The Collapse of Civilization: A Doctor’s Thoughts
After gathering food and building a shelter, most people in the preparedness community consider personal and home defense to be the next priority in the event that our civilization collapses. Certainly, defending oneself is important; you will have to be prepared to defend your life, but have you thought about preparing to defend your health?
When a civilization goes the way of all flesh, the technologies that supported it tend to go with it. This is particularly true of medical care delivery systems. A lot of us can troubleshoot our computer, but how many can construct a stretcher from scratch? Our reliance on technology has stripped us of even the most basic skills that came as second nature to our ancestors.
Many consider my concerns about the decline of civilization to be the ravings of a drooling geezer. Granted, I may drool on my shoes occasionally, but think about all the possible causes of a life-changing catastrophe: economic collapse, natural or man-made EMPs, nuclear meltdowns or, worse, nuclear war, civil unrest, super-storms; the list goes on. It stands to reason that any ONE of these events may have a small chance of occurrence, but what is the chance that NONE of these events could occur to some degree at some point in your lifetime? Your children’s lifetimes? You decide.
A sign of the waning of a civilization is when it can no longer reproduce the technological accomplishments of its own past. This happened with Rome, for example. Let me ask you: Are there space shuttles in orbit over our planet? Is there a realistic chance that we will land men on the moon anytime in the near future? We may have the technology, but we’re broke as a society. Like the Romans having the knowledge but not the wherewithal to construct new aqueducts, we just don’t have the funds to keep moving forward in some areas.
In a situation where power might be down and normal methods of filtering water and cleaning food for the table don’t exist, your health is as much under attack as the survivors in a zombie apocalypse movie! Infectious diseases, such as dysentery, will be rampant in situations where it will be a challenge to maintain sanitary conditions. Simple chores, such as chopping wood, may lead to minor cuts that could get infected and, if left untreated, become life-threatening. In the Civil War, a lot more soldiers died from infectious disease than battlefield wounds. Paying attention to sanitation and hygiene will do more to keep your people healthy than anything I can do as a physician.
Don’t you owe it to yourself and your family to devote some time and effort now to obtain medical knowledge and supplies? The issues you’ll have to deal with in a grid-down situation could easily put you at risk for sickness or injury. You’re going to deal with accidents and pneumonia more frequently that gunfights at the OK corral. Some say “Beans, Bullets and Band-Aids”, but the doctor in me says “Beans, Band-Aids and Bullets”. If you plan now, the medical supplies will be there if the unforeseen happens, and the knowledge you gain will be there for the rest of your life.
These days we can purchase insurance for our health, our life, our car, and just about everything else. If you make the commitment to learn how to treat medical issues and to store medical supplies, you’re purchasing another type of health insurance: One that’s more tangible, and much more likely to help you keep it together if things fall apart.
It’s important to know that there are illnesses that will be difficult to treat if modern medical facilities aren’t available. It will be hard to do much about those clogged coronary arteries; there won’t be cardiac bypasses performed. However, by eating healthily and exercising, you will give yourself the best chance to avoid or minimize some major medical issues. In a collapse situation, an ounce of prevention is worth, not a pound, but a ton of cure. That goes for dental health, too.
When I say to obtain medical knowledge, I am also encouraging you to learn about natural remedies and alternative therapies that may have some benefit for your particular medical problem. I cannot vouch for the effectiveness of every claim that one thing or another will cure what ails you; suffice it to say, that our family has an extensive medicinal herb garden and that it might be a good idea for your family to have one, also. Many herbs that have medicinal properties don’t need full sun or premium soil; most of them grow like weeds, so a green thumb is not a prerequisite for success.
I’m not asking you to do anything that your great-grandparents didn’t do as part of their strategy to succeed in life. If things go South, we’ll be thrown back (in a sense) to their time and we should learn some lessons from their way of life. Add to that today’s knowledge of the importance of sanitation and good hygiene, and you’ll have a head start on keeping your family healthy.
Some (non-prepper) members of my family ask me why I make the effort to try to prepare people medically for a societal collapse. They tell me that I can’t turn everyone into a doctor, so why should I try?
Am I really trying to turn you all into doctors? No, there’s too much to learn in one lifetime; even as a physician, I often come across things I’m not sure about. That’s what medical books are for, so make sure that you put together a few so that you can refer to them when you need to. I AM trying to turn you into something, however: I’m trying to make you a better medical asset to your family and/or survival community than you were before. If our civilization collapses, it will be people like you that will help rebuild it.