Grid Down Survival

This is just some thoughts triggered by these two posts.

The first one talks about the need for multiple people to affect survival in a long term  grid down scenario.  Ishi, the last Yahi, was born and lived his life in the 19th Century California wilderness. He had the skills, but when his last two family members died, “Ishi lived three years beyond the raid alone, the last of his tribe. Finally, starving and with nowhere to go, at the age of about 49 on August 29, 1911, Ishi walked out into the occidental world.He was captured attempting to steal meat near Oroville, California after forest fires in the area.”  If anybody had the skills to survive alone, this man did and he couldn’t do it.


However, this Russian family survived 40 years in Siberia.



What kind of SHTF  scenarios are actually survivable? In the comments to this post, an anonymous commenter points out that, without power,  many nuclear power plants can’t run their cooling systems. Even if they could run their cooling systems, manufactured materials are still required for maintenance. Any long term disaster that prevents nuclear fuel from being stored properly could become unsurvivable for a large area.


I didn’t search for Canadian nuke plants, but I bet they’re pretty colse to the border.

Realistically speaking, any devolution farther than late 19th century would be unsurvivable for most. The reason is twofold:

Firstly, you need a rare skill set. The 19th century skills are still somewhat well known and certainly well documented. Blacksmithing, building, gardening, shoemaking (Daniel Day-Lewis will still be useful!) even medicine are still practiced as hobbys. As long as there is enough energy to prevent the above mentioned catastrophe, survival and rebuilding are possible. We may even end up better in the long run.

I should make friends with Old Salem's artisans

I should make friends at Old Salem

Second is the emotional aspect. We live in a society where everything we need or want is available imediately 24/7, if that changes its going to take a big psychological shift for most people to deal with it. That’s not the biggest challenge, though, the biggest challenge will be dealing with the much, much slower pace of life. Everything takes exponentially longer to get done when you’re doing it yourself, by hand, and learning as you go.

I have seen pics from the 19th century and there aren’t any fat people (I know there were “fat cats” in the cities, but they had a cash economy, we won’t for a while) because their lives were much more physically demanding than ours. Go out and build something with hand tools (non-powerd hand tools!) and see just how much harder it is. In a short term situation it isn’t such a big deal, but at the end of a frustrating summer (with no AC) of learning how to deal with the new normal and knowing that winter is coming fast, the cumulative fatigue is going to take a toll on even the toughest.



In addition to clouding your thought process, exhaustion weakens your immune system.In a world where the doctor’s offices are closed and modern medicine and sanitation are hard to come by the flu or a bad cut can kill you.  Exhaustion also makes you more susceptible to depression which further saps your energy and weakens your immune system and problem solving ability. A snowball effect can happen where you get exhausted trying to adapt, you get sick, your family gets sick, things start looking bleak, you get depressed, you have less energy, it gets harder, things look bleaker, you get more depressed…

No, I mean real exhaustion

No, I mean real exhaustion

Another aspect is the loss of the safety net that modern society provides, just knowing its not there could have a major impact on a lot people, though its impossible to say how big of an issue that might be. I have never been outside of its reach for more than a day or two in the wildest places I’ve visited, including Canada and Alaska, and even then, it’s reach being so wide, I could have gotten back in with a little effort. In fact it takes more effort to get out of the safety net than to get in!

A permanent total grid down scenario is unlikely. I think the most likely scenario for any breakdown in the US is something like the Great Depression with a little ethnic strife thrown in to make it interesting.


Whatever the situation, some will perish and some will thrive. I’m sure you’ll be fine.



One thought on “Grid Down Survival

  1. Pingback: Large .Gov Drill Scheduled For Nov. | NC Links

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