From: Dr. Peter Gail

Doing the Right Thing for Maybe the Wrong Reason

by Peter A. Gail, Ph.D.

Director, Goosefoot Acres Center for Resourceful Living
P.O. Box 18016
Cleveland OH 44118

The prospect of a major computer crash at 12:00 a.m., January 1, 2000 is scaring a lot of people. The problem, stated simply, is that, on that date and at that time, the amenities which we depend on society to provide---food, electricity, heat, clothing and the other basics---may no longer be available, and, until the problems with the computers are solved, we may have to either have these commodities stored or have alternative ways of getting them.

This probably wouldn't have been of significant concern as recently as the 1940's. Back then, many people had skills and knowledge to cope with these challenges by falling back on the resources nature provides. Most people were either farmers or part-time gardeners who knew how to grow their vegetables and fruits and can them as well. Many knew which wild plants could be used for food. People heated their homes with wood, and got water from wells. Electricity, if they had it at all, was limited. Doctors were scarce and expensive, so most knew enough about the "weeds" around them to know how to treat a bee sting, puncture wound, cut or and abrasion with poultices or teas made of plantain, yarrow, or other herbs growing under their feet. Today, practically the only people with this knowledge are the Appalachian and Southern poor, some well trained Boy and Girl Scouts and their leaders, and the Amish.

This knowledge has been lost as we have become a nation of specialists, earning our living by making one specific part of something much bigger, and knowing little or nothing about how to make the rest of the parts. We have become dependent on others, each of whom also only knows how to make a small piece, to supply everything else we need. If the supermarket and pharmacy were to close, most of us would not know what to do.

Life's commodities are divided into two categories: basic needs and luxuries. The basics are food, clothing, shelter, heat, water, waste disposal, and medicines. Luxuries are all the rest. If you had to provide the basics for yourself and your family from just those things around you, could you? If not, you should be seriously concerned. If this potential computer crisis awakens you to that realization and causes you to do something about it, then it will have served some good, even if it never happens.

Crises are, and have been, occurring around us for a considerable time. Factories close, with loss of jobs. People become sick or disabled. There are fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, strikes, social unrest, wars and other political strife. People who can provide their needs from the materials around them can survive these crises. Peggy Zone Fisher, wife of former gubernatorial candidate Lee Fisher, reports that, during the WWII, while many others died, her father stayed alive in a concentration camp, partly by eating the dandelions growing in the exercise yard. Dandelions and other wild plants served as nourishing food for people stranded in displaced person camps in Europe, through the Great Depression in the United States, and most recently in the ethnic cleansing which has been taking place in Bosnia- Herzegovina.

Knowing which plants can serve as food and medicine are only two of the skills needed to provide for your family in crises. Learning how to make Indian wells and solar stills to provide water, debris huts for shelter, rope from plant fibers, and fire for heat and with which to cook, all may help you save your life.

Interestingly, the rush has not been to gain knowledge and skills for self- reliance, but to stock up on dehydrated foods, water purifiers, hand-operated food grinders, wood stoves, and other material things---things which can be destroyed in a disaster, or stolen from you by neighbors who turn hostile when they are starving.

What is the answer then? It can be summarized in the statement that "the only thing nobody can take from you is that which is in your head. If you know enough to stoop down, pick up and eat a dandelion when other people don't, it puts you at a distinct advantage.

How do you learn these things? A number of books on outdoor survival skills are available in local bookstores. More important, however, are the classes and field experiences which will be offered in Northeastern Ohio throughout 1999 through which you can learn this information and gain practical experience applying it, before you the crises arise in which you will need it. To find out more about them, contact Dr. Peter Gail, Director, Goosefoot Acres Center for Resourceful Living, P.O. Box 18016, Cleveland OH 44118 - (216)932-2145.

Dr. Gail will introduce you to the opportunities in his slide-illustrated presentation, "They Can't Take it From You: Preparing Properly for Y2K", which will be presented at LifeExpo 99 at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 28. LifeExpo 99 will be held at the Cleveland OH Convention Center.

Dr. Gail also mentioned, "We will be hosting a midwest self-reliance gathering during the week of July 11-18 east of Cleveland to which we will want to invite everyone also."