The Responsible Survivialist

Swords Above Our Head
January 21, 2010, 10:57 am
Filed under: Climate Change, Peak Oil, The Coming Transition

talk about the various limiting factors, including briefly peak oil and climate change

The nine planetary boundaries

“climate change, stratospheric ozone, land use change, freshwater use, biological diversity, ocean acidification, nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the biosphere and oceans, aerosol loading and chemical pollution.”

Nature magazine’s articles on this
“The sad thing is it isn’t just climate change. It’s excessive use of fertilizers, which run off into the river, and into the seas causing algae bloom and fish die offs. It’s the increase in ocean acidification which is killing corral reef which are a foundation of the sea ecosystem. It’s giant patches of trash floating in the oceans. It’s fresh water getting harder and harder to find. It’s burning hundred if not thousands of acres a day of forest to convert it into farm land for cash crops.”

Rising CO2 might not be good for us

“Even if you don’t think global warming is manmade, it’s hard to argue that CO2 levels have not risen. Here’s some scary unintended consequences of higher CO2 levels:

Rueters story

“Staples such as cassava on which millions of people depend become more toxic and produce much smaller yields in a world with higher carbon dioxide levels and more drought, Australian scientists say. Gleadow’s team tested cassava and sorghum under a series of climate change scenarios, with particular focus on different CO2 levels, to study the effect on plant nutritional quality and yield. Both species belong to a group of plants that produce chemicals called cyanogenic glycosides, which break down to release poisonous cyanide gas if the leaves are crushed or chewed.

While it was possible to use processing techniques to reduce the level of toxin in the cassava leaves, it was the 50 percent or greater drop in the number of tubers that caused most concern, Gleadow said. About 750 million people in Africa, Asia and Latin America rely on cassava as a staple. The starchy tubers are used to make flour and the plant is ideal in dry regions because of its hardy nature.

The good news was that the levels of toxin in the tuber didn’t increase with CO2, unlike the edible leaves. “The downside of that is that we found the plant didn’t grow nearly as well,” she said. “There’s been this common assumption that plants will always grow better in a high CO2 world. And we’ve now found that these plants grew much worse and had smaller tubers.”

Plant study

“Research published by three scientists at Southwestern University in Texas suggests that the price of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is sharply falling nutritional value in staple crops upon which 40 per cent of the world’s population relies for its dietary protein.

Daniel Taub, Brian Miller and Holly Allen analysed more than 220 experiments in which plants were exposed to levels of carbon dioxide that ranged from the present ambient level to about double the existing level. They discovered that as the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere goes up, the protein in wheat, barley, rice, potatoes and soy beans diminishes, in some cases quite sharply.

Barley lost 15.3 per cent of its protein, potatoes lost 14 per cent, rice and wheat lost almost 10 per cent. Soy beans fared better, but even they lost 1.4 per cent of protein. As these plants absorb more carbon dioxide into their tissues, the researchers found, they do so at the expense of other compounds, including those which are essential parts of proteins.

This may all seem rather esoteric, but a 10- to 15-per-cent shortfall in the protein available to 40 per cent of the world’s population should make everyone sit up and take notice because the effects would be felt pretty quickly by the other 60 per cent, too.

Cereal grains, particularly barley, are key components in feed for the animals — chickens, pigs, cattle — that provide much of the protein in the developed world. A 15-per-cent reduction in the nutritional value of animal feed could only mean less efficiency for farmers and rising costs for consumers of meat, eggs and dairy products as well as for consumers of the two cereal grains — wheat and rice — that dominate world supply.

Well the solution’s easy, some might counter. Just use the additional land that comes available as temperate zones move north to increase production and that will offset any falling nutritional values.

But the climate change jigsaw is complicated and what seems logical doesn’t necessarily follow. For example, the quality of soils in northern latitudes is much poorer than the deep, rich soils that now comprise the North American and European breadbaskets. In Canada, 95 per cent of the land mass will never be suitable for field crops. It doesn’t matter what the climate is like, you can’t grow wheat on glaciated rock or mountains.”


Please Fasten Your Seatbelts
January 14, 2010, 11:55 pm
Filed under: Climate Change, Peak Oil, The Coming Transition

the coming decent


There is a storm coming.

As much as you or I would like our carefree world of IPods and Play Stations to continue, there are real and pressing problems that will soon make that happy reality the stuff of fond remembrances and envious longings. Reality is preparing to bitch slap the human race with a vengeance.

You have a simple choice ahead of yourself. Get slapped or not.

I’m here to teach you the “Not”.

What is in a Label?
January 7, 2010, 11:49 am
Filed under: Being Responsible

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Lao Tzu, Founder of Taoism.

When I was very young, my uncle Kenneth taught me the “proper” way to fish. Not that glorified city boy way, tossing $5 lures off the back of a four thousand dollar bass boat. No his way was the country boy way.

Old school country too. He was a farm boy who hunted and fished all his life, living in a small town in north eastern Oklahoma. While his younger brother, my father had chosen a path that took him to the big city of Saint Louis the year I was born, and a manufacturing job with McDonnell Aircraft (later McDonnell Douglas, to be bought by Boeing), my uncle stayed a small time country boy his entire life.

In the summers I would come to visit, we’d drive down to the river and set up early morning camp. First thing, pull the John Boat out of the back of the pickup truck and slide it into the water (a John boat is a aluminum flat hulled boat about 12 feet in length). A cheap 5 hp motor would get you up stream. Not fast but it got the job done.

Next thing, time to set your limb lines.

See, limb lines are the best of simplicity. Pick a tree limb that extends out over the river. Attach enough fishing line to drop a hook a few feet below the surface. Bait it. Leave it.

Once you have done 20-30 then back to camp for breakfast.

Give it an hour or so, then go back to check your limb lines. You know when there’s a fish caught because that limb is now down in the water. In that case, haul that fish out, re bait your line and come back an hour later.

It was not unusual for my uncle Kenneth to pull a couple of hundred pounds or more of good eating channel cat fish out on a lazy Saturday morning.

And that is the difference between just playing at survival, and living it. Kenneth wasn’t there for the sport, he was there to feed his family.

One is “Responsible Survivalism“, the other…not.


This World we have made these past few decades is a once a place of wondrous possibilities and endless dreams, on the other, a fragile house of cards waiting for that one small sharp breath to bring it all down. Which one it will be for you, depends in no small part to the attitude you bring to the problem.


Taking A First Small Step
January 4, 2010, 10:39 am
Filed under: Gear

Like most kids in the 60s, I grew up on a steady diet of Saturday morning cartoons. Usually sitting on the living room floor in my pajamas, eating a bowl of cereal. “Bugs Bunny”, “Daffy Duck”, “The Roadrunner”. All the Greats.

One cartoon in particular has always stayed with me. It was a episode of “Tom and Jerry”.

(For those of you unfamiliar with the cartoon, Tom was a cat and Jerry a mouse. Tom was always trying to catch Jerry, but since Jerry was the smarter of the two, Tom never had much luck.)

In this one, Tom’s owner is going on a trip. She’s left him though shelves and shelves of canned cat food. Tom’s dilemma soon appears, for Jerry has stolen the only can opener in the house. Much hilarious action ensues but in the end Tom is forced to submit to Jerry’s demands.

What my young mind found funny has over the years taught a much older mind one simple fact. You can starve to death in a room full of food, IF you can’t get to it.

Which brings us to the subject of this post…The P38 Can Opener.

Originally developed by the military to open ration cans in World War 2, the P-38 and its larger cousin, the P-51, is a perfect example of simplicity meets need. I was introduced to it when I joined the US Army right after high school. See we still got feed C-Rations back then. Every case of rations was always packed with a handful of these tiny tools. Some soldiers would attach a P38 onto their dog tags (that’s what the small hole in the corner is for). I preferred to keep one on my key chain.

And I still do today.

While it is just a little thing, to be able to open a can anytime you need, it speaks to what is the core philosophy of “Responsible Survivalism“, which we discuss in depth in our next post.

For now, swing by that Army Surplus store down the street, or the Sporting Goods store at the Mall and pick up several of these for yourself. They shouldn’t cost you more than a dollar a piece. Put one on your own keychain.

You can click HERE to watch a video of how to use it to open a can.

“Hope for the Future” – Adam’s Intro
January 1, 2010, 12:56 am
Filed under: A Tale Of The Future | Tags:

Stories should start with Hope, especially stories of the Future, for we should always look to the Future with that best of emotions. Too often these days, the narrative of what may come is painted black, bleak and a place you would not want to go. Yet it is a place that we are destined to inhabit no matter how much we might dread it, or even how hard we fight against it.

It’s coming, like it or not.

While it is healthy to fear the unknown, you should not let that fear rule you. Take the hand of Hope and face the Future gladly.


November 25th, 2067

“Its not too late to change your mind,” I said, walking out onto the rapidly darkening patio. “There’s a couple of horses tied up in the back and the chestnut mare is especially good at long distance travel.”

The young man standing on the patio, laughed.

“I might but then the old man who owns her is very persistent,” Jean Paul smiled at me. “He would probably hunt me down even if I rode all the way back to Quebec.”

It was my turn to laugh.

“I would too, I like that horse.”

The evening held a hint of coming Winter cold. Enough that the light jacket I wore was a welcome addition. First frost wouldn’t be long off. Usually the early part of December saw colder weather and sometimes even snow, though that was happening less and less, even with the change in the Gulf Stream.

Europe I heard still saw real Winter, the kind I remembered from my childhood. It had been rough for them back at the end of the Before. So much had changed since I was born at the start of the new century in 2000. My parents never would have dreamed how much as they sat there in the hospital holding me.

So much change.

So much grief.

I took a drink from mug I held, the beer tart and tasty. Some of Sandy Winkler’s homebrew. Change not all for the bad, I had to admit to myself thinking of the young man before me.

The Sun had set and the Horizon held its final traces of red and yellow, enough to still see by for the late comers that were still arriving. And too, the doorways and windows of the Saint Ann Community Co-Op provided a beacon, marking their destination after a hard day’s work. The soft glow of the LED lighting inside calling them to enter and be welcomed. Harvest was finally done, the last few fields picked clean today and the Thanksgiving’s Day Feast would be made that much merry by the bountiful nature of this year’s harvest.

We had used the lights sparingly this week and I knew that the batteries were fully charged off the roof mounted solar cells. That should give us three to four hours of light. Not what we had gotten twenty years ago when we first installed them, but plenty for tonight.

I was glad yet again, that the City had opted for the more expensive NorAm equipment when they had bought the system, rather than the cheaper Asian Block stuff. Most people hadn’t and now that replacements were so expensive and hard to get, were forced to do without.

Like so many things from Before.

The Beckwith’s were just now walking up, their pace slow what with their oldest child, Harry, on crutches. He’d broken his leg when the floor in the abandoned house he had been playing in, had given way. Harry had been lucky that the basement had several feet of water in it to cushion his fall. And luckier, that his younger brother had been there to help him out.

That was a sore spot among the community elders. Not Harry, but what to do about all the empty homes in the area. Many had already fallen in on themselves, but a sizeable portion still stood, in various states of decay. Dangerous for the unwary or the children, who never listened when they were warned.

And the standing water that collected in them, ready breeding ground for mosquitoes during the hot days of Summer. Seems like someone was always coming down with the Fever during those few months. If it didn’t kill you, it still put you on your back for weeks.

That was a good thing about being a member of the Community Co-Op. You had people to look out for you. To see your garden got planted, or your harvest got collected. They had learned the advantage of working together the hard way.

I took another drink, remembering the Dark Times past.

Remembering when the trucks stopped coming because fuel was so expensive, then grocery shelves slowly becoming empty until there just wasn’t anything there to feed the starving Masses. The riots. The looting. And finally the wave of hungry city dwellers fleeing to the country side, to disappear and never be heard of again.

I remembered what it was like to have stayed. One among just a few.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to be done about the problem of the empty homes. For every place occupied, five more stood vacant. There weren’t that many people in their city with free time that they could organize the effort needed to take all of the derelict buildings down. And what little power equipment still remained in St. Louis was just too expensive to rent. It got used Downtown, salvaging the remains of another century.

So we tried to make the best of it. A little here, a little there.That’s what you did these days. Make the best of what you had.

“So, Jean Paul,” I said. “A little birdie told me you’d gotten a ring from the Gallagher’s.”

Tim and Freda Gallagher owned a small pawn shop up on the Rock Road. They did a brisk and profitable trade in ‘Before’ goods. Though most of their jewelry was second class. Not like the Jacob’s place, over in Brecken Ridge Hills, the next city East along the Rock Road. That was a real jewelry store. Freda had let me know Jean Paul had been shopping for a ring.

Even in the darkening dusk, I could see him blush. His hand went slowly to the pocket of his jacket.

“Let me see,” I said, setting my mug down.

To call the diamond tiny would insult the word, though the thin band was clearly gold. Jean Paul tried not to fidget as I looked the ring over. Truth be told, it was a good ring considering. I bet he’s saved up for most of the past year. No small feat considering how hard he’d worked.

Working an abandoned property and earning the right to call it your own was a difficult prospect. In Jean Paul’s case doubly difficult since he was from out of town. Though as a citizen of the North American Union, of the US, Canada and Mexico, meant he was free to settle anywhere he wanted, being from somewhere else had it’s load of problems.

Lucky for Jean Paul, his father was one of the new businessmen, who had learned to turn scarcity to profit. Their family owned an airship line flying zeppelins up and down the Mississippi from Quebec to New Orleans. Most people took the train but if you had the money or lacked the time, then air travel was an option. One that had repaid their effort handsomely and was the reason Jean Paul was in Saint Louis.

Well, that and a bullet.

His family’s money helped Jean Paul getting settled in Saint Ann, though I’ll be the first to admit, Jean Paul had worked very hard to get his place here. He’d not let his father simply buy his way in. In fact at first he’d been quite opposed to his youngest son’s change of career from businessman to farmer. It had taken a trip down here to talk with Jean Paul to convince him.

Though Jean Paul’s plans include much more than just suburban farming.

State law was clear and simple. You could live in any abandoned property you wanted to, that is as long as the neighbors didn’t run you off but to legally own it required a three year commitment. The ‘Homestead Act’ was passed to do something about all the empty houses with no owner nor bank. That law had followed the second big financial collapse, when banks went under like dominoes and global money froze.

I’d been in college then, and I remember the way everyone hadn’t believe it was happening again. Logical, considering nothing had been done after the first time the bankers had screwed up. Money talked then. They had stopped any meaningful regulations and so had gone back to their risky ways. The Second Great Depression had been a long decade of double digit unemployment, foreclosures and displacement, that now years later marked in my mind, the End of the Before.

The decade after that had seen some recovery, but hardship was always in the back of your mind. A worry of what might happen. Fortunes still were made, and lost. Today though, your wealth was more often counted by the land you tilled, the skills you knew and the friends you had.

Still, a young woman is no less impressed now by a pretty thing than she was back then. And a engagement ring should be something impressive. That Jean Paul had gone to the trouble of getting it, when so many others didn’t, or couldn’t, spoke well of his future.

And after all, the young woman in question WAS my daughter.

That had been a surprise, the two of them, when it first started down its present path. Even I had been caught flat footed, but then children do that, don’t they? Though looking back, I’d be the first to admit, all the conditions were there for what came to be.