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Introduction to Survivalism

Wenger Giant Swiss Army KnifeSurvivalism is a term used to describe the study and application of practical methods to stay alive and even prosper in situations of extreme adversity, such as in the wild, during famines, war zones, in a police state or as a result of a natural disaster. Whereas the armed forces are geared from the outset to survive such events (and even cause them), the average civilian is not usually so equipped. Many have taken survivalism up as a hobby, or unwittingly apply many of its principles when hiking or camping, but many are forced to adopt survivalist strategies because of who they are or where they live.

Survivalists would seem to be an odd bunch of people (many of them really are odd!), but the idea shouldn’t be. Some are experts in the field, having had military and adventure tourism backgrounds, whereas many are people who, by necessity, had to get ready for bad times and survived. The reason that everybody should know something about this field is not that everybody is going to starve or be overrun by marauding hordes of foreign troops, but that “survivalism” brings to mind the necessary things for meaningful life to exist. These things are food, water, shelter, personal safety, personal freedom, sanitation and basic health care. All of these need to be secured in the present and the future.

Knowing about this topic leaves a person wiser and better prepared for all of life’s challenges. Knowledge of survivalist techniques can be seen as part of the recipe of happiness, in that happy people are those whose basic needs are met. This can only occur if people can identify those needs, have thought about them, and can ensure that those needs are met on a continuous basis.

There are many books written about survivalism which go into considerable detail about specific methods of preparation and execution of a survival strategy. They are all useful because, generally, the reader will pick and choose the ideas which best suit his individual circumstances. Generally, people think of living in the jungle or the bush or the desert and surviving far from the general population – the story of Robinson Crusoe comes to mind. More realistically, however, people are most likely to be in an urban environment and, knowing this environment intimately, are better suited to surviving in it. Indeed, in a modern war, it has been argued that cities suffer the lowest casualty rate as a percentage. Rural areas are quickly cleared and, with modern satellite imagery and drones, people are easily found.

This article is meant as an introduction to the concept of Survivalism. It’s my opinion that a topic such as this must not be turned into some kind of academic field, as the fundamental traits of the survival approach are organizational flexibility, creativity and practicality. Nor should the term “Survivalism” be something seen as signifying an extreme, being on the fringe, or an indication of any kind of political leanings. Aspects of the art find themselves cropping up everywhere, such as storing rain water, building wildfire resistant buildings, growing your own food in the city and so forth.

One of the biggest problems with survivalism is that it seems to require a great deal of money, effort and timing. Setting up for a one or two year period of successful survival in extreme circumstances takes a great deal of work. A person must achieve for himself, by himself, what an entire city, or an entire society achieves with much greater efficiency. While this can be achieved over a few months in anticipation for the “big event”, constant preparedness is not usually achievable because life has to go on, and all of this gets frightfully expensive. It’s more reasonable for most people to make a few changes here and there which coincide with the idea of being sustainable, mobile and resilient in everyday life. Everything depends on what kind of threat one is trying to anticipate. In the Victorian bush it is drought and fire. In the “Second World” it might be threat of disease, failure of crops and civil war. In the tropics it might be hurricanes and floods. Elsewhere it might be snipers, bombs and roaming death-squads. In the the wealthy suburbia of a well-to-do city in Europe it mightn’t be much at all, except for nuclear war (which might simply be unsurvivable in any case).

With a bit of thought, it becomes clear that in most of these scenarios, the worst case is probably too bad to be survivable except by true extremophiles. A civilization cannot survive without being civilized. Populations, at the size that they have become, are simply unsustainable except through the level of technological sophistication and coordination that exists. If the organizational aspect of a city is taken away, by whatever cause, it can be expected that there will be widespread death and disease. It may be a situation that makes survival for an isolated individual impossible. The role of the survivalist in this case might be that of leadership, so that survivors can be quickly brought to pool their resources and get out of the mess together. This is not something that can be solved with the “MacGyver” approach.

In subsequent posts, I will endeavor to elaborate on these basic needs and how they can be secured for an individual and his family, drawing on public information and giving Internet based sources. This post is subject to continuous updates also.

In the interim, an editorial on the AusSurvivalist website is a worthy read:

In my opinion, the amount of energy and vehement diatribe aimed at belittling and debasing survivalists and survivalism is directly proportionate to the need for survivalism to continue. Our current society appears to be in the throes of a delusional belief that, as long as we refuse to recognize a threat and act accordingly, the threat will refuse to impose itself upon us. Well I, for one, will not cross a street without looking both ways, and tend to dodge large falling objects. It seems pretty simple to me…

Well I, for one, haven’t needed to dodge any large falling objects yet, but nowadays they can be thrown a great distance. Survivalism should be a part of everybody’s overall insurance policy. Smoke alarms, fire retardant materials and fire extinguishers make a person less likely to ever need to call the fire brigade or rely on fire insurance. This commonsense and logical approach is what leads people to survivalism.

Topic Outline

  • Introduction (this page)
  • Water
  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Sanitation
  • Basic Health

Internet Resources

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Categories: Survival Tags: , ,
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  1. December 18, 2010 at 2:57 pm

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