DR: Team Human is an ad-free community effort supported by real people like Uri Getman, Pablo van Wetton, Jen Valladon, Kevin Boehner, Shannon Watson and, hopefully, you. If you’re not already a supporter, please consider joining the team by going to teamhuman.fm, and clicking on Support. You’ll get access to all sorts of cool stuff, the Team Human archives, our occasional bonus episodes and interviews with people from my past, or old talks or even new talks and things that I’m doing now. You’ll get access to our Discord channel, and Team Human salons. We’re also starting a new kind of episode that teammates will get to play along with, where we’re doing Q&A sessions and discussions in our salon that we’re going to be turning into episodes, so please consider joining Team Human. You’ll also get free links to my weekly media columns that are otherwise trapped behind the medium paywall and, most of all, you’ll get that great feeling of knowing that you are contributing to making Team Human happen.
DR: Thanks, everybody, for supporting this work. You’re the Team Human consciousness intervention in the machine. A chance to zig when everyone else is zagging. Embrace what’s coming, run into the burning building. Choose fun over fear. You’re not despair. You have found The Others. I’m Douglas Rushkoff, and you’re on Team Human.
LLB: From dry stone walling to laying hedges, whatever it is, you know, we’re at the cusp where so many of these skills will fall out of living memory. And so hopefully, now that we’ve got The Post Apocalypse School, we can really preserve these, and teach them, and secure them for future generations.
DR: Lisa will be showing us how learning to prepare for the worst may just give us the resilience we need to avoid the apocalypse altogether. It’s time to intervene on behalf of the people. I’m Douglas Rushkoff, and we’re all on Team Human.
DR: Okay, guys, I’m trying something new. If you pre-order a copy of my new book Survival of the Richest: escape fantasies of the tech billionaires, I will send you a signed personalised book plate for you to put in there when the book arrives. I won’t be doing a lot of appearances for this book. So it’s definitely the easiest and maybe the only way to get an autographed copy of the book inscribed to you personally or to anyone you choose. Just order the book and take a screenshot of your order page or forward your email receipt to me at email@example.com – that’s firstname.lastname@example.org – along with your address, and who you want the book signed to, and I’ll sign a beautiful acid-free beige cardstock self-sticking Norton bookplate and mail it to you for insertion in your copy of Survival of the Richest when it arrives. So pre-order Survival of the Richest, send a copy of the order page, your address, and who you want the book sign to, to email@example.com. It’ll be cool.
DR: I overheard a couple of high school students talking this morning about their college options. And heard one of them say “I don’t think I’m going to apply to Grinnell anymore”. And the other one said, “Yeah, Rice. Rice is in Texas. Screw them.” They were they were looking at the map of US states that are either implementing, or likely to implement, bans on abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. And the kids were eliminating schools within imperilled states from their lists of college application candidates. And there’s other folks I know who were, you know, they’re looking at moving from red states to blue states or out of the United States all together. One writer friend of mine said they’re thinking of going to Canada, that they were going to go when Trump was elected, but they didn’t want to lose hope and, now that Roe v Wade was overturned, they’re just gonna go. He doesn’t want to raise his daughter in a country like this. And I get that. I mean it yes, like America is moving backwards, because we used to pretty much lead the world in granting at least certain human rights. And now we are the sole outlier amongst developed nations. We’re the only ones in the G7 that deny a national rights to abortion. And let’s not even get into our unique and ever-worsening denial of national health care, or our inability to deny weapons to those who shouldn’t even be carrying them.
DR: So I get it. I get all this. It sucks. But I don’t know that retreat is the answer, especially for those of us who have the privilege of doing so. I mean, I’m not I’m not bragging about it, I got an opportunity, right when Trump was elected that very week, I got an opportunity to move to Canada. And it was to do this really cool kind of artist in residence thing that may have been a lifelong opportunity. And I turned it down, and I may not have otherwise, but I turned it down right then, because it felt unethical to me to have enjoyed everything America offered – I got to go to college and a good high school and I got a writing career – only to bail because things were getting rough. And who am I leaving behind? Right? So I can see the logic in boycotting schools or refusing to take jobs in states that ban abortion. It could put a certain kind of pressure on state legislatures, you know, that if they succumb to theocratic rule, then conducting business is gonna get increasingly hard, that you got to stay at least maybe 100 years or less behind global human rights standards in order to be successful. That’d be a cool thing to teach states.
DR: But I can see why young people don’t want to go to a college, you know, and spend their first couple of years of adulthood, so to speak, without full access to reproductive health care. But, you know, most college kids will retain access to abortion pills, or if they’re going to college, they’re going to be able to travel back home or somewhere else to get health care. There’s better options than retreat for those of us who are deeply concerned about the impact of abortion bans on people in red states who can’t afford to pay for illegal care. And by illegal care, I mean, like, just watch the rates of DNC procedures for removal of what they’ll list is like abnormal tissue, just watch those rates go up for the wealthy over the coming years, as abortion is more and more illegal. Now, I think that the colleges, they’re probably the place to be, a college in a red state, that’s going to be most likely a central organising hub for political action or practical assistance as the state’s ban reproductive health care. If I were a socially motivated young person looking at colleges today, I like to think I’f choose not to retreat, but to advance, you know, what better opportunity to do something constructive in this environment than to organize transportation or van service for women who need procedures in legal states, or education about what zygotes really are, or constructive conversations between those with opposing views.
DR: It may not be instinctual to run into a burning building to save the people inside, but we are not there yet. And there’s many of us still in a position to assist others at virtually no risk to ourselves. I’m not talking about an underground railroad here, but an overground public demonstration of political support and practical aid. In short, if you have the option of alternatives, then you also have the means to offer them to those who don’t.
DR: I’m really delighted to bring you today’s guest, a remarkable artist, activist, communitarian, and educator, except all of those labels diminish what she’s achieved. Lisa Lovebucket is all that. But she seems to do it all through the course of simply living her life. It’s as if she performs life itself as an expression of social practice and change-making. Her current project, something I was thinking to start myself and then found by searching for it, is called The Post Apocalypse School of Teesside. And it’s exactly what it sounds like: the ultimate prep school. And I’ll let her describe it to you, as she did to me. It’s not about building bunkers, but leaning into a more resilient future.
DR: Hi, Lisa Lovebucket. It’s great to meet you.
LLB: It’s wonderful to meet you. And thank you so much for getting me on, on such short notice.
DR: Oh, gosh, thanks for coming on, on such short notice. As long as we have a moment, you know, I don’t know how much you know about the show. I don’t generally do like good interviews. I’ve just talked with people, which is just as much for my own peace of mind. I was gonna say enrichment, but I’m over-enriched at this point. I’m really trying to feel okay about my own role and my future and where we’re going and what we’re doing; and trying to orient myself to an increasingly wobbly reality. And when I saw about The Post Apocalypse School of Teesside, that your founding, I felt a great, great sense of relief. I mean, my own daughter is about to go off to college, and she’ll go to some regular school and I keep offering her, you know, if you wanted instead of going to college, you could just learn permaculture, you could, I’m happy to teach you foraging or something that will actually be useful in your future. I’m wondering how the idea for a Post Apocalypse School came up and kind of how you how you started out.
LLB: It started last year when my son went to a weekend of events at our local primary school that was held by David Sims, a former head teacher and a former scoutmaster. And, at some point, he realised exactly what you’re saying, that he wasn’t teaching kids anything that they needed to know. And so he quit all that. And also he wasn’t reaching the kids that he wanted to reach. You know, the kind of kids that he wanted to teach weren’t the kind that were going to put on a uniform and salute a flag. So he set up his own organisation called Sylvan Lore, which means ‘wisdom of the woods’. So he teaches kids foraging and archery and fire-making and shelter-building, and water purification, all the skills that are really good fun right now, but may save their lives over the years to come.
LLB: So I absolutely loved what he was doing. And I approached him with the idea of adapting that to the urban environment. I have another organisation called Arts Lab Teesside, and we started really thinking about the apocalypse, like you say, permaculture – I know a lot of people that are growing their own. They’ve got allotments, they’re self-sufficient, but I say to them, so what are you going to do post-apocalypse, because you’re going to be the first to die. Because all those people that haven’t been doing this, all of these years, are going to turn up, kill you, and steal everything. So then we had to think, you know, it’s not good enough to grow your own, you need to be able to defend it, you need to be able to do hand-to-hand combat, sword-fighting, you need to be able to make bows and arrows, you know, you’ve got to be able to defend yourself. You’ve got to find the right place.
DR: Wow. So they’re learning that too, all these Hunger Games sorts of skills.
LLB: Obviously, some of it’s quite tricky to teach, like, you know, the picking locks and breaking into places and blowing stuff up and killing stuff. So that’s got to be taught in virtual reality for now. And then, and obviously, again, the thing is, like, we want it to be eventually a 24/7 urban space. That’s a cashless society that anyone can walk up to anytime day or night, and there’ll be stuff happening there. And we want it to appeal to people of all generations. You know what it’s like when you’re going out, if you’ve got three generations, often someone’s compromising, not everybody’s doing what they want to do. This will be a place where somebody can find everything, you know, if you want to learn spear-fishing, and axe-throwing, or if you want to learn macrame and crochet, whatever you want to learn, you’ll be able to learn it there.
DR: But I think the more people who know how to forage and spear-fish and permaculture their cauliflower, then the fewer people will have to know Krav Maga right?
LLB: Yeah, absolutely. So shen I first came up with the idea, it was, the idea that it could be almost immersive theatre. So, you join the school, you’re assigned a team of eight people. And that’ll be a team of different ages, different abilities. And between you, you have to learn all the skills. So then the graduation, like your final exam, there’ll be two – there’ll be one in the virtual reality, where you’re blowing all this stuff up, and, you know, killing zombies on fence duty. But on the other, you’re just gonna be dumped in a bit of wasteland. And you’ve got two days to get from one side to the other. The whole team has to get there otherwise nobody graduates. So you might have somebody who has mobility issues, so you might need to wrangle a horse, or you might need to hotwire a car, or you might need to fashion a stretcher, whatever it is, wherever you need to do to get to one side to the other. And that’s why we’re teaching things like British Sign Language, because if there’s a great big zombie horde there, and your team’s here, you need to silently communicate what you need to do to get past that zombie horde.
DR: All right, because they they’re attracted to sound.
LLB: They are in the movies.
DR: Right, but I mean, zombies are not the main problem in a in a true, I mean, a true post apocalypse is not necessarily something that looks like The Road, you know, where there’s nothing there, where nothing at all is working. But by apocalypse, I think what we mean is just the kind of the collapse of the long supply chain, industrialized civilisation, that we live in, a world where cash won’t get you baby formula at the shopping mall.
LLB: Yeah, absolutely. Are you aware of a book called The Knowledge by Lewis Dartnell? So this is really key book. At the beginning, he considers all different types of ways that the apocalypse might come about. And that’s climate change, and viruses, civil unrest, riots, whatever it is, he considers what the starting point may be, and therefore what we need to know. And at the School, the idea is that we’ll have like a BA and an MA. So, for the BA, we can just teach people how to pickle food – you know, there’s some food, there’s some pickling fluid, there’s the jar, here’s how you put all that together. But in the MA, there’s nothing. So we’ve got a glassblower. So you make your jars. We’ve got somebody who can fashion a vacuum seal. We’ve got somebody who can teach us how to make pickling fluid. And of course, you can have to grow your own food to pickle in the first place. Right?
DR: It reminds me of you know, Jim Kunstler wrote these novels, the World Made by Hand novels. It’s a series of books about, you know, he doesn’t really explain exactly what sort of nuclear thing happened, but everybody’s depending on themselves, and some things they can figure out, like, you know, basic irrigation, and how to make candles and how to grow alternatives to wheat. Because the wheat, you know, people were having trouble growing wheat in whatever was left at the topsoil. And some things they couldn’t figure out, you know, your biodiesel wasn’t quite working for them. You know, there’s some things that you need real knowledge to figure out how to do, or how to make electricity or engines or high hydraulics and all. How high tech are you getting people in this? What are they? In other words, how industrial do they do they get?
LLB: Yeah, this is interesting, isn’t it? Because, I mean, one of the things I like about The Post Apocalypse School of Teesside, is the acronym is The PAST. So it’s almost like, are we gonna go back to pre-industrialisation? Are we going to be living in the woods, you know, scavenging? Or is there going to be technology left? And if so, can we make it usable? So a bunch of guys – if you’re out there listening, Teesside Hackspace – I haven’t visited yet, but I really want to go and see them. So it’s this amazing place in in Middlesbrough, where, if you’ve got any kind of electronic equipment, if it’s broken down, you take it along there, and they teach you how to fix it. It’s a bunch of old engineers that are now taking stuff that doesn’t work anymore, and making it usable. So that’s it, you know, it’d be great to think that we can take old technology and still use it, you know, even after the apocalypse, some of it anyway, it’s tricky.
DR: We have we have a repair cafe here in my town, and there’s a repair movement, really, you know, but mostly it’s people fixing, you know, a toaster or a radio, you know, try fixing a car that’s made after you know, the year 2000. It’s computers, you know, there’s no points and plugs.
LLB: Really difficult to hotwire as well, because, you know, in the old days, you could just hotwire it, you know, siphon off the tanks and off you go, but it’s more complicated these days.
DR: Oh, much more, you know, they’re all calling home, you know, and talking to Central Command on whether they should start or not. It’s the other network. It’s different.
LLB: But then again, we have some local guys that – another hat that I wear, it’s The Creative Arts Recruitment Squad, basically finding new people and forcing them into the arts. And we have, we have this band, it’s a 3-piece easy listening band, three guys over 80 years old. And they happened to hear about The Post Apocalypse School of Teesside. So it turns out one of them, he’s amazing, it’s like, he can get most of the meat off a pheasant in 10 seconds. You know, just going in through the neck. It’s incredible. And, and he’s a brilliant trout fisher. I know. Sorry, vegetarians, vegans. But you might have to think about that post-apocalypse, because let’s face it, we’re not going to be farming en masse. And the other guy is like a survival expert. Like he’s been teaching survival skills for people for decades. So they’re now part of the faculty. At our last session, Lester taught us survival first aid. He showed us how to cut off the blood supply to his arm. And you know, taught us how long that he could survive, that arm would survive, and be intact, and how long we could cut off the supply for, so I think the thing is, there are, I think, between us, we perhaps already have most of the skills we need to survive. It’s just that bringing it together. And that realisation of it, and the realisation that there is a legitimate need to be thinking about this.
DR: Yeah, I mean, the interesting thing to me is, I mean, we use the word ‘survive’ a lot and ‘post-apocalypse’ a lot. But it’s the very same skills that could just be looked at as sustainable. And apocalypse avoidant? In other words, I’ve said this often, the same things that we would learn to survive an apocalypse, are the very behaviours that could prevent the need for an apocalypse.
LLB: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, this is the idea. It’s like, we’re teaching people how to lead self-sufficient, sustainable lives now. And you know, if there’s no apocalypse, then absolutely brilliant. And perhaps if enough people learn those skills, that will help to ward off quite a few of the apocalyptic scenarios that are on the table right now.
DR: You would think so. I mean, we certainly become a whole lot less brittle as a society if people know how to grow food, or forage, or take care of themselves, or do their first aid, then if there is a shock to the system, if there’s an earthquake or a Fukuyama, or whatever bad thing happens, or a weather change, then at least you’ve got, if you have 70-80% of people who know how to take care of themselves and their neighbours, when a shock like that comes, then you don’t get the social unrest, you don’t have people looting and running around with guns, you know, it doesn’t have to tip into that, that awful place that my billionaires were so concerned about. You know, they look at the event as this tipping point, this moment that they get on the helicopter and get to their Navy SEAL protected facility. And it’s like, no, it’s like when you think of it in those binary ways, then well, yeah, sure, the only the only possible choices is apocalypse. But if we can think about more in terms of, how do we respond to each of these stresses, you know, as the stresses grow, perhaps it doesn’t have to be terminal like that?
LLB: No, absolutely not. And I think that’s really the key focus, isn’t it? Because we don’t want to be living in The Road or in Mad Max. We want to be able to cope, be able to survive, and even for art and literature to survive. Because, for me, the kind of a bedrock of civilization from, you know – well music for me is the dawn of human consciousness. So that’s the other thing. We’re learning how to make instruments. We’re learning how to make paper, we’re learning how to make books, artists’ charcoal, you know, so not only is it an idea of ‘this is how we survive an apocalypse’’ but this is how we can rebuild a new civilisation on a much lesser scale. Because all the great civilisations who were like, you know, this is what Team Human doesn’t seem to be learning right now: that all great civilisations fall, and they fall – exactly as you’re saying about these billionaires – they fall when wealth equality gets so extreme that it inherently collapses. I mean, I’m sure there’s great civilisations out there that we might not even have discovered in the deepest jungle, that have been existing as they are for 1000s of years. For me that that’s the great civilisation. And we need to be thinking about that. It doesn’t always have to be global. It doesn’t always have to be on this full-on scale. And, you know, I mean, I think it’s, you know, all power to the billionaires and their escape plans, but I don’t care how beautiful your bunker is – if you can’t leave it, it’s a prison.
DR: Right. And if you don’t know how to grow sustainably inside it, I mean, I saw the plans for one of them. The guy’s got this heated, domed swimming pool in there. And I’m like, where are you going to get parts for your filtration system, you know, it’s like a heated swimming pool is not the kind of thing that you can maintain without a factory. What are you going to 3D print your things, and where are you going to get the goop for that? They’re not really thinking through the respiration of these systems. They’re thinking of them as, oh, well, if I could just stay in there for you know, 30 years, then I’ll be okay. Good luck with that. Thirty years is a long time. It’s like, there’s still air and groundwater, and germs, and hordes of people and angry Navy SEALs who aren’t getting what they want. It’s like, this doesn’t just doesn’t work. Who’s gonna do the work, you know?
LLB: This what gets me. I mean, are they breathing servants in there already? Because, come the apocalypse, when money means nothing, why is anyone going to do their work for them?
DR: Right. That was what they kept asking: how do I keep control of my security force after my money’s worthless? Like, you can’t! You can’t do it. Unless they’re your friends. That’s what I said. I joked to them – pay for their daughter’s Bar Mitzvahs now, you know.
LLB: I came up with this idea for like a science fiction short story some time ago, but I’m sure there’s some of them out there that are breeding servants in captivity, that don’t know there’s an outside world, and only know their quarters because that’s the only way you’re gonna really…
DR: They’re cloning robots. They’re hoping for robots to get there in time. So the people who come to the School now, do they have a wide kind of economic and social class background? Are they mostly, you know, like, children of the wealthy maker, Rudolf Steiner?
LLB: No, this is Teesside. It’s an invisible land to most people. Somewhere between – where might you know – north of York, it’s between York and Newcastle. Okay. So south, quite a little bit more south than Scotland, that’s probably the best I can describe. It’s absolutely beautiful. It was, I mean, steel was its big industrial heritage. You know, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is built of Teesside steel. But obviously, that’s all gone. There’s a lot of poverty, there’s a lot of deprivation. I think only Liverpool rivals Teesside for deprivation. And so, with it being outside a kind of art space presently, you know, I mean, we do get some quite well to do people, but no, most of us are just ordinary people living ordinary lives. And we’re not, we’re not focusing on kids. So anyone of any age, can learn these skills. You know, I don’t think that there’s any age that you get to where you don’t want to play with fire.
DR: Oh, yeah.
LLB: But we do we, I mean, you know, we really want to reach the kids that at the moment are considered to be, you know, a plague on society. You know, these kids, it’s like, as you say, it’s like, they’re condemned for just staring at their devices all the time but then, if they’re out in the park after dark, then they’re a social problem. But you know, that’s the point of the School: come to us, and, you know, smash things and burn things. You know, if you want to burn things, do you know five different ways to create fire, you know, in different weather conditions? You know, how do you do it in windy conditions? Like, come here, if you want to learn, if you want to start fires, we’ll teach you how to really have some in-depth knowledge on starting fires. Like, you know, kids carrying knives – you want to carry a knife? Come on, Meet Ken, he’s 83, he’ll teach you how to get most of the meat off a pheasant in 10 seconds. This is the skills that we need, right?
DR: Or how to fight with it, or how to sharpen it or anything.
LLB: Yeah. And we’ve got another Ken who teaches street smart self-defense. So obviously everybody there has to know how to disarm anybody with a knife if we, you know, let the kids loose in there. But I think this is this is the idea. It’s a social space where you can bring everyone together, and everyone can stop being so scared of one another. And everyone can work collectively. There’s an estate in Middlesborough called Easterside that had quite a lot of antisocial behaviour. And they went in there and they’ve started a boxing club. And it’s been absolutely brilliant for those kids. You know, it’s something that they actually want to engage with and it gives them that confidence. And they’re not going out and randomly starting fights in the street when they can go and be welcomed into that kind of contained environment and learn proper boxing skills. So, yeah, that’s part of what we’re doing.