Thoughts on survivalism

Survivalists get a bad rap.  The name conjures up thoughts of heavily armed, camouflage-clad Christian fundamentalists living in remote bunkers and awaiting the end times.  To be fair, that demographic exists, but a more modern form of survivalism is becoming popular:  Disaster preparedness.  The way of life and amenities that Americans are used to is made possible by a number of highly complex systems, and failure of these systems can have wide spread consequences.

Long gone are the days of the United States as a nation of small farmers and city craftsmen.  Our food is grown by mega-corporations on large farms, trucked to industrial food processing factories, then trucked to distribution centers, then to supermarkets.  Seasonal foods are grown in southern latitudes and shipped north.  Most people have very little idea where any of their food comes from, let alone how to grow their own.  Supermarkets maintain as little inventory as possible to maximize profit and minimize spoilage.  This results in a fantastic selection of fresh food all year round at very low prices, but is heavily dependent on petroleum-fueled transportation.  A crisis that disables this transportation network, either by a fuel shortage or by physically breaking the network, also disables the food distribution that keeps America fed.  To quote author Larry Niven:  “They say that every society is only three meals away from revolution. Deprive a culture of food for three meals, and you’ll have an anarchy. And it’s true, isn’t it? You haven’t eaten for a couple of days, and you’ve turned into a barbarian.”

Clean water is a similar issue.  Here in Ohio, water is so cheap that it’s almost free.  We take long, luxurious showers that empty a 40 gallon hot water tank.  We leave the water running as we wash dishes.  We water the lawn, wash the car, and poop in the best potable water on Earth.  Our wonderful water is delivered straight to the tap with no hauling or purifying or effort on our part, and we take it for granted.  All this depends on a functional pipe system to move the water, and electrical power for the water treatment plants and wastewater treatment plants.  My local WTP has a generator backup and enough fuel on hand for 24 hours of off-grid water production.  Any outage lasting longer than that, and the tap runs dry.  You’ll die of thirst well before you starve to death, and sanitary conditions with no water are unbearable.

Now, our support systems work fantastically.  The last time our power was out for an extended period was the great blackout of 2003.   There was enough bottled water and non perishable food available that the major hardship was the heat, and that wasn’t that bad either.  Three or four days later, life was back to normal with only a boil advisory on the water for a few days as a lingering effect.  However, I aim to be prepared if worse crises arise in the future.  Our infrastructure is old and rotting.  Governmental mis-spending and budget issues starve our road and bridge system, and FirstEnergy’s criminal negligence of routine maintenance in our nuclear power plants and transmission lines make this a serious concern.  Add in the rising cost of petroleum fuel and food, and I see a potential crisis that bears preparing for.

The atomic winter of the 60’s and 70’s is giving way to a new set of primary concerns.  I think that within the next few decades we’ll see significant strife and hardship in the United States, for a variety of reasons.  I do disaster prep as a fun hobby that might save my life someday.

The first goalpost for disaster preparation is 72 hours of self sustainability.  The long term goal is long term self sustainability.  We’ll be chronicling out preparation journey on this blog.


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