SELF-SUFFICIENCY OR SURVIVALISM?

Some years ago, back when I lived in Gloucestershire, I started storing a few extra tins of food in my cupboard, as well as some big 5 litre bottles of water, following some heavy rain in September 2000 that had caused concerns over potential flooding. Upon seeing this stored food and water taking up every inch of my kitchen shelf space, my sister said to me, “you are such a survivalist”. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it did make me wonder, was I a delusional survivalist? Forward a few more years, come 2007, as I once again went through the routine of sifting through my tins of food to check the expiration dates, I did start doubting myself. Could I be bothered with all this? I thought. Was I just being foolish? I figured it was time to wind down this hobby and downsize a little…

…that was until coincidence struck.

In June and July 2007, huge rainfall in many parts of the UK led to widespread flooding which caused considerable property damage and claimed at least seven lives. In Gloucestershire the rising waters also flooded the local water plant, cutting the supply of tap water to thousands of homes. To give the then-government its dues, within 48 hours the army had moved in water bowsers on virtually every street corner, as well as delivering piles of bottled water – more, in fact, than people knew what to do with. The first 24 hours, however, were interesting, with many people rushing to the shops for bottled water, and the usual jack-the-lads (i.e.: d*ckheads) re-selling water in supermarket car parks at £10 a bottle. With initial worry that the floods would affect the power stations too, there was also a small rush in shops for food; I saw at least one supermarket in Cheltenham implement a one bread loaf per customer policy.

Meanwhile, I was at home, with my big bottles of water, my tins of food, and having filled my bathtub and some saucepans with tapwater before it ran out . . . I was feeling ever so slightly smug, all the more so when my sister phoned and simply said: “Okay, you were right.” After all, you don’t often hear that from a sibling.

Now let’s be clear, I’m not saying that we should dig bunkers in our garden and await Armageddon, but there are random incidents in life that we could all be better prepared for in small ways: crime, redundancy, severe weather, cold winters, riots, shortages of public services, economic downturns, etc. There are different degrees to which you can take it, from storing some bottled water and tins of beans in your cupboard, which is easy, to going on a college course to learn new skills or growing your own food in a garden or window box, both of which take more time and effort (and then there is also building a bunker in your garden, but let’s not even go there). Learning simple self-sufficiency skills is not only helpful at home, preparing for unlikely but possible incidents, but also for when you are travelling abroad, where the unexpected for you might be a regular event to the locals. Even if you can’t afford the time or money to go on a college course, there are many ways one can pick up new skills, from craft shops and knitting groups, to taking up a martial arts class, and then there’s skill swaps, books, the internet, etc…

The key to preparing for unexpected times is to not let it go to your head by imagining ridiculous scenarios and letting it interfere with your life (no offence, but the whole 2012 Mayan calendar thing is bollocks . . . as was the movie). Keeping extra food and water in one’s cupboard, for example, is just a matter of being organized, storing food you would eat anyway at a later date, restocking when you’re down to two rather than down to none (or whatever suits your routine). These extra supplies are not necessarily to prepare for big disasters, as they can also come in handy the next time you temporarily run out of cash, or when your parents visit. So I’m definitely not talking about converting the guest room into an emergency pantry, or asking guests to mind the pyramid of bottled water on their way in. All that’s needed is a little bit of extra space, a shelf in the cupboard, or just a row on a shelf, something usable, practical and visible. Remember that having clean drinking water is more important than food. Naturally, if you have the space, you can also store food you would eat and enjoy, but don’t store extra supplies of your favourite treats and guilty-pleasures (mine being biscuits), as these will only end up getting consumed the next time you have a craving, unless you are very self-disciplined (I’m not). Also, the novelty of surviving on baked beans alone would wear thin rather fast, that is no matter how much you love baked beans, so consider widening your dietary repertoire. Variety is always good.

Following the collapse of the USSR, and of their ineffective agricultural system, vegetables grown in garden plots helped keep the population fed for the first few months of uncertainty, which goes to show it’s always worth sharpening one’s gardening skills. But until this country meets up with dire and unlikely collapse, growing vegetables in the garden should remain a pleasant activity, one that you can enjoy and learn more about along the way. If people think you are being odd, old-fashioned, a hippy or a silly survivalist then just see the funny side; a little bit of humour goes a very long way, especially when times are hard. And remember to remain in ‘if it happens’ mode, rather than ‘when it happens’, as the latter is the beginning of a slippery slope, the kind that makes you dig bunkers in your garden. Like I said, you don’t want to go there.

Self-sufficiency or survivalism? I’d rather just call it being adaptable, it’s less melodramatic.

UPDATE 30/10/11: As luck would have it, a faulty water pipe at my home tonight has deprived me of running water until tomorrow morning. But I still have my little stash of bottled water (although admittedly I could also have gone to the shops), and before the water was cut we filled a few buckets to flush the toilet. It just goes to show, you never know when these little inconveniences are going to happen.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 2012 End of Days
    Nov 27, 2011 @ 03:04:33

    Everyone is talking about the Mayan calendar ending on December 21, 2012 at exactly 11:11 am GMT. 13.0.0.0.0 is the date in Long Count. The Mayan calendar is like any other calendar, it has a beginning and an end. Their calendar starts over and it’s not the end of the world. The Mayans were amazing astronomers and figured out that there is 1,872,000 days between winter solstices where the sun crosses the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Mayans call the dark-rift in the Milky Way “the road to the underworld” or “xibalba be”. Caves located near Guatemala and Belize are believed to be the entrance to the underworld “place of fear” by the Kiche Maya.

    Reply

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