CHRISTO­PHER NY­ERGES TALKS TO ASG

CHRISTO­PHER NY­ERGES: MORE THAN 40 YEARS OF LEAD­ER­SHIP IN SELF-RE­LIANCE ED­U­CA­TION

American Survival Guide - - CONTENTS - By Dana Ben­ner

Cel­e­brat­ing more than 40 years of lead­er­ship in sel­f­re­liance ed­u­ca­tion

When one thinks of the top sur­vival/self-re­liance ex­perts out there Christo­pher Ny­erges has got to be at the to

of the list.

I first be­came ac­quainted with Christo­pher back when he was the ed­i­tor of Amer­i­can Sur­vival Guide (see the side­bar on page 40). Un­til then, I was only aware of him through his writ­ings, which ap­peared then—and still do—in many dif­fer­ent pub­li­ca­tions. Af­ter that, Christo­pher be­came my friend and men­tor, an I found that this man is much more in tune wit the world around us and deeper, as a per­son, than many peo­ple I have met along my path.

For Christo­pher, “sur­vival” is a state of mind, some­thing that clearly comes out in his writ­ings. He not only talks the talk, but he also walks the walk. When it comes to plant iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, both ed­i­ble and medic­i­nal, I have met no­body who knows as much, and he is ea­ger to share that knowl­edge with his stu­dents and read­ers.

When did all of this start, and what drew him into this world of self-re­liance? Christo­pher an­swered these and many othe ques­tions; and, as you read our ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with him, you will find that his an­swers are quite pro­found.

A TRA­DI­TION OF SHAR­ING

Christo­pher’s in­ter­est in this way of life be­gan in the early 1970s—long be­fore sur­vival, self-re liance or even re­cy­cling be­came fash­ion­able. There were no cell phones or GPS units, and writ­ing for books and mag­a­zines was done on a type­writer. It was peo­ple such as Christo­pher who paved the way for all of us as they faced and over­came many road­blocks, both fi­nan­cia and cul­tural, along the way. (You can read

bout those early days in Christo­pher’s book, quat­ter in Los An­ge­les: Liv­ing on the Edge.)

In 1974, Christo­pher and his late wife, Dolores, tarted the School of Self-re­liance in the Los nge­les area of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. Since then, ore than 30,000 peo­ple, from young chil­dren hrough older adults, have taken at least one f his nu­mer­ous classes or have par­tic­i­pated in he out­ings of­fered by the school.

As if that weren’t enough, Christo­pher has uthored more than 20 books. There are two ore in the works at the time of this writ­ing see the side­bar on page 42). He has writ­ten hou­sands of ar­ti­cles, has been fea­tured on cal tele­vi­sion broad­casts and is cur­rently a on­sul­tant for the tele­vi­sion pro­gram, Naked nd Afraid. With such a busy sched­ule, I con­sidred it an honor that he was able to take the me to an­swer my ques­tions.

IMPLICITY IS KEY

Com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Christo­pher, even via -mail, is al­most a Zen-like ex­pe­ri­ence. His esponses to ques­tions are well thought out nd of­ten gen­er­ate more ques­tions than they nswer. Christo­pher makes you think—the mark f a great teacher.

The fol­low­ing is taken from the mis­sion state­ment of the School of Self-re­liance; I be­lieve it says great deal about Christo­pher:

“We have found that most peo­ple are more in touch with their true in­ner strength when they actu learn prac­ti­cal skills that en­hance their day-to-day life.”

In other words, be­ing self-re­liant and learn­ing sur­vival skills isn’t just about hav­ing the big­gest knife. It is about the com­mon skills we all need to re-learn, and it is these skills that Christo­pher ha com­mit­ted his life to teach­ing.

Build­ing on that state­ment, my first ques­tion to Christo­pher was, “In this world of the ‘lat­est and the great­est,’ how do you stay fo­cused on the goals you have set for your­self?”

His re­sponse was, “My goal has less to do with sur­viv­ing a catas­tro­phe and more to do with sur­vivi

orally, eth­i­cally, spir­i­tu­ally, phys­i­cally and nan­cially in an era when I be­lieve we are witess­ing the slow de­cline of at least this as­pect f Western civ­i­liza­tion. My goal is to make daily hoices that al­low me to live a mean­ing­ful life ach day, with­out a fo­cus on fear or worry.” By liv­ing such a life, Christo­pher is al­ways re­pared for any sur­vival sit­u­a­tion that might rise. He doesn’t live for the “what-ifs” and the ears that ac­com­pany them. If you think about , this is a great way to go through life. Christo­pher’s in­ter­est in self-re­liance, the nvi­ron­ment and our place in it has been a fe­long pur­suit. He spent the early 1970s liv­ing lose to the land, learn­ing from those around im, teach­ing classes about the out­doors and rit­ing news­pa­per ar­ti­cles. He squat­ted in n aban­doned home in the hills of South­ern al­i­for­nia and worked odd jobs to make ends eet. He re­cy­cled and re­pur­posed ev­ery­thing ng be­fore it be­came “the thing to do.” He started his writ­ing ca­reer the same way ost of us did—by writ­ing columns for lo­cal ews­pa­pers about the sub­jects he felt pas­sionte about, of­ten for lit­tle or no money. Funny; hese are the same things he writes about oday: liv­ing life, liv­ing sim­ply and shar­ing the nowl­edge he has amassed.

“DON’T FO­CUS ON STUFF. FO­CUS ON LEARN­ING THE SKILLS. DON’T GET YOUR SUR­VIVAL AND PREP­PING ED­U­CA­TION FROM TV SHOWS. MOST TV SHOWS ARE EN­TER­TAIN­MENT FIRST AND ED­U­CA­TION SEC­OND.”

UBSTANCE OVER STUFF

I asked Christo­pher what he thought the main sue was re­gard­ing “sur­viv­ing.”

“Most peo­ple with the lat­est gad­get and the iggest knife and the thing you must have to

sur­vive are just try­ing to make a buck,” Christo­pher said. “Don’t fo­cus on stuff. Fo­cus on learn­ing the skills. Don’t get your sur­vival and prep­ping ed­u­ca­tion from TV shows. Most TV shows are en­ter­tain­ment first and ed­u­ca­tion sec­ond.” He went on to say, “Ev­ery­one should con­stantly stay alert to the ‘big pic­ture’ and make their own plans based on lo­cal and per­sonal needs. Live fru­gally and in­clude oth­ers in your plans. Make your cir­cle big­ger. Grow food and be self-re­liant.”

I prod­ded Christo­pher a lit­tle more about this is­sue.

This was his re­sponse: “The big­gest is­sue fac­ing ev­ery­one is that we seem to be in de­nial of cer­tain fun­da­men­tal is­sues that are get­ting us all in deeper. Over­pop­u­la­tion is one, and that drives all the oth­ers and pits peo­ple against peo­ple. In many ar­eas, water is a se­ri­ous is­sue, as is the high cost of hous­ing. So-called ‘prep­pers’ need to face real­ity and live their lives

... SUR­VIVAL IS NOT ABOUT THE AMOUNT OF STUFF YOU HAVE. IT IS ABOUT HOW YOU USE YOUR SKILLS TO IN­TER­ACT WITH THE EN­VI­RON­MENT AROUND YOU, IN­CLUD­ING ANY HU­MANS YOU MIGHT EN­COUNTER.

as an ex­am­ple wher­ever they live, city or ru­ral. Teach your neigh­bors how to be part of the so­lu­tion.”

Whether you are a writer or a teacher, there are many skills we of­ten take for granted. I asked Christo­pher what con­cept he has found that stu­dents seem to have the most dif­fi­culty grasp­ing.

“As­sume noth­ing. There are no ‘sim­ple tasks,’” Christo­pher ex­plained. “It is sim­ple if you know how to do it; com­pli­cated when you do not. Mod­ern tech­nol­ogy is be­ing re­lied upon too much. Peo­ple are do­ing less, think­ing less and as­sum­ing more. When teach­ing or writ­ing, al­ways be­gin from step one and go from there.”

CHRISTO­PHER’S GO-TO GEAR

Know­ing Christo­pher is not a “stuff” kind of guy, I asked him to list five to 10 items that peo­ple should have.

VERYONE SHOULD CON­STANTLY STAY ALERT TO THE ‘BIG PIC­TURE’ AND MAKE THEIR OWN PLANS BASED ON LO­CAL AND PER­SONAL EDS. LIVE FRU­GALLY AND IN­CLUDE OTH­ERS IN YOUR PLANS. MAKE YOUR CIR­CLE BIG­GER. GROW FOOD AND BE SELF-RE­LIANT.”

Ac­cord­ing to Christo­pher, “The gear that each in­di­vid­ual car­ries is a very per­sonal se­lec­tion based on the per­son’s needs, skills and the cir­cum­stances, but here are some things that you will al­ways need.”

1. Water con­tainer and cup (prefer­ably stain­less steel)

2. Water pu­ri­fier

3. A few knives (one should be a Swiss Army knife or a multi-tool)

4. Fire starters (bu­tane lighters and a mag­ne­sium fire starter)

5. Ker­chief (mul­ti­ple uses)

6. Toi­let pa­per

7. First aid kit

8. Cordage

9. A lit­tle money

10. Small flash­light

In the case of a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter or other emer­gency (for him that would be mainly earthquakes and for­est fires), he sug­gests hav­ing at least two weeks of food and water on hand (more is bet­ter).

BUSY PUR­SU­ING HIS GOALS

As pre­vi­ously men­tioned, Christo­pher is a very busy per­son. Be­sides teach­ing a va­ri­ety of cour­ses at the School of Self-re­liance, he is work­ing on books about fire-start­ing and nav­i­ga­tion. He con­sults for Na­tional Geo­graphic and for the tele­vi­sion pro­gram, Naked and Afraid. In ad­di­tion, he is con­tin­u­ally writ­ing ar­ti­cles for a va­ri­ety of pub­li­ca­tions—in­clud­ing Amer­i­can Sur­vival Guide—about dif­fer­ent as­pects of sur­vival. Christo­pher also do­nates time to non­prof­its, do­ing such things as re-plant­ing na­tive plants and giv­ing talks on self-re­liant liv­ing in an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment.

Christo­pher is an in­ter­est­ing man, to say the least, and is some­one I am proud to con­sider my friend. He will­ingly shares his deep wealth of knowl­edge, ob­tained from years of liv­ing a life that truly fo­cuses on self-re­liance. This hon­esty and au­then­tic­ity are ev­i­dent in the ar­ti­cles he con­trib­utes to Amer­i­can Sur­vival Guide and other out­lets.

One vi­tal con­cept I have learned from my as­so­ci­a­tion with Christo­pher is that sur­vival is not about the amount of stuff you have. It is about how you use your skills to in­ter­act with the en­vi­ron­ment around you, in­clud­ing any hu­mans you might en­counter.

We need to stop think­ing about “me” and start think­ing about “we,” be­cause we are not alone in this “boat”; and, de­spite our plans, we could be the ones who need help some­day.

i Christo­pher, an ex­pert on wild ed­i­ble plants, shows stu­dents how to re­move the spines from a prickly pear cac­tus.

Stu­dents of all ages are shown that wild ed­i­bles are all around us.

Near right: Ny­erges shows just some of the wild ed­i­ble plants that can be found in the area.Teach­ing a stu­dent the proper way of weav­ing a fish trap. This skill is also use­ful for mak­ing cloth­ing, bas­kets and a host of dif­fer­ent use­ful items.

Right: Christo­pher shares some of his vo­lu­mi­nous knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence with a class held in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

i Far right: Ny­erges with poi­son hem­lock. It is just as im­por­tant to learn what can hurt you as it is to learn what you can eat.

© GETTY IM­AGES

Be­low: Christo­pher in­structs stu­dents on what ma­te­ri­als to look for and how to make “wild” soap.

Right: Christo­pher shares sev­eral lessons in a class near a stream. Aside from ex­plain­ing how to hol­low out a piece of wood, he teaches the class that where there is water, there is food of some kind.

Left: Some of the items Christo­pher rec­om­mends ev­ery­one should have with them (Photo: Dana Ben­ner)

Left: Some of the books writ­ten by Christo­pher Ny­erges (Photo: Dana Ben­ner)

© GETTY IM­AGES

Stu­dents who built bows dur­ing one of Christo­pher’s classes hav them in­spected and get con­struc­tive feed­back.

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