Learning Survival Skills

Reader Contribution by Anna Twitto
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If our modern conveniences were suddenly stripped away, would we survive? I think that, as man has grown increasingly detached from nature, this question has become subconsciously present in the minds of more and more people – as is evident from both nonfiction informative books on the subject, and fiction in the genre of post-apocalyptic survivalism (including a new novel by yours truly, Wild Children, written under the pen name of Hannah Ross).

It all seems to be asking the following question: if the world is turned upside down and we can no longer rely on the fancy tools of modern man, do we stand a chance?

Well, do we? Honest introspection leads me, and many others, to conclude that we are less resourceful, resilient and capable than our forefathers. We do less things with our hands. We walk less on our feet. We don’t exercise our minds as much, because the convenience of the Internet is just too alluring. Many times, when struggling to remember a piece of information, I open up Wikipedia at once rather than strain my memory.

During WWII, after my grandparents were stripped of their belongings and put on a train to Siberia, along with a bunch of other people who fell into disfavor under Stalin’s rule, they were plunked down in the middle of nowhere and told to build a settlement and work, all with minimal resources. Cutting through an inch-thick layer of ice to get drinking water and fending off hungry howling wolves became everyday routine. Many died in the harsh conditions, with inadequate food, housing and medical care.

Grandma and Grandpa were educated people, but all this education wasn’t worth very much out in the middle of nowhere near the Arctic Circle. Chopping firewood, basic building and carpentry skills, animal husbandry, sewing and knitting were far more useful. It was a harsh life, but they adapted. They had a far better starting point than most people today would, however. They grew up in homes where gardens were routinely tended and animals kept and bred. Grandma, a big sister in a family of five boys, was used to patching up clothes and letting down hems. They knew how to work with their hands, which enabled them to live.

Some people think learning survival skills is some loony Doomsday watch-out-the-world-is-ending thing, but it isn’t necessarily so. Short-term skills (starting a fire, finding water) can save hikers who have lost their way. Long-term abilities (growing food, repairing clothes, carpentry) can be real handy not just when food and goods are scarce, but when they are expensive. Many people can’t even picture the possibility of being unable to buy whatever they need, whenever they need it, but I remember the days of the Perestroika and walking with my mom into food stores empty of just about everything except some tins of sardines. Not so long ago, butter, then eggs, went missing from store shelves around here. It only lasted a couple of days, but we were sure happy to have our own eggs.

We think that survival skills, both short term and long term – foraging, growing and preserving food, first aid, raising and breeding animals, and in general becoming more self-sufficient – are worth learning, and we live our lives and teach our children accordingly. In the normal course of things we gain the satisfaction of working with our hands and a little island of sanity in a fast-paced and crazy world. We also save money and develop a more sustainable local community. And if The Big Bad Thing happens (war, natural disaster, economic crisis), these skills may well make the difference between life and death, or at least between struggling and well-being.

Two of my favorite books with lots of good info on the subject of self-sufficiency and living a more sustainable life are The Backyard Homestead and the old classic Possum Living.

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna’s books are on her Amazon.com Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects onher blog. Read all Anna’s Mother Earth News posts here

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