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An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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4 Sep 2006

Why the Survivalists Have Got It Wrong.

itsI have very little time for the survivalist response to peak oil, and on the back of a new article about it, [Preparing for a Crash: Nuts and Bolts](”NB”) by Zachary Nowak, posted recently on the ever indispensible Energy Bulletin, perhaps it is time to deconstruct the whole survivalist argument, which is still a strong theme in the peak oil movement.

Imagine you and a number of other people are in a house and the house catches fire. Do you look around the house for other people and help those out that you can, or do you bolt out of the house at the first sniff of smoke? The survivalists are like the latter, like those who were first off the Titanic in the first lifeboats that were launched half empty. I deeply question the morality of responding to a crisis by running in the opposite direction and leaving everyone else to stew. For me, peak oil and climate change, and the challenge that they present, are a call to return to society, to rebuild society, and to engage society in a process that can offer an oil free world as a step forward and an improved quality of life.

survAccording to the survivalist philosophy we are about to witness the inevitable and horrible disintegration of society, where the rising price of oil will lead to us all rushing out and bashing each over the head. In order to avoid this, they argue, we need to get away from everyone else and sort ourselves out in such a way that we will be able to see out these perilous times. We will, they argue, be able to get by, in utter isolation, up a dirt track somewhere, seeing no-one, with no external stimulus, eating borage and 3 year old baked beans, and attempting to be entirely self sufficient, despite having little previous background in the way of gardening, farming and homesteading.

The first question that springs to mind is where exactly are we supposed to go? Where is this rustic utopia? Nowak offers a checklist of what the aspiring survivalist should be looking for in what he calls a “place to retreat to”. It is *”relatively isolated, out of view from roads, with large woods and a swamp, land for gardening and an existing structure”*. Sounds like exactly the kind of place that many a wealthy suburbanite with the dream to keep a pony is also seeking out as a second home. How many such places remain? How many existing communities in such places are going to be delighted to see the aspiring survivalist? In the US such places might exist, but in the UK, such places are at a premium. Nowak also doesn’t address the issue that financially the buying of a second home and the equipping of it is financially outside the realm of possibility for most of us, who struggle to even afford one home.

survMany of the people I have met who push this argument are urban people with no background or experience in self sufficiency. Nowak suggests spending a few thousand dollars on books on everything from canning to waste water treatment. The list of books and publishers he puts forward are excellent, but he doesn’t mention anything about other ways of learning. You might be stuck up in the wilderness with lots of books, but really they are no substitute for learning from other people. I might have John Seymour’s *Complete Book of Self Sufficiency*, but I couldn’t slaughter a pig with a copy of it open in front of me, or can my own produce just from the book. You need to learn from people who already know how to do things, books are useful as a reference, but are never a substitute for a teacher. The impression the article gives that you could head to your place in the hills as the world starts to collapse, and slip into a self reliant life, with your library at your side is fantasy.

As Adam Fenderson of EB points out in his comments on the article, *”Isolationist survivalism, constantly on the guard from marauding hordes, doesn’t sound like an existence most of us would consider worth living. And promoting it, where it takes our energies away from more collective energy descent tactics might actually increase the likelihood of such uncontrolled collapse and desperate marauders.. “* Nowak however does not believe that a powerdown or a localised future is any kind of a possibility. He writes,

>I hope that the collapse will be gradual enough that we can shift to an organic agriculture slightly less harmful to the environment, and that this gradual collapse will allow us to develop local currencies and smaller, more understanding communities. I am not, however, planning for this future. I am planning for one with lots and lots of hungry people that are desperate. In that case a small, energy-efficient condo in the suburbs with fluorescent lights (that don’t work), a tiny garden, and a one-week supply of food just doesn’t cut it, rain barrel or not.

surv3What is the point of hoping for something, but then investing absolutely no effort in its realisation? It’s akin to saying “I hope that smoking all these cigarettes won’t give me cancer”. Even if you are planning for a future “with lots and lots of hungry people”, where is the morality of planning a response to that situation which is basically putting as many miles between you and them as possible? How would Martin Luther King or Gandhi have responded to that situation? Where is the compassionate response?

For me, peak oil is our personal and collective call to power. This is the time when we truly find out what we can do when we collectively apply our genius and brilliance. I don’t believe that our collective response to crisis will be violence and disintegration, I believe our collective adaptability, creativity and ingenuity will come to the fore. The irony is that these survivalists who have the insight into the urgency of peak oil and who decide, in response, to head for the hills, are, ironically, most needed in the places where the rest of the people are, sharing their skills and their insights.

It is of course a natural human reaction to panic when faced with a potentially disastrous near future, and to want to preserve oneself above all others. Yet for me, it is an unethical position. There is no certainty about peak oil and climate change and how they will play out. Deffeyes may be right and we’ve already peaked, Skrebowski might be right that we have another 4 years, perhaps the 2015 -2020 folks have got it right. We don’t know how it will play out … will it be a gradual decline of recession, revival, recession, revival, will it be a sudden complete crash, will it be a gentle descent? We have no idea, but to me the survivalist creed is a distinctly antisocial and irresponsible one. It’s natural to panic, but beyond that panic we need a compassionate response, one that actually addresses the problem.

kedap[Energy descent planning](”EDAP”) is an evolving tool for focusing peak oil awareness and concern into practical action. Begun in Kinsale in Ireland, it is now appearing all over the world tucked into the back pockets of community groups who want to begin the process of preparing their town for peak oil (for example [this](”EDAP”)). The first UK town attempting it, through the Transition Town Totnes initiative, is launched this Wednesday. It is not just a question of installing the low energy bulbs and rainwater butts Nowak is so dismissive of, it is a process of engaging the various strands of the community in a positive process of designing a way down from the peak. It will include teaching people many of the skills Nowak refers to, but in the context of a collective response. It is a process of reweaving the connections whose disintegration is partly responsible for the mess we are in now, of rediscovering our neighbours and our surroundings, rebuilding relationships between individuals and groups.

It is a process of building a clear vision of how a low energy relocalised future could be, then setting out how to get there. I can’t guarantee that it will work. I have no idea whether or not it will engage people, although at this early stage the indications are, to me, that it seems to engage peoples imagination in a quite extraordinary way. At the end of the day, I feel that to turn and flee is utterly irresponsible. To stay and try and be of service to a community’s painful yet liberating process of waking up to the degree to which it has been addicted to oil, and of rediscovering the practicalities and joys of a localised and practical lifestyle, is where I would rather be. It may not work, but to have engaged in the process with a good heart feels to me infinitely preferable to sitting in the wilds suspicious of anyone who comes near.

survNowak forgets to mention the ‘g’ word. There he is, sat in his homestead, with his efficient woodstove, his 4 years worth of food, his extensive library and his large supply of firewood, while 2 miles down the road, people in the village are cold and hungry. He may be “not visible from the road”, but rural communities know everything that everyone is doing within their area. Will he sit at the gate with a gun? Will he place his survival above that of his fellow locals, or will he be prepared to shoot people to preserve his survival? This was the question that actually led me to return to a small town to begin trying to initiate an Energy Descent Action Plan. I didn’t feel that the remote living self sufficient dream was actually an ethical response to peak oil. Either we all pull through or none of us do.

Undoubtedly we have big choices to make, but the survivalists miss the point. If a society collapses there is really no place to hide. One family can’t do everything, especially a family who didn’t grow up doing these things. I lived in rural Ireland for years with one other family, grew food, chopped firewood, had a compost loo, built my house and so on, and when I became aware of peak oil, it actually drew me back to communities of people, rather than even further away. In a great article in the Permaculture Activist a few years ago called “A Second Challenge to the Movement”, Eric Stewart wrote that permaculture, and, I would argue, much of the ‘green’ movement, appears to have a built-in flaw. He wrote,

>It seems to me that permaculture houses two virtually polar impulses: one involves removal from larger society; the other involves working for the transformation of society. While the case can be made that removal from the larger society represents action that is transformative of society, I believe that there is an imbalance within the cultural manifestation of permaculture that has favoured isolation over interaction. The cultural shift we need depends on increasing interaction to increase the availability of the resources permaculture offers

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.


4 Sep 9:43am

Transition Culture is a site for sore eyes!

4 Sep 9:49am

Nice article 😉

Dominique K.
4 Sep 12:06pm

Excellent !
Thank you very much.

4 Sep 1:44pm

I find it interesting that a significant component of the peak oil crowd actually envisions an almost utopian powerdown scenario in which we all end up living like those cheery castaways on Gilligan’s Island. The reality of the situation is far darker – or have you forgotten what a week without power, water, and food looked like in New Orleans?

Peak Oil has the potential of drastically reducing the human carrying capacity of the planet. This means death by starvation, exposure, disease, and warfare – the latter caused by ordinary people fighting for resources to stave off the first three.

Human beings are basically predators – we prey upon other animals for food and we prey upon each other for money, power, and sex. From the bedroom to the boardroom, each of us competes against others for what we desire and need. Imagine how that will look when what we need is food, clothing, and shelter.

Now, I do agree with you on the point that it is virtually impossible for a single family unit to both survive and prosper alone in the wild. There is strength in numbers and as such we will form communities and villages in the post-peak oil era.

But you’d better be sure to surround your communities with strong, high walls and vigilant armed citizens – otherwise, someone else will simply take it all away from you.

4 Sep 2:46pm

A few points :

* one can only share what he has. If you prepare, you can share – if you want to. In any case it’s better to have something planned in advance than not.

* Gandhi’s example shows what millions of coordinated non-violent people (sharing the same culture with non-violent ethics) can achieve. The mayhem Europe went through during the Great Plague is quite another thing.

* I don’t want to butcher a hog properly, I want to butcher it so that I can feed myself on it , no matter if it is done well or not. (beware of the bile, however)

* Communities might work or not – your food stockpile will in any case.

* Keep Katrina in mind when making survival advice.

Joe Fahy
4 Sep 3:48pm

I have come to this simple code: I am willing to share what I have with others, but I am unwilling to let others take what they want from me.

It is not altruistic, but enlightened self interest. I expect something back from the others for my sharing with them. This is a form of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, where the only stable point of the game is to “defect”, sell out your resource competitor, take everything. Only through repeat playing of the game, iterated PD, can players find that cooperation is actually in their long term best interest.

My plan has been to establish these “trust relationships” with my neighbors before they need to be tested under difficult circumstances; do the iterations during easier times rather than difficult ones.

David Korten’s book “The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community” has been valuable to me in assessing the range of responses to difficult times. Specifically his 5 divisions of human consciousness speak directly to range of behavior we see now and can expect to see in the future. It is a hopeful book, but does acknowledge the vast task of moving the majority of humanity from a socialized consciousness “small worldview”; my group first and foremost, to a cultural and finally spritual consciousness with an “integral worldview”; all of our groups going forward together.

I am trying to work towards these goals, but I do not believe that every human has the capacity to elevate their consciousness, or that they even see the need to. I see the need to keep a foot in both the utopian and dystopian camps, promoting membership of the former, while preparing to resist those who would drag us into the latter.

John Wilson
4 Sep 4:44pm

That is a very thoughtful
I thought it was quite entertaining.

but, to be honest, there will be no mad max scenario. When the mushrooms start blossoming, you are going to die.

Don Solosan
4 Sep 6:05pm

So, in the case of the Titanic, your advice is that the women and children should have stayed on board?

Mark Jenkin
4 Sep 6:49pm

I read the piece on the Energy Bulletin, and found it quite thought provoking. Not that I am necessarily going to follow every action that was written there – but that it formed another part of the jigsaw of ‘what could/should I do’.

I found some of what Zachary wrote was quite tongue in cheek, but pointed too.
After all – Now that Tony Blair has installed low energy light bulbs in Downing Street – there is a worry that too many folks will thing that he has ‘solved’ PO and Climate Change too.. I wonder if Tony has a Rainbarrel?

However other parts of his essay were (IMHO) challenging and indeed spot on. I placed a large order to Amazon today, to fill in some gaps in my knowledge. And these were not more books about Hubbert or by Matthew Simmons – but about preserving food and running a small holding.

“To know and not do – is not to know..” (heard that on a film somewhere..)

So you won’t find me in a swamp with a rainwater barrel and a 12-bore just because I read Zachary’s article, but his view is still valid because it is his view. We should all take what we need from the plethora of information available, and act as we see fit.
It is a buffet – not a set-menu.

And we must all remember what happened in New Orleans!

Keep up the good work Rob!

4 Sep 6:56pm

Again, a doomer viewpoint:
“Human beings are basically predators … Imagine how that will look when what we need is food, clothing, and shelter.”

Alternative vision (non-dark lens): NYC during the blackout – people pulling together for each other. Try looking in places on the earth that are currently and managing nicely. I mean *really* go look. It is doable! I live near the Amish – strong communities. My 2 daughters just got back from Ukraine. Is it alot of work? Oh yeah. But doomers envision they people will be at each others throat. Well we have this thing called higher intelligence that tells us we might get through this if we pull together otherwise we don’t stand a chance.

What Peak Oil doomers forget is peak is the 1/2 way point, not the end of oil. Until depletion/decline start hurting, don’t expect much of a reaction from the masses. But if you must, paint your sign and walk around announcing the end.

Joshua Laskin
4 Sep 7:05pm

Ready…get set…Evolve!
‘Carpe diem’, boys and girls.

Sue Lyons
4 Sep 7:43pm

Thank you Rob! We will meet the challenges of peak oil and climate change as a community or not at all.

If my only choice was to survive in my little cabin way back in the woods while everyone else starves and freezes to death, I think I would rather go suck on a gas pipe, while there is still some gas left!

Robert Morgan
4 Sep 9:14pm

I entirely agree. In the UK, the only places where one could build such a “safe” refuge from a collapsing civilisation are the hills of mid-Wales and northern Scotland – harsh environments which could only support a few hundred people living a “self-sufficient” existence.

Concerned people – of which there are currently hundreds of thousands if not millions – need to be shown ways of turning their concerns into practical action for sustainability. The more some peak-oilers spread messages of doom or crude survivalism, the slower will be the spread of the Transition Culture message and the worse mess we – all of us – will find ourselves in.

4 Sep 10:48pm

We should be teaching the young all those things our grandparents wanted us to learn, the skills even they were beginning to forget.
The production of food, preserving, making things from scratch.
All of this can only come through community. The hardened survivalist might last out a few years, but being in isolation/solitary confinement will do nobody any favours.
What would be the point in survival, just to go slowly mad, alone.
The best of life is through being with others.
There’s just a chance that real community may return and we adjust. We have to hope.
Thanks for your excellent site.

4 Sep 11:28pm

That’s a very thought provoking article.

I think that surviving peak oil is possible but [i]only[/i] at a community level. Some of the survivalist tactics are sound but are best done on a community level like storing food. Rather than storing it at an individual level, food could be stored at a community level as the Mormons or the Hopi do.

And yes New Orleans can’t be forgotten and if we were to face a Kathrina like situation, I would think a group should band together and help each other to maximize chances for survival. After all, the goverment may not be there for you. It certainly wasn’t there for the citizens of New Orleans.

4 Sep 11:29pm

Wow, at first I thought this article would change my mind about how to react to PO but on the contrary, it has solidified it. I read Nowak’s article and thought it was excellent, a brief summary indeed but his point was really to debunk Peaker’s that think turning down the thermostat and investing properly are the answer.

First of all “The survivalists are like the latter, like those who were first off the Titanic in the first lifeboats that were launched half empty.” I can’t say I agree with this behavoir but one must admit that those people lived.

I also thought this line was quite funny; “I couldn’t slaughter a pig with a copy of it open in front of me, or can my own produce just from the book.” If you can’t read a book and use it to can and store produce based on the instructions, you certainly better hope you have someone around to help you. That’s exactly how I learned and it couldn’t be easier. Same goes for gardening, farming, and eating wild plants. You pick up a book, read it, try it, fail, try again.

Sure, we can’t survive in isolation but you are going to have to take care of yourself to a much higher degree than you currently do. Being a survivalist is not some live-in-the-desert on bugs and cactus juice type of exercise. It simply means being able to fend for yourself when the system that is currently caring for you begins to fail.

If you don’t see what Nowak see’s then fine, don’t buy books and learn how to fend for yourself, remain dependent on the system. But understand that if you must spend all of your time convincing others that the ship is going down, all the lifeboats will be gone by the time you get the brain washed sheeple to listen to you.

4 Sep 11:30pm

I have the same sort of response to people (including my dad) who talk about the value of gold in a predicted time of hyperinflation. Like I’m gonna walking down the street with gold coins to the bartering market past starving neighbors!

So as well the survivalist response seemed to offer little to me as an urbanite. Money worries me the most.

When I do go down the path of speculating on economic collapse, it is tough to imagine anything, but I do find myself in a dilemma between “paying down debt” and “investing” in skills/tools/systems that will lower the energy resources I need to survive.

The first “reducing debt”/saving is more an individual virtue because it opens the door of time. It’s hard to help the neighbors or participate in community if you have to work 2 1/2 jobs to make ends meet.

The second “investment” is a very wide question that exists also between the survivalists (How to get MY house to function minimally off the grid as necessary?) versus collective (get my community to function minimally off the grid as necessary?) – or same issue in transportation – (how do I get around?) VERSUS (how does my community get around?)

Well, then there’s still a question of “which community” – the scattered minority who is worried like me, or the people who live across the street. The first community I suppose helps us organize action IN our respective second community.

And then I come back to money. Where can our money go the furthest? In PV cells on 100 roofs, or working collectively for a wind turbine for the neighborhood? What sort of organization would be required to build cooperative networks in a neighborhood and WHO has time for MORE MEETINGS?

So TIME and MONEY seem the issues now.

I also think of Wendell Berry’s essays on “Home economics” talking about the practical functionality of a household. Single adult/parent households are overwhelmed and even two-adult/parent families tend to have more obligations than time, so I must expect the future will hold larger households – whether underemployed siblings, retired parents, or others who have time/skills to offer in exchange for below-market rent living.

Well, I try to imagine how I’d live if my income was cut by a factor of 4, and of course the answer is sharing burdens of debt and cost of living. There’s much untapped potential for the bold anyway, and that’s where I get some hope our lives can be restructured when circumstances change.

I admit in “depression” times communities will come together by necessity, and when/if things brighten again, many people will go back to more “individual freedom”.

I am still scared for so many people I know who seeem to be on a financial cliff now, and making ends meet each month by credit cards. Sure, the moneyed people will LOSE more in inflation, but losing or downgrading a job seems more than a likely possibility, and maybe many people worry about this, but it doesn’t seem like it.

4 Sep 11:45pm

i think if everyone else, or even most people, that i talked to about peak oil also saw it as a likely catalyst to a “great turning” i would find your article more plausible.

i do think there will be families, neighborhoods, maybe even whole counties where pre-planning, a critical mass of insightful and committed activists, and auspicious external conditions allow a “turning”. and that is a vision clearly to be preferred to a guy at a gate with a gun guarding maggotty grain.

but this notion that, “Either we all pull through or none of us do” perhaps seductive as a religious maxim is false. in reality, 30,000 kids are dying of malnutrition and diarrhea everyday – ask unicef. but your kids and your neighbors kids are doing fine. that is unfair, and there it is.

your argument seems to be that we should devote our limited time and energy to trying to “powerdown” and relocalise. and the part about “we all pull through” seems to imply that it is not morally correct to even strategize about where to be, as its “everybody or nobody” (literally). one of the last serious persons to advance this kind of thinking had the excuse of being born into a culture that believed in a politically-oriented and activist god. and he ended up dead on a cross. and the people who momentarily embodied that kind of thinking turned into power-scuffling imperial lackeys.

on what theological basis do you attribute your immense hope? on what dialectical sociological analysis do you site your belief in the “great turning”? or more likely, in which deep psychological need springs the desire to believe that if you are Really Really Good Everything Will Be Great?

Robert Warren
4 Sep 11:49pm

Good response to Nowak article, and brings up a lot of good points, but misses a major one – that in a survival situation, the best defense is collective self-interest.

If things really get nasty, you’re a lot safer within a small community of motivated, productive people than isolated and sitting on top of a storehouse of food and ammunition, hoping that you and your assault rifle will save the day. Good luck with that.

I live in Central Florida. In the fall of 2004, we got clocked by four hurricanes in five weeks, each time just beginning to get things back together before being taken down for another week. Things were bad – power out most of the time, sewage problems, traffic anarchy, you name it – but the big difference here is that we’ve seen it before. And we all learned from Hurricane Andrew in 1992 that we couldn’t count on the government for help.

When the storms came, the smart people didn’t wait for someone to take charge. They set up neighborhood resource coordination systems. They worked together to clear debris, to share supplies, to get information back and forth. Sure, there were the jerks who made trouble, but they didn’t get very far – because local neighborhoods were already putting things back together again and could defend themselves if necessary. As a result, we got the lights back on and went on with our lives.

New Orleans? Just the opposite. They all waited for the government to save them, and when that didn’t happen, they turned on each other.. but I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Ideological individualist survivalism doesn’t protect us from the jerks, it gives rise to them. The truly best survival skill is knowing how to build and maintain communities (unfortunately, a skill that most of us have lost in the last century, here in the U.S.). It’s about self-interest as much or more than altruism.

David Brin’s science fiction novel “The Postman” really tackles the issue brilliantly. Written back in 1985, it paints a U.S. collapse future created mainly by biochem and nuclear war, but it could very, very easily be mistaken for a worst-case Peak Oil scenario as well. One of the major themes of the book is the threat survivalists pose to others and to themselves.

5 Sep 12:28am

I enjoyed a good belly laugh! Thanks for the article. As Mark Jenkin said in the post above, there is no set menu, and while we might crave to find safety in a formula, the context of the situations as they unfold will dictate the response from second to second. We must be flexible. I’m trying to learn as much as I have time for and balance that with the business of daily life. I want to be as ready as reasonably possible but there is no way to anticipate what is “really” going to happen. So it seems I have a new hobby, gardening and reading up on permaculture, humanure, and other topics I would have found exceedingly odd before I learned about peak oil. Nothing is wasted, no matter how it all turns out. Everything I learn about, companion planting or how guns work, is growth. All of it. Because I am in a good position to tell people about peak oil and other issues, I am watching my social circle slowly expand. Again, growth. I buy extra food and put it away, but I should anyway, Katrina taught me that. No regrets, no matter how things turn out. I know I’m doing the best I can with the resources I currently have but I am always open to learning and doing more.

I know I don’t have control, never did. Control is an illusion. I’m 41 and know that without the oil culture my lifespan, if I was lucky, would be about 35. All these extra years I have lived have been gravy, I have lived on borrowed time/oil/carbon. I’m not ready to die, but in terms of the bigger ethics picture, I have had my fair share of earth’s resources.

With no regrets, we should relax as best as we can while moving forward. Nothing else will work unless we think we can see the future.

5 Sep 4:10am

IMHO, The suvivalists have it wrong but not for the reason you describe above. Cities were viable before peak oil. Not all of them, but many were. If you were thinking about a complete implosion of society on the order of a civil war of Liberian or Somalian proportions I would still go for the cities. The reason being that the cities that were viable before oil will find some way to manage and protect what’s there. I’ve spent some time poking around the countryside and nobody out there could make it for more than a few months without oil without winding up in conditions of extreme poverty. It’s too spread out and car dependent. When considering what’s going to happen with the population at large think depression not mania. Besides, I know a guy who got back from Cuba a while ago and he said that the cities do much better than the country side. Same probably goes for North Korea.

walter spicer
5 Sep 5:02am

My sentiments exactly. Thanks for the article.

Yes, I think this is speaking more to the mental adjustments or phases of peak oil depression than a real break from the community solution or realistic alternative plans. A survivalist plan isn’t much of a plan as it has too many limitations. Upon closer inspection it falls down easily. If you forget a can opener you’re stuffed etc.

I have to think that Zachary Nowak would also realize, if eventually, that going it alone is just not possible given the amount of knowledge and specialization required just to live. Let’s think about that one, I mean, water sterilization, sanitation, medicine/health care, food production, teaching, mid-wives, tailors and candlestick makers… the list is endless but not hard to understand. Two years each of us on one topic means that the community becomes, and remains, the best tool for any situation. We end our useless corporate gerbel individual cubicle existence and return to helping each other. Highly preferable.

Thank goodness too. Just so much easier to work together and specialize in different areas. We all need each other and the faster we get past the ‘go it alone’ approach the better.

maybe a 12 step reaction to peak oil would place both your arguments and Nowak’s into a larger understanding as more people hit the peak oil mental brick wall/paradigm shift?

As a side note, I don’t believe his article was meant to be just the survivalist answer, but such a response for those looking at that as a solution depending where they are in the peak oil depression scale. It would seem to me he would be therefore respectful of your arguments.


Alice Friedemann
5 Sep 5:04am


I’m a big fan of yours, and regret never having had a chance to speak with you in Pisa at the ASPO conference.

When I saw the Kinsdale plan, I was very excited, it’s the best yet, and I sent it off to Jason Bradford in Willits, who’s been working on this as well:

You are very lucky to live in an area where such a hopeful, positive, plan can be implemented.

When I first heard about the Rimini protocol, I immediately began drafting a local plan for Oakland, California where I live, because energy reduction plans need to be implemented locally, bottom-up.

I sent my first draft to Jon Bosak. He’d already been thinking about doing the same thing and quickly moved forward with a plan for his area:

I was already familiar with Wackernagel’s ecological footprint and other carrying capacity models, have spent a lot of time researching the history of agriculture in California, taken permaculture courses and best of all, John Jeavon’s bio-intensive methods of farming to preserve topsoil for millenia.

But I discovered how deeply into overshoot the Bay Area was:

The United States has roughly 80% of its population in urban centers, many of which are unsustainable. Some cities might be okay, but most probably aren’t. Each city needs to look at what the population of a city was before the age of coal, whether there’s year-round rainfall, what the soil is like, how far a city is from major agricultural areas, what the railroad infrastructure is, etc, etc.

So I agree with you that we need to work together to solve the peak oil issue, but it demands a RAPID back-to-the-land movement in the United states, because we need to go from one-half of one percent of our population feeding everyone else, to 90% of the people feeding 10% in towns and cities.

How do you actually make Folke Gunther’s “ruralisation” plan happen quickly? How do you specifically do that in the United States, comprised of overweight, combustion engine spoiled people who get their information from Television and are scientifically illiterate?

Given the carrying capacity of the United States as roughly 100 million people, I don’t blame those who see the inevitable dieoff ahead from doing that they can to survive. I just wish they’d pool their assets and start ecovillages dedicated to soil and knowledge preservation.

Alice Friedemann in Oakland

5 Sep 5:30am

I agree that communities have the strongest survival potential . Conversations about relocalization, on the web , are generally useless . In my view, aguaponics and solar retrofit are the critical components of survival . I think my backyard can feed a minimum of four people year round using aguaponics.

5 Sep 6:53am

Good article, Rob. Most of us wouldn’t want to up stakes and head for the hills anyway. Far better to stay where you are, grow your own food, develop friendly connections with the neighbours and see how things pan out. We really don’t have any idea how Peak Oil will unfold.

I suspect the ‘head-for-the-hills’ types are just over-reacting in the sudden panic that comes with thinking life-as-we-know-it is going to end. Personally, I think the types of scenarios you are working for will be absolute bliss if they occur.

Zachary Nowak
5 Sep 8:27am

I just read the article, so I am still stinging from the criticisms, but I have to say that I am thrilled that you took the time, Rob, to write a long, thoughtful critique of my piece, not to mention that in two days twenty-six people decided to comment on your critique (though this likely has more to do with your blog’s following than my article). You made a lot of good points about being alone, and I’d like to take the opportunity sometime soon to respond to them (and to a point agree with them). Some other things I think you misinterpreted, and this is likely because I didn’t explain them well. I sincerely hope that we can move to a more sustainable society, one where local culture returns and people work together. I think the books that I mention teach skills that would be useful either in a crash situation OR in a sustainable community situation, which is of course the advantage of planning for the worst case: its preparation often can be used in the less-than-worst case, something that is not always true. The ‘g’ word – yep, excellent point…not a subject I wanted to address for a number of reasons. One criticism of your critique: I know blogs often have images but I thought yours were a little mean-spirited, intended more to mock me than to make logical points. Your critique was intellectually weaker for their inclusion, not stronger (I do sort of resemble the last image…my deerskin cloak has better stitching,though).
We shold remember we’re all on the same team: trying to make the world better for all its species, while trying to avoid the painful die-offs nature has in store for those whose populations become “cancerous.” Yes, I hope the enxt twenty years go well, but I’m not going to plan on it because that’s what I want.
In any event, I will try to get to the response soon. Thanks again to Rob and everyone else for the comments! Others canbe posted here (I’ll be reading more from this site, too!) or sent to me directly at “GreenDoorPublishing” at “”

5 Sep 10:00am

The Rules of Doom Club:

The First Rule of Doom Club is:
You are not allowed optimism in doom club.

The Second Rule of Doom Club is:

Third Rule of Doom Club:
All optimists shall be branded Utopians. Because all Utopians are delusional.

Fourth Rule:
Doomers conferring with optimists must convert them.

Fifth Rule:
If an optimist yells “enough” or gives up, the debate is over. (Doomer wins by default)

Sixth Rule:
No thinking. No reasoning.

Seventh Rule:
“Debates” with optimists will go on as long as they have to.

And the Eighth and Final Rule:
If this is your first night at Doom Club, you have to have a Fright!

James Taylor
5 Sep 11:23am

I have to say that reading all the responses here makes me feel very grateful the UK has rigorous laws governing personal firearm ownership and so is not full of guns.

So much stuff I read coming out of the USA goes on about the “when they come with guns” moment. Something which doesn’t particularly register with me in the UK. Of course the army have guns, some police have guns, and some inner city criminals have guns, and some farmers have shotguns – but this is a drop in the ocean compared to a US style situation. (Also I find it hard to imagine some Yardie walking miles out of inner city Birmingham into the Black Country looking for some small-holding he can hold-up with his dodgy pistol and five bullets or whatever other similar situation could be proposed.)

It saddens me that above and beyond any actual threat posed by the firearms themselves in the USA, it is the knowledge of their widespread distribution that contributes to a doomy attitude about what people are like in general and how they will react to difficult times. All of which encourages a general mood of fear – of the future, of strangers, of neighbours even…

Deal with the survivalist issue now, disarm America.

Rob D
5 Sep 12:10pm

Dear Sue Lyons (comment 12):

Would you please leave me your supply of canned goods when you vacate your cabin? Thanks. I appreciate it.

I’ll gladly take over your little cabin, and indeed will give you a decent burial as a gesture of thanks. There are well over 100,000,000 firearms in the hands of US consumers. I don’t want to end years of knowledge-gathering, skill-building and preparations at the hands of one of them.

Are the rest of you going to wait until TSHTF to head down to the home supply store to pick up your 30 gallon water barrels and complete kit of hand tools? Better a day early than a day late. Again…. lessons of Katrina.

Good day to you all.

5 Sep 12:15pm

Well, whilst I liked Gilligan’s Island, I don’t recall them actually doing any substantial work to ensure their survival. Unfortunately, most of the first world humans have developed interdependent structures that have not much to do with trust. Whilst I would like to think that people will develop strong, trusting, caring communities, it can be shown that these usually only develop in response to crises, and in discrete and somewhat isolated ways. In other words the heartfelt hopes of previous writers looking for some generally accepted, enlightened, gradual path to a new economy/society cannot occur until people understand (and I mean really understand) that they need each other. I am afraid that some self-imposed intellectual disciple towards such a goal will be misplaced. People these days are so dependent and inter-dependent on current structures, that even slight perturbations are met with anger and confusion, and violence (and of course denial by the leadership). Intelligence will be needed to get through such times, but it won’t be just head knowledge, it will need to be at a visceral level, which will only be the result of many re-learned lessons, trials and tribulations, mistakes and failures. New interdependencies will grow from such places. I’m not suggesting going it alone, but you will really find out who your friends are !

Al Fortney
5 Sep 1:38pm

Hello: I think ther has been a lot of good comments to the survivalist side and the other side, both have good points. My point, have friends and develope some skills, be prepared for tough times. Start by going to library and looking up Goverment emergency powers, that is the scary part-GOVERNMENT!

5 Sep 2:42pm

Efficiency on acerage (you’ll never be “self-sufficient) would probably take the average city dweller five to ten years (yes, 5-10 yrs.). The problem with city dwellers is that there’s been several generations of knowledge lost, tools that aren’t make anymore, resources that are not as abundant as they once were, and so on. Wildlife have been depleted, natural habitats have been destroyed, and nature cannot sustain humans as it once did.

Our preceeding generations traded everything for elaborate systems promising an easier life, based upon cheap, abundant energy, easy money, corporatism, and government welfare. Yes, there have been many positives (or you may view this short list as positive), but the truth is that these generations trade efficiency, prudence and wisdom, for aberant consumerism and waste as though there was NO tomorrow!

Now, we are starring straight into the tomorrow which they denied existed. The basic truth of the matter is found in the Olduvai theory. Starvation is what’s in store for billions. Many will die early deaths by wars, famine, and poor health conditions.

The government and social systems that have been constructed by our prior generations are intrinsically incapable of responding appropriately to the near-future crises. I am sure that, in the U.S., at least, that there is a plan. But that plan is closer to the draconian government that we’ve all seen developing over the last 50 yrs. and what was put into over-drive after the 9-11, false-flag terror-op.

More false-flag terror is likely. Fascistic martial law is quite possible. Government will hang-on with force as long as it can, until the last light goes out in Washington, District of Criminals.

Cheryl Nechamen
5 Sep 3:25pm

I totally agree with you Rob. Your Kinsale Energy Descent Action Plan spurred me into action. We’re organizing the 100 Mile Diet Challenge ( in upstate New York as part of an effort to relocalize our food supply.

5 Sep 3:30pm

These points were already addressed above, but I think they need reinforcing.

1) You say, “Either we all pull through or none of us do.”

I believe that sentence betrays a serious misunderstanding of what “overshoot” means. We can’t just sing kumbaya and pretend that we have harmonious community values to get us through resource shortages. Competition is the only entrenched, understood method we have for dealing with shortages on this level.

If you aren’t planning to compete for scarce resources, then climb onto that cross now, cause you’re gonna die there.

2) Where you see “survivalism”, there often may instead be a much simpler trend, which is just a move towards less dependence on the system, on complex and high-energy supply chains. May of us are still living in the city, getting ready to show our neighbors how to garden and save rainwater and dry foods for the winter.

It is just a matter of seeing a crisis big enough to make them give a damn about it.

do the math: 6.5 billion people and counting
5 Sep 3:46pm

Hopkin’s treatment of Nowak’s article is rather philistine. As a minority of responses have noted: a “survivalist” position is not monolithic; not just rambo, woodsman, hunter, boyscout; and certainly not what those caveman pictures are meant to evoke. It was really quite unfair.

Undoubtedly, the history and pre-history of humanity demonstrates that people are more likely to survive in cooperative groups than as isolated individuals. BUT…Nowak is not stating that we choose to go it alone rather than opt for intentional communities that are preparing for a post-Peak world.

If one wants to simplify the “survivalist, doomer” position as being the lone camper in the woods with a knife, okay…but one could do the same to the “utopian” position as some kind of glib, peaceful, pacifist paradise.

I’m afraid Hopkins does not deal with the darker side of humanity. Please, address this issue. If suburbanites are busy fighting each other for a parking space a Wal*Mart, what will they do when two families must share one can of tuna? Will they sing “Kumbayah” at a campfire and split up the portions.

The survivalist, doomer argument–if it is one argument in the first place–must be taken seriously and I am afraid Hopkins has not done this.

5 Sep 5:45pm

I read both articles on energy bulletin and came over here to comment.
As an example of a community focused on needs and sustainability we could look to the amish or somewhat more urbane the mormons who maintain large supplies of stored foods and survival implements.
If we really could pull together, small to medium size cities would be putting a hold on developing any local farmland, starting up coops for food and clothing
setting aside woodlots and assisting residents with conservation measures.
As an example my city of 200 thousand is developing every patch of good farmland, has no water conservation plan, does not ask residents to sort recyclables and
continues to push big budget projects.

A short time ago I purchased some solar panels and a 12 volt freezer. I decided that if the power went out the best way to deal with it was to be self sufficient as least for awhile.
I dont have a water collection setup in place but that would be my second hightest priority project.
There is still a lot of farmland around but water is a problem in southern california and everything is based on inputs and machinery.
Although I believe in working together for the community, I dont plan on supporting nuclear or other big budget infrastructure projects as a solution.

Nicholas Harvey
5 Sep 5:59pm

Nice one, Rob. We must also remember thay one of the reasons the Neanderthals died out and we survived is that they stuck together in small groups, unwilling or unable to communicate with other groups, therefore any knowledge that a group possessed e.g. where to find food or water, how to keep warm, make certain tools etc. died out with that particular group. We survived due to our creativity and communication skills. These are what make us human. We are a social animal, able and willing to share knowledge with others in large communities. The internet is just the latest example of this. I think this will help see us through. Share and survive; isolate and die.

Kathy McMahon
5 Sep 6:02pm

I read what you wrote with interest, but I’m afraid your photos and tone might be undercutting your message. It may be easier to stereotype and point to extremes in a community than it is to look more carefully at what wisdom their philosophy might offer to all of us. If we are interested in building community, we may need everybody, including those who have chosen to keep the basic arts of preparing for difficult times a living, breathing art form. These same people teach others how to hunt or butcher or breed animals; how to can or grow or harvest food; how to weave or sew or preserve fabric. While we may not choose to do all of these things, a move toward greater self-sufficiency might be the unifying message we can all embrace.

Survivalism, in its more moderate form, is also social commentary that requires the adherents to “walk their talk.

[…] I no sooner submitted a commentary on an article republished in Energy Bulletin yesterday entitled Why the Survivalists Have Got it Wrong when I got the following email from a reader of the article I submitted that was published today in the same website. I’ll paste my comments in their entirety below, but one point I made was that there was an implicit political message in ridiculing the ’survivalist,’ in that it suggested to those new to the Peak Oil community, that we might have little reason to adapt and survive anything of any great significance. I don’t think we need to do that. The popular media will do that for us. It reads: Thank God I found Your Website! I’ve been enlightened and it was scary. Like the majority of Americans, I believed I lived in a safe, secure world where resources would never dwindle to the point of affecting us. How wrong I was. […]

5 Sep 8:23pm

That’s a very thought provoking post, Kathy. I have always thought that knowning the basic arts is needed but that it is best done on a community level as no one person can do everything by themselves.

I do have some tendenices toward survialist thinking and that is why I am conviced that knowing ‘survialist’ skills is best used within the community rather than in isolation.

5 Sep 10:12pm

Great stuff, Rob. Your site gives me the courage to go forward each day. But I do want to point out that the Survivalist/Pessimist – Permaculturist/Optimist characterisations assumed here are not fixed and may even be reversed. Just look at Ran Prieur’s writings for example:

YMMV on “the lessons of Katrina”.

5 Sep 10:17pm

Spend some time at and you will see that the new age survivalists are smart, disaligned, and mobile. When the global economy collapses and some of us finally muddle through customs, to escape what is going on here, for a quiet third world bungalow, hopefully with your wealth carefully socked away in a safe bank. When you get there, they will already be drinking wine and sitting on the porch. The race has always gone to the swift. The rich are already moving offshore.

Donna Jones
5 Sep 11:46pm

Survivalism has been portrayed in the above article as an unreasonable and aberrent reaction to the ills of the world, and peak oil in particular. The photos depict a loner whacko complete with long hair and beard.

Survivalists I am familiar with see that a whole lot of things are unstable, from peak oil to Iran and Iraq, to possible bird flu epidemics. They have found that most people are asleep to the world’s problems and risks, and even more, do not want to wake up! They have taken concrete steps to secure food, make gardens, educate children at home if need be, and to protect their families and/or hunt food. These are the sort of can-do people who would be very useful in an energy descent situation. Reviling folks for being practical about their homestead food supply and for trying to do something concrete to optimize their family’s chances of survial just doesn’t make sense.

Hey, co-opt these folks! There are a lot of possible life niches out there, and diversity can be enriching, not to mention more stable than a monoculture.

6 Sep 3:35am

An ethical response to peak oil is all very nice but we are in this situation exactly because mankind as a whole doesn’t follow any such ethics. Relying on an ethical response given the proof of times past is fine if youo are prepared to die an ethical death.

On another point – I suspect that the attitudes of the folk who join together in your rural Irish community are quite different from those living today in urban/suburban America. I don’t know about everywhere else but the neighbhors I have are not the kind who join hands and sing songs. I think the acceptable response is going to very largely depending on where you live – and one key ingredient in determining your fate in times to come is making the decision *now* about where you live and who your neighbhors are.

6 Sep 8:31am

The transition towns initiative is not as much to do with ethics as it is to do with common sense – putting in now, the infrastructure required for post peak oil. It’s not (hand holding, song singing, la la la…) utopian, just plain old common sense.

6 Sep 12:38pm


I’ve followed your blog with interest and respect and admire the work you are doing… There are a number of interesting points made in the original 2 articles and in the commentary that deserve follow up.

On this issue what I see is less of a debate between 2 extremes than a narrow spectrum of opinion covering isolationist and communal survival solutions.

Both are in my view rational responses to the perception that hard rain will fall within our lifetime. I see the localised town scheme schemes as valid but sitting squarely within a survivalist tradition of making a conscious decision to be more self-reliant, of planning for the future, of developing the skills that our species have found useful for eons before oil was discovered… and of choosing the group of people you’d want to weather the storm with (whether that group is 3, 30 or 300).

Conversely within survivalist literature I also think you’d be hard pressed to find individual (i.e. one individual or one family) survival attempts recognised as offering the best chance and I didn’t read Nowak’s article as specifically advocating complete isolation. Anyone that has tried to grow food seriously will recognise the value of co-operative action. Anyone that has thought seriously about self-aid as a serious response to medical emergency will recognise the value of specialisation.

Where I do disagree is with your “all or none

6 Sep 12:47pm

I have some problems with the survivalist approach, too, but regarding the following:

“Imagine you and a number of other people are in a house and the house catches fire. Do you look around the house for other people and help those out that you can, or do you bolt out of the house at the first sniff of smoke?”

…I don’t think that this is a fair analogy. For many survivalists, most of the people around them in the burning building are throwing fuel on the fire and are unwilling to leave because they think that it might be too cold outside. In that case, they are presented with a decision between joining the majority in death or trying to save themself and the one or two other people who seem to want to continue living, albeit under a new paradigm.

6 Sep 1:25pm

Rob … I saw this article posted at Energy Bulletin and wanted to thank you for a thought provking and well-written piece. I will certainly be taking a closer look over the rest of this site.

I have serious doubts whether we can descend the impending energy down-slope in a peaceful fashion be that on a geopolitical scale or locally. I agree with you though that any pre-emptive actions that we, as individuals, take must be community based rather than a more extreme ‘survivalist’ response but when it comes down to it there will be some hard choices to make and it is hard to see how people will continue to be able to react in a ‘community spirit’ as things get worse. I guess I have a pretty low opinion of people generally.

So I’m still pessimistic about the transition phase whilst being optimistic about the prospects of those who make it through the other side.

James Woroble Jr.
6 Sep 4:29pm

The faux survivalist neo-hippy will be the second to die. The first will be the total fool.

Tom Warren
6 Sep 5:11pm

This is intended as a ‘sidebar’ to the survivalist discussion, not supporting either side of the issue. There’s a shaky assumption in both sides of the survivalist debate

Just as you’ve been considering the economics and sustainability issues for yourselves, consider those issues from the ravaging hoard’s point of view. I found it very helpful to take the other side of the question. In your thought experiments or projections about your crash future, consider being a ‘bad guy’ long enough to see the fragility of the strategy. The fear that we have about the ravaging hoard is overblown, there just is too much hyperbole and too big a fear factor for reality. Have a bit of fun thinking what you would do if instead of being ethical, you decided to get through the Crash by joining (or forming) a Mad Max gang. It will clarify a lot of issues if you try solving the problems from the mob’s side of things. By no means is the Mad Max scenario an easy gig for the marauder. Marauding’s not a very … er … ‘sustainable’ strategy for getting through the bottleneck. Consider some aspects:

 Leadership and organization are much more critical, and good marauder leadership is not a very common skill set.
 Resource consumption is very very high, and the stress of providing timely sustenance for your marauders is awfully critical, more so than for the peaceable population. So is safety. One violent failure and your gang is out of business, whereas a localized community or a survivalist establishment may be more resilient
 The learning curve of your average marauding lifestyle is very steep, much steeper than a localized community or a survivalist outpost. And neither Heinburg nor the Green press has published any books good for Post-Peak marauding.

So it helps to look at the critical requirements for gangs in the Mad Max Scenario. Oh sure there may be some initial and/or localized success from marauding; but as a strategy for longer than a few days? Uh uh. Look at the recent marauders you know about, Watts riots, Katrina break-ins, looting in 3rd world crises. A couple of days and then …

Some gangs may do alright and have a long run at success, but both the localized communities and the survivalist strategies have the upper hand. If it’s a fast crash, communities will experience a few successive waves of marauding, then things will subside except in isolated instances as the starvation die-off kicks in. If it’s a slow transition, well, defenses against marauders will keep pace with the mob’s threat.

For you history buffs, the most likely scenario for Mad Max gangs is Northfield Minnesota, or Coffeeville Kansas, not Thunderdome or the apocalypse boogeyman of our nightmares. Relax.


Tony Weddle
6 Sep 5:57pm

“Either we all pull through or none of us do.”

This comment by Rob, is almost as bleak as the survivalist philosophy. I think reality is somewhere inbetween. Rob mistakes “society” for “all of society”, when referring to collapse. A local community may be able to survive a societal collapse and I wouldn’t expect all of humanity to die or survive. I think only an extreme optimist could envision a world of 6.5 billion people (or even a UK of 60 million people) having come through oil dependency and living happily in a set of permaculture communities.

So, whilst the survivalist philosophy, as ridiculed here, is one extreme that will not work, there may be an ideal of a larger self-sufficient community that could survive. After all, isn’t that our only hope?

6 Sep 8:57pm

Why Rob Has Got It Wrong About Peak Oil Survivalists

I think the problem people are having with the whole ‘survivalist’ mentality is in associating it with the survivalist of the atomic era, meaning the folks who hoarded canned foods and illegal weapons into self contained bomb shelters to ride out the radioactive aftermath of WWIII. I knew a kid growing up who’s dad was one of these guys… creepy.

I think I would fall into the category of a survivalist according to the above article, but I see little in common with myself and the survivalists of yore (i.e., the ones implied by the pictures associated with the above article). The main difference is that the Atomic Survivalist was (is?) all about saving their own skin by living in a concealed bunker and killing off any starving marauders with heavy weapons.

I see the Peak Oil Survivalist (myself) as someone concerned with the issues of survival in the post peak world: how to feed & clothe oneself in an ongoing, sustainable fashion. This outlook does not in any way require ‘going it alone’. In fact, community is important for a wide variety of reasons… not the least of which is companionship. But as the old saying goes, ‘charity begins at home’… which I am here somewhat twisting to mean that you must be able to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.

I live in a very rural area near Yosemite park in California, and my wife and I have been involved in starting a local sustainable living group. The first meeting was based around a viewing of ‘The End of Suburbia’… and what a wonderful group of people became part of my life! But this is just a part of being a homesteader and preparing for troubled times, not the solution to those problems. The focus of my activity is on becoming as self-sufficient as possible – out of possible necessity, not the desire to live in a remote, armed compound.

It’s comforting to hear other voice the idea that no one can really know what things are going to look like after peak (although I’m frankly much more worried about an imminent depression than hard oil crash). Given the idea that there is still plenty of oil left (just not enough to meet demand) but that due to price it will likely be much less ubiquitous than it is now, I tend to imagine a US that is somewhat like a high tech version of the early 19th century. There will be cars, but fewer and used only infrequently. There will probably be many more horses/mules/donkeys in rural areas, due to strictly practical reasons of economy & useful byproducts (chiefly manure). Etc. etc.

My point in my little exercise in fortune telling is to point out that as a Peak Oil Survivalist, I see community as still very relevant and essential. Still, I believe until WWII, the chief occupation of large numbers of Americans was growing food. Who knows what else will become hard to get when Wal-Mart type stores crumble, so it seems sensible to become self sufficient. Doesn’t seem crazy to me.

Robert Morgan
6 Sep 9:27pm

I think my comment would be that local community action in preparation for powerdown is the only viable option. The danger is that it will be so slowed and handicapped by the the inertia of central government – indeed this is why action needs to come from the grass-roots – that there will be some terrible short and medium-length crises along the way. These will bring fuel, electricity and food shortages, interest rate rises, housing market collapse, economic chaos, etc. These may go on for many years before Transition to a sustainable future is underway on a broad scale. People need to be prepared both for community-centred Powerdown strategies which minimise personal and local discomfort, AND for lengthy periods of strife brought about by central government inaction.

Chad Olivent
6 Sep 9:50pm

I would love to live in a community of like minded souls bent on rehaping the world into a sustainable, enlightened and forward looking place especially since I have children.
However, it is prudent to have some skill sets that would be useful in such a place. It is also prudent to have three to six months of food stuffs for an emergency. My contention is that in some collapse, the higher probability event is that it will be slow with fits and starts and shortages, with some time to adjust. Some of the fits will be periods of famine, perhaps even in this country. I want to eat. I want my kids to eat. One does what one must in those situations.
As socially evolved as we 21st century humans are, turn out the lights and you see what a significant portion of humans will do – run amok. What if they run towards you? My estimate of the best course of action would be to a) Hide – in which case you need a good spot b) run away – in which case you need a ‘bug out bag’ and a place to go c) fight them off – in which case you and all your enlightened friends need a means of defense

7 Sep 1:32am

Thanks for the article Rob.

I agree that community is the ultimate answer…BUT I think community will come after the collapse.

People(Sheeple) are not yet even willing to believe that oil is peaking, much less to turn off the TV or read. They still want to complain that the government needs to make oil cheaper.

Yes, I am a survivalist and I am proud to be.

I tried building my neighborhood in the city into a collective for a major event. People, if they didn’t laugh me off, just thought I was crazy. Even my family thinks I’m a little over the edge….BUT I am preparing and I no longer live in the city, I did go to the country. Some of my family is with me, they still don’t believe but the farm raised chicken certainly tastes better than what you get in the store. And the vegetables I raised and canned will taste really good this winter. And I already have seeds (non hybrid) for next years crop.

I am making friends locally who are of a like mind and that’s where I will work to build a community of support.

I hope that the people in the cities fare better than I expect them to. Since most are not interested/aware of the possible scenerios and have a few days food on hand at most, I really don’t think a lot of good will come out of the cities. (ie: think of the gangs there now…it won’t get better)

I did not take vacations, I did not buy new fancy cars or expensive homes. I did not make a big salary, so when I have sacrificed and put back for my family, I really don’t think I’m going to give my families chance for survival to any Tom, Dick or Harry who thinks they are entitled to it.

Again, community is the answer, you just have to decide where your efforts will be worth your time.

God Bless and good luck to all of you in the coming days.

7 Sep 2:15am

I agree that it is not either/or. It is both survival with guns AND community organization. Face it: that’s what it’s always been like in organized society.

Here in Suburbia, written off by both pure survivalists and pure communalists, I foresee homeowner associations stepping up to protect property and thus form community survival groups. To survive, they will organize neighbors to provide security, grow food, collect water, raise or hunt meat, trade with surrounding HOAs and other suburban towns, and to prevent every house from falling completely into the hands of the bankers.

I may end up with 10 people living in my house instead of three. The front lawns and golf course and common areas will probably be transformed into community crops and community sheepgrazing. But with my neighbors next door taking turns on block guard duty, I may even be able to get some laundry done out back.

7 Sep 4:52pm

I tried to organize my neighbors for the Peak Oil powerdown. I went door to door with a pamphlet of facts, and suggestions what we can do about them. The responses were indifferent to rude. So what the hell. They can starve, and if they try to take my potatoes or chickens I will certainly repel them with whatever means necessary. The hell with those idiots.

8 Sep 12:35pm

jeez i was thinking of replying to this post the other day, and now it’s become an epic comment session, which i’ll have to read latter…

excellent article btw. As much as i admire what you are doing, my opionion is there needs to be a serious appreciation for the darker scenarios of peak oil. I think the approach to any future problem should look at the potential scenarios and the levels of risk associated with each scenario. They way you are approaching peak oil at the moment to me seems like you assume a level of society will be maintained enough for your movement to take hold and stand the fall out. I think we need to be more flexible in the approach, and ask questions like “what if a food riot breaks out?” “what if the legal system collapses?”. The problem is not just about energy as much as it is about the infrastructure of society.

I think we should think about different levels of threat to our society and prepare different approaches for them, rather than just one approach which could be inappropriate.

If we do have food riots then what happens to our society? We shoul be discussing this scenario now, as well as discussing how premaculture can be a model for low energy food production. If we discuss the darker side of our dependency fallout then perhaps it won’t every get so bad. All essential serives have emergency plans: police, health care, fire department, government. What we need now is a community emergency plan, which local governments should have, but it needs to be put in the context of the emerging energy/food crisis.

If we educate people on what to do when an extreme crisis occurs, such as no food in the supermarket for 5 straight days, then we may be able to avoid complete failure of society. An emergency plan would be a backup and compliment our transition from the worst case scenario to the longer term green growth type model.

Perhaps if parents knew who to contact, what to expect, where to get the basics to survive a crisis then they wouldn’t join a food riot in order to feed their children.

This scenario shouldn’t be simply left in the hands of central government. We need to engage with the community and look at preventative measures, and not rely on armed troops on the streets or a fight in a food aid queue.

I don’t think we should shun survivalists. Survival skills are a basic understanding and knowledge which teaches people to what degree they can cope in the worst situations where they simply cannot depend on help. What we need to do is appreciate these skills but incorporate them into a whole approach to the future of our society.

8 Sep 1:44pm

and the thing about the titanic was, as far as my little history knowledge stretches, people can blame bad luck or racing through ice burge water but the person really to blame is the designer of the boat. It doesn’t matter than the boat suck, what matters is that no one thought to make enough life boats. The fact that people saw this problem and paniced made it even worse, but you can’t blame them, they saw the situation for what it was, a desperate race for survival.

I think in your community you are building a boat which will ride on the choppy seas ahead, but you must consider building life boats even for a boat within a boat within a boat. with many fall back options you will have designed flexibility and confidence in those who ride the boat.

How to Save the World
9 Sep 6:29pm

Links for the Week – September 9, 2006

11 Sep 12:25am

If I am a lone hoarder/survivalist, my stash will be confiscated either by violent mob or by violence-backed Government. Eventually I would run out of firepower.

But if I focus on teaching survival skills to as many people as possible, it reduces my risk of being overrun. My risk is reduced even further if many others are engaging in preparing their communities also.

The scary thing is: preparation is not happening on a wide enough scale right now. But running for the hills instead – only brings you back to point one: the thieves, official or unofficial, will find you anyway.

So if you are going to lose either way, you may as well choose the one that would protect you best: prepare your community.

In communities/neighborhoods where they still deny peak oil, we could use babysteps: instead of starting with doom and gloom predictions, use cost savings as incentives. WE know why the costs of heating and cooling and transportation are going up; they only need to know that they can save money. Or we could tap into other social and environmental motives for spreading permaculture gardening; green building; ‘campout’ survival skills etc.

In the absence of a Kinsale or Totnes type public education project, I think that supporting related local organizations like 4H, scouts; and adopting projects like starting a community food garden, promoting ’emergency storm’ preparedness and ‘get out of debt’ seminars, [even birdflu ‘epidemic’ preparedness] etc serves to spread survival skill sets even if folks aren’t ready for the peak oil reasons for it.

11 Sep 12:08pm

Greetings Survivalist,

I am seeking to form or become involved with an existing small community of like-minded people.

I have been a deep green activist for over 25 years and have arrived at the inescapable conclusion that a near-future collapse is inevitable, as the Earth’s immune system will seek to return balance back to the Earth at the expense of our overly fecund genus. I am of the opinion that the population bomb is about to detonate and all attempts at conservation are futile while human densities continue to spiral out of control. Unfortunately, most humans will make it through the other side, which will be the point of this cleansing exercise.

It has been difficult finding folks on-line that want to do little more than talk about this subject. I suspect that those who are already successfully involved in survivalist communities are flying under radar and probably not advertising their location and MO. My vision is to acquire land in a rural setting and form community with perhaps 5 – 10 other like-minded couples. My girlfriend and I are already making some initial preparations for transitioning. We would like to involve ourselves with other people/couples who have a similar inclination for preparedness and survivalism. Preferably couples who have no children, or at least are not actively breeding with a kid-centric community in mind. There is obviously much more to discuss in such an arrangement and much of it is open to discussion. I hope we can enjoy this new journey of simple and self-reliant living. May we live well and then die out… Please feel free to contact me if you are serious about transitioning or have any similar thoughts.

Regards, Zimba

15 Sep 3:55am

wow what a short sighted and very un-informed blather on survivalism. One
major point is survivalism isnt just
about OIL! survivalism is about getting
through the worst possible situation
no matter what KIND it is. As we can see
your going to choose to be a “katrina”
victim rather then plan ahead. How very
ignorant of you. Yes when it comes down
to push or shove a survivalist has a much
better chance of living then you will.

15 Sep 12:28pm

Survivalism is about surviving – and I personally think your depiction of the lone survivalist is just a largely biased stereotype to depict “those people” as whacko. That’s why you chose the pictures for the post that you did.

Anyone that could look at something like Katrina and New Orleans (or even the start of the panic in places like Atlanta in the days after when fuel supplies were shut off) and not think “Hmmm… my suburban neighborhood with 2000 other unprepared people and no tillable land might not be the best place to ride out the storm” would frankly astound me.

Regardless of what causes the “storm” the point is being prepared and being realistic. I don’t have the income or resources to have extra on hand for everyone in my community, but I do have the resources to store up for me and my family (and sometimes even extended family). We do have a family farm, and it’s where all of us go in crisis anyway… so the idea that you scoff at people who are prepared for the worse and instead reccomend trying to …. what? Offer free classes on gardening to executives and soccer moms? Do you actually think they’re going to take the time out to learn? It’s not like they just haven’t thought about learning those skils, it’s that THEY DON’T CARE because someone else is doing it for them.

The point is – in any grid down situation, fast or slow – me and mine know what to do and when to do it. We will not be stranded on the bridge across from the stadium. We will not be murdered in the stadium. We will survive – and it won’t be some scary “I haven’t seen another human in 10 years” situation either.

Oh, and to blow your theory completely out of the water – have you thought about how long it takes to grow a crop of anything? What do you eat in the mean time? Your commune idea is lovely and all as long as some of them survive to pick the corn.

15 Sep 4:23pm

Ridiculous. Thats what I thought. I didnt even bother to read it all.
The comparisons are invalid and the whole premise of the article (Or what I read) hovers on the thought an end is in site.
If a house is on fire, safety and normality exists just on the other side of the door. Of course you’ll try to save those besides yourself.

In a true power down like Peak Oil you may be faced with a decision. Hoard your supplies to yourself and live, or share your supplies and die with all the others. Feel good emotions of having done the right thing morally wont make my death any more enjoyable.

More to the point, WHY should I share my work with others? I want a big screen TV, I want a sports car, DVD library to the ceiling, new home theater. I want all the fancy gizmo crap the modern world can give me. But I save my money and buy things I may or may not need should things go poorly in our world.
Why should someone else beenfit from my hard work? I dont believe they will.

Read the story of the ant and the grasshopper. People can feel free to party aand enjoy life all they want. I choose not to. If it comes a time when things in our world go poorly, I’ll be well situated and you can enjoy your memories before you die.

15 Sep 5:45pm

“I have very little time for the survivalist response to peak oil,”

Perhaps that’s why you’ve responded to this Straw Man survivalist instead? How many actual survivalists have you talked to or met when conducting the research for this article?

15 Sep 6:58pm

Your Titanic analogy is flawed. The survivalists are not the ones who jump the lifeboats and make for safety. The survivalists are the ones who anticipate the unavailability of life boats and bring their own inflatable rafts. It is the unprepared that end up being a drain on the resources of society in times of need. Self-sustaining survivalists are in a much better position to help others. This same flaw in reasoning is prevalent throughout your article.

When people are unprepared, Katrina happens. They will loot, rob, murder, and do whatever is necessary to take what they need to survive, because they had not prepared in advance. Those of you trying to build the a social cooperative will be the easiest targets for these kinds of people. This is because the primary threat comes from the very community you’re trying to build. If everyone were morally-righteous upstanding fellows who were willing to work for a better world, your ideals would work wonderfully. But in reality, Katrina happens.

The aim of survivalists is not to remove themselves from society and live forever in isolation. It’s to ride out the immediate chaos long enough to rebuild. Quite contrary to your romanticized view of the long-bearded, lonely man living on a mountain or in a shelter, many real survivalists work together to build communities much like the ones you describe. The main difference is that survivalists do not share your naivete – the violence will come to you even if you don’t seek it, and the unprepared will become victims.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. It could very well be that you’re right on all counts, and survivalists are completely off-kilter for the realities of what will happen. It could be that the decline of society will be gradual enough for us to adapt and restructure. It could be that, in the case of a disasterous event, by some miracle of human evolution, there are no looters or murderers, and everyone will work peacefully for mutual benefit. If that is the case, survivalists will still fit in just fine, and will be able to contribute more from their stockpiles than those who didn’t save. Better to have and not need, than to need and not have.

Whereas you call survivalists immoral and irresponsible for the measures they take to prepare, I say that those who *don’t* prepare are the immoral and irresponsible ones. They will be in no position to contribute to any sort of community, and will become either the criminals or the victims in times of disaster.

15 Sep 8:00pm

For those of you that think that this article is thought provoking you must have an IQ lower than your shoe size and you’ve got to believe that affirmative action has helped our country.

Get real, this is just a bunch of liberal bullshit! I heard it in the socialism classes that I had to take in college and managed to tear apart the professor’s arguments right in front of the entire classroom.

What a TWIT!

Aaron Hemingway
15 Sep 8:18pm

I have experienced probably a half-dozen disasters first hand. The survival mentality of preparing is as important as keeping your gas tank filled. If you fail to do that, you are in a dead vehicle and can’t go anywhere, and depend on yourself to find gasoline, or on someone else to do it for you i.e. roadside assistance. The purpose of preparing is to avoid those problems in the first place. And most survival types I know have gone above and beyond to share what they had during a disaster
we experienced locally. Failing to prepare can at best be an inconvienience, and at worst, cost a life.

16 Sep 1:25am

The author is suicidally naive.
Inner city inhabitants start looting within minutes of a power outage. Within a week of a catastrophe, 95% of all city dwellers will be putrid masses of rotting flesh.

16 Sep 2:42am

what a very weak article that doesnt
even consider other scenarios in
combination with peak oil problems…

16 Sep 9:25am

I’m one of those terrible survivalists.

I have a wife, 2 kids, 2 dogs, 2 goldfish and a desert tortoise. I pay monthly on credit cards, a mortgage, 2 car payments, auto and home insurance and sundry utilities. I live in the exurbs of Los Angeles and work in IT.

The household has own so many firearms I have to think to count them all. Lets see… Between the 4 of us, we have 4 shotguns, 7 rifles, 3 pistols, a couple of antique replica percusion rifles ana couple of pellet guns. I taught the kids about firearms safety as soon as they were old enough to listen, then got them into target shooting around age 6.

We used to keep a double barrel shotgun loaded with rubber buckshot and tear gas when we lived in a tough neighborhood but now they are all locked away and out of sight.

Firearms are a fun and interesting part of life and an important aspect of my native culture (rural northern Michigan) and my national heritage. Most of my pieces are inherited from my late father and my late father-in-law. They are useful tools in certain situations. I point out all this to suggest that even so, they aren’t a large part of survivalism. A loaded brain is far more important than a loaded gun.

Haven’t gone hunting in many a year but I keep threatening to go on a wild boar hunt. Boar were imported by Hearst back in the 30’s and remain today a nonnative pest through much of central CA. Only thing keeping me back is that my wife is Jewish, ditto the kids, so I’d have to find some place to donate the meat to. But in most areas hunting isn’t an important element of survival plannng. There isn’t enough game for it to be viable. It isn’t in my plan.

BTW, yes, you can slaughter and butcher a pig by reading a book. Trivial task, less daunting than changing a tire.

In my garage I have 5 gallon buckets of assorted bulk food stuffs and large shelving units containing sundry canned and packaged food. The dogs have plenty of kibbled food too. In the back yard is 6,000 gallons of water in a covered swimming pool. Not an ideal water source but in a pinch it will do once you get the chlorine out. If need be we could dig down about 20 feet and hit water as we are next to a dry river bed. I have extra gasoline on hand and a whole raft of batteries as well as a hand cranked radio. Wife is a nurse and we’ve plenty of medical supplies and I know my way around first aid/CPR, so I figure first responder type emergency medical care is covered.

We have 5 acres in the southern Sierra with a trailer on a solar 12 volt system. The area is open range cattle country. I like it but my wife thinks it is too far from civilization for her taste as a permanent home. We could bug out there for a long time if we had to.

What are my plans as a survivalist? I’ll play any situation by ear. My plans don’t involve a lot of shooting. I served 6 years in the military and carried a gun for a living in private security while I worked through college. I am a modestly competent gunfighter, competent enough to know that combat MUST be avoided if at all possible. I would not care to be shot and I desperately do not want my family shot at. So despite all the firepower, the guns will largely stay locked away and out of sight unless some need forces my hand.

I don’t anticipate a sudden disintegration of society from declining oil. We will simply adjust to higher prices and find ways to avoid using energy. More energy sources will be found though the extraction costs will be much higher. Between nuclear, wind, geothermal, coal, coal gassification, shale oil and tar sand there will be enough on hand to give civilization as we know it a slow descent.

I expect that someday controlled fusion will come on line and fossil fuels may become irrelevent.

Similarly I believe we’ll adjust to the gradual increase in global temperatures. Unfortunate but probably unavoidable. Things will change, many creatures may go extinct, many people will have their lives disrupted but OTOH cold areas will become more habitable and there’ll be a lot more water in the system. Planet Earth has been warming up since the end of the Pleistocene and it has been both warmer and colder within recorded history than now. Maybe the next cycle will be another ice age – we’re about due for one.

The scenrios I am concerned about are sudden shocks to the system, shocks too quick to adjust to. There are no shortage of possibilities. Nuclear terrorism is high on my list. I live in a target rich environment and would have to be concerned with the risk of fallout. Don’t knock the “atomic survivalists”. We might have to hide in a hole in the ground until the radiation died enough for us to make a run for the hills. OTOH we might be able to get out of Dodge before it gets to us. Or it might never reach us at all. I’m not counting on FEMA to tell me if its safe. That’s why I have a CD-715 survey meter on hand to measure radiation levels.

Bio terrorism is another possibility, either a human plague or something that destroyed food crops. The nature of agribusiness is such we’re be quite vulnerable. A plague situation is one where a bug out to a remote retreat followed by voluntary isolation might well be the best of many bad options. (Killer Avian flu wouldn’t be any different from a bio attack.) Wait the epidemic out – or at least until viable vaccine/treatment became available. (Pisses me off that isn’t interested in getting a national supply of vacccine (300,000,000 doses) for known bio agents and isn’t encouraging people to get vaccinated in advance!)

Last time there was a quake out here, power was gone for 2 weeks and the drinking water was contaminated. I ended up spending my evenings handing out bottled water at the Red Cross HQ to people who weren’t prepared. The really big quake the experts predict might be a lot worse. Katrina worse. I don’t fancy leaving my family alone to stand in queues of potentially dangerous supplicants for the basic esentials of life when I could have what I need right to hand.

We’ve also had our share of riots out here. One reason we moved to a much safer community. That’s an aspect of survivalism that any sensible person shares, the desire to live in the most secure environment one’s financial means will allow. Another aspect is having enough cash on hand to pay the bills for a few months should one fall on hard times.

There’s a tsunami threat that could do a real number of the east coast. And the Yellowstone Caldera (or Long Valley Caldera or the Valles Caldea) could erupt again. Or a meteor might hit. Or we might have a full scale nuclear exchange with Russia. I figure these are low enough probability that I’m not gong to worry about them. Besides, preparing for one catastrophe helps prepare one for all catastrophes.

As all survivalists know, the lone survivor is worst possible of all scenarios. A group makes for specialization and care of the disabled. It allows for shift work on activities (like security) that are best kept up 24/7. It allows for personal downtime for R&R. I have a group ready to hand in my neighborhood and community where I have been active. This group doesn’t formally exist as such, its just the usual neighborhood social network, but people run in packs by nature (much like wolves) and will readily self organize. The first resoponder after ANY disaster are usually private citizens who happened to have the tools, skills and presence of mind to help others – and who haven’t become victims themselves.

Should we need to relocate, there is another community around our trailer. I am not as well known there. The community is sparser. However it is also hardier and more capable. In an oil scarce environment food becomes more labor intensive. Strong bodies with useful skills (or at least willing to work hard) will be welcome.

Survivalism is just common sense preparedness extended to a higher level of threat. You cannot count on government at any level to save you, nor should you. You cannot count on communitarian good will in the midst of an emergency. Until your neighbors have secured their own safety they aren’t going to come help you. You can’t (or at least shouldn’t) help your neighbor until you know that you and yours are safe.

Interesting note heard on on a TV interview; both Tom Browkaw and Ted Koppel have 3 month supplies of food and water at their “vacation home” in Montana.

Most neighborhoods aren’t going to prepare as a group. By learning useful skills, by being competent to ensure one’s own well being, you are maximizing your ability to help others and helping to ensure neighborhood survival. Failing to look out for number one and expecting someone else to pull your fat from the fire just leaves you a victim and part of the problem.

18 Sep 2:08am

You are a jealous fool. If society fails, nimrods like you will be be the first will be the first to be eaten by some 3rd worlder immigrants who hate your guts. Darwin will be proven right hahah.

19 Sep 4:42am

I must respond to a few points you make based on date stereo types:
Not all survivalist subscribe to Peak Oil being a “End of the World as We Know It

Mel Riser
19 Sep 5:14pm

Very refreshing and thought out. many of the same reason shy I have chosen to to stay in the city ( on the edge ) and try and live more self-sufficiently, while maintaining some form of modern civilization. My kids all go to public schools, though there is no doubt my wife and I COULD educate them ( we are both ex-teachers ).

It will take a community to survive in the long run…

what is the answer? to CHANGE as a society.

How will that occur? in the greedy dog-eat-dog world of modern capitalism, I don;t see that happening. Most folks are just too damn selfish to worry about anyone outside their own family.

I’m a survivalist… yes I have food and water, and fuel and all those good things in CASE civilization has some hiccups. Do I expect to have to SURVIVE forever on what I can create with my own hnads? indigenous styel?

NO, could I? I think so, but it would be damn unpleasant.

We need a social movement…

we need to quit bitchin’ and start a revolution…

a community revolution


19 Sep 6:02pm

People. Can’t live without em, can’t trust em to wipe their own ass. I don’t know where you live, but I ain’t waiting on my idiot neighbors to help do *anything* for *anyone* – including themselves. If they’re among the lucky, they’ll have a disease-wracked cesspool of a locked-down civic shelter they can suffer in while waiting for the government cheese and innoculation cocktails to arrive. But hey – let’s all argue about it while our days slip away!

“The business at hand tonight / make the people choose

I see another side in you / but there’s not much I can do / from on the outside looking in / your government is listenin’ / to push you on the story of / immortal father mortal son / give them your mind and all your wealth / the cycle will rebirth itself

If they had it their way I’d burn in Hell / and your future’s a fuckin’ disaster, can’t you see?

Don’t give them the power when your future’s in desperate trouble, baby…”

– A7X

19 Sep 9:51pm

Self preservation is an instinct that even dumb animals possess and some even dumber humans seem unable to grasp.

Some shelter in place and are not “running to the hills” as you claim.

I have been a survivalist since the mid 90s. To me, it makes perfect sense to be able to fend for myself and my family without relying on government and public services.

I can see that many people have not learned anything from recent disasters. We face Bird Flu and other diseases, terrorism, potential for economic collapse due to the inherent nature of debt money and etc. Many scenarios could play out. Just look at what happened a year ago during the Katrina debacle.

I also disagree with the poster that stated it is impossible for a family to survive alone. Not so. People in early America did that very thing.

Learning forgotten skills and having peace of mind that one can eat and drink when the chips are down is great. I live a normal life and do normal things, I just have enough prudence to be prepared. There is not a thing wrong with that.

Article shows an ignorance of survivalism and is reminiscent of a book on the subject by a jewish author who simply offered examples of kooks as “survivalists” when nothing is further from the truth.

American society, unfortunately, has become the kind of place where people do not know their neighbors and have less of a sense of community than they once did. I think it would be great if neighborhoods did organize, pool resources and make their communities safe places able to weather any storm. That is not happening now because of American society. OTOH, I am a Christian and in a SHTF scenario I would share my rice and beans with others provided it does not deplete my supplies too badly. It would also depend on who was in need as well. In a Katrina like scenario things might well be different, though the criminals seem pretty easy to point out.

A lot of people are heading to the woods to live out life in a simpler manner. I see nothing wrong with that at all because there are more than enough sheeple who will be right there with the author to share whatever fate has in store. Further, those self reliant folks are less of a drain on energy resources.

I thought this article one of the sloppiest written critiques on the survivalist mindset. Try a copy of Backwoodsman magazine or some of the homesteading sites/magazines and get an idea for what people are really doing. And try writing a better article.

1 Oct 6:40am

Interesting veiwpoint. Personally, I’ll meet you half way. Single isolationist survival is a bitch, and yes, a crew of trustworthy individuals, crosstrained in various skills will improve your chances immensely.

However, it all depends on your ability to read the tealeaves. I was into survivalism back in my early 20s, when I was fit to march 50miles a day, and rough it. Our crew had no money except for the basic man portable gear. We had plans to meet up at specific locations, but no property of our own. (Ontario is lousy with crown land)

Today I’m 52 years old, diabetic, and hypertensive. I weight almost 285 lbs so my days of heading into the boonies are history. I’ll take my chances with my neighbours in suburbia, unless I read the tealeaves right and take off in my sailboat for warmer climes and the sunny pacific.

At the moment I live in a city of 2.5 million people and if the SHTF rapidly, I expect to see looting and murder on the streets withing a day. Katrina was a harbinger of things to come. We had the power failure a couple of years ago, and the local idiots were already going crazy about 5 hours into it.

Personally I don’t expect to live very long if and when, and I will do my best to help a small group of hard working people make a go of it. I will also blow any sonofabitch out of his socks if they think they can take what we have by force.

Like I said, I’ll meet you half way.


28 Dec 10:51pm

Very interesting. I am an active Mormon and I believe in being prepared. Our church has taught preparedness for decades, specifically at LEAST one years supply of food, and over the years, this has served me well. During times of illness, ice storms, power outtages, unemployment, lean years, etc. We have relied on our food storage. During years of plenty, we have replenished and so on. We live purposefully below our means. We are completely out of debt. We live in a modest home, we drive old cars. We tithe 10% of our income to our church. We do not have cable TV, instead we opt for internet service. Our church teaches “if ye are prepared ye shall not fear”. I do not fear the future because I am prepared. Our church does not teach gloom and doom, nor the sky is falling, nor end of the world. It does teach to read the signs of the times, that we do live in the latter days, the last dispensation of time before the advent of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. That we should be looking and praying for His coming as He shall cleanse the earth with His coming. There will be great tribulations on the earth before His coming. So, we do not fear, rather, we prepare both spiritually and temporally keeping in mind the parable of the ten virgins. Each day, we prepare by putting oil in our lamps. When and if we get the call to flee to places of safety and refuge, we will go without hesitation, knowing we will be lead and protected. Therefore, we will not need to go it alone, we will be together with our brothers and sisters and any and all who choose to follow. Our church is non-exclusive. Our church welcomes all Christians.

21 Jan 6:25pm

This caricature of survivalists as loners, living in a bunker filled with canned foods is ridiculous.

The truth is, that survivalists will buy a good amount of land, sufficient not for one man, but for their entire family as well as keeping some livestock.

They generally have a generous, and inexpensive, store of dry goods that can be stored easily; rice, wheat, beans, dried fruits, protein powders, canned fish, etc… In fact for Mormons this is preached from the pulpit.

Often relatives live close by, with their own land. In case of trouble the share tools, food stock, seeds, labor & weapons for the good of all. Rather than a lone gunman, survivalists group 5, 10, 20 families which work together for the betterment of all. On top of it all the areas they choose to live in, due to their low population densities, have better hunting.

And last of all, for a very reasonable cost they can generate their own electricity through solar & wind power.

Given a natural or man made emergency who would you assume would do better? A group with the knowledge and requisite land to grow their own crops & raise livestock, hunt and defend themselves or the rest of the people who generally have one weeks supply of food in their pantries, less than a weeks supply of water, no knowledge and no resources?

5 Mar 11:32am

you fail to see one very inmportant fact. Paniced people don’t act rationally. thaey take waht they need without asking and that can lead to violence if the owner is reluctant to part with it, especially if that resourse being lost means his or her death. when you are under water you don’t give away your air supply.

9 Mar 9:45pm

Like the article. I’m not an expert at survival prep and I’m not fully convinced of the Peak Oil issue, but I will agree that our society will run into some very SERIOUS problems within the next 2 – 5 years.

First, I don’t buy the Peak Oil argument entirely because if oil is being depleted more and more, why is the price still lower today than it was during the peak levels back in 2005-2006? And why haven’t we seen the vast uprisings that are supposed to happen in Third-World countries that are supposedly unable to afford higher prices of oil? And why hasn’t this reached the general public until around 2005, when prices started to rise tremendously? I agree that oil will eventually run out, but I don’t think Peak Oil will manifest itself the way the Peak Oil experts predict. Given all of the problems in America, I think we are approaching Peak Dollar instead (how come we aren’t seeing proportionally similar high prices in Europe? Oil has more than doubled since 2002 yet European gas prices haven’t doubled to the best of my knowledge).

Every part of the USA will be hurt badly by an economic and political collapse, but there are some areas of the USA that will fare better than others.

TIer 1 – Northeastern USA, Great Lakes area, SF Bay Area, Puget Sound and Willamette Valley areas: These parts of the country will fare the best. This is where you’ll want to move to if you have the ability to as the economic collapse won’t wipe out these areas. The standard of living will stay roughly the same as it does today and you shouldn’t have much difficulty in day to day living. Of course, you’ll still need to be aware of what’s going on around you as the standard of living here will dip briefly before it recovers back to the 2000’s level.

Tier 2 – Southeastern USA, Southern IL,IN,OH,WV,VA, Eastern TX, MO, KY, TN, Northern FL, Area around DC, parts of Western MN and IA: You will want to be much more careful here. While I have not named all of the areas I feel need to be in the next tier due to space and time constraints, I would consider any major city over 140000 to be in ‘Tier 2′ regardless of it’s location as much of the economic collapse will hit these areas first, and the shock of an economic collapse could spark rioting in cities such as St Louis, Richmond, Boston, New York, Philidelphia, and many others. Even smaller metropolitan areas like Green Bay, WI could experience significant civil unrest (like the LA riots in 1992) very quickly. Your best bet here is to move if you are either a racial or sexual minority. Also, expect to run into shortages of food and other essentials as these parts of the country are dependent on the trucking industry, which will likely shut down in an economic collapse. The threat of gangs with firearms is also another concern. I would consider obtaining firearms for my family if I stayed in one of these areas, at least temporarily. I would expect that most of these areas of the former USA will recover, but at different rates. Cities such as NYC, Boston, and Philidelphia, and parts of Portland, OR and Seattle will recover to their pre-collapse standards of living, while Atlanta and Charlotte will probably revert to 1980s – 1990s standards of living. The rest of the Tier 2 areas will have a standard of living no higher than what those people encountered in the 1950s.

Tier 3 (everything else almost)= This is the danger zone. Your best bet is to move, which 99.99999% of most people reading this are better off doing who live here. While most of the western USA is in Tier 3, I have included some areas in the NE. I would leave cities such as Buffalo and Rochester, NY and any city in the same economic situation for they have very weak local economies and will not survive any economic collapse. Detroit has a marginally stronger economy than the rusted out industrial cities, but the potential for ethnic conflict puts this city in the danger zone. Much of the Great Plains is also in Tier 3, and this is because much of the agricultural and commercial activity that currently sustains this area is heavily dependent on the trucking industry, which will collapse before the entire economy collapses. The levels of social tension here are much higher than featured in the media; I fear that domestic violence and conflict similar to what happened in Albania will occur here when supplies are short. While Washington DC is in the same super-metropolitan area as NYC, Boston, and Philidelphia, Washington is a heavily subsidized city and given that it will already be weakened significantly by economic stagnation and of course, considering its political significance, it’s possible that this city and Baltimore nearby will be looted and maybe even destroyed. A Baghdad-style collapse is not out of the question for these areas of the country. Southern FL and most of Southern LA and MS are also danger zones, but for different reasons; the areas hit in LA and MS by Hurricane Katrina are still in a shambles, and an economic collapse will make these areas just as dangerous to live in. Southern FL is in hot water as there is no sustainable economy in the entire area as much of this part of the state is basically housing. There are no other noticeable industries here, and it’s very difficult to sustain any economy at all on only housing. Combined with the levels of fraud and corruption, which are plentiful in FL, and this state will take a very hard fall. The mountain states are not safe as not only will economic collapse and collapse of the trucking industry will leave the larger cities here without lifelines to the rest of the world, civil unrest and violence will grip these cities, perhaps for even decades after the USA breaks up. Los Angeles, while it is a port city and has better access to world markets, will also fall apart as the city teeters on the edge of serious internal violence as we speak. Like FL, Southern CA doesn’t have much for local industry, and while Southern CA will fare somewhat better due to a slightly more diversified economy, I don’t see Los Angeles being a major player in the long run. Alaska and Hawaii, while they also have access to shipping lanes, have weak, transient economies and the added problem of having everything being shipped or flown into them, and I suspect that air travel will also be cut off in an economic collapse. The standard of living in the Tier 3 areas will take a huge dive; the best areas will revert back to 1890’s – 1900’s standards of living, yet with more crime and social tension. The crappy areas in red will fall apart, and I don’t think they will be put back together. The only reason anyone should stay here is if you are well prepared to live on your own, without any support from the outside world, or if you are physically unable or are too old to move.


I know that this may be considered doomsday talk to some, and seditious to others, but I honestly feel that we must address, if not at least acknowledge this problem. I wouldn’t place too much faith into the federal government to do anything at this point, but it’s still possible that we may fix the issues in America. Also, my estimates on how the USA could break apart are what they are: estimates, based on economics, geopolitics, climate, infrastructure, socio-cultural issues, and even energy production and consumption. It’s possible that the USA may never break up, or it breaks up into many dozens of countries. Whatever the case, I hope that I have informed the reader of what’s going on, and I hope that at least one person acts upon this information. Good luck to all, and remember: liberty is more important than money, power, prestige, or even patriotism. If liberty is maintained during a political collapse, or if the USA breaks apart peacefully, we can show the world that, while not everyone agrees upon everything, we can settle our differences without war. That would be the greatest gift to our civilization. Good luck to you all.

20 Mar 8:51pm

Read “dies the fire” by SM stirling.
It’s fiction, but I think maybe what could occur if a unexpected event happens.

6 Jun 7:14am

wow, where were you during Katrina?
L.A riots or perhaps freedom town?
I think your in for an eye opening
experience if you think everyone is
gonna gather round and sing kumbaya

14 Jul 5:03pm

I’m not a lone “hardcore survivalist” bunker denizen..but with your statement:

“The survivalists are like the latter, like those who were first off the Titanic in the first lifeboats that were launched half empty. I deeply question the morality of responding to a crisis by running in the opposite direction and leaving everyone else to stew.”

Brings a knee jerk response of: Exactly how much of a warning is moral?? “Survivalists/ Doomers/loonies” etc have been pointing out our our society has built a house of cards for many years..only to be ridiculed ,and called names. plenty of folks on the Titanic ordered another martini and went back to tapping their feet to the band. Katrina folks didn’t even have stored water on hand. The Government is not a benevolent nurse maid! When katrina folks complained their MRE’s tasted terrible(“Awful/Inedible”!) I and plenty of other vets wanted to come through the tube…
Like others above; I would like a huge plasma home drive-in theater, but Thats why we are in this mess, unreasonable mass consumption and greed.

There is absolutely no excuse not to take the next spare $40.00 down to the grocery and start building a basic food pantry…( beans/rice or canned :foods not hoho’s!!).And the typically liberal:
“I might have John Seymour’s Complete Book of Self Sufficiency, but I couldn’t slaughter a pig with a copy of it open in front of me, or can my own produce just from the book. You need to learn from people who already know how to do things, books are useful as a reference, but are never a substitute for a teacher.”

Is simply an excuse( and defeatist), “I could never learn to take care of myself!” “Somebody” else
( the government?) will have to butcher my meat.In a perfect world we would all grow up in self sufficient households and to be self sufficient. Perhaps our childrens’ children will be so lucky ? Wake up, .gov is preparing to “help” you during the next big emergency…
Whether we have 5 or 20 years of cheap crude avail ablee makes no difference; it is finite…Get efficient; start the transition to get off fossil fuels without waiting for .gov to ” do something”…

g price
18 Jul 6:33pm


blockquote cite=”The reality of the situation is far darker – or have you forgotten what a week without power, water, and food looked like in New Orleans?”>
The conditions in New Orleans were appalling but this was due to the incompetence of FEMA’s leadership. Notably Bush appointee Michael “Brownie” Brown. The murder rate in New Orleans went down post-Katrina. The New Orleans DA only found four violent deaths post-Katrina. There was no evidence of the problems described in the hysterical media such as riot and rape. I got the impression the media couldn’t believe poor black people in New Orleans would do anything else. In fact there were many examples of the sort of community spirit Rob mentions. Groups of individuals dispatched lorries full of supplies to New Orleans, one came from Texas and arrived at the same time as the local National Guard who came only a few city blocks.

19 Nov 7:21am

I am a very community-minded person but after years of trying I am pretty gloomy about the prospects of people’s capacity to cooperate.

I live in a city of a million people and no one, as far as I know, is preparing for PO. Our state gov. just published a PO report (after burying it for 2 yrs) and it makes no mention of food security.

I have had several attempts at building communities with people and found that people acted too individualistically to make it work. I feel like I’ve tried that and now I need to try something else.

I would love to prepare within a community but don’t know anywhere that would be possible. Urban areas are too consumerist and big and rural areas are too car dependent.

There’s no way I could accumulate enough resources to make a dint on those that don’t prepare. But then I couldn’t secure them against them either. I’m probably going to live in a subsistance agriculture society – I don’t know what else to do.

24 Nov 3:36am

I love the use of:(WTSHTF).
I have to ask all these wonderfull people ( absolutely no disrespect intended); What if it doesn’t HTF? Is there any less need to take a more possitive role in learning the skills and providing a larger portion of ones own needs. Even if Your senarios don’t fall into place the least on can expect of the future is that with more people on the planet there will be more competition for the resourses at hand and the the cost of obtaining the necessities will inevitably rise. As my neighbor pointed out the other day (“how many kids do you know who even know what canning is let alone can do it?”). The very existance of life carries certain requirements of diversification not to mention self responsibility as a cornerstone of continued existance. I am not your responsibility any more than you are mine. The american policy of live at the limit of your income has always been a financial recipe for disaster. Who doesn’t know this? I could say that weve raised an entire generation of children to be self centered,disconected from each other and lacking in any form of selfdiscipline but the truth is we simply did not raise them at all. We wandered off on our own persuits and left those with a very differrent agenda to do the raising.
Society has not cared about its own in general, so what makes anyone think it should if the SHTF?
Personally I’m with a few others I’ve heard (read) hear; I’m building a supply of food,developing my small acreage sustainably to eliminate the need for outside imputs and am helping as many people as I can to do the same.
Even in TS never HTF providing a goodly portion of your oun food and other nececities makes econominc sence. ( The “Have more plan” published in early Mother earth news edditions expounded this thinking well). So who’s right? Who knows, time alone will tell. But the learning of usefull skills and the laying by and storing of the necesities of life should be an everyday habit in the lives of all who can manage such. You can always help your neighbor if you have but not if you dont.
Learn the skills. What will you have lost if their not needed. What gained if they are.

Joe Schmo
30 Nov 5:32pm

I think the way to go is to hope for the best but expect the worst.

After all, how many times have we seen people go absolutely savage the day after Thanksgiving at Walmart as they fight each other for sale items. Just imagine what they will be like when there’s a food/water shortage.

Yes, it will be pure fun and grins!

5 Dec 8:53pm

Am very glad to read this article, just got back from the cinema seeing ‘A Crude Awakening’ and what struck me was the water containers behind one of the speakers. It reminded me of a ridiculous situation on a Peak Oil newsgroup a few years ago where everyone was raving about getting hold of ‘food grade plastic containers’ without actually seeming to know what ‘food grade’ means, and of course it can depend on what food you want to store. (not all of them) Those that wanted to survive with no thought for the wider community or whether they even sounded sensible seem to have lost some dignity along the way, a basic dignity that makes us all human without which we don’t have human civilisation. That and the sticking up for George Bush.

I told some of the nicer more thoughtful ones that I saw my place in the city doing what I could to help people when the water goes murky and the power goes off. I wish those ones well.

3 Jan 11:39pm

I have great respect for Rob and he has inspired me to set up my own transition group but I have few illusions as to how things will play out with PO. His anology of the house on fire is really not that accurate for most people not only deny the fire but continue to fann the flames eg Bio fuels. Off the thirty or so people in my group only 2 or 3 are telling others that the house is on fire and none except me seem willing to leave the building.All things seem possible now with energy in excess of demand but not so many years into PO when we have canabilezed all that we can to keep the ship afloat and the regeime of the week has run out of scape goats a new species will ererge with the demise of Homo “detritus” named for his ability to live on dead organic matter. What this new species will look like and wheather it will survive the consequences of our overshoot and the end of a benign climate is anybodys quess. I for one continue to look for sane people to join me in building a life boat for my and their children.

19 Jan 5:20pm

I haven’t read all the comments, but it seems to me, America is different. In America maybe they can take to the hills, maybe they need to, a lot of their communities are founded on oil and can only run with oil.
In the UK, our communities got by for thousands of years without oil. We don’t have remote enough hills to run for, instead, we have the infrastructure to go back to and forward to, a better time.

22 Jan 11:41pm


I live in the UK in a middle class “dream” called the suburbs. I’ve heard that they may become the slums of the future and I can see why. All our food comes from the supermarket (even though there are a few potentially farmable fields in the region) we have a bus and train system but both can be unreliable. The popular mode of transport is by car, which is a big no-no for the topic at hand.

I’m trying to learn some survivalist skills so I can survive in a depression world where there is little of what we have now; I forsee a lot of run-down areas where many cars lay abandoned on the side of the roads, either burnt out or used for shelter. I shamefully admit I have next to no skills at this sort of thing and I want to learn.

My view would be one of a social or left-wing survivalist (if there is such a thing) where a few people who know exactly how to manage the problem are in the middle of the community, they step in and try and manage things. Think possibly thousands or (implausible but regardless) millions of capable people who can lead at a community level when the government turns their back on the poor and they capably help communities, counties or possible large swaths of the country together.

Worse comes to worse and we have a total collapse, then those who can survive and inspire can help rebuild a post-oil society on the whole.

Sounds crazy? It probably is. But it’s very much an individual effort too. I reckon that a few thousand people out of a million who know how to survive in a world where their comfort zone has eroded away will be all the force we need.

So, I’m starting with myself. Does anybody know any good books or web sites to start learning this stuff? Putting stuff in tins is easy enough but that’s not the be-all-and-end-all as we know.

Thanks so much for the help.

Oh and excellent article by the way.

23 Jan 9:57am

see, christopski, i live in a village which pre existed oil by a millenium or so, and although best efforts have been made to incapacitate it to the level of suburbia, they have not been wholly successful, local gathering places, community buildings (some falling down), travel links (drovers paths, canal) and skills still exist – JUST! I think now is the time to grab them by the heel before they sink – don’t know where in suburbia you live, but I’d suggest a recce into villages, or small market towns, might offer some inspiration.

8 Feb 2:50am

I rather enjoy all the debate over this topic… Survival as individuals or as comunities, or even as larger groups may depend on the small number of folks out there that are willing to learn the old world skills. personaly I live in a city, I don’t have much land(yet) and sustainability is dependant on the grid.
As a former “hill billy” in my youth I dreamed of the city life. Now that I am older with kids of my own, I now understand the value of those old world skills that i chose to forsake for convienience. Some years ago I realized just how dependant me and my family was on the grid Systems and it shocked me. Especialy when the power fails during a huricane for weeks. and water becomes a concern. I realized that my dad, who lived up in the mountains, in his self built log cabin, with free spring water, free hydro electric from a creek, livestock, crops and a good deal of fire arms for hunting and self defense, may not have been a very social person, but was able to provide for himself and his family with those very skills.
I began to relearn these skills, and try to teach others… I became a Historical reinactor that put on demos for libraries and schools. I learn the old crafts of Blacksmithing, metal casting, candle making, wine brewing, wood working, wool spinning, leather working, and much much more… I relearned many skills from my youth that I only had vague rememberances, and I passed on to my children and the public comunity some of this knowledge.
I value comunity but I realize that there are few folks out there that realy have any intrest in turning back the hands of time and learning the Old ways. After trying for years to Passon this knowledge in an attemp to improve my comunity I realized that the comunity prefered to simply content to be “just tourist” in my little “medieval world”. But I have also learned that those individuals like my self, that trek out to the Library and set up there displays of crafts and beutiful home made tents and furniture are the ones that would best have a chance to make use of a new location, a new comunity of their own… And as I search for land in rural america to buy up for this comunity, I am following both a “Survivalist” method of thinking, but also recruting like minded folks to partake in a new kind of comunity, based on the “Old Ways”.
We as humans must understand that our history repeats its self over and over. as a student of history I am maybe more aware of that fact. Rome was a vast empire that eventualy crumbled, Egypt was very prosperous and rich for thousands of years. the fall of these ancient empires reflects our current state.
Durring the dark ages in europe the population dropped drasticly just after the colapse of the roman empire, Warlords took power and the average peasant was the victim.
The difference I guess would be in my trusting my city dweller neighbors to value team work and learning usefull skills to help in such a crisis. Or as I plan, build a comunity that will have many usefull skills and sustainability built in, kinda like the Amish and Mormans… If Oil were to dry up tomarrow, the Amish would barely notice. I have alot of respect and admiration for cultures such as the Amish.

Just my 2 cents

10 Feb 2:26am

Wealthy people have been in survivalist mode for thousands of years. Fortified castles on hilltops comes to mind. Today’s wealthy have other options. First came gated communities. Then came second homes in remote locations. There are also private airfield communities dotting the landscape as well as fortress hi-rises with helipads on top.

The wealthy depend on security services for day-to-day safety. Little do they realize that in a full-blown breakdown of civil society, they’d be among the first victims, probably at the hands of their security and domestic staffs.

Middle-class survivalists can’t afford the aforementioned amenities of the rich. They might own a second home, but its location won’t be remote enough to escape any carnage. Many have settled for motor homes. There’ll be thousands of them choking the highways in case of serious trouble. The problem with motor homes is that they’re dependent on traversable roads and fuel. If you can get there in your RV, I can get there in my ’84 Malibu.

The urban poor are just plain out of luck. New Orleans taught us that.

On the other hand, my poor hillbilly relatives in the Ozarks and Appalachians will do just fine. They’ve been self-reliant for centuries. They already know how to do most of the stuff for which survivalists need instruction books.

They have gardens and animals for food. They have grandmothers and mothers who know medicinal herbs. Their folk remedies don’t always work, but then neither does modern medicine. They have sons and daughters who can take an old Volkswagen and turn it into a still, making everything from medicinal alcohol to moonshine, or into a horse- or mule-drawn wagon. They have strong kinship and social ties to their communities.

And woe unto the rich survivalist with his half-million dollar survival shelter plunked in their midst. He’ll be as popular as a turd on a dinner plate.

The problem I see with most survivalists is that they’re self-centered and think only in terms of isolating themselves. A single family in a remote cabin won’t deter twenty bikers with Viking mentalities or gang-bangers who shoot people for entertainment. Wherever the bad guys might start out from, when the pickings get slim, they’ll move on to your door, sooner or later.

If survival at any cost is your mind-set, might I recommend Utah and Mormonism? The Mormon Church is a strong advocate of self-sufficiency and preparedness. Mormon communities will probably do better than most if civil society breaks down because they are prepared for it. Church members are family through blood and belief. If need be, the Mormon Church could call to arms a hundred thousand men and women. Name another state that could field a volunteer civilian militia that size virtually overnight.

I’m too old and set in my ways to worry about survival. A strong earthquake would probably kill me from a heart attack before the roof could fall in. Still, it’s interesting to read about the follies of men and fun to comment on them.

Planet B
12 Feb 5:37pm

I think Christopski has the right mind frame. I’m personally doing the same thing… preparing a COMMUNITY of left-wing survivalists. It’s one thing to try and work for change, but seeing where we’re at and the forces at work against us (ie, the entire corporate-controlled western world) that’s an exercise in the utmost futility. So, do you want to spend all your time doing that and be completely unprepared should the grid falter and food supply lines become severed? Shouldn’t we at least be learning the skills we would need in a modern Great Depression? Especially one which factors in energy depletion and horrific environmental disasters from increasing weather extremes? As much as it may make me sound like a luddite, we have no choice but to withdraw from society to some extent. After all, what is this society but television, the internet, dvds, cds, plastic grocery bags, etc.? We DO need to withdraw from that or else the human race won’t survive. Get your own group together and start planning.

23 Feb 12:55am

Glad to see I’m not the only one with similar ideas. The irony of total withdrawal from society and contingency measures is that it actually stimulates the collapse in its own way as well as inhibiting it. For example, prices have gone up in part due to the growing knowledge of Peak oil, causing traders to lose confidence which in turn creates losses and recessions. This rise in costs consequently causes another rise eventually, perpetuating the cycle.

You’re right about society being nothing but these things, but the material possession is just there as a tool to provide the human brain with stimulation. That IMHO is fundamentally what all humanity craves, more and more stimulation so the mind can grow. Whether from eating non-essentially, watching television, blowing things up, accumulating wealth etc. that is all what drives us in life.

Some humans will survive because some humans see a primitive lifestyle as stimulating. But I think a post-oil society would be on par with an 1800s-early 1900s society with post modern elements e.g small farming towns built around a wind farm or solar panels. The average person would continue on just so they can have a technological and stable society back so they can continue getting stimulation from the world.

So Planet B you make a lot of good points, but I still think a community would be held together better if they had hope; of being warm, safe and comfortable in their beds for a night.

Rowena Moore
24 Feb 9:55pm

Wow, this is a good article – thanks Rob. So so right to focus on the practical and the pragmatic and on learning real skills from people who generously pass them on. Thats what its all about I think.

8 Mar 8:27pm

Not all survivalist think you should head for the hills alone. Some believe that keeping the community together and pooling the expertise is also important. Get to know and create communities with artisans, doctors, engineers etc. Stock piles of food is for emergency not everyday survival in a small community. I have urged people to learn about the people they live with and decentralize society. So that when problems do arise there is a place to go that is ready for the 1850’s style of living with a lot of 2008 revisions of self sufficient power sources. One thing is for sure though, large cities cannot sustain its people so they will have to leave and make small communities. Since they cant sustain themselves their will be chaos, like Katrina, and people need to know to “head for the hills” or “get out of dodge”. Thats why its best to start making plans for survival that benefits the community and not the lone warrior. He is right in saying we have to maintain communities.

your neighbor
27 May 2:03am

I am glad to see some of the flaws in the isolationist view discussed, as it seems to me that most preparation sites focus on the guns/land/hoarding side of things.

It is interesting to note that in reading these comments, the most aggressive and rude ones seem to come from the isolationist/survivalist side of the spectrum. And despite pointing out the flaws in the article, many seem to miss the point and misrepresent the argument as much or worse than the article does for their side.

The cave-man pictures were a jab and not needed but funny. The kumbaya hand-holding-hippies references are the same.

I believe that the underlying point is that by labeling everyone as “sheeple” and “idiots” and being satisfied to watch them all rot, it increases the chances of that being the case and worsens the situation for everyone. It DOES fan the flames. However by at least trying to envision a new way of life that has room for many and not just the few there is greater possibility for a transition rather than a crash.

If everyone moved to the countryside then it would become just like the cities. If everyone stockpiled food and guns for themselves those things would be scarce quickly and ignite problems faster. If everyone starts by saying “I have a gun back the f**k off” then it doesn’t leave much room for proactive resolutions.

You can’t own enough guns to stop everyone and the better solution is to not have to kill others to save yourself. The burning building and sinking ship analogies have truth even if they have flaws. The point was that if those boats were filled to capacity MORE people would have lived, and if the fires were fought and folks educated then more suffering could be avoided.

The fact is that just as we cannot sustain the population we have in the manner that we are now, we also cannot support a world of tiny fortresses living in siege mode.

It is ironic that there are those who have the resources to buy land and stock food and guns and remove themselves from society and yet they use the inventions and ideas that that society brought (i.e. computers, cars, internet, etc). It is unfair and lopsided. At least the Amish are consistent in that they don’t use the things of this society and shun it at the same time.

To frame this article as condoning a lack of preparation is silly since it clearly says to prepare and help others to do the same. To say that it is simply idealistic dreaming and “suicidal” is to promote an every man for himself world. Which creates crash senarios and condones by-any-means attitudes.

Those who are saying that building strong communities is “suicide” makes it hard to distinguish the survivalists from the marauders. Both groups condone violence and a me-first mentality. Using weapons to procure and protect what the few need at the expense of the many. I don’t believe the 2 are the same, so survivalists need to work to differentiate themselves as more than just doom-saying and calling others “sheeple”, “idiotic”, “naive”, and “suicidal” for desiring to PREVENT as much suffering as possible.

The societies that existed before oil were just that SOCIETIES. The communities (Amish, Morman, etc) who advocate self-reliance are just that COMMUNITIES. So we can drop the inaccurate kumbaya accusations and try to understand the point.

If everyone are really just “sheeple”, then why not be shepherds?

This is the meaning of the article and it is a noble one.

It is both disgusting and frightening to see the amount of comments that seem content to say “we have predicted this all along and will watch as you and all the rest of you idiots die first”. In reaction to an article that advocates saving many rather than few.

One can recall the examples of atomic bomb-shelter paranoia as well as Y2K survival fanatics. If we cry “doom” too often we again make it more likely and act against real observation and warning. Of course those doom-sayers will eventually be right but when will they own up to how many times they have been wrong?

Yes people will die, the question is how many and in what manner?

As an example, lets say that there are 10 people. For the sake of this argument we will say that 2 are informed and prepared and 2 are the criminal type who will only look out for themselves – the rest we will call “sheeple” – able to go in either direction depending. The isolationist/survivalist mentality says the 2 prepared ones should head for the hill with supplies in hand and perhaps an additional 1 or 2 “sheeple” that they convinced of the impending doom. They will wait and defend themselves against the 6 marauders who come to take whats theirs (best case = 4 live).

The mentality presented in this article says that the 2 prepared ones work to educate the 6 “sheeple” and then can be better prepared to save the group and deal with the minority that are criminal (best case = 8 live).

Of course this is an oversimplification but the point is that we may be able to mitigate and margnialize the “crash” BY preparing the many and not just the few.

Several years worth of food, water and guns wont help anyone if tragedy strikes that household. However, those same supplies would continue to aid a community if they were pooled with others and maybe that community would have been able to save that family in the first place. Win-win.

Don’t write off thinking about your fellow man as unrealistic, naive, and idealistic – it is part of practical preparedness and self-preservation. Otherwise we give the marauders more of a motive as well as a target.

There were many factors that contributed to what happened in Katrina. It is an important lesson to remember however it should be noted that part of the problem was when and how those that could leave did. Leaving their neighbors to die in the process. There are just as many stories of crisis in which communites banned together to save as many as possible and make the system work. Lets avoid being too selective in our recollections.

Pro-active = being prepared and preparing others. Reactive = being prepared and waiting to kill those who didn’t do the same. The first option has much greater chances for success.

29 May 10:27am

Interesting article. Have people here paid any intention to Sweden? A country that is already well on the way to making itself oil-free.

Increased self sufficiency is a good thing but I think that a realistic view of the world must take into account the fact that people really can and will work toward avoiding the collapse of society by developing alternative means of power & production.

As for all the comparisons with Katrina… Peak Oil is not going to be a sudden event so comparisons with a natural disaster are invalid. A more reasonable (and negative) comparison would be Easter Island which suffered a slower population collapse after killing all their trees and being unable to build boats.

[…] facut si un film cu Kevin Costner). In principiu, acestea sunt solutii individualiste, comparate aici cu cei care au parasit Titanicul pe cont propriu, cu barcile pe jumatate […]

3 Aug 2:41pm all depends. Really, if you gotta drop everything and get outta dodge, the best hope is that communications work (cell, text, phone) and that you can grab a few belongings and make it to a shelter of some type. If theres Gridlock vis a vis the roads, look out.(think War of the worlds, or the day after). My point is the survival arguments here are rather pointless. Anything you got CAN and WILL be confiscated by authorities. Any luck you will have a cot, water, food rations, and the best security (nat guard, local police) money can buy. For the survivalists ANYWHERE with a fully stocked pantry and a square centinmeter of arable land…guess what? its BIG BROTHERS! You will surrender or die in it, waco style…

happy hunting!!

21 Nov 5:47pm

Did everyone miss the general theory behind the crazy persons perspective? There will be no food. Almost 100% of you people would not last a week without your hunger pains forcing you to do the most terrible things imaginable. The author of this post would probably be one of the first to cannibalize his “community”, or be eaten by them. Do you believe that bread will fall from the sky? Or maybe farmers will tend crops all year for you, then march them right to your door. No, it is you who will be knocking on the doors of the survivalist you mention. Then you will understand what the stockpiles of ammo are for, to put you out of your misery!

22 Nov 10:37pm

I expect you are right, Mr Whatever, in respect of the United States.
In England, there was ‘no food’ or precious little of it, 70 odd years ago, when the Second World War began some years before it gets a mention in US History.
The much mocked and maligned (by the US) State intervention was what saw us through, as rationing – generally voluntarily and graciously complied with – ensured that it was not the survival of the richest , but the greatest good for the greatest number. That was the community spirit of the day.
The gulf between the ‘survivalist’ and the ‘transitionist’ is called the Atlantic Ocean.

‘Ammo’ indeed. Go ahead and shoot each other and do us all a favour.

11 Dec 12:29am

From what your article says you are highlighting a problem that is being exacerbated by a particular economic model and then having a pop at a caricature that you have negative feelings towards. You spend some time trying to justify an unclear position with analogies and some reasoning. You have succeeded in expressing an opinion. Now what.

26 Jan 6:06am

Ok I am a repeated hurricane survivor. I have seen first hand how communities pulled together to help each other loot the community store. So as several people have said lets help each other. In times of crisis I should be able to count on a few readers here to supply my family with water….Ok who here is the candle maker? hhhmm Can at least someone sew me a new shirt??? Well who’s house do I show up to so I can get a few gas cans filled? Since I was counting on the community I don’t have anything but pork and beans to eat. Who here has some roast I can get or a bit of veggies???? Thats what I thought. You have none to give. Oh thanks so much.

Oh yes I have seen how people pull together and thats the reason why my friends and family made it just fine without FEMA, Red Cross, or anybody else for that matter.

Many may call me crazy but those people watching me fill my truck up on the side of the road from a tank in the back sure looked envious. I guess I could do as you suggested and gave everyone a cup full, for the community you know. They did’t ask for any though. Probably my wife watching my back with the AR-15 gave them pause.

For Sue Lyons way up at the top. And I quote “If my only choice was to survive in my little cabin way back in the woods while everyone else starves and freezes to death, I think I would rather go suck on a gas pipe, while there is still some gas left!”
Please do the world a favor and do it now. That statement made me ill.

26 Jan 7:52am

Excuse me. I can sew you a shirt. And also as it happens make candles. However, if I try to help, your wife will shoot me, so you will never know. I guess the poor woman’s stuck with just you for company.
What is your point? You are the only person on the planet with a useful skill? How nice that you will have yourself for company. You are obviously the only person you feel is worth saving.
What a good job you live in a country, where you can all shoot each other. In our dreams.

[…] Hopkins part, when I disagreed with him so vehemently in his September 4, 2006 piece entitled: “Why Survivalists Have Got It All Wrong.” He displayed pictures of pseudo-cavemen, and made reference to selfish survivalists hording […]