorial was an unnecessary catharsis. You should have used the opportunity to remind readers of how lucky they are to be Americans, and to enjoy what they have. You should have exhorted them to conserve and be patient.
And you should have taken pity on poor BGE, because it is pointless to try to make it do better.