Skull wristwatch in red, black, and white, 2019.
challenge practical history

What if You’re in Survival Mode and Can Only Depend on What’s in Your Home?

The shelf next to my desk, January 2020.
The shelf next to my desk, January 2020.

I was sitting at my computer the other day and looked up at the shelf near my desk. Along with assorted writing implements, paper, flash drives, office supplies, and CDs, the shelf contains my sewing supplies and fabric. Behind me is a blue metal locker with thread and more sewing supplies.

What with Donald Trump ordering the killing of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani, which may potentially lead the United States into another war, and news of the Australian bushfires burning millions of acres in the country weighing heavily on my mind, I regarded my shelf of materials and had the following thoughts:

What if we were put into a survival situation in this country and I had to depend only on what I had in my house?

Aside from food and water, what would be most useful to me? What skills might I be called upon to use?

There are all sorts of factors that would play in to such a scenario, of course. Like, does the electricity still work? What season is it? Is this a short-term or long-term situation? What’s the nature of the disaster? How much of my house remains intact? What additional threats might arise depending on the situation?

Doomsday preppers have this stuff all worked out, of course. Their hidden bunkers are at the ready for any contingency. But, I am not a prepper and am looking at a disaster scenario from the lens of an unprepared human being of average intelligence, a mix of skills, and a middle-class household in a rural town.

As I look over my shelf, what keeps circling through my mind is the fact that I can sew, and not just with a machine. I can hand-sew. I have several plastic bins of fabric, a good stock of thread, along with needles, pins, buttons, and scissors. Provided I survive and humans band together to cobble society back together, I could contribute my sewing skills to make clothing, bags, and blankets.

I can also knit and crochet, so I’m able to make hats, scarves, and etc.

That’s what I’ve got to offer to the survival of humanity. I can’t even start a fire without matches, so I’m going to have to depend on someone else to do that. I’m handy with a few tools, but my husband is handier, plus he can figure out how things work by examining them long enough. My hubby’s the kind of guy anyone would want around in a survival situation.

What about you? What skills and materials do you have around your home that would be helpful in a survival scenario?

The other thing I imagined as I stared at my shelf thinking about war and fires was how the shelf and its contents would look if torched in a fire or bombed. Not pretty. In the United States, we over-value material culture and insufficiently value it simultaneously. We don’t think much of it until we imagine losing it. We don’t appreciate all that has gone into creating our possessions until we imagine they can be destroyed without the ability of easy replacement.

Now, imagine what the people in Australia are going through with the bushfires and the potential destruction that may come for Iran’s people and cultural sites, as well as U.S. soldiers, with Trump’s reckless actions and a GOP-run Senate unwilling to hold him in check.

The melancholy I’m feeling is thick. We all need to make this personal by imagining these scenarios hitting us at home. That’s how we will find the will to do what we can to stop the destruction.

As this post is more about history-in-the-making rather than history-already-made, check out this article from the BBC on how civilizations have collapsed in the past.

Are we on the road to civilisation collapse?


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