Thursday, December 31, 2009

I'm a Prepper, He's a Prepper, She's a Prepper, We're a Prepper ... Wouldn't you like to be a Prepper, too?

Over at A Homesteading Neophyte Phelan had a link to this Newsweek article entitled "Survivalism Lite." Basically, the article brings to light the current "prepper" movement, of which, I guess, I am a part.

When I first started "prepping", it wasn't about getting ready, though. The goal was to reduce our cost of living so that we would have the freedom to choose our work ... or choose not to work at all (for money), if that's what we wanted. The goal was to create freedom through self-sufficiency, a la Dolly Freed and her father, the Old Fool.

What that meant was that we needed to be self-sufficient, at least to the degree that our living in the suburbs would allow. We would need to grow as much food as we could, generate as much of our own power as possible and/or reduce the amount of energy we use, and have our own water source. We would need to be as independent from the grid as we could afford to get. In doing so, we would reduce the amount of money we needed to survive. The goal was to change our lifestyle from being fully dependent on outside resources for our survival to providing for our own needs, and the way to do it was to simplify, conserve, recycle/reuse, and preserve - the exact kinds of things that today's preppers and yesterday's survivalists do.

Of course, then, I started reading about Peak Oil and climate change. And then, the economy started tanking and the housing market took a nose-dive, and the stock market has crashed more often than a test dummy over the last two years.

The movement, if that's what it really is, has reached the consciousness of the mainstream (I seem to recall that someone predicted the "survivalist movement" would go mainstream in 2010, but I don't remember who it was) thanks to the Newsweek article, and despite the fact that the comments were, almost overwhelmingly, negative and rude toward those with a survivalist mindset, there is a great deal of sense to doing, even a few small things, with preparedness in mind.

I have lived through several recessions in my lifetime, and twice there has been, not just a regional or national energy crisis, but a worldwide energy crisis - enough to get people worried and looking for alternatives. Back in the 70's, when it was not due to depletion, but politics, the goal was to become self-sufficient with regard to our energy needs as a nation so that we could avoid any future energy embargoes. If we didn't need their oil, they couldn't hold it over our heads.

But we seem to have rather short memories. Now, as then, almost as soon as the price of gasoline started dropping again, people went right back to their wasteful behaviors. It's like we took the Red Pill, but realized Reality Bites and decided to go back to our illusion, like Cypher.

The 1970's oil crisis started in 1972 as a political move by the OPEC nations, and in 1979 the political move seriously back-fired creating the oil glut of the 1980s. It was like this rollercoaster ride, and everything was really uncertain.

In this country we are heavily dependent on oil for everything from our day-to-day travel plans to thet food we put on the table (and make no mistake, if our diet includes anything from the grocery store except some local produce and dairy, our food is saturated with oil). Reducing the amount we, personally, drive or buying a car with better gas mileage or even heating our homes with alternative fuels won't insulate us from a future oil-related crisis.

Should our country's transportation network be crippled, we'd all be in a world of hurt, and there are a lot of things that can upset the transportation network ... things that have happened in the last decade.

Storms along the Gulf Coast have affected oil refineries and production, which caused some shortages in gasoline deliveries and runs on gas stations in the Atlanta area just last year.

Hurricane Gustav caused significant power outages in areas of Texas, where people had a hard time getting just basic supplies, like potable water.

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City closed down air transportation for three days.

Ice storms in 2008 and 2009 caused massive power outages across the northeast and all but crippled parts of Kentucky.

And the most consequential of all disasters is the economic collapse manifested in housing foreclosures, bank failures and rampant unemployment. If those people, who are today suffering under the weight of their massive debt, losing homes, and going to bed hungry, had been a little more of the "prepper", some of their problems would have been mitigated.

I can say this, because while we didn't lose our jobs, Deus Ex Machina and I did experience a significant reduction in pay during the first part of the year, but survived it, specifically because we were prepared.

And the December 2008 ice storm that hit the Northeast knocked out our power for four days, during which we stayed warm and cozy in our home with plenty of food and water. We even stayed clean and did the laundry. All of which was only possible, because we are prepared just in case.

It doesn't take TEOTWAWKI or the Apocalypse to create a "survival" situation. Nature and man are equally destructive and most of the time the things that happen we can not predict or control, but we can be ready, just in case.

It's not crazy, idiotic or weird to believe that life is often unpredictable. The power grid is fragile, and our food delivery system teeters on the brink of collapse all of the time (most people may not realize that the grocery store has to be restocked, constantly, and there's a maximum of three days of food available at any given time). Having a well with a hand-pump outside, a few chickens and rabbits in the backyard, a healthy garden, a generator in the garage, and a winter's supply of stored food just makes good sense.

We are a nation of Pioneers. Our ancestors prepared for the worst, prayed for the best, and they survived, because their priority was considering what might happen in an uncertain future and being ready for it.

The rest of us would do well to take their example.


  1. Great Matrix references!

  2. Well stated. On all fronts.

    I must say though, I feel really old now 'cause I get the title of this post.

  3. Wendy, I really enjoyed this post. I've been saying for a long time that we should have at least a bare minimum of storage and preparedness for emergencies. I made a solar oven out of boxes and plexiglass a few years ago and I try to drag it out each year at least once (admittedly, I want to use it more in summer months)...but the rest of my idea of "self sufficiency" and living more off the grid are all in my mind, awaiting the funds and our own house to implement them. Other than doing some gardening and cutting back on energy useage, I fear we are way too dependent upon the grid, and therefore vulnerable to all the craziness of our economy and society. The good news is that we are not particularly materialistically minded, and so we can do without much. Thanks for your post..I think it will help keep people like me (who want to do more and do better) motivated in the right direction!

  4. no see I got the title, and and I don't feel. . . well nevermind that.

    Thank you for the reminders wendy.

  5. The DH got into a conversation at work talking about the crazy way people hit the grocery stores at the first hint of snow. "Don't people have enough in their pantries to ride out a few days, let alone a week or so?" he asked.

    "What's a pantry?" the other person asked, not jokingly. "Who does that anymore?"


    I'm a piker as a prepper compared to you, but what kind of dope doesn't figure that once in a while, especially in New England, Life Will Happen and you won't be able to get to the store?

  6. 'We are a nation of Pioneers' - I like that. It's kind of the mindset I have, of the pioneers. When friends told me that my move to Minnesota would be crazy because it's too cold, my answer was: "The pioneers lived there, had families and survived with far fewer conveniences."

    To not prepare for the unexpected is shortsighted.

    Thanks for another great post, Wendy.

  7. I guess I hung out with too many Mormons (they stockpile food for all of the same reasons you do) and too many Alaskans...shoot, we couldn't go for a drive without our survival bucket...for the whole movement to see all that "new"!