Reschooling Yourself for Survival

With all the troubling news about the state of the economy, Darren and I talk a lot about learning survival skills. At the risk of sounding like crackpots, we want to be prepared in case something crazy goes down. Today he sent me 10 Skills to Have in the Post-Financial Apocalypse from The Consumerist. The list includes learning to cook, keep a simple budget, and fix things, and I would add:

1. Learn basic survival skills.

Know how to find and purify water, start a fire, build a shelter, and grow or hunt your own food. My friends Chris and Wes learned these things through a survival course offered by The Tracker School, and they’re the guys I’m running to when the looting begins.

2. Learn how to make stuff instead of buying it.

My friend Elena knows how to make clothes; Jonah can build an oven out of found materials; Blair made his own shoes out of old tires. I’m not saying you have to trade in your Manolos for Goodyears just yet, but it’s good knowledge to have on the back burner. Make Magazine, and its Maker Faire (San Mateo, CA in May; Austin, TX in October), is a great resource for do-it-yourself ideas. It’s a good idea to make your own food, too — I make my own yogurt, and I have friends who make jam, sausage, soy and almond milk, wine, beer, or cheese.

3. Pool your resources.

To minimize costs and live in community, various friends and I hope to settle on the same property one day, in separate houses but with shared spaces. From a music room to a costume closet to a wine cellar, the possibilities are endless. We could also share cars, childcare, and basic services like internet. If you can collaborate with certain people without going nuts, it’s in your economic interest. Check out the Cohousing Association of the United States for ideas.

If you want any other ideas, you’ll have to track me down in my secret underground bunker. All I can say is that it’s fully stocked with water, blankets, and 100 pounds of dark Belgian chocolate (like dual-purpose sandbags), and if something goes down, I will be hard pressed to share.

Comments (3)

  1. Ben Cannon

    I’ve wanted to do the co-housing/compound thing for as long as I can remember. To my astonishment, I’ve even found a small group of people I can get along with well enough to actualize some of it.

    Ted and I share workspace and tools (and soon cars) in his office in santa rosa.

    I owe a lot of my self-reliant values to Robert A Heinlein. Conversely, it took me the better part of my 27 years to learn not only the value of, but the ability to cultivate, a strong network.

    I’ve had to overcome near paralyzing shyness and not a small amount of “I know the only way to do things” narrow-world-view in order to do that.

    I’m not entirely sure I’ve been successful 😉

    PS: don’t forget ammo and brittany spears CDs in your bunker!

  2. Raines Cohen

    I’m glad you found cohousing, Melia! I’ve been involved in the movement for more than a decade, living in two cohousing neighborhoods and visiting 80 others, and I have to say that among the benefits of shared living is community resiliency in the face of challenges, whether that’s disaster preparedness training and resources, living more simply because you need less stuff, being able to rely on neighbors for a ride. And we actually do get training on collaborative decisionmaking and conflict resolution, and we do have our own private homes, so the “without going nuts” part is easier than it might seem.

    I see that you’re right up the road in Sonoma; have you visited your cohousing neighbors in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Cotati or Sebastopol? Let me know if you’d like an introduction; I think some of the folks there who are practicing collaborative learning a a community would be delighted to meet you and learn about your project. We also could host you here in Berkeley sometime if you wanted to come give a talk.

    Raines Cohen, Cohousing Coach and Northern California Cohousing Regional Organizer
    at Berkeley (CA) Cohousing

  3. Melia

    Ben, glad you’ve found some folks that are on the same page. I’m hoping to coordinate life plans with my own crew so we can end up at the same place around the same time. And Britney Spears CDs are even better than ammo for warding off intruders. (It’s also the best for karaoke — dual purpose!)

    Raines, I’m glad you found the site! I haven’t actually seen any cohousing communities yet, but I’ve wanted to for a while. Yes, my plan is to have separate residences and a variety of shared common spaces, so I’m glad to hear that it often works out. I’d love to connect with the folks in the North Bay and give a talk in Berkeley, so I’ll follow up with you.


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