Survivalism is the new black

| Milkwood Farm, Uncategorized | comments | Author :

I am not a survivalist. Really I’m not. Despite growing up in a family that was so deeply concerned by nuclear threat in the 1980’s that we had pictures of mushroom clouds (framed) in my childhood lounge room, I refuse to concede that my family’s future may involve turning our farm into a stockade or living in our root cellar.

But it’s hard not to be. Part of what we do these days is teach permaculture. And where there are conversations about ecological design, there are also students who have come to the course intent on designing their own passive-solar fallout shelter. And who am i to tell them not to.

In permaculture education there is a great focus on positivistic solutions to design problems of the human habitat. I think that’s what attracted both Nick and i to permculture theory in the first place. Born out of the 1970’s, in a time of oil crisis and impending doom, permaculture was a framework for doing something useful about the calamitous problems on every side.

Following a small (ok, life-changing) freak-out that we both had a while back about peak oil, we uprooted and headed for the hills. And here we still are: on a property that is remote and far less future-proofed in many ways than if we’d stayed in inner-city Melbourne. But now we’re land stewards. Starting to be farmers. Determined to keep it real in the face of any and all future freak-outs.

Maybe i shouldn’t have read The Road. Cormack Macarthy is a writer who is truly searching for the essence of humanity. And he took the darkest path he could find.

That story pushed some morbid buttons in my brain. Previously, I was certain that, no matter what the future held for my little family, we would thrive in the face of everything. We would just work harder. Smarter. Eat less interesting foods, if necessary. But we would be absolutely fine. And even if we weren’t, nature would carry on and this beautiful world would still continue.

What was so chilling about that darn story The Road was the concept of the death of nature. I couldn’t really handle that.

So now, when occasionally someone comes up at a course and wants to talk survivalism, I almost want to get specific: “so, like, are we talking about just social upheaval, or economic collapse, or armageddon, or the full thing where people start to eat each other? Because you’ll need a different approach depending on what you’re thinking to protect yourself from…”

In reality, I don’t go there. If i and my family are going to manifest a thriving future for ourselves and our community, I need to compost those kinds of thoughts and regenerate them into something useful. I focus on what I can do. And make sure I keep up with my planting plan.

I think for a moment about how, compared to so many millions of people on this planet, we live in paradise. Maybe I should stick to being thankful for that. And building a kick-ass permaculture farm that can feed useful knowledge and nourishing food back into my community, no matter what the future holds.

I am not in control of many things, but I am in control of how I adapt to change. I am able to play a role in regenerating my farmland, growing food, growing community, and growing knowledge systems that can regenerate other farms.

But I am not a survivalist. Stuff that. I know i can be far more effective coming from a place of hope, than from a place of fear. We’re not going to survive. We’re going to thrive.

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24 responses to “Survivalism is the new black

  1. I am happy to see young people taking on the same challenges that I took on in the early 70’s during the oil embargo. That period of time changed my life and molded who I am today; an old hippie living off the land in a sustainable way and living a permaculture lifestyle.

    So many young folks choose to put blinders on and ignore the signs that are everywhere. Living in the USA, I can see trouble ahead as our government fails us over and over again because of greed, graft, and stupidity.

    Keep up your dreams and goals and I will enjoy watching as you progress. You’re doing a great job so far!

  2. I loved this post thank you. I also come from a permaculture background and love the positivity of it. Yes we freaked out about peak oil also and we read a lot of survival information however what we do in our daily lives is about our family, our home our property and looking forward with optimism.

    Sounds like I should not read “the road”. I’ll just pull out my Little house on the Praire series again instead.

  3. We have been into something we term ‘survironmentalism’ for a while now…

    Survironmentalist: a person who bases their beliefs and actions on a balance between Survivalism and Environmentalism. Those who want to be prepared for an uncertain future, to be able to provide for and protect their loved ones, but still support the Earth & it’s inhabitants now. Healing the planet we call home, hoping for solutions and changes to restore balance, but being ready for hard times, if we cannot.” RM, 2010

    More on my blog, of course!

  4. Love this post Kirsten. Hope not fear. Choose life. That’s the go. Reading The Road was a freak out moment for me too, but the closing paragraph, which is one of the most magnificent I’ve ever read, left me with the sense that ultimately, hope will prevail – “all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.” Beautiful.

  5. I wanted to push the “Like” button on this one but there wasn’t one to push!!! Be the change you want to see- Gandhi, is what you are living, and I admire you all immensely at Milkwood for this, jealous even. Keep up the intelligent foresight and creating a bright future for yourselves and the planet. With love….

  6. I consider myself a realistic pessimist, the human race is no different to any other species and as such our dominance is finite, the dinosaurs lasted 4 million years, I can’t see humans going on for another 400. On a positive note though, the planet will be fine without us. When I was young and idealistic I believed I could ‘save the world’ but the passage of years, many miles travelled around the world, the benefit of education and some big picture hindsight, I have no elusions that anything we do will save the human race from itself. I don’t have an issue with accepting the ultimate demise of our species,it is after all part of a natural process. The planet will survive and am happy for that. I accept what I can’t change and believe I am a better person for doing so. Many people see such acceptance as a weakness, I see denial as one.

  7. Thank you so much for this. Many of us who strive to better our little bit of land have these dark moments. But ultimately it boils down to how are your going to spend your time here. Proactive and constructive or defensive and limited. I so enjoy your posts and your work. 🙂

  8. So you’re a thrivalist then :-).

    I read a great quote recently, but can’t remember the source:

    “What if the power comes back on and we’re embarrassed we went straight to cannibalism?”

    Most survivalists are normal, logical people who are just preparing for the normal types of disruptions to our everyday lives (sudden unemployment, accidents, floods, fires, strikes, recessions, etc). But there are a few right out there on the edge, just itching at the chance to swing into all-out “survival mode”.

    Not sure I’d want to be around people like that in a blackout :-).

  9. I don’t think all survivalists are coming from a place of fear. Often they are acting from love of their families and friends. There is a movement that has risen up recently, especially in the USA called ‘Modern Survivalism’ that is based on self sufficiency and self reliance. Permaculture has a heavy influence on this movement as well.

    Also @ Karen, Ghandi was a collaborator with the English and was not responsible in any way for India’s victory. He is a convenient idol for those in power as his ideology can never bring about real social change…. end rant

    1. No, I’m sure not all of them are coming from the same place, but I was speaking from experience… maybe lay off Karen – her point, i think, was the spirit of the quote, not the layered history of the idol –

  10. Great post! Its easy to get overwhelmed with the stuff going on, peak oil and climate change. Its very easy to freak out about it… I do have those moments occasionally….

  11. Thank you for this post, it has struck a deep chord within me and helped to crstalise some of my own thinking around this.

    Best wishes on your journey!


  12. A great positive post Kirsten, in the face of lots of ‘End of days’ culture that has swamped the market and the ‘be afraid’ and here is a new law, news.

    I think survivalism is the natural response to the unsettling narrative we are given.

    Personally I found this website useful for at least giving me a plausible cultural context. Cutting through

    Some good data which has helped me to move on from the manufactured fear factor and focus on the stuff I can control in my own life. I have therefore have decided not to stock up on buckets of wheat to survive the…

    Thanks Kirsten, back to the garden 🙂

  13. A pleasurable post to read Kirsten.

    I too suffered a little from the intolerable bleakness of “The Road” – and the movie made it all worse, in monochromatic tones of despair and human depravity.
    For awhile I even lost myself in daydreams of how I would build a post apocalyptic shelter in the hinterland outside Bangalow. “Our family will survive” I would find myself saying.
    Bugger that!
    I also now share your hopes and confidence in a bright future for the natural world. With or without us, life will go on.
    We just need to be that change.

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