We’re not too far away from total environmental collapse. So, the apocalypse may soon be upon us. Just not today, I can’t be bothered.
I sometimes think about when the apocalypse might hit.
Then I reflect on that parable about a lawyer, a doctor, and a journalist who are on board a faltering plane, each trying to convince the other why they deserve to take one of the remaining two parachutes. I kick back and rationalize that the doctor should have the first parachute, and then between the other two … well, perhaps it’s a choice between the lesser of two evils.
In the next heartbeat, my thoughts tune in to my own set of skills and survival value. I’m a procurement specialist. This means that in my day job I buy things. Over time, it has been my duty to perfect the art of negotiation.
But will I survive?
Should a world-shattering disaster befall us, with the water sources contaminated and the electricity lines cut causing the lights to go out along with all the computers and means of communication, I may not actually live to lyricize my strengths and qualities in order to save my soul. Like so many who sit under fluorescent bulbs in pods and cubicles facing a faintly humming screen, I seem to have skipped “Survival 101” and I’m at a loss deciding what my first act would be.
What percentage of the developed world know how to cobble together a makeshift radio, transmit a message over a frequency, jimmy a lock, hot-wire a car, or, holy smoke, start a fire!? What about building a shelter that is properly ventilated and warm and sturdy enough not to collapse on itself whilst you’re lying asleep? No finger-pointing, but alas, they didn’t teach me this stuff at school. And what is teaching, unless it’s with hands to the task and properly rubbing that stick between my palms until baby smoke wisps up into the air—not just once but until I have perfected the skill? Did you know that it’s possible to make fire with a can of Coke and a chocolate bar?
The media sometimes shines a spotlight on those doomsday believers who sit uncomfortably in an extremist bucket, convinced that the world is going to end. “Survivalism” is, therefore, a kooky, sour-tasting word. The rest of us are freakishly willing to be blindsided, but unwilling to be scoffed at. Isn’t it weird how modern generations justify their behaviors? We appreciate that processed foods are rather unhealthy, but while we’re young and fit, we feel infallible enough to swallow it. And so we similarly cocoon ourselves with our technology and figure that, if shit happens, well, we’ll see if it happens.
Like so many who sit under fluorescent bulbs in pods and cubicles facing a faintly humming screen, I seem to have skipped “Survival 101” and I’m at a loss deciding what my first act would be.
So, I ask myself again, how prepared am I? I run, Parkour, climb, and traverse boulders. With the gym culture, there’s a pervading sense that we’re fit and healthy. Does running on a treadmill translate to being able to navigate the undulating slopes of a trail (with a zombie on your tail)? Walking and hiking in chilly, freezing temperatures is a brilliant past-time for many of the British, but Australians might have a point when we say that it’s too hot to get out of the car in the summer.
When working in London, I once participated in an outdoor orienteering, team-building event and was impressed by how almost all my British colleagues blitzed a task that required them to identify at least 20 plants in the woodland. They pointed out the nettles, hawthorn, heather, thistles, and all sorts. I wish I could do that with the gums and ferns that I see in the Brisbane Ranges. A friend of mine—a Girl Guide leader who recently introduced Bear Grylls to her charges—took me out to the New Forest in southern England, and after learning to set up the tent and cook dinner, I was hooked on the experience.
I returned home and thought that this could be the start of something. I jumped online but came across only a mere handful of “meet-up groups” in Australia taking on the “bushcraft,” “primitive skills,” “survivalism,” and “self-sufficiency” tags. In Melbourne, there are a couple of virtually inactive bushcraft groups, and I managed to stumble across just one active one whose premise is raw fruit and nutrition, with just over 200 members. Long may they live, learn, and grow.
Maybe an apocalypse won’t occur in this lifetime, or ever. Nor am I contending that humanity as a species ought to survive and defeat the inevitability of extinction.
Let’s face it—our bodies are mere microorganisms on a giant revolving rock. But they remain sophisticated machines with moving parts that react to fight or flight responses.
And so, I’ll plant that little seed in your thoughts … that perhaps there’s something rustic, earthy, and existential about rediscovering those basic skills that steered our ancestors through the corridor towards civilization.