Survival tips for 2012

  • Patrick Hannigan


In this New Year, we can't take anything for granted when the global financial system of speculative swindles, leveraged frauds and doomed debts keeps circumnavigating the bowl. Another bailout might extend this game of charades; another scantily clad stimulus package might temporarily succeed in goosing our economy -- but only at the cost of rendering the inevitable reckoning more pyrrhic.

As King Pyrrhus of Greece said back in 279 B.C., "One more such victory and we shall be utterly ruined."

In the old days, water, food and shelter were the Big Three of existence. Thanks to advances in technology, today humans need just two essentials to survive: With a smartphone and a credit card, each of us can be a modern-day Grizzly Adams, complete with status updates. Lost and starving in the woods? There's probably an app for that. But just in case there isn't, now might be a good time to brush up on a few basic survival skills that I've honed for your exclusive use:

Tip One: Economic crises have a nasty habit of mutating into wars, which could easily push gas prices into the stratosphere. To convert your gas-powered vehicle into a hoof-drawn carriage, first remove all the excess weight -- i.e., the engine, sheet metal, bumpers, windshield, doors. Second, calculate your horsepower needs: Four horses (or six motivated mules) can pull a stripped-down Subaru, although a dozen Clydesdales might be required to tool around town in an average monster truck. Don't forget: Immediately, you must start to grow hay.

Tip Two: Tens of thousands of deer are hit by cars each year in the West, but since many states prohibit the collection or consumption of road kill, those deer are often left roadside to rot. It's a shameful waste. A common-sense Road Kill Bill allowing people to eat game species that have decided to cross the road (for whatever reason) at the wrong time could feed many needy families.

Tip Three: If everyone in the West went deer hunting, there would be very few left in a year or two. A more sustainable approach would involve targeting the smaller critters that make up the majority of the biomass in the region. Packrats, gophers and mice are a vastly under-utilized source of local, free-range organic protein. Any cultural inhibitions you harbor will vanish as soon as you take a delicious bite of packratatouille, gopher gazpacho or a chocolate mouse mousse.

Tip Four: A good cook can transform the barely edible into a sublime culinary experience (see above). For example, pine trees are (theoretically) palatable, but it takes a chef to turn one into a meal more tender than a two-by-four. An even more widely available source of nutrition across the American West is plain old dirt, which is loaded with necessary minerals such as calcium and iron. Given a smart recipe and the time to properly prepare the pies, any one of us can transform mud so that it becomes a savory part of a balanced diet.

Tip Five: During these lean times, buying thousands of dollars of fancy gear to catch and then release fish seems decadent and certainly wasteful. Fortunately, there are still catch-and-chow-down fisheries across the region that can reliably feed a family. In many Western states, there are open seasons on invasive species such as carp, Pikeminnows or suckers. Discerning sportsmen may dismiss such fish as "trash," but the hungry anglers among us might just be thankful for such a dish of fish.

Tip Six: Have you ever wondered why most mammals don't wear clothes? It's because they already have fur. If the system of global trade breaks down, we may not have access to clothes, which are mostly made by children in China. That would create some chilly problems, especially during winter. Now is the perfect time for men and women around the West to toss out their razors and grow a thick coat of warm fur to keep the tender bits toasty.

I hope this advice helps as we navigate the wilderness of a global economy gone pffffffft. We had better start remembering old-fashioned survival skills if we want to make it through the coming new year.

Patrick Hannigan is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News ( He lives in the town of Twisp, Washington.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at