Archive for November, 2013

Doomsday Preppers: Dan Rojas

The other half of ‘Total Destruction!’ takes a look at Dan Rojas, of Tampa, Florida, which the show claims is the ‘lightning capital’ of the US&A. Yikes. So…just another reason to stay out of the Sunshine State?
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
Since he lives in the lightning capital, Dan’s prepping fear is for a Mega-Lightning Storm, one that could knock out the grid for an inconveniently long time. Hey, I’ll say this—that’s much more reasonable than an EMP doing the same thing, and given the intensification we’re seeing in changing climatic patterns, probably more likely.
A bit later in the segment, Dan says he believes such a megastorm could “create a modern-day Dark Age.” Unfortunately for us, that term is firmly rooted in our culture’s Myth of Progress, and it’s pretty fallacious. Recognize that the term ‘Dark Age’ only arose during the Renaissance, essentially cooked up by the PR spin-doctors of the day to convince the people into believing they were living through an extraordinary time of cultural rebirth and innovation, totally worlds away from those dirty, backwards ‘Dark Ages’. I think Michael Crichton said it best:

“If a benighted medieval world has proven a durable misconception, it may be because it confirms a cherished contemporary belief—that our species always moves forward to ever better and more enlightened ways of life. This belief is utter fantasy, but it dies hard. It is especially difficult for modern people to conceive that our modern, scientific age might not be an improvement over the prescientific period.”

Anyway, to prepare for an eventual grid-down scenario, Dan is making some solid choices to give his family a major step up on most folks. Although it’s given barely more than a mention, it looks like their entire backyard has been converted to a massive aquaponics system. Additionally, Dan and Denise have incorporated exercise routines into their day-to-day work—which is something that seems to be sorely lacking in most Preppers’ plans.

Because it’s not enough to spend more time showing the audience helpful innovations, instead the producers inject a bit of DRAMA and have the family do a lightning storm ‘bug-in’ drill—this amounts to running around, locking animals in cages, and—quite literally—trying to herd a cat. Whatever, it’s all for ratings.

Thankfully, we get down to the meat of the segment fairly quickly, and get to watch Dan put together a totally awesome The-Sun-Provides-For-Everything ‘survival station’. They start out with a visit to the local pawn shop to track down a pre-flatscreen television, containing a precious giant fresnel lens. Back at home, Dan (genius backyard scientist that he is) bolts together a frame to hold the lens, adds sun-tracking capability (solar-powered, of course), and right off the bat, starts a fire in second.

From here, they pretty much just go nuts, using the abundant, free energy from our nearest star to make potable water (boiling pond water), cook chicken (using a parabolic mirror and cast-iron skillet, instead of the fresnel’s direct beam death-ray), and even melt zinc metal to cast a shiny, intimidating hunting knife. Basically, there’s nothing you can’t do with solar.
Just don’t call it ‘cool’. *rimshot*

I’ve poked around through Dan’s youtube channel, and he’s doing some pretty wild stuff; definitely worth checking out. It’s nice to see folks putting this how-to/diy kind of info out there, so that everyday people will see what’s possible in off-grid tech. I’m just waiting for the day when Dan’s niche isn’t considered ‘alternative tech’, but just ‘tech’.

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Doomsday Preppers: Tracy Foutch

Up next we have a pretty decent episode, entitled ‘Total Destruction!’ We start out in Smithville, Tennessee with Tracy Foutch, who is worried about an F5 tornado. And once again, the show airs right on the heels of yet another large disaster, this time a string of twisters in the American Midwest.
A token amount of time in this segment is spent ‘showing off preps’, which Tracy handles pretty intelligently. Normally folks on the show will give out their full name and location, and then proceed to show off every nook and cranny of their secret hideouts. Or else they only go by a first name, give a rough location, but still show off everything. Tracy instead opts for two-out-of-three, because while we know who and where he is, and that he has two hidden safe rooms, he wisely doesn’t show where they are! Why does it seem like he’s the first person to have thought of this?
There’s also a little bit of apiary fun when Tracy and his wife do some bee-keeping, which is always awesome. You simply can’t go wrong with delicious, nutritious, antibacterial, everlasting bee vomit!

However, like I said, none of that is the focus of the episode, because season three’s overwhelming common thread seems to be ‘ambitious building projects’.
And so, the segment spends the majority of its time constantly recapping a build at Tracy’s factory, as he and his team put together a gasifier-powered school bus mobile safe room. It’s nice to see his gasifier looks shiny and professional, instead of built out of oil drums and rusty pipe. Of course, it’s not enough to have a bus that runs off scrap wood (which in a disaster, will likely be freely available): it’s gotta be armored!

In the end, there’s something vaguely troubling that underlies this season’s running theme of ‘all end-of-the-world-survival vehicles must be bulletproof’—as it suggests these preppers assume that as soon as one’s town gets wiped off the map by the megastorm du jour, people will immediately start shooting at each other, and with the exception of Hurricane Katrina, I really don’t think that’s been the case (mostly folks are just too busy coping with the shock of having their home and all of their material possessions taken away by an indifferent force of nature). This prevalent idea worries me, in a positive-feedback kind of way. While this show focuses on a small subset of the populace, the audience is nonetheless looking to these subjects for a model on how to approach the issue of survival/disaster preparedness.
If people watch this program and see that the mainstream-media-endorsed way to approach disasters is to expect a third-world warzone, I’m afraid that’s what they’re going to get –
“We only receive what we demand, and if we want hell then hell’s what we’ll have.”

So they cut out a platform for the gasifier, weld a cow-catcher on the front, some (admittedly, pretty cool-looking) articulated slats over the front windows, plus bars over the tire wells and side windows. All in all, it comes out looking pretty good; plus, the cow-catcher makes it look like a Greek trireme by way of Mordor:
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment

Doomsday Preppers: Kevin Barber

Like I said, ‘We Are the Marauders’ thankfully only referred to the previous numbskull. The other half of the episode consists of an update from a previous family profiled at the end of Season Two. And even better, this is a family that’s doing great things!
That’s right, Kevin Barber is back!

and, might I say, rocking a sweet suntan!

Last time we saw them, the Barbers had just packed up their suburban Kansas lives into a shipping container and moved to Costa Rica, where they set up a chicken coop and proceeded to eat a dozen kinds of fruit right off the trees.

They’re still required to have a single-issue preparedness motivator, so Kevin’s is still US&A Economic Collapse, but unlike pretty much every other person who talks into the camera on this show, Kevin doesn’t sound scared, paranoid, or like he’s spoiling for a fight, post-collapse. Instead, there’s just calm, levelheaded, healthy confidence. I wonder why that is? Could it be—just maybe—that Kevin seems to have peace of mind because his family’s survival plan takes a form that actually addresses his feared disaster? He’s not focused on hoarding guns, bullets, and purchased foodbuckets, or buttoning up in a concrete bunker—the Type I strategy held up by most would-be preppers as the one-size-fits-all ‘solution’ to every collapse contingency; such thinking is painfully inside-the-Box and as such only serves to play into the hand of the capitalist/consumerist system that bred the collapse in the first place. I have to believe the aura of fear that most preppers fairly radiate can only result from the realization that deep down, they know these ‘solutions’ are only temporary stop-gap measures: kicking the can, if you will, another six months or so further down the road (hmm, much like the US&A’s current infuriating pattern of debt-ceiling limit raising).
On the other hand we have Kevin Barber – who, instead of stumbling forward blind and unthinking, has hit the brakes on his suburban American daydream life long enough to take a good look at it, see what needs fixing, and make concrete changes to his way of life.

Down on their tropical homestead, we see Kevin and his wife setting up rain barrels for water storage, showing off their chicken coop, and compost system. In an extension of their last appearance, they’re now butchering their own chicken by themselves, AND they say some nice words for it before they dispatch it! Awesome.

However, the majority of the segment follows the family as they set up an aquaponics system, which unfortunately is chopped into five-minute snippets and spliced with said previous ‘marauder’ asshat. Blerg, I swear, the decision this season to intercut between segments has resulted in a whittling down of actual material by about half…which means the other half is spent recapping what we’ve just seen five minutes before. Ultimately I’m afraid it’s a chicken-or-egg quandary—is this kind of programming a cause of shorter attention spans, or simply appealing to them?

While they’re working on getting set up, a caption suggests that aquaponics may date back to the Aztec use of floating gardens (the chinampa system), which is a pretty cool idea; I’d never thought of it like that before, but it’s totally valid!
When the time comes for Kevin to dig the pits to put his various fish ponds and algae tanks in, he doesn’t foolishly attempt to do it single-handedly (as you might expect of a deluded, gung-ho, lone-wolf prepper)—he gets the neighbors involved! AND he speaks Spanish while working with them! Imagine that! Building community by coming to together to build a system that can contribute to a local, resilient economy! In other words, Kevin has taken a gigantic step towards true survival, a notion that terrifies Amerikans—he has ‘gone native’. How’s that for progress?!

In the end, this family is too cool. Major thumbs-up. Their ducks look to be all in a row, and they have the groundwork laid for a great life off the grid…now if people in this country would only realize that they could do the same thing, without moving to Costa Rica.

Doomsday Preppers: Tyler Smith

Season three continues with the episode ‘We Are the Marauders’, a title that thankfully only applies to one of the folks profiled.
Like I said at the beginning of the season, unless I see good things (demonstrating positive, life-affirming attitudes, progressive thinking, and real solutions) or jumping-off points for serious issues that need discussing, I’m keeping these short. And unfortunately, this guy’s profile is probably the least ‘good’ we’ve seen yet.

© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment

All the production values and dramatic lighting in the world can’t disguise the fact that he has a BudK hunting knife bolted to his arm.

The short and sweet version goes like this: Tyler Smith (and a group of his family/friends/neighbors) apparently has no interest in increasing his disaster preparedness by stockpiling beans, bullets, and band-aids. Instead, he’s got it in his head to be a ‘marauder’ (of the sort regular survivalist guys always bring up as the reason they have fortified bunkers and multiple firearms per person)…and to broadcast this intention on television.

Although it’s not mentioned on the show, a little digging reveals that Tyler “is the leader of Spartan Survival”, a group “founded…in 2005 to train and prepare others on survivalism” with “more than 80 dues-paying members.” Note that he’s not described as the Owner or Instructor of his outfit, like you might see with someone with a legitimate wilderness survival school like Cody Lundin’s Aboriginal Living Skills School or Creek Stewart’s Willow Haven Outdoor. Similarly, such actual schools have paying students, not “dues-paying members”. Basically, what this boils down to is that Tyler has managed to put together his own personal local militia, with himself installed at the top. How he managed to sucker in so many people is beyond me, because he creeps me right the fuck out. Oh well, “hard times flush the chumps”, or something.

And hey, while we’re talking ‘marauders’, here’s some food for thought from Cormac McCarthy on the type of post-disaster-warlord private army I’m sure ol’ Tyler would love to rule.

He woke in the morning and turned over in the blanket and looked back down the road through the trees the way they’d come in time to see the marchers appear four abreast. Dressed in clothing of every description, all wearing red scarves at their necks. Red or orange, as close to red as they could find. … An army in tennis shoes, tramping. Carrying three-foot lengths of pipe with leather wrappings. Lanyards at the wrist. Some of the pipes were threaded through with lengths of chain fitted at their ends with every manner of bludgeon. They clanked past, marching with a swaying gait like wind-up toys. Bearded, their breath smoking through their masks. The phalanx following carried spears or lances tasseled with ribbons, the long blades hammered out of trucksprings in some crude forge up-country. They passed two hundred feet away, the ground shuddering lightly. Tramping. Behind them came wagons drawn by slaves in harness and piled with goods of war and after that the women, perhaps a dozen in number, some of them pregnant, and lastly a supplementary consort of catamites illclothed against the cold and fitted in dogcollars and yoked each to each. All passed on.

 Anyway, why he believes it’s necessary to be a roving band of marauders is beyond me, seeing how he claims to have a fifteen-acre rural property, which could probably very easily be converted into a self-reliant off-grid compound, doing away with the need to wander in search of supplies.

Oh, and they have three kids—aged three, two, and one newborn—which brings to mind the term ‘brood mare’. Of course, the latest one is still in utero during the segment, so if you like getting the willies, just think about this guy giving a DIY cesarean in the barn. Really. I trust this guy about as far as I could throw him.

Now, because his survival plan is to simply roam around and help himself to other folks’ stuff—and said folks wanting said stuff for themselves—he expects to get shot at. And instead of letting that possibility act as the impetus to reassess his survival plan, he decides to enlist the help of his skeezy cousin Jesse Pinkman Chris and make some homemade ‘body armor’.
His wife asks him if he’s going to build her a suit of armor, too? Tyler indicatively replies, “No, you’re going to be a stay-at-home prepper, dealing with all the stuff I kill” Of course! Because a societal collapse couldn’t also mean collapse of patriarchy, enforced outdated gender roles, and macho posturing, right?
Their recipe involves woven fiberglass, bathroom tiles, roofing tar, and of course, duct tape.
Honestly, I’m confused…because it looks like once they make their (not-)bulletproof tiles, then they go ahead an make a ‘suit’ out of steel plate and some mesh stuff? Anyway, it’s about what you’d expect from guys who not only don’t know what they’re doing, but also have no sense of aesthetics (I have a very bad feeling that such postapocalyptic function-before-form will be the death of craftsmanship as we know it). Tyler puts on the ‘suit of body armor’ and cousin sycophant proceeds to ‘test’ it by hitting with rocks, pipes, and a 12-gauge shot across the bow…which is to say, he never comes close to actually shooting him. Some have suggested they actually took the shot out of the shell.

In the end, despite his overcompensating and posturing as a hardcore, ultimate badass survivalist ‘apex predator’…I don’t think anyone is afraid of Tyler. Thankfully, the general interwebs consensus seems to be that “He’s an asshat”, as well.

And so, folks living around Tacoma, Washington, you’ve been warned. You’ve got a volatile idiot in your midst. Take care.

Doomsday Preppers: Mike Evock

The show continues on to Laurinburg, North Carolina, where it will spend a half hour gratuitously pandering to the lowest common denominator of Red State American cable-tv viewers.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentMike Evock runs a 700-acre ‘ATV park’, which somehow (he claims) doubles as his bug-out location. We’re told that “what most people don’t know is that the family business is a front”…well, they do now!

He’s ex-Special Forces (of course), and based on those experiences he’s prepping for a bio/chemical attack of some sort, possibly involving cropduster planes?
Apparently, Evock’s site has some interesting water filtration systems and watchtowers, but of course the audience might actually learn something useful from seeing those, so instead the producers give us an uninspiring look at Southern internal-combustion-engine-enthusiast culture.

There’s a Task segment where we watch Mike’s goofy son Junior put up a ‘biodome’ while dad does laps. And when I say ‘does laps’, I don’t mean he goes for a jog in the interests of cardio and mental/physical well-being, but instead (because this is ‘Murka!) he just drives his four-wheeler in a circle around a track. Dude, if you’re worried about surviving various disaster scenarios (unless you’re really only worried about biochem attacks—in which case you’re completely shortsighted), learning to get by without petrol would be an excellent first step; swap the Ancient Sunlight Juice for Person Power (use your own two feet!).

There’s a big chunk of chasing-trucks-with-four-wheelers, something with anti-marauder maneuvering? In this case the marauders apparently have come for their treasured (remember, this is NASCAR country) checkered flag.

And so we get yet another ‘welding-crap-onto-a-petrol-powered-vehicle-over-generic-rock-music’ montage, because four-wheelers aren’t extreme enough by themselves – they need armor plating and machinegun(excuse me, ‘Weapons Systems’) mounts!

While they’re camouflaging the quad, Mike reminds his son that “Nothing in nature has straight edges”; wanna guess what shape his ‘body armor’ is? Yup, a square. And besides, a single two-foot square of armor mounted dead-center just looks pretty ineffective. Couldn’t they have welded some sheet steel between the wheels, to shield the driver’s legs from the sides? Or some angled pieces above the front wheels, to shield the driver’s arms and body? Unless the operator is protected from multiple directions, you don’t have much business calling it a “mini tank”. I dunno, I’m just not a fan of people getting all puffed up when they only do a project half-assed.

Oh, and I guess it’s now required that preppers give their overkill vehicles a macho, tactical-posturing name.

© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment

behold, ‘the Interceptor’…*yawn*.

Mike shows his father-worshipping son how to make caltrops out of sheet steel, and then they burn some more petrol to test them out on a car. Yeah…I’m pretty sure they didn’t really work.
And we wrap up with even more chasing of trucks with four-wheelers. Except this time, they can train a rifle on the truck and make them stop and hand over their precious checkered flag.

Man, car culture (and its devotees) just leaves me completely uninspired. Blech.

Doomsday Preppers: Chad Hudspeth

Season three continues with episode two, ‘The Fight Ahead’.

As before, we cut between two families undertaking television-friendly stunts that really have little to do with true survival, much less addressing the root causes that necessitate the need (in their minds) for such measures.
First off is Chad Hudspeth, from Phoenix, Arizona.
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
Oh, where to begin?
Well, how about Arizona? What’s wrong with Arizona, you ask? Well, there’s nothing wrong with the area itself, just with Our culture’s approach to living there, which is—as usual—a one-size-fits-all solution: dig a concrete foundation (oriented to an arbitrary direction, because self-regulating, south-facing, passive-solar houses are for hippies), erect some stick-framing and drywall, call it a house, and then hook it up to The Grid. Unfortunately for the people living there, the truth is if it weren’t for that grid infrastructure, cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix simply Would. Not. Exist.:

“…the region has exceeded its natural carrying capacity so such an extreme degree that even mild to moderate disruptions in the energy supply will be disastrous. Transportation, air conditioning, and water distribution will become critically problematic in the years ahead. As oil- and gas-based agriculture fails, and it becomes necessary to grow more food locally, places like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Albuquerque,  and Los Angeles will painfully rediscover that they exist in deserts.”

Built to conform to our culture’s prevailing ostrich-like attitude (which denies the possibility that the grid could ever fail), such cities are completely reliant on Hoover Dam electricity for air conditioning (because it’s hot in the desert and our culture insists on building aboveground), petrol juice (for commuting to and from the sprawl), food, and water (from underwater aquifers which are being depleted faster than they are being replenished, because it’s the desert). What’s the answer? Probably first recognize the inherent weaknesses of the system as Kunstler and I have just broken it down (and then get out), but if you’re going to continue to stay in this environment, you might want to study the strategies—both successful and unsuccessful—of the indigenous locals.

With that out of the way, right off the bat, I pick up on a certain amount of, shall we say…off-ness in Chad’s obligatory talk-at-the-camera moments. He seems like someone who might know just enough to be dangerous, but he got his details from the wrong sources. For starters, he opens by explaining how “the Founding Fathers thought government was a terrible evil”.
Ohhh-kaayyy… I’m pretty sure that as Male, White, Western property-holders (aka the elites of their society – those with the most to gain from a formal, civilized, capital-g Government), they all thought top-down governing was pretty fine. True, there may have been some quibbles about the specifics of said governing (see Hamilton’s Federalism versus Jefferson’s more liberal model), and while the Framers did try to work in some more pure-Democratic, Anglo-Saxon and Iroquois influences (all that “by/of/for the People stuff”), the American system still came out pretty damn centralized. The pyramid might have three checked-and-balanced branches at the top, but it’s still a pyramid.

Chad seems to believe that the Powers That Be are “in control of policies coming down the pipe that are evil, something something not for the good of the people.” Is he a Tea Partier trying to make a veiled reference to the Affordable Care Act, or is this some conspiracy-theory stuff about how the guvvmint is controlling our minds with chemtrails and HAARP antennas in Alaska?
Either way, he believes that “As the man, it’s my responsibility and duty to protect my family.” Y’know, because women can’t be counted upon to protect themselves without a man around? A little later, his wife explains how her favorite survival tactic is Prayer, and she believes the scripture that says she’s supposed to defer and be submissive to her husband who knows best. Because hey, six thousand years of Patriarchy can’t be wrong! You know what a better, real survival tactic is? Re-empowering women. Seriously, FUCK THIS SHIT.

Oh, did I mention that Chad’s supposed fear is of a “nuclear strike by the US government, resulting in a genocidal siege”? … Again: ooookay. Hey, look on the bright side: at least it’s not economic collapse.

So, the positives:
Chad has a nice little aquaponics system in his backyard greenhouse. I think I saw some Swiss chard growing in it. He explains how “it’s far superior to traditional agriculture”: yeah, that’s because everything is far superior to traditional agriculture.
There’s about 30 seconds of his neighbor showing Chad how he can make biodiesel from the algae in his pond, but that’s all we get.
While the segment could have given the ignorant public a detailed breakdown of what the aqua system consists of and how it was put together, instead we get some tinfoil-hat fearmongering and a half-hour of digging holes with heavy equipment, because his plan is “to survive a genocidal siege by building a tunnel that will lead [his] family to safety”.

Like, I’m grateful that he’s not all Type I, gung-ho, ex-military, guns, gear, and-tacticrap (that’s the other half of this episode), but he could very easily go the other way and have a really solid footing to survive lots of disaster scenarios if he just focused his efforts on more sustainable food production—convert the whole backyard to aquaponics, or raised beds, or anything, really. Unfortunately, he’s really completely mainstream in his thinking, believing true survival can be attained through deft use of the all-powerful checkbook and credit card. As a caption informs us, “The first thing Chad did in his prepping was to take his funds out of the bank and invest in goods he thinks will flourish during martial law”. From the folks I’ve seen on this show, the most misguided ones are those who ‘turn Prepper’ overnight and take the same approach to being ‘prepared’ that we do to everything else in this culture—throw money at it! (Conversely, the best off are those who have already been living innovative, self-reliant, frugal lives, often as part of a community of like-minded folks.)
It’s as if Chad one day decided he was going to become a prepper, googled ‘prepping supplies’, and got roped into some fringe-y websites that told him he needed to bury a shipping container and build an escape tunnel through his backyard.

Unfortunately, Chad wraps up his segment saying: “I am an American. I have the American spirit. My advice to others would be to do the same things that I’ve done.” So, in other words, drop a lot of money on bullshit ‘solutions’ you mistakenly believe will somehow help you?

And then he says something about how “the men with the power have been swayed by demonic or satanic powers.” Wait, what??! Huh? Is he suggesting the Koch brothers are black-magick-wielding occultists? I have absolutely no idea what to make of that statement; like I said, the things he talks at the camera are just a bit off.

And as always, the experts tell him good job. And as always, final segment ‘The Odds’ functions as our dominant Mother Culture mouthpiece, once again reassuring us that we have “checks and balances to protect our personal freedoms and prevent any one group from taking power”, so go back to sleep.
Except for, y’know…corporations?

Doomsday Preppers: Curt S.

This episode only spends time on one other person, ‘Curt S.’ of Somewhere in Oregon.

His artificial, single motivating fear is yet another ‘economic collapse’. While we’re just one episode in, I have a feeling that lone issue will continue to dominate the fears of those profiled on the show, just as it did last season (in which fully 50% described their fear of ‘economic collapse’, while none ever suggested that they understood why such a collapse is historically inevitable. It’s simple sustainability, folks).

In his mandatory talk-to-the-camera soundbite, Curt explains how “Government has been infiltrated by corporations, banks, financial institutions, labor unions, and special interests.” Alright now, ♪one of these things is not like the other ones!♪  Can you spot it? If you picked Labor Unions, you’re right! I’m not sure where this guy stands on the US&A two-party-political spectrum (I’m guessing it’s somewhere in the vicinity of Tea Party), but what’s wrong with labor unions? I pick up that they’ve got a reputation for taking mandatory breaks (“laziness”), but when the alternative is to treat workers like expendable cogs—as our prevailing production economy is designed to do—unions are about the only ones doing the right thing and treating workers like actual humans (or at least giving them the best possible treatment, given the work-or-starve coercion inherent in a civilized production economy).
There’s also a timely bit where he describes how there will be “very little commerce happening in America when the debt is due and the government shuts down!” Haha, how about that?! Of course, our most recent partial shutdown ended by kicking the debt-can down the road another six months, so we’ll likely have to go through the whole compounding Mess all over again soon enough. Also, he’s clearly operating under a civilized, limited concept of ‘commerce’. Believe me, folks on this continent were shipping useful stuff all over the place sans central government long before Whitey showed up.

Anyway, Curt’s family live on 80 acres of high desert, which it seems they’re eventually working towards making more self-sufficient and off-grid. Towards this goal, they’ve “built” a two-million-gallon lake (water supply), hooked up a 2400-watt pv solar array, and set up a 3,000-square-foot greenhouse (or at least, they’ve erected the framework). And then Curt proudly proclaims that he has thirty bug-out vehicles. Wait, what? I really hope he’s a mechanic or something. I can understand the need for redundancy, but seriously: a man, woman, and two children do not necessitate having that many vehicles. Do they even have the precious Juice to run them all? I doubt it.

And to defend the compound, he boasts of owning 30 firearms and 20,000 rounds of ammunition. Dude, it’s too late, but next time you have the opportunity to broadcast the details of your arsenal to the whole world, take a deep breath…and then, don’t.

He takes the kids out back and they all do some offhand plinking. While there’s some initial anxiety (inherent in getting a nine-year-old girl to shoot a large-caliber rifle (SKS love!)), at least he doesn’t frame it all obnoxious and tactical, and drill the idea that they’re ‘gonna hafta shoot marauders one day’ into the poor girl’s head—it’s simply good skill practice in the backyard.

Curt is apparently very proud of his family compound’s isolation out in the sticks—he considers “not being near anybody one of your greatest defenses”—yeah, if you’re a deluded lone-wolf. If you were part of a community of self-reliant-but-connected (y’know, in the interest of ‘commerce’) families, that isolation would be a major weakness.

There’s a section where he gets a welding buddy to help him make a steel shield to block off the stairs inside their house. Note to producers: you lost an opportunity for more ratings—you could’ve shot at it first! And while we’re not sure how they plan to implement said shield (complete with peepholes and shotgun port), Curt spells out the reasoning behind it loud and clear—to keep people from “getting into my home and taking my Stuff!

Naturally, since we live in a Juice-guzzling, automobile-fetishizing culture and this show loves to pander to the lowest common denominator, a big chunk of this segment is concerned with souping up Curt’s old Bronco into a homemade tank “to survive doomsday roads”. I don’t get it—if everyone else is out of gas, who do they think they’ll have to outrun?

Anyway, they add a couple tons of steel plates, pipes, and a cowcatcher—so I think we can safely assume the vehicle’s fuel economy is now measured in gallons per mile?
Once the rig is finished, they just have to test it out, so they decide to replicate a typical driving situation in their hypothetical doomsday, by making a ‘roadblock’ (pile of burning shipping pallets). The armored truck easily plows through, kicks up some sparks, and everybody hoots and hollers and congratulates each other like they just landed a man on the moon or something. Boys with their toys…
Oh, and there’s another source of drama while all this car-modifying is going on—there’s a forest fire! Everybody freaks out (because I guess they didn’t factor local natural disasters into their plans), and piles into trucks and bugs out. But the fire department gets it under control and they promptly turn around and get back to welding. For future reference, if you’re in an area at risk for large fires, perhaps consider building your survival home from a fire-resistant material (I recommend cob); additionally, think about integrating fire-breaks into your compound’s design (hopefully stopping a fire in its tracks, or else letting it pass by with minimal damage).
Which brings me to woodlands, our country’s management of them…and the application via analogy of one to the other.
When I read articles on the effects of climate change, there’s always a mention of ‘increased likelihood of major forest fires’. Usually the author suggests such fires will result from severe droughts, but as long as we’re talking anthropogenic environmental damage, why does nobody ever bring up Smokey Bear? But what could possibly be wrong with that beloved pants-wearing, shovel-wielding ursine USFS propaganda-mouthpiece, you might ask? Simply this: the success of Smokey’s staunch anti-forest/wild-fire campaign (and Disney’s Bambi, for that matter) has resulted not in healthier forests, but in the conversion of woodlands (especially those Out West) into massive tinderboxes, by successfully applying a human moral code to natural processes, labeling forest fires as ‘bad’, and teaching impressionable younglings that they are to be prevented at all costs. In truth, these ecosystems evolved to rely on periodic burningsto remove undergrowth, enrich soil, and actually ‘activate’ certain kinds of coniferous seeds. By preventing regular burning (itself a key element in the economies and livelihoods of many successful, sustainable indigenous American cultures) from taking place, the Smokey campaign allowed scrub, undergrowth, and dead trees (a.k.a. FUEL) to build up, waiting for lightning or a clueless hiker to ignite it. The addition of climate-change-amplified drought and increased wind patterns into the equation simply means that the inevitable firestorms will be all that more intense.

Ready for the fun part? May I direct you to Chris Hedge’s latest missive, cleverly pointing out that the American/Corporatcrat system (although his position is completely applicable to the larger Western/Capitalist/Civilized matrix) currently takes the form of an unburned tinderbox. And like the woodlands of pre-Contact America, periodic burnings are required to ensure the health of the forest. The only question that remains is this: where will the spark come from?