As you read these words, take a moment to consider your surroundings. Are you indoors? If so, try to name all the outside systems to which you are now connected. Sewer hookups, tap water, outside electricity, DSL Internet, cable television, landline telephone, natural gas — it can all add up quickly once you start considering it. 

Now, have you ever entertained the notion of leaving all that behind and becoming completely self-sufficient? I know I have. I enjoy technology and modern convenience and all the benefits that go with it so much that I’ll probably never actually unplug from The Matrix, but some small part of me will always take pleasure in the idea that I could. So, when I read about the case of 55-year-old Cape Coral, Florida, resident Robin Speronis, that small sliver of my psyche felt crushed.

“Speronis … never had the city turn on the power or water,” reported Theodore Ross, contributor for Bloomberg Businessweek, on July 10. “She set two 55-gallon plastic cisterns on either side of the entranceway and attached gutter downspouts to collect rainwater. She perched a small solar charger on a windowsill with wires snaking inside to a battery that in turn powers a few lights and a laptop. Wireless Internet is siphoned from a nearby Tire Kingdom. Inside, a propane lantern hangs from an unused light fixture in the dining area.”

I don’t know Speronis, but her decision to intentionally go it alone seems like a perfectly reasonable choice. For this, though, she has been doggedly pursued by local authorities. Apparently, living independently is now a prosecutable crime. 

“To code enforcement officials, her case is like any other,” reported Cristela Guerra of the Fort Myers News-Press on Aug. 22. “Listed under her company, Off-the-Grid Living Inc., is a litany of violations. Out of 48 violations, Speronis had been previously found guilty of 45. There's been no appeal or movement to comply. … Speronis' debt, between water, sewer and two code enforcement liens now equals almost $13,000. Florida state statute specifies that if a sewer system is available near a home, the property is required to connect.”

I had no idea one could be put on trial for saying, “No, thanks.” And apparently it will take nothing short of an amendment to the state’s founding document to get them to back off.

“Her story has sparked interest in Orlando area attorney, Brandon Peters, who's started a grassroots initiative to amend the state constitution so anyone can live off the grid responsibly,” reported Katie Jones of WFTX on Sept. 24. “If the amendment lands on the 2015 ballot and passes, Peters said no local government can interfere with Speronis or anyone else living off the grid. But a task like this takes a lot of time and money. Peters said they need to raise at least $500,000 to get the campaign off the ground.”

According to Home Power Magazine, around 200,000 families in this country are living just like Speronis. This fact alone should not label them as criminals. Cape Coral authorities should find something better to do than harasses a local widow just because she prefers rainwater to what comes out of the tap. Are there really no other problems they could possibly be focusing on instead? Is this truly the best use of their resources?

I wish Speronis nothing but the best in her fight. Her resolve seems strong and her will has been repeatedly tested without her budging. I hope she remains defiant, not just for herself and not just for everyone else who is living like her, but for everyone else who has ever even fantasized about living like her. I may never actually make the leap, but don’t take the option away from me. Go fight some other, actual crime why don’t you?

Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at rob.burgess@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.

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