Growing up on the prairies in central Canada (13 in Winnipeg, 21 in rural Manitoba), one’s body (and mind) became accustomed to extremely harsh winters. It was, and will remain, a threat unlike any other I’ve faced. In fact, Winnipeg is regarded as the coldest city on earth with 500,000 inhabitants or more. Winter lasts 5-6 months of the year – from mid-November through early-to-mid-April. Temperatures regularly reached -30-degrees Celsius, with some every winter hitting -40. That wasn’t yet factoring in something on the wide-open spaces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and eastern Alberta called “wind-chill.” It was a regular occurrence for the meteorologist on the evening news to mention “It’s -33, -48 with the wind-chill.” The strong winds went unimpeded across the province due to the landscape. It was, as my Costa Rican wife says, simply brutal. Exposed skin could freeze in a minute or less. Frostbite was a thing. A furnace dying became an imperative, same-day panic. Your car breaking down on the side of an isolated roadway in a blizzard could be life-threatening.
Yet, people adapt. Bodies adapt. Manitobans are known for being tough, resourceful, resilient..and hard…but warm people. You learn to bond together. In a survival context, you learn a ton of methods that become simply daily-living. What to wear. How to drive or re-calibrate your summer driving. How long to be out or outdoors. What to pack or bring. How to prepare. Hell, I remember warming myself up when chilled or stranded at times using my mind. Willing myself warm. Regulating my breathing and warming extremities with thought on days where it was almost unbearable. Imagine, too, the added desperation and survival-need this climate brings (or changes) for street criminals, the homeless, lower-class subcultures, and the changes in violence-dynamics that it could bring.
Here, Costa Ricans are always shocked by my ability to adapt to the hot climate here as there perception is often that Canada is a winter-wonderland 365/24/7. At the beach, it gets to 40-degrees Celsius here and it doesn’t affect me particularly much. Back home, we had 35 in summer as well, a dry Prairie heat with a hot wind. That’s a 75-degree shift in the weather that the body has to adjust and become acclimatized to. No small feat when you think about it and an amazing capability of the human anatomic wonder. The body has an amazing built-in climate-adaptor on top of everything else. Having been in CR for 9 years now, reflection gives insight and has made me look back in amazement at how profound that really is for people that live there for a lifetime. People in this culture simply cannot imagine or fathom what it’s like to live in that climate. In that terrain. With those particular dangers. Really, innate survival-skillsets are limitless….and unlike what many will tell you, most often enough. Human physiology, adaptation, and evolution is a marvel. They’ve gotten us this far long before systemized combat systems became a thing.
In hindsight, 2 things to be gleaned from this:
- Growing up in that environment shaped who I am today. It gave a certain resilience, toughness, and adaptability that is reflective in my outlook, my training methodology, and my perception over the holistic sphere of self-preservation
- When we talk about “environment” being such a factor in counter-violence and personal safety, that “environment” is most often reflected in class of upbringing, level of violence exposure, nature/nurture, quality of life, risk-assessment…..and justifiably. However, that “environment” that shapes us into who we are can also refer greatly to climate, Mother Nature, greater environmental dangers, and the survival tools and skillsets we cultivate from the above, specific to that environment.
- I am not unique or rare because of this. Quite the contrary, everyone has their adaptive environments that cultivate specialized and niche areas of survival-culture. Exactly the point. How do yours transfer to your personal mind-body personal-safety arsenal? Think on it for a time, bet you’ll come up with some things you weren’t consciously aware you possessed…