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Sustainability and the Achievement of Survivability

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: November 24, 2020
Sustainability and the Achievement of Survivability

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Survivability, defined as the ability to remain alive or continue to exist, is something that we, as Preppers, are attempting to achieve not only for ourselves, but for future generations.  I find this particularly poignant because I did not have children of my own.  You might say that making an effort to preserve our society and our planet is the legacy I want to leave when my time is gone.

Quite some time ago, a Backdoor Survival reader posted some thoughtful comments on the topic of sustainability and the achievement of survivability.  His comments were far too important to be buried where no one would see them.

Sustainability and the Achievement of Survivability

Luckily, “Ed” has given me permission to reproduce his thoughts below. Thank you Ed, for sharing your thoughts.

Observations on Sustainability

O.K., I’ll go out on a limb and report my musings and observations on the Sustainability topic.  It’s a topic of some interest to me and I’ve wondered whether or not it’s actually scientifically possible for a society to achieve 100% sustainability. 

As individuals/families, the pursuit of survivability naturally entails the pursuit of some degree of achieving a more “sustainable” life style.  Growing our own food, reducing our energy consumption to a bare minimum, providing for our own water supplies, learning to “live off the land”, i.e., hunting, fishing for food, learning essential medical technology and stocking up emergency medical supplies are all integral parts of achieving survivability and obliviously entail the achievement of a more sustainable lifestyle. 

And frankly, my wife and I have found these to be fun pursuits and our modest achievements in this endeavor have yielded significant benefits.  For example, during a recent storm event, Hurricane Ike, the “survival” camp we created proved to be a handy refuge for our children and grand children such that they didn’t have to endure either the dangers nor the discomforts of that event.

Sustainability on a societal level, or Macro Level, if you will, is an entirely different consideration.  And, having had the advantage of living overseas in Europe, North Africa and Mexico, I can tell you that societal sustainability in the U.S. would be inordinately difficult. 

There are a number of genuinely fundamental reasons for this which, I suspect, many in the U.S. simply refuse to consider and some are intentionally ignored for reasons of sheer political correctness.  I’ll enumerate a few of the problems in a comparison method to contrast the major differences I see with the U.S. and the rest of the world.

1)  Transportation Energy use: Europe and European cities are compact; U.S.
cities are, with a few exceptions, sprawling affairs;  Ground transportation in Europe is easily accomplished with mass transit, trains, trolleys and buses.  Ground transportation in the U.S. is highly complex and diffuse with little in the way of resources in terms of public transportation and trains.

Distances in the U.S. are enormous in comparison to Europe meaning that in terms of personal travel between cities is best accomplished by automobile or aircraft.  In this regard, the U.S. more closely resembles Russia.

2)  Supply chain:  European supply chains are a) short and b) diffuse.  By diffuse I mean that in Europe, Italy being my preferred example, city grocers feature products grown and manufactured within 75 miles of a city such as Rome; they are processed in  Rome and distributed by everything from small trucks to motor bikes.  In the U.S., our supply chains are modeled after the hub and spoke system.  Cattle, for example, grown in the western U.S., processed in Denver, shipped as ground meat to St. Louis to a shipping facility that dispatches trucks to the Midwest, Oklahoma, and yes…Texas.

3)  Electricity: with the exception of Texas which has it’s own, discreet generation and distribution system, the rest of the U.S. is dependent upon a weird, spaghetti system which lends itself to failure on a huge scale.  A power plant shuts down in say, Denver and the lights go out in Salt Lake city.  We’ve seen this on the east coast.  In Europe, they use a small scale, small hub with short spokes system.  A power plant goes down and 1/4 of Rome goes dark……not the whole city.

I could go on and on, but the examples above point to several fundamental problems in the U.S.  1) sheer size; 2) lack of manufacturing, (I forgot to mention that in Europe they have millions of small manufacturing plants that make basics, clothes, leather goods, electronics, etc.) 3) poorly planned electrical and energy distribution systems and 4) poorly planned/not planned, cityscapes.

To put it bluntly……….the U.S. has developed in all the wrong directions to achieve sustainability……..the U.S. went in exactly the opposite direction.

Finally, I could address the societal differences between Europe and the U.S. at great length, but I think that we all recognize the biggest problem in the U.S. and we’ve acknowledged it by our actions in our attempts to achieve survivability whether we wish to talk about it or not. 

To achieve survivability in the U.S. means to locate a survival base camp as far away from any major urban area as possible.  Why? Because we’ve all seen the pictures and heard the reports of what happened in New Orleans after Katrina.  For my part, my wife and I returned to NOLA just 4 days after Katrina to help relatives.  It was……a lawless free-fire kill zone. Looters emptied store shelves and then, gratuitously, set fire to the grocery stores, liquor stores and drug stores.

All that being the case, when I read stories about sustainable communities, Agenda 21 and the like, at the back of my mind lies a truth no one speaks of.  It won’t work because the U.S. is inhabited by a huge, criminal element that will take advantage of any situation to their greater gain. 

My fear and concern is that the elites that drive the “agenda” of social engineering in the U.S. will intentionally overlook this problem in their drive to socially engineer sustainability and when a location incurs a disaster, natural or otherwise, the result will be a whole sale slaughter that’s far worse than the effects of whatever natural disaster might have occurred.

Thankfully, as I’m 57 years old, I won’t live long enough to see the results of their misguided efforts.  But our children and grand children will certainly be the ones to suffer, particularly if we don’t provide them with some form of remote refuge.

Finding That Perfect Survival Camp

Although Ed and his family were able to take refuge at the “survival camp” he created far away from the city, that may not be practical or viable for everyone.  Instead, we must do what we can to create a safe “camp” of our own wherever we live.  Outfitted with enough food, water, first aid and defensive tactics, you can survive in place and not venture out to confront lawlessness and civil disobedience.  They key is to be prepared and to, as I often say, homestead in place.

The Final Word

Whether your interest in living a sustainable and self-reliant life is new, or whether you are an old hand, the motivation to survive and to live a meaningful life has got to be at the core of your efforts.  Having that motivation is over half the battle and an important to the survival mindset.

Some of the lessons we must learn and the steps we must take are not easy.  Giving up old habits and old ways is tough.  On the other hand, the rewards are great will lead to abundance of heart rather than an abundance of material objects.  The road is well paved; we just need to take it.  I am grateful to have you along as I walk my way down the path of sustainability and survivability.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Facebook which is updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or link to a free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon.  You can also follow Backdoor Survival on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ and purchase my book, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage from Amazon.

Spotlight Item:  Recipes and Tips for Sustainable LivingThis is a gorgeous book.  Open any page and you will find mouth-watering photos of fresh fruits, homemade soups, scrumptious breads and the most appetizing main dishes made from venison that I have ever seen.  But this is not just a pretty book with pictures.  The recipes are clear and concise and comingled with tips on everything from canning, keeping chickens, beekeeping, making compost and more.  You are going to want this book.

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Bargain Bin: For your discernment, here are of some budget friendly items that I personally own.

How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget:  This book, by my blogging colleague, Bernie Carr, is a concise, easy to read guidebook for getting started without all the falderal about building a bunker full of stuff.  Instead, it offers a roadmap for getting started with emergency and disaster preparation in a practical and pragmatic manner.

FordEx Group 300lm Mini Cree Led Flashlight Torch Adjustable Focus Zoom Light Lamp:  Here we go with another flashlight.  It is super mini sized, bright and waterproof.  Plus, it uses a single, standard AA sized battery.  This my number one deal!

Survivor HK-106320 Outdoor Fixed Blade Knife with Fire Starter:  Equipped with a full-tang, matte-finished, black stainless-steel tanto blade, this versatile and practical military-style tanto knife is a terrific choice for knife enthusiasts. The knife also includes a thick green cord-wrapped handle that allows for a secure and comfortable grip, along with a pommel lanyard that keeps your blade handy at all times. Other features include a durable green nylon belt sheath with a Velcro securing strap, a magnesium alloy fire starter, and a total length of 7 Inch.

ProForce Commando Wire Saw Bulk, Ideal For Survival Kits:  This saw qualifies for the Almost Free page since it is currently so cheap.  Here is what one reviewer had to say:

“When I got the saw, I thought it was a dinky little wire. My expectations were blown away!! I can cut a three inch tree in three min. I would much so recommend that you get this saw.”

FROM THE ALMOST FREE DEPARTMENT –  SURVIVAL GEAR FOR $5.00 OR LESS:  This page is due for an update but the deals are still good.

The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage:  My eBook will provide you with everything you need to create an affordable food storage plan, including what to buy and how to store it. Nothing scary and nothing overwhelming – you really can do this!


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Every family should have at least one Tote-able Toilet.  I have priced purchasing the bucket and toilet seat lid separately and found that it was more economical to pick up this kit.  I have filled my portable potty with sanitation supplies plus, of course, plenty of TP.

I also recommend the Mobile Washer. This is hand operated washing machine. Like a plunger, it uses a technique of pushing and pulling the water through clothes to clean them well without wearing them out. It uses a minimum of water and less soap due to the agitation motion. Use in a bucket (5-gallon suggested), sink or tub.


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4 Responses to “Sustainability and the Achievement of Survivability”

  1. I have to disagree with “Ed” on #3. While the east may be interconnected in their electrical grid, where if something goes down in one state it happens in another. That’s not the case in the west. Having lived near Denver and near Salt Lake City during winters, there is no such connection.Fact is if Denver lost power, the only way Salt Lake would know would be through the news or other communication. Each has their own power. May happen in California that way but Cali is more like the east coast in many ways. In the place where I live, power can go out in different places but rarely is there a total blackout and yes, I live in the West.
    The vastness of our plains and mountains will be to our advantage BECAUSE we have it, so I guess as with Russia, I see this as an asset. Not sure about other places, but where I live, and in certain other places where my extended family lives, there is a growing interest to go back to being locavores…meaning buying, growing, producing, etc locally instead of having trucks bring it in. AND FYI, the chatter about a possible trucker strike is very likely according to my long haul trucker brother. This is why Congress is or has pasted regulations not allowing a nationwide strike. BUT we, Americans are a stubborn, independent lot. You tell us we can’t and surely we will find a way to do it.
    If I had the means and the land, I’d hunker down where I live. By that I mean I’d put a bunker in and go there for about 3 months then come out to test the waters of what’s happening. I have the info and knowledge to know how and where. If it’s a long term collapse, it will take that long for people to quit panicking and start living for the future instead of reacting to whatever created the disaster. Possibly by then the crazies have settled one way or another AND though I am sad about this, those who are weak whether though physical, emotional, mental or cultural; will not have survived. I have lived under some tough circumstances, so I have learned to have a practical eye to see what is the worst which can happen and prepare for it.
    Mention was made as to Native Americans. For the most part, they learned from the time of birth how to work with nature. It’s not that they didn’t last long, in the US, they were moved so the whites could move in. They are survivors just in learning to live with nature.
    I was recently chatting with a young man (he’s in his late 30s and I’m in my early 60s — so he’s young;) )he was telling me his plans. It reminded me why there will be a need for us, well seasoned oldsters. Just as our forefathers created the 2 Houses of Congress. One for the youth to react quickly and one to respond more slowly and with deliberation…this is needed for any sustaining community. It is through age and experience that wisdom develops to be able to give perspective.
    Like it or not, many will have to ‘homestead in place’, many may have their ‘refuge’ to go to, as we all agree, it’s about being prepared the best we can and helping others to do the same if they are willing.

  2. one other thing about the u.s. that makes survivability difficult is our large population. even though our country is less densely populated than europe, there are still too many of us to really satisfy our needs without our technological infrastructure fully operating. people talk about hunting and fishing, but you can’t live like that unless you have ways of protecting the wildlife and preserving its habitat. the native americans knew how to do this, but they were very thin on the ground in most regions; and, in the very populous areas (e.g. the mississippian cultures), they didn’t last long.

  3. With a little searching around the house and even a leisurely trip to the local dollar store I’m usually surprised as to how much emergency gear I can put away for not very much money. I typically like to take my time and consider various options and use my imagination for how to use each item in a survival situation and it pays off by not having to pay very much.

  4. You can still have light without power using the solar lights. If you have a flashlight such as the FordEx Group 300lm Mini Cree Led Flashlight Torch Adjustable Focus Zoom Light Lamp you can replace the battery with a rechargeable one that is also used in these solar. presto a solar charger for a buck if u shop around

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