The first time I saw Oregon, I was about 14 years old. My family and some friends were headed to a beach house on the Washington coast.
I had never seen, in real life, a place so green, with so many trees. Dark green trees, bright green fields. Green green green. And even in late spring, there was snow in the mountains, spangling the trees with white. What fertile land lies here, I thought. (OK, I never thought that. I was a junior higher, not a poet.)
And most spectacularly, we witnessed a herd of wild mustang galloping, unfettered, through open land right by the highway. Well, my parents think we actually saw these horses in Nevada on a different trip, but I remember them as being Oregonians. They were far too rugged and hipster for boring old Nevada. Besides, parents don’t know anything, right?
Land of the evergreen pine and the everfree mustang, I thought. Land of unceasing natural wonders. (Nope. Probably didn’t think those things either.)
My homeland of Southern Idaho, if you’ve never been there, is, shall we say, barren. It is a high desert of tumbleweed, dust and wide open skies. The desert has a homespun beauty of its own, but you have to want to see it.
And it’s dry. Idaho doesn’t get a whole lot of rain. (Although we do have splendid summer thunderstorms, which the mid-valley sees disappointingly infrequently.)
So as a child of the desert now transplanted to the lush and lovely West Coast, I think Oregon would be a good place to be if there were a widespread food shortage. Better than Idaho, where you’d have to eat sagebrush soup with a side of roast rockchuck.
Compared to the dramatic onslaught of, say, a wandering planet crashing into Earth or the undead marching against humanity, food shortages may seem like a mundane way for the world as we know it to end. But rest assured, when people don’t eat, they get grumpy and desperate and violent. Things can get really apocalyptic real fast.
But we have plenty of food, you say. There’s enough rice in WinCo to feed an army for six months, surely.
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Of course, you’re not really saying that. You know better. The ready-to-buy food available in the area would only feed locals for about a couple of weeks.
Once the shelves are empty, there’s going to be a whole lot of hangry people looking for dinner.
Whether a food shortage is caused by drought, famine, dying honeybees or climate changes, or whether it is just the result of some other catastrophe that destroys interstate and international agricultural transportation systems, we need to be able to be self-sufficient, able to forage and hunt and gather, staving off malnutrition and starvation.
Demographically, I am ideal for living through a time of hunger. I’m a pretty healthy twentysomething (unsurprisingly, very young children and elderly people tend to starve soonest and in the largest numbers), and I am female.
That’s right, women statistically have the best chance of weathering extreme hunger. A commonly cited example is the Donner party, in which more than half of the men died while more than two-thirds of the women survived. Studies of other American migratory tragedies and famines from around the world have repeatedly shown that post-famine and post-starvation populations tend to be skewed toward the ladies.
Anthropologists, biologists and other –ists have not reached a consensus on why this is. Some say women just culturally do less strenuous work than men, thus conserving the fat and energy their male counterparts burn through rapidly. You know, men chop firewood while women sing lullabies. But others believe women are hardwired for making it through hunger, since their bodies naturally carry a higher percentage of fat than men.
That’s what I call girl power. That cellulite on your thighs? That post-baby weight? It laughs in the face of starvation. It looks death in the eye and firmly (or jigglely) proclaims, “I am a survivor.”
But survival also favors the prepared, regardless of gender or age. So let’s talk about finding food. In a place like Oregon, with its flora and fauna galore, it can’t be too hard, right?
Next week: A drink with jam and bread, among other things.