In May, I gave a talk at the Los Angeles Adventurers Club, which was billed as a presentation on primitive weapons and urban survival, which is sort of what I talked about. After hearing about some of the truly hard-core mountain climbs and boating trips with accompanying deaths, I felt that my little presentation was a bit tame.
I began by briefly sharing my recent series of adventures with Helen, which we call “In Search of the Nipton Troll.” (More on that later). I also shared some discoveries about the Maya during visits to Mexico and Guatemala. (Nope, there are no “prophecies” about “the end of the world” in 2012).
Then I explained my recent appearance on the National Geographic’s television show called “Doomsday Preppers.” I said I was preparing for an earthquake, and I demonstrated how to make fire with a hand drill, how to forage in L.A., and I showed the contents of my “survival pack.”
I then discussed how such concerns about the world ending tend to distract us from dealing with the very real here and now concerns.
I shared the nine ways in which two recent authors suggested that the world might end with mass deaths or extinction of the human race. However, most of those scenarios cannot be prepared for. If a comet hit the earth with L.A. at the point of impact, there would be no survivors and your survival kit would be irrelevant.
So my perspective is that we have many very real concerns which we can and should deal with, without being distracted by 2012 fears or aliens invading from Mars.
In general, these concerns can be divided into those that are man-made, and those that are natural. The man-made are such things as war, nuclear accidents, terrorism, economic disasters, massive pollution of the water due to fracking, etc. The natural disasters, which are usually exacerbated by man, are such things as famine, flooding, earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, an ice age, etc.
I’m a big fan of deriving lessons from literature and movies, so I recommended books such as “Hole in the Sky,” “Earth Abides,” and “Lucifer’s Hammer.” Each depicts some sort of disaster or survival situation, and how the people dealt with it.
I also suggested movies such as “Book of Eli,” “Hunger Games,” even “Mad Max” which provide some clues as to what a post-cataclysmic world might look like.
So how does one prepare for such possibilities? I suggested that primitive survival skills will never go out of style. These are skills such as wilderness first aid, making tools from stones, making fire from sticks, making fibre from plants and then making things from that fibre, and many more.
But I strongly encouraged the audience to not get into a typical “survivalist” trap, where you are wholly focused on physical skills and acquiring objects like knives and guns and food.
I read from my “How to Survive Anywhere” book, and my “Extreme Simplicity” book, where I suggested that we should all spend equal time on developing not just our physical skills, but also our health, our economic integrity, our moral and spiritual health, and our sense of being a positive contributing factor in our society. The negative stereotype of a “survivalist” is the guy who is a loner and who thinks he can do it all alone, and to hell with everyone else.
By contrast, to consider how to think about the long-term sustainability of our culture and our species, we should examine at least some of the methods used by the so-called primitive cultures for millennia. Among the many lessons we can learn from studying the more advanced “primitive” cultures are cooperation, realizing that your neighbor’s survival is your survival, learning to do more with less, learning how to work with the land and ecology, and not against it, etc.
Of course, this is the tip of a very big iceberg – the full scope and depth of what is meant by “survival.” I welcome your comments and questions.