When Andrew and Deborah Ku first heard about Hurricane Sandy, they worried that their ground-level bodega—located one block from the beach in Far Rockaway, Queens—would be swamped. They searched for sandbags and found none.
An article I came across about the impromptu engineering that is spurred by necessity. As Rand said, “Man’s mind is his basic tool of survival.” Everything from Robinson Crusoe to Castaway to The Martian (esp. The Martian, actually) highlights that when you’re caught in a bad situation, it’s the clear-headed, creative, intelligent man who succeeds.
This is why the smart survivalist has a library that covers everything from small unit tactics to emergency medicine to electrical theory and accounting. We’re all familiar with Heinlein’s famous quote: “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” I’m not sure specialization is necessarily a bad thing..when I need a triple bypass I’d very much like the guy working on me to be not only a specialist, but a very well trained one. However, specialization to the exclusion of things is definitely not a good idea.
Back in the old day, the best you could hope for was to slowly acquire the information you wanted by diligent trips to the library, and scouring new and used bookstores. Nowadays, literally the entire collected information of humanity is available to you on a small computer you carry in your pocket. And you don’t even need to actually read about it…you can see videos explaining whatever you want to learn.
While the information is out there, the desire to learn is not. That’s something you have to get from within. I am always stunned when I meet people so dogmatic that they won’t try new products, ideas, or methods, because “this is good enough”. What kind of person intentionally hamstrings themselves simply because they’re too lazy or narrow-minded to investigate and evaluate new ideas? I had a buddy who thought that his 1941 Johnson was the ultimate SHTF rifle…it was quick to reload (with five round stripper clips), fired a powerful .30 caliber bullet, and had a high-capacity (10 round) magazine. Never mind that it cost around $3000. Oh..and it didn’t do anything an AR-10, PTR-91, or even an M1A would do for half the money. But…facts had no bearing on his beliefs and he persisted in building his apocalyptic future around an outdated, obsolete, expensive, logistically-orphaned, and awkward weapons platform.
I suppose my point is, the linked article shows that when the chips are down, what’s between your ears can be more useful than whats in your pockets (or pack). But only if you’re able to think that way and not be hobbled by “this is how we’ve always done it.”