Friday, March 27, 2009

Survival Skills. Will We Need Them?

By Jean Henry Mead

I recently read an article titled “Dust off Your Survival Skills” by Marcia Hensley in my statewide newspaper. Hensley quoted Kurt Wilson, who hosts an online site called “Armchair Survivalist.”

Wilson says the nation is falling into such chaos that survival skills will be crucial. Some experts predict that our current “recession” will deepen worse than the depression of the 1930s. Old-timers who survived the Great Depression say they considered themselves fortunate to have a roof over their heads and enough to eat. Is it going to come to that?

Hensley, the author of Staking a Claim:Women Homesteading the West, says those of us living in the Western states have a much better chance of survival than urban dwellers because there is land on which to grow our own food, hunt rabbits and wild game, and raise chickens and turkeys. But alternative press sources say that in at least one state home gardens have been banned because it contributes to greenhouse gases. In Washington state a homeowner was fined because he was catching rainwater in barrels that belongs to the government. And in Texas groundwater has been purchased so that meters can be installed on agricultural wells.

Hensley said: “Since my husband I live on some of the same ground that supported settlers and their descendants—even in the same log house (although since remodeled) that they built—I’ve been wondering if we could survive under the same conditions they endured." She goes on to say that they held a dress rehearsal during last year's severe winter when they were snowed in for several days. They ate can goods and frozen food and were fortunate they didn't lose power.

But what if the power grid were sabotaged? she said. Could they stay warm with only a wood burning stove on Wyoming's high plains? And how long would batteries last for a transistor radio? Forget TV, computers, refrigerators and other household appliances. What if the gasoline supply were cut off and those who lived out of town couldn’t go anywhere. You’d need a horse or dog team to pull a sled or wagon. And what if the shelves were bare at the stores in town? Hensley paints a nightmarish picture of what could happen.

Barton Biggs, a New York based strategist who advised Morgan Stanley investors, says in his recent book, Wealth, War and Wisdom, that the breakdown in civilized society is coming. He advises creating safe havens stocked with necessities such as canned food, liquids, medicine, seeds and fertilizer. In the long run the survival retreats will also need a water supply and a way of growing food.

Armchair survivalist Kurt Wilson says of the nineteen states best suited as retreat areas, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming are preferred. “It puts gardening in a whole new light,” according to Hensley. “Forget the petunias. Save that precious water for potatoes and beans. Hunting wildlife will no longer be recreational. It will be a necessity. Could we raise chickens or barter with friends if we do? We could try to get a calf or pig to fatten, and we’d want to replace our horse with a milk cow. On second thought, we might need that horse to get to the post office, assuming we still have mail delivery.”

What do you think? Before you answer, do some research of your own.


Bill Kirton said...

Interesting thoughts, Jean. Hard to believe that we could slip from today's pampered sophistication to scratching away at the soil in such a short space of time, though. But it all makes for good media coverage.
Anyway, 'survival' is such a relative term. I remember seeing a man on the island of Crete very carefully watering two rows of dandelions. His ideal salad apparently. And here in my Scottish garden, I wage war on hundreds of them, month after month. I guess it's just that, for so long, we've been - as I said - pampered. I know that when my router stops working or there's the occasional electricity outage, I feel cast adrift, unable to be. And yet I'm a writer, so what should I need? A pen and paper.
Thought-provoking. Maybe we just need to be reminded of how fortunate we actually are.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I agree,Bill. We've been pampered for some time and the thought of giving up our computers and other "necessities" and going back to the pioneer way of life is very unsettling.

Beth Terrell said...

Intriguing post, Jean, and as you say, unsettling. I sincerely hope the predictions of lawlessness and chaos are wrong, but it's plausible enough to give me pause. Better buy some seeds.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I already have ten years' worth of seeds, Beth, and they're not altered Monsanto seeds.

By the way, does anyoen speak Japanese?

Ben Small said...

In the desert, there's a lot of edible stuff, like prickly pear, which are everywhere. And plenty of rabbits. And water can often be found in the deep washes if one digs. Even though Arizona is dry, there are underground springs.

I keep trying to seed my wife, but she keeps running away... :<)

Chester Campbell said...

I remember the depression well, though I was just a kid of five or six when it started. I lived iin a nice middle class section of Nashville. My family didn't have much money, but the kids didn't think anything about it. Everybody was in the same boat. People helped each other out. I recall putting cardboard in my shoes when I wore a hole in them.

It's a different world today. You don't see the same gentility you did back then. I'm not overly concerned, though. I remember all the survivalist talk during the Cold War. People stocked up to be ready when the bombs rained down. I suspect there will always be a doomsday scenario on the horizon. When you get my age you just go on with your life and say, "Que sera sera."

Mark W. Danielson said...

I have met plenty of gun-toting survivalists who feel they should stock their basements with ammunition before our president signs an executive order to account for every bullet. Thankfully, the optimist in me says that won't happen. Being prepared is one thing, but I wouldn't care to live in a world where I lived in fear. People who believe our future looks grim should be reminded of all the adversity that we've overcome.