Sunday, October 17, 2010

Realistic survivalism

What exactly is 'Survivalism'?

My take on the term: It means making plans to deal with life's less-than-fun situations.

How the world see's the term: Some nutcase hiding out in a plywood bunker with forty seven cases of beanie-weenie and fifty seven cases of ammunition.... just in case a platoon of government sponsored zombie gangbangers comes to steal the beanie weenies, in the midst of societal collapse.

I prefer my definition, and the funny thing is.... most people practice it to some extent without ever considering it to be 'survivalism'. Given some thought, the truth in that statement will become clear. Let's take a little test, and see.....

  • Do you lock your car when you park it in town?
  • Do you put prescription meds where you can find them, but small children won't?
  • Does your home have a lock on the door? Do you use it?
  • Do you make it a point to carry a cell phone with you... and would you use 911?
  • Do you carry insurance the law doesn't require you too... of any kind?
  • Do you keep more food in the house than you use between shopping trips?
If you answered yes to any single one of these question, then you are a 'survivalist' by definition. The reason.... each of these deals with prior planning for what could be a bad situation. Locking your car or home..... makes it harder for criminals to get at you, and your stuff. Keeping important meds where you can find them means they are not lost when you need them. Insurance, all insurance, is a hedge bet against bad events. All of these things, and a thousand more, are ways in which we plan to deal with life's not-so-fun situations.

Congratulations.... you are a survivalist.

I'd like to examine some everyday 'survival' issues, in a process I call Realistic Survivalism. Things we may take for granted, but depend on constantly in our lives. Situations that could be disastrous, or merely just inconvenient... if planned for in advance.

The way I see it, survivalism is about choices. When one runs out of choices, one is at the mercy of others, and of events. Being prepared to convert disaster into inconvenience means preparing choices in advance. Depending on the issue being considered, this may involve nothing more than a smart buying choice, or it may mean stretching a little in an unusual direction. For those who get very serious about keeping their options open... this could mean huge upheavals in their lives.

An example: city vs. rural life. People who live in the city depend on others for their survival and life style in ways they seldom ever notice. Things as simple as the trash not piling up on the street, and the level of crime in their neighborhood. Individuals have very little control over much of city life, which means they have very few choices. That is a major concern for some, while others accept it as the price paid to live an urban lifestyle. We'll save that discussion for another day.

For now, let us consider a narrower field of consideration.

To begin with... take stock of life as you live it. Choose one thing you depend on, need, and would find life very difficult without. With Winter coming on, heating our living space is a worthy topic. Consider... without heat, how long will your home be livable? Having no heat at all would soon remove that choice; where you can live. Most people living in Northern climes have homes which would quickly become unlivable without some form of heat. A few hours... not a big deal. A few days... and pipes begin to burst from water freezing, and no amount of blankets let you sleep comfortably. Heat is an essential.

'Realistic Survivalism' dictates that one have more than a single source of heat, no matter the source. In my own case, we have three ways of heating to a comfortable level. First, an oil fired boiler sending hot water to baseboard units. Pro: It's comfortable and carefree (once the tank is filled). Anytime I want the house warmer I can just dial up the thermostat. Con: Heating oil is expensive. In addition, the oil furnace is offline if we lose power. Should an ice storm or an errant driver take out a power line... the house grows cold overnight.

We also have a wood burning stove in the living room. It's an old rig, but efficient and friendly to use. With registers (vents) in the ceiling, the old wood stove is capable of heating the entire house comfortably even in the harshest winter weather. With.... or without..... electricity. Pro: Firewood is much cheaper than heating oil, and I can cut my own should I wish. Running a wood stove is satisfying, down at the genetic level, and the smell is wonderful to those who love it. Con: Firewood is heavy, and has to be carried. Also, wood stoves must be cleaned of ash occasionally, and need tending on a regular basis. While working the fire may be romantic and friendly most of the time, when one is dog tired or ill it can be a challenge.

On a third level, as a rare backup, we have a propane fired portable radiant heater. It runs on small propane cans, which can be expensive, or can be adapted to a larger tank (such as all propane grills have). This little heater is designed for camping, and can be used in enclosed areas such as a cabin..... or a living room. It is comfortably portable by one person, and puts out enough heat to keep a large living room comfortable, and the rest of the home above freezing. It also serves as a spot heater in the garage, when working outside on freezing days, or anytime a row of soggy boots need drying. Pro: Very portable, and easily stored in the back of a closet when un-needed. It's just plain handy to have at times. Should things go very, very bad one day, and we desire to maintain a low profile, the little heater will keep us comfortable with no outside signature at all. Con: Expensive to run, and usable only when someone stays with it (for safety).

Three ways to heat the home, each with good and bad points. It's not any one method on it's own, but all three together that put this in the realm of 'Realist Survivalism'. Having the depth of choice for heating the home removes the issue as a worry here. When we leave for a week, the oil heat will carry on just fine. When we want to heat on the cheap, there is a stack of wood in the driveway, waiting. Should we lose electricity, we'll still have heat, hot water, and the ability to cook our meals. That gives us a measure of freedom and choice beyond value. A week without power moves from the category of disaster, with us being forced from our home, to something of an adventure.

This illustrates the nature of 'Realistic Survivalism'. Making plans to maintain freedom of choice, and doing so in a way that makes everyday sense. There is nothing inherently wrong with having forty seven cases of beanie weeny on hand, as long as they were bought on good terms and will be happily used up before they reach expiration dates. Suddenly, buying the canned goods moves from 'survivalism' to merely honest common sense.

Our grandparents would see nothing wrong with this thought process. To them, 'just in case' was something everyone with any sense did.

Give some thought to the foundations your life rests on, and how easily they might shift. Give some thought to what small changes made now, might increase choices when circumstances act to steal away options later.


Everett said...

You wouldn't believe how far into the survivalist mode I have fallen in the last two years.I had a head start though as I was a SERE instructor for the USN for about 6 years! I thank them every day for sending me too all the various schools and classes! Am passing on all I know to my kids and grandkids. Best to you CarteachO!

James R. Rummel said...

Good post.

Casey said...

Great post! I've been reading a lot about survivalism and prepping myself lately. The hardest part is finding a site that doesn't devolve into tin foil hats and black helicopters :)

That propane heater is a good idea, I'll have to keep my eyes open for a cheap one at yard sales and such.