How Americans Survived the Great Depression

A very good touchstone for both how to survive with very little and how precarious our comfortable, modern lives are is the Great Depression. As the economy took a downward turn and hundreds of thousands of lives were turned upside down, farming families were forced to migrate and city dwellers had to do what they could to get by. It was a gruesome time in America’s history, but when we look back, it’s always amazing to see what people did to survive.

To start, back then, many of the people who were most severely affected by the Great Depression already had a lot of self-reliance skills that we no longer have. The “Oakies” who were forced off their land to seek work out West where they could, were desperately poor, but they also were accustomed to making their own food, mending their own clothes. They didn’t sit around welfare offices of their home states, they packed everything up and headed out West to try to rebuild their lives.

The novel “The Grapes of Wrath” shows the many skills these working class survivors already had that these days, most Americans don’t. They were manual laborers who made small amounts of food stretch and improvised with what they had.

One of the biggest reasons for self-reliance and homesteading is not just to have a place to be in case another depression hits, but also to develop the skills and self-reliance to withstand it. We are so accustomed to living with everything we need at big box stores right down the way or ordered with a simple click online, and even globally, the poorest classes of people still have smartphones. Big agribusinesses requires less and less involvement of real communities and families who live on the land, live it, and work it, and more large industrial equipment and seasonal, migrant workers.

We are moving further and further away from a life dependent on the sweat of our own brow, and more and more dependent on a larger, fragile modern beehive.

When we look back on the Great Depression, it should serve as a sobering reminder to us that our way of life is not guaranteed. Start investing today on the skills you might need to survive tomorrow.

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