Live through this

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I can’t say much right now, but if your Survivalist instincts are starting to tingle in response to a combination of general unrest, the erosion of our American freedoms and rights, the dwindling of our resources (water, oil, land, etc), the weakening of the dollar, and the sorry state of the economy, well, you better sit up and pay attention.  As I said, I can’t give a lot of details, primarily because I don’t have a lot of details to give.  But the fact is, (almost) everything you hear from those crazy conspiracy theorists is true: something is Up.

And some people are responding, buying hobby farms and stocking up on Ensure and all that.  Some of them are doing it right, many of them are doing it wrong.  Toilet paper?  Check.  No. 10 cans of food?  Check.  Massive stores of bottled water?  Great.  Bags of wheat and rice?  Got ’em.

But despite their proud stores and large financial investments, most people are ill-equipped to last more than a few days.  If society collapses, it won’t be too long before they’re out amongst the uncivilized masses they vowed to outsmart, going insane like everyone else that suddenly finds the Walmart security blanket ripped out from under them.  What’s a typical 21st-century office-based paper-pusher or stay-at-home-mom to do?

Imagine the scenario, one of the ultimate worst case: power is gone, water is gone, and now your SUV is out of gas.  You’re dirty and hungry, and your home’s been looted, long taken over by gang-bangers.

“Oh yeah?” some say.  “I’ll just head to the country.”  Great.  On a limited supply of fuel, they won’t get far.  And then what?  Do they know how to milk a cow, preserve meat, or grow corn?  Do they even know which produce crops their climate and soil will support?  Do they know what to do with raw grains and whatnot after they’ve grown?

Didn’t think so.  I know that learning the Old Ways, if you will, isn’t nearly as fun as playing World of Warcraft, but it might be wise to learn how to slay dragons in real life.

I know what most of you are thinking, so I’ll state a few points for the record: First, I am not a survivalist, Doomsday Prepper, or hoarder.  I might be considered somewhat of a conspiracy theorist; I’ll give you that.

But every time someone talked about stocking up on gas masks, Evian bottles, or MRE meals, I rolled my eyes.  I still do; most of that stuff is–not pointless, but definitely not the best use of resources.

What would I make sure to have in place?  Granted, there are people out there who’ve spent a lot more time on this very project and thought things through much more thoroughly than I have so far.  This seed has been germinating for the past several years and has now started to sprout more acutely, but hasn’t really picked up any real momentum yet.

I have a basic plan.  I will purposefully leave out some of the details, simply because I have to.  But I’ll share a few things that crossed my mind, in hopes that it gives someone who deserves it a fighting chance.

There are some things to stock up on: seeds, mostly.  Forget grains; they require a lot of cultivation and labor-intensive milling and preparation.  Nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and veggies are best.

Begin your garden now, so that if the fit hits the shan, you’re not just starting your garden then.  Live in an apartment with limited space and no yard?  No problem.  Books abound on the subject of “square foot” gardening, so that even the dwellers of the tiniest apartments can have a decent productive garden.

Be able to defend yourself.  Martial arts is good for close range and you generally need not register yourself as an official weapon until you reach the upper echelons of belt-dom.   Various low-tech weapons (bow and arrow, etc) are good for hunting; they’re quiet and some are retrievable.  Firearms are great until you run out of ammo, so unless you know how to make your own bullets, they become a very expensive club.

Remember that you can’t take everything with you and as supplies run out, you’ll need to figure out how to replenish them.  This does not mean looting your neighbor’s stash or overrunning someone else’s camp.  This means figuring out how to re-grow, re-make, re-use, re-cycle, and clean what you’ve consumed.

Remember that even canned food has a shelf life.  Learn to preserve food, too, because refrigeration may not be an option for those of you in Southern climates.

Learn how to disinfect naturally.  Control of microbes and disease will become paramount.

Don’t advertise what you have.  You don’t want to be a target.  You never know what people can perceive or what will run through their mind in the process.

I wouldn’t stockpile cash; it won’t be worth much – you can’t eat, drink, or wear it.  It won’t treat any disease.  It’s not utilitarian.

Gather a list of medicinal herbs you would use to treat conditions.  Take classes in emergency care so that you can stop bleeding, suture wounds, and splint broken bones.

Forget your cell phone.  In fact, forget all phones, including landlines; in the event of the combination of anarchy and martial law, there will be no telephone networks period.  Your only communication with anyone not near you (or the rest of the world outside the US) will be via amateur radio frequencies.

This requires a license (at this time; once the fit hits the shan, all bets are off, but get the license anyway, so that you get practice and learn the culture and etiquette of the ham world) and a little knowledge.  Have both a mobile radio for your vehicle and what is known as a “base station” that sits in your house and doesn’t move until, well, you have to move.

Decide carefully what to stock up on.  Salt makes a good preservative and isn’t found everywhere.  Learn how to grow and produce as much as possible by yourself.  For example, forget lightbulbs or other sources of light that require fuel you can’t easily get when the world goes to shit.  Instead, think candles.

But rather than stocking up on lots of candles, learn to make your own.  Same goes for other consumables like soap.  Do learn to barter, should you find some civilized neighbors willing to trade.  Make a list of your assets (those usable in a more primitive environment) and services (preferably those that don’t require technology–consider what existed before the advent of electricity).

Horses don’t make great transportation unless you have ready access to cheap hay, which is their principal feed.  They eat grass as well, but since they pull grass out of the ground at the root (rather than simply munching like cows do), you will have to keep replanting grass.

Don’t go hog wild on something you know little about; for example, don’t raise sheep or llamas for their wool unless you also know how to harvest and utilize the wool.

In the old days, one of the most valuable commodities on the plains was needles; those who had needles could sew (make new clothing or blankets, or repair tears/rips in existing material) or remove splinters.  Consider these things during preparation.

Water is one of the most important resources.  A family of four consumes roughly 12,000 gallons per day, in regular 21st-century Western civilization.  Obviously, this number would change under a more urgent situation, but the point remains the same: water is not something you can live without.  It’s also extremely heavy to move and it requires a lot of space.

Rather, find an alternate, renewable water source, such as rain collection or a river or stream.  Remember that even this water, as pure as it may seem, contains environmental toxins and millions of microbes, some of which are not friendly to us and can readily cause problems in the intestines and bloodstream.  Thus, it’s important to decide on filtration and cleansing methods in advance.

Think small, think mobile, and think solar.  Solar power is ever-renewable.  Some radios can also derive power from cranking or winding.

One last thought: humans have a powerful survival instinct, and the first things we think of when facing some kind of threat are self-defense and self-preservation.  However, if you’ve ever seen the ’80s movie “The Day After”, a dilemma emerges.  The movie depicts a parallel universe in which the US and the Russians indeed nuked each other during the cold war.  People stockpiled what little they could on short notice and hid out in basements, only emerging when the acute radiation levels had dropped.

The problem was, it was not Life As Usual.  The survivors stepped out into a cold, snowy, bleak nuclear winter, their familiar neighborhoods–and indeed their entire lives–faint shadows of what they once were.  I made the decision then and there that I wanted absolutely no part of that world; if there was ever a nuclear blast, I actually want to move in closer to ground zero, to make sure my death was certain and quick.  As morbid as it is to say that, attempting to exist in a post-nuke world seems even more so.

Everyone must decide for themselves whether or not they’re up to attempting to eek out an existence in–and rebuild–the radically transformed and drastically different new society that will eventually emerge from the rubble.  Whatever your decisions are, make them wisely, stick to them, and never underestimate the consequences of those decisions.

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