Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Books for the Collapse

I am pretty skeptical of arguments for the collapse of civilization. The way most people live has been improving for four hundred years and I would be pretty surprised if it stopped now.

However, much of my world view is also based on regression toward the mean. World population is the highest it has ever been; Energy use is the highest it has ever been; Farm output is the highest it has ever been; life expectancy is the highest it has ever been and so on. What goes up certainly can go down. In the highly interconnected world we live in it is quite possible for things to go downhill quickly. A month of little or no food, water, or gasoline shipments to southern California and I doubt many people would be doing well. Six months and this will no longer be a population center.

I recently got to thinking, if that is happening or already happened and somehow I am still alive what books would I want to own? I don't know whether the disaster kicked us back to the 1890s or 10,000 B.C. but I certainly am no longer in the 21st century. There are many skills which are almost lost which all of a sudden may be of life or death importance.

First things first. I would want a proper wilderness survival book. While in the long run the only real chance you have might be to join a gang, in the short run you want to get away from people. Too many hungry people.

Primitive Wilderness Living and Survival Skills seems like a good start.

While water shortages will get most people the book Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West also seems prudent. A huge percentage of plants are edible or have edible parts and if I end up in the wilderness for a few months I would want that book with me.

The next problem is basic medical skills. If something bad happens to me, which is likely, I would want some basic guidebook. The books Where There is No Doctor and Where There is No Dentist seem about as good as I could do.

Most people in history were subsistence farmers. If I survive that is the only way to go in the long run. Therefore A basic gardening book seems to be a good idea. The New Self-Sufficient Gardener seems about as good a source as any. More interesting might be Oxen: A Teamster's Guide to Raising Training & Showing. Most good draft horses were killed off ages ago since they eat more food than the smaller horses people like to keep as pets. Getting a good horse for farm work is unlikely. Most beef cattle on the other hand can be trained to be perfectly acceptable oxen.

Another lost skill which would be good to know if you make it in the long term is Blacksmithing. This is enough of a lost art that there would be little competition in this field. The Backyard Blacksmith: Traditional Techniques for the Modern Smith seem to be as good as any source on this field.

I am debating whether to buy this collection. A few would be interesting enough in their own right for me to justify having. On the other hand, in this situation who would want to carry around a bunch of books anyway? If I truly thought it was a risk I would go buy bulk water, food, and bullets.

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