Turn on a switch and from the nearest bulb out pours light from... somewhere; turn on a faucet and water appears. Wires, pipes, and roads support the lives we lead, but the average person doesn't know where they go or even how they work. In On the Grid, Scott Huler takes the time to understand the systems that sustain our way of life, starting from his own quarter of an acre in North Carolina and traveling as far as ancient Rome.
Each chapter follows one element of infrastructure back to its source. Huler visits power plants, watches new asphalt pavement being laid, and traces a drop of water backward from the faucet to the Gulf of Mexico. He reaches out to guides along the way, both the workers who operate these systems and the people who plan them.
On the Grid brings infrastructure to life and details the ins and outs of our civilization with fascinating, back-to-basics information about the systems we all depend on.
Inquisitive everyman Huler takes an obsessively detailed behind the scenes look at wires, water pipes, and other typically ignored but terribly important pathways that lie beneath our feet. He puts himself front-and-center for his subjects, watching the laying of asphalt in his own neighborhood, following a recycling truck to the facility, or dropping in on his local power plant. Investigations unfold via a pleasant, relatable approach based on the everyday experiences Huler and his family have had ("I know from my son's delighted cries every morning that the recycling truck usually comes by before 10:00 "). The frequent adoption of a high-school science teacher tone ("The last thing you need to know about electricity...") becomes grating, but overall there's enough well-reported, thoughtfully observed analysis to satisfy inquisitive minds.