Doomsday Preppers: Lindsay & Ray

Our next episode, ‘Prepper’s Paradise’, begins with some excellent footage of amber waves of monoculture grain. This is appropriate, as the first profile looks at Lindsay and her husband Ray, of Boise, Idaho.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentThese ‘urban homesteaders’ run the North End Organic Nursery, ‘Idaho’s only all-organic nursery and garden center’. Lindsay also has a local radio show (called ‘Talk Dirt to Me’, haha!) that deals with organic gardening, self-reliance, sustainability and all that goes along with it.

With all this talk about food, it’s only natural that their concern is for a “collapse of the world’s agricultural system”, which is a fairly reasonable fear; one only needs to take a big-picture view to see the tenuousness of our present situation. Of course, speaking of a ‘collapse’ implies a certain abruptness which I don’t think is very likely. Personally, I’d articulate it as a ‘degradation of our culture’s system of totalitarian agriculture’, but that’s just me.

As Lindsay explains, “back in the day, everybody was prepared, because they weren’t so reliant on other people to make sure their lives worked.” She goes on to say that the vast majority of folks today are “severely detached from their food supply” (in other words, they have no connection to how or where their food is grown); this means that our largely-urban population is left to rely on a tiny number of farms to keep them alive. And those farms—though tiny in number—are quite large in size, because the crops they are growing are massive tracts of vulnerable monoculture grains—mostly maize, soya, and wheat—with the backing of multinationals like Monsanto, Syngenta, &c. Like the rest of our culture, these industrial farms operate under a paradigm which places human lives above all others, and views farmland as useful only for producing food for people, or none at all; any non-human lifeforms (or any that do not directly benefit humans) who occupy the land are viewed as vermin and generally systematically exterminated.
Factor in the just-in-time nature of our food-distribution system (witness the oft-repeated mantra of “three days of food on the supermarket shelf”), the fact that—as our helpful caption reminds us—food often travels 1,000 miles or more to reach the supermarket, and the fact that 2012 was declared the hottest year on record in the contiguous United States, and it’s easy to see how the degradation (via loss of productivity, interruption of distribution, &c.) of this system would leave a lot of people hungry. That’s not to mention the economic side of things, in which rising ‘unemployment’ would leave people with no green paper to exchange for supermarket groceries in the first place.
As I’ve said before, our culture’s civilizational experiment has formed itself into any number of shatterpoints, and should any of them break down, the consequences would be wide-reaching: nothing happens in a vacuum.

To combat this uncertainty, Lindsay and Ray have stored four years’ worth of food, which—compared to some on this show—isn’t too impressive. However, they’ve taken food security to the next level, by making it (and education about related issues) the focus of everything they do (or pretty close to it). In addition to running an organic nursery, they have an incredible garden; although they never say it outright, their backyard is totally what the permaculture folks call an ‘edible forest’, or at least, it definitely has the makings of one. In addition, they build and sell the most solid-looking rocket stoves I think I’ve ever seen. There’s a shot or two of Ray welding one together, but the footage of him showing it off wound up on the cutting room floor (as the best material seems to do, in favor of more ‘dramatic’ scenes). Blerg.

Speaking of Ray (who kind of scares me, former Marine that he is), what’s his motivating fear in all of this?
All together now!: “rioting and looting!” Maybe if our system wasn’t designed to rob people of their self-reliance (in exchange for reliance on the fragile system), an interruption of the industrial food system wouldn’t have such dramatic consequences? So to deal with this possibility, they have built a nice little bug-out location up in the mountains of Idaho. This includes at least one cordwood cabin, as well as a greenhouse and huge root cellar (which, sadly, we also don’t get to see).

They’re always looking for new folks to join their bug-out team, so Ray and the group interviews two new candidates. It seems these potentials are active-duty in the military, which somehow means we can’t see their faces or hear their real voices. So, to test their mettle, they do a mock bug-out to the rural retreat with the new guys. This involves loading up the trailer (which apparently has solar panels to run all their radios and power tools, but we don’t get to see any of that) with everything they would possibly need, which doesn’t seem much like a bug-out to me. As I’ve said before, if you have to load up, it’s not a bug-out. Bugging-out is when you believe the time has come to go, and so you grab your bag and high-tail it outta there, either on foot or with your vehicle of choice. While they’re loading up the trailer, Ray says that he “[doesn’t] want anybody to see this.” So, do it ahead of time? I’d have no problem calling it a bug-out if your trailer is already packed, ready to go in the driveway, and all you have to do is hop in and drive off.
So their convoy reaches the gravel road that leads to their bug-out location, at which point Ray sends the two recruits on ahead to scout it out (he’s prepared a surprise for them, but of course they don’t know it). This ‘surprise’ turns out to be just a guy standing around inside the cabin. They shout some army stuff, he gets down on the ground, and they zip-tie his hands. Not terribly exciting; dude didn’t even have a weapon drawn or anything. After their stellar performance in the whole scenario, the group welcomes their two new members.
I also want to mention that throughout most of the segment, Ray and his team members (but never Lindsay) are all dressed like the Seven Trumpeters from last week’s show—clad in an assortment of coyote-brown ‘tactical’ Velcro contraptions and woodland digital camouflage, with tricked-out black guns – in other words, doing their best to look like modern imperial soldiers. It just seems like a weird juxtaposition to me, considering their public front is an organic gardening center.

After the ‘expert’ assessment, Lindsay and Ray get 78 points (I understand it was originally 84 points, which would be the highest score yet), for fifteen months’ survival time.
In the end, let’s close with Lindsay’s final words which give a good summation of the state of The Mess. As she calmly and rationally explains, “People are under the illusion that we have so much food all around us, and that we live in this wonderful modern age, and all I can say is that you’re wrong. There is so much fragility in our system, and it can collapse at any time. These things are just time-bombs waiting to happen, and they will happen.” WORD.

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