Skills

Skills Needed to Survive in a Post-Collapse World


Knowledge is something that no one can take from you. It’s the eternal wealth that will help you thrive in a Post-Collapse world.

dirtynails-e1334629650694Some experts see the perfect storm emerging for a dramatic collapse of Western civilization claiming we’ve reached environmental, economic, and geopolitical tipping points. Clearly, some skills will be far more valuable than others if this societal breakdown occurs.  Sorry bankers, lawyers, and accountants, there won’t be a need for you in a post-collapse world.

Before we quantify the skill sets that will be viable, it is important to define the severity of a “post-collapse” scenario. When taken as a whole, together these tipping points could potentially converge to create a post-apocalyptic Mad Max-type world for the vast majority of humanity.  However, given the advanced technology that we possess today, it is unlikely to ever become quite that primitive ever again. Surely there will be pockets of energy and food independence no matter what possible scenario unfolds, but the vast majority may be left to fend for themselves.

For sake of this article, let’s assume that some level of devastation is caused by each type of tipping point in the United States.  Our ever escalating wars finally reach our shores by way of long-range nuclear missiles, total economic collapse occurs rendering the dollar worthless, and we would likely have less electricity and water than Iraq did after Bush’s “shock and awe” campaign. Gasoline and oil supplies would likely be down to a trickle, halting all supply lines of food and other goods to big box stores.  Factory farming will be impossible without cheap oil products readily available.  The suffering will be dramatic.

Many articles have been written about how to survive the coming collapse, or what is needed to survive, but not many articles have been written about what skills will have value in a post-collapse world.  Imagine fulfilling human necessity without consistent fuel or electricity, large-scale food production, or fully-stocked pharmacies and hospitals.  The only form of wealth in a collapsed civilization is the knowledge and skills to produce something of human value.

Here are invaluable skills that will likely help you sustain yourself in a hand-made local world:
We will look at these skills by topic. 

FOOD

  • Organic Gardening and Seed Saving: Skills involving food production will be the most valuable in a post-collapse society. Learning to grow your own food is a must.  Obviously, it is necessary to feed your family, but you will also be able to trade your abundance for other items. Additionally, learning to save seeds will also provide another excellent means of trade.  Understanding permaculture design for your garden can help reduce water consumption and use the lands natural resources. Aquaponics can provide plants, fish, and store water.
  • Food Processing and Preservation: Learning to process and preserve foods will be another huge skill in a post-collapse world. Taking seasonal abundance and preserving it for future consumption or trade will be vital.  Remember, learning to do this with limited electricity is a must. One necessity for every homestead is having someone who knows how to butcher animals and preserve them for future consumption by smoking, salt curing, or dehydrating. This can also include learning to brew beer, mead, vinegar, or other alcoholic beverages from meager ingredients.
  • Hunting, Fishing, and Gathering:  Learning to fish and hunt is essential to survival. Having the proper gear and training will be priceless after the collapse of modern civilization.  Having reference guides for edible plants in your region, repairing weapons, trapping wild game, and fishing are great tools to have if you haven’t the time to learn them now. You should also take the time to learn or refine your skills on hunting using quiet weapons like bows, slingshots, knives, and spears.
  • Animal Husbandry:Knowledge of animal husbandry can provide endless amounts of sustainable meat, eggs, and milk to you and your tribe.  Your farm animals are the most valuable food source you have since they can reproduce. Knowing which animals to breed and when is an important part of farming and should not be learned through mistakes.
  • Cooking:  Knowing how to cook without using your time-saving, electricity driven appliances may not be as easy as you think.  Practice cooking with your stored food supplies using no or very little electricity.  You will soon realize how much more time and preparation it takes to do what once was a simple task.  Learn to cook using a dutch oven, a sun oven, an outdoor fire pit, and whatever means you have for cooking.
  • Foraging:  Someone who knows how to forage for wild edibles and can increase your food supplies and becomes an asset to any group.

WATER

  • Water Purification: Since it’s difficult to pump well water without electricity, unless you have a hand pump, and with surface water likely to be contaminated, clean water will be in very limited supply.  Learning to purify water will allow you thrive during this time. You can also purchase water filters for your go-bag and you can have back-up tablets should you need them.  However, the skill and knowledge to purify water should be the goal as that can never run out.
  • Collecting and Storing Water:  Do you have enough stored water for you to survive through the first 30 days post disaster?  Most do.  How about for 3 months….or 9 months?  Now, do you have enough for your family members?  If you have a family of five and want to store a one year’s supply of water you would need to have over 1800 gallons, and that’s just for drinking.  Now, how about the extended family members who show up on your doorstep?  Your animals?  Your garden?  Your sanitation, hygiene and cleaning?  Whew! Now you understand how it can be very difficult to store all of the water you would need, so knowing how to collect water to replenish your stored supplies is invaluable.

COMMUNICATIONS

  • Ham Radio: Do you have your ham radio license or at the very least own and know how to operate a ham radio?  Having a skilled ham radio expert in your group is a necessary key component to keeping up on communications and knowing what is going on in the world around you.  Remember, tv, cellphone, the internet, will all most likely be down.  Understanding how to make and set up an antennae to improve your radio signal and knowing morse code are other valuable skills to include in your arsenal.
  • Communications: Not all people know how to truly communicate well with others.  During stressful and hazardous times, people with great communication skills will be valued for their abilities.  Knowing how to handle and calm down people and even groups on the verge of fighting can save lives.
  • Languages: Knowing a second language is a great skill to have.  If you were to know a second or even third language what would you choose?  Hopefully you would choose the language of your most dangerous threat.  Knowing what others are saying over radio communications can be a very valuable piece of intel.

POWER

  • Alternative Energy and Fuels: Having the knowledge to implement alternative energy systems will make you a wealthy survivor in a “dark” world. You can learn to build your own alternative energy systems through solar, hydro, and wind power. Knowledge of how to create energy would be invaluable when oil is scarce.

MEDICAL

  • First Aid and Trauma:  This is another skill that can take years to develop and learn, but that will be crucial when supply lines of pharmaceuticals are cut off and hospitals are over-run.  You will need an emergency medic who can perform appendectomies, c-sections, and set broken bones. If having a nurse or doctor in your group is not an option, then learning basic procedures for stitching wounds, CPR, and more will be an absolute necessity for every adult and teenager in your family group.
  • Veterinary Skills: Your farm animals are vital to your survival.  Horses are a tool for transportation, your goats are your milk supply and your chickens and rabbits are your protein.  Heaven forbid that they have any health issues that require immediate veterinary care.  Learn at least the basics about the animals you are caring for because they are depending on you as much as you are on them.
  • Dental: Knowing how to pull a tooth, fix a filling, and manage pain during dental procedures will come in handy.
  • Natural Medicine:   Knowledge of growing herbal gardens for making medicine at home will prove to be very important.   Being the tribe’s shaman with a natural medicine chest is a prestigious position.

HYGIENE & SANITATION

  • I know this may not sound important compared to food and water but if you think about it, it is. When a disaster strikes, whether it be natural or man made, the creature comforts that people have grown accustomed to throughout their lives will no longer be there. No more daily showers and washing your hair with apple scented shampoo. No more flushing the toilet 10 times a day. Sanitation services that require power will no longer be functioning. This will quickly lead to diseases being spread rapidly.  Learning how to build a composting toilet, a solar hot water heater, or a sewer drainage system is important.  It is good to know how to make your own toothpaste, deodorant, soap and shampoo and stock up on the supplies necessary.

SECURITY

  • Home and Property:  Regardless of the threat, an ideal home is one that is secure and can keep you safe from a person or people who mean to do you harm.  Take the time now to learn how to protect your home, land, and everything on it as best you can.  This includes farm animals.  Your animals are a valuable asset and must be protected from hungry predators, including man and beast.
  • Personal Defense:  Learn how to protect yourself through hand to hand combat.  There may be times when you’re in the garden or tending to the property and are caught off guard by a lone stalker or a group of marauders.  I know this sounds Mad Max but when the SHTF it can happen.  Learn to use your tools as weapons.  Nunchucks were originally used to harvest rice.
  • Weapons/Combat:  If you are going to own a gun then get the training necessary to know how to properly use it.  Know how to clean it and store it as well.  Someone that has the knowledge and can train others on weapons and strategies will be a valuable asset. Gunsmithing is another important skill to master.

SHELTER

Shelter building can really fall under two categories.  One being outdoor wilderness survival and the other would be construction to your current home and property.  In this section we will focus on the later.

  • Construction: Construction skills will be very important in a shattered civilization.  These skills, especially without power tools, are not something you learn overnight.  If you have some basic skills it may be worth learning a few techniques for building small structures with crude hand tools.  There are many books teaching anyone how to build basic cabins, sheds, and composting outhouses.

TRANSPORTATION

  • Mechanical: Depending on the scenario we find ourselves in, we may or may not have the ability or want to use vehicles for transportation.  If we do, then having mechanical skills will be valuable.  If we don’t, then knowing how to train and ride a horse will be valuable.  Having extra bicycle parts and knowing how to work on it would be a good skill to have also.
  • If you do find yourself on the road in your car do you know what to do if you encounter a road block…or which time of day to travel…or which route to take?  How about the skill of syphoning gasoline out of a car, even a newer model?
  • When thinking of transportation you should also consider the skills you will need if you set out on foot.  Do you know how to read a map, or use a compass?  Can you navigate the natural way without using any tools but what nature provides?  If not, you may want to update your skills in this area.

SELF-SUSTAINABILITY

Self-sustainability is one of the most important skills to learn.  You can store food, water, and everything else you may need for survival but when those stored supplies run out, and they will, how will you replenish them?  Knowing how to live off the land, grow a garden, raise animals, store seeds, hunt for food, or make your own clothing can prolong your survivability.

PRIMITIVE SKILLS/WILDERNESS SURVIVAL

Take away all electricity and go back to the old ways of living.  What did your grandparents or great grandparents do?  How did people survive during the great depression or dust bowl? If we don’t understand our history we are doomed to repeat it.  Some skills that will be useful are: fire making, camp cooking, basket weaving, pottery making, animal tracking, tool making, tanning hides, rock climbing, knot tying, etc.

Other useful skills include teaching, knitting, piloting an aircraft, sailing, music, etc.

The only way to understand how we can live without our electricity driven modern conveniences is to live without them.

Test #1  Turn off your electricity for a few hours.  Take notes on how it affected you.  What did you learn?  What did you need that you didn’t have and what wasn’t necessary at all?

Test #2  Turn off your electricity for a weekend.  Take notes again and see how your answers changed or stayed the same.  How did you cook?  How did you get water?  What would you change?

Test #3  Turn off your electricity for a week.  Sounds hard?  Try doing it for a few months or a few years, because that is what can happen after a large scale disaster.  Be uncomfortable now knowing that you can flick the switch back on whenever you want.  Learn from your mistakes now while you can make them.  Appreciate the fact that these are just tests we’re putting ourselves through and not the real thing.  The more you practice the easier it will become and you may come to realize how little you miss the modern life.

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About myoung

Ben and Marcy Young are the owners of Southern Oregon Survival.

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