We tend to think of the word “survival” as applying to events of a particularly catastrophic nature: a tsunami, a nuclear holocaust, a plane crash, or perhaps a brazen decision that an extra few spoonfuls of habanero chilli sauce couldn’t possibly hurt.
This way of thinking is well illustrated by our apocalyptic cover image.

The survival skills you’ll read about in our cover story (page 50) will take you through many of the disasters, big and small, that threaten our fragile existence.

But simply making it through a perfectly ordinary working day can require survival skills for which our modern existence simply doesn’t prepare us adequately.

For instance, while catching some last-minute Cape Town Cycle Tour training on my way to the office, I realised that you need the vision and reflexes of a hunter gatherer combined with the preternatural calm of a meditating yogi to anticipate that the SUV driver approaching on your left from a freeway offramp will look you in the eye and, although you have right of way, will – without reducing speed – dart across you, waving apologetically while you grab huge fistfuls of brake and nearly perform a stoppie. I am guessing about the wave, because the gesture was largely obscured by the Baby On Board placard in the rear window. But then, to we road bikers, managing brushes with death becomes second nature.

Which provides a neat if thoroughly illogical segue into our big local feature this month, The Nature of Things (page 34). Biomimicry suggests that some of the brightest ideas are to be found all around us: ants, leaves and the flow of water all have lessons for us. It’s still quite a new discipline and some enterprising, innovative South Africans are right on top of it.

On the subject of enterprise and innovation, I might as well give you some advance warning that Popular Mechanics will soon be launching a campaign to seek out, highlight and encourage bright young minds. We’ve dabbled with this kind of thing before, at times not entirely successfully, but we believe the campaign we plan to put into action soon will expose a whole new generation to the ideas that we here find so endlessly fascinating (often ideas that
involve items that are big, loud and excessively fast, it must be said).

Finally, and this is probably the thing we’ve done in the past month that has forced us to dig deepest into our suitcase of survival skills*, Popular Mechanics – in fact, all of RamsayMedia – has moved on. After many years negotiating an increasingly labyrinthine old-school building in the heart of thatch-roofed suburbia, we have cut the last remaining visible ties (apart from the name) with the founder of this great company. Although our move was just up the road, we’ve entered a different world: our new location lies in an industrial zone. Suddenly, this feels a whole lot more like work. Worst of all: that good espresso at the shopping mall is a whole lot further away.

But we’ll survive.