Ed Corcoran is the editor of Survivalist Magazine. He is also the coordinator for the 2011 Survival & Preparedness Conference coming to Dallas, Texas, Memorial Day weekend. Recently, Ed took some time away from his extremely hectic schedule to answer a few of our questions.
Could you tell our readers a little about your background? How did you come to be involved in the survival or prepper movement?
Well, I started out as what you would probably call an “outdoorsman” (if you had to put a label on it). Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a deep and abiding love of nature. My parents couldn’t keep shoes on my feet and I would constantly sneak out of the house at night during the warm weather to sleep out in the back yard (much to my parents chagrin). I also loved exploring the local state forest (which was about a 45 minute bike ride from my house) for hours on end. I remember catching hell from my mother when I would come rolling back home after dark and she had no idea where I’d been all day!
In my adolescent and teenage years, I read a lot of Robb White, Jack London, Henry David Thoreau, etc., which gave me this idealized, romantic image of the self-sufficient man. Living life deliberately, with purpose (and adventure!). Of course, it ain’t always like you read about, but that’s always been my ideal and my goal. I’ve always felt like I was born in the wrong century (or the wrong planet, sometimes) and I used to tell people that I belonged on either a stagecoach, or a starship… but not in the 20th/21st century! I’ve always felt more comfortable in the wilderness than in the “civilized” world and I can’t understand people who don’t enjoy spending time in nature – camping, hiking, back-packing, etc. I don’t get how anyone could be surrounded by astounding natural beauty and still pine for their television and microwave oven. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
In my 20′s, I embarked on a wandering, bohemian adventure across the country with no particular destination in mind… Just to see what was out there while I was still young enough to do it… (at 42, I’m still young enough to do it, BTW… Age is just a number). Everybody thought I was completely nuts and more than a couple of people predicted that I would come limping back home, defeated after a couple of weeks. As it tuned out, it would be nearly a decade before I returned to my home state.
I ended up in Flagstaff, AZ (actually, I ran out of money in Flagstaff, AZ!) and in spite of the fact that it’s incredibly difficult to get established and survive in “Flag” (we called it “poverty with a view”) I fell absolutely in love with that town and that state! It’s been several years since I’ve lived there and to this day, I still feel profoundly home-sick when I think about it. You can definitely feel a very palpable and very positive kind of energy out there, which I haven’t experienced in any other part of the country.
That’s where I really learned a lot of wilderness survival skills in all kinds of environments. Most people think that Arizona is all desert and saguaro cacti, but there’s quite a diverse range of landscapes and environments found within that state. Flagstaff is up in the mountains (San Francisco Peaks) which dominate the sky-line of Northern Arizona. It’s nearly 7,000 feet above sea-level on the Mogollon plateau and there’s vast forests of conifers and Aspen, and you experience all four seasons there (yes, it gets cold and snows there in the winter and there’s skiing on Mt. Humphreys). Not at all what most people imagine when they think of Arizona. And if you drive for an hour in just about any direction, you’ll find yourself in a completely different landscape. There’s Sedona (which is like being on an alien world) to the south, the Grand Canyon to the north-west, the painted desert and petrified forest to the east, etc.. I spent the last 2 years in Arizona living literally in the middle of nowhere, in the Vermilion Cliffs area, just north-east of the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
Now all during those years, I wasn’t what you would call a “prepper” and I didn’t really think of myself as a “survivalist” either… Some people thought of me as a “hippy”, but I always took umbrage to that… Just because I have long hair and a beard and wear sandals, that doesn’t make me a hippy, dammit!. I didn’t care at all about politics or what was going on outside of my own personal microcosm. I didn’t own a TV or a computer and often times, I didn’t even care if I had a place to live. My truck or my tent suited me just fine when the weather was good… And most of the time, I didn’t even need those forms of shelter. So why get shackled to a lease and pay rent every month?
It wasn’t until I returned to “civilization” and my home state of Massachusetts that I started to wake up to what was going on the world. I discovered the internet at the tail end of 2006 (actually, I was aware of the internet in its early days and was disgusted by it) and I started learning how bad things really are out there. I always knew there were nefarious forces at work behind the scenes in our government and the world at large, but I didn’t realize to what extent. So, I got involved in the Patriot/Liberty movement (if it can be called a “movement”) and became very passionate about protecting our freedoms and waking people up to the truth. I listened to Aaron Russo and G. Edward Griffin and Alex Jones and David Icke and all those guys and I realized that most of the people who are out there warning the public about our corporatocracy and the New World Order were doing very little in the way of offering solutions, or telling people how to prepare for the chaos that’s on the horizon. Just to be clear; I’m not bashing those guys at all… I applaud their work and wish we had more folks like them in the public consciousness, but I always felt that pointing out the danger, without telling people how to safeguard themselves against it wasn’t enough. That was the original catalyst for what was to become “Complete Survivalist”. My dual purpose being to warn people about what’s really going on and teach them what they can do about it. Some people don’t like my political over-tones, but there’s still an awful lot of people who are asleep out there, and if I can help wake them up, I’m happy to do it. I don’t want to just preach to the converted, and I think telling people how to prepare and survive without mentioning why they should be prepared is a little silly.
I also want to tear down the misconception of what we call “conspiracy theory”. I don’t deal in conspiracy theories, I deal in conspiracy facts. Most of the time, if you tell a person about something that they’re not getting from the main-stream media, they immediately label it as some crazy, wild-eyed, “theory”. I try to stay within the realm of issues that I can back up with qualified proof, and often times, this proof is a matter of public record… All you have to do is take a little time to look it up (this kind of research might cut into a person’s TV time, though… so it’s little wonder that most folks would rather dismiss things out of hand, than verify it for themselves). There’s enough scary stuff in the works right in plain sight without worrying about if lizard people from Nibiru are controlling the world’s governments. I mean, I don’t rule that stuff out at all… Personally, I’m very interested in conspiracy theories and I think extra-terrestrials and secret societies and ancient blood-lines are all quite plausible, but I don’t have any more proof of it than the next guy. And I think going off about that stuff tends to taint your credibility, making it harder for people to accept the real, provable truth from you.
Last year, you started editing Survivalist Magazine (then called Complete Survivalist Magazine). What was your impetus for starting the magazine? Why not just concentrate on a website?
Originally, Complete Survivalist was intended to be an online entity only. My friend; George Shepherd (publisher of Republic Magazine) played a big role in helping me get my website and membership together, and he suggested starting a magazine on a couple of occasions. I kinda balked at the idea at first, because I felt like I had my hands full writing and compiling survival guides and keeping up with all the work involved in developing and promoting the membership. But eventually, I realized that there really weren’t any accessible survival magazines out there that speak to the average person. You basically have “Soldier of Fortune” on one hand and “Backwoods Home” on the other, and really nothing in between (speaking strictly print publications here). I also wanted to reach as many people as possible and change the negative connotations associated with the term “survivalist” and the practice of “prepping”, and that would never happen if it only existed online. The only people who would find the site would be those who were seeking out this kind of material, and were already “on the bus” – so to speak. But if I had a magazine out on the news-stands, it might catch the attention of a broader range of people.
Also, people attach a lot more credibility to a print publication than something that they read on the internet. I know lots of people with whom you cannot use any online source as a reference to prove a point, or win an argument… No matter how credible the website is, they’ll invariably roll their eyes and say: “Oh it was on the internet? Then it must be true”. But if you tell them that you read the same information in a magazine (or heard it on TV or the radio) then that makes it legit.
Tell us about the 2011 Survival and Preparedness Conference coming up at the end of May. Who’s going to be there and what will they be discussing?
Thanks for asking, we’re pretty jazzed about this event! The conference will be held on Memorial Day weekend (May 28th & 29th) at the DFW Airport Marriott in Dallas, TX, and we’ve got a great line-up of 17 awesome speakers and experts that will be appearing at the event! I feel really grateful and fortunate to have all these folks on board for the conference!
We’re going to have one of the true founders of modern survivalism; Dr. Bruce Clayton at the event, covering nuclear and radiological survival…
Mat Stien (Author of “When Technology Fails”) will be teaching “In-Place” survival skills for the many who won’t be able to get out of Dodge when TSHTF.
Tim Smith (Jack Mountain Bushcraft) will be teaching bug-out and wilderness retreat for those who can.
Brian Brawdy (The Brian Brawdy Show, Solutions from Science) will be there speaking about off-grid survival and alternative energy.
Private Security Contractor and former U.S. Marine marksmanship instructor; Chance Sanders will be leading a session on personal and home security in a post-collapse world.
Robert Scott Bell (The Robert Scott Bell Show) will have a session on Natural and Holistic Medicine.
Lisa Bedford (The Survival Mom) will lead a session on family preparedness and another session on off-grid cooking.
Dave Scott (Alderleaf Survival School) will be teaching techniques to escape unlawful custody and evade hostile pursuers.
Filip Tkaczyk (Also from Alderleaf) will have a class on tracking, trapping and snaring game.
International educator and author of several books on health and wild edibles; Sergei Boutenko will be teaching a class on foraging and surviving on wild plants.
Weapons expert and competitive marksman; “Mr. Smashy” will lead a class on ammunition reloading.
John Milandred (Homesteader and founder of Pioneer Living and The Prepper Podcast Network) will give a presentation on self-reliant living, from “old-school” skills to modern-day techniques.
Firearms expert and instructor John Coulton will be there teaching gun safety and maintenance.
Dr. Bones & Nurse Amy (“The Doom and Bloom Show”) will have a seminar on emergency first-aid and disaster medicine for when medical attention is unavailable (or non-existent).
Homesteader, educator and publisher of “New Homesteading Magazine”; John Lipsomb will be dong a session on heirloom seeds, storage and growing your own food.
Then we have some guy named Jim Cobb teaching two classes. One on prepping on a budget and another on trading, bartering and “real” money after a societal collapse.
As of this writing, we still have discount, “early bird” registration available. You can go to: http://survivalist.com/conference to get your event passes before this discount offer expires!
You also do a regular podcast, right?
Yep, every Wednesday night at 8pm (EDT) I do my show live without a net (you never know what you gonna get!) as part of the Prepper Podcast Network on Blogtalk Radio (you can get to my show at: http://completesurvivalist.info and my radio blog at: http://completesurvivalist.info/radio). Each week, I have expert guests on the show from the various fields of preparedness, survivalism, self-reliance, natural health, etc. There’s also a bit of political/patriot/libertarian content and a dash of what some might call “conspiracy theory” thrown in every now and then for good measure. Sometimes I do the whole show myself, if there’s an important topic that I want to talk about, but most of the time, I like having expert guests on the show to share their experience and knowledge.
How would you describe your own personal philosophy regarding disaster readiness?
Hmmm… Obsessive-Compulsive? Does that qualify as a philosophy? Actually, any kind of preparedness is likely to be considered “obsessive” by most regular folks, but I definitely fall into the camp of: “better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.” I also hang on to stuff that most people would throw away (which drove my last girlfriend nuts!) and I always try to find different uses for a single item or re-purpose it somehow.
I learned the value of preparedness early on when I was in the Boy Scouts. As everyone knows, their motto is: “Be Prepared” and I had an experience on one particularly cold, November camping trip, that drove it home for me. One of my friends on the trip (who was on the cusp of becoming an Eagle Scout) brought the wrong sleeping bag. Fortunately, I packed extra blankets and cold weather gear “just in case”. It was very cold that week, and I’m pretty sure he might have suffered hypothermia if all he had was that light summer bag to keep him warm. He kept telling me I saved his life.. I don’t know about that, but he did share his food with me for the rest of the week!
Now, while it felt good to have the resources to prevent my friend from freezing at night (especially since he was practically an Eagle and was just a lowly Second-Class!) I brought so much gear with me, I could barely carry it all. This was an impulse that I struggled with on subsequent outings well into my adult-hood. The trick about being prepared is being able to tell when you’re going too far. Sometimes, your preps can be a hindrance (both physically and mentally) if you’re trying to prepare for every conceivable contingency – especially if you’re traveling. I had to learn the art of carrying what I need, while still traveling light. You can’t take everything with you, so you have to discern what’s absolutely essential from what’s basically a convenience. You also have to learn how to improvise and identify items that can be used for more than one task. Otherwise, you’ll just weigh yourself down with a lot of stuff that you probably won’t even use.
What are the most realistic or likely threats you feel our country faces right now?
By far, I think the most imminent threat to the United States is our unsustainable economy – coupled with too much dependence on the government to take care of us. I was concerned about this years before we got a Neo-Marxist/Socialist president in the White House, and this downward spiral has gained exponential momentum ever since Barry took office. The level of denial that exists both in the media and the public in general is stupefying! Every time I hear a “credible” economist in the media telling us that this is just a temporary down-turn and the economy is in recovery because the unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a percent (according to the gov’t), I want to revoke their credentials! I have to believe that they’re deliberately lying to us, because I find it impossible to believe that anyone of reasonable intelligence (let alone someone with a degree in economics) could actually believe this fantasy! In the meantime, we’ve got good ol’ grinning Ben Bernanke saying: “Spend all you want… We’ll print more!”
The worst part is; the rest of the world knows all too well (probably better than most Americans) that our fiat currency, house-of-cards economy is worthless and it won’t take too long before they stop using the U.S. dollar as the global reserve currency. China and Russia have already agreed to stop trading in U.S. dollars (oddly, not a word was mentioned in the U.S. media about it) and it’s only a matter of time before everyone else gets hip and drops the dollar. That’s why we keep going to war in oil-producing countries. Not so much to control the oil, but to make sure the rest of the world keeps paying for it in U.S. dollars.
Or to put it more succinctly….
Our country is a conglomeration of corporate entities, owned by a cartel of international banks, who want to re-boot America by destroying our fictitious economy, nullifying the Constitution and folding us into their globalist agenda.
They don’t care about you, or me, or your kids, or your grandma… We’re just “useless eaters” to them. That’s why they don’t invest anything in education. They just want our kids to be smart enough to push the buttons and run the machines and follow orders when they send them off to a continuous series of endless wars.
If you were somehow placed in charge of disaster readiness for our country, what would you do first?
That’s easy… The very first thing I would do is make preparedness education a priority. Teach it in the schools… Get communities active… Use every outlet available… Put the media to good use for a change! An educated and prepared society will be less of a burden on emergency services in times of disaster, and there would be fewer instances of violence and looting due to shortages of food and other resources. After the disaster in Japan, I heard several reports commenting on how the situation could have been a lot worse, had the Japanese people not been as well prepared as they were. Also, making preparedness part of the national vernacular would reverse the stigma and “normalize” prepping in the minds of the general public. Of course, the PTB (powers that be) don’t want us to be self-reliant. They want us to be to be helpless sheep in their “nanny-state” and rely on our fourth branch of government (aka FEMA/DHS) to “save” us in the event of disaster. I think we all know what FEMA’s all about, so I won’t go off on a tangent about that.
But if we had started educating the nation on preparedness 30 years ago, by now, prepping would be considered as natural as changing the oil in your car, or going to the dentist. It would just be another routine part of life for most folks, and those who didn’t prepare would be the “weirdos”. Just look at how much public opinion about the environment has changed over the last 30 years. I can remember a time when people who consistently recycled their bottles, cans and paper were thought of as tree-hugging zealots. But now, everybody’s so “environmentally correct” people look at you like you’re a baby killer if you throw a soda can in the trash, or you don’t drive some bullshit hybrid. That’s because there’s been a lot of awareness raised in schools, communities and the media. Granted, most of this has been fueled by corporate interest, but there’s no reason why the same thing couldn’t be done to raise awareness about preparedness.
I’m not saying I’m unconcerned about the environment… Being the nature freak that I am, it would be unnatural if I were not concerned, but a lot of the “green movement” or the “eco movement” is exaggerated propaganda, generated by those who stand to make a lot of cheddar from brainwashing us into believing that we’ve either already destroyed the planet or are very close to doing so.
In your travels, speaking and writing about emergency preparedness, what are some of the most common pitfalls you’ve seen people fall into as they get started with prepping?
The biggest pitfalls are found between the ears of the novice prepper/survivalist. Prepping requires a fundamental paradigm shift in your thinking and a certain level of commitment. You’re never really “done” prepping. A lot of people get all fired up at the beginning, but eventually, the enthusiasm starts to wear off… After a while you convince yourself that maybe you were over-reacting or being too “alarmist”. You start making excuses and rationalizations… It costs too much money… Takes up too much of my time… It’s too depressing/upsetting thinking about it all the time… I’m sure it’ll never get that bad anyway anyway… Then the next thing you know, you’ve gone back to sleep. I know this because I went through that cycle a few times myself, early on.
Another problem is getting too overwhelmed, thinking that you have to do everything all at once. This can either make you neurotic and obsessive or it can become so big and insurmountable in your mind that it defeats you all together. You just have to pace yourself and remember that prepping is a process, not an end result. It’s a way of life, not a project or a task to be finished within a particular time frame. Be realistic in your goals and don’t over-extend yourself. A year’s worth of food and a stockpile of guns, ammo and gear will do you no good if you can’t make your mortgage, rent or car payments.
Another common phenomenon is “selective prepping”. That’s when you go through phases where you only focus on the particular facet of preparedness that you’re most interested in at the time. Then, when your interest wanes in one area, you jump to something else and fetish over that for a while. The result of this is that you end up with large gaps in your preps. Not everything about preparedness is exciting, or even terribly interesting, but it’s all important. You really have to take a balanced, holistic approach and make sure you cover all the bases… Not just the fun, interesting parts.
Do you see a distinct difference between those who call themselves preppers versus those who prefer the term survivalists?
I don’t get hung up on labels, but I see people who think there’s a distinct difference between the two… In the course of my work, I encounter a fair number of folks who are quick to point out that they’re “preppers” and not “survivalists” (as though one label is more legitimate than the other). I’ve had people tell me that they don’t want to be associated with the magazine just because it says “survivalist” on the cover! Never mind that the actual content of the magazine is all-inclusive. (our next issue will be all about self-reliance and homesteading). It can be a little insulting sometimes when people have this attitude… It’s kinda like saying; “I may be nuts, but I’m not as crazy as you…”
In my opinion, it’s largely a matter of semantics. If you’re learning skills and engaging in practices that will help you stay alive in the event of a disaster, or some other kind of duress… then guess what? You’re a survivalist.
Of course, there are differences. Your typical suburban prepper-mom may not be adept at say, bushcraft, or wilderness survival, but she is a type of survivalist none the less. And someone like me, who can live for extended periods of time in the wilderness may not be great at growing crops and raising animals, but it’s all survivalism… Whether it’s prepping, homesteading, bushcraft, wilderness survival or whatever, they’re all aspects of the same creature and it’s all important to know. People shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss certain skills and knowledge just because they choose to call themselves “this” instead of “that”.
It’s funny that the stereotype that most people are trying to avoid – the dark, disturbed, lone-wolf, Rambo type – doesn’t even really exist, except in the movies and survivalist fiction. In all my years, I’ve never met a true survivalist who fits that description… Of course, I’ve met plenty idiots who aspire to that stereotype, and like to carry a big knife and talk a big game (even if they don’t have a clue of what they’re talking about), but that’s different… Maybe someone should tell them that it was only a movie.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
Well, I’ve been so busy keeping all the wheels in motion with the magazine, radio show and conference planning, I haven’t had time to think of much else…
Personally, I’m planning on finding some rural property up in New Hampshire and get my homestead on… But other than that, maybe you should ask me after the conference is over!
We’d like to thank Ed for spending some time with us here at Survival Weekly. We would encourage all of you to check out Survivalist Magazine and consider attending what promises to be THE survival conference of the year!