Let’s say that everything you see on TV and read in the papers is true: we really are about to bottom out economically.
There are two things that can happen here — Bad and Worse. The Bad: things that used to be cheap won’t be, and the line between who has money and who doesn’t will be more obvious. And Worse, well, Worse is an all-out economic disemboweling where the entire fabric of our overfed Canadian lifestyles are thrown to the wind, forcing us to regress to hunter-gatherer ways as if led by some monetary Malthusian cheque.
So let’s hope for Bad. You’re going to have to alter the way you live. Do you like to go to clubs and get polluted? It’s cheaper to have friends over and get polluted at home.
Got an appetite for top-of-the-line designer clothing? Go to a secondhand clothes store and buy the pre-owned equivalent to what is “in” — just remember that fashion is cyclical. Or befriend someone with a sewing machine and make your own clothes from the attire you already have. Try to have more conversations. Turn down your heat a bit and get used to wearing sweaters so that heating bill isn’t such a kick in the junk. You could also shower in pairs (sexily or not). Reuse tea bags and wash Ziplocs instead of throwing them out. Look at every penny you spend and stop living like it’s your right as a Canadian to be able to waste money.
Now, just in case Worse happens, you may still be able to pull through — in some way.
I was once told that a true survivalist is someone who can walk into the woods naked, and within two months, walk out fully clothed and drunk. But that is the wilderness. The intangibles out there are quantifiable. You only have to worry about yourself and the only laws you need to live by are your own and nature’s. In urban settings things are different. You have to deal with uncertainty regarding where to sleep, where to find food, and whether someone will take what you have from you by force. If Hurricane Katrina taught us anything, it’s that we’re all still animals. So, in such a scenario, we must focus on our mammalian needs.
The most important part of any survival situation is shelter. You need a place to sleep and store all your shiny rocks. Mentally, shelter will help you keep your shit together, and in an urban centre, the mobility of that shelter is paramount. If you stay in the same place long enough police will ask you to move along or others like you will try to move in. Be nomadic and you will never wear out your stay. With tarps, ropes, and industrial garbage bags you have walls, structure, and a warm bed (garbage bag + leaves = sleeping bag). You can put a roof over your head anywhere with a tarp and you can create a nice little place to warm or dry yourself. Live in the river valley at night, troll the streets for sustenance by day. With that in mind, learn how to build a proper fire and maintain it safely. Stay warm, stay dry, and stay calm.
Clothing and personal care are also very important. Avoid cotton and remember the phrase “cotton kills” (when cotton gets wet, it holds no insulative value and forces the body to burn extra calories in order to stay warm). Synthetics are the way to go. They are better at stopping wind and rain and are easier to wash. Wear layers to regulate your body temperature and keep yourself dry.
Keep moving and use the furnace in your chest to keep warm. Find a good pair of boots and waterproof them by putting a shopping bag over your socked foot inside the boot. Also, when you get the chance, scrub your filthy carcass — every piece of it. It’s better to die trying to find food than from trench foot. Please don’t Google trench foot.
You can live over a week without food, but water is a different story. You have three to four days, tops, without water. Sure, there’s a river running through the centre of town, but any water you consume should be made potable by boiling it first. Collect pop bottles and try to sterilize them in a pot of boiling water. Then, fill them with said water. It could become a ritual that will keep you healthy and hydrated.
Food is a bit more difficult. If you aren’t ready to live off stray dog and squirrel meat, dumpster-diving is the best way to get a calorie boost. Fast food restaurants throw out food every night, as do bakeries and donut shops. You just have to figure out where and when the buffet begins. And prepare to bring a weapon; you won’t be the only one starving.
In all honesty, if it ever comes to this (or in case of a zombie apocalypse), my ultimate advice is to get out of town. Head for the woods. Your mammalian instincts will kick in and you will be hunting and fishing from your makeshift shelter by day and guzzling dandelion beer by night.
And if we just fall into Bad and not Worse, then I still recommend heading into the woods. It’s cheaper than snowboarding and there are way fewer people to put up with. Just learn how to dress for winter, borrow some snowshoes, and get away from the economic fearmongering.