Sunday, March 25, 2012

Doomsday Preppers

Anyone ever seen that show Doomsday Preppers? At first I thought it would be pretty hokey, but I watched a few episodes last night and it wasn't filled with crazies like I though it would; not completely anyway. Of course, that may only speak to my own craziness, given that I agree with the general principles these people are after: being prepared, being self sufficient, getting off the grid and mostly independant of society.

The first guy featured, living in Phoenix, had converted his swimming pool into a fish pond and aquaculture garden. He covered it over into a sort of greenhouse, and keeps hundreds of tilapia in the deep end pool, the rest of it being drained and full of vegetables. The water in this system is recycled, and much of the process depends on duckweek, your typical pond scum, which is great for the fish and chickens, and not bad as a protein shake either. Urban homesteading, right up my alley.

The guy was worried about a coronal mass ejection he thinks will occur this year, and has for him and his wife and two kids, gas masks and suits, stored food, bug-out bags, evacuation plans, etc. Pretty well thought out. There were many other people featured, many with a slant on defending their home, family, and stores, including one guy who was a little off the deep end, with his spider holes and special ops background. One hippie from the 60's bought an old missle silo and turned it into a pretty nice home, but also with food and water stores, the original barbed wire fences, security cameras, and an automatic rifle in the closet.

Which brings me to the point. I watched these shows with interest, but also with a bit of disagreement. These people have little faith. That whole thing about look not to the morrow. But I'm not really talking about religious faith, but the faith that things will be all right. It's a lesson I've learned in my own life, a sort of trust in the universe. That sounds naive, and I can't really help that... it is what it is. So let me supplement that view.

Some of these families had almost a year's worth of food and water stored in their basement caches, all this gear, and so forth. I'm very much for preparedness and such forward thinking is not lost on me, but, what if the issue isn't a coronal mass ejection, a huge economic collapse, or a nuclear winter (and who the hell really wants to survive a nuclear winter anyways?) but something you haven't planned for? What if your survival depends on abandoning your stores, bugging out for somewhere else? It would be hard to leave such an investment of time and money behind. This is called inertia. It's like how we all sort of know building suburbs is ruining the country, but how can we abandon 60+ years of investment and development? Psychologically, that's hard.

Furthermore, these people storing canned foods and manufactured ammunition and all this stuff, they're not becoming independent at all. They depend fundamentally on society by doing that, they haven't learned the real skills of survival. Some of the folks were growing food, true, but only one guy the show featured really took it to its logical endpoint. This guy lived in rural Maine, eats (fresh) roadkill, makes and uses simple but effective hunting weapons (throwing sticks, hatchets, bows), and is teaching his kids real survival skills.

This is real independence. I mean, what are you going to do when your canned goods run out, or some roving gang steals them? Naturally that last point is why all the guns, and I'm not against having something put aside, nor am I against guns; but I think it would be better to throw your time and energy into learning skills than on hard assets like food, ammo, and so forth. Carry your survival cache in your head, and you're truly free.

The rest depends, yes, on faith. Faith and luck. No one knows what the future might bring, what kinds of problems will come up. The most prepared can die from the smallest oversight, while the naive massman might just make it through. You can't plan for everything, and in the end, you know what they say: "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." Or if you prefer the more modern take, "if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans."

Flexibility, creativity, knowledge, and ability. These things are not widely developed these days, as people sleepwalk through their lives, doing their often menial jobs, watching TV, playing games on their iPhones, and generally not thinking about the big picture. We lock into a role and drift with it as long as possible, as long as the money is good and life is easy.

Think it can't happen here?
Lastly, I must mention cities. Cities to me feel like they'd be death traps should a sudden collapse come. They already roil with barely surpressed rage and desperation, the more so the larger the city. Who knows which way it would be directed in a catastrophe; I like to believe that in general, people would be good to each other and help one another out, but eventually, hunger and thirst will make people do terrible things. And with the general lack of real communities, again, the more so in the big cities, but also in the small towns, it might end up feeling like it's every man for himself. That's where you get your apocolyptic Hollywood flicks from.

Like, take grocery stores: they don't keep a lot of food in stock, thanks to "just in time deliveries" from far off places. The shelves could be emptied quickly by those who get their early. After that, what is a New Yorker, or Chicagoan, or Angelino to do? Try to trap the few remaining squirrels and songbirds? Doubtful. They're going to first try to grab what supplies they can, but generally you'll see people heading for the hills. Yet, how many will even know what to do once they get there? Think of the people living in Phoenix, there's no resources there, especially water, the most frightening limiting factor of all.

Personally, I doubt we're going to see a sudden catastrophe like many on this show predict or at least plan for. I think the system will fall, but will fall slowly, crumbling bit by bit. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, but also slower, because there will be many small, if insufficient supports and "solutions" to slow the descent.

But of course, you never know.


  1. "They say 'be prepared', but they never say for what."
    --Bob Dylan

  2. I referenced one of your quotes on my blog. Nice work here.

    1. Thanks Alyssa. Your blog is also pretty fine work. You're the real deal.