Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Carrying Capasity - Stress, Hope and Pride

Let's continue on with the musing from yesterday. As we are all aware of no one lives in a vacuum so the rather bleak look at two people surviving on their own which at first seems impossible actually begins to brighten as we add in other factors.

One must never under estimate the power of stress and how it brings out the imagination, motivation and resilience of humanity. As many very knowledgeable readers know there are literally thousands of untapped or uncommon resources out there we could and will use in a pinch. From picking Dandelions and other wild greens to the beloved family pet, hunger will change your feelings and offer up sources you cannot even imagine while sitting all comfy at your computer screen.

A factor I don't think many people really consider these days however is that everyone of us will have a marketable skill even if we place little to no value on that skill right now. Basic labor and the intelligence to follow directions and work as a team will become the major selling points in a total grid down situation.

Many writers today like to paint a picture of anarchy or a zombie apocalypse. A world filled with roving bands of looters and cut throats preying on the weak. The initial panic may in fact bring that on, especially in urban areas but I do not give credit to that attitude as being the default setting of humanity. If it was then we would have never built civilization to begin with. Certainly it is there and something that will have to be dealt with but the costs and longevity of that type of life is it's own balancing act in the end.

As should be obvious from yesterday's post nature herself almost assures that cooperation and team work will be the traits that flourish. Not some type of collectivism or primitive socialism but a community of individuals who learn to work together. Even someone who may think they have nothing to offer maybe surprised. A lookout who doesn't complain and can peel potatoes would be just as valuable in a survival situation as a mighty hunter in my opinion. If not more so. You might be thinking to yourself that anyone can do those things and you are right but keep in mind we are now looking at a world of slim margins and no machines. Three people now become necessary in one area to support an extra person in another area.

Remember that phrase. Slim Margins. Because it opens up a whole new (old) way of doing things and places a certain amount of value on every member of a community many of which are marginalized today due to automation and cheap energy.

Everyone will have value and those who can be trusted and have a sense of common good and community will be worth their weight in beans.

Now your next question maybe where in fact would these traits find a market. Well the answer is more than likely much closer than you think. As the cities have grown the rural areas have shrunk in population however one needs look no further than the current situation in Greece to see what makes this trend reverse. And reverse it shall.

If you think figuring out how to provide for even two people is a daunting task in a collapse situation imagine the farmer who is now looking at millions of dollars of useless equipment and thousands of acres to plant without even a horse to do it with.

Trust me here 9 out of 10 farm workers these days have as little knowledge or skill of  what it takes to survive in a grid down situation as your average stock broker. Well that maybe a bit harsh as they more than likely have a clue but they are on the same experience level I imagine. If there is any industry on the planet that will suffer monumental changes it would be farming in a world without cheap energy coupled with our phrase "Slim Margins".

Within the first year there will be plenty of openings for those with a can do attitude and a willingness to work. Even on my relatively modest immediate acreage I could easily add another family of three in a grid down situation and that's without even looking at the other 300 or so acres further out that would be under my control as well.

So here is our next reality check. I have seen this one in action so many times and it will be the number one deciding factor of whether a person survives a collapse or dies a horrible death of hunger. Pride. There will be many who will refuse to even contemplate a life of labor or work tied to the land. Those petty dictators we see as supervisors in warehouses and offices across the urban landscape today. The many office workers taking up air conditioned space in government agencies who wrinkle their noses at anything rural. Some of these people will never submit to work they believe is beneath them. They will ridicule the very thought of planting a cucumber and laugh at anyone harvesting their own wheat.

Survival maybe hard but those with too much pride and no ability to see reality it will be impossible.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!



  1. The farmer types I have met know way more than anyone else I have met on how to grow crops. They have a much better concept of soil composition and chemistry, drainage, planting times, etcetera. They will not have all the tools they used to have, but they have studied the science of it, and will have a lot more materials on hand (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, land) than most.

    There are a few gardener types who would match it, but a lot of gardeners go about it in a rather ad hoc, hit or miss, anecdotal fashion. So while they are better off than most (by a lot) I have never been as impressed with them as with the farmers.

    The unknown wildcard to me is the factory-style chicken, hog, et cetera producers. I have never met one personally, and I don't know what their background is.

    1. Russ - They know what today's agriculture takes certainly but most of them would have little understanding of what it would take without the machines and GMO seeds. Depending on the area most of them have no clue what growing actual food crops is all about only the standard two or three feed crops they usually grow. The needs of old varieties are completely lost to them as are the soil preps, management and fertilization methods.

      As I have mentioned before I have watched my big ag neighbor's garden completely collapse for three years running. Most of them would be lost without the roundup sprayer each year. My point is the agriculture we would have to return to is as different from today's agriculture as it is from investment banking. A bit of an exaggeration to be sure but not as far off as it first sounds.

      Point in fact a big producing farm would require more of a human resource manager than a planter at the top.

  2. The farmers around me know what the government tells them which is what the chemical companies and monsanto tells the politician which they bought. The old men know how it used to be but the young ones have never used a plow if they even have one, it is constant spraying and planting genetically altered store bought seed, they don't have any seed that they can save and store that is open pollinated. So as you say they are bad off when the government orders and money go away.
    I envision that when the politicians disappear as they tend to do in real trouble, the true leaders step up and it will be these people who start the new society.

    1. Sf - Good points and the ones I was trying to convey as well. The farmers around me are exactly as you describe. The older ones do remember but the younger ones haven't a clue. There is no more slaughter days, no variance in planting or diversity in what is kept.

      In general the modern farmers are not going to be any better off in a collapse situation except that they are already more isolated and have access to land. They also at least know how plants are grown. They do have some knowledge advantage but it isn't enough to put them significantly ahead of the game.

  3. The last two blog posts are IMO your best to date. Luckily, I had older family involved in my upbringing. The aunties taught me to garden and preserve food as they had learned, along with sewing and weaving. Grandpa taught me animal husbandry. Dad taught me to forage, hunt and how to butcher. Few people today have the opportunity to learn as I did.

    We were fortunate to find a place to start our tiny homestead in '93 with property adjacent to other like-minded individuals. Over the years we have learned what specialized assets the others have and how we can benefit the others. I think this is critical.

    In yesterday's comments someone brought up the danger of nuclear plants. I live so close to one located in the eastern area of our county that I see no reason to worry. If it ever blows, I'm toast so why worry?

    1. Anon - Those skills from your childhood will prove invaluable I assure you.

      The Nuke plant thing is a problem. I do not understand why so many people are willing to accept the it's safe cry when they leave so many dangerous spent rods in pools. Regardless of how many redundancy settings they put in place it still boils down to human labor and attention. Take those away and what happens?

  4. And if you have ever drank a few with some of the controllers you would be even more nervous. Amazing the number of times there has been an incident threatening an unscheduled shut down. Never even a hint in the media.

    1. What get's me is the otherwise aware people who will back nuclear 100% saying there is no way it can melt down. Yet these people talk about prepping for a collapse?

  5. I just found your blog through a link to the previous post. Interesting stuff.

    The story of Ishi would agree with your assessment of individual survival. He had all the skills necessary and still couldn't do it,
    "Ishi lived three years beyond the raid alone, the last of his tribe. Finally, starving and with nowhere to go, at the age of about 49 on August 29, 1911, Ishi walked out into the occidental world. He was captured attempting to steal meat near Oroville, California after forest fires in the area."

    Nanook also starved to death with his whole family.

    However, this Russian family survived 40 years in Siberia,

    Increasing the numbers seems to increase the odds, providing you have a group that cooperates.

    It would seem that a return to a late 19th century lifestyle would be most likely, including limited electricity availability. Any further devolution require a skillset that so few have that it isn't worth planning for. Not to mention the nuclear issues that were brought up in the previous comment thread.

    The thing I am most curious about is population shift. In an extended grid down scenario, people will move, however they can, towards where they think they will be safe. How many will head to urban areas hoping for FEMA handouts vs how many will spread out into rural areas hoping to hunt? How long will people stay in urban areas before they give up and swarm the rural areas? Will there be FEMA camps? Diseased, starving refugees from Manhattan roaming the country side desperate for food and shelter would like a lot like a zombie movie!

    1. Anon - Some damned good examples. The Russian family is particularly telling now that the last daughter is left alone and constantly trying to get more hermits from their particular religious group to come live with her. I think that may back up our theory some.

      As for population shift this scenario would not include FEMA. Government intervention in a slow collapse is a whole other topic that I hope we never see.

    2. I know if off topic for this post, but my thinking is that in this scenario, with no mass communication, people wouldn't know how wide spread the disaster is. Its reasonable to assume that some would go looking for handouts or family in the cities. Of course, they would meet refugees who might be coming out from the cities. It seems like the biggest variable in any scenario.

  6. I wonder. Lately I've run across some blogs that espouse the philosophy of the Vandals. Let others work and then take the fruits of their labors. Or, as I remember one person putting it, "I'll be a walker. I'll find p**sies and take their s**t. F**k them."

    I suppose a walker means a wanderer and the rest of it is pretty clear.

    1. Harry - I just have little regard or worry about looters and bandits. While they could be a problem early in a collapse scenario they have very poor life expectancy. Most raiders throughout history had a base and a supporting population to retreat to between raids. Local bandits typically did not last long at all.

      The default attitude for most humans is community and cooperation for good reason not unsupported banditry.

      Now if things got back up and each state thought of itself as a separate nation? I wouldn't want to live close to the borders then.

  7. I grew up on a sustenance farm in eastern Kentucky. We farmed with mules and horses. One thing even hard core "prepers" seem to miss is SEED. Most farmers/ gardeners buy fresh seed every 1-3 years. Seed catalogs have been around for 200+ years! Most seed today is hybrid to some extent, and many "Heirloom" plants are very prone to infections. "Seed trading" networks will be a "MUST" for long term survival. ALSO I started the radiation / Nuke plant thread and I can anser the Q. as to why people ignore the nuke plants. They have to in order to cope. You cannot "prep" for radiation, there is no way to filter it from the water or soil. It is cumulative in plants , and humans, in livestock , and trees for firewood. There is no way to "prep" to survive it. It is a truth so ugly and fearful that people put it "out of mind" and hope god or budda or the great googly - moogly will fix it. It is much easer and way more fun to build fantasy's about survival tribes fighting off the "golden hoard" , than it is to face hard truth. ---Ray

    1. Ray - i completely agree in regards to saving seed - it is definitely a lost skill that many people never even consider. being able to grow your own food and then save the seed for next year just might be the thing that can get a community through a year or two once food stocks run out. i say it over and over again - it's great to have food stores but in a survival/grid-down situation, you are going to have to learn to grow your own food and save seeds!

      i know nothing about nuclear plants and all of that stuff - thank goodness there are none near us. but your explanation as to why people ignore them makes complete sense.

  8. We have a nuk plant north of us. Do I worry no. But it is in the back of my mind.

  9. PP - another really great post! i think everyone has already covered what i would have added, so this is a really good discussion. keep the posts like this coming!

    your friend,


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