Support Indy

Popularise CC

Join News Letter

Read CC In Your
Own Language

CC Malayalam


Peak Oil

Alternative Energy

Climate Change

US Imperialism

US Elections


Latin America










Book Review

Gujarat Pogrom



India Elections



Submission Policy

About CC

Contact Us

Subscribe To Our
News Letter

Name: E-mail:


Printer Friendly Version

"Personal Survival Skills:
Life At The Twlight Of Empire"

By Michelle Fealk, Adriana Guillen, Colin Peacock, Sarah Rios, and two anonymous contributors

04 November, 2008

Introducing The World

We are a small group of students with diverse backgrounds and life goals. We began this journey relatively uninformed about the impacts of peak oil and other end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenarios, and our opinions differ as to how accurate or biased those scenarios are. But we share a common interest in personal survival as the chance of civilization collapsing increases, and we wish to share our newly accumulated knowledge with others who are similarly concerned about their own futures.

This report is intended to serve as a guide along the path we have, thankfully, already trodden and worn down, along with several thousand scientists, conspiracy-theory crackpots, and average frustrated chumps as we have come up against a world in turmoil. Specifically, we face an ambiguous future in a world that grows increasingly dependent on oil even as global supplies fall.

We begin by briefly discussing the evidence behind peak oil and the importance of crude oil to civilization. Then we review various scenarios of a future that, perhaps thankfully, we cannot fully predict. We conclude by discussing several areas of human life that we wish to continue participating in after the fall of civilization: Water, Food, Shelter, Community, and Medicine. We identify opportunities to access these wonderful components of society even as the world as we know it is turned upside down.

This report is not a comprehensive guide to peak oil, nor is it meant to be anything but informative as it provides access to several articles, books, websites, opinions, and other resources you might not find elsewhere. Unlike other literature, though, ours is a personal account that describes possible pertinent actions we can take in light of a future that is likely to be quite different from the recent past.

This report represents the culmination of an exciting and fun-filled semester. We spent many hours in thoughtful conversation, appropriately intermixed with pleasant absurdities and occasional field trips. We hope the reader finds value in this effort, and recognize that, if nothing else, we are taking action to create a future that we want to live in. And that is what really inspired us to research this topic in the first place.


This report reflects and assumes the belief that American Empire will fall, like all empires before it. We envision a relatively sudden decline, but this future is not certain. In fact, several peak-oil scenarios suggest otherwise (see, for example, Thus, the information in this report is best interpreted as a set of suggestions based on the limited experience of a few people who studied the issue within the limitations of a single semester, from a particular perspective in a specific location. Not all options discussed in this report are applicable throughout the world. Obviously, it is the responsibility of each person to make educated decisions about his or her future. All websites were viewed in April 2008.

Peak Oil and the Consequent Collapse of Civilization

This section is adapted from the writings of Guy R. McPherson, particularly Viewpoints piece in the Arizona Republic, a follow-up piece in the same publication, and an entry from his blog.

M. King Hubbert, a petroleum geologist employed by Shell Oil Co., described peak oil in 1956. Production of crude oil, like the production of many non-renewable resources, follows a bell-shaped curve. The top of the curve is termed “peak oil,” or “Hubbert’s peak,” and it approximates the halfway point for production.

The bell-shaped curve applies at all levels, from field to country to planet. After discovery, production ramps up relatively quickly. But when the light, sweet crude on top of the field runs out, increased energy and expense are required to extract the underlying heavy, sour crude. At some point, the energy required to extract a barrel of oil exceeds the energy contained in barrel of oil, so the pumps shut down.

We have sufficient supply to keep the world running for 30 years or so, at the current level of demand. But that’s irrelevant because the days of inexpensive oil are behind us. And American Empire absolutely demands cheap oil. Never mind the 3,000-mile Caesar salad to which we’ve become accustomed. Cheap oil forms the basis for the 12,000-mile supply chain underlying the warehouse-on-wheels approach to the “just-in-time” delivery of plastic toys from China.

In 1956, Hubbert predicted the continental United States would peak in 1970. He was correct, and the 1970s gave us a small, temporary taste of the sociopolitical and economic consequences of expensive oil.

Hubbert’s model indicates the world peaked in December 2005, according to Princeton professor emeritus Ken Deffeyes. Data from the ultra-conservative U.S. government Energy Information Administration (EIA), on the other hand, indicate we passed the world oil peak in May 2005: see column “F” in this Excel table. If Hubbert’s bell-shaped curve is accurate at the global level, as it has been for every other level studied so far, global oil production in 2008 should approximate that of 2002 (which was about 67 million bbl/day, according to column “F” in the aforementioned table). The data are direr than the model, since they indicate we passed the world oil peak in May 2005 instead of December 2005.

Note that we have not passed the global peak for all liquids, which includes many non-crude products (e.g., liquid natural gas, gasified coal, “oil” from tar sands). Richard Heinberg expects this peak to occur in 2010 or 2011. But apparently we have reached peak production of the master resource, crude oil.

By 2018, Hubbert’s model predicts we'll be producing about 60 million barrels per day, whereas the EIA forecasts global demand at about 110 million barrels per day. The French investment bank Ixis-CIB forecasts $380 oil in 2015, so an estimate of $400 oil in 2018 is quite conservative.

It’s pretty easy to foresee a collapse of the U.S. economy so severe that, within a decade, unemployment will be approaching 100 percent, inflation will be running at 1,000 percent and central heating will be a pipe dream. In short, this country will be well on its way to the post-industrial Stone Age.

After all, no alternative energy sources scale up to the level of a few million people, much less the 6.5 billion who currently occupy Earth. Oil is necessary to extract and deliver coal and natural gas. Oil is needed to produce solar panels and wind turbines, and to maintain the electrical grid.

A vast majority of the oil consumed in this country is burned by airplanes, ships, trains and automobiles. You can kiss goodbye groceries at the local big-box grocery store: Our entire system of food production and delivery depends on cheap oil.

If, indeed, we’ve passed the world oil peak and if, indeed, a miracle does not salvage civilization, it is easy to imagine that anybody who is alive in a decade will have figured out how to forage locally.

The death and suffering will be unimaginable. We have come to depend on cheap oil for the delivery of food, water, shelter, medicine, and community. Most of us are incapable of supplying these key elements of personal survival, so trouble lies ahead when we are forced to develop means of acquiring them that don't involve a quick trip to Wal-Mart.

Matt Savinar’s website gives a broad and compelling overview of the fix we’re in, and it debunks ridiculous ideas such as “deep” and “abiotic” oil, and also hydrogen as a fuel. It’s worth reading the site’s breaking news every day.

A quick read of Savinar’s site, especially in combination with the many others dedicated to serious discussions of peak oil, supports these primary ideas: We will not innovate or organize out way out of this crisis. Oil priced at $100/barrel is no big deal, but the supply disruptions and hyperinflation associated with $400 oil are another matter. Economic growth slowed to nearly zero in the fourth quarter of 2007, during which time oil never hit $100/barrel. Since then, it’s rarely been below the $100 threshold.

This is wonderful news on many levels. Passing the world oil peak means the world economy will collapse, thereby giving other cultures and species an opportunity to persist a few more years. Economic growth is tightly linked to extinction rates, so the forthcoming Greatest Depression is great news from the other occupants of planet Earth.

In fact, it is becoming increasingly clear that we will fail to voluntarily prevent frying the planet beyond the point of habitability. But peak oil forces us to stop burning fossil fuels, which might give us a chance, as a species, to squeeze through the global-change bottleneck. Peak oil is the last chance for our species, and many, many others with which we share the planet.

Thus, for those of us who care about other species, or even about our species, peak oil is good news. If you’re like most humans, you care a lot more about yourself and your loved ones than about people you don’t know and especially future generations. And that’s how we got into this mess.

A partial list of the many books dedicated to this issue includes four books by Richard Heinberg (The Party’s Over, Powerdown, The Oil Depletion Protocol, and Peak Everything), two Kenneth Deffeyes (Hubbert’s Peak and Beyond Oil), James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency, David Goodstein’s Out of Gas, and Aric McBay’s Peak Oil Survival.

Water in the American Southwest

Finding water is not as easy as it seems. Currently, all we have to do is turn a faucet or flush a toilet to see gallons of the stuff drifting by, perfectly fit for any human use. But what would happen if that were not the case? What if we had to find water, year around, and it wouldn’t come out the tap?

This section supplies answers to those questions more as we explore how to find, store, move, and purify water in one of the driest places on Earth. We begin with techniques that yield the most water returned for effort invested. We do not discuss permanent rivers and aquifers because they are conspicuously absent from the American Southwest. Considerable information about rainwater harvesting, especially in urban environments, is provided in Brad Lancaster’s excellent book, Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands.

The time to dig a well is not when you’re thirsty

Securing drinkable water undoubtedly will become problematic when the taps stop flowing. According to the United Nations, humans need at least two gallons of water per person per day to survive. For drinking, preparing meals, and sanitation, four to five gallons of water per person per day are needed.


Rain is the most splendid and plentiful source of water in the Sonoran Desert. Annual summer ‘monsoons’ and late-winter rains are the true source of life here, and the only sticky bit is that it isn’t present for nearly three-fourths of the year. We often receive more than 75% of our yearly allotment of precipitation over a two-week period of intense summer thunderstorms. Luckily, that means we only have to store and collect water once or twice a year. Rainwater from roof runoff is the easiest and most efficient way of providing a reliable source of water to a home. However, this approach is limited to roof surfaces that will not contaminate the water with lead paints or sealants, a tank large enough to hold a year’s supply, and the ability to keep the water clean or filter out impurities that breach the containment system.

Fortuitously, there are other more ancient and simple means of storing water that are still quite viable thousands of years after they were built. Prehistoric stone-lined pits are found throughout the American Southwest. Such devices were built as water catchments for rain in areas far removed from springs and perennial water sources. They were constructed from local materials, which indicates the ease with which they can be copied (but not the requisite intensity of labor).

Springs and Seepages

Water flowing naturally out of springs is incredibly easy to harvest and serves as a high-quality water resource in the desert. However, these are few and far between, they have been exploited for many generations, and they are the focus of intense human competition to boot. It is almost as easy and much less competitive to look for seepages (i.e., seeps) instead. Spring are comprised of flowing water aboveground, whereas seeps are usually a rather damp-looking bit of ground or rock that can be widened or dug out to supply a trickle of water. To fully utilize these opportunities, one must learn the animal, plant, and mineral signs that indicate these features.

Most of the washes (i.e., arroyos) in the region are characterized by distinct shrub mounds, circular areas of raised ground covered in low-lying, and densely packed shrubs. These are often found in and at the end of washes and arroyos. The shrubs channel water from their leaves and branches, down their stems, and along their roots to saturate the ground below. These areas typically are somewhat muddy and they require some effort to extract water from the surrounding soil. However, the effort produces sweet compensation: a draught of earthy, cool, and invigorating water among a seemingly completely arid desert landscape.

Riparian plants, water birds, and butterflies also serve as great indicators of the presence of surface water. Riparian plants, especially cottonwood and willow trees, require huge amounts of water to maintain, water birds reliably lead observant naturalists to water, and butterflies sip all their water directly from seeps in the ground.

Local geology often provides excellent insight into where pockets of water may occur. Limestone outcrops, for example, are known to hold considerable water. Dousing also is a possibility that should not be overlooked. And while dousing is simple in premise, it requires practice and forethought to use productively and should be researched in its own right to be utilized fully.


Water collected through condensation is perhaps the most inefficient way to collect sufficient water to survive, and it likely is a zero-sum game when conducted within the context of survival. Nonetheless, it is good to understand the approach and it might provide short-term relief within desert environments.

Solar stills are the most common tools for capturing condensation. Most consist of a hole in damp ground, a container is placed in the center of the hole, and a clear piece of plastic placed over the top of the hole. An indent is pushed down into the middle of the plastic (e.g., with a small rock), and the sides of the plastic are sealed with dirt. As the sun’s rays penetrate and warm the wet earth, water evaporates out of the soil and condenses onto the plastic. The resulting condensation forms droplets that collect in the container. This effort is almost always a waste of time if an individual is desperate for water because the amount of effort required to construct a solar still generates more water loss – in the form of sweat – than is produced by the still in return. Although we did not discover viable stills in our research, other techniques that follow this principle could be developed or researched.

Nets can be draped in foggy areas, or any place with high condensation at night. A container is put under the net, catching the droplets of dew that condense on the net. This approach is more efficient than solar stills, but is not useful except in certain mountainous areas of the southwest, and those are often the most common areas of permanent water sources.

Certain plants can be used to collect water from condensation, but again, these are most likely in higher elevations and areas of the desert where permanent water is likely to occur.

Fruits, Vegetables, and Meat

Eating plants and meat offers a very low water return relative to the amount of water required to digest them, with the possible exception of melons and cucumbers. It is possible to acquire about a fifth of total water via ingestion in food, and doing so is important for personal health.

Water Retention

Growing plants is an intelligent way to retain water near your home. Growing food, creating shade, and numerous aesthetic benefits are come from having an efficient watering system in place. For example, unglazed terra cotta pots can be buried slightly beneath the soil; when filled, the pots slowly release water in the subsurface, where is can be accessed by plant roots more efficiently water at the soil surface because of direct loss to evaporation in the dry desert air. Lids placed atop the pots ensure minimal loss to evaporation, and the porosity of unglazed terra cotta ensures slow release of the water into the soil.

Landscapes conduct water, and mulch retains rainwater by reducing evaporation. It is important to study how water flows over the land and where it ends up, even in city lots. Consider, for example, all the water lost to overflowing city drains carrying noxious chemicals and oil from our roads, driveways, and gutters into our rivers and ultimately our aquifers and drinking water. Diverting even a small portion of that huge flow of water going past city driveways would be enormously useful. Cutting out a portion of the curb allows water to flow into the lower elevation of an urban lot where it can provide otherwise unused water for plants.

Treating Contaminated Water

Contamination of water is classified in three ways: pathogenic (disease-causing organisms), chemical (pesticides, industrial chemical or naturally occurring chemicals), and physical (taste color and smell, but not usually harmful). Depending on the region, drinkable water can be obtained from rain, ground water, and surface water. Ground water can be obtained from wells and springs and is usually free of pathogens. Ground water is traditionally accessed by digging or drilling a well. For information on how to dig a well, we recommend chapter two of Aric McBay’s book, Peak Oil Survival. Rainwater also tends to be free from pathogens and chemical contamination. The best way to collect rain water is by using the roof of a dwelling and collecting the rain in a gutter system that leads to catchment barrels. More information about building a rainwater catchment system is found in chapter 4 of Peak Oil Survival. Water collected from rapids is better than pooled water because the aeration kills many of the pathogens, but all surface water should be assumed contaminated and therefore unsafe to drink. Knowledge of simple water-treatment techniques is essential; below, we describe a few techniques commonly used to treat questionable water.

Straining: Use cotton cloth to screen large particles and organisms that might be present in the water.

Storage: Allowing water to sit in a covered container for 24 hours or more will cause dirt to settle and also will kill many pathogens.

Boiling: Boiling water at least five minutes will kill many water-borne pathogens.

Chemical disinfection: Pure bleach can be used to disinfect water. The chlorine in the bleach can be hazardous to human health. Therefore it is important not to use household bleach with fabric softener, or other additives. The amount of bleach added to a liter of water depends on the concentration of the liquid bleach: 10 drops of 1% bleach, 2 drops of 2-6% bleach, and 1 drop of 7-10% bleach.

Solar Disinfection: This technique is especially applicable in the American Southwest and similar locales. Place containers of water so they face sideways in the sun for at least six hours. The best containers to use are plastic bottles made of PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) or PVC.

Distillation: Stills can be used to remove salt from the water. Stills can be made using the sun or another source of heat (i.e., stove and fire). Directions and diagrams for building a still are found in chapter 5 of Peak Oil Survival.

Water Filters: Conventional water filters are very convenient and can be purchased before the fall. A few examples follow:

Additional methods of physical treatment, including construction of sand filters and gravity-fed water systems, are described in Peak Oil Survival.


Transporting water is essential for people who move through the region. Water weighs eight pounds per gallon and the typical person requires at least one gallon each day for direct consumption. Local containers that pre-date modern civilization include animal skins, the callous “boots” left by woodpeckers in saguaros, and gourds. Each of these containers must be sealed with resin or some kind of waterproofing to prevent leaking, but each is relatively lightweight and easy to produce.


Water can be found in a variety of ways, from digging underneath the blossoming cattails in a wild cienega, to being captured from the very air we breathe. In our opinion, the best characteristic about water in the American Southwest is the ease with which it is produced simply by waiting. A late-July thunderstorm fills local inhabitants with joy as a torrent of water three feet high churns its way slowly down a desert wash, filling catchment basins and roof runoff for an entire year’s usage, supplying the patient and clever water harvester with more water than she could know what to do with.


Eden was a garden, not a farm

If you are able, we recommend stockpiling basic food items. Nutritious foods that store well include dried beans, rice, powdered milk, wheat berries (i.e., wheat), flour, corn meal, olive oil, canola oil, garlic, dried fruits, pepper, salt, and a wide variety of canned goods.

Wild food will be available to skilled hunters. We recommend learning how to trap and snare small game, and also to hunt with bow and rifle. Fishing and netting are important skills for people who live near perennial water.

Harvesting edible foods from the local area also will be important. In the American Southwest, milled mesquite pods present a nutritious alternative to white flour, and buds of cholla cactus can be consumed and are rich in calcium. In the Pacific Northwest, many fruits can be harvested from temperate forests, including red huckleberry, wild strawberry, and salmonberry. Considerable information about edible wild foods of the Pacific Northwest are provided at
plants-used-for-medicine.html. Edible foods of the eastern United States include wild asparagus, wild garlic, and black walnut, among others described at

Gardening will also be an extremely important skill and source of food in the coming days. Gardening is not easy, and it requires patience and trial-and-error. We recommend you start now with collecting seeds and growing food. Even skilled gardeners can learn much from Steve Solomon’s excellent book, Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times.

Food in the Southwest

Finding protein in the southwest is easy. Simply point yourself toward the nearest forest of prickly pear and cholla and track down the tastiest and least elusive meal, the local pack rat. Although perhaps unattractive at first, consider that indigenous people have been hunting and consuming packrats for at least the last two thousand years, and probably a lot longer before that. They are plentiful, easy to identify by their telltale detritus-filled and spiny cactus-filled nests. They’re very simple to catch compared to a deer or rabbit, and also very nutritious considering their diet is mainly grasses and seeds.

And if that pack rat on a stick isn’t sitting so well, perhaps you need some more fiber, sugar, and carbohydrates in your diet by harvesting, and drying, an annual supply of saguaro fruit. Not only is it completely and utterly delicious, reminiscent of rhubarb, strawberry, and a slight hint of creosote, it is the single most durable food source you could possibly amass. It weighs practically nothing when dry, can be mixed with acorns, packrats, and any other miscellaneous herbs and spices you have to create the ultimate energy food, pemmican. And if you decide the end of the world should have an appropriately fatalistic party to accompany it, you can always use your stores (dried or fresh!) to make a wonderfully alcoholic fruit beer, which incidentally complements deliciously the entrée of roasted packrat on a stick.

In addition to saguaro, the fruits of Organ pipe cactus, night blooming cereus, pitaya (dragonfruit), prickly pear, and pincushion cactus are sweet, red, and nourishing. They can be used to enrich your diet if you pay attention to the time of fruiting in your local area.

Acorns have been mentioned, and they are truly are big competitors for saguaro fruit when it comes to the most plentiful and useful sources of food in high-elevation deserts. Acorns can be eaten year around and they are great sources of fat and carbohydrates, but you need to stockpile and possibly leach the tannins from them, depending on the species. The tannins are toxic, especially in fresh acorns, and acorns disappear quickly from the environment because many animals know the great value that is found among the oak trees.

Pack rats, cactus fruits, and acorns are perhaps the three highest-priority native food sources in the American Southwest. They would appear to be essential to the survival of those who choose to stay in the region modern civilization falls. In addition to these “big three” source of food, there is a plethora of knowledge, mostly forgotten, about living close to the Earth.

Many native plants have berries and shoots, and nature holds in store wild onions, tubers, pit-roasted agaves, corms, mushrooms, and strange-looking spiky bits that are pronouncedly edible and, in theory, nutritious. Many books and a few local people can provide assistance. We recommend starting with Gary Paul Nabhan’s book, Gathering the Desert and other resources listed at And we recommend you cling with considerable persistence to gossip, rumor, and innuendo that might lead to the few remaining humans who have an inclination or two about surviving the droughts, rampaging hordes of barbarians, and other bumps and bruises along the journey of individual life after modern infrastructure fails. After all, the best resources available to you are in the form of people who are, right now, surviving off the land. They have been through the pain and suffering, the toils and turmoil, the mouths full of cactus spines too small to pick out, and many other challenges you should try to avoid if at all possible. Simply said, learn from our many mistakes so that you have the best possible chance to thrive.


If you live in a city and you are able to leave to a less-populated area, we recommend you buy, build, or occupy a durable home in a rural location. If you possess sufficient financial resources, we recommend building an off-the-grid house before power outages, food shortages, and mass hysteria become commonplace in cities.

If you are building a new house, pay attention to orientation: Simply aligning the long axis of the house north-and-south will allow the dwelling to stay warmer in the colder months and cooler in the summer. Consider using building materials such as paper crete, adobe, or straw bale. Americans are accustomed to living in large houses situated in subdivisions, but soon enough we will have to live in relatively small dwellings without fossil fuels to heat and cool them. They will be used primarily for sleeping and storing food.

Personal Health


We think most pharmaceutical products will be generally unavailable after the empire falls because production and distribution of these products depends heavily on fossil fuels. Because medicines currently available will decline in efficacy, and then expire, alternatives will be needed. Innumerable natural solutions are readily available in most locations. Because many resources will be difficult to access within a few years, notably books and the Internet, we encourage people to start making preparations immediately.

Resources to find NOW

The books, Where There is No Doctor and Where There is No Dentist are given to Peace Corps members as manuals. These excellent resources can be purchased at most major bookstores and online. Free versions are available online:

Where There is No Doctor:

Where There is No Dentist:

Additional online resources focus specifically on women’s health:

Where Women Have No Doctor:

A Book for Midwives:

Natural remedy books are available for most regions of the United States, including several encyclopedias and other resources. Local bookstores, health-food stores, and food cooperatives have books that address nearly every ailment. In addition to learning about alternative treatments, we encourage you to try some of the many options while you still have access to “modern” healthcare. In addition to herbal remedies, other examples include acupuncture, massage therapy, and homeopathy.


Herbs are the best direct alternative to conventional pharmaceuticals, which suggests that learning about herbal remedies is critical. In general, several different herbs can be used to cure a single ailment. However, usage and dosage varies among herbs and even among individual people, so we encourage the reader to start practicing soon and also to learn about herbs that are locally available. After all, the days of acquiring herbs from the other side of the planet are numbered.

Ten herbs have been well-researched and have stood the test of time:



-Ginkgo Biloba





-Milk Thistle



A detailed depth explanation of each herb and its uses can be found at:

A guide to 55 herbal remedies also is useful:


Products we take for granted probably will be uncommon or unavailable. Alternatives to menstrual pads and tampons are varied. We encourage use of reusable products, and believe these products should be acquired soon.

Reusable menstrual pads are similar to disposable pads, but they are constructed from cloth and are meant to be reused. In addition to pads made by hand, many commercial brands are available:

Menstrual cups are inserted into the vaginal opening to collect menstrual fluids. They are safe, comfortable, convenient, and durable (a single cup will last up to ten years). These cups require some time to become accustomed to them, especially in the insertion and removal process. Several commercial brands are readily available:

Sea sponges represent a natural alternative to tampons and are meant to be worn and reused, and they last up to six months. As with tampons, there is a chance of toxic shock syndrome. More information is available online:


Being able to make personal choices about a family is important today, but such decisions will become even more imperative after the fall of empire. Contemporary contraceptive options, even the most natural ones such as sheepskin condoms, are heavily dependent on fossil fuels and do not offer durable solutions. Once production ceases for the most common contraceptive devices, such as condoms and contractive pills, there will be a need for other alternatives.

Perhaps the most conventional, yet durable, alternative for contraception is the intrauterine device (IUD), which is available in copper or hormonal form. The IUD is a T-shaped plastic frame (potentially surrounded by copper). It is inserted into the vagina and prevents pregnancy for up to 10 years. More information can be found at: Removing the IUD in the absence of conventional medical care represents a significant obstacle to long-term use.

Herbal contraceptives include the following:

Wild carrot

Queen Anne’s Lace seeds

Neem oil

Wild yam


Smartweed leaves

Apricot kernels

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Additional information about contraceptives can be found in Rina Nissim’s 1996 book Natural Healing in Gynaecology: A Manual for Women and James DeMeo’s 2006 book chapter, “Contraceptive Plant Materials Used in Sex-Positive Cultures,” published in Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence, In the Deserts of the Old World.


We suggest studying the following two websites first, because they provide considerable information about the process of an abortion: and

Herbal abortive agents include the following:

Cotton Root Bark

Angelica/Dong Quai

Black Cohosh

Blue Cohosh

Evening Primrose (Oenothera hookeri)




We define a durable community as a self-sustaining, self-maintaining group of people that is beneficial to all members. This group of people is strongest when connected in some fundamental way, for example, through family, ethnicity, religion, or language. Additionally, the group will also be more resilient if they foster and maintain a close relationship with the natural environment in which they live. Durable communities are defined by location and environment because daily life is intimately connected to natural processes (e.g., seasonal changes). Ideally, people within the community should share a common culture and value a specific way of life. Additionally, a durable community is able to control population, energy use and consumption through education and appropriate application of technology. Ultimately, the core values of the group are rooted in their community and will remain intact even as the community adapts to changes in circumstances and faces new challenges.

Location and environment

A durable community must be adapted to its location. All members must have knowledge of the natural ecological systems in the area. This attribute is particularly important for sustainable harvest of natural resources and agricultural subsistence. However, geo-political dynamics can determine available resources. For example, every community will need the fundamentals of life support – clean water, clean air, food, and shelter – which can be influenced by geological and political conditions.

Ultimately, the location and environment of a community will determine its fate. Today, urban areas are the ultimate manifestation of cheap oil and what it has done to our society. City dwellers are gridlocked, far from nature, and living as consumers. Most cities in this country are not designed to support their populations when the oil stops pumping. Despite recent “green” initiatives, cities are still likely to become death-traps as our nation’s petroleum-fueled infrastructure collapses.

Many have predicted unimaginable suffering and death as modern cities fail. We can look to our ancestors as examples of great civilizations past, as empires that fell as resources ran dry. As we approach a similar fate, it is likely to be people who maintain their communities in rural locations that have the best chances of surviving.

Way of life

Our notions about standard of living will change as resources become scarce. Living within the means of one’s natural environment forces one to accept a different standard of living from today. This will replace economic status as the basis for defining standard of living. Lack of resources will result in despecialization, which likely will restore lines of connection and responsibility that link everyday acts to the real world. Intra- and interpersonal communication skills will dictate how individuals fit into communities.

Technology and Education

Education and technological innovation are primary drivers behind the success of a durable community. These characteristics shape the structure of the community. Promoting creativity and innovation will provide communities with tools to face unknown challenges in a world without access to fossil fuels. Through education and innovation, a durable community ideally will find solutions to alleviate their dependence on fossil fuels, curb exponential population growth, and overcome myriad obstacles associated with maintaining civil order.

Cuban history offers an example of the many challenges faced and solutions implemented by this island nation faced in the wake of the decline of the Soviet Union. A relatively nimble centralized government, good soils, ample precipitation, and life-long exposure to privations allowed Cuba to thrive in the virtual absence of oil. A detailed account is provided in the film, The Power of Cuba: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, and also at this website:

Values and Philosophy

Individuals within a durable community must emphasize tolerance and neutrality toward others. The Mennonites provide an example of a group of people who built their communities based on peace, simplicity, tolerance, service, and mutual aid (see, for example, The object of a durable community is not to take advantage of other’s natural resources but to live within your own. However, this raises the question of how to respond when others may attempt to conquer your own community. The stronger a community is, the more power it will have when faced with a rivalry or attack, and therefore the more options available to the people of the community. Violence is a fact that we must face, and our response to it will be a personal decision each person must make for themselves and their loved ones.

When faced with the looming shadow of what peak oil will bring to our lives, is easy to become pessimistic about the future of our lives. At times it is overwhelmingly dismal to attempt to comprehend how the choices of prior generations will affect the fate of all life on Earth. However, to quote one of our heroes, Edward Abbey, “sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.” We proposed action as an antidote to despair.

Useful Links

A directory of registered intentional communities:

An urban example of an intentional community, Sonoroan Cohousing, Tucson, Arizona:

Sustainable Tucson, Tucson, Arizona

Sustainable Tucson’s Top 10 list explains how to make urban areas more sustainable Dry River Collective, Tucson, Arizona, is an autonomous group of individuals working to create a community based on sustainability, cooperation, and self-sufficiency. Their goals are to promote education and direct action to resist all forms of oppression and hierarchy:

Our Outlooks and Approaches

Colin Peacock believes that the almost certain and predictable future is designated mainly by our past actions as a species, in which case, collapse of modern civilizations would seem inevitable, and perhaps practical. However, the future being unknown until it is created, he actually sees this as the greatest opportunity for our species to transform our relationship to the environment, spurred by our realization that the cosmic toilet is flushing and we are going down with it. And Colin personally believes that to survive is natural. Does he believe the world as we know it will end? Yes, and many times over before he is dead. However that does not mean suffering in the world will be any greater than it is today, and perhaps it will even be less, as he has stated, that humans will survive and continue to fight for what they want in their lives regardless of the odds. Specifically, Colin, refusing to lose hope in a seemingly hopeless and anti-life society, continues to fight for the last best chance for the North American grizzly’s survival, and perhaps in small part, our own redemption, by promoting the importance of creating wildlife corridors between Yellowstone National Park and the Wind Rivers Mountain Range. And he will continue to educate himself and the people of the world on all the various skills and knowledge he has accumulated that may help humans come to understand the importance of the intact and wild natural world to our own, and the world’s survival. Also, he is stocking up on guns, goats, and horses just in case.

Adriana Guillen is planning for the worse, but hoping for the best. Upon graduation in May of 2008 with a degree in Business Administration, she will move back to Phoenix, Arizona with her family and work hard to save enough money to move to Belize. She is hopeful that the U.S. economy will sustain itself for a year or more, so that her dream wedding becomes a reality and she is able to move to Belize before the empire falls. Once in Belize, she is planning to open an apothecary. Overall, she is very upset that she will never get to achieve her “American Dream” for which she worked hard; she is fearful of the gray days ahead, and fearful of leaving family members that choose not to believe the empire can fall; but thankful that society will finally be closer to nature once again.

Sarah Rios is planning for two futures. She will graduate with a degree in Veterinary Science in December of 2009 and hopes to apply her education to the betterment of animals. Lacking a financial fortune to build an off-the-gird property, she will continue to enrich her knowledge of survival skills by continuing to learn how to garden, harvest rain water, and gain traditional knowledge about medicinal and edible plants of the Sonoran desert. While she is fearful what the future might bring, she remains hopeful that the survival skills she is learning will help her and her family what lies ahead.

Leave A Comment
Share Your Insights

Comment Policy


Share This Article

Here is a unique chance to help this article to be read by thousands of people more. You just share it on your favourite social networking site. You can also email the article from here.


Feed Burner

Support Indy


Search Our Archive


Our Site