Pink Prepping: On pitching disaster readiness to women
February 6, 2016 12:53 PM   Subscribe

Lisa Bedford's "Survival Mom" blog, which aims to help women, and especially mothers, be ready for a myriad of possible disasters, is "part of the new accessible, female-oriented, and, crucially, logical face of prepping. Even that word — prepping — makes it sound like an extension of performing responsible motherhood: like scheduling your kid’s dentist appointments ahead of time or making sure to take get your Christmas card ready in October. ... [and] Bedford’s advice feels more and more common sense." Anne Helen Petersen, "What to Expect When You're Expecting the Collapse of Society" (SLBuzzfeed).
“All the websites are the same!” Bedford exclaims from the driver’s seat of her pickup, which she’s piloting with ease through the sea-like puddles of rain, the hum of talk radio droning in the background. “They’re all very, very male-oriented, and those men are much more into the idea of protection. They’ll spend hours debating firearms. But I read something like that, and I think, I know most of you have wives and girlfriends, so where do they come in? You’re sitting here debating the right kind of specific specialty tool for your bug-out bag, but what about your wife? Could she really haul a 45-pound carry? What about your kids? What are you going to do when your autistic son won’t eat anything but Cheerios and mac ‘n’ cheese three meals a day, and now you have to get out of the house?”
posted by MonkeyToes (143 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
When the end of civilization hits, some people are going to die. Lots of people are going to die. That's what the end of civilization means. You might be one of them. Deal with it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:04 PM on February 6, 2016 [23 favorites]


Yeah, it's a fascinating take on American individualism, this idea that when the shit hits the fan, we will survive or die based on the sound judgement and good planning that we have exercised before the fact. It's a form of just world fantasy, I think. It's too scary to think that you could plan and prepare and store food and master skills, and in the end you could still be totally fucked. Much better to think that smart and virtuous will survive and the dumb and feckless will die.

Having said that, I'm all in favor of basic disaster preparedness of the kind that doesn't involve the collapse of civilization as we know it. Because if civilization as we know it collapses, then all bets are kind of off.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:09 PM on February 6, 2016 [72 favorites]


"Prepping" for a disaster - a tornado, a hurricane, a flood, a snowstorm that will keep you stuck in your house for three days - is one thing. Having three days or more of food and water on hand is a good idea. Having first-aid kits and plenty of necessary medicines - that's a good idea. It might take three days or more for emergency services to relief groups to get to you and help.

Prepping for "the collapse of civilization" is pointless because after the first week people will start killing each other for a can of Spam. Zombie movies and The Walking Dead make people think that there is something noble or almost desirable about the end of society - it's not. People WILL do horrible things to one another for the least thing... they do horrible things to others now all over the world and there aren't zombie hordes wandering around. You can't prep for that. You don't want to prep for that.
posted by Docrailgun at 1:19 PM on February 6, 2016 [39 favorites]


Having said that, I'm all in favor of basic disaster preparedness of the kind that doesn't involve the collapse of civilization as we know it. Because if civilization as we know it collapses, then all bets are kind of off.

This. I've got a box in my closet with enough freeze-dried rations, water, and cat food to last 72 hours, plus battery-powered radios and flashlights and a first-aid kit, as per FEMA's accross-the-board disaster-preparedness advice. But in the case of a full-blown apocalypse? My game plan is 'die quickly'.
posted by Itaxpica at 1:19 PM on February 6, 2016 [35 favorites]


Stuff like a massive electromagnetic pulse. Or an earthquake, or a tidal wave, or a complete unraveling of the fabric of society — stuff that would make for a second Great Depression. Not the end of the world, then, so much as the end of a relatively pleasant and convenient one.

Even as these scenarios become increasingly plausible....


Do they, Buzzfeed? Do you know something about a giant EMP blast, or the unraveling of society, you'd like to share with your readers?

Earthquakes only apply in earthquake zones, a tidal wave is either not a concern or something you are unlikely to escape.
posted by emjaybee at 1:21 PM on February 6, 2016 [17 favorites]


The starving masses are going to figure out pretty quickly that the Johnsons are looking fairly well fed, when no one else has eaten for two weeks. I don't want to see what happens to them then.
posted by Jubey at 1:21 PM on February 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


The starving masses are going to figure out pretty quickly that the Johnsons are looking fairly well fed, when no one else has eaten for two weeks. I don't want to see what happens to them then.
I think that preppers' basic answer to that is guns, but it actually comes up a bit in the article in roundabout ways. She talks about being disturbed at how gleeful macho preppers seem at the prospect of getting to commit violence against the desperate, starving non-preppers who will try to take their supplies, and she mentions that she thinks the hardest thing post-apocalypse will be the moral dilemmas about whether to share with other people.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:25 PM on February 6, 2016 [26 favorites]


Being prepared for whatever sort of natural disaster exists in your area is reasonable and proper.

Pretending that if there's a zombie apocalypse type situation and all social rules vanish your "go bag" is going to save your ass is delusional.

But it is such a typically American delusion. All that mythology about pioneer spirit and can do attitudes and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps leads naturally to the conclusion that your survival or death in the middle of an extinction event is up to your own personal virtue and planning. It fits the Horatio Alger setting that so many American myths inhabit perfectly.

The virtuous will live due to their virtue, the sinners will die due to their failures.
posted by sotonohito at 1:27 PM on February 6, 2016 [28 favorites]


What everyone else is saying; there's nothing wrong with being prepared for a temporary disruption, but if it's full-scale, permanent societal collapse we're talking about it won't matter how prepared you thought you were if you don't have a) a shit-ton of weapons and/or b) the social capital to utilize them effectively (i.e. as a part, preferably the head, of a group).
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:27 PM on February 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


"...the hum of talk radio droning in the background..."

Wanna guess who she was listening to?

Preppers: I suspect that these folks are likely to "lock and load" the minute the power browns out for 30 seconds.... They can stock up all the food and ammunition they want, but I doubt they'll be able to muster up the emotional stability to truly survive any significant event.
posted by HuronBob at 1:28 PM on February 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


Did any of you pack up a survival bag on the advice of Tom Ridge lo these many years ago? I had a suitcase full of meds and canned goods and diapers that I kept in my van. It slowly got cannibalized by hungry kids. We called it the Ridge bag, and when the food and diapers were gone we never replenished it.
posted by Biblio at 1:31 PM on February 6, 2016


I don't want to see what happens to them then.

you don't? i'm hoping for a bowl of the soup.

(i remember on quora someone asked about earthquake preparedness. i said we had a bunch of soft drinks that would keep us going a few days (and because they're constantly drunk and replenished, there's no need to worry about things going stale). someone asked "how do you expect to clean your teeth in coke?" and i wondered how important dental hygiene would be after "the big one". but then i don't recall losing water after the 8.8 in feb 2010.)
posted by andrewcooke at 1:32 PM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


The article gives credence to the idea that an EMP blast ala One Second After is a real threat, but I feel like we've talked about it here before and that's not the case? The link they provide appears to be from a non-government source. Smells dodgy.
posted by emjaybee at 1:32 PM on February 6, 2016


Anyone can stockpile guns and toilet paper, but anyone who relies on medications (like insulin, say) or other medical infrastructure is going to be totally hosed in very short order. The plans I hear people talking about online are long on ammunition and short on practicality.

The starving masses are going to figure out pretty quickly that the Johnsons are looking fairly well fed, when no one else has eaten for two weeks. I don't want to see what happens to them then.

I agree. It would be a lot smarter to team up with a few neighbors rather than horde your own stockpile as close as you can.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:33 PM on February 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


anyone who relies on medications

yeah. i have a min of one month of drugs always available (not insulin) that has to be kept below 25C. i do worry about a power cut for more than a day in summer. keep thinking i should build a pot-in-pot refrigerator, but it would need to be pretty big.

maybe that should be my next project. or maybe buy a generator.
posted by andrewcooke at 1:35 PM on February 6, 2016


I am reminded of Y2K.

The folks who prepped for The End Of Civilization looked pretty foolish after all the folks worked their asses off to fix the bug. The predicted global melt down of the banking system never happened. Instead, we had issues like annoyingly non-programmable VCRs which were fairly quickly replaced anyway when DVDs became the hot new thing.

"The king is dead. Long live the king."
"It's the end of the world as we know it -- and I feel fine."
posted by Michele in California at 1:39 PM on February 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


I agree. It would be a lot smarter to team up with a few neighbors rather than horde your own stockpile as close as you can.

The Map Your Neighborhood program is really great for this.
Not only does it encourage your individual preparedness, it also introduces you to your neighbors as people that may need help, but can also help you.
So hopefully you will default to cooperation, not patrolling the fenceline to protect that last can of spam.
posted by madajb at 1:43 PM on February 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


yeah. i have a min of one month of drugs always available (not insulin) that has to be kept below 25C. i do worry about a power cut for more than a day in summer. keep thinking i should build a pot-in-pot refrigerator, but it would need to be pretty big.

The person I know with critical meds in the fridge has both one of those automatic battery things between the fridge and the wall and a generator out in the garage as a backup to that. The battery supply covers small outages, and the generator is for multi-day events. That's just basic preparedness for routine natural disasters, though, not end of the world fantasy stuff.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:43 PM on February 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


They're so close to permaculture (standing partly in it, realy), I just want to tell them, "reach out - it's right in front of you!"
posted by johnabbe at 1:46 PM on February 6, 2016 [13 favorites]


It's interesting that the thing which ends, for many people apparently, when "civilization" or "society" collapses is whatever obligatory pretense masked their viciousness and obsessive self-interest. Some might argue that this tendency's expression in our current world is, if anything, making it more likely that drastic systemic change will be forced upon us.
posted by clockzero at 1:48 PM on February 6, 2016 [23 favorites]


As long as I still have Internet, that's all I care about.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:52 PM on February 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


What everyone else is saying; there's nothing wrong with being prepared for a temporary disruption, but if it's full-scale, permanent societal collapse we're talking about it won't matter how prepared you thought you were if you don't have a) a shit-ton of weapons and/or b) the social capital to utilize them effectively (i.e. as a part, preferably the head, of a group).

My plan in the event of zombie outbreaks is to raid the Mormon stockpile down the street, then make my way Mad Max style to a friends farm, where I have been assured a position in the exciting field of subsistence farming.
posted by madajb at 1:53 PM on February 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


Prepping is very defined to me as "fuck you, Jack, I got mine," which truly sums up the American pysche.
posted by Kitteh at 1:53 PM on February 6, 2016 [35 favorites]


It's weird that these people always seem to fantasize that society won't collapse, it will simply revert to the 1840s.

If we did have a nuclear war or something, the winners won't be the people who put all their skill points into Guns and none into Charisma, it would be people in the Amazon or the Congo who hadn't forgotten subsistence farming (and community living).
posted by zompist at 1:55 PM on February 6, 2016 [64 favorites]


If civilization collapses, then prepping at best just means dying slower and more miserably than most.

There isn't going to be any rebuild because it isn't possible - the paths we took (low-hanging resources) to build technological civilization are gone. We've pulled the ladder up after us and if we fall then it's out of reach.

We either work together beforehand to prevent collapse, always, or that's all she wrote. Ever.

Prepping should be for resilience in maintaining civilization in the face of disaster. Prepping against the end of everything as we know it is misdirected, but hey, I have pointless hobbies too.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:56 PM on February 6, 2016 [44 favorites]


She talks about being disturbed at how gleeful macho preppers seem at the prospect of getting to commit violence against the desperate, starving non-preppers black people...

That's where the excitement comes from, for many of them.
posted by klanawa at 1:57 PM on February 6, 2016 [23 favorites]


A prepper guy bought my family's property in the country - it was a big old house with a boatload of property, fields, vegetable gardens, etc. - so that he could survive the coming apocalypse. Moved in with his wife and young son. Last I heard the wife had left him and the house was up for sale. It was nice for my mom, though, because he bought it for a big chunk of change, enough to get her through her declining years with Parkinson's in a pricey retirement community where she could move from apartment to assisted living to nursing care.

That's the prepping that pays off more. Not preparing for the end of the world, but preparing for our own world to end.
posted by Peach at 2:08 PM on February 6, 2016 [44 favorites]


I've said it before and I'll say it again: These people need to read their Dee Xtrovert.

And as to whether people will start turning on each other immediately, well: She had something to say about that, too.
posted by Sokka shot first at 2:10 PM on February 6, 2016 [111 favorites]


That's where the excitement comes from, for many of them.

Probably, but I think overall it's more a fantasy about having status and influence and admiration in a world that presently grants little of that to many of these people. Particularly status of the "I don't have to follow rules any more, I'm the one making the rules now" type.

Next to some places I've been, American society seems to be a pretty humiliating regime to have to live under for so very many of its people. So much everyday poverty. So many rules and complexities and gotchas and fineprint. So little life security. So many Damacle's Swords hanging over everyone's necks. So much bitterness and fear and distrust. Even when this society is ostensibly trying to be good and helpful, such as welfare, it's barbed all the way through with strings attached and rules and shaming and hate. Or such as police; officers are more feared and kowtowed to here than any other developed western nation.
It doesn't surprise me at all that dreams of building your own society for yourself under your own rules flourish here.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:11 PM on February 6, 2016 [52 favorites]


Look, people in America can't even get clean water out of their sinks, sometimes. What are these preppers doing to ensure that doesn't happen to them?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:16 PM on February 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


Well, as the saying goes, a society is only three square meals away from anarchy.

I have to agree that survival in a societal collapse boils down to whoever can organize and arm the largest group of people. If survivalists are really looking to make it through the collapse of civilization, they'd better start reading history and studying the situation in places like Somalia, not digging a bunker and stashing food in it. They're on the right track with the guns and ammo thing though.
posted by dazed_one at 2:17 PM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, as the saying goes, a society is only three square meals away from anarchy.

That was before the obesity epidemic which has the upside of buffering us a few more missed meals.
posted by srboisvert at 2:21 PM on February 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Underneath her blog's ridiculously cheerful design you find the same old "screw you, got mine" mentality, paranoid consumerism and eschatological power fantasies that have infested the prepper/survivalist community for decades.

Like, what the fuck am I supposed to do with a Lodge L5HS3 5-Piece Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron Cookware Set? Club myself to death before a marauding band of psycho cannibals feast upon my delectable body? Forget a bug out bag, I need a bag of holding to schlep all this survivalist shit.

Love the Bear Grylls branded cyanide capsules, though.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:26 PM on February 6, 2016 [22 favorites]


Prepping is very defined to me as "fuck you, Jack, I got mine," which truly sums up the American pysche.

There is something core to western society in it, the ultimate right to deny someone your property, even if they will die without it. Maybe most American version is an individual with a gun, but these little "fuck you, we've got ours" cells can form around extended families, ethnic groups, religions, place of birth.. I dunno if that's less violent or cruel.
posted by nom de poop at 2:28 PM on February 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Someone needs to go read Parable of the Sower.
posted by gwint at 2:29 PM on February 6, 2016 [20 favorites]


People in SF laugh at preppers, but don't have water bottles and first aid kits for the earthquake.

People in L.A. laugh at preppers, but buy houses next to wildfire-friendly scrub land.

People in NYC laugh at preppers, but have never even spoken to their neighbors.

People in ...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:29 PM on February 6, 2016 [19 favorites]


I subscribe to the Shaun of the Dead prepping philosophy: have a defensible bar within walking distance.
posted by asperity at 2:32 PM on February 6, 2016 [31 favorites]


-harlequin-: Yeah, that too. We've got one shot at this, and either we keep advancing technologically or it'll fall apart and the absolute best the survivors (who will be a very lucky 5% of our current population at the most) can hope for is a late 18th century level of subsistence farming. Mostly I'll bet it falls below even 18th century level, we're talking early Ur and Sumer level subsistence farming for most people and places.

And it will never, ever, get better because there's no resources left that can be accessed at a low tech level and used to boot back up to a higher tech level.

Which is why I look to increasing our tech level and working through the problems we have rather than preparing for disaster. Because if the preppers are right and it really does fall apart, in the long run it doesn't matter how prepped you are, the tech will run out and you'll either survive by grubbing in the dirt with your bare hands or you'll starve.
posted by sotonohito at 2:33 PM on February 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


I remember reading survivors stories from the Siege of Sarajevo. Some people were better prepared than others. It didn't matter in the long run, they ended up eating rats and dogs too.

Preppers like to think they'll be the "good guys with guns" in their Mad Max fantasies, when in reality they'll be the threat to more peaceful cooperative types.

Katrina should give us an inkling of what will happen in a major disaster scenario.
posted by Max Power at 2:48 PM on February 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


A friend of mine said this about some prepper types he knew: "They all have an Israeli manufactured gas mask for every member of the family, but I doubt most of them know where a working flashlight is. I mean, I can think of about 500 scenarios where a good flashlight would really come in handy, and about three where a gas mask is going to do you any good at all."

I think this sums things up pretty well. Being ready for blizzards and flooding and massive power outages is a good and wise thing to do. If you want to play the game at EXTREME levels though, and go in for alien invasion or nuclear war or zombies or whatever brand of LARP suits you, that's great and all, but you'll have to excuse me if I don't follow suit and start using my SCA title on my resume any time soon.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:54 PM on February 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


Zombie movies and The Walking Dead make people think that there is something noble or almost desirable about the end of society

Back in my day, Jason Robards taught us that come the end of the world the living will envy the dead.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:54 PM on February 6, 2016 [20 favorites]


I think we already know what most rugged individualist preppers are going to be like when the proverbial shit hits the fan: they'll have more guns than snacks.
posted by chimaera at 3:04 PM on February 6, 2016 [27 favorites]


Because we're antique collectors and into a lot of that old-timey crap, our house is particularly well set up for a power outage - we've got lots of pre-industrial technology handy to keep ourselves amused and fed. And lots of toilet paper and beans, because snowstorms. But none of that really matters when you live next to a big fat hydro-electric plant that any idiot can drop a rock on from orbit; I suspect our last words would be something like "holy shit, did you see that big flash just n-"
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 3:08 PM on February 6, 2016 [14 favorites]


It's just weird to see people who argue for having three to six months of money mocking someone with six months of food, especially in a time of, if not societal, definitely economic collapse. Those freeze dried foods taste just as good the month after you lose your job as they do after an EMP.
posted by corb at 3:13 PM on February 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


Those freeze dried foods taste just as good the month after you lose your job as they do after an EMP.

That sounds like an unfounded assertion. I would like to see studies. I mean, how do we know that EMPs don't enhance their flavor somehow?



{/}
posted by Michele in California at 3:17 PM on February 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


EMP! EMP! EMP! Other than detonation of a nuclear weapon (and I mean fusion or fission, not dirty bomb!), can someone please enlighten me as to how an EMP would be generated that knocked out more than 1 square miles of gizmos/hardware?

Because this is otherwise just amazingly technically uninformed fearmongering.
posted by lalochezia at 3:23 PM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


As a person, she seems mostly sensible, and nice enough; too bad she's another of those who use the brand name Divacup to mean menstrual cup in general, when there's SO MANY brands and the Diva is a very long cup that doesn't fit everyone. Why yes, I do have a little pet peeve there, thank you for asking.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:30 PM on February 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


It's just weird to see people who argue for having three to six months of money mocking someone with six months of food, especially in a time of, if not societal, definitely economic collapse. Those freeze dried foods taste just as good the month after you lose your job as they do after an EMP.
They're not very portable, though, and if I had to pay my rent without a pay check or move to get a new job, then money would be a lot more helpful than freeze-dried food. Plus, freeze-dried food isn't going to be helpful if my personal calamity is a sudden medical problem or my car breaking down or some thing other than losing my job. Money is more flexible than freeze-dried food, so I think it's a better thing to stock up on to prepare for medium to long-term emergencies. The only kind of longer-term emergency for which money wouldn't be more helpful would be the kind where society collapsed to such an extent that money would be meaningless, and my personal risk assessment is that a more boring emergency is a lot more likely than that one.

But definitely: have a working flashlight and a battery-operated radio and a couple of days worth of food and some toilet paper and a month's supply of whatever medicines you need to stay alive and functional.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:31 PM on February 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


Wouldn't The End look more like the Syrian crisis with mass migration to places more stable? Why do these folk always seem to think they are going to get to shelter in place till someone turns back on the lights? History would not seem to support that option. Am I wrong?
posted by abigailKim at 3:33 PM on February 6, 2016 [23 favorites]


This article pole-axed me, because I have some divided loyalties here. It's good to see a woman succeeding at adding a different dimension to the largely male-dominated conversation about (and economy of) prepping. I don't read these discussion boards frequently or with much depth, but I have always come away with the vibe of fear and re-loading in the boys' club (I mean, yes, women participate there, and there's the occasional subsection for the ladies, but the overall atmosphere speaks to men.). If she can add to that conversation, all the better; pragmatic preparedness for local disruptive events can be for everyone. And she's making money in an arena that's largely male-dominated, which I find interesting.

But--and it's a big one--I was horrified at the framing of defensive preparedness as maternal. Holy shit. I keep turning this over in my mind--the prospect of being considered an insufficient mother because I don't prep to this extent--and I see a disturbing conflation of post-9/11 cultural/political/economic/environmental anxieties with anxiety-driven mothering, and it makes my skin crawl. Petersen is on to something here: "Just as moms passive-aggressively shame one another for deficient snack-making or scrapbooking, it seems like a natural extension of contemporary maternal culture to start socially policing a lack of preparation: “Oh, you don’t have a year of color-coordinated food in your dehumidified pantry?” “You know that [insert brand here] of bug-out bags is really the best.” “Everyone has a backup evacuation plan these days.”" There's mockery there, but some truth, too: Are you anxious enough to be a good mom? Oh my God--no, no I'm not! (Do I pull arrows out of my daughter's foam deer target? Do I grow and can pesticide-free veggies for my kids to eat? Do my kids help take pigs to the butcher? Well, yeah, and I think that Lisa Bedford would probably applaud all of those things. But they do not spring from fear. And so I think her terror-based good mom metric can go suck free-range eggs.)

She's not wrong. But she's not right. It bothered me to see her discuss what a good Christian would do during the zombie apocalypse, which boiled down to "refrain from sniping your neighbors." I'm a heathen, and have run a generator so my neighbors and their children can have electricity in a storm, because you affirmatively help one another out in snow or flood. Because you're thinking about their kids, too.

I was mad at Petersen for falling for this framing, and wished she had been more critical of mommy prep; mad at her for falling for the strong mom; for accepting this thinking and these behaviors as a logical way of being. It may make sense, but I'm not sure I'd call pinkwashed prepping sensible, healthy, or natural.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:47 PM on February 6, 2016 [42 favorites]


The thing is, when the Western Roman Empire collapsed, it took nearly a century. There was a plague, and then a couple of invasions (although mostly those people settled down and mixed with the people who were already there, and were generally part of a larger pattern of population movement in Europe at the time). In the hinterlands, places like western Gaul and Britain, things were more difficult as communication broke down. Eventually, the money stopped working, and wealthier landowners and merchants would have started to have real problems. However, if you were a good farmer, you could still do pretty well. You could also form a war-band, and have some success that way, but you still need to feed all your soldiers, and keep them in torcs and arm-bands and such, so you would still eventually need to be some sort of stabilizing influence. After a while people forgot how to repair the roads, and how the aqueducts worked, but things still carried on, even if people became somewhat materially poorer over a couple of generations (eventually, in eastern Britain, these odd people with steel knives began to turn up).

Perhaps, given our advances in destructive technologies, a collapse might happen faster now, but at most points in history (other than a couple of times where the Mongols just decided to kill everyone in a region), the decline of a society takes a while.

Maybe what I'm describing is actually just the difference between the first and the second Mad Max movies.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:49 PM on February 6, 2016 [20 favorites]


Yeah, having read this article that's what I keep puzzling over too. Peterson's hook is that this lady offers the logical, practical version of prepping, but honest to god, what is supposed to be the realistic scenario for the complete and utter breakdown of society? We've had civil wars. We've had revolutions. We've had tons of natural disasters. None of them were anywhere near causing the complete and utter breakdown of society. About the only things I can think of are some extremely virulent and devastating plague or a nuclear war with a nuclear superpower. Kim Jong un may or may not be a nutter, but worst case he could maybe hit Honolulu or San Fran. That's about it.

Even during the Black Plague in Europe, society didn't break down in the fashion that a prepper is supposedly prepping for. Kings kinged, popes poped, farmers farmed. There was a lot of starvation and I'm sure some things went to rack and ruin. But stuff still happened. Merchants traded. The sun rose in the east. Things were really fucked up in New Orleans during Katrina. So a bunch of people went to Houston and Florida. Mere anarchy was loosed upon the world for like five days, tops. And that was considered an abject failure of government. Even the San Francisco earthquake in the early 1900s didn't cause the permanent destruction of the city. Hearst and his competitors put out a joint edition the next day, if memory serves.
posted by Diablevert at 3:58 PM on February 6, 2016 [33 favorites]


In the event of a zombie apocalypse my plan is to eat as many brains as I can get my rotting hands on.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 4:00 PM on February 6, 2016 [22 favorites]


Diablevert Yellowstone
posted by Max Power at 4:04 PM on February 6, 2016


As the great poet Michael Gerard Tyson once said, "Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth". A few of those survivalists could make it to the end of their supplies without incidents (spoilage or pillage), but what happens next? Try to get the supplies from neighbours who passed with something left in their reserves? Start shooting everyone with something?

If civilization goes, everyone will get their punch in the mouth, the question is how hard and how soon.
posted by lmfsilva at 4:05 PM on February 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have nothing against preparing for an emergency, that just seems like common sense. But prepping on this scale is something else, and it seems to take a complete mental shift to do it. According to many of these people, you not only have to save years worth of food, you also have to prepared to become a mass murderer to protect it, mowing down your previous probably quite friendly neighbours who might want your preciousssss.

Let's face it, the food will run out at some point and you will starve eventually. I'd rather share what I had with whoever needs it and face the end together than kill everyone around me and die just a little later with that on my conscience.
posted by Jubey at 4:07 PM on February 6, 2016 [19 favorites]


My dad was always the prepper sort, without the income to really do much, but definitely with the aging conservative sense that They were going to want to come take his guns if The Shit Hits The Fan. He was a ham radio operator, which meant he at least had some real practical skills in actual emergencies, so that was something. But after being raised with that?

Maybe someday I'll feel differently. If I ever have kids, that might change things a lot. Right now, though, if something happens where it looks like the collapse of human society is certain--not just possible--then my only priority is saying goodbye to my loved ones and dying as peacefully as I can manage. I might like playing Fallout, but the actual reality of it is that like 90% of the things I love about living in this world are things that require civil society, and the other 10% are not worth trying to grind out another few decades of flavorless food and no shampoo.

He was always so concerned with how he was going to survive some huge disaster, but he died in poverty with COPD before turning 70. So. Priorities. I have better things to do with however many days I have left that involve a future that's much less hypothetical.
posted by Sequence at 4:12 PM on February 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


If the Apocalypse comes, I'm throwing an orgy. Because germ control and birth control won't matter anyway.

So, when the big EMP hits and none of us expects to live another week: Party at Michele's!!!!
posted by Michele in California at 4:21 PM on February 6, 2016 [24 favorites]


I feel like I've been prepping for orgies for years, I can't wait until those start breaking out all over.

Anyhow, one of my friends has been taking Krav Maga and he got to the point where he wanted to show off his new hot shit moves. He wanted to put me in joint lock and challenge me to get out of it. I agreed and he grabbed my hand to put me in a wrist lock and I punched him in the face with the other hand.

He was really pissed because he felt like I was breaking the rules. I'm like "you're the one taking self defense classes, you should be prepared to defend yourself if you're going to lay your hands on me." And he shouts "That's not how you're supposed to do it!" and storms off and doesn't talk to me for a while.

So many of these preppers are like my Krav Maga friend, they're all focused on having power and control over one possible situation, while in fact they're ignoring a thousand other more likely things. I'd like to be around when the shit hits the fan just to hear a million prepping whiners cry "but this isn't how the world is supposed to end!" You're not doing it right, apocalypse, they're all waiting for some other kind of disaster.

By all means, have some emergency cash on hand, a few days of water, food, and your meds. But more importantly, eat sensibly, get a little more exercise, quit smoking, don't drink so much, wear your seat belt and put aside money for retirement. What's really going to kill you is probably going to be a whole lot more boring than the end of the world as we know it.
posted by peeedro at 4:24 PM on February 6, 2016 [60 favorites]


If I remember correctly, the back story of David Brin's novel The Postman was:

1. A scary political situation developed.
2. The preppers got ready for the collapse of society, which lead to a loss of law and order.
3. Cooler heads prevailed and the scary political situation was defused.
4. Society collapsed anyway, because of item 2 above.
posted by Triplanetary at 4:26 PM on February 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Prepping for "the collapse of civilization" is pointless because after the first week people will start killing each other for a can of Spam.

Well sure, but writing it off as that is what I've started calling the "duck and cover" fallacy. People say the '50s advice to get under your desk for a nuclear blast was ridiculous. Well, maybe in 'the big one' at ground zero that's true. But there's a pretty big range between "no big deal" and "certain death" where your prudent actions certainly could throw the odds in your favor. Similarly, people used to ridicule our casualty drills on the submarines. Yes, certain flooding, fire, and steam line rupture scenarios are un-survivable no matter what you do. But preparation and response training can raise the bar of "un-survivable" significantly.

I'm not really into disaster preparation myself beyond some reasonable household goods. I've taken some courses for work in the national emergency response framework, which could help, maybe. I guess everyone has to decide for themselves what the likelihood/cost risk assessment of the disaster is vs. how much to disrupt your normal life "being prepared." As long as these people's game plan doesn't involve going on offense to raid others (which a sound long-term plan would, from a military strategy standpoint) and they don't prematurely initiate the plan for a routine day-long power outage, it's kind of a "to each his own" situation to me.
posted by ctmf at 4:29 PM on February 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


Really, if the nukes start flying, we're all pretty much fucked. It's going to be more like Threads than Red Dawn or even The Road.


But let's look at a more realistic situation- let's say, drought and crop failures on a global scale. For most of us in the industrialized North, things will mostly carry on for a while. It will get really bad in the Third World, but for us, maybe restaurants start taking cobb salad off the menu. Then maybe some time later, we have to start doing things like lining up for fresh oranges. Then, maybe your kids will have to start lining up for bread, and won't remember what an orange tastes like. Or chocolate. Or coffee. There might be riots, and even big changes in government, or systems of government. But then things will stabilize for a while. Maybe we start pulling buses by horse again, and everyone only has one good set of clothes.

In this scenario, there is absolutely nothing that having several weeks, or even a year's worth of food will do for you. This will be generational change.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:35 PM on February 6, 2016 [21 favorites]


Things the preppers I know will do: stockpile ammo, make obtuse forum posts about defeating magazine limits, figure out zany ways to store rice, act all squirrelly in the name of "opsec", continually pack and repack backpacks with all manner of fire starters, ask to borrow my printer so they can print out pages and pages of crap on how to misuse fish antibiotics

Things the preppers I know won't do: get to know their neighbours, work on their cardiovascular fitness, quit smoking, learn first aid, learn land navigation

The prepper culture is 99% right wing gun nut wackjob escapist fantasy. The other 1%? You don't know who they are, or they are reasonable enough that what they do is just common sense.
posted by Sternmeyer at 4:46 PM on February 6, 2016 [29 favorites]


Yellowstone

That's more of a The Road-type situation: massive, global environmental collapse, similar to a large asteroid strike or global warming of more than a couple degrees Centigrade. That's a whole 'nother scale of things. They could happen, and given enough time they will happen (in the case of anthropocentric climate change, is happening), but it's not the same thing as what the vast majority of preppers are prepping for. Many of them were absolutely sure that it would be Mad Max time during the Obama administration; they set their watch and warrant on it. That it not only didn't happen but that the country is arguably physically and financially healthier as a result of his administration's work does not affect their worldview in the slightest.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:50 PM on February 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I don't know, the whole prepper thing is just really sad to me. It says so much about how hard it is to find a sense of security nowadays, and it's tragic to see what it turns people into. I just see a desperate fantasy that reassures people that they'll be OK, that their lives aren't so fragile that they'll fall apart because of stuff they have no control over. And the reality is that they really do have no control over any of it.

I know some people who have turned to prepping. A friend's mom freaked out after 9/11 and bought duct tape and plastic sheeting so she could protect her house from biological attacks, and kept going from there. My partner's uncle started stockpiling supplies after the financial crisis hit. And so on.

I know everyone talks about the "fuck you, I got mine" attitude, and it's there, but it's born out of a very palpable sense of desperation and fear. That attitude is what makes it so sad - the way everyone here talks about prepper types you'd think they're racist monsters itching to be cut loose, but I've known people who weren't like that at all before they got caught up in all this. Getting into something like this can be transformative, and it brings out the worst in people because they're just that scared about the future. It's not an excuse, but it's tragic to see it happen to people you know.

We have threads on this site where people talk about suicide as solutions to global warming and major economic crises. I'm not trying to be all relativist and say that prepping isn't wrapped up in racism and classism and other awful attitudes, but we're all scared, and for good reason. We all express it in our own ways, and reading about prepping doesn't make me any less sad than reading about people who plan on dying as quickly and quietly as possible.
posted by teponaztli at 4:50 PM on February 6, 2016 [19 favorites]


But there's a pretty big range between "no big deal" and "certain death" where your prudent actions certainly could throw the odds in your favor.

This is a key idea that gets lost in disaster preparedness.

I often tell people in presentations that the idea is not "Survive the collapse of civilization", it's "don't end up sleeping in a Red Cross shelter".

To that end, it's a week of _simple_ food and drink, a backup source of heat and light, an alternate shelter in the event your main dwelling is uninhabitable, and a plan will go a long way.
You do not need gas masks, a 1000 rounds of ammunition or a bunker in your basement.

Personally, I have 2 weeks of supplies, which is about the amount of time I expect to pass before the government gets things organized enough for me to be able to leave the area.
My main concern is a large Cascadia earthquake, so I don't really need to be able to cut and run quickly, like those who live in hurricane zones or fire prone areas.
I do hope it happens in the winter though, because in the summer, water is going to get pretty scarce pretty quickly if the infrastructure sustains major damage.
posted by madajb at 5:02 PM on February 6, 2016 [12 favorites]


I never let my stash of Drambuie drop below four bottles. Just in case.
posted by notreally at 5:07 PM on February 6, 2016 [12 favorites]


Drambuie made a friend of mine puke in another friend's sink, so you can have it.

See, I'm ready to build a new society based on sharing.
posted by teponaztli at 5:09 PM on February 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


U'alls have mighty fine stuff there yonder.
posted by clavdivs at 5:13 PM on February 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


BTW, EMP fearmongering is nonsense.
posted by kiltedtaco at 5:14 PM on February 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think I got some of my prepping frame of reference from my dad, who did it right. He knew a big earthquake was predicted for the area. The house had a heavy tile roof which he thought could fall through the ceiling, so he reinforced the area of ceiling above the bed. Large furniture that could fall, he bolted to the wall. A few smaller things taken care of and Earthquake Prep: Done.

The big earthquake came. The house did its job. No-one was hurt.

As for me, I use prepping as a way to sex up otherwise boring aspects of being a responsible adult. Things like "fill the car with gas before it's running on empty, like a proper grown-up would!" take on a more adventurous importance when reframed as "You'll feel pretty stupid if the zombies come and your car has no gas in it! Put gas the car! Because zombies!" :)
posted by -harlequin- at 5:18 PM on February 6, 2016 [26 favorites]


Kiltedtaco, I'd love to read that emp article. Do you have one from a source that allows reading it WITHOUT signing up for crap?

can someone please enlighten me as to how an EMP would be generated that knocked out more than 1 square miles of gizmos/hardware?

Well, a solar flare could do it- while not quite the same as an EMP, it could have similar effects- including knocking out the power grid for a long time.

And other middling to long term disasters can occur. That's why a middle road of preparation is reasonable- several weeks of food and supplies, set up so one can evacuate the area if necessary. Especially of one lives in a disaster-prone area of the US.

The counterargument of course seems to be "If I was to be deprived of metafilter for more then a week, just kill me." Which...hmm. Isn't bad as an argument.
posted by happyroach at 5:28 PM on February 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Living in reenactment circles, this sort of thing comes up a lot, and it's always interesting that the preppers who get the most press seem to focus on material goods (including food) instead of useful skills.

I can handsew. Given a few hours and a needle I can probably turn your beadspread into a functional coat. I can cook over an open fire. I can gut a fish, and butcher and skin a rabbit. I understand how to grow my own food, even if we don't have land to do it right at the moment. I know how to get salt from the sea. I can boil bones to get tallow which I can use to make candles. I can cook a three course meal in a firepit using only a dutch oven and a frying pan. I can start a fire with flint and steel (eventually). I know how to process a fleece into yarn and eventually turn that yarn into cloth. I understand what's necessary to live in a tent for weeks at a time and stay reasonably warm and dry (you'd be amazed at the dumb-ass things people do when living in a tent). I understand the theory of blacksmithing and have seen it demonstrated hundreds of times, so I could likely help you forge something given enough time.

I'm not a prepper. All of these skills were pretty familiar to every family within living memory. I can't shoot a handgun or a shotgun (nor do I ever want to).

Are we more 'prepared' because I can do these things that the folks with six months of MREs in their basement? Who can say?
posted by anastasiav at 5:31 PM on February 6, 2016 [41 favorites]


Is there anywhere else in the the developed world where a not-insubstantial part of the population not only prepares for the collapse of civilization, but seems to encourage and look forward to it?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:32 PM on February 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Is there anywhere else in the the developed world where a not-insubstantial part of the population not only prepares for the collapse of civilization, but seems to encourage and look forward to it?

Now that you bring it up, even the religious people trying to bring about Rapture and biblical End Times are almost exclusively American.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:36 PM on February 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


anastasiav, another skill I think that might be of great value come the apocalypse is midwifery.
posted by megafauna at 5:36 PM on February 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Just want to point out that tonight in the RNC debate, Ted Cruz, when questioned about North Korea, told us he was worried about them putting a nuclear bomb in a satellite, floating it above the US and exploding it, causing.... you guessed it...... an EMP PULSE.
posted by cacofonie at 5:40 PM on February 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


There can be ice storms, hurricanes, solar flares, the Big One at Yellowstone, Cascadia, LA, tsunamis, and so on. As global climate change increases, there are likely to be more weather disasters. I hate the idea of being a burden, so I want to be sure I can cope with loss of power for a week, or, more likely, a bad case of flu that leaves me unable to prepare much food for a week. I know my neighbors, and I have decent skills for coping with stuff, like the furnace acting up, or a kid being sick. A Katrina - level disaster? I hope I have the common sense to survive and maybe help out a little.

I'm mildly fascinated by prepping, and the Buzzfeed article is interesting. The idea of a bunker at home with freeze-dried foods is kind of nutty to me. More sensible to learn to cook and enjoy foods like beans and rice and keep some extra. Survival Mom is a lot less nutty than most, and sees the weird lust for violence in a lot of the prepper community. These are people with a lot of fear. They think they can insulate themselves from their community. It's weird how few prepper articles recommend the great books on self-health-care, or getting 1st aid training or becoming a nurse or EMT. If there were a big disaster, I'm likely to need my neighbor who's a nurse much sooner than my neighbor who's a skilled hunter (he uses a bow and arrows to be more sporting). If there's no electricity for a while, what will happen to your sewage? I have a septic tank, and I can answer that question with more detail than you'd like.

You aren't going to be safe by isolating yourself; much more likely to be safe by building a strong community, having good skills, being able to be self-reliant and willing to help your community. Yep, that's socialism. I like it better than your bunker.
posted by theora55 at 6:07 PM on February 6, 2016 [12 favorites]


My apocalypse plan is simply to die as quickly as possible and save myself all kinds of trouble.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:27 PM on February 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I would love to introduce her to Marie Kondo.
posted by Mchelly at 6:50 PM on February 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


Personally I have no plans to survive some sort of mass "The Road"-style apocalyptic event, because I'm really more into things like fancy cheese and witty repartee and surviving just for the sake of surviving seems like it's just not for me, thank you. On the other hand, should I beat the odds, I'm confident the end of the world as we know it will provide more functional opportunities for me to ultilize my skills in sailing, storytelling and playwriting (which I hope to combine in some vaguely piratical way)
posted by thivaia at 6:59 PM on February 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


(which I hope to combine in some vaguely piratical way)

I would be glad to join your crew of thespian raconteur privateers. It definitely sounds better than being just another landlubber eking out an existence dreaming of soap.
posted by Sternmeyer at 7:10 PM on February 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


As always, the closest to genuine preppers are the Amish. They've built very strong community, they're organized and skilled, they're positioned to create food and prosperity using community labor rather than warring over shrinking hoardings.

But they're completely unsexy about it though. Not even the classic debate about which ammo is best to stockpile and whether stopping power is more important than widespread availability. :)
posted by -harlequin- at 7:16 PM on February 6, 2016 [24 favorites]


The Amish are also radical, absolute pacifists, of the "if it comes down to kill or be killed, you choose to be killed" sort, so I don't think they're going to appeal very much to gun-nut fantasies.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:23 PM on February 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Is there anywhere else in the the developed world where a not-insubstantial part of the population not only prepares for the collapse of civilization, but seems to encourage and look forward to it?

When natural disasters hit Japan or Cuba they seem to handle it better than New Orleans, where people in a posh white neighborhood respond by declaring war on black folk:

...
During the summer of 2005 Herrington was working as an armored car driver for the Brink's company and living in a rented duplex about a mile from Algiers Point. Katrina thrashed the place, blowing out windows, pitching a hefty pine tree limb through the roof and dumping rain on Herrington's possessions. On the day of the shooting, Herrington, Alexander and Collins were all trying to escape the stricken city, and set out together on foot for the Algiers Point ferry terminal in the hopes of getting on an evacuation bus.

Those hopes were dashed by a barrage of shotgun pellets. After two shots erupted, Collins and Alexander took off running and ducked into a shed behind a house to hide from the gunmen, Alexander tells me. The armed men, he says, discovered them in the shed and jammed pistols in their faces, yelling, "We got you niggers! We got you niggers!" He continues, "They said they was gonna tie us up, put us in the back of the truck and burn us. They was gonna make us suffer...I thought I was gonna die. I thought I was gonna leave earth."

Apparently thinking they'd caught some looters, the gunmen interrogated and verbally threatened Collins and Alexander for 10 to 15 minutes, Alexander says, before one of the armed men issued an ultimatum: if Alexander and Collins left Algiers Point and told their friends not to set foot in the area, they'd be allowed to live.

Meanwhile, Herrington was staring at death. "I was bleeding pretty bad from my neck area," he recalls. When two white men drove by in a black pickup truck, he begged them for help. "I said, 'Help me, help me -- I'm shot,'" Herrington recalls. The response, he tells me, was immediate and hostile. One of the men told Herrington, "Get away from this truck, nigger. We're not gonna help you. We're liable to kill you ourselves." My God, thought Herrington, what's going on out here?
...


I think our tendency to see our neighbors as 'other' has a lot to do with militia nonsense, zombie preparedness, preppers in general, second amendment fetishists, etc.


By comparison
:

...
“Cuba manages hurricanes well,” said Russel L. Honoré, the retired lieutenant general who commanded military relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005. He has since become a specialist on disaster preparedness and has traveled to Cuba three times in recent years. “We could be learning from them,” he added.

Cuba consistently weathers Category 4 and 5 hurricanes with relatively few casualties. The Center for International Policy, a research and advocacy group based in Washington, says a person is 15 times as likely to be killed by a hurricane in the United States as in Cuba. The island did suffer a body blow last fall from Hurricane Sandy, the second-biggest storm in Cuban history. Before it struck the United States’ Eastern Seaboard, Sandy slammed into Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second-largest city. Eleven people died, and President Raúl Castro said that Santiago looked “like a bombed city.”

Half of its buildings were damaged; almost 16,000 in the city and the surrounding province were destroyed. There were small outbreaks of cholera and dengue fever. Some residents interviewed for this article said they went almost a month without electricity.

“Cuba has an enormous amount of deteriorated buildings that can’t withstand natural disasters,” said Ricardo Mena, a United Nations official responsible for disaster risk reduction in the Americas. He added that while a hospital, for example, might need rebuilding, “that’s very costly and they don’t have the resources to do it.”

Still, he and other analysts emphasized that Cuba would have suffered a great deal more if not for its well-rehearsed storm preparation system.

It is a multilevel process that starts with the young. Grade school students practice evacuations; high-school students monitor neighborhoods to identify weak trees and other hazards.

Dr. Rubiera is the nation’s sole hurricane forecaster, much praised by Cubans for his calm, authoritative manner. “We trust Rubiera because he knows what he’s talking about,” said Camilo Guara, a Havana resident.

In the event of a storm, the head of every institution — schools, hospitals, hotels — is considered a member of the Cuban Civil Defense force, responsible for the well-being of people around them. Tight state control means Cuba can mandate evacuations, mobilize quickly and put Dr. Rubiera’s face on every TV screen. “Cuba is not a model that could be fully replicated anywhere else,” Mr. Mena said.

In Pinar del Río, the province most vulnerable, the government deploys large brigades to prepare for disaster.

“If you have nowhere to go, then there’s the state shelters with food and water and doctors,” said María Fajardo, a resident.

Still, evacuees are more likely to take shelter with family members, friends or strangers, according to the relief organization Oxfam. “We have learned to take care of ourselves and not just rely on the state,” said Yesi Mejía, 43, of Havana.

posted by sebastienbailard at 7:26 PM on February 6, 2016 [25 favorites]


I'm a capable dude and minimalist camper from way back and I believe in disaster preparedness. I also have skills (nunchuck and otherwise). So I'm all set if there's a 2-3 month disruption of food, water, power, medical care, etc. But if it goes on longer than that, my CML would kill me without the highly specialized meds required to suppress it. I'll be one of the casualties of the collapse.

I find that kind of liberating, actually. It absolves me of having to think about trying to survive and thrive in a post-apocalyptic hellscape populated with radioactive zombies and gun-toting, smugly paranoid, survivalists droning on about "opsec" and self reliance.

So, even in a societal collapse, there is a silver lining.
posted by darkstar at 7:35 PM on February 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


My apocalypse plan is simply to die as quickly as possible and save myself all kinds of trouble.

I call dibs on the legs!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:48 PM on February 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


The thing is, right, that societal collapse is happening all the time: in Iraq and Syria; in Nepal after the earthquake; it happened in Ukraine; it happened in Bosnia; Rwanda, etc., etc. , The sheer range of variables at play in any 'apocalyptic' scenario mean you really can't be adequately prepared for everything. If what you're worried about in a nuclear scenario is an EMP knocking your iPhone service out, then you probably deserve the slowly accumulating massive dose of radiation you're getting from your environment.

What 'prepping' is has nothing to do with these actual life-and-death end-of-life-as-we-know-it situations, and everything to do with the grand old American exceptionalist maxim "Fuck you, I got mine". These people are absolutely unwilling to do anything for their communities, god forbid pay taxes or be involved in government, or work for anything except protect themselves from 'the enemy', whether that be blacks, Arabs, 'the gummint', radical lesbians, liberals or whatever. Everyone else in the world seems to understand that a co-ordinated community response to disasters and disaster preparedness is what saves lives and keeps people safe. Rugged American Indvidualism, quite apart from being a racialist myth, is a selfish and juvenile response to real world problems.
posted by prismatic7 at 8:01 PM on February 6, 2016 [33 favorites]


Wow, a lot of passion over a few internet experts. I'll bet most of the braggarts don't even own 2 ARs little lone cases of ammo. Why care if they're sitting on a stash of food up in the hills? It's just one less family to worry about feeding and if they did donate their year's supply of MREs, it wouldn't make a days difference to my town.

If the shit did hit the fan, I'd write my cattle off, ain't worth a shoot out with hungry people. I would try to save 3 or 4 milk goats, some poultry and bees.

I think rational "prepers" tend to hang out on gardening, homesteading and small animal husbandry forums. Lots more talk of sharing skills, seeds, etc. over there.
posted by ridgerunner at 9:08 PM on February 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


Bless metafilter for these threads. Why this is the brand of fear mongering I am susceptible to, I have no idea. But I can always count on y'all to be sensible and make me feel better.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:53 PM on February 6, 2016 [19 favorites]


On the one hand I think that hey, the woman interviewed lives in an area prone to severe natural disasters but which is at the same time the fourth largest city in the US. It's smart to be prepared for disaster here because disaster is likely--and likely to be devastating.

It's also smart to teach your kids basic skills like sewing and easy cooking, etc. They need to know that stuff and far better to learn it at home and fail there where the consequences are less severe.

On the other hand, there's the bunker with freeze-dried meals and the Christian homeschooling with a flavor of superiority.
posted by librarylis at 10:15 PM on February 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


What I find striking about preppers is how tiny their outlook is. If they were that invested in the future of their children, they wouldn't be pouring all their attention and money into their fortresses of freeze-dried stuff. They'd be saying, "We have a country where 80% of our fellow Americans live in urban environments. With Katrina, we witnessed what happens when those people are abandoned by the government during a natural disaster. What can we do to make sure this kind of suffering doesn't happen again? What do we need to know? How do we need to plan so our kids' futures aren't so bleak?"

But that requires engaging in the world around them, and that's not going to happen. The preppers aren't really hedging against the end of the world; they're rooting for the end of a world they find repellent, frightening and challenging.

I wish the common-sense stuff that people could do -- sign up for a CERT course, get CPR and first aid training, figure out meetings places in the event of evacuation, find ways to ensure that even tiny-apartment dwellers can keep a 3-day of stash of necessities, back up their important papers in the cloud -- could be teased away from the macho-shopoholic approach of "mainstream" prepper culture. Maybe there's a niche for Alterna Self Sufficiency that takes away the "Fuck you if you're not a straight white Christian household!" approach. I know several former punk rockers and hackers who are already living this way.
posted by sobell at 10:23 PM on February 6, 2016 [23 favorites]


Buy gold, it's imperative, having gold on hand can belay many bumps in the road such as gas purchases, auto repair, and re-load wadding.
And be confident, tell em your trading in gold, that your the standard bearer of civilizations 1# fiat, gold.
posted by clavdivs at 10:36 PM on February 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I am not sure why sewing is always seen as a survival skill for anyone who lives remotely near a town or city - if it really gets SHTF bad you can just go take clothes and tents from shops. Or other people's houses.

I had a friend who was very anxious and thought about this stuff a lot. One day we were talking about what would happen if society did collapse and I said as sexist as it was, I felt having my husband around would be helpful as he can do construction, water and sanitation, power supply and knows how engines work. And if it really turned to clag he is an exceptional shot. My friend said her husband was not good at anything other than jazz piano, and would I be open to some kind of harem situation come the collapse of everything. So perhaps proper prepping has that going for it???

(Yes, that was sarcasm)
posted by Megami at 11:25 PM on February 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am having a devil of a time finding it, but years ago I read an article in the New York Times or Washington Post that was focused on how humans actually react after disaster end-of-civilization events. And according to researchers who actually study this, people who face the potential loss of civilization . . . keep being civilized. For the most part communities stuck together, maintained law-and-order, did their best to support the worse off, and reacted exactly as reported by Dee Xtrovert in that comment linked before.
posted by schroedinger at 11:28 PM on February 6, 2016 [15 favorites]


Diablevert

I'm only a dilettante when it comes to global food distribution but, when ever I ride west I see section after section of monoculture crops, corn and soybeans. All these farms are dependent on large inputs of petroleum, pesticides and hybrid seeds. It seems very efficient and specialized having a farmer that averages about 150 bushels of soybeans per acre compared to using shit, rain and sunshine to produce 20 bushels per acre like humans did for centuries, but not a very robust system to depend on.

All F1 hybrid seeds come from two pure lines (basically non-lab clones). If nurture throws a new blight and we don't have a pure line with resistance to it, nobody's going to be planting that crop for 3 to 8 years. Not a catastrophe, without a war on top of a major petroleum producing region and a global banking system run by psychopaths, but enough to make me a little bit nervous.
posted by ridgerunner at 1:17 AM on February 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


I gotta say, when Americans go insane, you do so in a specific exceptionally American way.
posted by signal at 3:49 AM on February 7, 2016 [24 favorites]


It's a rather outdated critique of preppers in here. They are well aware that a single household can't survive many of their SHTF scenarios. They are all about strategic community building and the tactics of how that community can make it self defensible and sustaining for at least a reasonable emgency period.

And FWIW the people they mainly think they may have to shoot are not coming out the cities, but imprudent refugees from the suburbs. (They predict an ugly fate for the city-dwellers but consider it to come mostly to be the work of other city dwellers' and nature.)
posted by MattD at 4:10 AM on February 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Anyone who thinks they should be prepared to kill other human beings to 'protect what's mine' doesn't give a shit about community. Anyone who doesn't involve themselves in the community they actually live in, just a self-selected band of fellow travellers whom they probably won't shoot when their paranoid conspiracy of choice descends, is an arsehole. Protecting our way of life means protecting everyone, and that's why preppers can stick it up their gun-toting jumpers.
posted by prismatic7 at 5:23 AM on February 7, 2016 [12 favorites]


Furthermore, Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, UNICEF: that's what disaster preparedness looks like. Not a gun-toting, bible-bashing libertarian arsewipe.
posted by prismatic7 at 5:28 AM on February 7, 2016 [26 favorites]


Earlier this year I woke up to a fireman thumping on my door because the apartment above mine was on fire. 30 seconds later I was outside standing in the rain with jeans and a hard drive and nothing else. No keys, no wallet, no phone, no damn shoes, wondering if all my shit was about to be destroyed. Kinda eye-opening that one drunk with a cigarette is enough to put me in that position, and that's far more likely than zombies or nuclear war.
posted by adept256 at 5:34 AM on February 7, 2016 [17 favorites]


Prismatic -- what do you think the Army or the cops are, at the end, but the standing plan and capacity to kill others to protect yourself?

And the notion of reliance upon institutions -- maybe. Talk to some people whose forbears made it out some real SHTF situations to get to the US. For every one with a story about noble globe-trotting social workers rescued grandpa, you'll hear another (or more) about the pretty Hobbesian tactics grandpa had to deploy to get out of Dodge and the sad fate of those who were too slow or kindly to do the same.
posted by MattD at 5:40 AM on February 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


And as far as natural disasters go, this photo from the 1974 Brisbane floods demonstrates the Australian attitude to what to save first.

Save the beer!
posted by adept256 at 5:43 AM on February 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Preppers are like, these weird people who buys lots of guns and wear lots of camp and fantasize about eating astronaut ice cream for months at a time.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:11 AM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Talk to some people whose forbears made it out some real SHTF situations to get to the US.
Hi! I'm one of those people, and my grandparents' survival story is so far from your macho fantasies that it makes my head spin. For instance, the fact that my grandfather had taken a beekeeping class comes into play, but not because honey was a good source of nourishment after the food distribution system had broken down. The food distribution system didn't break down. But Bolivia was only offering visas to people with agricultural skills, and beekeeping qualified as an agricultural skill, which is why my grandfather took the beekeeping course in the first place. My grandparents survived because of luck, and they would have been furious at me if I'd ever attributed it to anything else, but their most important skill was their ability to manipulate bureaucracies. At a crucial moment, my grandmother's training in early childhood education was instrumental, too, because it allowed her to get a job while they were doing the refugee thing in Paris. But you try telling a prepper that a really important thing is to have training for a job that is portable, because when push comes to shove, the thing that will save you is whether you can afford a phone so you can get the call when a visa becomes available.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:12 AM on February 7, 2016 [34 favorites]


I would love to introduce her to Marie Kondo.

This is perfect, Mchelly.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:32 AM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Maybe I didn't search for the right words, but I didn't see anything about pets? After a few 4.3-ish earthquakes I discovered that I have about three seconds before the cat unfreezes, which is enough time to grab and deactivate him, and his carrier now lives in an easy-to-access spot with the door open.

I also have some cans of cat food in the hard-core, camo backpack a prepper dude gave me.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:57 AM on February 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


Hit post too soon.

The fundamental difference between me and this woman can be summed up by the advice to keep items like matches, salt, and diapers for bartering.

I mean, maybe if there was an actual zompocolypse, but I can't imagine bartering essentials. If things are so dire that a few tablespoons of salt are what stands between you and surviving it's too late. I mean, on my list, maintaining my humanity is right up there with extra salt.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:04 AM on February 7, 2016


Talk to some people whose forbears made it out some real SHTF situations to get to the US.

I am also one of those persons! My grandparents made it out alive out of one of the most epic SHTF situations in the 20th century in part because (i) one of them impressed a touring-disaster-area dignitary by winning, I'm told, an essay competition and consequently getting a ticket out of there, and (ii) the other had a mother who was the headmistress of a school. She was ferociously devoted to her students, to the point of personally leading those of her students whose families weren't able to come for them into the mountains to keep them safe.

Family legend says that she was so devoted to making sure her students followed her that she actually failed to notice when her youngest son fell behind, and only turned around when a water buffalo started lowing in the fields below.

Similarly, I have two friends with parents (in one case) or grandparents (in the other case) escaped genocide. For everyone involved it was a combination of resources, social connections/institutional aid, and sheer, ridiculous, flip-a-coin, you-go-left, i-go-right, may-we-meet-again-someday-brother-maybe-one-of-us-will-live luck.

tl;dr: the SHTF situations in my family history and those of people I personally know all happened because groups of people wanted to harm them, and the strategy that let my forebearers and those of my friends survive was not to hunker down with hoarded food and supplies, but instead to GET THE FUCK OUT OF DODGE.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:15 AM on February 7, 2016 [14 favorites]


Diablevert: Kim Jong un may or may not be a nutter, but worst case he could maybe hit Honolulu

Nostradamus has long predicted that the Third World War would be caused by the assassination of Don Ho.
posted by dr_dank at 7:22 AM on February 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


The main piece of equipment should be 4 of those stupid 1980s boom boxes, keep a 1000 D's on hand, and equip it with one song. It's portable and universal.

Ths will garner more peace then your camping skills.

[push play]
posted by clavdivs at 7:22 AM on February 7, 2016


MattD, the '7' in my handle is fully voiced, as in 'The Magnificent', or 'The Samurai'.

That said, the main thrust of my argument is that preppers refuse to engage in social structures that benefit anyone besides themselves, hoarding resources, disengaging from groups and programs (like schools, local government, taxation and the like) that go towards preserving communities in the here and now where everyone actually lives. They breathlessly anticipate their chance to kill their neighbours and workmates in a kind of eschatological proof that they were Right All Along. It is a purely American mentality, a belief in a god-given right to commit murder to protect your stash of Saltines and Twinkies, and a mentality that doesn't exist in places actually riven by conflict and disaster.

I personally find this worldview, which I described up thread as "Fuck you, I got mine", to be repellent, even sociopathic. I would actually prefer to die in the apocalypse than live a day like that in the real world. So power to you, Godspeed when your S inevitably Hs T F, and I am thankful that as an Australian I have a community and commonwealth I am glad to contribute to that is a long, long way away from the insanity of the USA.

Stepping away from the thread now, on the basis of irreconcilable differences and 2:30 in the damn morning on a school night.
posted by prismatic7 at 7:33 AM on February 7, 2016 [15 favorites]


This all seems so upper-middle class. Piles of cash strategically hidden around the house? I wish!

It's a dumb hobby and a way to waste money for people with more of it than sense. All that shit is going to rot in their basement.

Me, I've always been the outdoorsy type, so I have lots of camping stuff, and it stays relatively fresh due to churn. I have a good propane cooking stove & quite a few bottles of propane, a tent, several sleeping bags, ice chests of various sizes, a decent med kit, lots of flash lights & headlamps (caving -- my stenlight will run a week on 1 charge on the dim setting) and a camping kitchen & food tub that'll keep us going for a week or so, if there's an interruption in groceries. The thing I don't remember often enough is to rotate out a few gallons of water to keep it fresh, and it would be a pretty good walk to the nearest source in the summer.

Our biggest worries here are the occasional tornado, hail storms causing power outages, or maybe the remnants of a hurricane parking over us and dumping 20 inches of rain, so those are the contingencies I plan for. I'm gonna figure that civilization will collapse slowly enough that we will all go into adapt & adjust mode rather than needing to bunker in against zombies, and guns are dangerous, so I don't keep one. I do have compass skills, lots of maps & sturdy hiking boots, if for some reason we need to bug out on foot, but I just don't see a scenario where that is remotely necessary where I live.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:02 AM on February 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


Talk to some people whose forbears made it out some real SHTF situations to get to the US.

Mine did too! They got here by winning UN Refugee Passports from Hong Kong to Brazil, and then after a year living as refugees, to the US. They got this chance through a combination of luck and an American relative who was working with the Lutheran Church's international missions program.

For every one with a story about noble globe-trotting social workers rescued grandpa, you'll hear another (or more) about the pretty Hobbesian tactics grandpa had to deploy to get out of Dodge and the sad fate of those who were too slow or kindly to do the same.

My area of research is, in fact, Chinese nationals who were previously students in US universities, most of whom returned to the US when shit got bad in the 1950s. I am 2000 students deep in my research and literally none of them had to employ Hobbesian techniques. Most of them purchased or bartered boat fare, and then appealed to a Congressperson for asylum when they got here. The most Hobbesian thing I have uncovered is that families often came across separately, as each family member took the immigration opportunity afforded him or her whenever it came up, and once in the US, began working to bring the other family members over. It worked pretty well.
posted by chainsofreedom at 8:24 AM on February 7, 2016 [14 favorites]


There is something core to western society in it, the ultimate right to deny someone your property, even if they will die without it.

Is this really true, or is it just part of the Ayn Randian/neoliberal propaganda we've been fed over the last 40 years? Not that people haven't done this before in history, but as a society we've made a fetish out of property.

can someone please enlighten me as to how an EMP would be generated that knocked out more than 1 square miles of gizmos/hardware?

Not a human-caused EMP, but there have been natural electromagnetic events that caused widespread disruption. The 1989 one in Quebec is a good example.
posted by sneebler at 8:29 AM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


So for the past few months I've been seeing this ad on the side of the freeway for the "Urban Foxhole." Seems perfect for these paranoid types, comes with an air exchange system, you can install it under your slab, holds lots of guns, the whole shebang. The one thing I can't find mentioned anywhere on the website is a toilet. What, you're just gonna let the feces build up in the sump? I think that lack of a toilet is going to limit your zombie-proof hunker shelter to maybe four hours of usefulness.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:59 AM on February 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I guess my opinion on prepper culture is that it's all in the attitude, not the actions. Nothing wrong with having a lot of supplies and skills to share with your neighbors to help the whole group succeed. (Although I think the smarter strategy is a short-term shelter-in-place capability, then a highly-mobile capability)

The disturbing part is opting out--indeed, the decision in advance to opt out--of collective action and mutual aid. Just like it doesn't take a high proportion of queue jumpers to make the rule followers feel like fools and break down the whole system, they're pre-planning to defect in the prisoner's dilemma game and ruin it for everyone. They don't explicitly say so, but these are the people whose attitudes indicate they're going to hoard needed supplies for themselves. They're going to loot stores, they're going to be the ones selling bottles of water and gasoline at extortionate prices, they're going to be the ones disregarding the instructions of emergency coordinators and eventually needing rescue. SHTF! No Rules! We'll be lucky if a significant number of them only bunker in and keep to themselves with their stash of supplies.

Which is the kind of behavior that turns the smooth, efficient emergency plan (or as close as we can reasonably get to that) into the chaos they imagine.
posted by ctmf at 9:04 AM on February 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


Plus, freeze-dried food isn't going to be helpful if my personal calamity is a sudden medical problem or my car breaking down or some thing other than losing my job.

Here's the thing. So, I've been poor multiple times in my life, sometimes suddenly. My "keep two months of food in canned goods" strategy doesn't come from prepper school, but from my immigrant family who has had some real ups and downs. And every time that I've had extra money stashed, I've found a way to raid it - something that was super important, where it was necessary. And then I had no savings left. Sometimes that really, really sucked.

I have never felt the urge to dip into the canned goods. You get things that are decent, but just slightly below what you'd be eating fresh, and you will never touch that when you have enough. When someone suddenly lost their job, it was amazing to just not have to worry about the food. To know that everyone would be eating just fine until things were taken care of again.

The disturbing part is opting out--indeed, the decision in advance to opt out--of collective action and mutual aid.

This is a stereotype, and honestly, it's kind of a mean stereotype that really doesn't have a lot of basis in reality. It's based in ignorance. Every prepper I know is planning for collective action and mutual aid. They're just also planning to be ready in case they can't reach the individuals they're planning that mutual aid with. Or in case the individuals have died. Or in case it takes months for the place to quiet down enough to get there.

Yes, most preppers who live in cities are not planning for mutual aid with their immediate neighbors. Because really, why would they? Just look at this thread, and you have a lot of people saying that if some disaster comes where society is overturned and everything is awful, they would lay down and die. That they would hope for a quiet death so they didn't have to live long in such a hazardous world.

You can't make collective action with that. Those people are not going to be helpful. Even if they have skills, they've already given up. Their plan is to give up. You can feed them for a little while, but it's feeding someone who at heart, wants to be a corpse. You cannot get mutual aid out of someone who would rather be a corpse than participate in the society you want to build.

Why do you think so many preppers communicate with each other? Why do you think so many preppers have friends who are preppers? Just because you, from the outside, don't see offers of mutual aid on the public message boards doesn't mean it's not happening. My family could be loosely considered preppers, though we don't have a bunker and most plans are for getting out rather than sheltering in place. (Hilariously, in part, started by recommendations on AskMe!) We know no less than eight other families who are also preppers who live in our immediate area. We all know where we'd be trying to meet if stuff went wrong. We have a variety of tactics and skills in our group. Everyone can shoot and has basic first aid and land navigation skills, but some people have animal husbandry, or full medical skills, or sewing, or wilderness cooking, or hunting (which requires more skill than just the ability to aim), or really half a hundred other things that could be useful when forming a community. And contrary to what many people believe, all of us are ready to take new people into our community - if they have skills and are ready to work. And skills can take all forms. Storytelling and singing and child entertainment will be useful skills. Knitting and crocheting and spinning will all be very useful skills. Simple mechanical aptitude will be incredibly useful.

I'd wager most people have useful skills, at least some. The process of sorting people out is just to sort out people who haven't given up, and who don't plan to prey on others. Because you can't have that in a community where you need to trust each other to watch the stores.
posted by corb at 10:16 AM on February 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


Well, and I am a disaster, and part of the mystique is not being prepared. I do have a portable shelter, with a propane stove, water cistern, survival bedding and sleepwear. Coffee, tea, sugar, instant oatmeal. If it comes to it you could bury a VW van and earth shelter the roof, Mad Max style. I have a good friend who feels we should immediately place ourselves near a direct nuclear strike target. She thinks surviving the collapse won't be worth the effort. I'll make a fortune with the Die In The First Wave! t-shirt.
posted by Oyéah at 10:20 AM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is a stereotype, and honestly, it's kind of a mean stereotype
...
they would lay down and die.

Um, ok.

But seriously, I get you. It can be done reasonably and if that's the way your cost/benefit analysis runs, then more power to you. I personally know many people with the attitude I'm talking about here in the not-so-remote woods of Western WA, so it's not as fictional as you might think even though your own circle runs more practical-minded.
posted by ctmf at 10:27 AM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


But I guess my question for you is, why re-invent the wheel? Why not get involved with FEMA and your local emergency planning organizations to use your considerable expertise to everyone's benefit? If their plans are stupid, make them not-stupid instead of going on independent ops?
posted by ctmf at 10:34 AM on February 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes, most preppers who live in cities are not planning for mutual aid with their immediate neighbors. Because really, why would they?

My immediate neighbors include three families with new babies and two retired couples. And I would -- and do -- plan for aid with them because I cannot get "Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers, you do unto me" out of my head.

I would not want to be the kind of person who has the capacity to help those who can't help themselves, yet refuses to. No matter what kind of world The Afterscape is, I still have to live with myself within in.
posted by sobell at 10:45 AM on February 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


if you're going to do food storage (which, outside of prepper stuff, i think is a good idea if you have the money and the space) please don't just let it sit until you have an emergency. you're supposed to eat off of it and replenish it so you don't have years old expired food when it becomes necessary to have it.
posted by nadawi at 10:52 AM on February 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


You can just plan for mutual aid with the people next to, duh. You have to have complicated and extensive plans to have mutual aid with the people who only decided to have mutual aid with people who are worth it. Because when you break a leg, or come down with a contagious stomach flu, or become depressed because a loved one dies, the people who only want to help people who are worth helping are really going to be great people to rely on. It's an A++ plan.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:54 AM on February 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


But I guess my question for you is, why re-invent the wheel? Why not get involved with FEMA and your local emergency planning organizations to use your considerable expertise to everyone's benefit? If their plans are stupid, make them not-stupid instead of going on independent ops?

Well, it's not like we don't help out in minor disasters. When Hurricane Sandy came, my husband and I both spent several days volunteering and dealing with the chaos and trying to help people, including spending a full day trying to dry out everything in a non-prepper friend's house that was completely waterlogged. Like, I know people want to think it, but we're not assholes.

But the thing is, FEMA really isn't set up for long term, broad-scale, disaster. FEMA is set up for when one area has a temporary disaster, but the rest of the US/supply lines are fine, and the area is expected to be fine again. And FEMA is trying to do the sort-of-best, definitely-easiest, completely-paternalistic thing it can, rather than paying attention to individual circumstances. And they don't want anyone helping. Look at Katrina. They turned away help from hundreds of fully capable organizations - not even individuals, but organizations - because they couldn't control it. They turned down the Red Cross. And the German government. And doctors trying to give aid to dying people in the streets. And firefighters. And citizens coming by boat.

It's the flaw of government agencies. They feel they have to control the situation more than they want to take assistance.
posted by corb at 11:06 AM on February 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


Growing up, my mom was always trying to get us to eat healthier. She insisted on buying wheat bread instead of white bread, low-sugar juice, stuff like that, always over our loud protests.

I hope Mrs. Bedford doesn't follow the same habit when she's laying in supplies for after the Collapse. I can see the family down in the bunker with the roof shaking and the lights flickering, going, "Really, Mom, low-calorie oatmeal?"
posted by officer_fred at 12:05 PM on February 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


BTW, EMP fearmongering is nonsense.
posted by kiltedtaco at 5:14 PM on February 6
[2 favorites +] [!]


Yeah. That is the reason I used that in two of my comments.

My father grew up in The Great Depression and fought in two wars. My mother grew up in Germany during WWII and its aftermath. There was a garden out back and there was often deer or squirrel meat in the freezer and mom sewed and cooked from scratch. Dad grew up on a farm and when a cousin won a turkey from a radio show at Thanksgiving, dad butchered it and mom prepped it for freezing, removing the feathers etc. (That nasty bird got served at Christmas.) And there were shotguns on the wall above the bed in the master bedroom. They were not loaded, but they each had two shells laying in the groove of the barrel. If someone had broken into the house, dad was prepared to load a gun in the dark, shoot first and turn on lights second.

They were not "preppers." They were both very much about "put your blinders on to all the drama in the world, put your nose to the grindstone and do everything in your power to make your little corner of the universe as civilized as possible because someone, somewhere is always having a crisis."

My mother constantly said things like "It is easy to destroy and hard to create." And "Two wrongs don't make a right."

So, I agree that preppers are mostly nutcases. This is their neurotic distraction from problems that scare the hell out of them that they don't really, truly want to fix or cannot readily fix and they need some diversion while they are in the thick of it. My version of that was having too many boyfriends during a divorce when my personal world was falling apart like a mini apocalypse.

So, I am not joking about the orgy. I know from firsthand experience that when I am well and truly fucked, I will go get well and truly fucked. That's just how I roll during a big crisis. And then I roll my sleeves up and get back to nose to the grindstone, fixing things like my parents raised me.


"Make love, not war." and all that.
posted by Michele in California at 12:36 PM on February 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


Before Rupert Murdoch Made that stupid show for National Geographic there was a funny list going around:
A survivalist has fences to keep people out, a prepper has fences that almost keeps livestock in.
A survivalist has a 100 meter firing range in the pasture, a prepper has a 100 free range chickens in the pasture.
A survivalist collects oddball ammo to trade, a prepper collects oddball skills to trade......

Under those definitions, I don't mind having preppers living down the road.
Also I got my early training in farming from people that survived the depression on the edge of the Dust Bowl, so not protecting your breeding and seed stock for next year is pretty much a sin, along with wasting anything you might need to get through the winter.

In a lifeboat situation, if you can't live without your LOLcats fix, just do it. Don't waste resources people willing to grub in the dirt to feed their kids will need. If you need meds. to survive and can't get them and I've got Fentanyl and a rig you'd like to have, its yours and anything else I could do.
Personally, I'm not expecting anything much worse than being iced in without electricity for 3 weeks again.
posted by ridgerunner at 1:54 PM on February 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


"When you have 400 pounds of beans in the house, you need have no fear of starvation. Other things, delicacies such as sugar, tomatoes, peppers, coffee, fish, or meat, come sometimes miraculously, through the intercession of the Virgin, sometimes through injury or cleverness; but your beans are there, and you are safe. Beans are a roof over your stomach. Beans are warm cloak against economic cold."

--John Steinbeck, Tortilla Flats
posted by sneebler at 3:52 PM on February 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


You know more preppers should try reading Earth Abides, which is one the most depressing books I've ever read (it's true nihilism...which is a tough read....). It kind of takes the excitement out of the whole apocalypse idea.
posted by scififan at 4:30 PM on February 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


If you're going to prep:
1: Prepare so you can help others.
2: Prepare for the little emergencies.

Having friends and acquaintances who regard you as a kind and resourceful individual is probably more useful in the long run than SHTF planning.
posted by mikurski at 5:18 PM on February 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


if you're going to do food storage (which, outside of prepper stuff, i think is a good idea if you have the money and the space) please don't just let it sit until you have an emergency. you're supposed to eat off of it and replenish it so you don't have years old expired food when it becomes necessary to have it.

I keep mine for a year then donate it to the local food bank.
Preparedness _and_ a tax write off, what's not to love?
posted by madajb at 6:13 PM on February 7, 2016


Yes, most preppers who live in cities are not planning for mutual aid with their immediate neighbors. Because really, why would they? Just look at this thread, and you have a lot of people saying that if some disaster comes where society is overturned and everything is awful, they would lay down and die. That they would hope for a quiet death so they didn't have to live long in such a hazardous world.

You can't make collective action with that. Those people are not going to be helpful. Even if they have skills, they've already given up. Their plan is to give up. You can feed them for a little while, but it's feeding someone who at heart, wants to be a corpse. You cannot get mutual aid out of someone who would rather be a corpse than participate in the society you want to build.


I don't think this reflects reality. It has been my experience that people are unpredictable during crises - fragile people turn out to be tough and tough people go to pieces. And I really don't see where living in a city comes into it, except that generally it means you have more neighbors to choose from and thus a better selection of potential participants in your collective mutual aid society. I mean, that's why we live in the city in the first place - cities are already collective societies where we divide up necessary activities and contribute our skills to get things done. Whether you're in a rural or urban setting, rejecting society to live "self-sufficiently" explicitly so you'll survive if society collapses is a weird, mistrustful thing to do.

That said, I am counted amongst the people in this thread who plans on dying because the medication required to keep me alive isn't shelf-stable (it's good for about a week unrefrigerated). People are always so disappointed when I spoil their post-apocalypse fantasy fun by pointing out I, personally, will certainly be dying no matter what precautions I take. Which is odd when you think about the fact they are dreaming of the deaths of most of the people they've ever met.
posted by gingerest at 9:26 PM on February 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


Y'all mock the survivalists, but when the Graboid Apocalypse comes you'll wish you had a well-stocked rec room.
posted by um at 10:04 PM on February 7, 2016


> My plan in the event of zombie outbreaks is to raid the Mormon stockpile down the street, then make my way Mad Max style to a friends farm, where I have been assured a position in the exciting field of subsistence farming.

Not a bad plan at all. Pretty much the best-case scenario.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:09 AM on February 8, 2016


Why do you think so many preppers communicate with each other? Why do you think so many preppers have friends who are preppers?

For the same reason that, say, kayakers have friends who are kayakers? Hobbyists like to connect with hobbyists.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:24 AM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


...a position in the exciting field of subsistence farming.

I have a village all picked out in the mountains of Mexico. If civilization utterly collapsed, no one there would even notice for 6 months until they began to wonder why the eco-tourists had stopped leaving.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:01 AM on February 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


It has been my experience that people are unpredictable during crises - fragile people turn out to be tough and tough people go to pieces. And I really don't see where living in a city comes into it, except that generally it means you have more neighbors to choose from and thus a better selection of potential participants in your collective mutual aid society.

I was starting to write out what I meant with regards to "living in a city", when I realized that I don't actually mean city dwellers, what I mean is "city dwellers of a specific socio-economic bracket, who aren't used to hard times." And I base this sometimes on just kind of how they currently roll. For example, we took or tried to take two groups of friends camping. The friends from the poorer neighborhood were like, "Oh, dig a hole and shit into the hole in the ground? Eat only what we can carry? No problem!" And we had a fucking blast. My wealthier friends were like, "But what campsite exactly do you want, that one is too far from the toilets, you want us to carry our own water, how big is the car we will be driving in, exactly?" And we never ended up going. When we suddenly had to move out of our apartment in two days? Our friends from the shittier neighborhoods, all of them, showed up and just worked smashing and carrying things for twelve hours so we could get it done together. Most of my friends from the fancier neighborhoods either didn't show up at all, or showed up and thought that talking to me while I was moving boxes was help. The exceptions were all people who had originally come from being poorer.

It's possible that I may be projecting too much from that and other "disasters" that one group coped with just fine while the other spent the time complaining and not helping. But that's what I think of. And we are less poor now than we have been in the past, so the neighborhoods we are looking to live in/move to all have very charming people, that seem to fret an awful lot about really inconsequential things. And it is not encouraging for their ability to pull together in a crisis.
posted by corb at 10:10 AM on February 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


I am fully "prepped" for the big one to hit L.A. My friends and family know it. My brother is also pretty well prepped for it. Almost no one else I know is, and just about everyone has decided that they will be making their way to my house after the earthquake. I have 3 tents. There are going to be a lot of people in my backyard until FEMA gets their act together.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:12 AM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh, but I'm not sharing the coffee. That's all mine.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:14 AM on February 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


I live in tornado alley. But in an area that never had tornadoes until recently. The house I moved from a couple years ago, just two miles from me currently, was devastated when a tornado ripped through town and laid a huge swath to waste. As soon as the sirens stopped, everybody with a pickup truck headed in. There were coolers and blankets and big strong folks moving trees to get to people before emergency services got there. Everyone, including me, offered places for people and families to stay.

Don't get me wrong, I keep a pantry with about 3weeks worth of supplies, but we'd all be tired of beans and rice, I can tell you, but the biggest thing you need to have in your bag of omfg, is community.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 11:14 AM on February 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


What I always find hilarious about preppers is that they plan on maintaining a middle-class lifestyle based on processed food while bunkering up for years: freeze-dried cranberries in a fancy pastel box? Indulging in your son's refusal to eat anything but mac 'n cheese? I saw a documentary on some preppers which showed them stacking hundreds of frozen pizzas into their generator-powered freezer. And huge amounts of gas for their trucks. And guns, of course.

It's so crazy. I always imagine them sitting there in their fortresses, getting even fatter from all the pizza, and not noticing that the world outside has cleaned up and carried on with real life.

Obviously, everyone should be prepared for whatever is likely to happen in ones region; it's only a couple of months ago a storm blew over so many trees in my driveway, I couldn't get out. (No, I don't own a chain saw because I am not trained to use one. My neighbor is, and I help him with other stuff in return).
posted by mumimor at 11:31 AM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Talk to some people whose forbears made it out some real SHTF situations to get to the US.

Late to the party, but: when the SHTF in Chile in 1973, when their friends were being jailed, blacklisted, beaten or 'disappeared', and my mom was reported to be on a 'socialist' watchlist, my parents decided to leave.
My dad was lucky to get a scholarship to go study in the US,first in New York city, and eventually getting a PhD at Cornell, where my mom got her master's degree. This is a pretty common story for middle class, educated people of their age and social milieu.

you'll hear another (or more) about the pretty Hobbesian tactics grandpa had to deploy to get out of Dodge

I don't remember having to shoot anybody or loot any gas stations on the drive up to Ithaca from the Bronx, but maybe I'm repressing something?
posted by signal at 1:10 PM on February 9, 2016


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