Women Off the Grid

Categories: Life Stories

In Life Off Grid we hear from a Lasqueti Island man about the strong role of women in his off-grid community. Wanting to learn more about the women’s perspective we reached out to three women – one who’s been doing it on her own for 30 years, one who lives extremely remotely, and another who’s raising her daughter among a strong network of off-gridders. They talked with us about essential skills, community, retirement plans and more.

What’s it like to live totally off the grid?

Filmmaker Jonathan Taggart and ethnographer Phillip Vannini spent two years trying to answer that question. They interviewed almost 200 people across Canada: Inuit stockpiling frozen fish, back-to-the-landers living out their dreams in the Maritimes and climate-concerned innovators building tiny water wheels on the West Coast’s Lasqueti Island.

Arguably the prettiest darn outhouse in Quebec. Photo by Jonathan Taggart.

They channeled what they learned into a film (premiering on Knowledge December 10), a book, a series for The Tyee, photos, audio stories and blogs – organizing most of this content into a website. Seems there’s a lot to learn from off-gridders, whether you’re curious about generating sustainable energy, living deep in the bush or building an efficient (and pretty) outhouse.

In the film, folks lead us through their innovative set-ups and explain why they chose to live as they do. These makeshift tour guides are typically men, and yet a Lasqueti Island resident named Dave says, “The women's community I found to be very strong, Women are… much more prominent in the community.”

I asked Phillip Vannini (who is the Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Public Ethnography) why we don’t see more of the strong women Dave alluded to in the film. Vannini explained that while women made up about half the “off-gridders” he and Jonathan Taggart met, not everyone agreed to on-camera interviews. This was often the case with single women, he said.

Phillip Vannini (right) chills in an off-grid home. Photo by Jonathan Taggart.

“Maybe these women did not want the whole world to know where they lived and the fact that they lived alone. At times, they were simply shy about it.”

The book is more representative of the gender balance than the film, he said. Wanting to learn more about off-gridding from a woman’s perspective, I reached out to three women living distinctly different off-grid lives: 

Ron and Johanna Melchiore together on their 25th wedding anniversary.