Wednesday, September 5, 2012

you can't eat skills

YOU CAN’T EAT SKILLS
There are few skills that are going to keep you alive post-apocalypse.  Not because they aren’t valuable in and of themselves but because they don’t feed you.  Let’s try to follow a line of reasoning to its conclusion before the denial sets in.  Every civilization in the history of the agricultural age has ended when the environment was degraded to the point that an increasing number of people couldn’t get enough food grown to survive.  It really isn’t too much more complicated than that.  I’ll get to the details in a moment, but that’s the summary of it.  Which is why the die-off took far more people than what the land would have formally supported.  The land had been overworked in an attempt to support more people.  The die-off was the four horsemen getting the population level back down to where the NEW, decreased carrying capacity of the land could support them.  Plus a bit extra of course because that is just the nature of microbes and malnutrition and murder for resources.  During the die-off, there was absolutely positively zero surplus to support ANY skill set other than food producer or food mis-appropriator.  If you couldn’t grow food or steal food, you died.  It didn’t matter if you were the worlds best cathedral builder or whatever.  It didn’t even matter if you could build an infrastructure of future use such as aqueduct for irrigation or theoretically advanced weaponry that  couldn’t be presently utilized.  If your skill didn’t keep you alive that very day, it was useless.
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Apocalypse literature is full of groups mystically surviving despite an inadequate resource base.  It is full of groups without an immediate source of food searching for medical doctors and electrical engineers and whoever to add to their group.  Again, this was all the fault of “Lucifer’s Hammer” which set the template for a lot of it.  Now, LH had last minute stockpiling account for most of their surplus and the ability for the group to offer a  position for desired skills.  Not immediate skills but future skills such as getting the electricity working again.  Of course, LH was also the inspiration for Gott Damn Yuppie Scum Survivalism because as you recall the group was led by a wealthy Senator who directed the last minute stockpiling and he could buy a whole crapload of supplies.  In the eyes of the Yuppie Scum, only the wealthy are worthy and intelligent enough to survive.  The unwashed proletariat masses need not apply.  So, if you are wealthy you can lay in enough surplus to gather a group of surplus eaters.  The rest of us, however, the 99%, will have no surplus.  Hence, there will be no surplus skills allowed.  Take the example of a medical doctor.  Invaluable for healing wounded soldiers, right?  Well, no.  Why do you think there were no medical corps until the modern era?  Did the lives of soldiers suddenly become more valuable?  Or, far more likely, did carbon fuels allow the needed surplus to then afford the luxury of saving wounded soldiers?
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If you can replace soldiers as needed from the population only to eager to leave the sunup to sunset toil of farming for inadequate calories to embrace a life of rapine and pillage, why do you need doctors?  The doctors were a luxury for rich people.  Not for peasant soldiers.  Sure, you could die in battle, but a farmer could die after each harvest if it was inadequate.  Apply this logic across the board  for almost any skill.  An herbalist?  Probably a farmers wife’s spare time skill.  Not one that a group would surrender part of their dwindling calories for.  A blacksmith?  Not unless it was needed for war material.  A gun maker and chemist, okay.  Perhaps.  But remember, if you are a flintlock gun maker and can brew up blackpowder, that doesn’t qualify as a skill needed NOW.  That doesn’t feed you until all the modern ammunition is gone and there is no choice but to use primitive arms.  So I wouldn’t count on it as a meal ticket.  I hope I’m making myself plain here.  NO skill will be paid for in advance.  If it doesn’t have immediate survival value, no matter how universally agreed as to its future value, it doesn’t warrant resources ( you do understand of course that the graft to support leadership never gets cut ). 
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If you have a valuable skill for future use, AND you can keep yourself alive until it is needed, fine.  But don’t think anyone will feed you until then.  Say that a village of 100 people is trying to survive.  There is at most thirty days of stored food plus the body fat content is enough to keep everyone barely alive another thirty days.  But it is winter and no food can be grown ( remember, the quality of sunlight in winter only allows you to increase the length of fall and spring.  In the middle of winter greenhouses still won’t feed you ).   By the time winter ends, 90% are dead and those alive most likely ate the dead.  After being strong enough to kill them.  It doesn’t matter how skilled the dead were.  There was no food to keep them alive.  This is now Dark Ages start.  The population crash is so pronounced, and the soil so degraded from overproduction, that all skills that advanced that civilization die-off.  Even if the knowledge survives, it is still many generations before the land can support those surplus skills.  And by that time the infrastructure to advance those skills has withered.  It takes a very long time to advance back to the starting point.  This is the price you pay in the race to overpopulate to advance militarily ( because in the end you need more bodies to steal the last of the resources ).  It is indeed a race to the bottom, but being dead on the bottom is a lot worse than being the survivors on top of those bodies.
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11 comments:

  1. Mike Oehler lives in Idaho near the Canadian border. His earth-sheltered greenhouse doubled the growing season. If you eat food, and many people do, this info can help you survive.

    http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/2004-02-01/Earth-Sheltered-Greenhouse.aspx

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    1. As always Vlad, your comments are very much appreciated.

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  2. Max: I've got skills, I could trade them.
    The Collector: Sorry, the brothel's full.

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  3. The "have a useful skill" stuff is often based on the notion that a crash will make life like it was in the 19th century, not like it was when the Myan Empire crashed. It is a whole different mindset.

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  4. Nightshift here.....good post. Very true about food being number 1. You have to have alot put up with a plan for production. I've planted fruit trees and bushes. Got chickens, and working on rabbits and goats. Got @ 18 months assorted storage. Need to get a garden spot built up. Had a garden for 2 years before the move to the country. Have defenses.

    Am I set? Heck no. Thats why I keep on trying to improve. Working my ass off to make money for preps and to protect myself from the bankers and the tax man as long as possible.

    Your right oh fair haired one, people need to get their basics. I fear it is dangerously close to to late. We already have a battle plan of what we will let go if things collapse. Things like second vehicle. We both work now. We live pretty conservative but there is still some cuts we will make.

    Right now I want to keep the wife happy but she knows its coming.....half the battle. I am working on cutting back. Wifey needs a bit more time. She is stocking food and other stuff but still has her frills side. We are getting there. If nothing else I hope everyone here has a plan.

    I think it will get interesting right before, during or after the election. The signs are all around.

    Sorry for rambling Jimbo

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    1. Nothing wrong with rambling. I love going on and on with The Back Story. It helps things make more sense, plus numbs the reader so they are hopefully more in awe when you finaly get to the point.

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  5. I'm thinking of buying a solar cooker.
    Anyone with experience using one?
    Any recommendations?

    Here's the current likely prospect (it's small enough to be somewhat portable)
    www.cleardomesolar.com/parabolic.html

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    1. There are lots of plans to make one online. You might try checking some of them out before you decide to purchase one.
      They do look like they're pretty simple to make?

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  6. The key word is FOOD. Regardless of skills had or learned, if you aren't eating, you will become a slave to those who can supply it to you. They need food themselves, so don't expect it to go inexpensively. Cities will become ghost towns very quickly, if they aren't burned down by the desperate or seriously pissed off.

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  7. Videos of Mike Oehler's home the subject of the $50 and up underground house book, and earth-sheltered greenhouse.
    http://tinyurl.com/d5fk9m5


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  8. You're absolutely right about keeping yourself alive. There is one subtle point you missed, though. No one is going to kill you and take your stockpile of skills. They might point a gun at your head and make you a slave, but if they need a skill you have, they're going to have to keep you alive at least long enough for you to teach it to someone.

    In the short term, you're absolutely correct, survival is all that matters. But in the very, very long term, practical knowledge is all that matters. It may take a long time to get back, but it will take far longer starting from scratch. In this race to the bottom, the slowest survivor wins. Over many generations, having a technological edge will very likely yield far greater survival and eventual dominance.

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