What To Do About the Upcoming Economic Crash
See also: Why the Global Economy is About to Crash, Instant Bookshelf to Survive The Apocalypse NEW, Books About Survival in the Future Hard Times, Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) Course Directory, Dystopian Fiction / Novels, The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (Video), Indicators of Overuse of the World's Natural Resources NEW, Arithmetic, Population and Energy (Video), What is Peak Oil?, Why is Peak Oil a Problem, How to Get Started, What the Economic Crisis Really Means - and What We Can Do About It (Video), How to Survive a Nuclear War, Preparing for an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) NEW
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If you find that you can't deal with this (at first), whatever that means for you, keep trying. Get used to the idea that your usual way of life is (for most people in the first world) going to end before your own life ends. You are going to be much better off going through this phase of reality sinking in before things start to really change. While there are still all the conveniences and benefits of modern life and of our availability of technology, information, tools, social stability, and so on.
NOTICE: Richard Heinberg has a very good page on this topic, which I highly recommend.
Perhaps there is some comfort in knowing that it's not something that is outright impossible to deal with, since people have been living in ways other than our current modern high-tech lifestyle for the whole of human history up till very recent times.
What's On This Page
Start Here: Quick Start
Ideas Which are More Detailed
General Principles to Follow
IMPORTANT: There is a lot of diverse material on this page. If you read it from the top, and it doesn't seem like the kind of thing you are looking for, scroll down the page and check out some of the other points.
There's an absolutely vast amount of video material available for free on YouTube. Some of the things you could search for include prepping, beginning prepping, preppers australia, permaculture, wilderness survival, surviving economic crash, small scale farming, energy descent, intentional communities, ecovilliage, hunter gatherers, nuclear war survival skills, EMP protection, bush tucker, starting to farm, first aid, surviving nuclear war, urban farming, doomsday bunkers, trapping, wilderness tracking, survival skills, living off the grid, drain water heater, start a vegetable garden, keeping chickens, keeping goats, living homeless, survival food, primitive living, living on a tight budget, self sufficiency, and many others.
The three areas of knowledge, see here.
Start Here: Quick Start
The sooner you start on this, the better (better for you and, to some extent, for everyone else).
Get a piece of blank paper (or a notebook etc., but use real paper, not an electronic device) and a pen or pencil out right now. Once you have read a bit more of this page (either when you finish reading, or as you read along, or both if you like), write down a few short points about things that stand out in your mind as important and relevant to you.
Apart from the actual (and substantial) benefit from writing a few short notes, it will get you used to doing things. If you do this one thing, then you have done something, in real life, not just read something on a screen. It doesn't have to be very much, but write something. It could be just writing two or three headings, in point form, about things to do next. But get your pen and paper ready now, before you read any more...
Really do this. Now.
NEW: Summary of Ideas
This is a quick summary of the main ideas of what needs to be done. I'll make a new page for this soon (yes really).
If you look online, a lot of the focus of what's become known as "prepping" (i.e. preparing for a disaster or collapse of the economy) is about storing up material items such as food. While it's very good to have some needed items in your cupboards, there are some things more important than this.
- Long-term availability of the basic needs of life from your local environment. This means being somewhere which has water, food, etc. Generally speaking, this will mean being in a rural area, or at the very least not a high-density urban area. People in areas of high population density will eventually need to move elsewhere, assuming that it's still possible to do so.
- Knowledge of how to do things. Much of this will be simply the knowledge that our own ancestors had. For example, your own great-great-grandparents. To some extent, possibly even your grandparents or great-grandparents, or other relatives who may be still living.
- The inner qualities: Mental attitude. Resilience. The ability to deal with adversity.
There are reasons why these things are more important than much of what currently constitutes "prepping". One is that stored modern items will run out eventually. The other reason is that you don't know that you'll be able to hang onto those items once a real crisis begins. There are countless historical precedents of people having food and other items confiscated by "authorities" in a crisis.
This is not to say that it's not a good idea to store up on basic items. It's a very good idea. However it shouldn't be the main (or only) thing you focus on, nor something you expect to be able to totally rely on.
Here another version, again in point form:
- Think about, and start learning where the basic needs of life could come from without the modern economy. Generally this will be away from high population densities.
- Learn about, and start to collect, any tools and items necessary to obtain those basic needs. Generally these will be the kinds of things people used to own long before modern technology. This is a much more useful and relevant focus than to acquire the latest high-tech survival gadgets. A good thing about this point is that many of the basic items people used to have can currently be purchased very cheaply compared to what these items would have cost 100 or more years ago.
- Think about what knowledge is required to use those tools to obtain those things. Generally this will mean to learn and practice old-fashioned skills.
- Start to collect other important things such as your own supply of food and water, but do not expect these to be 100% reliable.
- One way to think about the balance between how much to learn versus how much to acquire and store, is that ideally you want to be more valuable alive than dead. If all you have is the ability to do things, real important things, which can help yourself and others, you'll be much more useful (and therefore valuable) than if all you have is a bunch of stored up goods and little or no relevant skills.
These are the most important things to focus on. There are of course many other things which could also be helpful.
There is currently an absolutely vast amount of information currently available to ordinary people, in electronic and paper form. More than there has ever been, in the history of the world. While our future may look dark, this is a massive advantage that we have, that people in ancient times whose societies collapsed did not have.
While the modern world focuses on the idea that new things are better than old things (for example the latest technology item like a smartphone), most of what we are looking at now will reverse this. Meaning that, generally speaking, old things are better than new things. This includes sources of information. Some of the best information available was written a long time ago, say 50-a few hundred years ago, or more. Also modern books and other resources which document the ways of living of people before modern technology can be very good.
To summarise all of this in one sentence, the way to live without our modern economy is to learn from, and copy, the people who actually really did live without our modern economy.
Oil was first used commercially in the mid-late 1800s. Shortly following this, a vast assortment of new technologies developed. Including electricity, motor transport, electronic communications (such as radio), modern large-scale high-tech oil-based farming (requiring oil powered machinery and oil and/or natural gas derived fertilisers and pesticides), town water and sewage systems, garbage collection, modern drugs and the oil-based organic chemistry industry, etc. Without these things, life would become similar to that of the 1800s, or before. So this is the type of life to focus on in your quest to live a post-modern-economy life. Unless you happen to be mega-rich, it's best not to focus on the pre-1900 lives of the mega rich — which unfortunately is the subject of much of the available information, especially from stories, movies, classic literature, etc. Here we are interested in the lives of ordinary people. We're interested in obtaining the basics of life without needing large external systems to supply them, and rural areas are more likely to have these available. Therefore we are mainly interested in the pre-1900 lives of ordinary people who lived in rural or mountainous areas, away from large towns or cities.
This summary of ideas section will be continued soon...
NEW: Summary of Essentials
This is a summary of some of the basic needs of life to focus on. They are listed in rough order, with the most important and the ones which will be first needed listed first. I'll make up individual web pages for most of these as I get around to it.
This section is still under construction and will lengthen and improve...
Water Supply: Access to water, especially drinking water, will be a major need after a collapse of society, and could easily become the single most critical need. Without electric power available to the utilities to run the pumps, the modern mains water supply will no longer function. Which would mean that when you went to turn on a tap, nothing would come out. Ever. This could happen in a number of scenarios including an EMP. Because of its extreme importance, maintaining the water supply is one of the highest priorities of emergency mitigation, and measures will be taken to preserve the mains water supply as much as is possible in the situation. However in a permanent situation such as the end of modern civilisation, whether it happens sooner or later, the council-provided mains water supply has to eventually run out. Forever. Also, remember that in a permanent collapse, you won't be able to go to the shops to get water. Or a "Coke", or any other type of drink. Having available water is one of the absolute top priorities in a collapse of civilisation.
Steps you can take are storing water as small or large bottles, casks, small indoor tanks (up to about 200 litres), larger outdoor tanks, and other types of reservoirs such as ponds and dams. The usual off-grid way to collect water in an ordinary home is by using the roof area and guttering system to direct rainfall into one or more water tanks. However not everyone has the ability to install water tanks, such as in some rental properties and/or blocks of flats. Smaller water tanks up to about 200 litres can be bought from some retail hardware stores (e.g. Bunnings) and taken home in an ordinary car. Storage-type mains hot water systems (the ones which have a tank) have many litres (depending on their size, typically 45-400 litres) of water which can be used in an emergency. Having 45-400 litres of water available at the onset of a permanent crisis would put you in a MUCH better position than having none at all. Even having a few litres would be much better than none at all.
Some types of buildings (such as garages) will have doors big enough to allow large indoor water tanks if you are interested in this. Also water can be obtained from outside the home, and if necessary (which will often be the case) it can be made fit to drink with purification techniques. Some of these are filtering through charcoal, using commercially bought water filters, and chemicals including ordinary chlorine bleach and iodine. Small amounts of water may be obtained from the local area using bush survival techniques. Living somewhere with either a decent amount of natural water available would help a lot.
Swimming pool water is probably drinkable straight from the pool (with no filtering or purifying) for a couple of days, perhaps up to a few days after electrical power is lost. This will depending on exactly what is in the water. Ordinary chlorine at levels most often used in pools of 3-5 parts per million should be fine. After a few days, the lack of pumps and filtration, and evaporation and/or breakdown of the chlorine from the sun's UV light will make the water unfit for drinking without being purified first. Even then it's going to be cleaner than your nearest stagnant slimy creek or drain, and easier to purify. So a swimming pool could become a truly great asset. The average domestic swimming pool size in NSW is approximately 45,000 litres.
Air Supply: In some scenarios, such as war involving chemical, biological, or nuclear attacks, or a pandemic disease, it would be important to be able to filter the air you breathe. This is not guaranteed to happen but may do. Masks can be purchased (more info and links coming in the future).
Food: Of course this is a major need. Stored food will be good for a while, until it runs out or perhaps is taken (stolen, confiscated or "requisitioned"). to live off the land without farming at all (like a hunter-gatherer) requires approximately 1 square kilometre of land per person. So you can estimate how possible this would be in your area. Of course using agriculture can increase this by a lot, however under the stresses of a collapse, it may take a while to establish agriculture, or to maintain productive existing agriculture in a post-collapse world. Which is the main use for stored food, in that interim period.
Learning edible weeds could help dramatically, for a number of reasons. Weeds grow almost everywhere that's been settled by people. Weeds are not thought of by many as food and therefore are less likely to be taken by others than more familiar types of food. Since weeds grow so easily, they can be deliberately planted (like you would plant vegies) but will be much easier to grow, be more hardy, require less or no inputs of labour, water, etc. In a densely populated area, once the constant supplies of food being trucked or otherwise sent in are no more, everything edible will be eaten fairly early on in a crisis.
Some unusual animal food species, such as guinea pigs and rabbits, are suprisingly easy to keep and breed. There are also the more traditional small animals which can be kept in backyard-size allotments like chickens, ducks, and goats. Hunting is obviously much easier with firearms than without. Trapping (using traps and/or snares) is usually more efficient and productive than hunting, especially if hunting after modern ammunition has run out. Modern metal traps and snares are much more efficient and productive than primitive wooden ones, and will last a long time if looked after. In a highly populated area, all easily obtainable game species will be eaten out within a relatively short time after a permanent collapse begins.
It's comforting to know that people had food gardens, and animals, for thousands of years before modern fossil-fuel-powered technology, and the vast majority of these were achieved without large amounts of piped water for irrigation.
Cooking: Heat for cooking and/or boiling water. See below under "Temperature". For short duration emergencies stored bottled gas is a good option, such as a barbecue or camping stove. For the long term, the historic method of using fire will once again rule. A stove (as in a wood combustion stove) or any kind of wood-fueled cooker would be a lot easier to cook on than an open fire. Metal pots and pans are one of the most useful items of all, probably in the top two or three and definitely in the top five. As in if you could only own five items of any kind, one of them would definitely be a metal pot that you can boil water and cook in. If you lived in an area with locally available knappable rocks (as in flint or some other type of stone that you can make a sharp edged blade out of) then, arguably, a metal pot may be the single most useful item in existence, even ahead of a metal knife or other cutting tool. A thick heavy one will last longer than a thin light one. The cheapest camping billy cans, some of which are really just ordinary (thin) tin cans sold without any product inside or label on their outside, will not last nearly as long as thicker better quality ones.
If you have nothing else, it's possible to boil water in certain types of flammable containers (or improvised containers) that you'd expect would burn up, provided enough water seeps through to the outside of the container to prevent it burning. Or the container is thin enough that it never heats up much more than the maximum temperature water can reach (which is 100 degrees celsius). Examples are paper cups, some leather/skins and some bark.
Food preservation: Skills like how to make pemmican (look it up on Google) will become extremely important. Refrigeration is another of the ever-growing list of modern conveniences that most of us have come to think of as essentials of life, which did not exist before recent years. Meaning for almost all of the history of humanity, people got by without it.
Shelter: Most houses will still exist immediately after a collapse of society, and many will remain for a long time after. So shelter is not as much of an immediate priority as it is for wilderness survival. However if you need to travel after the collapse (e.g. "bugging out"), portable shelter could become important. This would include portable items such as lightweight tents and sleeping bags. Also backpacks to carry things in. For the longer term, dwellings can be constructed from locally sourced wood, stone, or other natural materials like they did back in the ol' days.
Temperature: If you live in a cold area, heating without modern technology would be highly beneficial. The most obvious type is the wood fire as was used since the dawn of humanity. Slow combustion stoves burn the wood much more efficiently than an open fire, meaning you get much more heat out of a given amount of wood, so these are good things to have. Air conditioning in as we know it is not possible without modern technology. It's possible to get used to hot weather, to some extent, but it will also be necessary to modify behaviour to avoid heat exhaustion in very hot weather. Again it's one of those things that people lived without for basically all of human history — all of it except the last few-several decades for most of us.
Defence: This is a big topic and threats or actual attacks could range from an angry, hungry unarmed neighbour (or one armed with a sharpened long handle spade) to a nuclear attack by an invading foreign power, and anything in between. The most reassuring thing I can think of immediately is that people have lived for many thousands of years without a modern police force or court system. A police force is only a fairly recent invention in world history terms. The best really thorough treatment of post-collapse defence that I've seen is the book "Contact" by Max Velocity. More to follow on this subject...
Lighting: For many obvious reasons it's useful to be able to see in the dark. Especially early on when we're still used to having a constant supply of mains electricity. Also especially if there's any kind of crisis going on. Methods of lighting include candles, electric torches and lanterns, and hydrocarbon powered lamps and lanterns. These could run on natural fats/oils or stored crude oil products such as kerosene. Electric light could run on batteries, either stored non-rechargeable or rechargeable ones. Modern LED lighting is probably susceptible to EMP which means that if a nuclear EMP occurs, nearly all LED torches which aren't kept in a shielded enclosure may instantly become permanently useless items of trash. Old fashioned bulb-type torches are not affected by EMP though they use much more battery power (perhaps 10 times as much) for the same brightness of light output as an LED torch. This great improvement in energy consumption efficiency is why essentially all torches and other low-voltage lighting today is LED technology and not filament bulbs.
Communication: Without the modern systems of communication such as phones, radio, TV, and the internet, things would be very different. None of those things existed much before the year 1900, which is to say none of these things existed for most of human history. See here fore more.
Tools: It's good (of course) to have a collection of useful tools. This does generally not include power tools, which will only be useful for a short time (like a few years, maximum) after a total collapse of society. More to follow...
More of this to be added.........
The First Thing to Know is How to Get Things Happening
There are a lot of different states of mind (thoughts and feelings) that this kind of stuff can bring up for people. The best one(s) to adopt are the ones that result in you doing the most towards your preparations.
Some people are motivated by stress, and some respond well to having a good kick in the butt. Some people are much more motivated by a positive attitude, and being able to feel positive emotions about something, without anything that will get them feeling too down.
Try to recognise how you personally fit into this — and concentrate on nurturing those thoughts and emotions which provide you with the most motivation and the most actual results.
It Will Seem Easier the Longer You Spend On It
This whole issue can feel extremely daunting when you first begin. Its good to know early on that it will get easier as you do more of it, and get more used to the new ideas. There's a part of our brains which evaluates things based on how much time you have spent doing something. This means both actual time you spend on the activities, and also just the passing of time that happens no matter what you are doing.
This second effect, of the passing of time, works as long as you spend some amount of time on something (such as preparing for the impending global economic collapse). It means that after a long enough time period (like weeks, months, or years) of doing something, you'll start to feel like you really know what you're doing. This can be quite independent of how much actual time (during that period) you spent on it, or even of whether or not you actually have any real idea what you're doing. This effect is basically a "freebie" in the sense that you get something for almost nothing — eventually you'll get a feeling of mastery from just being there and going along for the ride.
Some parts of the brain take a few years to come together and deeply absorb new things. For example, it takes about the same amount of time (a few years) to train for a career, do an apprenticeship, do a university degree, get a black belt in martial arts, etc. After about that long of doing something, our brains take on a feeling of ownership of it, where it feels much more like its part of you than it did at the beginning.
If you start working on preparations for the future early enough (ideally right now), you'll find that you start to feel much more comfortable with the whole thing by the time things really start to change. This means that it will be a lot easier to do more preparations — especially if the feeling of being overwhelmed by it all is a major reason for not doing much. Which leads into the next point:
Why Not Prepare (for the Economic Collapse)?
There are four main reasons that prevent people from preparing for the coming economic crash (the fourth reason is newly added):
- Reason 1: Not knowing that there is a problem (i.e. a problem with the way most modern Western people are living, in regards to their future after the crash). This is the reason why most people are not preparing yet. If this is you, then read some of the material here, here, and/or here, and then come back to this place. For people who have already learned something about (or are just discovering) these issues, reasons 2 and 3 below are important to be aware of.
- Reason 2: Being distracted by the many attractions and the addictive nature of modern Western life. There is more to read about this reason slightly further down the page.
- Reason 3: The problem of feeling overwhelmed by the whole thing, and that it all seems horribly depressing and/or much too hard.
Most people's minds, when first exposed to this subject (of the upcoming economic crash), will generate a feeling of incompletion — a feeling that there is a whole lot of stuff that needs to be done, that is not done yet. Also there is uncertainty of the whole situation and what should be about it. Also there is the feeling of loss of much of what is/was familiar in modern life.
The main way to deal with this problem is to learn to feel that the whole situation is a work in progress: That it's something that you are working on, successfully, and will take care of itself in the fullness of time. When seen this way, it becomes just another thing that is being developed in your life, just like any other thing like your job, or school, or an interest or hobby or sport that you do. It can take some time to learn to see (and feel about) the world situation in this way, but it is definitely possible to learn this. Especially if you are aware of this problem right at the beginning, and that there is a solution to it, and the basics of what that solution is (i.e. this paragraph).
When you are suffering from feelings of overwhelm and incompletion, the whole issue of preparing for your future is something that can suck a lot of energy out of you, in a negative way. When you are thinking of it as something that is being taken care of, that you feel like you are on top of (or even about to be on top of), then you can draw energy from it, in a positive way, that connects you more deeply to the world and to your life. The reason that you can be on top of this situation is the steps that you are now learning, and taking, and will be continuing with long-term, and the new ways of living you are learning and will be following (at least some of the time) for the rest of your life. This doesn't have to take up your whole life (any more than your current work or school or hobby or sport does), but it does have to be something that you spend some time on, and stick with, and develop over a period of time.
- Reason 4: Social isolation. Most people are still unaware that our modern life is about to be taken away, and most of them don't really want to be made aware. This means some degree of separation between yourself and the other people in your life will happen when you take this on. This can cause some loneliness, and at times it can seem like a lot.
Some methods of preparing are more social than others. Area 2 below is the most social, and Area 1 is the least. If you can find other people to communicate with (or even just read about and watch) it will help a lot. There are many groups on social media websites (such as facebook) that focus on these types of activities, and internet forums (such as Aussies Living Simply). In real life there are permaculture groups and many other types of groups where you can find people into many different activities that are relevant here, and you can choose depending on your own tastes.
The Three Areas of Knowledge
There are three broad areas of knowledge that you will encounter in preparing for the crash. Some people are much more interested in just one of these areas than anything else, while others are interested in more than one, or all three. There is some overlap between the areas.
- Area of Knowledge 1 — "Prepping": The term "prepping" can mean a lot of things, such as preparing for "the collapse" in general, but here I'm using it more specifically. A lot of this type of prepping is about preparing for the time shortly after a collapse of society. People into this area of knowledge will think first about storing food, water, and other items which will be needed to live "off the grid" without needing anything much (or anything at all) from the shops and the modern economy. There is also usually some amount of focus on self defence, such as with guns.
The main advantages of this area (compared to the other two) is the lifestyle is more familiar to the average modern person, and you have a relatively guaranteed supply of essentials such as food, water and shelter. It's also the easiest to apply in a crowded urban area. It's very good for short-term emergencies and for the beginning stages of a long-term collapse.
The main disadvantage is that if your focus is on storing up things that will run out eventually, well, they will run out eventually. Another disadvantage is that if you are separated from your supplies, you might not have much else to fall back on if this is your only means of preparation.
A feature of this area (which some may regard as positive and others as negative) is that there is a lot of focus on being self-reliant. This is often taken very seriously, so that a lot of effort is made to hide any preparations away from other people. Since if you have enough food for your family for 6 months, that's enough food for 10 families for a couple of weeks. And enough for 100 families for a day or two. The problem of things running out becomes pretty serious when those things are the only means of survival. This is where the other two areas come in.
- Area of Knowledge 2 — Permaculture and the Transition Movement: I've grouped these together since they are very often encountered together, and the same groups of people can be found doing both of these activities. Broadly speaking, this is preparation based on sustainable local agriculture, using renewable resources. This is the most "caring and sharing" of the areas, and the people that you'll meet in this area are the most community focused. The best way I can think of quickly to describe the transition movement is just to let you have a look for yourself.
The main advantage of this area (compared to the other two) is that it won't run out — the whole idea of sustainability is that something can be sustained, i.e. it won't run out. Another advantage is that it's the only area that can support large numbers of people into the indefinite future.
The main disadvantage of this area is that you need access to some land (to grow things on and to keep productive animals) which you're able to maintain access to over a long period of time, without being disturbed by anyone else (such as masses of angry, hungry people, or an invading army).
- Area of Knowledge 3 — Wilderness Survival: The third area covers people who prepare to live in a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, like most people did before there were large towns and cities. People that are into this area usually like the idea of bushwalking, camping, and/or being out in nature.
The biggest advantage of this area is that its the most reliable in the long term, in the case of a really extreme collapse. It's the best way possible to escape from large numbers of people (should that become necessary) and still be somewhat mobile and not tied to a base of operations where all your stored food etc is located. Australia is arguably the best location in the world to use this type of strategy, due to our extremely low population density and remoteness from the rest of the world.
Another advantage is that it's the closest type of life to the one that humans lived in originally. The life that, depending on your view, we evolved to live in, or we were created to live in. A major effect of this is that almost everything that people naturally do, instinctively, without having to be taught or disciplined, is exactly what would be needed in a small tribal hunter-gatherer community. If you take on this viewpoint, a lot of things about modern life (especially many of its problems) start to make sense in a way that isn't really possible without considering this.
Disadvantages are that this is the most different from our familiar modern high-tech lifestyle, and would require the most amount of change to adapt to. A big disadvantage in terms of being a realistic solution for large numbers of people is that you need a lot of land per person. Something in the order of one person per square kilometre is realistic.
The ideal approach is to develop some combination of all three of these areas. The best place to start is whatever interests you the most, and that you will spend the most amount of time actually doing.
The Three Levels (of Preparation for the Economic Crash)
To give this some structure, I will define three levels of preparation:
- Level 1: Learning to deal with the idea that things will change, learning (approximately) how things will change, and being prepared for living through the initial stages of the collapse. At this level of preparation, there will be some limited amount of time that you can live for "off the grid" (without needing anything from the modern economy). After the collapse you may still be able to obtain some of the basic needs of life from the modern economy, however the idea of this level is to increase the amount of time you can live in (relative) comfort without having to depend on anything from the modern industrial economy.
Examples of level 1 would be having stores of food and water and other essential items, having somewhere to live, and/or having the inner (mental, emotional, and physical) preparations to live through whatever happens in the initial stages of economic collapse with a (relative) attitude of confidence, security, and peace of mind.
Since level 1 is defined by having a limited time you can last, you can reach level 1 quickly by becoming fully prepared for a small period of time (say one week) of self sufficiency, and then keep on increasing the length of time you can last. To prepare for one week fully off the grid, the main things that immediately come to my mind, that most modern people would need to address, are water and toileting. Possibly also heating if you live somewhere really cold. Also food, although many people already have enough in the cupboard and fridge to last a week, if they had to, and you can survive with no food at all for a week (some people do it on purpose and call it fasting).
Note that if you're living in an area where the long-term post-crash population is much higher than about 1 person per square kilometre, then any survival strategies based on "living off the land" in terms of hunting, gathering, trapping or foraging wild (unmanaged, non-farmed) food are unsustainable in the long-term, and therefore count as level 1.
Practical exercise: If you like the idea of this, you can even start with preparing for a very short amount of time (like 24 hours), and then really put it to the test. Although doing this too early can be a bit freaky, as it can highlight many of the things you will need to address, in a way that can sometimes feel like "too much too soon", like overload. By "really put it to the test", I mean exactly that. If you want to try this, think about everything you will need for 24 hours completely "off the grid", stock up, and then turn off, disconnect, or unplug your mains water, electricity, phones, internet, and everything that relies on an outside source for 24 hours. But don't do this if you have hundreds of dollars worth of frozen meat in your freezer and no off-the-grid power for it (even though it might stay frozen for 1-2 days if you don't open the door and it's not the middle of summer). If you live somewhere like an apartment where you can't switch off things at the mains, you can still do this, by switching off everything at the wall and not using anything from the grid. Note also that the sewage system counts as part of the grid so to do this exercise in the fullest way, you can't put anything down any drain or down the toilet. If you try this exercise (or even think about it) and feel extreme overload, realise that you actually have a whole lot longer than 24 hours before the collapse happens. You can use that time to prepare, so you actually have much, much more time than it seems when you are trying the exercise. So don't think like this is your final run and last chance — think of it as the beginning of a whole new way of living (i.e. "prepping") and of focusing on what is important in life.
Although level 1 is only a temporary measure, remember that necessity is the mother of invention. If you are living at level 1 after the collapse, there will (obviously) be a much higher motivation to work on level 2 than there is before the collapse. There will also be probably less time and definitely less resources available to you.
- Level 2: Having one or more areas of life (including the knowledge, the skill, the materials, and the location) that will be required long term, that you can provide into the indefinite future. (In other words, so that it won't ever run out). At this level of preparation, you will have one or more important needs of life fully covered (into the indefinite future), so you are set in terms of that need (or those needs). Also this means that you will be able to provide that need for other people, in other words you will have some permanent and very real value to the people around you (into the indefinite future). This means that you will be employable (whatever that means for the particular situation that develops after the collapse). An example of level 2 would be keeping chickens (or any productive animal), including being able to breed them, and to provide for all their needs without relying on an ongoing supply of anything from the modern economy.
If you are new to this, I recommend beginning with level 1, and then after a while start to add some elements in preparation for level 2. That is, provide for some way that you could develop level 2 after the collapse, while you are still living in level 1 (and before your level 1 supplies run out). An example of this would be to keep a few decent vegetable gardening books, some of heirloom seeds in your freezer, some compost, and perhaps also some sort of access to a suitable place to grow things. (Seeds in the freezer will keep for many years past their "sow by" date, and when the power grid goes down for good, you can plant them). If you don't have (and can't think of) any suitable place, look for a community garden that isn't too far from where you live. (Or a community farm, or permaculture group, or anything like that).
When you get to that point, you can work on either or both of extending the length of time you can last in level 1, and more fully developing one or more level 2 skills.
- Level 3: The final level of preparation is to have all of the important needs of life fully covered, into the indefinite future. This will take years to learn and develop. I have included writing about it near the top of this page because it's good to know right from the start what you will and what you won't be able to accomplish in a short space of time, and also to give an ultimate goal to all of this. At this level of preparation you will be able to provide water, food, heating, clothing, shelter/housing, and every other basic need of life, indefinitely. Depending on exactly how future circumstances evolve after the collapse, it may not be necessary to ever reach this level. If you are able to fit into a reliable enough and stable enough local (or any) community or society where you can provide something of real value, and other people can provide the other remaining needs, then level 2 would be all you ever need. If your post-crash community is stable enough it will be possible to be living like that (at level 2) for many years (even more than a human generation) after the collapse, and during that time learning how to provide the remaining needs of life yourself, so that (if desired) you could reach level 3 a long time after the collapse.
Note also that some things last much longer than others. It will be possible, for example, to remain at a level 1 with regards to long lasting items such as clothing for much longer than short lasting and/or consumable needs such as water and sanitation. In other words, people will still be wearing clothes that were made by the industrial economy for a long time after they are no longer able to feed themselves from the industrial economy. This means that (for example) being able to provide food is much more of a priority than being able to produce clothes from locally sourced raw materials.
Distractions from Preparing for the Economic Collapse
For most modern people, by far the biggest obstacle to preparing is the problem of how to find the time apart from all the other demands (both work and leisure) of modern life. By far the best way to ensure that you will make the time is to find some way to become interested in this type of stuff. The best way to become interested in anything is to experience the feeling that it's improving your life (that is, it feels good). Obviously it is possible to look at some of this stuff (e.g. the collapse of modern civilisation as we know it) in a way that can feel very bad. However, there are other ways to look at the situation — many of which are much less obvious — and to learn about some of these is a very good place to start.
- If you have read the above point, and you're wondering how on earth anything to do with this could possibly feel good, try this exercise: Imagine that modern industrialised culture is an addiction — with most of the characteristics of any other addiction (such as smoking, alcoholism, heroin, problem gambling, etc...) When you are caught in an addiction, it's hard (or impossible) to see how losing access to the thing you're addicted to could possibly feel good. However when you're not addicted to that thing yourself, and you're looking on from outside at the lives of addicts, it is completely obvious. For example, it's obvious to any non-smoker that a "3 packs a day" chain smoker would feel much better, and have a much better life, without their habit. Or a junkie selling themselves to pay for something that's eventually going to kill them. OR..... an ordinary modern person, living with vastly greater material wealth than any other people at any time in the history of the world, feeling short of money most of the time, and spending most of their time and energy on trying to pay their bills. Something there doesn't make sense.
It reminds me of how when I was a smoker, most of the time I was craving for a cigarette. (Almost all of the time apart from when I was actually smoking). Now I hardly think of them. When I was addicted to nicotine, the thought of not having it (or even of having slightly less than I was used to) was highly disturbing (to say the least). And I imagined that without my regular dose I would be desperately craving a smoke all the time. Because when I was addicted, it seemed that smoking made me feel better and took away my cravings for a smoke. Yet — and this is true of any addiction — the craving is actually caused by having the thing itself, not the lack of having it. This is the complete opposite of how it seems when you are caught in the trap of the addiction.
The answer to how to make time to prepare for the collapse of the economy is to learn to lose your addiction to the economy. It will be much easier if you can start on this before the economy and most of its fruits are taken away from you, then you can learn it gradually.
So in this new way of thinking about things
— which can now become your way of thinking about things, if you choose it — the modern economy is an addiction, and an addiction is a type of trap.
There are two critical goals in escaping from a trap like this: The first is being able to realise that you are caught in a trap. The second is having the support and resources available so that you can learn a new way of thinking about it, and keep thinking the new way until you start to feel it, and keep doing that until it has become enough of a part of you that you can continue with it on your own.
- The key thought here — and the key to overcoming any addiction — is this: Learning to understand that 1. The addictive thing appears like it's going to be much, much better than it actually is; and 2. The only real benefit you ever got from it was the temporary relief from the suffering that it itself gave you in the first place. When first looking at something addictive, it can seem like its going to be great: Because the apparent benefits are vastly exaggerated and the true costs are mostly hidden. So the addictive thing is sampled as the new addict seeks the apparent benefit. After a few tries of the "substance", withdrawals set in and the addict (who does not yet know they are an addict, but is addicted as surely as an insect who just walked into a pitcher plant is trapped) finds themselves going back to the "substance" to feel good. The longer they are addicted, the more convinced they are that the substance feels good, since it takes away the craving for the substance.
Similarly, modern industrial high-tech living has taken away so much from our basic human enjoyment of life that we don't even know what we are missing.
What we call families today are not families at all. We haven't had real families since the car was invented, and we became dispersed. The 'two-parent, three kids and golden labrador' family is only a piece of family — and that's why it doesn't work very well.
Steve Biddulph, The Secret of Happy Children, p84.
We're aiming for sparkle in the eye. When adults in their fifties look so youthful and excited about life that their friends ask, "What are you doing these days that makes you so happy?" Or, when a child comes home after summer camp full of excitement, happy to tell the family what he did and to show them what he knows, when such a child keeps that sparkle into the next weeks, jumping into alertness with every track and bird call she sees, when that sparkle extends into awareness of self and community, and ultimately extends into a lifelong commitment to caring for the whole natural world — that's what we value, and that's what we consider a successful outcome.
Jon Young, Ellen Haas, and Evan McGown, Coyote's Guide to Connecting With Nature, p261.
In modern industrial culture, suicide is the leading cause of death for several demographic groups including Australians under 25, and middle-aged Americans. Life has become so painful for people in these groups that they are more likely to die by their own hand than for any other reason. Yet this is the same culture that tells us that our modern way of living is the ultimate achievement of evolution, the pinnacle of human existence, the greatest way of living that the world has ever known. Something here doesn't quite add up.
They must be the most contented people in the world. They have no crime, no punishment, no violence, no laws...... no police, judges, rulers or bosses. They believe that the gods put only good and useful things on the earth for them. In this world of theirs, nothing is bad or evil. Even a poisonous snake is not bad. You just have to keep away from the sharp end. Actually, a snake is very good. In fact, it's delicious. And the skin makes a fine pouch
The characteristic which really makes them different from all other races..... is that they have no sense of ownership at all. Where they live, there's nothing you can own. Only trees and grass and animals. These Bushmen have never seen a stone or a rock in their lives. The hardest things they know are wood and bone. They live in a gentle world, where nothing is as hard as rock, steel or concrete.
Only miles to the south, there's a vast city. And here you find civilized man. Civilized man refused to adapt himself to his environment. Instead he adapted his environment to suit him. So he built cities, roads, vehicles, machinery. And he put up power lines to run his labour-saving devices. But he didn't know when to stop. The more he improved his surroundings to make life easier..... the more complicated he made it. Now his children are sentenced to to years of school, to learn..... how to survive in this complex and hazardous habitat. And civilized man, who refused to adapt to his surroundings..... now finds he has to adapt and re-adapt..... every hour of the day to his self-created environment.
One day, something fell from the sky. [A Coke bottle that someone had thrown out the window of an aeroplane.] Xi had never seen anything like this in his life. It looked like water, but it was harder than anything else in the world. He wondered why the gods had sent this thing down to the earth. It was the strangest and most beautiful thing they had ever seen. They wondered why the gods had sent it to them. Pabo got his finger stuck in the thing and the children thought he was very funny. Xi tried the thing out to cure thongs. It had the right shape and weight. It was also beautifully smooth and ideal for curing snakeskin. And Pabo discovered you could make music on it. And every day they discovered a new use for the thing. It was harder and heavier and smoother than anything they'd ever known. It was the most useful thing the gods had ever given them. A real labour-saving device.
But the gods had been careless. They had sent only one. Now, for the first time, here was a thing that could not be shared..... because there was only one of it. Suddenly, everybody needed it most of the time. A thing they had never needed before became a necessity. And unfamiliar emotions began to stir. A feeling of wanting to own, of not wanting to share. Other new things came. Anger, jealousy, hate and violence. Xi was angry with the gods. He shouted, "Take back your thing! We don't want it! Look at the trouble it brought. " [Xi throws it towards the sky.] The gods did not take it back. He shouted, "You must be crazy to send us this thing! Take it back!" [He throws it even higher into the sky.] Then he shouted, "Look out! Look out!" But he spoke too late and the thing felled his daughter Dani. Xi carried the thing away from the shelter and buried it. That evening, there was no laughter and no chatter around the family fire.
from The Gods Must Be Crazy, 1980 Movie.
You are a product of your culture, and if you can't imagine how you could cope with life (let alone enjoy it) without modern high-tech culture, it's only because modern high-tech culture has taught you to be that way.
They are more aggressive, and also more weak. They cannot control themselves and they give up when given tasks to do.
from China's Precious Snowflakes, The Daily Telegraph.
I think that last quote is an awesome description of the effects of modern culture on its citizens. If that's what our modern culture has made us (along with suicidal), the way to undo the damage is to seek to be the exact opposite: Be more gentle and peaceful, and also more strong. Learn to control yourself and learn to not give up when you have tasks to do.
Basic Steps in Beginning to Prepare
- Get one or a few good books on this subject and start practicing what is in them.
- One of the very best ways (that I've seen) to learn to adjust your thinking, and feelings, to what will be useful in the future is the audio series "Reclaiming Our Natural Connections" by Jon Young of Wilderness Awareness School. You can get it here (as 8 audio CDs), or here (as an MP3 CD).
Your "After" Career (i.e. After the Economic Collapse)
- For most people who already have an established career, it will be easier to have two separate careers — a "before" career and an "after" career. The reason for this is because most of the things that will be the most valuable after the real crash has set in are not valuable in the pre-crash economy. If you already have a job, try to funnel your additional resources (i.e. spare time, money, and energy) into developing your "after" career (your post-crash career). Look further down this page for ideas on what that might be — but to sum it up in one sentence, think of jobs that would be in demand in a small to medium sized country town in the past (maybe 50 or 100 years ago, or perhaps in a medieval village). Jobs fixing things will also be more in demand than they are now.
- If you can't think of anything for an "after" career, do a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC). Try and aim to have one completed within a period of time from now, say 12 months from now. Due to the uncertainty in the economic situation, this is still a good idea even if you have an "after" career well developed.
- IMPORTANT: Try to do at least one of these things (or more if you can) within the next 12 months: Start attending at a local community garden. Do a PDC (see below for more info on this). Join a group, such as a local permaculture group, or preppers group. Join a group that does "permablitzes" and participate in some of them. Do some 'WWOOFing'.
All these activities are about doing useful things with like-minded people. If you're doing this all on your own (or just on the internet) — and everyone you know in real life is still stuck in the trap of modern high-tech culture — you'll be surprised how much better you feel once you meet a few other people who aren't still completely stuck in that trap.
- Do an internet search on "pdc", "permaculture design course" and "permaculture design certificate" along with the name of your town, city, or locality. I've started a list of PDC courses currently being offered that you can view here.
- Do another search for permaculture group, and for transition group. Try and find one close to your area, and turn up at one of their meetings.
- If you don't already have a "before" career — e.g. if you are a student, you could consider skipping the "before" career, or trying to find something that will be useful in both the before and after economies. Public interest in the types of things that will be in demand after the crash is growing all the time.
- Modern industrial society has gotten used to having increasing amounts of energy available. This is going to reverse, and along with it will reverse many of the trends that happened during this large increase in energy availability. One of the big trends is the trend we have had towards increasing centralisation and globalisation. The reverse of this, which will be a major effect of the future "powerdown" of the economy, will be an increase in localisation. Meaning things will happen on increasingly local levels. This means that responsibility for the basic essentials of life will rest in increasingly closer geographical areas. Much of the advice on this page is nothing more than the direct consequences of this one trend.
- Reversal of this trend means that things that have been traditionally growth areas and high-paying jobs (like high-tech jobs and white collar vs blue collar jobs) will become shrinking areas. And many jobs that have traditionally been "dead-end" industries will be growth and success areas.
- It will still be possible for highly motivated business owners (and others) to succeed, but the types of industries that the most successful businesses operate in will change a lot.
- Localisation of food production will be one of the most important features of the future economy.
- Try to find some other people to work on this with. Do an internet search on "transition town group" and "permaculture group" along with the name of your town or city or locality.
- Probably the best choice for an "after" career, for a great many people, will be producing food. Anything you can do now to produce food yourself, and/or learn about it, will be a great investment for the future, for yourself and your family. In the end, it will be worth much, much more than stocks, real estate portfolios, or money in the bank.
- Get a piece of blank paper right now and write down a few short points (just a few is okay for now) of things that are to become your new long-term life/career goals (such as what is in the paragraphs above this one). Really do this. Now.
Money and Finance — For After the Economic Crash
- Try and reduce your debt. Ideally, get out of debt completely. Of course, this is impossible for everyone to do, since there is far more debt in the economy than actual money. Which means there is not anywhere near enough money in existence to pay back all the debt that is in existence. So someone (in fact a lot of people) are going to have to default on their loans eventually. Aiming to minimise the impact of this on your life is one of the most useful things that you can do. To begin with, try to make up some sort of plan as to what you could do about this. For example, could you live with a relative who owns their house outright, if required? Perhaps a few of you could pool together and buy something?
- Once a large enough number of people start to default on loans, something will have to change on a big scale in the financial system. I don't think it is clear what will happen to home ownership of housing loan holders once banks start to become insolvent (go out of business). Before the banks become insolvent (or are rescued with bailouts, or whatever ends up happening), it will be likely that many homes will be repossessed. This means that if you are in a high risk category for this to happen to you (i.e. are barely able to cover your mortgage, and/or would not be able to cover it in the long term due to say long term unemployment), try to plan around this before it happens. Perhaps by selling now while the market is still pretty high, and getting a much cheaper place, or renting a much cheaper place. At least try to have some plan in mind.
- Try not to rely 100% on money in the bank, or any other kind of financial investment (in the currently understood sense of investment). Expect that at some point there may be a run on the banks, or multiple runs, after which the banks may go under (meaning you can't get any more money back from them). Of course, everyone can't just "take all their money out of the bank" any more than everyone can pay back all their debt — because any more than a small fraction of the money doesn't really exist. Most of the money in the economy is nothing more than a security note that is secured against future economic growth (i.e., it is the equivalent of you lending money to someone else, who is putting up the promise of their future economic expansion as security on the loan). And when you take away the possibility of that future growth, most of the money ceases to exist.
- Start thinking of investment in a different way to how you have done in your life up till now. The financial types of investments that people have gotten used to are all going to collapse. (This is a strong statement but it is true. Financial investments are based on a growing economy, which is how the investments grow in value. Since the planet is not infinitely big, and economic growth is exponential by definition, and requires growth in the consumption of real physical resources, at some point economic growth as we know it will cease to exist. When this happens, existing financial investments will become worthless.) If you already have some of these financial types of investments yourself, work towards converting them to other (non-financial) types of investments that will be useful in the future (like in the point above this one).
- Get a piece of blank paper right now and write down a few short points (just a few is okay for now) of things that are to become your new long-term life/career goals (such as what is in the paragraphs above this one). Really do this. Now.
Two Important Tips
- The biggest problem in modern life (with regards to being ready for the coming economic crash) is distraction. Try to eliminate as many things as you can which distract you from doing something useful with your time and your life.
- Do anything at all that you can think of to help you become more happy with the idea of a more earthy, low-tech lifestyle. Do this as often as you can, in as many different ways as you need to, until you start to feel a change in your own outlook.
Ideas Which are More Detailed
This is a list of more specific things you could do that would be a good idea. Pick the things that you will really, actually do, that apply to you. They are not listed in any order of priority.
- Consider how recession-proof your job is, and consider how this will affect you. If the outlook is not good, consider re-training in another field while the economy is still going along (relatively) comfortably. This may be a lot easier than retraining after the crash when you are having difficulty with income and other things. What could you cut out from your current life that isn't that important in the long-term picture, that could help make room for useful activities?
- You can learn a huge amount from imagining different scenarios, like as if it was a game, and thinking about what you would/could do. For example, imagine what you would do if you had to live off half your current income. Really think about it for a while. At first it might seem horribly depressing, but there are lots of people in the world who already live on this much and a lot of them are pretty happy people, so it is not something that is impossible. Sometimes it seems that life would be easier if I didn't have so much stuff. And some of the best memories in my life have been from when I was very materially challenged, like when I was 18 and I could fit everything I owned into one car, or when I was 23 and sleeping on a mattress on the floor of half a small room in a relative's house (and could once again fit everything I owned into one car, although in between those times I owned a whole flat full of furniture and other "junk").
- Try and save some money, and/or reduce your debt. Or, at least, spend your money on things that you believe will be valuable in a simpler low-tech low-income type of future.
- Try starting a small veggie garden. See here for how to do this. If you don't have space for a garden, see here.
- If you know how to grow food already, and like it, you could do more of this type of stuff. If you really hated it, perhaps there are other things that you could do for a living in the future.
- If you already have a veggie garden, (or even if you don't), definitely start looking into keeping some animals. Perhaps the easiest animals to start with, especially if you are new to this type of thing, are guinea pigs. They are very, very easy to keep and to breed. They are fun for kids before the crash, and after the crash they can be put to other uses. They breed ridiculously fast (they are fertile from about 1-2 months old), and in some third world countries they make up a lot of the protein food eaten by humans. They are also a good size for a meal in an economic situation that has no electricity or refrigeration, unlike larger animals which pose problems of how to store the meat. Another advantage is that you can keep them in places where you might not be allowed to have other animals, such as rental properties. (In a rental home with any kind of garden or even a balcony, you may be more likely to be allowed to keep guinea pigs than dogs even.) Try to get a cage with small-spacing wire mesh that is snake proof. You also want the cage to be fox proof.
According to Richard Adrian Reese, 20 females and 2 males will provide enough meat for a family of six. They can be farmed by completely landless people, and can even be kept in boxes under the bed. Their primary food is grass and they are also fed kitchen scraps.
- Other recommendations for animals to start with would be chickens, ducks and/or goats. Don't aim for a massive industrial farm, start small and go from there. You might not be allowed by your local council, so check the rules to see what you are allowed to keep. If you are not allowed to keep any animals at all (other than dogs, cats, etc), I would consider moving somewhere else, though this is not essential. In a severe collapse a lot of the laws will be changed (and/or ignored) anyway.
- If you already have a veggie garden and some animals, consider expanding your vegetable garden, and/or starting another one. Perhaps start one at a relative's house if this is feasible.
Either in your existing kitchen garden, or a new one, experiment with techniques that use less water than what you are used to.
There was a time several years ago (before the water restrictions) when I started a new veggie garden specifically for the purpose of preparing for future economic hardship. It was summer and hot all the time, and sunny most of the time. I was using the currently popular intensive close-spaced growing techniques, (though I wouldn't have thought to call them that at the time). Every day I would go out to water them (often twice a day if it was really hot), using the hose and the town water supply. I got really depressed watching all that water go onto the garden, wondering how on Earth that much water would be reliably available after the economic meltdown. I didn't know that there are other ways to grow food that don't need nearly as much water. If you are interested in this, see here for more.
- If you own your own house, get a water tank. (If you already have one, consider getting another one, though this is much less of a priority that if you don't have one at all.)
- If you are physically unfit, start to get into shape, at least somewhat. In the future, physical ability will become much more important and useful to you than what it has been in most modern/western people's lives so far.
Having said that, don't think that none of this is for you if you're not that fit, or well, physically. At present it's probably fair to say that most of the people (certainly a lot of them) in modern westernised countries who are successful and experienced veggie gardeners are older people, who are more frail physically (sometimes a lot more) than most younger people. There is so much that can be done to help yourself (and other people) get through the long-term future changes that there is still plenty for you to do, no matter what your level of physical ability is.
- Try to find some other people to do this with, to some extent. This does NOT mean to force your views on other people you know who are resistant to this type of stuff, which is generally a really bad idea, and usually does not help them. Perhaps look for a local permaculture group, or a local council or community garden where they offer beginner's courses on food gardening, or something like that.
- If you are young, or considering a career change, try to pick something that will be useful in a future, low-tech economy. One (very approximate) test for this is that if the job exists right now in small country towns, it is more likely to exist in the future. Most trade type jobs will become more valuable compared to office type jobs than they are at present. Anything where you will learn practical hand skills is probably a good thing.
- If you are considering moving to another area, look seriously into relocating to a more rural location. The trend of more and more people living in cities has been created entirely by the growth of the modern technological way of life. This trend will reverse in the future (perhaps very dramatically). If you have severe doubts that the job you do does not even exist in a more rural area, you are probably in the wrong type of work (at least in terms of still being employed in that line of work in the long-term future). See the point above about changing careers.
I defined a city as a collection of people living in numbers large enough to require the importation of resources.
Derrick Jensen, What a Way to Go,1h 4 mins
- If you live in the city and work in a high-tech job, try to either (or both) of prepare to move somewhere more rural when you have to, and prepare yourself to survive in the city. In some previous countries' economic collapses (e.g. Argentina), some city people were better off than country people. This will only apply to a certain level of collapse, though. In a more severe and prolonged collapse, the basic essentials of life will become more and more important. That is, water, food, medicine, and defence. Generally speaking, rural locations will be a lot better for these. See further down the page for more on this subject.
A city could be defined, almost, as a human ecosystem that grossly exceeds the carrying capacity of its local environment.
Prof. Emeritus William Catton, Jr., What a Way to Go,1h 4 mins
- If you are in a position to do this, consider a holiday to a rural area where you will learn some new skills. There are farms that offer these types of holidays. One way to find these is here (Australian) or here (Global). Also consider working for a while, or doing voluntary work, in an alternative type of field, that offers new skills.
Try an internet search for working farm holidays and see what comes up.
- If you are in a position to, try travelling to other parts of the world where people already live with much less than we have in the West. There are organisations which you can join to go and do voluntary work in third-world countries, e.g. where you help people to develop permaculture farms and basic infrastructure. These types of situations, which are happening right now in poorer countries, are very similar to what is likely to happen to Western countries after the crash. So not only are the skills close to what you will want to know about, but in many ways the actual situation is too.
- Get a piece of blank paper right now and write down a few short points (just a few is okay for now) of things that are to become your new long-term life/career goals (such as what is in the paragraphs above this one). Really do this. Now.
General Principles to Follow
- Starting today, resolve that you will reduce your dependence on the modern high-tech globalised economy — gradually, and continually, on a permanent and ongoing basis.
- Decide that you are going to make today your day of change, and from this point on your life is going to become gradually adjusted for its optimum best future in (what is for most people) a very different type of long-term future to that which you have spent the majority of your life so far imagining and planning for.
- Try to something every day, no matter how small, working towards your new long-term future. Even if it is only for a few minutes, making the commitment to doing something every day (and then following through with that) can be a major turning point in life for many people.
Having said that, if you miss a day, or a lot of days, don't be concerned with that. Just start planning to do things regularly (or at least somewhat regularly) from now on.
- Survival is all about priorities. No matter what your situation, (or what situations you are preparing for), there will always be an unlimited number of things that you could do to improve your situation. There will never be a point where everything that you possibly could do is done.
The point above is one of the most important points on this page — because, when facing the kinds of situations we are considering here, it can seem like there is an endless list of things that "need" to be done to prepare. And this can make it seem hopeless, like "why even bother?" You might as well know right from the start that there is an endless list of things that you could to (to improve your future situation).
The art of survival lies in choosing which things you give priority to — and doing only those things — without being too concerned about all the things you are not doing.
- Make becoming more flexible one of your long term goals. This is both easy and hard. Easy because it doesn't involve a big list of things you need to get or skills you have to learn or anything like that. Hard because its not that obvious how to go about developing it.
I will have more to say about this in the future... But for now, consider that it is such an important quality to possess in an uncertain future, that you can practice using it right now by starting to let go of some of the fears and concerns you might have about that future, and what you are supposed to do about it, and trust that you will get everything sorted, one way or another, and things will ultimately work out how they are meant to.
- Look back over your own life so far and consider how you most easily learn new things. Is it from reading (books or the internet), watching videos, from direct contact with other people, perhaps in a classroom, or on the job, or something else? Whichever ways you have learned most from in the past, look to those ways to learn about what you will be doing in the future.
For e.g., if you are not a book person, you won't find it nearly as useful to try and force your way through a pile of books than if you use another method of learning. Also consider how much structure you need — some people are independent learners, while others require a formal structure, perhaps with deadlines, grades, other classmates, etc, to motivate them. If this applies to you, then consider how you can use this in your preparations for the future. Perhaps studying a formal course is suited to your personality?
Even if you are not a book person, you can still learn a heap from books. Just don't read many of them. Try getting just one really good book (like this, this, or this), and spend a year (or a few years) doing what is in that book. That way, you won't be reading very much at all, but you can still learn what you need to know. I say this because a lot of the best information is currently available mostly in book form.
- Have a bit of a look for more sources of high quality information about this kind of stuff. Here is my contribution so far (Note that if the page is slow to load, the link is meant to send you to the "hard times" section of that web page. This list will be updated). Pick the book from the list that you like the look of best and get it, and start reading it and doing some of the things in it.
- Practice gradually cutting back on your use of modern technology. In some ways this is a lot like giving up any other kind of addiction like smoking, alcoholism, gambling, etc. Though in some ways it is completely different. If you find this comparison (to an addiction) useful, then go with it, if not then forget it. In either case, try to aim to use less and less modern technology (at least occasionally if you can't imagine doing this for very much of the time). Most modern people aim to use more and more technology, get faster computers, more recent models of TV sets, more modern fitted out kitchens, etc.
For a lot of people, if you have this stuff available, you will want it, seek it, and spend a lot of time trying to afford it, get it, and then spend even more time using it. If you deliberately cut back from this somewhat, you will create some empty space you can then fill with doing things that will still exist and be useful/enjoyable in the future. If you wait until there is time to do this, there probably won't ever be time, since the modern way of life demands more and more of people's time as it becomes more advanced. A lot of the things that you think you need right now (in modern life I mean) will fade into irrelevance when you find other things to focus on.
Perhaps the most difficult thing about this whole preparation for the long-term future is just cleaning out some room in your life from things of the modern high-tech world that are taking up all the space. This implies some degree of letting go of those things, which is usually the difficult part. By things I mean things that are currently taking up your time, and also your goals, desires, ambitions, and (for many people) even things that you enjoy and perhaps base much of your current and imagined future pleasure and happiness on. Clinging on to these things is likely to stop or slow your preparations more than anything else I can think of. At first it can take a leap of faith to believe that there could be real pleasure and happiness in things that you are not used to imagining as positive.
Once you experience things yourself, and get used to them, things can become a lot different to how they may seem at first (or before you have ever done them).
A summary of this point: It will help a lot if you can create some space in your life, by deliberately cutting back some of the things from modern life.
Try making a list of some things that you could cut back on.
- Don't get too concerned with having to do or learn a million things, (especially the learn part). In fact, for most of this, it is better to place your focus on doing rather than reading about (or watching, etc.). Though at the beginning, you will need to read or watch at least something — where to begin, and what thing or things to do next.
- Focus more on learning the right kind of attitude, and skills, than on getting "stuff" (though you will want to get some stuff also). This might seem to contradict the point above, but it doesn't when you consider that its mostly by doing things that you will learn. (And that you will need some stuff in order to do these new things, which you will be learning from.) In a long-term future that is considerably more uncertain than the life you are used to, it's more likely that you will be able to hold onto (and rely on) knowledge, and inner resources that you develop, than stuff (including land) that you buy.
- Realise that in the modern global economy, on average, people's jobs are much more specialised than they have ever been in the history of the world. This is a trend that will reverse in the future (after the crash). Particularly, it will affect you in that you may be used to having to do things to a high level of specialisation (and therefore skill), that is based on having many years (perhaps most of your working life) to do just that one highly specialised thing. Also, most people you see in the mass media (including "celebrity survivalists" and "celebrity" gardeners, etc.) have become specialised like this.
What you need to be aware of is that you absolutely don't need to learn these skills to this level of specialisation. When you start, you will probably be looking at these kinds of people to learn what to do yourself. This effect can make what is ahead of you seem much harder than it really is. In the future, it will be more useful to have a (relatively) small amount of skill in a wider range of areas than in the high-tech economy. Another way of saying this is that there is a lot less that you will need to learn about each thing (that you try to learn) than how it seems at first.
- So don't be discouraged if at first (or at any time) it feels like you're not getting anywhere, or that all this is way too hard. To be doing anything at all, or trying to do anything, towards this new type of long-term future (even just to be reading this page) is awesome. You're already here. Welcome to the club.
- This next point seems like it should be obvious, but it isn't: Try to remember that you aren't trying to replicate everything in your existing modern high-tech life. If you don't remember this, you will tend more and more towards trying to re-create the type and standard of life that you are used to (i.e. based on modern industrial technology). To do this without the availability of modern industrial technology that you're used to is impossible. So, if you don't think about this point, you will end up feeling frustrated (and worse) because what you are trying to do seems much too hard (its completely impossible).
It's better to try to learn (gradually) that happiness is possible without a modern high-tech lifestyle, and realise that you don't need everything that you are used to thinking that you need. Learning this isn't something that you will do in one go, and then forget about it — but something that will keep coming up again and again as you prepare and (later on) as your life situation starts to really change.
- Try and think of how you could possibly have a happy future, given the level of economic collapse that is likely to occur. I like to think of the Hobbits in the Lord of the Rings movies as an example of a simple low-tech lifestyle that seems appealing (especially at the end of the series, after the Dark Lord has been defeated). There are other examples. See also here, here, and here.
"Bugging out" is often discussed in the context of what to do when "The s**t hits the fan" (e.g. economic collapse and what it will bring with it). Bugging out usually refers to making a temporary escape to a more permanent (and, presumably, viable) place to live. Sometimes it is also used to mean a permanent escape, in the sense of not planning to settle anywhere permanently but to live as a hunter-gatherer or wanderer or refugee or something like that.
The term "bug out" was first used in the Korean War, and originates from the way that bugs scatter away when you disturb a bunch of them. It's not hard to imagine something like this happening around a city after its basic life support systems (such as the food supply and utilities) are cut off for long enough that there is survival pressure on its residents.
If you are thinking about bugging out in your preparations for economic collapse, here are a few points to consider.
- Bugging out is absolutely not a first-choice option. The saying "Stay if you can but leave if you must" is a good way to think of it.
- If you don't think where you are currently living is going to be viable in the long-term, it would be much, much, much better to move somewhere else before circumstances force you to leave.
- Having said that, there are still going to be a lot of people who aren't that keen on moving from where they are to a new (and probably more rural) area. If this is you, there are still lots of things you can do to prepare before you move. The more you get on with your preparations, the more this will become a way of life for you. At some point, the difficulty of moving now (with all the benefits of modern Western life and social stability, but moving "now" means you have to do it now, or soon) will seem less of a hassle than the future threat of moving later (when there might not be social stability or available petrol etc.). Hopefully that point will occur before you are forced to move. The more you get on with your preparations, the more likely this is to happen.
- The blunt facts here are that large cities require vast amounts of non-renewable (i.e. non-sustainable) resources shipped, trucked, wired and/or piped in to them to keep their citizens alive. The amount of people that currently live in large cities vastly exceeds the number of people that can be sustained in that area without the benefits of the modern high-tech economy.
Therefore the hard cold truth is that a lot of people who are currently living in large cities are not going to be living in them in the future. This leaves only two possibilities for these people: Either they will be living somewhere else, or not be living at all. If you currently live in a large city, how this applies to your own situation is going to depend very largely on not if you decide to leave, but when. And under what circumstances. Clearly, it is going to be better if you leave well before you are forced to leave. Since the final economic crash has not happened yet, and may not happen for several more years, you don't have to move tomorrow, or next week. There is still plenty of time left to start your preparations, and plan this out, before you need to leave the city behind.
I defined a city as a collection of people living in numbers large enough to require the importation of resources.
Derrick Jensen, What a Way to Go,1h 4 mins
- The point above [that most urban people will not be living that way for too much longer] is quite stark. I almost didn't include it on this page, which is meant for beginners (plus everyone else), on the grounds that it may frighten some people off the idea of preparing at all. However it is such an important point, and so much is at stake, that this is the one thing where I think its better not to be "babied" in any sense but to be hit with the situation how it stands. This will take some time for most modern urban people to get used to, so, if this is you, the sooner you start getting used to the idea, the more time you will have and the easier the transition is going to be.
So — if you live in a large city, you don't have to move now, but you do have to move sometime (or face what will almost certainly be a lot worse). You can take your time with this, taking steps slowly and carefully — but start taking steps. Baby steps are perfectly fine here: All of us from Western urban backgrounds are going to be taking baby steps at first. And tripping over, and falling, and getting up again, and taking more baby steps.
- If you aren't sure if where you're living now is going to be viable in the long-term, a good test is to see if you can live there completely off the grid. That is, with the space that you have available in the place you live, can you provide enough of the basics of life (such as food and water) to live — even at a very basic level — without needing shop food or town water (or town sewage either to be fully realistic here). If you can't even imagine this (for example in a small flat in a high-rise tower) then you are going to have to move at some stage.
- This fairly dramatic point is being emphasised here because I really want more people to start getting used to the idea of moving away from cities.
Read the following quote (which is also quoted here), and notice how there's only one thing mentioned that isn't a matter of information, knowledge or skills.
We may be living in an "information age" with "information
overload", in some sense. But when it comes to what actually
gets into people's heads, we're instead living in an age of "knowledge
People no longer know information that's vital to
sustain life—how to grow their own food, how to find drinkable
water, what's in their food, how to build a fire and keep warm, how
to survive in
the natural environment, what the sky means and how to read it, when
the growing seasons begin and end, what plants in the forest and
fields are edible, how to track and kill and dress and eat and store
game, how to farm without (or even with) chemicals and tractors,
how to treat broken bones and other common medical emergencies, or
how to deliver a baby, among other things.
Because of this "information deficit",
we are out of touch with reality and are also standing on a dangerous
shelf of oil-dependent,
corporate-induced information starvation. In the 1930s during the
Great Depression, far more people lived in rural areas than in the
cities. The information about how to grow and preserve food, how
to survive during difficult times, and how to make do with less was
general knowledge. Today we know the names of the latest movie stars
and how much their movies grossed, or what level the Dow Jones Industrial
Average is at, but few of us could survive two months if suddenly
the supermarkets closed.
Thom Hartmann, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, p105 (original edition).
- Having said all that, it is still a good idea to be (at least somewhat) prepared to move quickly and lightly so that if you have to, you can.
- The system of three levels of preparation that begins this page can be extended to include bugging out strategies in this way: Level B1 ("B" for "Bugout"): Living temporarily without needing anything other than what you can carry with you. By carry with you I mean on your person, in your pockets and in your "bug out bag". As before with level 1, level B1 is intrinsically temporary. And as before, you can reach level B1 quickly, for a short amount of time, by being fully prepared for living for that amount of time, using only what you carry with you. Three days (72 hours) is commonly used here.
- Level B2 would be having one or more of the basic needs of life fully covered, permanently, into the indefinite future, needing only what you carry with you and what's in your local environment. Level B3 would be having all of the basic needs of life fully covered, permanently, with only what you carry with you and what's in your local environment. In a way this is pretty advanced stuff, and if you are new to the whole idea that the economy is going to collapse and life is going to change a lot, I wouldn't be too concerned about these. In another way, this is very basic stuff indeed — and this is a good example of the "reversal" effect that underlies so much of what is about to happen — since every homeless "bum" is actually a grandmaster of level B3.
Mr. Wendal has freedom,
a free that you and I think is dumb.
Free to be without the worries of a quick to diss society,
for Mr. Wendal's a bum.
His only worries are sickness
and an occasional harassment
by the police and their chase.
Uncivilized we call him,
but I just saw him
eat off the food we waste.
from "Mr. Wendal" by Arrested Development
- Of course this is not to say that most homeless people are living with only what they can carry or obtain from the natural environment (meaning nothing man-made). Notice that I didn't specify anything about being restricted to the natural environment in the paragraphs above. A lot of people, when imagining this type of stuff, think of going back to the way people lived as aboriginal hunter-gatherers. This is very romantic, and there are a lot of TV shows that cater to the romance and the sense of adventure of it. However there are some issues with it as a serious option for our long-term survival. Some of the issues are fairly obvious: the skills required take literally years to learn, and there are physical hardships that most of us in the rich West are not used to or conditioned for.
A less obvious but very major issue is the fact that it takes, on average, about one square kilometre of pristine wilderness land to provide enough resources to feed and support one person. That is a lot of land, and there is absolutely no way any more than a tiny fraction of the Earth's current human population are ever going to be living this way permanently. It is possible that an extremely severe reaction to the economic collapse (such as a very widespread nuclear war) could result in this type of situation — however it's the aim of this website (and of the permaculture movement in general) to help get as many people through the next few decades as we can. Living as nomadic hunter-gatherers is never going to do this.
- The larger the number of people that prepare (at least somewhat, even a tiny bit) for the coming changes, the larger the number of people there will be to feed in the future. And the only way to do this (without an extreme dieoff) will be through local sustainable agriculture (i.e. "permanent agriculture", which is often called "permaculture" though I mean it here in the broadest sense of the term).
Interestingly, to live like this will require that a large enough number of people prepare (or at least are able to adapt quickly enough to the changes/collapse). Because to have a nice permaculture farm with moo-cows, and your crops all laid out, or anything like that, there will have to be a certain level of social and political stability. Or else your farm could quickly become trashed by war and/or become somebody else's farm. If only a small number of people prepare for (or are able to adapt quickly enough to) the coming changes — and the rest "go ballistic" — then perhaps some of the more extreme/ancient types of living situations (like aboriginal hunting and gathering) may be required. Only a few people are going to be prepared for this extreme case — which is convenient since there are only enough natural resources for a few people to ever live like that.
So to summarise this point, permaculture-style solutions can work for large numbers of people, but require that large numbers of people get on board. While "Man vs. Wild"-style solutions can only ever work for very small numbers of people, but are the only type that will still work if only very small numbers of people get it together. Of course a combination of these two styles is possible.
Clearly, for us as a species, the permaculture-style solutions are by far the more preferable, if we can at all manage it.
How to Die
The best way to die is to die in peace. That is, to die with a feeling of peace, of readiness, a feeling that life has basically been okay, and without any major unresolved issues or emotions.
Everyone is going to die eventually — either before, during, or after the global economic collapse. It's sometimes easy to forget, and important to remember, that being able to live forever in your mortal Earthly body is not the goal of prepping or learning about survival. No matter how good your preparations, you are still going to die. You are also never (even when you are alive) going to replicate the high material "standard of living" of modern Western pre-crash life after the crash. Since maintaining and increasing that material standard of living is a major part of the purpose of life for most modern Western people, and since having a purpose in life is a major part of having peace of mind, there are some issues here to examine. Perhaps the main issue for us in the rich West is that of letting go of our attachment to our high material standard of living.
Another big part of this is to be able to accept things — and there is obviously a lot about the collapse of life as we know it (and all that goes with that) which can be extremely difficult to accept. Learning how to be more accepting of this (i.e. of the realities of life) is an important part of preparing for economic collapse. Perhaps one thought that might help make it easier is understanding that our modern consumer-based way of living is, and could only ever have been, a temporary thing. That's what the word "unsustainable" means, that it cannot be sustained. That is, it has an ending (i.e. the collapse) that built into its very nature. This ending can be postponed, but can never be permanently avoided any more than our own physical deaths can be avoided.
More will be said on this subject in the future.....
The Really Long Term Future
- If you can at all manage it, get some religion. In "the old days" many more people were believers than today, and there are reasons for this.
Some people would say this is because we have "learned more" (i.e. more science) than we knew in the old days, and have somehow disproved much of the religious beliefs of the past "ignorant" age. However our modern (scientific) worldview is completely enmeshed with our modern high-tech high-energy-requiring way of life, and cannot exist without it. And our modern, high-tech, high-energy-requiring way of life can only be — and could have ever only been — a temporary situation.
(In case you are unsure about this, there are many reasons why this is true. For e.g., our modern way of life requires non-renewable fuels and non-renewable natural resources in ever increasing quantities. Remember that if something is unsustainable, that means it cannot be sustained.)
To say that to live in such a way is "better" than the old ways, which were sustainable, and could have lasted forever, does not make a lot of sense.
People who are happy with the modern high-tech life seem to me a lot like how school children would be if suddenly a law was passed giving every school child free unlimited access to high quality heroin (administered properly, with no overdosing, and legally, with no stigma and none of the "lowlife" types of problems we normally associate with the drug). The children would (for a limited time) be very happy with the "deal", perhaps talking about those horrible old days when they used to have to do maths and geography, and how painful it was. No doubt, if anyone suggested that this was bad in the long term, they would fight as hard as they could to keep their access to their drug. And (again, for a limited time), life would indeed seem like it was much better.
- There are also very good reasons why developing a strong religious faith can become the best thing you ever do, in terms of life after (or even before) the crash. This is one of those things that is a lot easier to understand after you have been there (when you can feel it and not just think about it), compared to before. So, if this isn't something that makes sense to you, try to take my word for it (as much as you are able to). This isn't essential, but it can help — a lot.
One of the ways that it can help is that as part of having "a faith", you learn about how to have faith. That is, you learn to put your trust in a higher being — in God, the Creator (or whichever name you prefer to call Him). It is a lot easier to cope with problems when you believe that there is a higher power looking after things, even though things might not be the way you would want them, or are used to.
When things are really difficult, it is not always easy to hang onto this kind of faith all of the time, but you are still much better off than having no faith at all. Or having only faith in things (e.g. the modern high-tech way of life) that are failing all around you. Just having the goal of learning to have more faith can give you something to hope for, when you can no longer hope for a bigger house, higher salary, newer kitchen, more up to date PlayStation, newer car, cooler clothing, hotter girlfriend/boyfriend, etc., etc...
Another reason to have a faith is that your own physical death is one of the few things that you can 100% absolutely completely guarantee will happen. So it's a good idea to learn to be okay with it. I will have more to say about this in the future. For now, if you want to read more on this site, look here or here.
If you like (or can even imagine that you could begin to learn to like) the idea of learning about a certain type of low-tech way of life, then go for it. If you have looked into some of these things and you really cannot bear the thought of them, then keep looking for other ideas — perhaps another way of preparing is better for you. We all have our own path that we must walk, and, as they say, there are many ways to skin a cat. (And this rule still applies even if you have to skin and eat the cat).
This reminds me of the unfortunate experience of a young woman who came, fresh from Melbourne, to work with desert women at Balgo. The women took Michelle hunting, and one of them asked her if she liked cats. A passionate cat lover all her life, Michelle said 'Oh yes, I like cats very much!' A short time later, one of the women threw a dead feral cat on the ground at her feet, ready to be cooked.
Pat Lowe, Hunters and Trackers of the Australian Desert, p39.
- Don't let anyone (including this or any website) convince you that things are definitely going to be a certain way in the future. The only thing you can really be sure of is that things will change, and that our existing way of life, which is unsustainable, won't be able to be sustained. If you start reading about this type of stuff (especially on the internet), there will be people saying all kinds of things as if they are the gospel truth.
Some people will say "we will all need to grow all our own food ourselves" (and perhaps also fight off all our neighbours with lots of guns). Others will say the only answer will be to run into the wilderness. Others may say the only answer is to travel to whatever country we are told is the source of our problems, and attack them (and/or take the resources we want from them). A lot of people will say the only answer is to follow them (and many of these people will become political figures, perhaps also military or religious figures).
Try to be as objective as you can. This can be hard, considering the vast amount of conditioning we have already been exposed to in the modern high-tech, corporate mass-media-driven world (and are likely to be exposed to even more once things start to really change). So much of what is in our minds (and motivates what we do) is based entirely on myth — the myth that non-renewable resources can be used in ever-increasing quantities, forever, and the myth that the faster we use up these resources, the more we will be rewarded.
No! No different. Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned. — Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back
- Finally, look for ways to build and develop a feeling of attachment and identification with things that will be useful to you in the future. That is, try to find a way to actually like and be interested in some of this stuff. Any way at all that you can think of to do that is perhaps the single best thing that you can possibly do in terms of your future well being. This is the most important point on this page.
I have written a more general "How to Get Started" page here, though this is not so specifically tailored to the upcoming global economic crash, there is some stuff there that might be helpful to you.
Why the Global Economy is About to Crash
Instant Bookshelf to Survive The Apocalypse NEW
Books About Survival in the Future Hard Times
Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) Course Directory
Dystopian Fiction / Novels
The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (Video)
Indicators of Overuse of the World's Natural Resources NEW
What the Economic Crisis Really Means - and What We Can Do About It (Video)
Arithmetic, Population and Energy (Video)
What is Peak Oil?
World Scientists' Warning to Humanity
How to Survive a Nuclear War
Preparing for an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) NEW
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