Everything You Need to Know, In Order

Sharon July 22nd, 2008

Like my title?  Never let it be said I’m not ambitious.

 A student in my class asked me for a list of skills we need to get ready for peak oil, prioritized. I admit, it took me about a day after she asked to stop thinking “Holy Crap, how do I figure that all out!”  But it is an interesting question.  And while it isn’t all just about food preservation, I thought I’d take a shot at it. I will, of course, be relying on my fearless readership to point out gaps in my thinking.

 Now I’m not going to get everything, but it did occur to me that we could break it down a bit, and then subcategorize.  So what the heck, here goes.  In order of priority – the main categories are numbered, and the skills in each category are lettered.  I’m going to do this in several posts, so that I don’t go mad.  But here’s the beginnings of my list. 

 1. How not to panic. 

- This is probably the most important skill set – when stuff gets hard, you need to focus and do what needs doing.  In order to do this, you need:

a. To feel like you are able to handle things, because you have mental contigency plans and you have built trust in your own competence.  The best way to get this skill is to plan, to talk and think out scenarios so you would know what you would do, and to practice doing things until you are reasonably confident that not only can you do familiar things, but you can learn new ones as you go.

b. To have the skills to control your own reactions – these may be strong.  You need to be able to put your anger, or grief or fear to the side long enough to make everyone safe and to meet immediate needs.  Meditation, biofeedback or simple compartmentalizing may help with this.  It is also extremely useful to develop the ability to accept that sometimes you will make mistakes and fail at things, and that that isn’t the end of the world.

 c.  To help other people remain calm, respond appropriately, and find a role for themselves. Some kind of leadership training, Community Reponse training or just practice organizing people. Some folks are not good at this – if you can’t be a leader, that’s ok - maybe your job is to find someone who is totally losing it and help them stabilize.  Certainly, knowing how to help your immediate family and neighbors, thinking about how they may respond and how to help them.  For children, it might be helpful to give them some training, or plan out specific jobs for them to do to help them feel powerful and useful.

2. How to learn things – and how to teach them

You are never going to learn every useful skill.  It won’t happen.  It is very helpful, though if you figure out how you and members of your family learn, and think about how you might make it easy for you and your family to learn more things as you need to – if you are a book person, get books.  If you need diagrams, get diagrams.  If you learn best from people, find out who knows what in your area.  But the basic skills of learning things are all pretty much the same – most of us can learn to do almost anything.  So learning how to learn – how to research an issue, how to pick up a physical skill, how to help another person do that, how to analyze a problem and find a solution, how to avoid major errors of logic, and what the necessary basic tools are will really help you expand your skill set.

3. How to get along with everyone else.

I sometimes get emails from people telling me that everyone around them is an asshole, and that they can’t possibly get along with their neighbors. Now once in a while that is actually true – there are horrible places and circumstances in the world.  But if someone tells me that there’s no one in their whole town who they can be friends with, that everyone is ignorant or mean or self-centered – the most likely scenario is that the person talking isn’t very good at getting along with others.  Now I don’t mean that people who are content without a large community are necessarily bad at this – some people are just introverts.  And some people who are bad at getting along in the course of things either can do better in a crisis, can find one role they can fit into, or can be protected by their families, who can get along with them.  But if you aren’t great at getting along, learning to be tolerant, learning to listen, learning to like other people even when they seem weird, and perhaps most importantly, learning to judge them gently (and I am not the natural master of any of these skills either) is really, really important.  Do it now.  This is especially important if you have trouble getting along with your relatives, and might end up with them.

4. How to deal with an immediate medical crisis in an emergency.

a. Basic hygeine, safety, self care and nutrition.  How to make a balanced meal, and to provide a balanced diet, how to make a rehydration syrup, how to wash hands, how to sterilize things, how to cook safely, how to keep water from being contaminated, how to deal with contaminated water, how nutritional needs vary by age, sex and medical condition. How to care for teeth, skin, etc.. without commercial preparations.  How to prevent pregnancy and disease.  How to use tools, including any weapons safely and keep children and others safe in their presence. Sounds obvious, will kill people if you don’t know it.

b. Basic first aid and triage of a situation – everyone needs to know these things – period, no discussion.  Maybe you’ll never use it, but you should be able to stop bleeding, do CPR, help a choking victim, evaluate whether someone can be moved, help clear an airway, and decide whether medical treatment is necessary.  This comes up all the time regardless of whether there’s a crisis on.

c. More advanced medical care, when to use it, and when not to.  This is particularly likely to come up in a localized disaster, an epidemic, or a transport crisis.  If you can’t get someone to the hospital, if the emergency rooms are overflowing with people, if the hospitals are closed or evacuated, or if there’s no way to get someone somewhere because of a gas shortage, snowstorm, ice storm, hurricane, earthquake…  You need to be able to meet emergency medical needs – to observe a concussion victim, make a temporary splint for a broken bone, birth a baby, ease the pain of a dying person, etc…  At least one person and preferrably everyone old enough should get some or all these skills per household.

5. How to feed yourself.

1. How to cook simple foods, and make them tasty and appetizing. How to adapt your cooking to changing availability of ingredients. How to deal with special diets that you might likely encounter. 

2. How to grow and forage simple, easily accessible foods.  These vary a lot by climate and culture, but generally the indigenous foods of your region will give you a good idea of what grows well.  Includes how to save seeds of these plants, what kind of soil conditions they need, teh basics of soil science, and how to harvest and preserve them, as well as how to recognize safe wild foods and how to use them.  I will discuss foraging and gardening later in this, but even if you imagine you won’t have to garden, or you have very little land, learn these very basic skills.

3. How to store your food so that you will have minimal losses from predators, mold, bacteria, theft, etc…  Includes security, hygeine, good storage practices, rotating, maintaining, checking, managing stores. 

4. How to secure your food from predators, and if you are interested, how to be a predator – how to hunt, trap, fish and butcher wild and tame livestock.  Even vegetarians may want this skill set to feed their pets, if the cost of food or its availability becomes prohibitive. Includes understanding the rules of hunting, gun, bow, dog and trap safety and humane practices, when not to take animals, and the best strategies for predator removal.

Ok, I’m about to have mega-thunderstorms, so I’m on my way offline.  More on this – next – storing and cleaning water, growing food, preserving food, growing medicinals, and much more.

48 Responses to “Everything You Need to Know, In Order”

  1. Adrienne says:

    I’m already working on learning some of those things, but I have SO much left to learn! If you have any book recommendations, specifically on first aid/health & hygiene and on foraging/growing food for beginners, I would be grateful.

  2. Oh cool, I have 1, 2 and 3 down, and of #5 I have items 1 and 3 for sure.

    I agree with your order, too. Getting along with the neighbors is a crucial skill in any crisis. And not panicking – absolutely the first priority.

  3. MEA says:

    I thought it was going to be “in order to survive” or some such. I, too, like the prioritizing.

    As for getting on with people, I have friends who moved in a neighborhood that quickly went down hill. Let’s just say that they are not the sort of people who are not happy seeing the 2 year old next door being given sips of beer on the front porch, by the boyfriend-de-jour, and don’t really feel they can accept the shouted invitation to come on over with their kids and hang out when it’s clean from the sounds blasting through the open door that the porn channel is on.

    However, they kept trying, going door to door, as it were, striking up conservations with everyone they met on the street. In the end, it paid off. They still live in a crappy neighborhood, but they have forged connections. Right now, they are trading rides to the grocery store for a couple who both lost driving privilages due to DWI in reurn for hair cuts for the male members. Now the hair cutter only knows 2 cuts he learned in the armed services — enlisted men and officers, so the results are more functional than fashionable, but my friends feel that making connections out weigh their appearances at this point.

    I’ve often wondered if people who can’t get on with anyone becuase everyone around them is mean aren’t the ones with the problems.

  4. Meadowlark says:

    Uh oh. Me and number 3. Kind of a problem there. :(

    I tend to be disgusted with ineffectual acts and will grudgingly step in to lead, simply to keep bad things from happening.

    As in: people are acting all panicked and stupid and I’ll finally step up and tell them to cut their crap, they’re acting like idiots, do This, this, and That and we’ll be fine. It works out like I thought, but unfortunately I’ve now made people dislike me.

    So, would you rather be in a situation with someone who can help you, or someone who is eager to please and easy to get along with? (can’t say both, because I can’t BE both)

  5. MEA says:

    Number one, but only if you can really help.

    I can’t tell you the the number of times when dd2 is seizing in public people have yelled at me to put something in her mouth so she won’t bite her tongue. When did they last read a first aid manual? What I really need is someone to 1) keep an eye on dd2, and 2) be ready to call 911 for me if it lasts more than 5 mins — and you can be sure I started timing before I went for the valium.

    Honestly, I don’t think we have to have a warm cuddley leaders, as long as we have one who knows what is and isn’t outside of her area of comptence, can accept advice of other based on their area of comptence, and can admit a mistake.

    Want to sign up? I realize it’s asking a lot of a person, but I’d follow you if you could deliver.

  6. Sharon says:

    Hi Meadowlark – Well, how about we say that often, skill set 1 and skill set 3 are not necessarily in operation simultaneously. That is, I think it is completely possible to be a hardass when things are really falling apart, if you also can get along with people most of the time. I think most people will forgive this, and it will not be permanently alienating, if they feel you are just doing what you have to in a difficult scenario. But if you show other people you think they are incompetent and stupid all the time, that not only makes people less likely to listen to you, but they are more likely to see you as a bully and less as a leader. So I think both skills are needed, but not necessarily simultaneously. I don’t think that you have to be eager to please (not a phrase I would use on myself, and I generally am pretty passable at getting along with people) so much as respectful, kind and fair minded. Honestly, even just “try and publically give people the benefit of the doubt and general neighborliness, even when you are internally thinking “what a jackass” makes a big difference.”

    Sharon

  7. BoysMom says:

    I would be interested in your (or more likely your husband’s, as I haven’t dealt with such equations myself since Astrophysics) thoughts on this: http://www.aps.org/units/fps/newsletters/200807/monckton.cfm

  8. There’s a difference between getting along with others and people-pleasing.

    I’m direct, brassy, opinionated, abrupt, thoughtless and bossy. Furthermore I have the sort of personality that takes over a room even when I’ve got my mouth firmly shut. Leo, six feet tall, descended from preachers, teachers and loudmouths on both sides of the family. I get noticed even when I’m trying to hide.

    However I am aware of how I come across and have learned to moderate when needed. This helps me get along with others despite my non-people-pleasing behavior.

    While I am compulsively critical and judgmental, I have learned that I’m actually happier when I practice live and let live. So I don’t worry so much about what the neighbors are doing, and they don’t worry about me. I have daily interactions that are simply: how are you? I’m fine. I have no idea about the personal lives of these folks I’m greeting. They might be drug dealers or gang bangers, but hey, we’re passing each other on the avenue, and we’ve just had a human interaction.

    If you find yourself living among drug addicts, dealers and gangsters then you’d better figure out how to get along with them, rather than holding yourself apart and thinking how your choices are better than theirs. Maybe so, but you still live next door to those folks. What are you going to do about it? Change them? Nearly impossible. Make them move? Hassle, and good luck. Move yourself? Could be indicated, but if you insist that’s not in the cards, then… learn to get along!

    The example of my various Lebanese relatives comes to mind. (always comes to mind!) They live in our ancestral village next to one of the scariest Palestinian refugee camps around. In fact we all own bits of property inside that camp which we have not been able to access in 60 years. (Long story). Terrible things have happened in that camp, and terrible people have come out of that camp to do bad stuff to us, including sack my village and kill my grandmother 23 years ago. Well, we’re back in our village and the Palestinians haven’t left. They’re still stuck and miserable. What are you going to do? Kill them all? That’s ethnic cleansing, a war crime, and immoral to boot. Make them move? to where? Israel doesn’t want them back. Learn to get along? Well, that’s one option.

    One of my uncles was attacked by several Palestinian youths back in 1981 – they wanted to set up a rocket launcher in his orchard, he objected, they threw a chair at his wife and shot up the front of the house. Nobody hurt. In 2004 this uncle was down at the intersection at the entrance of the camp, getting his hair cut at the barber shop. A middle aged Palestinian guy walks in, greets him by name, says “don’t you remember me?” and starts shaking his hand. Reminded my uncle that he, the guy, had been one of those kids with the rocket launcher. Shook my uncle’s hand some more, said he was glad to see him. My uncle reported later “at that moment I really felt like a Christian.” Meaning that he understood what it means to forgive a trespass.

    And I haven’t even touched on Hizbullah. The US State Dept says don’t go to my village, because there’s Hizbullah in the area. However we have found that if you don’t mess with Hizbullah, they don’t mess with you. Walking through one of their neighborhoods in hot pants and a halter top might get you a stern invitation to cover up or leave, but otherwise, live and let live. They don’t come to our neighborhood telling us what to do or parading around in robes, scowling at our (skimpily clad) women. Do people in our village like Hizbullah and want them to have the power they’ve got? Not too likely (understatement) but … you deal with the situation as it is on the ground, not as you want it to be.

    Oh yes, and ps, when I say get along, I don’t mean roll over. Note that my uncle, unarmed, told a bunch of kids with machine guns and rocket launchers to stay out of his orchard. He does keep weapons in the house but in this situation he would have been outgunned. It’s pure good luck that it turned out the way it did… or it’s an ineffable personality thing, where my uncle’s alpha dog attitude got the kids to back off after acting out a bit of bravado. When our village was sacked, people fought at first to defend the position, sending the women and children away; then they evacuated. There were negotiations earlier that broke down. You do what you can to make peace, you assess your chances & capacities, and then you make your choice. In our case, surviving was more important than “defending our property to the death.” And we ended up returning to our property 6 years later so it worked out for us. We were lucky – didn’t work out like that for lots of Lebanese (and Palestinians)

    Basically, if you want to live in a mixed neighborhood full of “scary” people, you had better learn to get along with them on their terms. Most human beings have some sort of social code for public, group interactions. Figure out what the code is for your area and adapt to it. If you think that’s too “people-pleasing” or nicey-nice, then you’d be advised to hire your own militia and harden your perimeters; or move to an area where you feel more comfortable.

    Re: leadership and “being nice”. In a crisis I do switch into “shout orders” mode; however I have also learned to be a bit more “Zen” about it. I breathe, wait, assess the situation (if there’s time for that, and there usually is, unless it’s grab-the-kid-out-of-the-path-of-truck). You can really make an ***hole out of yourself if you jump to conclusions and storm into a crisis giving orders that have nothing to do with what’s really happening or what’s needed. Pisses people off and makes you nuts (why don’t they listen to me? Oh, oops, maybe I misjudged what was going on).

    My own desire to be “right” and tell others what to do can be a great hindrance in being of service. On the one hand it’s a leadership skill, on the other it’s a nuisance. I try to reign in my self-righteousness (not easy) and advice-giving (hah!). I don’t really care if everybody likes me … I care about helping secure life and liberty. If I am actually of service, then good. If not, then I want to shut up and get out of the way.

  9. [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Everything You Need to Know, In Order A student in my class asked me for a list of skills we need to get ready for peak oil, prioritized. I admit, it took me about a day after she asked to stop thinking “Holy Crap, how do I figure that all out!” But it is an interesting question. And while it isn’t all just about food preservation, I thought I’d take a shot at it. I will, of course, be relying on my fearless readership to point out gaps in my thinking. Off-Grid – life unplugged: Calculating Possible Energy From A Stream July 22nd, 2008 [...]

  10. Meadowlark says:

    Wow Leila!

    I’m impressed! You’ve “been there and done that” far more than most. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Sometimes I think my “jump in and take over is less a response to “my way is the only right way” and more a response to “somebody needs to do SOMETHING”. Slow decisions are a true bane for me. I normally have 2 or 3 “what-ifs” already figured out so when a situation happens I like action to be rather immediate and actually start to panic if those I perceive of being in a leadership position do not firmly establish their role. If that made sense.

    Thanks again for sharing.

  11. freelearner says:

    Regarding #4, people may find it empowering and reassuring to research alternative health practices. Many herbal remedies have scientific data to back them up– it’s not just folklore. Some prescription drugs can be replaced with cheaper and potentially more readily available nutritional supplements. Such supplements are also extremely unlikely to cause side effects requiring medical attention, whereas prescription drugs cause well over 100,000 deaths per year in the US, so if medical care is unavailable this may be a consideration. Some prescription drugs (e.g. Lipitor, Pravachol, Fosamax, Celebrex, others) do not work as advertised and are often unnecessary or even harmful; knowing this may help others not to panic if they cannot get certain prescriptions filled.

    Similarly, reading arguments for natural birth will make people less frightened if they or a loved one cannot give birth in a hospital. And reading about what death is like in hospitals, or about hospital-caused deaths from drug reactions or staph infections or nursing shortages, may be psychologically helpful when dealing with a seriously ill person at home. Invasive or high-tech care does not always mean better care. Simply keeping people hydrated and keeping their spirits up can help them survive things like flu or pneumonia. (If you have n-acetyl cysteine and fish oil around, all the better.)

    One of my contributions to friends and family will be large quantities of valerian root extract and melatonin, to keep people calm and allow them to sleep. You can’t stockpile prescription drugs, but you *can* stockpile many dietary supplements (obviously, shelf life varies).

  12. dewey says:

    Great advice from several of you here! I don’t remember if it’s been mentioned here before that there’s a phenomenon called “bystander syndrome,” which appears to be a relatively hardwired part of human nature. When we see a crisis happening to someone else (especially to strangers), the more people who are standing around watching, the less likely anyone is to do anything. When there is a crowd, nobody wants to move first, or they are all thinking “Let George do it.” However, simply knowing about the existence of the syndrome enables you to overcome it. You recognize why you feel a sense of inertia, and choose to overrule it. Something to keep in mind just in case.

  13. Brad K. says:

    Sharon, I looked for but didn’t see a couple of skills listed. Playing or singing music, learning or teaching to play instruments, sing, and dance. The other I missed was about worship.

    It seems that keeping the family and religious traditions alive have been key to people retaining their culture in tough times. Whether you hold family services, or trade neighbor houses to worship – or settle on a nearby (walking distance, i.e. less than a couple of miles) community meeting place. We won’t want to depend on a central worship place to preserve our heritage and center our worship, if that place is no longer within useful distance.

    The lowly recorder exists in many versions, from the 3rd grade ‘the teacher found them really cheap’ to the symphony grade plastic and wood versions, to the superior imports for serious money.

    Many families have the odd band instrument that one of the children played, or a family piano. If no one at home plays, then learning can occupy a lot of time usefully. Music can enliven chores, non-electric family evenings and family and community get togethers. In addition to worship music, some music preserves folk customs, and carries important messages. As one for-instance, Johnny Cash’s “I walk the line” played this afternoon, a straight, unadorned statement of responsibility and devotion to family. Other songs express joy, share happiness, and help families bond.

    Another skill that comes to mind is story telling. Stories from the Brothers Grimm originally gave lessons to the young, to be obedient and avoid running off where danger lurks. Other stories illustrate social gaffes, the consequence of short-sighted action, and just silly stories. Story tellers entertain and instruct, and preserve personal and social values.

    If you want a skill to support story telling, there are a couple. How to read an audience, how to learn to memorize, how to adapt a story to make a given point, and how to make new stories to be kept. Today story tellers are valued as entertainers, or for child care. In some cultures, though, story tellers are keepers of lore and highly revered. Who is to say which way Peak Oil will play out for story telling?

    Making paper and writing instruments. Writing instruments might resort back to bird quills and home-made inks, or now that we know about pencils and glue, we might want charcoal-based pencils, or something like the ‘lead’ analog that is used in #2 pencils.

    Drawings for preserving faces of family and friends, recording family events and important occasions, or identifying landmarks, making maps, and recording clothing patterns will be important, once the Internet is no longer available to all, and we can no longer afford traveling encyclopedia salesmen.

    I wonder if Justice of the Peace will become a more meaningful figure of justice and judgement, if we will return to circuit courts. We will want to know someone, close, that works metal, and works wood for furniture and fixtures, that can provide what is needed to outfit a kitchen or replace tools, rolling pins, cutting boards, pots, pans, etc. If we intend to use horses for transport, we will be aware of horse shoes, metal for making horse shoes, trimming the horse’s feet every 6-8 weeks, and the rasps and hoof picks and hoof knives and nippers for doing the work on the horse’s foot.

    We will want to know someone good with small engines, with mechanical fixtures such as pumps and pipes and valves and fixing leaks. Someone that can lay in or pump out or repair a septic system. Someone that knows to keep the septic tank or outhouse more than 100 feet from the well to prevent seepage from poisoning the water.

    Many people today are on public water. Drilling shallow wells used to be doable by hand. Pump jacks, windmills, water storage tanks (that can double for fire protection) – things to keep in mind.

    I have a book about farm ‘implements’ you can make, reprinted from the 1800′s. They show a bale-sized wooden frame, and lay grass across the frame, then ram the cured grass in – balers don’t have to be John Deere Green to preserve hay. The Waverly Draft Horse Sale sells working wagons for gathering loose, unbaled hay twice each year. Bundling the hay, transporting, and then building hay stacks that preserve the hay in all weather are definite skills worth learning, if you are going to be gathering hay. Another book on “The Farming Game” relates a story of a family that routinely cuts and gathers hay from roadside ditches and unused lots, to supplement what grows on their farm. A farming kind of ‘dumpster diving?’

    Thanks, Sharon!

  14. Sharon has a category that covers this, and someone up thread elaborated on herbal alternatives and alternative medical practices. It would be good to understand herbs that grow in your area and their properties. It’s illegal to mention the derivation of certain powerful end-of-life painkilling drugs – really, just writing about it is an offense – so I’m not mentioning it in context of a pop-ular flower. I wouldn’t want to die of cancer without some serious painkillers. That’s an extreme example.

    It’s also good to know, for instance, that hawthorn leaf tea lowers blood pressure; that sage has all kinds of properties; that chamomile is good for sleep (you knew that) and thyme has antibiotic properties. A book on herbs and tinctures would be useful to possess. One could run out of melatonin pills but a gardener won’t run out of chamomile, echinacea, rosemary, lemon balm, fevervew and so forth. Then there are all the Native American and African remedies which are part of our herbal medicine lore in this country. I used to read about this stuff and had some knowledge of what herbs to buy from the store for what minor ills. I also can recognize some of the most famous herbs. Yerba buena just popped up in my Bay Area garden as a volunteer – I must research how Native Americans around here used it. (It’s a relative of mint). If you garden then you already know how to recognize various food plants and weeds; it won’t take much more to figure out how to recognize herbs and their basic medicinal uses.

    And of course you should never take herbs or supplements based on some random person’s blog comments without researching carefully for yourself. Another reason to acquire several different kinds of herbal books now, to compare.

  15. Rebecca says:

    I love this post. I firmly believe in (at least this one) old Heinlein quote: Specialization is for insects.

  16. Gary says:

    Sharon, I really appreciate your complete perspective on the mess we are in – peak everything, global heating, the global economic meltdown, etc. But your first suggestion ” don’t panic”, really hits the nail on the head. I am sure we can expect disruptions from our normal lives, but most collapses take some time during which the economy sends us signals as scarcity and habitability issues rear their heads. So we stay informed, practiced, light on our feet and ready to roll with the tide. We in America both are blessed and cursed by our extravagant lifestyles. Blessed because there really is plenty in this country for us all, with a little stewardship and labor. But cursed because we have to reduce our consumption levels by 2/3rds to get to that sweet spot, and that will be a bitter pill to swallow.

    I’ve been watching my bee hives over the years and one thing I’ve noticed is that when they are young, healthy and growing in the spring, there is no disease of parasite that can slow them down. But when they are big and mature – full of honey at the end of summer, they are much more vulnerable to decline. Spring growth masks problems just as the natural fall decline exacerbates them.

    I see human society at this juncture, beginning our fall decline with all of the problems that were masked by our strong growth starting to become apparent. But our inevitable demise could easily take centuries. What a glorious time to be a witness!

    Gary

  17. kethry says:

    with no 2 i’d also add that maybe people need to think about making paper copies of things they might need to know. e.g. i have instructions for making a small cooker powered by a bunch of tea lights – strong enough to boil a pan of water, for example – but i’ve never printed it off, and the one time i’d need it is when the power goes out.. which is when my computer would be useless anyway!!! So if you are collecting information on things, make sure its in a format which is accessible even when power has gone..

    keth
    xx

  18. MEA says:

    I have a “commonplace” book — which is actually a series of binders with print outs and handwritten notes of everthing I think I’ll need. It is organized, but only in a way that will make sense to me, so I should index it.

    For some reason, I also keep the braile slate and stylus tucked into the front cover.

    The reason why I like the binder is because if I find better information, I can take out the old pages and put new ones in easily.

  19. [...] fact, having information available at your fingertips (and not on the computer) is one of the more important things to have in a crisis. For example, i have, somewhere, bookmarked a page on making a small makeshift cooker with some [...]

  20. I think the problem is in the fact people don’t know how to be good neighbors much anymore. By far and large,, our society is becoming one where we don’t socialize with anyone, except on blogs and on facebook…

    Neighborhoods of today are vast suburbias chock full of restrictive covenants, homeowner associations, homeowner dues, etc. Being neighbors is more about business than about friendship.

    In our last neighborhood, I would go door to door schelpping extra squash/tomatoes/etc to give away to my neighbors. Nobody seemed to care. Most of them raised an eyebrow as if I were there to “size them up” more than try and forge bonds of neighborliness.

    We’ve since moved. In our current situation, we live in the country on a little over an acre. Everyone around us has land, so we don’t “see” everyone like before, but people seem generally friendlier out here as opposed to the suburbs where we lived 10 years prior.

  21. “Neighborhoods of today are vast suburbias chock full of restrictive covenants, homeowner associations, homeowner dues, etc. Being neighbors is more about business than about friendship.”

    Maybe that’s true where you are. Try moving to the city, like “scary” Oakland, CA. Our neighborhoods are loosely organized for community and safety. From what I see, city neighborhoods all over the country are doing the same. We have a citywide network of citizen emergency groups (CORE) which train regular folks to prepare for big disasters, largely earthquake but other kinds of emergencies, too. We have neighborhood associations, street fairs, block parties, National Night Out ice cream socials and parties, National Back Yard Camp Out night in the city park, merchants’ groups, planning groups that meet with police regularly and also work on all those picky issues of streetscape, zoning, etc. We also have cafes, pubs, restaurants, bookstores, churches and markets where everybody runs into each other and shares info & gossip.

    Meanwhile, I know lots of my neighbors by name; can access over four hundred of them by email on our listserve, and recognize many by sight. People share produce with each other from our abundant fruit trees. My kid recently walked out the door without us realizing and walked 6 blocks to the busy boulevard to “buy” me a lemon (he had no money, but he did bring his shopping bag!). At least three people including the store owner recognized him, asked him what he was doing. They all have our phone numbers now so they can call us if he decides to go shopping again! Kid arrived home safely BTW. I know people who wouldn’t drive down our avenue out of fear of Big Bad Oakland People but my kid ambled along perfectly safe. Oh yes, and the store owner gave him the lemon and wouldn’t take my money later. I’ve instructed him to require cash from my kid after this and call me!

    Anyway. Community does exist if people insist on building it. Walking, biking and shopping locally help accelerate the process. If you walk to the store several times a week, you meet the neighbors, the store owners get to know you, and your kid knows how to get to the market without an automobile. :) Everybody learns valuable street smarts, and the neighborhood becomes incrementally safer because you’re reclaiming the streets.

  22. Yes, I’d concur that city life in CA and rural small-town life in NC are two very, very different things. Both good and bad in their own respective ways! :)

    That is why when I hear about all of these environmental things, ideas like mass transportation don’t work for me. I live in the boonies and our small town doesn’t even own ONE bus, much less a fleet of them. In our area, I’d like to see public school buses used during school hours for the general public, kind of doing double-duty.

    You raised a very good point and one I overlooked in my comment. America is a very VAST country in both people and landscape. What works for one, will not always work for another.

    Community can work if we WORK at it, be it rural like me, or city like you.

  23. [...] Everything You Need to Know, In Order [...]

  24. Douglas says:

    With regard to the APS article seemingly refuting global warming (http://www.aps.org/units/fps/newsletters/200807/monckton.cfm) here is a web page dealing with claims that warming ended in 1998: http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2006/11/4/175028/329
    and here is the main site url: http://gristmill.grist.org/skeptics It is an extensive point-by-point guide on how to refute climate change skeptics. But not to worry, peak energy, peak topsoil, peak water, etc., will whack us before climate change brings dengue fever to Massachusetts…

  25. Sharon says:

    I agree – even suburbias are often quite diverse. My mother and step-mother live in a small city that is pretty much treated as a big suburb of Boston. They know and help out their neighbors routinely – neighbors are tending their chickens now, they share holidays, community garden, etc… My own grandmother lived in a suburban area of a decripit, poor city (Waterbury, CT), and was able to stay there until she was entirely disabled because the neighbors she’d been bringing food and crochet afghans for and sharing garden tips with for the last 60 years made it possible – the guy who ran the hot dog stand brought her dinner once a week, the firemen at the station down the road stopped by to help lift her into bed if a family member couldn’t be there, the neighbors did her shopping and came by regularly. She had several years in her home because of this network. Eric’s grandparents lived in the uber-suburbs of Paramus New Jersey – and they built relationships that sustained them when Eric’s grandfather became ill and family was far away. Our rural neighborhood has only a few dozen houses in a mile, but we know each other, we share resources, barter, have playdates, share rides. One morning a couple of years ago, a neighbor of mine came running down the hill with her three year old in a wagon, saying “I need your car now! Can you take Alex?” We didn’t ask why, we threw her the keys and took the boy – it turned out that her father had had a car accident (he recovered rapidly) and called her, but not 911.

    IMHO, you can build community anywhere, if you can do the work.

    Sharon

  26. [...] Another fabulous post from Sharon Astyk. Good advice. 1. How not to panic. 2. How to learn things – and how to teach them. 3. How to get along with everyone else. 4. How to deal with an immediate medical crisis in an emergency. 5. How to feed yourself. Share This [...]

  27. nika says:

    When planning for PO you will read all sorts of suggestions. Shelter in the city, shelter in the suburbs, build a bolt-hole far from the fallout zones, etc etc. Some sources will tell you to move to a small town, some 10 years at least before likely collapse, and become a part of the community. This is meant to give you time to build your refuge and a PO-aware community around you. To relocalize your world, food, economy. All so SO much easier said than done!

    When we decided to get married and have kids, we were pre-awakened re: PO but we both had this sense that, in our lifetimes, the big cities would become untenable (seemed most likely to come from rise in sea levels or from societal collapse due to overpopulation, etc). We moved far enough to get out of town but close enough to commute.

    We moved to a small town 12 years ago, built our own house on 10s of acres.

    We are working hard toward many of these things as a family – see our garden blog at http://www.humblegarden.com

    This is a very small community (rural MA, 1700 people) but the feeling I get is not really that neighborly, tho when I do get a VERY rare chance to meet with the neighbors its a positive one. One thing for is that we have no family in the region and our neighbors all have tons of family. They are all set with social stuff and do not seek it from the neighbors.

    We are not religious (and thats never gonna change) so we do not meet people at church.

    We either telecommute (husband) or commute (me – 80 miles/day) so we do not work near people who live here (thats not going to change either, this region doesnt HAVE jobs for scientists).

    We homeschool the oldest and the middle child is just going into kindergarten so we do not socialize with families based on school stuff.

    If we do meet other parents, many of them are MUCH MUCH younger than us because they started having their babies so young while I waited until I finished grad school to even get married (28) and then have a kid (30), last one came when I turned 40. There is a huge difference between the young kids who are having kids here, often with no partner, and working at the local X-mart and us.

    With our immediate neighbors, we do not share anything besides the road itself.

    We have tried opening the door by sharing eggs and such and we do get assistance from our one neighbor when the snow gets about 4 feet deep during any one storm, other than that, we do not talk.

    I have found that building community can be REALLY hard in the semi-rural setting. I recently tried to get people together in a meeting to talk about food security, advertised in newspapers to cover multiple towns, one person showed up and she misunderstood the premise (thought it was going to be a food BUYING coop versus the food growing one I was working toward)

    Do not leave the community building to the last minute, it just wont work that way.

  28. [...] You Need to Know Casaubon’s Book Blog Archive Everything You Need to Know, In Order [...]

  29. Heather Gray says:

    Hey Nika,

    I live in a rural town too, of around 1,700 people. Unfortunately, I’m in western MA, so probably we won’t meet in person. It’s true, people are pretty spread out, and in our case a number of the folks are commuters, so we have an interesting mix of folks here. I went to my first town hall this past May, and that was interesting, seeing the different sorts of people interacting.

    In our case the farmers market has been helpful with meeting people. Even though Lyle is from Ashfield originally, he hasn’t lived here for years, so he is having to re-make connections, and make new connections too. All sorts of people come to the farmers market though (we sell maple products there), so we get into some interesting conversations. One of the local farmers got the market started some years back and although attendance varies from week to week, it’s thankfully pretty popular.

    We’re also lucky I think that our park commissioner is really into being more green/sustainable. I know things aren’t going as quickly as she’d like, but bit by bit some folks are getting more interested in what she and some other people have to say. She has a little section in our local paper for writing about different environmental and sustainable practices… actually, I think she’s looking for some help with writing stuff for it, so I should probably get to doing something for her in a couple of weeks (probably something on affordable ways to insulate and save on heating expenses — pocketbook-oriented stuff is usually a winner).

    But you never know what’s going to get people connecting, or acting on a project…. this spring L and I went around different parts of the neighborhood picking up trash (all the cans and bottles helped pay for the trash bag fee!). We met some folks, although I think we’d need to do a lot more walking around to really get to know any of them, but at least we’ll sort of recognize each other’s faces. One fellow driving along actually stopped briefly to thank us (and his young son got to see that his dad thought this was good and important stuff to be doing). Then we were chatting about it in town at one of the local eateries, and they thought it was a great thing. So, they put up an offer in their restaurant — get a paid bag from them, pick an area or receive an assignment from them, bring in a full bag of trash and get a free large pizza (2 item, I think). Believe me, all the people who did it _earned_ their pizzas! One guy actually brought in 4 bags from his area — still the one pizza, but I think once he got started, he was determined to keep going and finish the job. The restaurant plans on doing the same thing next year, since it went so well. Who knew that a simple conversation would cause someone else to organize a big project like that?

    It definitely can be a challenge getting to know people in a rural area. I hope you find more like-minded people this year and wish you the best in your community efforts!

  30. hillbilly says:

    It is time to be basic, in a Maslove sense. Be decent but, be ready. I hate to quote Reagan but, tust and verifiey. Please give me a pass on my grammer and spelling. I am a victum of federalized, unoinized gub’ment schools.

  31. [...] links to keep you happy. Just make sure to come back next week for new material. Energy Bulletin Sharon Astyk Organic to Be Transition [...]

  32. [...] I sometimes get emails from people telling me that everyone around them is an asshole, and that they can’t possibly get along with their neighbors. Now once in a while that is actually true – there are horrible places and circumstances in the world.  But if someone tells me that there’s no one in their whole town who they can be friends with, that everyone is ignorant or mean or self-centered – the most likely scenario is that the person talking isn’t very good at getting along with others.  Now I don’t mean that people who are content without a large community are necessarily bad at this – some people are just introverts.  And some people who are bad at getting along in the course of things either can do better in a crisis, can find one role they can fit into, or can be protected by their families, who can get along with them.  But if you aren’t great at getting along, learning to be tolerant, learning to listen, learning to like other people even when they seem weird, and perhaps most importantly, learning to judge them gently (and I am not the natural master of any of these skills either) is really, really important.  Do it now.  This is especially important if you have trouble getting along with your relatives, and might end up with them. (07/25/08)more… [...]

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