Posts Tagged ‘disaster’

Kill the K-cup

Single-use products like these need to be taken out back behind the shed, and shot.
Leave it to the Global North to be in such a hurry that it demands a complicated electronic machine to make single servings of coffee, that will likely either break (non-user-repairable) or be replaced (planned obsolescence) in two years, and creates non-recyclable waste with every use.
I signed it. Will you?

This culture of maximum convenience is also the culture of maximum harm.

For the record, the only responsible solution (if you have to drink coffee in the first place) is to head down to your local antique store, pick up a vintage moka pot:
buy organic fair-trade beans, and compost the grounds (roses love them). You may be slightly inconvenienced, but when this is the alternative, suck it up.


Doomsday Preppers: ‘the Lifeboat’

Season Three’s last episode—which I really hope will also be DP’s last as a series—starts off in south-central Texas, with a group of would-be survivors under the leadership of a fellow named Joe:
Joe’s segment of the episode feels like a throwback to seasons one and two, as this time it seems there’s no big Prepper Project to fixate upon and fetishize.
He’s worried about an impending cyber-attack, which he believes would see America “reduced to horse-and-buggy days, or at best the 1950s”. I’m not really sure what to make of that, I guess mid-20th-century tech was more analog than today’s digital gadgets, but they still ran on copious amounts of electric Juice, and so were still very much reliant on the grid.

In the requisite show-off-the-goodies bit, ‘nam vet Joe has stockpiled his little group of 28 with two years worth of food, 1500 gallons of water (which, at a gallon per person per day, is less than two months worth, so I hope they have a resupply plan), and a fancy ‘communications center’ full of radios he hopes to use to contact fellow survivalists.

There’s a segment where Joe and his well-educated wife D’Ann (pronounced Dee-Ann, apparently) get some folks together and talk about setting up formal schooling for their little post-disaster colony. Y’know, because as Joe says, “to reestablish society (*eye twitch*), you’re going to need education.”
Dude, don’t worry—when our culture’s little civilizational experiment goes belly-up sooner (more likely) or later (as it will, unless our dominant paradigm—Business-As-Usual—changes), the folks still hanging around will still be learning, just as people were learning long before our culture came along and started building pyramids. However, I’d probably bet their learning won’t be spent in a series of concrete boxes, in a little uncomfortable desk for nearly half the day for twelve years, memorizing the names of dead, old white men and the dates of battles against less civilized Others, probably all while being advertised at. I’d bet their ‘education’ won’t be designed to keep them out of the labor market until an arbitrary age at which point some of them will go become the reliable worker/consumer-cogs they’ve been trained to be, while some will go on to more of the same type of ‘education’, proving they can sit in little desks for four more years, before going on to be slightly-higher-paid worker/consumer-cogs. Because that’s how education works when your culture’s Way Of Life revolves around keeping your head down, being obedient, and collecting green paper (to be exchanged for locked-up food).
This piece does a good job exploring the issue, but in a less-grumpy package! Basically, children learn best when they’re allowed to follow their own interests and learn organically.
Unfortunately, Joe’s little post-disaster school begins by making an improvised blackboard, which is fine if your education system is all about rote memorization and sitting in rows. Then they weed through a bunch of donated books to be ‘preserved’ against digital obsolescence. They put a priority on ‘The Classics’ and Math and Science. I wonder how many of those ‘classics’ they themselves have read, and appreciate, and how many they’re just keeping around because they’re ‘The Classics’?

And then the other shoe drops, when Joe declares that he is “developing a lifeboat to ensure the continuation of humanity.”
Wait, what? Is he suggesting that his digital disaster of choice could somehow make the human species extinct? I understand that he’s worried about a “Level Three cyber-attack that will disable our tech-driven culture” (to which I roll my eyes and say sarcastically, ‘Oh no…’), but maybe I missed something along the way where he makes the leap from ‘grid-down’ to ‘Extinction-Level Event’?

Regardless, here’s (one of the many places) where self-identified preppers and I part ways. Folks on this show always frame their fear-arguments in terms of what would be lost in the event of their disaster of choice. I, on the other hand, imagine what would be gained (or regained) should something happen to cause our culture to take a little trip down the complexity ladder it’s built for itself.

Anyway, in the course of all this lifeboat-retreat-group stuff, there’s some father-figure drama between Joe and Welder Wes (a ‘security specialist with military experience’ who just comes across as a fuckup). There’s also some go-nowhere fluff where Wes tries to set off yet another improvised trap involving a shotgun shell (in the name of ‘perimeter defenses’). You know you’re dealing with Old Minds when borders are ‘hard’ (instead of fluid) and to be defended with force.
And, really? We’re meant to believe that their crack ‘military strategist’, a supposed ‘former Navy SEAL’, is this toothless cowboy-hobo ‘Catfish’? Give me a break.

What’s halfway framed as their Prepper Project is the guys putting a little work in getting their gyrocopter to fly. I dunno, while it looks like a helluva lot of fun to tool around in a small aircraft with apocalyptic pedigree:
the great Bruce Spence in 'The Road Warrior', for you unfortunates(and who wouldn’t love a bird’s-eye view of your own backyard?), it also looks pretty complex. To paraphrase Max Brooks, “How many moving parts are there in a [gyrocopter]? I don’t know, but it only takes one to break and take it offline.”

As his little sum-up segment, Joe espouses how “We live in a very fragile world that we created for ourselves. We’re reliant upon systems that are reliable as long as they’re untouched, but once they fail we’re in real trouble.”

Why is it that while I often agree with these folks’ opening and closing statements, it’s the in-between parts that leave me banging my head against the wall?

Doomsday Preppers: John Tucker

Man, the longer this show goes on, the least interesting it gets: I’d chalk it up to familiarity breeding contempt, and I’ve been writing these up for way too long to not notice the patterns everywhere.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentSegment Breakdown:
John Tucker, family of six (yay, excessive procreation!), oil field technician (yay, fossil fuels!).
Supposed motivation: Category 5 hurricane (not unreasonable; it’s Texas, and weather’s only going to get worse).
Strategy: “I keep bees.”
Prior disaster experience: 49 days without electricity from Hurricane Ike!
The above ^ covered in the first six minutes. Rest of segment:

*Some drawn-out drama-stuff where John and his assistant get swarmed while trying to remove a hive of what we’re told are Africanized (‘killer’) bees from a house, without smoking them first, for some reason. Well, what did they expect was going to happen?

*John plans on bugging-out 350 miles, and wants to bring bees with him. But not all of them – just one hive (plus a dummy hive full of supplies)? As you should know by this point in the season, we’re going to spend the next fifteen minutes in a montage of sweaty folks welding (don’t forget the generic heavy metal music!), then adding weapons, followed by a testing stunt.

And why exactly—ignoring the fact that we’re talking reality tv here (nothing can be educational or even realistic!) and everything is sensational and for ratings—does John find it necessary to add a one-time-only, deployable car-caltrop and scythe wheels to his killer beehive trailer honey wagon?
Because he thinks people will see his beehive on the trailer (while they’re traveling down the road, apparently), recognize the many, many uses of honey/wax, and want it for themselves, therefore making him a target!
Y’know, when they first said they were worried about people taking their bees during a bug-out, I figured they meant people pulling combs out of the hives when they had parked somewhere. It’s pretty much only in the movies that somebody would try to steal something from your vehicle while you’re driving.
Ugh. At the end of the segment, John declares, “I’m not crazy, I’m a prepper!” Ha. Whoever said preppers weren’t paranoid…obviously doesn’t watch this show.

You know what I would do if I had bees to transport covertly? For starters, I’d make sure the trailer was big enough and sturdy enough to hold all of my hives—if you were to bug-out with a surplus of commodity with actual value (in this case, honey and wax), hey, you would have something to barter!
Plus, what with colony collapse all the rage these days, I’d want to make sure I had as many hives with me as possible! I thought preppers were all about redundancy—why does John only load up one hive??

Next, I’d make sure the trailer (which would probably need to be a double-axle for stability, not the dinky one John makes up) had low walls, for partial concealment, obviously. Finally, I’d just throw a blue plastic tarp over the top of everything, and nobody would be the wiser.
Of course, John and his crew realize this too, but it’s only after they’ve weaponized the trailer and given it a tacticool name, when they decide they could “put a net over the whole trailer, so they won’t even know what’s going down the road”. Right guys, except now you’re towing a redneck scythe chariot, which is probably gonna tip people off that you’ve got something worth taking.
And what they wind up throwing over the top isn’t something innocuous and commonplace like a blue tarp, as I’ve suggested (who doesn’t have one kicking around?), but some military camo netting, which definitely makes it look like they’re trying to hide something.

Oh, and of course they have to test it out! (Gotta have a stunt to get those ratings!) John tows the weaponized trailer while his cousin or whatever plays the role of honey-coveting marauder. They wind up pulling the front bumper off the car and flattening a tire or two. Whoo.

John closes by letting us know that he always makes sure he has extra stuff on hand so his family can eat. Dude, we’ve seen your vast array of sponsored foodbuckets, why not keep a little extra on hand to help your neighbors, maybe help build a more resilient, local community? Teach them about beekeeping, then you wouldn’t have to worry about people hypothetically taking yours? I dunno, I’ve just about had it up to *here* with redstate Takers preoccupied with keeping their Stuff from others and perpetuating the status quo, instead of engaging in actual solutions.

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: 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: David Appleton

The series’ next ‘prepper’ is one David Appleton, of Charleston, SC.
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
His single-fear issue is a major earthquake, and while one wouldn’t normally think of South Carolina as prime ’quake country, he points out the 1886 7.3-magnitude earthshaker as precedent. So, not an entirely unwarranted fear.

I really like this guy, his wife Lauren, and their approach. It’s really nice to see two folks who so clearly ‘get’ each other. The aspect that they’re focusing on in this segment is David’s livelihood as a stand-up comedian, and the importance of having a sense of humor about SHTF! This means that throughout the segment he’s cracking puns and bad one-liners, which are actually pretty endearing.
Additionally, since he’s apparently living off gig money and whatever his wife brings in, David makes a big point of ‘prepping’ on a budget. This translates to curb-crawling, dumpster-diving, and scoring free or cheap stuff from craigslist. David puts this post-doomsday skillset to great use by building a collapsible rickshaw/stretcher out of pvc pipe, as well as using some old scrounged canvas and junk to make some diy camouflage:
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
And unlike the ‘guns-n-bunkers’-type preppers this show usually shows, David isn’t planning an act of war for when the Big One comes; he plans on using his camouflage to cover up his Army truck-towed pontoon boat (which he dubs ‘the Rafture’, ha!). And to increase his survivability, we see him install a basic rain-catchment system. On his boat! Genius!

Even with an AWESOME altruistic personality, applicable skills, and a greenhouse (more than you could say for most of the mainstream preppers on this show), David is most decidedly non-tactical, and so the ‘experts’ give him a score of 57 points, for six months’ survival. Lame.

Doomsday Preppers: Tony C.

Next up we have a look at Tony C., of somewhere-in-Indiana:

Tony is, as far as I can tell, the first person to appear on DP with a fear of asteroids:

Just joking. He’s actually worried about any number of astronomical events that have the potential to end life as we know it. He seems to think that asteroids, comets, rogue black holes, and interdimensional breaches or whatever “all happen on a cycle, and that cycle is due now!” Nah, man, it’s only comets that are cyclical. Which means it’s the unforeseen asteroids you really want to worry about. (Chelyabinsk, anyone?)

To get some insider information about his fear, Tony goes to visit a Dr. Murphy at Butler University’s Holcomb observatory.
Doc tells him that there’s a one-in-five-million chance of a major ‘space-borne disaster’ occurring in his lifetime. Hmm, those are pretty safe odds. But tell me what’s worse—a one-in-five-million chance of an Extinction-Level Event (which no one can really do anything to avoid), or the fact that our relentless cannibalistic ‘civilization’ is causing 200 species to go extinct every day (which we definitely could do something about)?

Despite the very good odds in his favor (the good doctor tells him he has a significantly higher chance of getting killed in traffic than by a celestial object), Tony maintains that “something’s going to happen, everybody knows it, and so maybe I can do something.”
Hmm, I’m not sure about that. I mean, yes, something is going to happen, statistically speaking; at some eventual point in the future the planet will shake hands with another Chicxulub-level spacerock. Personally, I’d be more worried about the threats to our survival over which we actually have power, and I think that if there’s something that “everybody knows”, it’s simply an increasing awareness among the general populace of the inherent fragility of the little civilizational experiment our culture has created for itself; what they don’t know is that they can do something about it.

But what is Tony doing to deal with this threat? Holing up and burrowing in. How about doing something to help others?
Of course, the form his burrowing takes is pretty novel—he’s built a livable underground space around his RV camper (at least he’s decorated it and made it home-y, instead of ugly contrete)! And why did he choose to build around that, instead of starting from scratch? “Because everything’s there—it’s designed to be self-contained living, with all the comforts of home!”
Blerg. Dude, you’re not getting it. Just because your living infrastructure isn’t house-shaped doesn’t mean it’s any less utterly dependent on the Grid than your average suburban McMansion.
To be truly ‘self-contained’ a home must be able to provide (at the minimum) shelter (this would includes heating and cooling), water, food, and sanitation, all without reliance on outside sources (for a great example, take a look at Cody Lundin’s consciously-designed offgrid digs).
Take away the grid, and all Tony’s buried RV accomplishes is Shelter—it keeps him out of the weather. If he has 1,000 gallons of water stored, where is it coming from?—his dirt mound doesn’t look very suited to rain catchment—I assume electric water pump? Do his ‘comforts of home’ require electricity to run? Unless he has some solar panels ingeniously hidden on top of his dirt mound (I didn’t see any), that Juice is going to have to come from somewhere—either from the coal-burning grid, or a fossil-fueled generator. Unless he’s using a humanure setup for sanitation (this is not the same as an RV ‘chemical toilet’), eventually he’s going to have to empty that sewage tank. That requires the Grid.

Anyway, like I said, he has 1,000 gallons of water stored up and three-to-four years’ worth of food (storebought in steel cans).
Because one of the big issues of an impact event would be the planet-wide cloud of atmospheric ejecta blocking out sunlight and preventing photosynthesis, Tony decides to install grow lights?? Again, where’s the Juice gonna come from to power them?
And because another potential issue is all that particulate matter floating in the atmosphere, Tony whips up a pretty sweet-looking homemade air filtration unit. Here’s where I have to give him props—I love the DIY filter, which looks like he really did some research and took his time—really well-crafted. However, the bathroom air pump that makes it work…still relies on the Juice to run. Really, I’d look into a bicycle-powered generator system, which would also prove useful in helping him keep active in the long days underground.

The experts tell him to have a way to get more fresh water. He claims there are numerous water sources nearby—yes, but what about particulates/fallout? Now Tony needs to DIY himself a gravity-fed water filter. They give him a score of 60 for 8 months.