Survival Skills for the 21st Century

My mother was something of a hoarder, an echo of her refugee experiences during and after World War II no doubt. I used to tease her about the boxes of soap, matches, and candles she kept in her linen cupboard, along with extra sheets, towels and bedding, ‘just in case’. She knew a lot about preserving food and would turn a bumper crop of citrus growing around our shared condo in California that most residents ignored, into a marmalade to die for. She kept some of her wealth in gold, too, mostly 18K bangles and neck chains she wore until the day she died. My mother had seen things change quickly, where one moment you had a shelter, clothing and food, and the next moment, you were running for your life.

This is a scenario that the majority of people in the fortunate part of the world don’t have to face on a daily basis, but as we approach the 400 ppm tipping point, I find myself more interested articles like this one from the current edition of Orion Magazine, 10 Skills to Hone for a Post-Oil Future. In fact, I have added my own suggestion to the list of 10, and over the last hour find myself in an engaging conversation with others who presumably are not taking the status quo where you jump into your car for a quick ride to the supermarket for under ten items, for granted. (My mother would have so enjoyed hearing that hoarding, far from being a pathological behavior in need of remedy, happens to be one of the Ten Skills.)

By the way, post-oil doesn’t necessarily mean that we ‘run out of oil.’ Apparently, we still have plenty of fossil fuel we haven’t tapped, though accessing it means ‘game over’ for Planet Earth, as James Hansen has repeatedly warned. To me, post-oil means we have the wisdom to leave the stuff in the ground and find other, better, more sustainable ways to live without it. Actually, for all but the wealthiest who can insulate themselves against the impacts of global warming, there may not be a choice. We are going to have to wean ourselves from this addiction.

But back to survival skills. In my comment, I agreed with another poster about the shift to multi-generational living, a phenomenon that is already happening with in-law suites and ‘granny flats’ and is bound to accelerate as people realize how much we really need each other, and how much we now duplicate effort, skills and equipment/tools in the nuclear family format. I like my privacy as much as the next person, yet I’m willing to trade it for the security of community. I’m also excited about the idea of learning new things (well, new to ME), so I added foraging as an important survival skill. I’m ready to stalk the wild asparagus a la Euell Gibbons, or if that isn’t available then Spanish Needle, a delicious green widely available in my locale that my friend, Jean, once prepared for me. One person’s weeds is another’s healthy meal. See Eat The Weeds.

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One response to “Survival Skills for the 21st Century

  1. My mother was more than “a bit of a hoarder”, more along the lines of the real deal. When cleaning out her apartment to make the move from independent living to nursing home, I found a box with sweet pastel plastic forks cum chocolate cake crumbs, saved from a long gone birthday party, probably circa 1958. Also in supply were multiples of just about everything, including irons, aluminum foil, and tuna fish. Hoarding has its own reality TV show and this has made many nervous about their proclivities to hunt and gather…and gather. I am glad to learn of a non-pathologized perspective on this potentially individual and community life-preserving behavior.

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