Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Survival Resources 13: Survival Summary

At this point, I am going to end this particular series on Survival Resources. It's not that I won't discuss this stuff again, it's just that it's time to go onto other things. I have a long list of other topics I want to blog about--of course the biggest problem is finding time to write about it all...

So what conclusions do I have? What have I learned? What have you learned?

I think most of this falls into three categories: things we can do something about now, things we can learn (better and better over time), and things that we won't know until we get there.

The two things anyone can do now: 1) Get (or get out from the library) and read some some of the books about survival. My top recommendations are When Technology Fails (see When Technology Fails, 2/13/10) and Deep Survival (see my post on Wilderness Survival, 3/11/11). While you are at it, work on developing a survival attitude. And 2) Create a 'survival kit' (see Survival Kits, 5/6/11).

Most of the rest of what's in these posts are skills you can learn over time: foraging (see Foraging, 1/11/11), winter tree identification (see Winter Tree ID, 1/18/11) and tracking (see Tracking, 2/9/11), studying and learning the land around you (see Learning the Land, 2/27/11) as well as learning 'primitive skills' (see Primitive Skills, 4/13/11) for wilderness survival (see Wilderness Survival, 3/11/11). The only way to learn these things is practice, practice, practice. (I said this in the posts too.) Also, some of these skill can only be practiced at certain times--I've been joking with my friend who I studied buds and winter tree identification that it's too late to practice learning the buds now--it's May and all the trees are in bloom. But winter will come around again--and it's a very good time to start practicing foraging.

Finally, there are some things we will only know when we get there. Reinventing Collapse (see Reinventing Collapse, 5/12/11) is good to read and think about, and the lessons from the collapse of the Soviet Union may prove useful to our survival if and when collapse happens here, but unfortunately we won't know anything for certain until something like that happens.

The frustrating thing about emergencies, technology failing, sudden crises, and even complete collapse is that none of it is predictable. Certainly the thing that you really want to do is try to avoid any of this happening in the first place. Still, being prepared is always useful. I hope this series helps some folks to think about preparations they could be taking--and maybe this will help if they find themselves in a crisis.

Meanwhile, I think that the best way to prepare for collapse is to live as if it has already happened. I want to think about what life would be like in a 'Post-Carbon' world--a world without oil or fossil fuels. What skills would we need to learn, not only to survive but to thrive in a very different world? The ideas and skills involved in that is another whole series that I hope to write in the future.

Quote of the Day: “We all need food, water and shelter, but the needs of a family in west Texas in July are vastly different than the needs of a family in western Massachusetts in January. You have to think about what you’re preparing for.” - Kathy Harrison

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Survival Resources 12: Reinventing Collapse

Of course, part of the reason I am doing this series on Survival Resources is that there is a good chance at some point in the future, the corporate-industrial, oil maintained US society will collapse. (See my posts on Collapse, 7/5/10, and Peak Everything, 7/20/08.) Being prepared for this possibility and having some idea how it might happen would certainly help increase our chances for survival.

Dmitry Orlov has a unique perspective on the question of social collapse. Having grown up in the Soviet Union (he immigrated to the US at age 12) he understands the culture and the way the society worked. He visited Russia several times in the 1980's and 1990's after the fall of the USSR. In his book, Reinventing Collapse, Orlov talks about the parallels between the collapse of one 'superpower' and the impending collapse of the other--the US. (He talks about the question of when "the second superpower shoe would be dropping".)

This is a perceptive, cynical, and often very funny book. Orlov has a dark Russian sense of humor that is usually on target. (Sample: "I have had a chance to observe quite a few companies in the US from the inside and have spotted a certain constancy in the staffing profile. At the top, there is a group of highly compensated senior lunch-eaters. ... They often hold advance degrees in disciplines such as Technical Schmoozing and Relativistic Beancounting. ... Somewhat further down the hierarchy are the people who actually do the work. They tend to have fewer social graces and communication skills, but they do know how to get the work done. ... More often than not, the senior lunch-eaters at the top are native-born Americans and, more often than not, the ones lower down are either visiting foreigners or immigrants.")

The book has a bunch of useful insights. An early one is "when faced with a collapsing economy, one should stop thinking of wealth as money. Access to actual physical resources and assets, as well as intangibles such as connections and relationships, quickly becomes much more valuable than mere cash." He backs this up with stories from his visits to Russia around 1990.

He also suggests that a nomadic lifestyle with several 'bases of operation' may be safer and more secure than one permanent location. He even suggests life on a boat, saying "there is no such thing as 'waterway rage'" and "Having a moat around you provides a remarkable amount of both privacy and security". He gives ideas about how to adapt to rapidly declining circumstances and talks about what skills and working conditions might prove useful in a collapse.

While I hardly agree with everything in the book (I know I can be critical of American society, but I think he downplays even some its more useful aspects while extolling what he sees as the Russian character--but, of course, he is Russian), nevertheless I think it is really worth reading. There are lots of books about different people's ideas about social collapse. Dmitry Orlov is reporting from experience.

Quote of the Day: "True necessities are those few items found at the base of Maslow's hierarchy: oxygen, water and food, in that order. The order is determined by seeing how long someone can stay alive when deprived of any of these: a few minutes for oxygen; a few days for water; a few weeks for food. These are followed by non-necessities such as shelter, companionship, opportunities for sexual release and meaningful activities, such as exercise, play or work. Most people can survive without these for months, perhaps years; I even know some people who have survived for their entire lifetime without work. Cars, water heaters and flush toilets are not anywhere on this list." - Dmitry Orlov

Friday, May 6, 2011

Survival Resources 11: Survival Kits

Almost by definition, emergencies come unexpectedly. The trick for survival in such situations is to plan ahead. A very useful tool, especially in the event of an unexpected emergency is a survival kit.

Yes, you can buy survival kits online or in stores, but you can also put one together yourself. The advantage of doing this is that not only will you save money, but you are more aware of your own needs than any manufacturer.

In a plastic bag in the library in my house, I have tossed together a bunch of things that I think would be useful in an emergency. I know where it is and I know what's in it and so I know where to go for stuff if something goes wrong.

Here is a list of what's in my kit. As I said, your kit should reflect what you think you might need--my list is only an example.

Inside my bag:
Britta filters (see my lastpost on Safe, Clean Water)
Candles (and candle holders)
A magnesium fire starting kit (in retrospect, I am not sure how useful this is)
Fishing line
A Swiss-army knife
A compass/whistle pendant

Nearby I have two oil lanterns with oil in them.

I also have a Swiss-army knife, a CPR shield, and a micro LED flashlight on the key chain that I always carry in my pocket.

Some things I would like to add to my survival kit include a small first aid kit (fortunately one of my housemates keeps first aid supplies near the kitchen) and one of those reflective 'space blankets'.

Matthew Stein has a whole chapter in his book When Technology Fails devoted to 'Supplies and Preparations'. (See When Technology Fails, 12/13/10 for more about the book.) It's a good source for figuring out what you should have in your survival kit.

Quote of the Day: "No one really knows what the future will bring. You can't plan for all possible scenarios, but a wise person plans for several of the most likely possibilities and stores at least a few basic supplies for emergencies." - Matthew Stein