WHY I WROTE MY BOOKS:
URBAN WILDERNESS: An Urban Survival Guide
“Urban Wilderness” is the third book I wrote, published in 1979. A few years earlier, I had started writing outdoor columns for the Pasadena Star News and other papers, and I thought the collected columns could make a good book. But I wanted to create a book that was also relevant to the average city dweller, back then, trying to live a more self-reliant life.
So my proposal to the publisher included a collection of articles, loosely held together by the themes of household ecology, city gardening, wild city plants, pollution issues, and city survival. It all seemed very cohesive at the time, but in fact, that third book was a hodge podge of great ideas that only loosely held together. But since Peace Press of Culver City wanted to publish the book, I went ahead and produced a manuscript.
Now, if you are unfamiliar with the publishing world, think of the search for a publisher as men or women exploring a dating service. Finally you find an interesting publisher and the courting begins. Finally, you sign a contract, and you’re married! You no longer get exactly what you want. It’s a pretty good analogy of what happens when you and a publisher hammer out an idea for a book.
Though I wanted a well-organized right-to-the-point book about what it takes to live a self-reliant life, the publisher had their own ideas of what it would take to make the book “popular.” At the time, I didn’t think much of the fact that they also published books by Timothy Leary, and notes from prison, but their ideology watered down the content and arrangement of my well-intended book. That book is still available on ebay and elsewhere, and you really might find it entertaining. I still look into that book for the details of how to process olives, and for my carob recipes.
In fact, if you get a copy of the old Peace Press version of “Urban Wilderness,” just think of it as a series of newspaper articles and it will make a lot more sense. There is a great chart on common herbs and their uses, and some unique information about the medical value of garlic, and the dangers of aluminum. And the book contains a lot of my tests that I use in my survival skills courses. By the way, my complete set of tests and answers and supportive data I use in my classes is compiled into my “Testing Your Outdoor Survival Skills” book, still available. That testing book was partly the basis for my later “How to Survival Anywhere” book, published by Stackpole.
Eventually, Peace Press closed its doors, and the book never went into a reprint.
Many years after that, in the early 1990s, there was a resurgence of survival shows, and I started going to some of these shows and selling my books and giving survival and wild food lectures. Some of you may remember this as the time of militias, when everyone started wearing camos and paintball games were big. I entirely revised my “Urban Wilderness” book to make it a bare-bones essential guide to the key areas everyone should be concerned about with urban survival. This was a spiral-bound version that I produced myself, and I sold hundreds of copies. As Y2K approached, survival and preparedness expositions were popping up all over the country like toadstools. I made a few tweaks to my “Urban Wilderness” book and also called it “A Y2K preparation manual.” If you think about it, Y2K planning was not much different than earthquake planning, except your house would still be standing. I sold thousands of copies of this textbook. I was very busy in December of 1999, and then in January of 2000 when the world didn’t slip into the dark ages, and my book continued to sell, I immediately removed all Y2K references for my “Urban Wilderness” book.
The revised book was simple and terse. It included only what I considered the most essential information about shelter, water (storage and purification), food (storage, cooking, etc.), cooking without gas or electricity, hygiene issues (toilet, etc.), dealing with utilities and using manual tools, communication systems, wise use of resources (making compost, dealing with waste, recycling anything you have to make needed products, and a few other topics.
If you’re already very knowledgeable in survival skills and planning, this book will seem very basic to you, and you should get one of my later books. If, however, you’re still trying to navigate the waters of prepping, this is an excellent way to begin.
The original “Urban Wilderness” can still occasionally be found for sale on Amazon or ebay. The revised “Urban Wilderness” book is still available as a hard copy from the store at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com, or from Kindle (at the cost of less than a tip at any restaurant).