I am dual minded on the Green movement.

Having lived downstream in a coal town in Pennsylvania, I am well aware of how industrial pollution can destroy the environment. And in our area of the Philippines, illegal logging has caused destruction downstream from the hills, not to mention landslides that kill people.
But having worked as a doctor in Africa, I am also aware that village life is not a romantic idyllic lifestyle as often portrayed by clueless romantics.

So when one sees rich American and European anarchists who use signs like this, it makes me want to tell you what they are actually asking for.

wolves eat children
Learn survival skills?

Acutally no, since most “survival skills” require technology, such as matches, solar radios, candles, blankets, windmills made of high tech steel, and tinned food.

If there is an environmental collapse, what you need it to learn to survive are the skills of your ancestors.

Let’s start with breakfast.

Usually it means eating leftovers, maybe reheated. Here in the Philippines, it is rice. In Africa it was cornmeal mush.In America, it was bread. If you are lucky, you can mix it with leftover veggies or milk or yogurt.

No stove: if you want coffee, it means starting a wood fire..and unless you live in the tropics, forget coffee. Water is dangerous–most water supplies have dangerous diarrhrea germs— so maybe you mix wine or beer with your water, or boil it with a local herb because boiled water tastes terrible.

It is the woman’s job to start the fire and cook, often before the men get up.The dirty little secret is that the men do the heavy work and dangerous work: they: build houses, plow fields, hunt animals. So women care for the house while the men are working away from the house. This makes sense, because there is no birth control, and you probably have a half dozen kids to care for and are pregnant again, so you can’t exactly do the heavy work with a big belly or carrying an unweaned child on your back.
The wood is gathered from the nearby woods. In Africa, this is a major cause of deforestation. Often it is the woman’s job to gather small branches. That’s why you see women with a bundle of wood on their heads: another job to do.In some cultures, men cut down larger trees, but you still have to go outside to get the wood.
You might cook outside or inside, depending on the weather.

Wood fires in a hut cause smoke. This keeps out the bugs but causes asthma in kids. If you cook outside, watch the dogs don’t steal the food, or bugs get into the food.
Watch your children: when it’s cold, they get near the open fire and suffer burns.Or they might upset the pot on the low fire, and get scalded.We treated a lot of children for burns. Without modern medical care, burns get infected and people die slowly and painfully. But pain is part of “primitive” life. Arthritis, headache, backache, infections of all sorts, injuries that don’t heal. Yes there are herbs and ointments. But they don’t work that well, and often it is hard to calculate the correct dose: accidental poisoning from herbal medicine was also a common reason for hospitalization, especially for children.
Food poisoning is common where there are no refrigerators, but the bigger danger is bad water. Without mechanical pumps for deep wells, it means you get well water from shallow wells that can be contaminated by feces of animals and humans. Or you get water from the local river. In the dry season this means you carry jugs or pots to the river: sometime one or two miles if the local stream is dry. This is woman’s work…You know all those romantic photos of women carrying jugs on their head? well, it’s not romantic if YOU have to do it.

This water is used for cooking and cleaning and washing.
Often you wash in the local stream.

In Africa, and parts of Asia, most of the streams are contaminated with Schistosomiasis, a worm that lives in snails and then enters via the skin to live in veins of the liver,  intestines or bladder.And children sometimes drown in the streams.
Now, remember: Everything you eat you grow. So that means tending to the garden for your vegetables, and careing for the small animals. These small animals might be goats, which your oldest child takes to the nearby fields, or it might be chickens. In the Andes, it means the guinea pigs that live in your kitchen have to be fed.

Then after cleaning up the breakfast dishes and house and your children and yourself, you start to cook.Usually one large cooked meal a day, and leftovers for breakfast or evening meal.
No McDonalds, no refrigerators. You cook for the day, every day.
Go to the grainery, and get the rice or corn etc. Then pound it to remove the covering, then put it in a shallow basket and shake so the chaff is blown away by the wind. When you are done, find wood and start a fire and cook.

Often you cook a second dish for flavor: it’s not usually meat, but may be yogurt, or lentils or beans or peanuts with vegetables.

In the Philippines, you might fry a fish from your ricepaddies, or your husband might bring back meat or fish if he doesn’t have to work in the fields (usually both men and women work in the main crop fields during planting and harvesting, but men do the heavy work. In between, women have kitchen gardens nearby, so they can watch the kids.)

And see those nice romantic animals on the poster? They aren’t romantic. They eat people, especially children.There is a famous “humor” (racist) cartoon of an African man in a suit carrying an umbrella walking in front of his woman, who is pregnant, has a child on her back, and one child in each hand, and a suitcase on her head.

The Europeans think it’s a funny cartoon, but the Africans will point out why this is the custom. The man walks in front with his hands free so that if there is a lion or other predator on the path, it will attack him first, and his hands will be free to protect his family.

I left out a lot of the “extra” stuff, like having to weave cloth from scratch or process leather from scratch if you want to wear clothing. You have to make a house or tent without using metal axes,using what is available, which might mean birch bark, pounded mud, leather, or even sod.

Unless you trade with tribes who live near flint deposits, or ore bearing areas and have blacksmiths you won’t have knives or axes.. It is possible to boil food in clay pots and eat broiled meat, but cooking is a lot easier in metal pots.

Then there are bugs. All those photos of “primitive” tribes covered with mud aren’t for fashion: It’s insect repellent.Furs are warm, but too warm for mild cool weather, and of course are full of insects. Typhus anyone? Hopefully you can have sheep or goats, and the ability to spin and weave. Indeed, if you wear clothing, all of your leisure time as a woman will be spent weaving clothing.
If you live in cold climates, you have saunas and sweat baths to get rid of the vermin on your skin and clothing. And, of course, you have to grow enough so you can eat all winter. By spring, you probably will be suffering from scurvy or other forms of malnutrition.

Put down one more chore: Weaving baskets, hats, and sleeping mats.Or weaving hammocks and fishing nets, which means finding plants that have the long fiber that can be used.

Finally, in such a society, you need family. There is no welfare or social security.

You know the myth of the rugged mountain men who lived a life of freedom on their own? They left something out of the myth… or rather I should say someone. Local Indians who still bear their names will remind you that most of these men had an Indian wife to do the cooking and cleaning and dirty work…not to mention sex.

And then we come to sex. Forget about love: You marry someone who can supply you food. It might mean being a second wife, or putting up with a man who beats you. But also remember: No birth control pills. You will be pregnant or breastfeeding constantly from age 15 to 40 years…if you don’t die in childbirth.If you want to live, you find a good provider, not a handsome lover.
Finally, if your husband is thoughtful, you will be able to space your children by breastfeeding and abstinence. If not, you will end up with 12 kids, and probably die in child birth. Half of the kids will die before age five.But remember: If you don’t have kids, you won’t have anyone to supply you food when you are old.
Welcome to reality.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. 

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