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What do you mean by developing a survival attitude. How is this important and are there book on this concept.

A survival attitude is nothing less than ones adopted "reality" of a situation.  It is born primarily of choice and awareness.  Many institutions focus on training to increase the "options" or choices a person may have, and awareness increases with training and experiences as well, but only the person who finds themselves in a situation, threatening or otherwise, can choose to commit to being a hero of their own story, or a victim of circumstance/someone elses story.   This subtle, but vital shift in "attitude" can actually be mapped in the brain via MRI.  It manifests as a shift from the mammalian areas to the higher level areas of the frontal lobes.  More than that, there are predictable stages of development in cultivating ones "survival" attitude.  The first one is the adolescent stage.  This one is based on fear.  It accesses the most primitive parts of the brain responsible for the "flight or fight" response.  It is often referred to as the "Reptilian" brain.  There is value in this stage as it develops quickness, violence of action, and decisiveness.  Think of a crocodile and how it interacts with its landscape and you'll get the idea.  Modern prepping and survival often are portrayed as operating from this level of awareness, and most folks actually begin their skills development at this point, much like a white belt in the martial arts.  The next definable stage of developing ones survival attitude is a shift to wanting to share and connect with folks.  In the context of our culture we often see this in EMT's, the Red Cross, etc.  It is an attitude based more in manifesting health and empowerment of self and community than that of fear. The premise for most military training and group dynamics work in experiential or adventure based education/therapy operates from this level of "survival attitude".  Thus we have terms like, "There is no 'I' in team", and, "Two is one and one is none".  The pinnacle of "Survival Attitude" is an expansion of this theme based on altruistic or selfless motivation.  If it emerges from the first stage of development it tends to manifest as "martyr" energy.  I suppose the example that would typify this would be the person who dives on the grenade to save their fire team.  It can also manifest as the person so passionate about their cause or "vision" that they have been through the ringer with respect to their relationships, health, financial well being, etc.  If this energy manifests via the mammalian level of development, it unfolds as cultivating healthy communities that incorporate "best practices" of resiliency.  Martial arts as a form of play, permaculture as a means to increase awareness as well as feed the family, and a base line of hard work and joy are the results of this manifestation of "survival attitude".  It is a long term investment and it takes a commitment that few in the current paradigm seem to either have time for or are willing to invest in, but the results benefit the self, the community, and the landscape for generations.  There are countless books that validate all of this, yet none that I am aware of that capture each component and break it down thoroughly as a treatise on the whole, from the scientific validation to the cultural context evidenced on every continent.  Each scientific discipline, from ecology to epigenetics seems to have a piece of the puzzle, as does case studies in survival and historical accounts of hunter gatherer nomadic communities.  With regard to books I would start with two works, "The Owners Manual for The Brain", by Pierce J. Howard, Ph.D and "Tom Browns Field Guide to Living with the Earth".  All of this comes with three very stern warnings however.  The first is that you can't get a survival attitude through a book.  Real learning involves experiences, sensory interaction and emotional input.  What we do with books, videos, and lectures is rote memorization, not growth.  Second, as you develop your "survival attitude" you will increase your awareness and this will increase your empathy.  In short your quest will change you and effect your relationships with everyone and with the way you interact with your surroundings.  Finally, this stuff is fun...and powerful.  We are genetically predisposed to interact with the natural landscape with our whole being.  Once you start putting latent neurorecpetors "on line" that deal with awareness there is no "turning it off".  


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Michael James


I can answer wilderness survival and primitive skills questions. I am familliar with modern gear for wilderness survival as well as primitive approaches. Topics I can share thoroughly are developing a survival attitude, making stone tools, long and short term shelter building, fire making off the landscape, gathering and purifying water (as well as the biological and chemical concerns), wild edible, medicinal, and utilitarian plants, tracking, animal behavior, awareness, foraging and primitive hunting, aidless navigation and orienteering, flint knapping, bow making, atl-atl, stalking and movement, nature educaton, community building, and personal development through nature immersion. I cannot answer questions about survival at sea, polar region survival, politics, or mechanical, medical, or social survival issues.


I have been a student of survival since 1980. This passion has evolved in to a full time profession. In 1989 I founded and continue to run New Englands most successful wilderness survival and primitive skills school. We have a staff of over twenty instructors, volunteers, and interns. As a professional survival and primitive skills educator, we go on staff full survival trips lasting between 5-10 days at least twice a year (our new staff members are permitted a knife). Our community has adopted the native culture approach to learning, teaching, and interacting with ones environment. In short, being a caretaker of the landscape with an understanding that if you find yourself suffering in nature, it is your awareness or skill level that is the issue.

Maine Primitive Skills School New England Environmental Educators Association Maine Environmental Educators Association

Ancestral Plants- A Primitive Skills Guide to Important Edible, Medicinal, and Useful Plants of the Northeast MAMLE Journal (Maine Association of Middle Level Educators)

Graduate, B.S. Environmental Education United States Marine Corps JWS (Jungle Warfare Survival School) Winter Warfare and Survival (Fort Pickle Meadows) SERE Maine Primitive Skills School (22years)

Past/Present Clients
U.S. Military Unity College Bowdoin College Colby College Boy Scouts of America 4H Maine Conservation Camp State of Maine

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