Idea Man

Note: Greatly edited in 2017 to remove details, some personal, most just pointless and boring. Also, I was very naive.

[…] Now, on to my main topic, here. Since I got back from camp, I’ve been more interested in honing my primitive skills. I think camp acted as a catalyst in that respect. It got me to think, “I could live outside.” So now my next step is figuring out the skills I need in order to do that. To that end, I’m going to seriously start beefing up my outdoor knowledge. I’ll be reading books about edible plants and shelter and trapping and such, possibly finding back episodes of Survivorman, and trying to find someone more skilled who can mentor me on these things. Of course, all of this is just book learning if I don’t put it into practice, so I’ll also be spending a lot of time outside, finding these plants that I read about, constructing lean-tos, trying to train information out of animal tracks, and whatever else I need to do. I expect I’ll spend many nights outside, especially once it gets a little cooler out. (However, on several occasions, the house has been hotter than the outdoors, so I don’t really need to wait much.) Presumably, with the practice I put in and the learning I find, I’ll be pretty proficient within not too long. I’m going to set goals for myself; the first one is to have killed and eaten my own small game by the end of the school year next year. I hope to have that one completed well ahead of schedule, so I can keep going pretty quick. After a long time of talking primitivist talk, I’m starting to put my words into action.

What will this lead to? My hope is that I’ll be good enough within a year, or at most two, to start living outside full-time. I don’t pretend I’ll have mastered everything within that timespan, but I should be able to survive. Once I accomplish that, I’ll see what the college thinks about it if I live outside instead of in a dorm. You laugh, but I have to get good somehow, and it’s not going to be through thinking about the outdoors while sitting on a dorm bed. I have no idea what Housing’s reaction would be to such a proposal, though I was chatting with Ilan (memory jog) and he said that they would “definitely” let me do it senior year. I want to start junior year, and hone everything down. Then, for senior year, I’ll see if I can get a group of other people who’d like to come out and try it too. That would make the experience at least twice as awesome, assuming some people actually decided to do it. If I name this endeavor, I’m thinking of GO, for Grinnell Outside. I have yet to come up with a location to stay, but there are a few parks. I’d have to get the permission of the park board.

To you, I probably sound a bit crazy. That’s all right with me, because I know I’m going to seem crazy to a lot of people when I embark on this plan. But, if I become knowledgeable and experienced enough, why not? If I don’t, my skills will either never develop, or atrophy. Now here comes the fun part of this entry where I look even crazier. If I get a GO contingent with me, they would make great people to band together with if this Jason Godesky happens to be right.

Yeah, I’m bringing back that old name. Now, I’ve gotten a little more discerning since I first read his Theses, and I’ve gotten more well-read. In fact, I read one of his major sources that he often cut and pasted from, Jared Diamond’s Collapse. So, until I read his ideas again with a more critical eye than my reckless primito-optimism allowed me last time, I don’t really know what I think are the odds of civilization collapsing. Jared Diamond thinks we’ll probably pull through. But if the opposite is true, the handwriting certainly does seem to be on the wall. Our economy, basically, is slowing down. The sub-prime mortgage bubble already burst; now major banking corporations are starting to run into definite trouble, viz. Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. The government’s response seems to be much as Godesky predicted. The price of food has started to rise in an attention-getting way, and so has the price of gas. Parallel to that, the American dollar has been getting slowly more and more worthless. This happened once before at the beginning of the Depression, but at that point there was still plenty of oil left, all of it easy for the taking. We’re now very much getting into Peak Oil. The Depression era also didn’t have to contend with climate change wiping out the occasional city and making crops harder to grow. These things already happening are another contributor to my determination to learn soon and quickly. Civilization may figure out a way to keep going, though it’ll have to collaborate better with the planet in order to stay in business much longer (one of the central findings of Collapse). Or, it might implode. Whatever happens, I plan to be ready for it. And maybe even have a group of friends ready with me.

File under: land skills, deep thoughts


Anonymous

History

And when that day comes would you please, please, please help your old Grandma to survive outside with you. I could help cook the wild game after someone starts the fire. I’m going to keep all my wild game recipes to be on the safe side. Ha. Seriously, I am glad there’s a voice of reason in this crazy materialistic country of ours. May you take it on! Grandma

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Anonymous

History

So a few questions come up
Where are you going to s__t in the middle of a cold winter night?
Where are you going to P– in the middle of a cold winter night?
Where are you going to throw it (remember pollution laws) if it is in a container - the next morning?
Where are you going to eat?
What are you going to cook on?
How are you going to do dishes?
How are you going to wash clothes?
How are you going to dry clothes?

I have many more questions but these are starters.

PULLEAASSSEEE? GROW UP. SORRY, I HAVE MY RIGHT TO SAY WHAT I BELIEVE ALSO.

BY THE WAY HOW ARE YOU GOING TO PLUG IN YOUR COMPUTER AN CONNECT TO BROAD BAND. G.PA.

SORRY G.MA. BUT YOU CAN SLEEEP IN THE TENT WITH OUT FACILITIES WITHOUT ME.

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Chuck

History
  1. In a hole.
    2. Anywhere. (Outside of camp.)
    3. N/A.
    4. Near the fire.
    5. A spit. Or dishes I pilfer from the dining hall.
    6. With water and leaves. They taught us that at camp.
    7. Infrequently. Probably at the school washing machines.
    8. On a clothesline.

    9. BY GOING TO THE LIBRARY. IF I DO THIS, I’LL BE A STUDENT STILL, GOING TO CLASSES AND STUDYING. IT’S JUST THAT I’LL LIVE OUTSIDE INSTEAD OF INSIDE.

    All except for “GROW UP”, your post sounds pretty reasonable - questions coming from someone on the other side of this idea. As for that comment, well, in my opinion this will be an integral part of growing up. Few if any things are more manly than living off the land. And growing up is turning into a man (if you’re male). Thus, learning outdoor skills is growing up. QED.
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Anonymous

History

To be a true survivalist in a post economic collapse, it would do you well to hone and develop many new skills. Learning how mechanical things work-as in cars, heaters, things that would be salvaged and used if you knew how to fix them would be good skills to have. I recommend watching “junkyard wars”.

There is more to surviving than just cooking and killing. Learn all of the stuff that your uncle Dan know about building things.

P.S. tell Micah to stay away from the Chi Chi, unless it’s salsa.

dave

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Anonymous

History

O. K. I’ll give you growing up. However, squatting over a hole at 3:00 a.m. when it is 20 below is not my idea of a good time. Also, Dave has many good points (what are you going to do about the compute - put it in cold storage) Pun intended. G.Pa.

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Chuck

History

I will have to figure out how to salvage things. However, a lot of devices will become extremely irrelevant if the electricity infrastructure topples, and more if the oil infrastructure does. I do know there’s more to survivalism than cooking and killing; that’s why I’m going to learn how to build shelter, treat injuries and sicknesses, etc.. Hopefully, any author of an outdoor survival book will have thought of things that I haven’t thought of.

As for my computers, well, as long as they still serve a purpose, I’ll keep them around. My font skillz add up to little in terms of survivalism, but as long as people are still printing things and using computers to do it, I’ll be getting in on that.

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Chuck

History

P.S. Squatting over a hole in the snow at 3 in the morning isn’t my idea of fun either… but neither is squatting over a toilet at 3 in the morning. Going to the bathroom in any context is unlikely to thrill.

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Anonymous

History

WOW! You and Dave are really doomsdayers. What are you going to do when you find out that this is not going to happen, i.e. we still have electricity, oil and hope. G.Pa

P.S Enjoy squatting over the hole for the next 50 years. By the way use leaves not toilet paper. In Iowa there is a plant called (Smart Weed - there really is). It is called that because you skin tingles when the leaf rubs on it. Sooooooooo ATTENTION: DO NOT USE SMART WEED FOR TOILET PAPER..
PPS I hope I live long enough to see ……alkdu kliien alkdui sdls ldkkjdfu llkd sd lkadkoleropp.

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Anonymous

History

Have you read that book about the guy who starved to death while trying to be a survivalist in Alaska? I forgot the name, but I think there’s a movie out about it. I read that book and thought it was really sad. You could learn some good stuff from it, I think. Grandma

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Anonymous

History

Also, I would guess that you’ve read all of Jack London’s stuff, and Robert Service. And I read a short story when I was a kid about someone who went to the cold wilderness and forgot to pack matches, and couldn’t start a fire, and froze to death. That one really scared me.

Also, when we went to High Arctic Lodge, one of the guides there, an Inuit, had lost his wife because their house had burned down at night in the winter, and without shelter she froze to death, even though he held her in his arms. They were out too far for help to get there in time. So surviving the wilderness isn’t for wimps or fools. Grandma

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Chuck

History

I’m fully aware of the risks. My biggest mental hurdle is how I’m going to live outside of a building in the Iowa winter. But, if the Indians did it, I’m confident that it’s possible. They probably built shelters, and so probably I will too.
I did read Into the Wild, and see the movie. Both were excellent, as well as touching. Alexander Supertramp’s biggest mistakes was probably doing everything alone. The way things worked before civilization, foragers formed small bands of maybe a dozen or a few dozen (I’ll learn more about this in anthro 101 next year, and be able to talk about it more convincingly). That way, if one had no luck hunting, he wouldn’t starve, because chances are excellent that at least one of them will find something to eat every day.
THe wilderness is serious stuff. I respect that, and plan to enjoy it.

Oh, and what are we going to do if it turns out civilization is in fine shape? Well, either live like a regular person, paying taxes and getting a 9-to-5 job and taking out a mortgage, or get sick of that and live outside despite civilization’s existence. Civilization’s continued existence impedes outdoor living (with hunting and fishing licenses, and hunting seasons and limits, and property laws that severely limit foraging territory), but it doesn’t make it impossible.

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Anonymous

History

O.K. You have every right to live as you want and poop in a hole for the next 70 years. Just don’t do it the park I am walking through. It is not so much he smell, as it is the sight. Oh, by the way, do you think the park service (board) will allow you to dig holes in their park. Over the next seventy years it will take a lot of holes. Maybe you need a cat to backfill them. Har de Har Har. Just havin’ fun. G.Pa.

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Anonymous

History

You are all whack!!!

Civilization isn’t going anywhere.

Electricity will always flow to our outlets.

Oil is not scarce! Let alone coal, natural gas and nuke energy!

If history has taught us anything it’s that things don’t change that rapidly. You are all talking about things that won’t happen in ANY of our lifetimes. Or our childrens childrens childrens, etc. lifetimes.

You are all (maybe most is better) a bunch of freaking pessimists.

Open your eyes and realize things just aren’t that bad, no matter how bad “W” has _ucked things up.

You are what you eat, so stop eating nuts.

Dan

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Chuck

History

A fine comment from the peanut nazi!

History teaches us that things often do change very quickly. Viz.: The Great Depression (it all started suddenly on October 29, 1929); the Balkan Powder Keg igniting WWI (maybe II, I don’t remember exactly). It’s just that things change slowly when they depend on people to change - which is why it’s taken us this long to start working with the environment. However (if Godesky is right), civilization’s collapse isn’t a sudden thing. It’s been in the making ever since civilization started. The roots of civiliation are the ultimate cause; peak oil or globabl warming will be the proximate cause, the hand that tips over the dominoes civilization has set up over the last thousands of years.

I’m not saying I have 100% certainty on this, by the way. But I do know that you just attacked straw men, whether or not Godesky’s idea ultimately proves to be correct.

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Anonymous

History

The Great Depression, WWI and WWII all passed. Civilization corrected itself. It wasn’t pretty but all of these things are a mear road bump in the rear view mirror driving down the road that is the history of civilization.

My outlets still have electricity.

Dan

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Chuck

History

My point in mentioning the Depression and WWI was to note that catastrophes can happen quickly, not that they’re all fatal to civilization.

Note, however, that as we’ve gotten more and more civilized (and been able to have a greater impact on ourselves and the planet), our catastrophes have become correspondingly huger. A while ago, the biggest thing we had to worry about was the Irish Potato Famine. Now, we have behind us a civil war that killed hundreds of thousands, a dust bowl that saw most of the former prairies’ topsoil swept away, a depression that made life a difficult proposition for a whole country, two world wars - one settled with nuclear weapons that killed seventy thousand in seconds, the narrowly avoided Cuban Missile Crisis, and September 11th. A huge catastrophe along these lines could start off a chain reaction that would encompass economic crisis, infrastructure failures, and ultimately a collapse. We think of our civilization as getting more and more sturdy as it gets bigger, but really, as more population pressure wells up on it, it becomes more and more fragile and sensitive to smaller things. Global warming has already shown its power in destroying New Orleans. Droughts and floods are showing up everywhere. Food prices are increasing at a very noticeable rate, as are oil prices. That’s because both of these things are getting more scarce; peak oil is much closer than people think - in fact may be upon us. Things will just deteriorate. It won’t be pretty. Now, this is all still not a certainty, and I’ll never declare that anything about a potential collapse is a certainty, unless I see undeniable evidence of it. However, collapse isn’t impossible. It’s happened before, and it’s happening currently in many places, like Africa and South America. Who knows but that Barack Obama may help the US ease into a sustainable form of society, and Asia will somehow decide it doesn’t feel like rising to the First World’s untenable standard of living. (The US isn’t the biggest problem for the future of the world; it’s China, with its aspiration to attain our standard of living. If everyone on the planet lived like Americans do, we would need three Earths to provide for us all.) I don’t know what the future holds, though I’m going to be reading a lot and observing a lot to try and figure it out better. But I’m preparing for the worst. (By worst, I mean worst for civilization, and best for the rest of the planet. Extremely bad for most people, who would die in a collapse. But if civilization were to collapse later than that, it would be even worse, because more people would die. Civilization as it is is unsustainable. Its course is toward something sustainable, or toward an end.)

You know, I really need to read more about this so I can write with more authority behind my words. But I believe what I’ve written just now is pretty accurate.

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Anonymous

History

OOOOPS! I finally figured it out. All of this negative stuff is supposed to raise our ire, and is just a writing exercise to see if you can “get” to us. You are honing your skills for a future editing job. And the more you deny it the more it has to be true. G.Pa I rest my case

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Chuck

History

Okay, guys, I feel like you’re all getting me wrong on this. I haven’t made up my mind whether to believe this is happening or not. I see ways that it could, and ways that it couldn’t. Because I see both, and not just the possibility of perpetual civilization, I’m looking like some sort of Godesky nut. I’m far from that. Though the possibility (however probable or not) of a collapsing civilization is a good motivator for me to work on outdoor skills, I would work on them whether or not this were impending as Godesky claims it is. And, despite defending his claims, I still haven’t made up my mind one way or the other (because I need to read his stuff again) whether I believe Godesky. I’m defending it because it looks to me like it’s a reasonably well-done argument that has the possibility of being right, and that possibility is something that would make us all pay attention pretty effectively; so, I’m defending it from the criticisms you’re giving it, which are pretty shallow ones. Maybe you can give me some deeper ones, although if you want to spend your time doing that, you actually ought to read his Thirty Theses, and the criticism that other people have already given them beneath each one. Basically, the reason I’m invoking the collapse scenario in writing here is to let you know of one thing that’s motivating me to learn my wilderness skills quicker, and you all can choose for yourselves whether or not you think it’s a load of poppycock. I get the vibe that you’re all going to say “IT SURE IS” instinctively. Well, maybe think about the other possibility as an actual possibility, not just some raving, before you dismiss it. Or, whatever. I don’t care a whole lot at the moment.

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Anonymous

History

And to think that most teenage boys are buried in computer games and other electronic gizmos, and they have forgotten what outside is like. And then there’s Nathanael who is challenging everyone with his thought provoking ways. I say go for it, I’d rather have my grandson be a brilliant genius and future analyst than a brain dead game player. And that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. Grandma

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Anonymous

History

The Indians did not just “live outside”- a teepee is not “outside”- it is a very well-made structure. Most people do not just “live outside”- every kind of group of people adapted to the environment. Scandinavian peoples and 6 Nations peoples lived in pretty snowy and woodsy places and so they developed communal longhouse living- different cultures but both seemed to figure out the best way to make use of resources and in about the same way. Similar kinds of food, too. If you look at people gropus in very different places with the same climate and resources, they come up with some of the same ideas.
I don’t think the people currently living are much different from those and others in the past…and present…there are more of us so we exist on a larger scale. Communication made it possible for our little commune to expand.
I do not think you should live outside during the time you study at Grinnell…at least you can camp as much as you want to and maybe start the GO thing, but you’re going to have to have an address. And also there’s not much so un-primitive about living in a big structure like a dorm room. Consider it a cave. No bears to contend with, even.
You can learn to survive without it, and then live with it knowing you CAN survive without it if you have to.
I will come over and tan the animal hides and be the grandma that watches the babies.
Mom

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Chuck

History

I realize, of course, that everyone made shelter. There’s a section on shelter in the book I ordered.

I’m not against living in a dorm room specifically for the purposes of this idea I’ve got. Rather, the whole urban environment is the opposite of what I’d want going on. It’s hard to practice primitive skills in the middle of a town - there’s not a whole lot of stuff to scavenge, and what there is is in someone’s yard. So, I’d have to commute to the wilderness. Seems counterproductive to me.

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Anonymous

History

We received an e-mail from Irene today (she and the Herrings are in Alaska. Thought you might want to know how far and wide your fame has spread. G.Pa.

My turn to send a little answer – nothing much new to report. We had a nice late morning this morning, halibut fish and chips for brunch, and are now waiting for a “wilderness tour” when we will ride an old school bus up into the part to see Denali itself, if visible. Looks like maybe there might be a chance since there are some large patches of blue sky and sunshine all over. But the wind is vicious – feels like December in Washington.

We have met up with a just graduated Grinnellian working here in the park. She knew about the kid who wanted the barefoot rights. She’s glad to meet up with a couple of other Grinnellians, even such ancient ones, because she’s not liking her job here. We’re trying to encourage her to keep looking! She’s probably going to try to stay in Alaska. Maybe she can help out Nathanael if he comes here!

Oh, well, enough pie-dreaming. Later. Love, I.

So enoough of this blog. We need a new one we can all HARP on. G.Pa

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Anonymous

History

Well, I for one think your analysis is spot on. In as much as one could measure the likelyhood of something like this happening,it is measurable and I think almost inevitable, whether it takes days or years for america to collapse. We will either adapt in a radical paradigm shift, or we will cease to live as this world of “America” lives. Our sense of entitlement to an always improving life in america is laughable at best.

Dave

Chronological Snobbery

“why-damn it- it’s’ medieval”’ I exclaimed, for I still had all the chronological snobbery of my period and used the names of earlier periods as terms of abuse….Barfield made short work of what I have called my “chronological snobbery”, the un-critical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find out why it went out of date. Was it refuted(and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this one passes to the realization that our own age is also “a period”, and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them…. We had been in the technical sense of the termm “realists”, that is, we accepted as rock-bottom reality the universe revealed by the senses… we maintained that abstract thought(if obedient to logical rules) gave indisputable truth.

C.S. Lewis

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Chuck

History

That quote reminds me very much of the book Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn. Especially this part: “[The illusions] are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them.” I recommend the book.

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