The importance of learning Survival Skills
by Lee Burton
In our development as a species, mankind journeyed across numerous continents and lived in a variety of habitats, each of which required a unique set of primitive skills in order to flourish. Prior to the industrial revolution and the advent of modern technologies, it was essential to have intimate knowledge of the local environment and mastery of basic fundamentals in order to ensure one’s survival in the wild. Hence, in every tribal culture individuals knew how find and utilize raw natural materials using traditional methods to stay alive and prosper.
In a post-modern world, the knowledge and proficiency of these skills has largely been forgotten. While our day to day survival is no longer dependent upon them, there are still reasons why it is important to have at least basic know-how and capability when it comes to the following ancient techniques: making friction fire, building primitive shelters in various climates, collecting and purifying water, finding, processing, and cooking food, navigating over challenging landscapes, making tools and other implements, and understanding weather patterns.
So why should you care to learn the above skills? First of all, each year in developed countries there are thousands of people who get lost while going out on hikes or during other recreational activities in jungles, deserts, and mountainous areas (in the United States alone, over 2,000 people a year get lost). Fortunately most of these individuals are eventually rescued, but dozens are never found and die in the wild due to dehydration, starvation, exposure, or some other malady related to their inability to cope with what nature throws at them.
Besides getting lost, other events where knowing survival skills is paramount includes being caught in natural disasters, experiencing extreme shifts in weather, accidents causing some form of incapacitation, and many other unforeseen circumstances. So if you are an active person and like to spend time in the outdoors, having some ability with regards to primitive skills can literally save your life and those of your loved ones in an unplanned, crisis situation that arises.
Second, learning these skills also builds confidence and self-esteem so that in the future you will feel more at ease in your ability to deal with any potential life-threatening situation Mother Nature might throw at you. You will be much more prepared in how to size up a potentially dangerous survival scenario and what tasks you need to prioritize and accomplish in order to make it out alive. Hence, when you step out into nature you will feel more at ease in knowing that you are capable of handling adversity, and indeed if you do encounter a mishap, in keeping up a positive attitude (which is the number one attribute in determining whether people make it out to safety in a survival situation).
Third, learning traditional survival skills teaches you much about the environment around you and greatly increases your knowledge of the plants, animals, and geology of your surroundings. As you practice various survival tactics, you will learn to appreciate the usefulness of numerous plant species including, as well as the behaviors and habits of animal species that inhabit the local area. Additionally, your awareness of the landscape is greatly enhanced as you begin to pay attention to geological features telling you where water and other vital materials are likely to be located. Over time, you will learn to discover where different ecotones and micro-habitats reside that contain other key natural resources.
Finally, learning primitive survival skills can be a rewarding hobby, something that can provide enjoyment and a great way to disconnect from the stresses of modern day life. Practicing traditional arts like flint knapping, friction fire, or weaving cordage are meditative exercises that can help slow down the over-active mind and facilitate relaxation and a provide a deep sense of tranquility. In addition, since as humans we evolved doing these activities, you will begin to feel a deeper connection to the land and to the plants and animals around us just as our ancestors did for many millennia.
By learning and practicing primitive survival skills, your awareness and appreciation of the beauty all around you will be greatly enhanced, opening up a whole new world to you each time you step outside. As a result of these experiences, your desire to help protect and conserve the earth and all of its amazing habitats will grow as well, thus making a difference in the world andenabling future generations to benefit from these same ancient practices that have been in existence since the dawn of humanity.
Lee was born in Kerrville and spent his youth exploring the lands and waters of the Texas Hill Country. After graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in aerospace engineering, he lived and worked overseas for many years in Germany, England, and China. During this time, he traveled extensively and spent considerable time in some of the greatest ecosystems and wildlife sanctuaries in Asia, Africa, and South America including an epic journey up Mount Kilimanjaro. He also spent numerous months volunteering at various Nature Conservancy preserves in Himalayan China, the desert mountains of the American Southwest and the Pacific Northwest, and most recently central Texas. Upon his return to the U.S., Lee organized and led wolf tracking trips in the mountainous areas of Oregon and the sky islands of the Arizona/New Mexico borderlands before relocating back to the Austin area in 2011.
As a Texas Master Naturalist, Lee has an appreciation regarding all aspects of the outdoors and participated in Earth Native Wilderness School’s tracking, primitive hunting, and survival skills intensive programs, subsequently becoming a certified CyberTracker after completing a wolf and brown bear tracking expedition in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. He is an avid backpacker and loves to fish and hunt using his own hand made bow, and enjoys studying riparian, prairie, and forest ecosystems. He is currently developing and leading Earth Native Wilderness School expeditions to numerous intriguing locations in North America and beyond, with a focus on animal tracking/trailing, primitive survival, and pre-historic archeology trips. His wildlife tracking and wilderness survival programs in South Asia are specially interesting.