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September 2014



Survivalism: 5 Things You Should Learn From a Prepper for Sustainability

Written by , Posted in Food, Shelter, Sustainability, Water

Are you prepared for a long winter?

Survivalism: 5 Things You Should Learn From a Prepper for Sustainability

When you hear the word survivalist you may envision someone backpacking through the wilds of Borneo or Northern Canada. They likely haven’t shaved in days and when they find a firm enough rock, they lay down for a quick nap or tie themselves up into a tree so the local critters don’t visit them in the night. They likely have military training and just don’t fit into the civilian world as much as the rest of the world thinks they should.

Over the past few years however, the term has become synonymous with the word Prepper or for those addicted to reality television, Doomsday Prepper.

For those of you not certain about the term Prepper, they are people who actively prepare for emergencies; be it civil unrest, war, or an attacking zombie horde. Such an ominous term is more flair than anything else. Granted, some Preppers spend much of their time honing their sniper skills or practicing hand to hand combat, but not all. If the Discovery or National Geographic channels has any say, you’d think every Prepper walks around with a knife on their hip and one foot out the door, but much like any other pigeonholed group, there are the conservative and the extreme. You’ll certainly find gun toting maniacs who shoot first and never ask questions, but then again so does my neighbour and he isn’t ready for anything.

Preppers certainly set themselves apart from conventional society with their Go Bags and bugged out vocabulary. Some are a little rough around the edges. Some are even a little paranoid to the point of unmarked helicopters and tinfoil caps. But all that said, don’t think for a second there isn’t something the rest of us can learn from survivalists. If you are trying to create a sustainable lifestyle then Preppers may be the next best thing since you don’t have a time machine to see how your great grandparents used to live without television or the internet.

1. A plan; being prepared for what happens

The strongest companies started with a plan. Someone observed a need and set about filling that need. When it comes to being prepared, Preppers have observed that something is amiss and have set about to correct or at least deal with it. By setting a plan, they have set their direction and priorities. What would you do if the power lines got zapped and we were forced to live in the dark for a month or a year? Could you deal with a prolonged freezing rain storm? By being prepared, you would set out your priorities of what to deal with first. You would acknowledge what needs to happen and bypass what doesn’t. Imagine if a plane crash survivor spent his time looking through the other passengers’ luggage for jewelry instead of establishing shelter or finding food?

Once established, a plan tells others what you want to accomplish. Could you live with yourself if you saved yourself, but forgot to tell your kids? A plan informs everyone, whether it’s to save them or have them work with you to achieve your goals. You can’t afford to have someone working against your goals because they aren’t on the same page.
Because your team members are on the same page and know your plan you’re going to save a lot of time. They know the plan so they don’t have to waste time asking you every five minutes what you want them to do. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than wasting your time explaining your decisions when time is of the essence.

Plans are never perfect, but because you have one and everyone knows it, they can react to what comes. The zombie horde may happen to be between you and your bug out location, but with a plan, everyone knows the end goal even if they don’t know the parts in between. Adlibbing is okay when they know the destination.

Having a plan is quite possibly the most important thing you can have if you’re running your own business. Without a plan, your employees will run off doing their own thing, ignore your wishes, and will end up building whatsits instead of widgets. You have the power to control the flow through your plan.

When it comes to life in general, that plan may mean the difference between wasting time and money on fruitless pursuits and attaining your goals. Perhaps you want to retire early. If you don’t know how you’ll do it then get used to drudgery.

2. Survivalist Skills

What skills do you have that can translate over to the survivalist world? Better yet, what skills does a Prepper have that translate into civilian life? Can you cook venison stew? Do you even know what it is? Many people don’t. Most Preppers wouldn’t be caught dead without that skill. And it isn’t like following a recipe on your Ipad either. (remember the power and the internet with it) I’ve said before that I am blessed because my wife has mucho culinary skills. Can you say the same? They come in handy when you want to eat and Denny’s is closed.

There are other skills survivalists have that provide a benefit, not just for when the world gets turned upsidedown, but tomorrow and the next day when you wake up; gardening, animal husbandry, first aid, and starting a fire are among the primary, but you also learn elements of camping, candle making, and even beer making. The skills best used to survive the worst earth can throw at you are the same you can use to make your life a little easier and your ecological impact a little smaller.

3. Efficiency experts (minimalists)

When the world goes off the rails then we’re going to run out of things. Fuel is going to be in short supply and water is going to become a precious resource. Oh wait. Well anyway, when it hits the fan and you’ve got less to live with, you’re going to want to learn some efficiency. You aren’t going to let the water run over and bleed away and you won’t leave the window open as you try to heat the house.

Imagine what you could do with your life if you were an efficiency expert.
Let’s look at your dinner plate. As a minimalist you will learn to take less on your dinner plate and leave less when you’re done. Imagine if you averaged about 10$ per meal for food cooked at home. If you wasted even 5% that would equate to $182.50 per year. Not much? Do the math on how much you actually spend on dinner.

Want to become an efficiency expert? Start with your bills; hydro, cable, internet. Perhaps you use them all to their fullest capacity, but if not, is there a lower tier program you can have? In North America we have a culture of excess. SAVE by buying ten times the amount you need. And then throw 90% of it out. If it makes sense to buy bulk then buy bulk, but if you’re buying it because it’s on sale I’d check the per item cost a little closer. A few percentage points here and there makes for more money in your pocket now and a culture of saving later.

4. Self Reliance

How much do you do for yourself around the house? I can tell you I do more now than I used to. There was a time when I would just pick up the phone and wave a magic wand. Poof there comes my (insert the thing I need), and I come from a farm.
Since I met my wife I have to admit I’ve learned a thing or two. We grow our own garden, even have a few fruit trees and we’ve built our own wood shed. I’ve accumulated my own tool belt and the tools to put in them. I have to admit I may linger in the aisles at Canadian Tire to look at their weekly sales.

With the garden, we grow a good portion of our summer vegetables and can some for the winter. With a mind to saving money while still eating healthy, you could probable shave 10 or even 20% off the meal cost by doing things yourself. You’d be saving close to $1000 per year and it could be even higher if you raised your own animals. As an aside, by doing things yourself, you add a level of quality that may not come from buying a mass-produced item.

Additionally, you don’t get the transportation costs for your vegetables. The quality of your food goes up when they aren’t being artificially ripened in transit. Have you ever wondered why grocery store tomatoes are fully red and yet are still firm and dry. Ya, no thank you.
Granted you will be FORCED to rely on yourself when there’s no cell service to call for help, but it may be in your best interest to do a little bit of that now. You don’t have to go out and start filling your garage with furniture making tools, but the odd lightbulb change might save you a bit of coin.

5. Stocked up

Are you Old Mother Hubbard with nothing in your cupboard? A Prepper has enough food, canned, jarred, dried, and fresh to keep them going for awhile. When the lights go off and the grocery store isn’t being restocked then our survivalist friends will have enough food to keep them going at least until the garden comes back around in the spring. They’ve got fresh water hidden in the basement so when the well goes dry they can still feed the baby with boiling the water from the stream. They’ve got firewood for this year, and perhaps even next.

You don’t have to be a hoarder to keep these items in stock. In fact, it would be a good thing for you to keep some of them for daily use. There’s nothing worse than having the water pump go on the fritz on the Sunday of a long weekend and for some reason it always seems to happen that way. Having some supplies around the house isn’t about keeping it for yourself so no one can have any. It’s about being ready for what may come. And it doesn’t have to be food items. You can have extra toiletries, medicines, cleaning supplies, batteries, and garbage bags among others. It might be a long winter and if you’re stuck inside, having what you need is a touch nicer than having to scrounge through the neighbours.

Ever hear the saying Canary in the Coal mine? Before there was technology, miners used to take caged canaries down into the mine to test the air quality. The birds would succumb to the noxious gases before any humans, thus telling the miners they’d better get out of dodge.
If you happen to live beside a Prepper, you might want to keep an eye on her. Think twice when she’s strapping her Go Bag over her shoulder and looking around suspiciously. When they go, it might be a good time for you to quietly exit stage left.

That said, we don’t have to have aliens patrolling the skies to make use of the things Preppers know. Preppers may be preparing for extreme situations, but those skills and concepts will definitely come in handy. Sustainability starts with us and what we know and how we live. How would you gauge your readiness? Or better yet, your ecological footprint?

  • Ian Troyer

    Excellent article John, I especially like the plannning aspect. You make a great distinction here between a plan and adlibbing within it, two very different things! BTW, hoping your neighbour is not tech savvy and won’t read this?!

    • John Kent

      Hi Ian.
      Thank you for your complement. Plans don’t have to be complex, but they do have to be dynamic. As they say, failing to plan is planning to fail.
      And thankfully my neighbour is good natured. Just don’t walk on his property.