Feb 21

Ideas on Preparing Our Kids for a Changing Climate & World

By Chris Gilmour | Climate Change , Nature's Lessons , Prepared Lifetyle

Preparing Our Kids for a Changing Climate & World


I’ve come to interpret climate change as being about a lot more than the weather. If you look it up, climate also means "the prevailing attitudes, standards, or environmental conditions of a group, period, or place (Dictionary.com)." By that definition "climate" can refer to many things, and "climate change" therefore is a fast and powerful shift in the many different domains of our modern lives.

In the recent post, Preparing for Prosperity, and How to Plan for an Uncertain Future, I talk about some of the biggest shifts we are experiencing. Disruptors in the climate of the seasons and weather, the economic climate, the social climate, the climate of technology, etc. The article outlines some of my actions to adapt, prepare and thrive in this changing world. I also write a lot about how we as individuals can stay protected and empowered, and extend that resilience to our family and friends. 

One of my big questions and personal interests these days is "are we keeping up with the changes and adapting quick enough?  Are we doing what we need to in order to keep our families safe and set them up for success in the world of tomorrow?" (which is really here already).

Changing World & Climate

Allow me to add another layer to all of this. If climate change means a myriad of things, then what does it mean to our children, to the next generation? And what can we do to not only protect today's youngsters, but how can we help them grow into people who have the abilities to adapt and thrive in this changing climate?

This is obviously a huge topic, an ongoing conversation. Please share your thoughts, questions and learned lessons in the comments below, and in your communities. As always, we have to work together on this one.

As for me, I've been working with youth for a couple decades now, and would be honored to share these three thoughts on preparing kids for a changing climate and a rapidly changing world with you.

1. Help Kids become Intuitive Problem Solvers

As far as the economy goes, and even the physical climate we are living in, we do not know what is around the next corner. All we do know is tomorrow (which is coming fast) is not going to look like today. 

A lot of progressive entrepreneurs believe the old path of going to college/university to train for your career is becoming outdated. Hundreds of thousands of jobs in which students are paying large amounts of money to train for in school right now are going to be replaced by machines in the next ten years. This is a problem.

How do we prepare kids for a workforce that is changing so quickly? 

One way is to focus on helping kids be innate problem solvers. To think out of the box and know how to overcome challenges both with their minds and bodies. To look at challenges and figure it out.

This may seem simple or like common sense, but in my work with young adults, I am commonly working with students that lack the ability and personal drive to face any discomfort or challenge. If the answer is not apparent immediately, they give up. Our society makes instant gratification a priority, a priority that is just starting to reveal it's consequences.

When I was a child, my Dad and I had a weekly “Science Club.” We figured out how to do things together. We built rocket ships, fixed the home toilet, nailed boards together, and in general, just got curious about how things worked and figured out how to make and fix things. My Dad included me all the time in fixing things around the house.

This obviously isn't me... but it looks like they're getting it!

This early childhood brain patterning has equated to being a person who just figures out how to do things. I taught myself carpentry, how to build furniture and basic structures, how to do basic plumbing, how to grow food, how to edit videos, how to design websites, basic accounting, and a host of other things. I believe this makes me very adaptable and resourceful. These are all skills that can go on resume, be used to make a few extra bucks her and there, and they help me overcome the many challenges life brings my way.

I work for myself, but if I ever had to apply for a job, there is A LOT I can put on my resume of practical skills.  Even more importantly, I have the confidence to know I am capable of learning almost anything I need to get by in life. I love figuring out how to do things and rarely use Google for it.    

Teaching kids to fix things, build things, and come up with solutions to problems is a priceless skill set. One with practical applications to almost every aspect of life.

There is a lot of reasons to suspect there will be less “jobs for hire” in the future economy. Especially good paying jobs. There will however be no shortage of problems. People who know how to solve problems and are ambitious and creative in their problem-solving pursuits are likely to create a job for themselves in any economy.

How could you mentor children in entrepreneurial skills?

I will use the classic lemonade stand for an example. Selling lemon aid to earn money is excellent. But if Mom and Dad cover all the expenses, and the kids keep all the profits, how is this preparing them for the "real" future?

Help your kids understand the concept of a profit margins, gross vs net profits, the end of the day balance sheet. Challenge them to leverage their newly made money. Kids need to learn to work hard, but they also need to learn to work smart to survive the future economy.

It is a great lesson to work hard all day, and have little to show for it after expenses (or taxes). You can be defeated with this - or you can get creative.

What are they going to do with the lemons life gives them?

What did they learn from this experience and how do they work smarter next time?

This is where leverage and system design comes into play. How could they invest a small portion of their earnings back into their own business to make it more efficient or profitable? Or, could they invest into creating a new business that will bring more significant returns while also helping people in the community with a problem and freeing up more of their time? 

Challenge them to look for problems they can solve and create sustainable economic systems to address them. This is the entrepreneurial spirit, and it will be very valuable in our changing and unstable economy.

2. Get kids out into Nature, A LOT, and go Camping

Where can I even begin this one? Let's take a look...

Mental Health

Childhood (and adulthood) mental health issues are becoming an epidemic. As someone who has worked with thousands of youth and adults over my career, it is scary to see the trend of people being unable to sit comfortably in their own skin without distractions. I commonly see people have mild to severe panic attics when they have to sit quietly without distractions in the outdoors.

For most of human history, the peace of the outdoors has been one of the most powerful tools we as a species have to escape the stresses of day to day life. A way to quiet our racing thoughts, and seek insights into our next steps in life. And in a blink of an eye, people are losing the ability to sit in peace in nature and take in its vast wisdom.

On top of the mental heath benefits of knowing you can always sit in nature to get a break, and get insights into your life challenges, nature is also an incredible teacher of… well… a million things.

Nature's Classroom

How do we live healthily and sustainably if we do not understand the intricacies of the ecosystems that support every aspect of our lives?

We learn about those intricacies from spending time out in nature, interacting with and observing it. Some of the most amazing solutions to our words biggest problems are being discovered in seeing how nature solves similar problems. If you want to learn more about this, look up the science and concept, of "Biomimicry."

The experience of camping also teaches an incredible number of basic life skills. From learning how to cook over a fire, to removing ourselves from the comforts of modern urban life to gain perspective on where things like water, food, light, etc., come from, to following the complicated instructions of tent manuals, to swimming, to...

Dealing with the challenges that come up camping is also an amazing teacher in creative problem solving, resiliency, and creates an appreciation for modern conveniences.

One of my favourite articles on the topic is, "25 Survival Skills for Kids" from the blog, "The Rustic Elk". 

Learning to paddle white water is another great skill for older kids to learn. White water is full of risks and fun. Learning to navigate a white water risk safely teaches problem-solving, risk calculation, hard work and is rewarded with incredible pleasure.

When I hire staff, I look for white water paddling and backcountry camping experience, regardless of the job I’m hiring for. I have found people with these life experiences are generally very competent, hardworking and have naturally good critical decision-making skills.

I fear a world where kids know nothing more than modern digital life. To live in a world dependent on natural ecosystems, but oblivious to the essential give and take relationship we all have with nature, is a recipe for disaster.

Take your kids camping and send them into the woods to play weekly if not daily and the learning with happen naturally.

For older youth, I highly recommend doing a longer out trip adventure with a reputable organization. Going on a three week plus Wilderness Adventure is nothing short of life-changing for most people.

Youth are likely to be pushed in ways they never new were possible. They will have to dig deep to find inner strength and courage they never new they had. They will have to overcome social problems because there is no other choice but to keep traveling together. They will also experience incredible beauty and reverence for the simple things like a good nights sleep, a simple, healthy meal, the safety of returning home, a quiet view of the star or rising sun, and so much more. This is a priceless perspective in our world of convenience and often entitlement.

A few organizations to explore are:

3. Role Model/Encourage Objective & Two-Sided Thinking

The digital age is having implications on the development of the human mind, how we think, reason, and interact with each other. In the short time I have had a smartphone and been on Facebook, I can already notice the impact these tools are having on my mind.

What does this mean for the youth of today who take this as normal? 

This is a massive experiment in phycology, brain chemistry, and even sociology and culture. Nervous to see the results?

We have an unprecedented amount of information at our fingertips, and simultaneously we live in a world where our world view and personal bias is being exasperated, built by social media and digital profiling at an alarming rate.

How can we live in a world with access to so much information yet witness open arguments and the citing of incorrect information ever where we look on the internet?

The fear I have is that people are unaware of how much our personal bias and opinions are being influenced by the digital culture we immerse ourselves in.

People are increasingly able to find articles and other people to support their word view, labeled as fact as opposed to opinion. The more I search a particular topic, and the more my friends share a specific world view, the more all my online interactions become biased to favor that world view (even what google and my social media feed 'decides' to show me is bias-affirming).

Another point to consider is the reliability of the information we get in the first place. The new 'normal' involves looking at inclusive, emotional debates, then making important life decisions based on the conflicting data we see. Assuming one even looks at both sides before making the decision.

So how do we give children and youth the tools to discern through this information age?

  • Challenge your kids to research opposing points of view to their (or your) own opinions. Identify your/their assumptions about the other sides argument. Then, fact-check those assumptions, making sure no critical information was missed. Its amazing watching someone's incorrect judgment dissolve when they find the flaw in their assumptions on their own, rather than being told that they are wrong. 
  • Look at topics with conflicting science and be open to the fact that there is a grey area in science. Science is relative to the variables being studies. Change a variable, and the outcome may change as well. Maybe it is not as simple as right and wrong, black and white. Could both answers be right? Could they both be wrong? Could they both have a little of each?
  • Speaking of science, understand and point out the importance of the scientific method, (in this case questioning, and having only one true certainty: I could be wrong) and how that differs form what is often advertised as 'science,' 'fact,' or 'truth.' 
  • Role model being aware of your own personal bias and be clear when you are stating facts vs. stating opinions and judgments. Opinions and judgments are normal human tendencies, but when we mistake them as facts, we limit ourselves from learning and growing.
  • For older kids, encourage them to join the school debate team. Challenge them to argue the opposite side of their own stance on something, and help them understand there are two sides to any story. This kind of reasoning only helps their world view in the long run by refining its accuracy.
  • When you read and discuss articles from the internet (or anywhere really) ask what assumptions the author may have? What influences their world view and writing? Most reports and studies (including Government and University studies) will have some degree of bias in them. This is normal. It's pretending that bias is not there that's the dangerous part.
  • Remind them, you do not have to believe in or support someone else view to try to see it through their eyes and challenge your own assumptions of their opinion. Or, to ultimately continue acting with compassion and respect, despite the disagreement.

Let’s teach children to ask good questions before forming assumptions and opinions, and defending their positions on things. This kind of objective thinking will help them navigate the often heavily biased information age we now face. It is also a skill that will help them make better decisions in work and life in general. 

We do not know what is around the next bend in this quickly changing climate. Kids and people will need to be resourceful, adaptable, cooperative and confident in themselves to succeed and thrive.

Nature is an incredible teacher of all these traits, and you can help consciously bring in some of the other pieces. I know this is a complex topic with many possibilities, and the conversation is far from over. Let's learn from and inspire each other.

Share your ideas, projects, techniques, resources, etc. in the comments below!

Feb 16

How to Stay Warm in Winter, Mind, Body, Shelter

By Chris Gilmour | Extreme Weather

How to Stay Warm in Winter, Mind, Body, Shelter

In this post, I would like to invite you to deepen your relationship with a fundamental human need, How to Stay Warm in Winter and Shelter. Knowledge of the principles of shelter is something ALL humans used to have as an essential human know-how. It was (and still is) a part of everyday life and survival.  

Knowing the basics can help you survive a disaster, a night in the woods, design a more energy efficient and disaster resilient home, or just be more comfortable on an excessively hot, cold, windy or rainy day.

** Make sure to check out the "Home Survival Shelter Video" at the bottom of this post

What would you do if the power went out for an extended period of time, lets say 4 days+, and temperatures were in the -20 range? In the video I’ll show you how to make a survival shelter inside your home to keep you and your family warm. This is a great disaster survival skill.

I like to break shelter into 3 different layers:

  • Layer 1 - Mind & Body
  • Layer 2 - Clothing
  • Layer 3 - Physical Shelters ( A building, home or survival shelter we built)
Igloos are great survival shelter designs

A Little Context...

In the world of survival and disaster preparedness, there is a commonly used concept called the Rule of 3’s. People can survive approximately:

  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 hours without adequate shelter
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food

As you can see, shelter is high on the list of priorities. People are often surprised that shelter comes before food and water, yet you only have to think about the toll of the elements, wind, rain, heat, to realize what is dangerous versus what feels uncomfortable to you right now. 

Principals of Shelter 

The following are points I use when teaching wilderness survival shelter building. They are just as relevant when considering your clothes or the design of your home.

A. Heat Source

When it comes to humans, heat comes from one of two categories, internal or external. Internal heat refers to the heat our own body creates through the

burning of calories and the functioning of all our organs and internal systems. External heat refers to any other source, including the sun, a fire or the multiple options to heat our homes such as propane, electric, gas, etc.

How to stay warm during a blackout, woodstoves

B. Insulation

Layers of fibre that create pockets of "dead air space” to allow heat capture and slow down heat loss, or materials that act as thermal mass, storing and slowing the movement of heat.

C. Drainage

The ability of our shelter to shed water and keep us dry.

D. Durability

The ability of our shelter to hold up under duress and friction from the elements and other activities.

E. Efficiency

Does the amount of resources (could be physical work or $$$) put into the shelter warrant its ability to provide adequate shelter?

There is a book I recommend, by educator Tomas J. Elpel, about these principles, called "Living Homes." A good read if you want a deeper understanding of these principles.

The Three Layers of Shelter & How to Stay Warm

Let’s now take a deeper look at the 3 Layers of Shelter and how we can make the most of them and prepare for prosperity in a world of climate change and uncertain times. 

Layer One: Mind & Body

The first line of protection from the elements is your own body and mind. What are they capable of enduring, or even enjoying? Remember, your body has been adapted over a long time to handle stress (physical and mental). Your DNA has a blueprint for resiliency. You should be able to rely on your mind and body as a protective layer, at least to some degree.

Humans have lived in harsh outdoor environments for hundreds of thousands of years. We are capable of training our bodies and minds to be very resilient and hardy when it comes to extreme conditions.

I would purpose that the comforts of our modern world have made us relatively un-resilient and even soft. This is compared to our generational predecessors who lived outside 365 days a year regardless of the weather.

As I make that point, please know I recognize there are many legitimate reasons people may not be as resilient to the elements as our ancestors, such as a medical condition or living situation. This statement is non intended to shame anyone for being “soft”. It is a statement about the general trend of humans becoming less resilient to the elements as the world becomes more modernized, as we drift away from our ancient and important connection with nature.

How do we increase our resilience to the elements?

When exposed to small amounts of certain types of stress, our bodies natural response is to adapt and bounce back stronger.

This is one of the reasons why exercise, a type of low level stress, is so beneficial to our health and makes us stronger over time. There is a ton of research coming out these days on the health benefits of saunas and cold exposure as well. These are also low level stresses on our bodies that trigger a regeneration process that makes us stronger.

Most people are capable of intentionally training themselves to be more resilient to the cold, the heat, going days without food, and other stressful situations. This training is the same as push-ups or crossword puzzles: reaching the potential of your body and mind.

  • You might ask, well why the heck would I want to do that? That does not sound fun. I’ll argue the contrary.

The benefits are immense and can positively impact many aspects of your life.

From your ability to focus and achieve goals, to the ability to enjoy the outdoors regardless of weather, or your ability to thrive in an unchosen stressful situation such as a disaster or extreme weather event.

Learning to regulate your emotional attachment and relationship to hot, cold, stress and hunger is incredibly empowering and brings a greater sense of freedom.

Here a few suggestions for getting started:

  • Putting the right fuel in your body as well as having a healthy cardiovascular system (good blood flow) can go along ways in this. I eat a TON of healthy fat in the winter and it makes a HUGE difference in my ability to stay warm and my energy level. Check out this article where I discuss lessons from Nature in staying warm.
Edible Acorns as Survival Food
  • If you live in a cold climate that experiences winter, try to avoid wearing a jacket as long as possible as winter begins. People are always amazed about how few layers I wear in the winter time and how comfortable I am outdoors. I intentionally under-dress in the first month of winter. It is kind of like when you leave a dog outside all day, day after day at the start of the winter. It will grow a thicker coat then a dog left inside. The same goes with humans. Mid winter when everyone feels the cold is unbearable, I finally put on a jacket and I’m quite comfortable and able to enjoy my time outdoors. Please keep in mind this kind of training compounds over time, doing it for a week is unlikely to show you amazing results. The key is commitment, consistently and knowing your why.
  • Start with short exposures to temperatures outside your comfort zone. This could be turning your shower water on cold for 30 seconds and forcing yourself to breath normally (this part is important) under the cold temperatures. Or go stand outside in shorts and a t-shirt for a few minutes a day in the winter and again focus on your breathing. Increase the duration of this over time.
  • Learn to regulate your internal temperature and stress response through breathing. An interesting starting point in cold exposure and the power of breath work is researching the work of  “Ice Man, Wim Hoff.” Wim Hoff holds many world records including feats such as sitting in ice water for over an hour and ten minutes, climbing part way up Mount Everest wearing only shorts and shoes, and running in the dessert with no water. He has trained thousands of people around the world to endure extreme temperatures through intentional exposure to stresses such as cold or heat, intentional breathing techniques and the power of the mind. Training your body and mind to be more resilient gives you a HUGE advantage when it comes to survival.
Layer Two: Clothing

The next line of defense is the clothing you choose to wear. Not all clothing is created equal when it comes to extreme (or any) weather and the elements. Remember our principles of shelter when choosing the best clothing to invest in: Heat Source, Insulation, Durability, Drainage, Efficiency. All of these = effectiveness to protect you from the elements.

Have you ever heard the saying, “cotton kills”?

 Wet cotton has no insulation value. It has the reverse effect and draws warmth out of your body. Moist or wet cotton (even just a little sweat) can cause you to get colder even faster. Thus avoid wearing cotton if you anticipate inclement weather or being in a cold environment.

This even goes for being inside your home if the heating system is not functioning. Even normal, non strenuous day to day activities, cause small amounts of sweat to form on our bodies. Before you go to bed, change to a fresh set of clothes and ideally out of cotton for a warm night sleep.

Wool is the Winner!

Wool on the other hand is still very effective in helping you retain body heat even when it is wet. 

Wool is often very durable compared to cotton and will better hold up to wear and tear in a post disaster landscape. Tight nit wool is even mildly water resistant to a light rain. The downsides are when wool gets wet, it can be quite heavy and take a long time to dry out, it can be expensive, and it may be itchy. Thrift stores and army surplus stories are great places to find good deals on wool clothing.

How to stay warm in winter with wool clothes

I went through the ice on a -15C day once while out in the woods. I got soaked from neck down but had wool socks, long johns, pants and multiple layers of wool shirts and sweaters on.

Although my wardrobe was now much heavier due to water retention, I decided to test it against the cold. I stayed out side for over an hour in wet clothing in minus temperatures and was plenty warm. It works and is now the main fiber I wear in the outdoors.

Merino wool is very popular amongst outdoor adventures and athletes as it does not cause the same itchiness as traditional wool. It will usually dry much faster, and still helps retain body heat when it is wet.

On Synthetic Clothing...

Synthetic clothing (ex: polypropylene) often dry out quickly and some help wick moisture away from your body, thus being better than cotton for insulation and drainage. The durability of these layers will not be as strong as wool. Also, if you are going to be around open fires or hot heat sources, remember synthetic clothing can melt.

The key takeaway here is to consider what types of clothing materials you are wearing if you may be facing inclement or even extreme weather or temperatures.

Do not be complacent if traveling via a car, cab, or subway and underdress, relying on the vehicle to protect you from the elements. Always assume you may have to travel outside and be ready for this.

In 2010, a snow storm struck London Ontario during the evening commute. It brought significantly more snow than forecasted and over 300 cars got buried on the highway. People driving home from work had to spend the entire night stuck in their cars in a snowstorm. How would you far in this situation?

When selecting any clothing, consider these factors:

  • Durability: Will it stay together if exposed to a higher than normal amount of friction and abrasion due to a disaster or extreme weather event?
  • Insulation: How well will it keep you warm if wet? Will it protect you from the sun and keep you cool during extreme heat?
  • Dry time: how long will it take to dry when wet? You may not have access to electricity or even sunshine for days to weeks.
  • Efficiency: how do all the above factors combine to determine how efficient and effective your clothing system is?

People often comment about how it appears that I am wearing very little clothing in the winter and rarely wear a coat even at -20C. This is due partially to my mind body relationship with the cold and partly to a really good layering systems. Here are my winter layers:

-   Merino wool t-shirt and long john layer

-   Thin merino wool hoodie

-   Thicker army surplus full wool sweater

-   Outer fleece hoodie

-   Wool plants

-   Thin merino wool base layer socks

-   Thick full wool socks

-   Wool hat

-   Snowmobile mits

Layer Three: Structure

The next line of defense is any larger physical structure you can get inside of to help protect you from the elements. Just like clothing, not all physical structures are created equally either, and the same principles apply.

One often overlooked variable to consider in construction design it how the structure is built into the landscape. Whether building a survival shelter out of branches and debris or a home out of lumber, consider the following:

  • How is the drainage of the surrounding landscape? A lot of home basements flood because the home is in a bad location to begin with and the design did not take that into consideration.
  • Where does water go when it drains off of the roof?
  • Are the tree’s and shrubs planted around the shelter species that absorb large amounts of water?
  • Which way does the predominant wind of your area blow from? Is that taken into consideration for the homes design and just as importantly, landscape design?
  • When does the sun hit your shelter and how does this change throughout the seasons?
  • Is the greater landscape exposed to the wind or sheltered from it?

You'll notice that most primitive/regionally traditional architecture meets all of these needs... historical or fantastically!

Applying the Principals to Your Home

When we bought our homestead I took many of the principals I teach in wilderness survival workshops and applied it to assessing the location of our home before purchasing. Here were a few of the main selling features for my wife and I:

  • The house was on a sand mound - really good drainage and protection from flooding and moldy basements from excess moisture.
  • The house was in a small valley - Protection from strong winds, reduced risk of tornadoes and better protection from forest fires.
  • The house was close to a clean natural water source - during a prolonged blackout we would still have access to clean water.
  • The house had a wood stove and forest around it - We will always have access to wood for heating and cooking even during a blackout and a plethora of other resources from the forest.

There are many good resources out there on wilderness survival shelters and more efficient and disaster resistant home design. For now I hope the previous questions get you thinking a little bit about how your knowledge of the surrounding ecology is useful in choosing where and how to build any kind of structure.

The last thing I will leave you with is a video on applying some of the principals of shelter to blackout during a cold snap. What do you do if your furnace stops working for several days or longer and it is very cold out? In this video I demonstrate how to build a warm survival shelter inside of your home.

If you found this valuable, please SHARE!

How to Stay Warm Pin

What are YOUR tips for Staying Warm? Comments and Thoughts Below