This a post to dieoff_QA (A Yahoo group). Peter is a regular
contributor to this forum, and is quite thoughtful. His list of Handy Hints
is a good start to think about our future.
From: "peterpabulator" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, 01 Oct 2007 18:29:44 -0000
Subject: [the_dieoff_QA] Handy Hints for Post-Petroleum
HANDY HINTS FOR POST-PETROLEUM FUTURE
September 30, 2007
1 You might be able to grow your own food. The catch is that only
13% of the world's land is suitable for crops, and nearly all of
that is already being used.
2 Good soil has lots of humus, and also adequate amounts of about 16
elements, especially nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Compost
and animal manure can provide humus, but they'll do little to make
up for missing elements. Be leery of "organic gardening" — a lot of
it is just superstition. Get your soil tested by a government-
approved laboratory. Buy a lifetime supply of fertilizer.
3 If you're living mainly on cultivated plants, you'll need at least
1/4 hectare per person. Grow crops high in carbohydrates and
protein. Avoid crops susceptible to diseases, bugs, bad soil, or bad
weather. Practical crops include maize ("Indian corn," not sweet
corn), beans, and squash. Most "root crops" are also worthwhile, but
potatoes are subject to insects and diseases.
4 Where farming isn't practical, go for foraging. It's generally
impossible to live just on wild plants, so you'll need to hunt,
trap, and fish. You're more likely to succeed (i.e., get at least
something to eat) with small animals (e.g., squirrels), but larger
animals (e.g., deer) provide more food per hour of hunting. Be sure
to eat the organs, fat, and marrow. The flesh can be dried. The hide
provides clothing, the bones provide tools.
5 A rifle or shotgun would be handy until there's no more
ammunition. Learn how to use and make bows and arrows. Deadfalls and
snares can be used for many species.
6 Learn basic medicine. Most books on wilderness medicine assume
you'll be traveling with a suitcase full of drugs, which won't be
the case; drugs expire. Training in so-called first aid would be
more useful. Start developing your muscles — you'll need them.
7 Living in the country has less to do with butterflies and flowers,
and more to do with carpentry and plumbing, so learn how to do
household repairs and improvement. When building, consider local
materials: logs, bark, grass, moss, stones, clay. Local materials
cost less, require less transportation, and are more easily replaced.
8 The only heating fuel will be wood. It takes from 8 to 40 cubic
meters to get through a cold winter, depending on many factors. One
tree of 30-cm diameter would supply one cubic meter of wood, so
you'd need at least 8 such trees. Two hectares of woodland will
provide 8 cubic meters on a permanent basis. With a non- motorized
saw, you'll conserve your strength by cutting logs less than 15 cm
wide — also, they won't require splitting. The smaller the house,
the less wood you'll need. Close off rooms you don't need; cover
9 Bicycles would be hard to repair. Paved roads might be unusable:
the route will be blocked by smashed and abandoned cars, and
everywhere the asphalt will be starting to crack. On foot, on
horseback, or in a boat, one's speed is about the same: 40 km per
day, if you're in excellent health.
Peter Goodchild lives in Irondale, Ontario. He is the author of
Survival Skills of the North American Indians. He can be reached at