Tuesday, November 30, 2010

10 Skills Needed to Thrive in a Post-Collapse World

Knowledge is something that no one can take from you. It's the eternal wealth that will help you thrive in a Post-Collapse world.

Mad Max: Village Roadshow Pictures
Jeffrey Green
Activist Post

Some experts see the perfect storm emerging for a dramatic collapse of Western civilization claiming we've reached environmental, economic, and geopolitical tipping points. Clearly, some skills will be far more valuable than others if this societal breakdown occurs.  Sorry bankers, lawyers, and accountants, there won't be a need for you in a post-collapse world.

Before we quantify the skill sets that will be viable, it is important to define the severity of a "post-collapse" scenario. When taken as a whole, together these tipping points could potentially converge to create a post-apocalyptic Mad Max-type world for the vast majority of humanity.  However, given the advanced technology that we possess today, it is unlikely to ever become quite that primitive ever again. Surely there will be pockets of energy and food independence no matter what possible scenario unfolds, but the vast majority may be left to fend for themselves.

It would take a serious cataclysmic earth event like a super volcano, a meteor impact, major electromagnetic pulse event, or dramatic pole shift to affect the entirety of humanity.  Man-made events like nuclear war, environmental damage, or total economic collapse, no matter how devastating, will be somewhat isolated and contained to specific areas and populations. Incidentally, every nation or territory that has experienced these man-made catastrophes has roared back to life in less than one generation. The only example of nuclear survival was in Japan, while the largest recent economic collapse was the break-up of the Soviet Union.  In both cases those countries went through a very tough period, but ultimately they persevered.

For sake of this article, let's assume that some level of devastation is caused by each type of tipping point in the United States.  Our ever escalating wars finally reach our shores by way of long-range nuclear missiles, total economic collapse occurs rendering the dollar worthless, and we would likely have less electricity and water than Iraq did after Bush's "shock and awe" campaign. Gasoline and oil supplies would likely be down to a trickle, halting all supply lines of food and other goods to big box stores.  Factory farming will be impossible without cheap oil products readily available.  The suffering will be dramatic.

The only question will become, how do the citizens react?  Both the USSR and early 1950s Japan were far more agrarian, and far less dependent on big box stores than America currently is.  American dependence on long supply lines, interconnected yet vulnerable electric grid, and pharmaceutical-based healthcare may lead to a more severe breakdown of society than witnessed in those countries.  Although, innovative technology for alternative energy and agriculture practices will play a part in surviving; but they can only help the few with the knowledge, means, and stability to use them.  And stability will be in low supply for some time, resulting in only small groups with relative comfort -- those who planned for the worse. However, as an optimist, I believe that after the initial chaos Americans will rediscover solidarity for one-another, much like they did after 9/11, but this time it will be more sustained out of absolute necessity.

Many articles have been written about how to survive the coming collapse, or what is needed to survive, but not many articles have been written about what skills will have value in a post-collapse world.  Imagine fulfilling human necessity without consistent fuel or electricity, large-scale food production, or fully-stocked pharmacies and hospitals.  The only form of wealth in a collapsed civilization is the knowledge and skills to produce something of human value.

Here are 10 invaluable skills that will likely help you sustain yourself in a hand-made local world:

1. Organic Gardening and Seed Saving: Skills involving food production will be the most valuable in a post-collapse society. Learning to grow your own food is a must.  Obviously, it is necessary to feed your family, but you will also be able to trade your abundance for other items. Additionally, learning to save seeds will also provide another excellent means of trade.

2. Food Processing and Preservation: Learning to process and preserve foods will be another huge skill in a post-collapse world. Taking seasonal abundance and preserving it for future consumption or trade will be vital.  Remember, learning to do this with limited electricity is a must. This can also include learning to brew beer, mead, vinegar, or other alcoholic beverages from meager ingredients.

3. Hunting, Fishing, and Gathering:  Learning to fish and hunt is essential to survival. Having the proper gear and training will be priceless after the collapse of modern civilization.  Having reference guides for edible plants in your region, repairing weapons, trapping wild game, and fishing are great tools to have if you haven't the time to learn them now. In regards to weapons, your ability to use them also gives you the skill of working security.

4. Animal Husbandry: Notice the first four categories are related to food production.  It's that important.  Just gaining knowledge of one of these categories will give you an invaluable skill to thrive in a post-apocalyptic world.  Knowledge of animal husbandry can provide endless amounts of sustainable meat, eggs, and milk to you and your tribe.

5. Construction: Construction skills will be very important in a shattered civilization.  These skills, especially without power tools, are not something you learn overnight.  If you have some basic skills it may be worth learning a few techniques for building small structures with crude hand tools.  There are many books teaching anyone how to build basic cabins, sheds, and composting outhouses.

6. Alternative Energy and Fuels: Having the knowledge to implement alternative energy systems will make you a wealthy survivor in a "dark" world. You can learn to build your own alternative energy systems, or you can purchase back up solar generators in preparation for emergencies. There are also small fuel refinery systems available like the biodiesel Fuelmeister, and the new invention from Japan that turns plastic into oil.  Knowledge of how to create energy would be invaluable when oil is scarce.

7. Water Purification: Since it's difficult to pump well water without electricity and with surface water likely to be contaminated, clean water will be in very limited supply.  Learning to purify water will allow you thrive during this time. You can also purchase water filters for your go-bag that will last weeks, and you can have back-up tablets should you need them.  However, the skill and knowledge to purify water should be the goal as that can never run out.

8. Basic First Aid and Natural Medicine:  This is another skill that can take years to develop and learn, but that will be crucial when supply lines of pharmaceuticals are cut off and hospitals are over-run. Knowledge of growing herbal gardens for making medicine at home will prove to be very important.  Learning basic procedures for stitching wounds, CPR, and more will also be of great assistance.  Being the tribe's shaman with a natural medicine chest is a prestigious position

9. Mechanics: Mechanics for cars, motorcycles, tractors and other machinery will likely be in high demand.  In addition, bicycle mechanics will also fair well in world where fuel is very expensive or hard to come by.  These are also skills that are not learned over night, but it will be wise to at least have access to books or how-to videos.

10. Soap and Candle Making: With long supply lines decimated and electricity on the fritz, soap and candle makers will provide a valuable product. Clearly some preparation of storing raw materials may be needed to achieve trade-able levels of these goods.  Even if you just had the knowledge to make soap or candles just for your immediate tribe, you will be much better off for it.

You'll notice that many of these skills also fall into the category of what you would need to be self-sufficient. Again, learning all of these skills will be virtually impossible, especially if the collapse isn't that far off as many predict.  Determine which skills that most appeal to you and focus on them by studying and acquiring the tools needed. Since you can't become an expert in everything it may be wise to recruit tribe members with various survival skills.  It will also be beneficial to build up your library of "how to" books and videos for tasks that you are not proficient in.  You can download any video from Youtube by using Keepvid.com and build your library into an external hard drive.

Remember, knowledge of and skills to produce human necessities will be the only form of wealth creation in a hand-made world. Knowledge is something that no one can take from you. It's the eternal wealth that will help you thrive in a Post-Collapse world. Get Prepared Now!

This article may be re-posted in full with attribution.


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Sean said...

This is all great info, thanks for writing it. The links are great...now if we can get more people on the same page.

Anonymous said...

Excellent info to point those who need and desire these skills in the right direction.

Great stuff to know in any event!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Intense article! Good ideas. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Great article Jeff, I'm taking notes...

Barry Carter said...

Everyone has a favorite disaster. Whether your favorite is global warming, peak oil, economic collapse or something else--all disasters interfere with the availability of food. Growing more food locally is the best and most accessible solution to each of these disasters.

I have been working on figuring out ways to use less energy, reduce my carbon footprint and mitigate or reverse global warming since 1969. Since then, I have gardened organically, super-insulated houses, installed solar and been a professional forest activist. I have come to realize that any solution to these problems must be something that any individual can implement in their own life. I have also come to a better understanding of the real meaning of "grassroot activism". Grass roots are hidden in the soil and very difficult to destroy. You can read more about my exploration of these issues for the last forty years at:


To grow food you need healthy soil and this is something we are loosing at a ferocious rate. There is evidence that a minor increase in soil carbon sequestration would pull enough carbon from the atmosphere to get us into a safe range.

There is also evidence that we can double soil carbon sequestration in a couple years if we apply certain sea minerals to the soil. These minerals can be concentrated from sea water or sea salt using simple, open-source methods. This reduced-salt, mineral concentrate can be made at a cost of about two dollars per acre, per year.

Any individual with access to dirt can get these results by applying these minerals to the dirt they have access to. You don't need permission or cooperation from corporate, government or belief structures to implement this on your own soil. If a few million people were to do this, we could pull enough carbon out of the atmosphere to get us back to safe levels.


Growing most of our food locally could reduce our oil use by a third.

Grow your own soil, grow your own food and grow your own carbon sequestration. Then show your neighbors your giant nuts, plums, carrots and other vegetables:


Lately, I am spending more time exploring solutions than thinking of problems. Sharing methods for concentrating these minerals is the best solution I can imagine.

With kindest regards,
Barry Carter
bcarter at igc dot org

Anonymous said...

I am 'over the hill' but was raised doing all those things. I even have a rub board and an iron pot for making soap and washing whites in! I garden, can, sew clothes, knit and crochet clothes, have hunted game, etc. The only things left is I am not much good with mechanics or carpentry! I can swing a mean hammer though and can do that part but don't think I would make much of a mechanic!

Anonymous said...

I know you're doing your best in covering the issues ...but they are gaps. Big ones.

Look, a number of the major 1st world countries border the sea. So duh ... don't you think that if/when things go Mad Max that many citizens will have knowledge/skills related to the sea and will look to the oceans to provide. I've yet to see ONE single 'doomers' site discuss this. No ..it's all about going 'back to the farm'. Wise up.

Like wise ..every scenario offered seems to see things degenerating to the worst state possible as in -- total anarchy. Perhaps... but I doubt it.

The cockroach bankers(and bureaucrat/police/military classes that sell themselves in service of them) are difficult to get rid of. Much as I wish not... I suspect there will still be many scurrying about causing problems even after a meltdown. It will take awhile before their resources/cache of supplies run low and they disperse.

In fact... it will most likely take a DEDICATED effort on the part of us all to exterminate the uber banker class (I'm talking Rothschild/Rockefeller class here). These folks literally have 10s, perhaps 100s of billions at their disposal... and as such, when it comes to being resilient .... they have a tremendous head start over us.

Think about it...they already have their ranches in Idaho & Patagonia and their Gold vaults and paid off officials in a multiple of locations.

Via bought off politicians, they've already sucked a significant amount of blood out of you & me. There's no imminent end to this that I can see. That have their puppet US president in place, their puppet attorney general in place, their bought off regulators (think mary shipiro at the SEC) and bought off police types (think janet napolitano as homeland gestapo head).

The powers that be have all the bases covered.
They're way ahead of you and me and far more well funded.

Actually, its rather depressing.
But when your back is up against a wall, when you've little left to lose ... then all there is... is to fight back.

Fight back with all your might.

Anonymous said...

For anyone wanting some real serious survival or homesteading how-to, check out this forum:


Free member shared info on everything from canning, fire by friction, to knife making. Found this site years back and has been invaluable for me.

Robert Atack said...

Great article.
Just one question everyone should think about, look at Baghdad post Shock and Awe and times that by years, this will be what a lot of the western world will look like once Governments lose control.
Set yourself up to survive the worse situation, that should be the first skill.

travellerev said...

Typical man list though. As if are clothes appear out of the blue. No more cheap shit form China if it really gets bad so spinning, weaving and even if only primitive clothes making skill will come in handy.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant and timely! Thank you for writing this!

Anonymous said...

And you need..



The 'FOXFIRE' series

...and as many US Military manuals (especially on Survival) as you can download - all free on the net for those who search via Google.

And don't forget your trusty KJV Bible!

Anonymous said...

Check out www.snare-trap-survive.com trapping and snaring tanning hides wilderness survival DVD's. A must have skill if things go really bad.

Cascata Brava said...

I think this is a great list of skills to have, but I find it idealistic for a post-collapse scenario.

More than half the worlds populations live in urban environments, also, economic collapse does not mean that the military corporation state will just disappear. Many of these self-sufficience skills presuppose ownership or access to land and resources, as well as freedom from molestation by oppressive social darwinists.
I think many of the skills we will need are similar to the ones we should be using now while we still have some stability and resources.

I would add near the top of the list:

1. Knowledge and Ability to organize in communalist systems - This is essential activist training, to be able to make quick consensus based decisions among small affinity groups. ( http://www.wri-irg.org/node/5165 )

2. Critical Information Analysis, understanding of Psychological Warfare - Especially in 'superpower; countries, as well as around the world, populations are (knowingly or not) engaged in a psychological war against the corporation-states. Understanding of the way propaghanda, and social engineering via media operates is essential to be able to resist it. Only then is the mind free to make relevant, informed, empowered opinions.

3. Methods of militant resistance - We try to ignore this but I think it is an unfortunate truth - Collapse will only mean a rise in oppressive military population control in protection of the wealth of the upper echelons, and communities have to be able to protect and assert themselves in situations where there is no offer of mercy

after this I think the Agrarian self-sufficience skills become more relevant, and below that, I would add one last skill:

12. Clowning - No joke, when all the media and social luxuries are gone, we will need to make our own entertainment. Everyone should have a decent command of clowning techniques, because ultimately the greatest weapon we have in the eternal battle of good vs. evil is our sense of humor.( http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-clown-about-behind-a-sofa )

Anonymous said...

Dude, now THAT was a good article. Yes indeed. It's a little frightening to go down the list and mark each one off..."nope, can't do that...nor that...nor that." Maybe I'm strong in a couple of areas. Others I can shore up and will focus on immediately. Best idea is to start up that "tribe", which I had already started to do, casually at this point, and I think it's funny you chose the word "tribe" because that was exactly how I saw it also.

Anonymous said...

I feel the need to respond to the comments of a Mr Anonymous who criticized the article for not considering sea faring as a solution. I personally have thought of that--and discarded it. It's not that it's not possible, but there are SERIOUS problems with it.

First, only a sail craft would work for living on the seas. Forget motorized travel. The skills needed to LIVE aboard a small sail boat for an indefinite time are going to be rare indeed. WE're talking about truly primitive navigation with sextant at best, and dead reckoning quite often. No motors to help combat currents.

Yes, there is food in the sea. But what about water? Without power, desalinators are useless. If you have a Genset wind generator, this will work for a number of years, but on the seas, equipment breaks down. It's the name of the game for marine life.

The VAST majority of the world's populations tend to be where? By the coastline. Which means that you will NOT be the only cat out there in a boat. The bad guys will be there too. In fact, it's a guarantee that the LAST folks to have fuel will be the pirates killing everyone else and taking theirs! So you will only be able to go ashore at great risk.

And then there are storms. If it's not safe to seek a harbor, then are you going to ride out hurricanes at sea?

The comments by that gentleman seem extremely idealistic, perhaps foolish. Only a person with a very romanticized notion of seafaring could actually propose heading to sea under extremely primitive conditions and think that survival odds are better there than on a farm! It can be done, but get real. You're much better off on a remote farm than a small boat on the ocean, unless you are able to get to VERY remote seas. And even then, ocean survival is extremely difficult.

Anonymous said...

You can reduce your carbon footprint by not walking around so much. And remember, when you exhale you're blowing out CO2 so don't be exhaling.

Anonymous said...

As Travellerev said, written obviously by a man. Because I guess everybody's just going to wander around naked.
I'm thinking my skills as a seamstress/knitter/crocheter/leatherworker just might prove to be just as invaluable as hunting skills, dude. I'll be warm in winter w/curtains, bags, shoes! etc. HA!

Rylee said...

Re: #3
How long will the eco-system be able to sustain a lot of people suddenly hunting and gathering before game becomes scarce and wild species of plants become endangered because of over-harvesting (if lots of people actually learned how to do these things)? A hunter-gatherer lifestyle only works when human populations are sparse. Much more to the point would be a style of agriculture which is well suited to almost any climate - gardening vegetables, potatoes, raising hens for eggs (and occasionally meat), and perhaps goats for their milk (and occasionally meat).

Carol Chaney said...

Fiber arts will be vital. Consider this: most American closets hold the raw materials for survival clothing. So cutting down a man's overcoat for children's snow suits and unravelling a sweater to make mittens and hats will be more to the task of dressing.

Some creative use of quilting will transform some girlie dress into a warm vest. You get the picture.

We will really need--footwear!! Everything else can be fabricated from what we already have in the system.

Shoes, boots, sandals--these will become quite a commodity.

Women will need to draw on an old custom of making and washing cloth napkins for personal use. Women did this for centuries. Only in the last fifty/sixty years have disposable diapers and sanitary napkins been in use. Think about how society managed/functioned in 1900, and you'll do fine. ccw

Captain said...

one aspect you have forgotten : DEFENSE - in the coming world the biggest threat will be armed marauding gangs , 2 things you gotta learn , weapons modification ( it takes 10mins to turn a jet-washer into a lethal flame-thrower ) - combat deception = build a second "fake" campsite w lights/smoke/music etc , this will attract the criminals where they can be engaged at will while leaving the real camp safe for resources/occupants

Niniann said...

The human factor is missing here. Caring for the sick or injured is a skill that involves more than dispensing medicine and applying bandages. Also children will need teachers. If the next generation is to be able to build on the skills learned by their parents, someone with real teaching skills and the ability to relate to kids is essential. I also think we will need people with not only leadership skils but people that have good judgement , will sacrifice for the greater good, and lead ethically and with fairness and compassion. This means we will need wise people who are spiritual leaders and teachers who can help the "tribe" by guidance and their example, who can help us to instill good values in our children, and teach us all how to g care for each other. Otherwise we will just become a soociety of people with skills for sale to the highest bidder, mercenaries and thieves. In other words we will end up with the world being even more savage then it is now.

Anonymous said...

DEFENSE - 2 things you gotta learn , weapons modification ( it takes 10mins to turn a jet-washer into a lethal flame-thrower )
Did pretty good on the check-list until I came
to this.........inquiring minds would like to
know..we have a community pretty much set up
and have covered most things on the list including teachers, seamstress, etc..have slingshots and have practiced, weapons, knives etc but a flamethrower??? brings interesting thoughts.......

Anonymous said...

I met a Survivalist when I was in university and he spoke convincingly about the upcoming apocalypse and things I should be doing to prepare. That was in 1980. I guess I'm totally behind everyone else in my planning, but perhaps it's because I'm not sure I'd want to live in a filthy, violent Mad Max kind of world. Enjoy.

Anonymous said...

My whole family thinks we are crazy to prepare. We have no tribe.

Anonymous said...

Bizarre. Its like I've been learning to handle the collapse all my life! I guess being the product of a D.I.Y. farm (as opposed to a corporate farm) has its advantages. Out of the 10 skills, I'm heavy in all of them except 1, the medical / herbal medicine one. ...and I know the basics of that. Its no wonder I'm cheering on the collapse. I see it as a reset, reevaluation of society. This fake credit scheme we've been running in the USA has finally hit the wall. I for one will be glad when its really gets crappy. When the going gets tough... 6Gs people! 6Gs:


...in a balanced approach. Get it together and do it fast. If we were on a countdown, we're on 3.

Joe said...

And so begins with the 2008 depression the descent in the next Dark Age (it really is a distinct possibility). While I do not think we will see collapse in our lifetime, the next Dark Age is already drawing a shadow over our civilization, and if we don't see it, our children or grandchildren WILL.

This collapse is pretty much inevitable. We simply cannot sustain this way of living so society as we know IS doomed. I do think it might be possible to make a transition to a small but still technologically advanced society, but currently technology is not quite where I would believe it needs to be to create a sustainable high tech community that can see it its own resource needs without depleting the ecology on which they also depend.

That said we need several things for a high tech solution to dark ages. 3D printing and reuse of all materials are the primary focus of my solution. If we can us 3D printing and recycling to create a closed system for advanced technology (I am taking the ability to print another printer, solar panels, and computers, motors, etc) but also being able to turn that motor back into a brand spanking new one by cycling it back through the printer. I hope that gives the gist of my idea.

Of course this new society I envision will still have some serious challenges facing it trying to sustain itself through a Dark Age.

By the way, I recommend to everyone here, read these two books. Clive Ponting's A New Green History of the Earth, and Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake (also The Year of the Flood)

Ien van Houten said...

Fascinating list! As old semi-hippies we are well ahead of the game, but nowhere near ready. Thank Goddess we live in Canada. I loved the Atwood combination. Enjoyed Oryx and Crake more after reading Year of the Flood. May I contribute the following wisdom from Carol Dieppe, seed saver and plant breeder: You do not have to have all the skills to be totally independent, just enough of them to hold your own in an interdependent community.

Anonymous said...

hi people

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

A garden would be nice but how do you keep the scavangers out of it? Most would destroy and waste more then they stole.

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