Friday, January 18, 2013

Nine Meals ... Make Mine Local

We're kind of behind the times. We gave up commercial television around 2007, and gave up the television altogether not long after that. But we've kept a Netflix account, and recently we've been exploring some of the instant play television (sans commercials) offerings. At the moment, we're working our way through the apocalyptic drama Jericho.

Not living in a cave or under a rock, I'd heard some rumblings about the show while it was on the air, but it certainly isn't what I thought. I guess, what I heard was that it was about a community that had been shut-off from the rest of the world - the implication being that they were led to believe something had happened that hadn't, and like Jim Carrey's character in The Truman Show, they were kept from getting too far away from their town's borders - like an experiment rather than a catastrophic TEOTWAWKI event. The commentaries were all about the espionage aspect of the show, in particular with regard to the character Robert Hawkins.

While there is that spy aspect of the show, it doesn't seem to be true that only Jericho has been affected. It does, indeed, seem that the rest of the world has fell victim to whatever tragedy befell the good people of Jericho.

I am, personally, less interested in the spy stuff and all of the ridiculous fighting and shooting, and more interested in how they are surviving ... or failing to. I'm particularly interested in their struggles to heat their homes and their difficulty with finding food.

A lot of things bother me about the show, and I do, often, have to suspend my disbelief. Some of the story lines are inconsistent and/or implausible. Sometimes the time lines don't work out for me.

But what bothers me the most, and it's probably the one thing that is likely to be the most accurate, has to do with the lack of preparedness of the characters in the story. There probably aren't very many people in this world who have prepared, with alternative energy systems, for a breakdown of the electricity grid. There aren't a lot of people who have stored water, and even fewer who have some sort of food storage. There are probably even fewer people who are prepared to spend a winter in a cold climate without electricity or oil to heat their homes - or even just some basic knowledge of ways to stay warm with only a fireplace for heat (which could be plenty of heat, if they knew to use small space heating techniques).

Those are the kinds of things that bother me about the program, and about our society, in general.

I read a very disturbing article today. It was disturbing, not because I don't know that it's possible, but disturbing because even though everyone knows, so few people prepare.

The article entitled Nine Meals Away from Anarchy talks about our food delivery system and the fact that a kink in any one of the three steps of the system could send our food availability into a tailspin.

In fact, according to the article, that's exactly what happened in the UK in 2000, when an increase in fuel taxes resulted in a truck-driver initiated blockade. The first day, according the article, there was a run on gasoline stations. The second day, there was a run on grocery stores. The third day, things got ugly.

Recently, food shortages in Greece resulted in what is being called "The Potato Revolution." Sacks of potatoes were offered straight from the farmer to the consumer, for a fraction of the price people would pay at the grocery store. It is attributed with being the thing that has kept the Greek people from starving.

A mass terrorist attack during which most of the major cities in the US are destroyed by nuclear bombs delivered in U-Haul trucks is unlikely, but we are in the midst of one of the worst droughts our country has seen since the 1930s, vast swaths of our mid-western farmland have been innudated with flood waters, and megastorms have caused massive property damage and created bottlenecks in our delivery systems.

Maybe we don't get cut off from the rest of the world, forced to fend for ourselves and hopeful that, either our neighbors were better prepared than we, or that the truck rumbling through our streets really is the National Guard come to rescue us, but maybe, little inconveniences, like a three-day winter storm in Tennessee and Kentucky that blocks traffic on I-75 which runs from Florida to Michigan, and I-40, which runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, become even more common. With truck transport being the key way food travels across the country, a blocked Interstate could cause some serious problems.

And what's more, such an event is not one of our adrenaline fueled apocalyptic fantasies come true, but rather a nightmarish, real possibility.

Unlike Jericho, we'd certainly be able to weather (pun intended) events like the blocking of traffic for a few days during a snowstorm, but if those kinds of events become more common (as most scientists are predicting they will), how long would it take for late deliveries to become the norm rather than the exception?

If they happened tomorrow, how confident would you be that you and your family could survive the winter without the benefit of a weekly trip to the grocery store?


  1. Wends - I thinks your comments are appropriate. None of our neighbors are prepared for a long siege. Some of them have generators, but that's about it. When SANDY his us in NJ we were off the grid for 9 + days. Some folks at the shore are still without power. The generators were running full time and neighbors were scurrying back and forth to the gas station to fill up the gas cans. There are a few of us in the area with solar power, but it only works with battery back-up when the grid is down. We have that We had enough food = water from our well - hot water for showers when the sun was out with our solar hot water system. We had lights and heat from our fireplace. 36 years ago we planted a bunch of trees in the backyard that we are now harvesting for fire-wood. We realize we would need to have an additional food supply. We're in our mid-80's so a garden is out of the question. There are some of us out in suburbia who understand the coming problems. (I read your book last year and thought it was excellent.) Contrary to popular belief, solar power works and pays for itself. Appreciate your columns. Regards, Russ Day

  2. We have a lot of beans stocked up, and all of my home canned goods, which I think would take us through quite a bit of what is left of winter. But, we rely heavily on our winter CSA for many root veggies and storage crops that I haven't been able to successfully grow and store. I love that Jericho show though, and I wish it hadn't been cancelled :-) I watched it through Netflix as well.

  3. Wendy - think you are right on. No-one is prepared for a winter without fuel and food. Have your book on surviving the suburbs and it lays the problem out fairly well. Here in NJ we went thru SANDY - many folks at the shore lost their homes. Many still without power. If that happened to all of us it would be a national disaster. We were lucky we lost a few trees and were without power for 9+ days. We have solar with battery back-up so survived with some lights, well water and the freezer okay. Also had hot showers on sunny days from the solar hot water system. T^he fireplace insert helped. Most of our neighbors have generators and they were scurrying forth and fro looking for gas and food. I hate to anticipate the turmoil should there be a nationwide disaster. You are living the actual that the rest of us should be emulating. Keep up the fight. Russ Day

  4. I enjoyed the first season of the show, though I never finished the second.
    I found it to be totally accurate in the way people are not prepared today. When I try to talk to people about preparedness, they look at me like I have three heads or something. By and large I've given up, though every now and again, someone actually does start to stock up and work on preparedness.
    It's disturbing that most folks only keep three days worth of food in their houses. Mind boggling, in fact. Thanks for sharing the article.

  5. I think this is one reason I love living in Arizona...if worse came to worse we could do without utilities without freezing to death...and we would be hot in the summer but it wouldn't kill us. In the scheme of things it is just not that hard to be prepared for six months...I don't know why more people don't do it.

  6. Trust, Greed, Big Government, Corporations, Media & Culture
    Too many folks trust our Government which encourages dependency. Many folks who take advantage of these programs do so because they feel entitled because some of them at one time or other paid taxes and they want their fair share. Corps & Media go hand in hand to market their products for big profits. They emphasize quick, easy and entertaining. Those people who are dependent savor quick and easy even though they have the time to do things from scratch. The American culture is dying because of all of this. On the other hand many of us feel a moral obligation to help those who are experiencing difficult times. Unfortunately, big government with all of its laws, rules, regulations and rhetoric make it sound as if the way they dispense the taxpayers money is because of their personal moral obligations. Until our economy collapses and there is nothing left to hand out only then will these dependent people learn responsibility.

  7. I love Jericho. :) we are fortunate to live in Tx and I have a year around growing season, so coupled with our food animals, hunting and fish from our pond, we would be great food wise. We do have some food storage. We heat and cook with wood, and have been thankful for the woodstove during power outages (which can be frequent in our rural area) and the rare ice storm. I would miss cow milk if I could not get to the dairy, though I do have powdered and we have milk goats. I believe we could thrive for a long time.