Going Back to Basics
A list of things we should all know how to do, but, might not.
General first aid
How to change a flat tire
How to start a fire
How to put out a fire (safely)
Fundamentals of borrowing money
How to clean a living space
Basic germ theory
What eating healthy really means
What an algorithm is
How to grow food
Basic principles of biology
This list is a bit more exhaustive than ‘essential’, and should be looked at as something that is in flux. As we evolve as a society, what we deem as essential also changes.
When reviewing this list and thinking of essentialism, my immediate reaction is to think of things I need to know to sustain life, get myself out of an emergency situation, and generally remain safe. I can also say that of the 12 things I listed, I don’t have a firm enough understanding of how to apply all of them. I don’t think I am alone in that either. Technology has allowed us to outsource a lot of the cognitive and physical effort needed to remain alive. We have become complacent with our reliance on technology, and even boast about how easy life has become as a result.
This is both good and bad. Good because innovation powers our economy, makes life more comfortable, frees our mind and energy to be more productive and innovative in our own right, and can enable us to live (not only survive). Bad because as we become more reliant on technology, we consume more, leaving a trail of waste and pollution behind us.
Even the act of cooking our easy to access food is a skill we are losing. Meal kits, delivery apps, etc. replace work and skills with technology. Photo retrieved from unsplash.com
Environmentalist, activist, and author Rob Hopkins extrapolates this pattern and predicts a future where a transition will be required. In his book The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience, Rob discusses what will happen when we inevitably run out of oil or it becomes prohibitively expensive to sustain our widespread dependency. One of his concepts is the Great Reskilling - a move toward learning ‘new’ skills to do things that require a drastic reduction of energy consumption. This includes old craft skills, resource management and farming - ways of life that were thriving throughout society only two generations ago.
“Re-learning the skills that our grandparents took for granted, such as how to use hand tools, how to build our own structures, how to mend and make clothing, how to make our own medicine, how to forage, grow, preserve and store our food.” - Rob Hopkins.
This breadth of new-old skills that Hopkins suggests in that short quote is substantial. To combat this, he also suggests a way that we can collectively reskill. He suggests ‘reskilling events’ that could be a way of collectively sharing and exchanging knowledge and simultaneously build social cohesion. The events, will aim to:
Teach people new (old) skills
Bring people together, helping them to build networks
Give strength and convey a sense of “can do it myself” (as opposed to powerlessness)
Create links between the generations when old skills are being taught to the young (or middle-aged)
May result in physical manifestations which act as “advertisement” for the newly acquired knowledge
The Transition Handbook and the concept of reskilling our extreme concepts that evoke a sense of dystopia when analysed at face value (especially from a developed, western perspective where we have all the amenities we need and more at our disposal). However, there is evidence all around us that we have pushed our planet close to its brink. For example, according to the WWF, by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. Forest fires, large scale natural disasters, draughts, heat waves, etc. have become fixtures in our daily news cycle. All of this is largely fueled by our excessive consumption habits and reliance on technology. A return to locally sourced, small scale production enabled by new old world skill building will only have a positive impact. The doomsday elements may be overly dramatic, but the truth behind the concept is as relevant as ever.
We see Hello Jack as a virtual reskilling event. Our goal is not to prepare people for a post-oil society, but, we do see the value in increasing collective self-reliance and the social cohesion that will come of it.