Bill Totten's Weblog

Monday, March 29, 2010

Your Gifts Better Be Edible

Guest post by Tim Nelson of the Outdoor Drum School

Club Orlov (March 03 2010)

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Hi, I am Tim Nelson. I live out in the woods of northern Wisconsin, four hours north of Madison, and I run a mean drum circle. These are my credentials, upon which I base my opinions, mixed with more opinions, concerning Industry's Parting Gifts {*}.


I have been practicing primitive skills while living out in the woods all over the USA for twelve years, with a few breaks of homeless urban living, and the closest I have ever come to entering the System in my entire adult life was during the three months when I shared a one-room house with seven other people. I haven't had to survive a real famine yet, or a real collapse such as that of the Soviet Union, but I have experienced slow starvation, where there was not much to eat, nothing to do and nowhere to go for months on end.

This is not a point of pride, but I do count myself, and others like me, among those few modern Westerners who have been living a third-world lifestyle, and who could take a slow collapse in stride. I only use a few hand tools, I live as part of a clan, and I know from experience just how hard it really is to survive without access to stores.

In all my years of living on the fringe and practicing primitive skills, I have met few people who couldn't survive because they lack courage. But in a fast crash, there would simply be too many things stacked up against us. Not that we won't try, even if we must eventually succumb of starvation, violence, disease or heartbreak. If the crash continues to happen faster than we can adapt, then we won't stand a chance. If we don't have the time to start gardens and to learn to raise chickens, and the chance to make a few mistakes before we become good enough at it, then we are down to depending on dead animals to sustain ourselves. In a cold climate, if there isn't enough animal fat in the diet, people die. It's not possible to survive on just winter squash and potatoes. When the supplies run out, there better be dead animals to eat and I mean entire animals, internal organs included, not just the choice cuts.

I honestly can't see how jobs making tools that last a lifetime, or having these tools, would make that much of a difference, unless the crash is slow enough to sustain complex society for the duration. And just how likely is that? Is it likely enough to bet your life on it? Most of us can feel it in our bones that there are just too many of us. That's what it comes down to every time, and if you aren't ready to live on a starvation diet, work all day and remain efficient while listening to your kids complain of hunger, while suffering from diarrhea for weeks at a stretch, while nursing a few mildly infected cuts, while living in close quarters with a few other adults whom you grow to resent more and more with each passing day as they slowly lose their will to live - let me tell you, if you aren't ready for that sort of thing, then you are in for one hell of a rude awakening!

Am I pessimistic? You bet I am! But I am not selling any books meant to cheer you up. I am just living in woods with my clan, humbled by their honesty, checking hare snares, gathering firewood, eating imported food (while supplies last), sleeping in a wigwam, dreaming of my baby boy, crapping under the open sky, wondering where all the whitetail deer have disappeared to ...

Bill Totten


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