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food for thought

The latest issue of YER OL’ WOODPILE REPORT is out – and definitely does not disappoint. I include below his section on preparing for a changed world. He is again spot-on.

Read the bits below and the whole magilla at YER OL’ WOODPILE REPORT.

art-remus-ident-04.jpg Food. Finding good water isn’t a problem in the hills of Appalachia. Survivalists who fixate on water probably have other regions in mind, the arid southwest or the western high plains. If I lived, say, on the lee side of the Rockies I’d worry more about water than I do. Which is not much.

Here there are springs and weeps everywhere, creeks big and small, lakes, ponds, rivers and reservoirs, even the occasional swamp. If this isn’t enough to keep you hydrated, it rains regularly and generously in summer, and snows in the winter. Water would often be an obstacle to the travelin’ man keepin’ low and movin’ fast in interesting times.

Where survival doesn’t turn on a scarcity of water and adequate shelter has been managed, food quickly reveals itself for the priority it is. This is not as obvious as you’d imagine. You’d have to get up early and work hard to avoid food in America. In the last hundred years, only in the “dust bowl” times of the ‘thirties did America see anything like a food shortage. Notice there was always bread for the bread lines in the Depression. The lines were from lack of means, not lack of product.

Great Britain came close to a food emergency in the early ‘forties when wartime sinkings by U-boats meant already meager rations had to be cut and cut again. Our wartime rationing was, by comparison, leisure class dining. Japan was besieged so effectively it was in the first phase of actual starvation before the war ended. Totally exhausted and dysfunctional post-war Europe wasn’t far behind.

As a nation we’re unwilling to entertain even a cutback in variety, much less prepare for actual scarcity. But given all the swords hanging over our heads, a time will almost certainly come when “low fat, low calorie, gluten-free” pseudo-food will be the meal of last resort, a time when even foodies will dream of double cheeseburgers and heaps of greasy fries. Calories and nutrients are life, no getting around it.

What it pleases us to call “hunger” is more properly “appetite”. Hunger is the personal form of famine, with symptoms a near kin to bleeding out, except slower. It’s deprivation so severe there comes a point short of death where viability is irrecoverable even if rescued. True hunger invokes its own form of insanity, a fixation on food to the exclusion of all else. It drives otherwise ordinary persons to commit acts that defy belief. Famine survivors often carry debilitating memories of what they’ve seen or done.

In war and in tyranny, it should surprise no one food is weaponized. For economy and efficiency it can’t be beat. Cut the food supply and all else happens with no further effort.

U.S. Office of War Information, 1943

In Ian Thomson’s review of Lizzie Collinham’s 2011 book, The Taste of War, we learn this about World War II:

At least 20 million people died of starvation and malnutrition during the conflict, according to Lizzie Collingham: a number almost equal to the 19.5 million military deaths. Dreadfully, Hitler’s plan to acquire ‘living space’ for German settlers in occupied eastern Europe required the wholesale removal of Slavs and other ‘useless mouths’.


The Nazi so-called Hunger Plan was the work of Hitler’s chief agronomist, Herbert Backe, who made possible the mass starvation of Slavs, Jews, gypsies and other ‘asocials’ and the diversion of foodstuffs to German civilians and the Wehrmacht.

Peter Lewis’s review at Mail Online adds,

The plan was to march east into Russia, seize the granary of the Ukraine and BeloRussia, take its produce to feed the army and much of the nation and give the land to German settlers.

But what about the Russians who lived there? They were to get nothing – not a slice of bread. They were ‘useless eaters’. The people in the cities who relied on the country for its grain and livestock were to starve to death.

When denied food, the body starts to consume itself – first its fat and muscle, then the intestines and last, the vital organs.

There is intense craving for carbohydrates and salt and uncontrollable diarrhoea before a final torpor. Organ failure is the ultimate cause of death. Those who starved in Leningrad were found to have hearts less than a third of the normal weight.

Hunger by intent is the worst of worst cases. Survival school proprietor Selco writes of being trapped in a besieged city during the Bosnian War of 1992-1995. Although his family was fairly large and quite well armed, their descent into privation, squalor and hunger was unstoppable.

Expired food, infested food, raw food, weird food. Over the time you simply want to fill your stomach with something, hunger gets into your pores somehow and you do not mind for some things. Often I would intentionally go into the dark with my bowl, just not to check too much is there anything else inside. I assure you, as the situation deteriorate, you will eat lot of stuff that you would not usually eat.

Arms, ammunition, candles, lighters, antibiotics, gasoline, batteries and food. We fought for these things like animals. In these situations, it all changes. Men become monsters. It was disgusting… Today, I know everything can collapse really fast. I have a stockpile of food, hygiene items, batteries — enough to last me for six months.

Regardless of cause, the classic question has it right: if you’re not preparing for the worst, what are you preparing for? In the coming collapse will you rely on availability of food because you “know” it will “always” be there at some price? Or will you rely on government to eagerly rush pallets of attractively packaged food to your door, carefully chosen with respect for your dietary preferences, because you’re a good person? Or will you rely on a deep larder and the means to resupply and defend it?

As Selco learned, “everything can collapse really fast”. Everything, not some things. Days, not months. All at once, not by degrees, the degrees are behind us. What you have is all you’ll have, if you can keep it.