Back To Basics: Planning for When Technology Fails
What’s been your first reaction when the power has gone out? Omigod, no computer! Remember when it used to be “oh no, no television”? As technology has advanced, people have become more and more dependent on things like computers and television and cell phones. We expect those things to always be working, just as we expect the lights to come on when we flick the switch. Unfortunately, in the process of having these wonderful things become so very commonplace in our lives, we seem to have lost what used to be an inherent ability to survive on a very basic level. We have also lost our connections to both nature and each other.
The power goes out, and we panic. Forget about not just having the computer or TV… No lights, no heat, no ability to cook. People who live under the same roof find they have to actually talk to each other, and discover they don’t know how to communicate. Neighbors are insulated from one another by the visible walls of their houses and the invisible ones of fear, so they miss out on the opportunity to help someone else or to be helped. Sometimes it’s only for a couple of hours when an accident takes down a power pole. Sometimes it’s a day when a bad thunderstorm comes through and shorts out a transformer station, or a power company makes an “oops” which causes rolling blackouts across the country. Then there’s the week or more when a major ice storm or hurricane hits. These natural (and man-made) disasters are happening with more frequency, and I think it’s Mother Earth’s way of letting us know she’s pissed. Humanity has crossed the line from using the resources She has provided to abusing them, and She’s giving us a wake-up call… “You change things, or I will”. It’s something for those of us who proclaim to follow earth-based spiritual paths to not just think about, but also actually do something about it.
What do we do? Not a lot, if we continue following and being dependent upon the existing “systems”. A whole lot, if we can go back to basics, and learn to develop and live with an alternative mindset and a much less complicated lifestyle. This means a whole lot more than just an “emergency kit” in the back of your car, with a few extra blankets, batteries, bottled water, and all that. Many pagan folks I know are being strongly drawn toward intentional community situations, as well as reviving a lot of the “ancient ways” of living, if you want to call it that. This could be called survivalism, but I feel it goes further and deeper than that. It’s not just getting through a natural disaster, it’s a way of life that is beneficial to all of us, and potentially to the Earth herself. No, not potentially, definitely. It’s about taking a very hard look at our “wants” versus our “needs”, and walking away from the materialistic attitudes that exist today. The way society and our world are going, I believe it is also a necessity.
Growing and preserving our own food, finding alternative power sources, recycling, making our own clothes - the list can be endless. There are so many things that people used to do/grow/make for themselves, their families, and their communities. Skills and abilities, regardless of how intricate or simple, were shared so that many people benefited. Skills and abilities which we have lost through time and the “development” of technology. Everyone contributed in some way, people interacted and supported each other, relationships grew, and families and communities flourished. Not just on the mundane level, but on the spiritual level as well. Isn’t that what building community is supposed to be about?
So where do we start? What do we need to look at? How do we begin to do this? We start at the beginning, we look at everything that is part of our daily lives, and we change as much as possible to as simple, inexpensive, natural, and as independent of the “system” as possible.
Here’s a list of areas/things to consider, taken from Back to Basics: How to Learn and Enjoy Traditional American Skills, by The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.
“Land: Buying It and Building on it” includes sections on converting trees into lumber and building a house, raising a barn, developing a water supply, saunas and hot tubs, sanitation, fireplace construction and design, stone walls, and fences.
“Energy From Wood, Water, Wind, and Sun” includes making your house energy efficient, wood as fuel and heat, waterpower, wind power, solar energy, and other energy sources.
“Raising Your Own Vegetables, Fruit, and Livestock” includes the kitchen garden, herbs, fruits and nuts, pest control, grains and grasses, beekeeping, fish farming and raising livestock.
“Enjoying Your Harvest The Year Round” includes preserving produce, meat and fish, making your own dairy products, maple sugaring, homemade beverages, baking bread, regional cooking, and cooking with wood.
“Skills and Crafts for House and Homestead” includes natural dyes, spinning, weaving, hooked and braided rugs, patchwork quilting, rope and twine, tanning and leatherwork, woodworking, broommaking, scrimshaw, household recipes, metalworking, stenciling, flower drying and pressing, gourd craft, soapmaking, candlemaking, and basketry.
“Recreation at Home And in the Wild” includes old-time good times, crafting a mountain dulcimer, celebrating holidays, canoeing and kayaking, wilderness camping, outdoors in winter, fishing, and living with nature.
This book was originally published in 1981, and is still in print today. There are many other sources available as well, like MotherEarth News and The FoxFire Books to name a couple. I had to chuckle a bit when I was reading through the table of contents because many of the topics are “arts and crafts” and “kitchen witchery” areas that many Pagan folks and groups I know have already started to incorporate into their lives. Herbcraft, soap and candlemaking…. See what I mean?
Getting back to basics can be done on many different scales. Very small scale means within your own home. Examples: get a generator for emergency power, put in a garden and learn to preserve food, sew your own clothes, install a woodstove for heat and cooking. Medium scale would be making connections with a few other families in your area. Each household can produce and supply one thing that everybody needs, i.e., one makes soap, another makes candles, the third does sewing, etc. Large scale would be either a whole bunch of folks moving into one house together (the old commune), getting a good sized parcel of land to put a few houses on, or building a town, a full scale intentional community, like the Eco-Village in Virginia and The Farm in Tennessee. Every person has a “job” to do and all share in the results. In any case, there has to be a sincere commitment to do what is necessary to succeed. And isn’t that what the “intent” part of magick means?
What is an intentional community? “An intentional community is a group of people who have chosen to live together with a common purpose. They work cooperatively to create a lifestyle that reflects their shared values.” Definitely sounds like a group of Pagans to me. Should sound like all of Humanity. I don’t think it’s too late for that to happen.
 “Intentional Communities: Lifestyles Based on Ideals” by George Kozeny, Conscious Choice, (published by The Federation), December 1999.