Monday, October 5, 2015

Survival and Climate Change: Five Strategic Weather Considerations

Before I even get started, let me say that no, this is not some tree-hugging climate change rant but an approach to the topic of weather and survival from an objective, practical point of view. I believe this is just one of those topics of great importance that is rarely addressed, or at least not often addressed from a practical, real-world perspective.
Trying to keep it simple, these are the top considerations I would keep in mind:
1)Accept the fact: Climate Changes, always has always will.
As explained earlier, my intention here is not to discuss the causes for climate change, how much of it depends on human activity (or not) or the different financial interests people on either side of the debate have. From a survival perspective the important part to understand is that climate change is real.
Climate change has happened before, it will happen again, and in fact it does happen naturally all the time. I happen to believe that we do affect the world around us to some extent. The Dust Bowl is actually a good example of how certain natural occurrences (drought), combined with certain… let’s call them unwisely chosen agricultural practices have combined with disastrous results. Either way, on a global level the climate is changing as it always has and that unavoidably impacts people’s lives. Some areas will experience far worse droughts, others become warmer and more tropical, maybe TOO warm for their own good. At the same time some other areas may become far colder than they already are.
Climate simply changes. We have ice ages every 100.000 years, interglacial warmer periods lasting about 10.000 years and then you have events such as The 8.2 kiloyear event or Younger Dryas stadial, think “Day After Tomorrow” movie where temperatures drop very, very fast in a matter of months rather than years. Scientists have different theories as of why these happen, but the important thing to remember is that they have happen before. In case you’re wondering, we’re now in whats called the Holocene geological epoch, an interglacial period that started 11,700 years ago.
While fascinating, other than the Younger Dryas stadial which Hollywood considered worthy of using in a disaster movie, it would seem that periods lasting thousands of years have little relevance in the disaster preparedness world. The thing is, even a couple degrees difference can have drastic consequences to crops, food production, water availability, sea levels and floods. Therefore it is important to approach weather not only as a static factor, but a dynamic one where towns may have to shut down because of lack of water or find themselves under it. Both of these have happen already, many times, in recent years.
2)The Rule of Three
You’re probably familiar with the Rule of Three, which says you can’t survive 3 minutes without air, 3 hours of extreme exposure, 3 days without water or 3 weeks without food. Indeed, its more of a mnemonic device but in very broad terms it does provide a general idea of which are your priorities for staying alive.
Interestingly enough, all of the 3s are mostly location dependant. Where you live will dictate the quality of air (air pollution) the risk of it being compromised (volcano, industrial disaster, wild fire), will dictate the kind of shelter you can or can’t live without based on extreme temperatures, how much water is available and how easy it is to produce and acquire food. Like in Real Estate, a great part of survival is location, location, location.
Of these, the second and third line are of particular important. While of course having fresh clean air is critical, it is temperature and water availability that are often the hardest to balance. Not only proximity to rivers and lakes, as well as availability of wells, but also how much it actually rains each year is of great importance. Without enough rain, streams, lakes and of course wells are nothing but holes in the ground.
If possible, we also want mild to warm temperatures for as much of the year as we can. Personal preferences of course vary, but one thing stays the same: Most humans have a comfort zone between 21 °C and 25 °C with a humidity of about 50%. The further away you move from that the sooner you’ll need to worry about heating or air conditioning.
3)Growing Seasons and food production
Where you live and the kind of weather you have in such a location will determine what you can or cannot produce in terms of food, what plants can grow and which animals can be kept without having to use expensive additional resources.
For many survivalists the ability to grow food is essential, either as part of their planned food supply or because they simply enjoy having fresh home grown food. But even if that’s not you the ability to produce food in your area is of great importance. On one hand, it means that you too can start your own orchard if it ever becomes necessary or if you simply want to give it a go. On the other it means that there’s a greater amount of locally produced food, bringing down the cost, increasing local availability, both of which are important aspects during economic downturns or disasters of great magnitude.
4)The Cost of Cold Weather
Publications dedicated to homesteading often address the topic of heating self-sufficiency. Keeping a supply of firewood, processing it, having stoves, servicing them, having large tanks for fuel, above or underground, and this is just a drop in the bucket. Again, when it comes to personal preferences practically everything goes, but when it comes to practical survival the answer is pretty simple: It’s better not to need any of it in the first place! How bad winters are can make a big difference. In some parts of the world being left without central heating because of a power outage, or being left without firewood during the worst of winter means you’re dead within hours. How long winter lasts and how cold it gets matters greatly. In some areas even if you don’t get covered in snow you still may need heating for most of the winter and autumn. On the other end of the spectrum you have places where summers are unbearable and you need AC. Here it really depends on the kind of building we’re talking about. Poorly designed houses or densely populated apartment buildings are sometimes impossible to live in without air conditioner.
From a survival perspective, you would ideally live in a place where you need neither one and don’t need heating or AC to live comfortably. If forced to choose, survivability is easier to achieve in warmer climates than in colder ones.
5)Temperature, humidity, sun exposure and the overall impact on your health and quality of life.
At the end of the day we end up living where we like doing so indifferently from what’s purely practical. We’re not robots and we just like what we like, sometimes without much of a logical explanation. One thing to keep in mind though, is that we may like certain things, but our bodies may not agree with our heart. By this I mean there’s a simple physiological reality which is that our bodies need a certain temperature, a certain humidity, a certain solar exposure.
There’s a reason why old folks retire to Florida rather than Maine, in spite of Maine being a fantastic State. Our bodies feel better with somewhat warmer temperatures, mid-range humidity and a certain amount of sun exposure.
Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think climate change is the biggest threat in the next decades by its capacity to stress living conditions in countries generating a lot of social and political instabilities. It is already a problem (even it is not possible to link directly a given event and climate change, we see more and more droughts, floods, etc...and also the most objective element: glaciers are melting since a long time, and fast.). We will not have to wait until 2050. It is here, now.
This big problem, in conjunction with depletion of ressources and biodiversity, it is the main threat for our children given their direct and indirect effects.
Thanks for the article.