Energy Efficiency in Humans

Strikes me that we humans have an instinct to be active, to let our energy out, no matter what. The trick, I think, is to let it out in ways that are constructive.

I’ve been thinking about the similarities in society in the areas of rural Alaska where I grew up, and in Dabon, Haiti.

In many parts of rural Alaska, there’s very little happening in terms of jobs and an economy. Most of the people do not spend their lives in subsistence hunting/fishing/gathering activities. They have a lot of time and a lot of uncertainty about what to do with their time. Symptoms of this problem include very high rates of alcoholism and suicide – certainly among the least-constructive outlets for people’s energy.

Certain parts of Haitian society are seeing a similar problem – jobs are very hard to find, and not everyone has the resources to participate in subsistence farming.

One of the not-so-constructive ways some people let out their energy while I was in Haiti was by having yelling matches in the street. Some kind of boyfriend-girlfriend situation gone awry resulted in up to 10 or so people standing around in the evening, with at least one person at a time yelling, for a couple of hours. The thing that caught my attention was that this outdoor yelling match went on for a number of nights, and didn’t end until about a week after it started!

These unlucky neighbors were very much a contrast to some of the other folks who I spent time with in Haiti – people who don’t have time to spend a week arguing because they’re teaching in low-income communities, organizing teacher-education programs, searching for partners in their community work, etc. Seems these folks are too busy bringing joy into the world to have a miserable week-long yelling match.