My last post gave a bird's eye view of what the future will look like. How can we prepare for such a future? Preparing to face the end of industrial civilization is not an easy task mentally, physically, or spiritually.
The question is what positive program could be proposed to prepare for the coming scarcities. The answer is that the individual and local programs have to be worked out by those who recognize its importance. In this post my speculations about what should go into such a program might be used as a guide.
"We need now to start focusing specifically on the issue of resilience. If we go through this period of decline without foreknowledge, without preparation, I fear that it will strip away many of our fundamental values, that we will be left afterwards with a system that is very very unpleasant. If we can build resilience into the system at different levels and then go through this period of decline knowing that at the end of it we will have the capacity to engineer the system in a new way, sustainably, then I think we can sustain our commitment to democracy, equity, and so forth. And that’s the challenge for us. "
Meadows was talking about the system, the economy, the government, the "big picture" response. But look at it from an individual's perspective. You and I and our family and our friends and our neighbors need to start focusing on resilience. If we go through this period of decline without foreknowledge and without preparing for it, we will be left in a very unpleasant situation. If we build resilience into our lives now, then after the decline we will have the capacity to rebuild a better way of life. This is partially what I meant in my last post when I said that the sooner people and societies prepare for a post-peak-oil life, the more they will be able to influence the direction of their opportunities. If you are caught off guard by what will happen then you will be poorly positioned to influence the course of your life, to put it mildly. You will at best get lucky, and at worse be a complete victim of circumstance.
When this subject was brought up recently, a friend of mine told me that what a lot of people wonder about regarding 'collapse' situations is how much time they will have to get that last tank of gas, one last run to the store, or how they will get money out of their bank account. This, and these kinds of situations, are regularly talked about in prepper-porn (fiction books that deal with usually outlandish survival situations) and prepper forums online.
My response is that it completely depends on what services are being blocked/denied and how resilient you and your community are. In almost all circumstances (except for Black Swan events) you will have more time than you might think. But if you are even slightly resilient then you don't need to worry about making one last run to the store or the bank or the gas station. This is Prep 101. You should not be panicked about needing cash or running to the store. Such measures would only help you for about a week or two anyhow. And if that's all you're prepared for, then you'll probably be dead within a month of anything significant occurring.
This may sound harsh, but what I am saying is that if something so significant happens that you're panicked and going to the gas station, the bank, and the grocery store to get you prepared for it at the literal last minute then you're probably not pre-prepared, and you'll at best be able to get about 1-2 weeks of minimally prepared in that last minute. This only works in very short-term situations. Far better to get actually prepared rather than some minimal preparedness that revolves completely around short-term foodstuffs in your garage - and to do so far in advance, rather than rushing around in a panic to get some very small measure of comfort.
The point is that we are facing the end of industrial civilization. The duration is forever. This is not akin to preparing for some small event, like having packed bags ready to go because a wildfire is bearing down on your home, or having a few days worth of food to survive a short-term grid down scenario. What we are facing is not going to be short term, and it's not going to affect one small area. It will affect literally everything, in progressively compounding ways. Eventually, within your area (wherever that may be), grocery stores won't exist, no one will be driving a car anywhere, hospitals won't be open, firefighters and police won't come to your aid. Etcetera.
This is something that can take a while for one's mind to wrap around. Preparing to survive a few extra weeks longer than others (by having some storage of food and water, etc) just increases your odds that you will die quite soon after seeing most other people die. If that's all you're prepared for, then it might be better to just accept your death and go when most other people go. And I mean that very sincerely. There are a few people I know who have so many limitations that they don't see a way out for themseves in the coming hard times and they have moved to a mental/spiritual place of gracious acceptance that embraces the time they have left. If you really want to survive you have to accurately and soberly face the reality that we're facing the end of industrial civilization itself, and prepare well beyond just storing some food in your basement or garage.
There will always be a continuum of "best practices" that give you a higher-to-lower probability of survival. The realistic absolute best would probably be some intentional community of highly skilled people (150 or less, as science tells us that's about the limit to how many contacts one person can really keep track of and making lasting connections with) on a great amount of land (adjoining a national/state park or BLM land on 3 sides maybe) and having the ability to grow enough food for all of those people year-round, as well as provide your own top-notch security. In such a situation (with a lot more expanding of ideas), you'd probably have the best chance of surviving pretty much anything besides all-out nuclear holocaust. On the other end of the spectrum is someone who lives a normal life and has a few extra things they think could be useful in an emergency situation in the garage or the closet, but who hasn't thought or planned beyond that and has no contingency plans. That person and their loved ones are probably not going to survive any kind of serious event except through sheer luck.
Another thing to remember is that you can survive anywhere if you are prepared - if you have the time and resources required. You can survive in the city, you can survive in the rural areas, you can survive in Alaska or the Arctic or the blazing heat of the desert, etc. You don't need to go off-grid in some remote rural area to survive. In fact, if you do that and you don't have a community you will inevitably run out of supplies or run into a medical problem you can't handle or get picked off by someone looking to take your stuff. You can't provide 24/7 security and farm the land at the same time. Individualists will inevitably be picked off eventually or die alone.
I see preparation as having categories. And I see these categories in the same way as education.
1.) The first is High-School-level preparation. This is where you're aware of the threats in a vague way but you're not doing much about it. Maybe it would be better to say you're aware of impending disaster, rather than that you're aware of the threats. Threats are specific, and to know the threats you really have to do a threat assessment, in the style of military intelligence.* (I will talk about this more in a footnote at the end of the post.) This type of person completely relies on others to take care of them in an emergency situation.
2.) The second category is College-Level-Preparation. This is where most "preppers" are at - on some level between freshmen and seniors. They might have quite a bit of food - some even work up to a year's worth or so - stored away, they have water storage as well, and they have guns and ammo and have taken training classes on how to use them and they go to the range and shoot at targets a few times a year. They are most likely frequent attendees of prepper conventions and take classes there on everything from canning food to HAM radio usage and tons of other things that might suit their interests. They almost certainly at some point become a part of at least one if not more prepper groups but only meet up with these people probably on average a couple times a year at best. They may or may not have their own smaller tribe of friends and family, though it is usually more of a rag-tag bunch than a cohesive group with a single vision. The majority of people in this category, like most college students, are more into the "cool" factor than serious preparedness efforts. Survival knives, the newest HAM radio setup, or their pantry full of hand-canned food items are the common topics of conversation. The "seniors" of this group may have moved on to more serious preparation, such as physical fitness, post-oil mobility, intelligence analysis, force multipliers, counter-intelligence, and studying fourth-generational warfare.
3.) The third category is Graduate-Level-Preparation. This is where you're actually, in my mind, preparing and not doing preparation as a side-hobby that merely makes you feel better emotionally. At this level you're actually serious. You have soberly faced what the future holds and are mentally prepared for the hard, sometimes morally grey, decisions you will inevitably have to face. You have prepared yourself as best you can spiritually for the trying times to come. You are consistently working on your health, always addressing your physical limitations, finding alternative ways of doing things where your body limits you, and becoming as accustomed as you can to a world that does not have medications readily available. You have, or are actively preparing to build, a tribe of family and/or friends who are all on the same general page and are actively working with you to achieve your goals. You have done threat assessments for your AO (Area of Operations) (which is basically where you live: your neighborhood, your town, and the towns adjoining yours. In a city it would be your house, your block, your neighborhood, etc), moving ever-outwards as far as you/your group are willing to defend or respond to in an emergency. At this point, if you are physically able, you have taken or are currently taking serious training classes with firearms at least up to and including SUT (Small-Unit Tactics) as well as advanced medical training (not just a first aid course) from a legitimate civilian trainer.** If you have a cohesive group, you have almost certainly done this in concert with some if not most of them, and you have taught the rest of your tribe what you've learned as best as they can learn and execute it, according to their abilities. If you do not yet have a cohesive group you are actively, physically, networking (being a part of a Facebook group doesn't count). You of course have done, and continue to do, all the things that were relevant under College-Level-Preparation.
This is obviously not, and is not meant to be, a how-to guide or an instruction manual. If you want a step-by-step preparation guide, this isn't it. Facing our dire future can be overwhelming, but at some point we must accept it and act. The usual "first step" on the preparedness ladder rung is to store some extra food and water. But bear in mind that survival is primarily not about stuff - not about cool gear you can buy. A reliance on stuff will lull you into a false sense of complacency and get you killed. I would much rather your first step be to get healthy. And I mean as healthy as you can, given your own physical, mental, and natural limits. What is "healthy" for a person with an autoimmune disorder might be very different than for a person with an amputated leg, as it will for a person with autism or a person suffering from PTSD. Health will look decidedly different for a 65 year old retiree than for a 20 year old college student. Out of the people I've met who are into survivalist shows or that I've seen at prepper conventions or that I talk to on the internet about this topic, it is absolutely ludicrous how many of these people simply buy cool stuff that helps ease their cognitive dissonance while they are ridiculously out of shape and have health issues that they are ignoring. If you are healthy, both in body and in mind, you will be able to make yourself useful in any given collapse scenario. If you do not have food, you will be able to trade your skills and your time for someone else's. Plus, there are numerous circumstances when you won't be able to get to your 'stuff' that you've so patiently aquired and spent all that money on. Inevitably, having the right tools for the job is far more desirable and efficient, but health, knowledge, and skillsets are much more important in a collapse scenario than stored 'stuff' that you have come to rely on and can't do without.
The best advice and perspective that I've heard about the coming future is this:
"Live with death in mind. Love what is, not what should be. Identify what you love, and pursue it. Pursue excellence in your life. Do what is right, without attachment to the outcome."
- Guy McPherson
* Intelligence collection, threat assessments, and analysis are literally the foundation for everything else. They reduce uncertainty about the future and tell us what to prepare for and how to prepare for it. The best civilian trainer (and really the only one I know of doing this level of work) is Sam Culper at Forward Observer. He has an e-course you can take: here. (Subscription required.) He also gets booked for public and private classes all around the country and frequently has a booth at preparedness conventions. He also just recently wrote a book called SHTF Intelligence which is an excellent resource and can be found here in both print and e-book form.
** The best civilian trainers on tactical training and grid-down medical training that I know of are John Mosby and Max Velocity. Both are ex-SOF (Special Operation Forces) guys with many years experience and know what they're doing.
The future is going to be far different than the past. The next decade is going to look vastly different than the last decade. This blog is about the transition.
Explaining Peak Oil
The Significance of Renewables
What Will The Future Look Like?
What Do The Experts Say?
Hope is Complex and Fragile
Personal Change Does Not Equal Social Change
Why Genesis 1:28 Doesn't Apply
It's Not About Running Out of Oil