Posts Tagged ‘local’

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: 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.

On Max Brooks, as promised

Like most of the media I’ve loved and internalized, the oeuvre of Max Brooks can be as shallow or as deep as you want to make it.  It speaks volumes to his skill as a writer that I’m able to ask, Is the message of World War Z ultimately conservative? Environmentalist? Nihilistic? None (or all?) of these? Who’s to say?—it’s up to the reader’s own unique attitudes and interpretation to decide.

Unlike a lot of the other post-apocalyptic media being produced these days *coughAMCWalkingDead*, Brooks actually addresses healthy long-term survival approaches for when the SHTF in his works, and I’m very glad that he continues to comically preach his message of zombie PREparedness at universities around the country.
Of course, everybody always just focuses on the ‘what to use to kill zombies’ chapters—and then becomes disappointed when he explains how M-16s, AKs, and rocket-propelled chainsaws aren’t ideal.  Want to have some fun? Hand the ZSG to a twelve-year old boy and see if he picks up on the multipurpose survival knowledge that could see him through hurricanes, earthquakes, or civil unrest.  He won’t, because it’s The Zombie Survival Guide.

But look beneath the surface, and it seems that Brooks’ overall blueprint in both the ZSG and WWZ is to form self-sufficient and sustainable communities out of the wreckage of the old world. Or maybe that’s just how I read it; maybe I’m seeing what I want to see.  Like I said, it’s up to the reader.

Unlike the victims who populate most other zombie media, Brooks suggests a proactive approach to survival, which essentially boils down to the old adage ‘Leave early, go far, stay long’.  He recommends putting together a team not—like everyone else seems to want to—of supercommandos, but of prepared, well-trained individuals with skillsets suited to self-sufficiency—doctors, blacksmiths, farmers—well ahead of time, and taking this team to a remote, predetermined destination far from civilization at the first sign of trouble.

One thing I especially love about WWZ is how timely it is, incorporating “modern fears of terrorism, biological warfare, overwhelming natural catastrophes, climate change and global disease.” As Brooks has explained in various interviews,

“I think the zombie craze is very tied to the times we’re living in. The last time we had a zombie craze was the 1970s, and that was a time of anxiety, a time when people really felt like the System was breaking down politically, economically, socially, even environmentally; there really was this feeling that “it’s not working anymore”, and people were really scared, and they wanted to explore their apocalyptic fears but they didn’t want it to be too real. …. I think we’re living in very uncertain times right now…there’s such anxiety, and we keep getting slammed. And so much of the problem seem so big, and we feel so powerless.  Who knows what a credit default swap is? I don’t!”

Although published in 2006, Brooks foresaw our Great Recession, the election of our first African-American president, and private space companies like SpaceX. In addition, he peppers the novel with wonderful satirical critiques (he is the son of Mel Brooks, after all) of modern society. Our celebrity-obsessed ‘reality’ TV culture, the corruption of Big Pharma, and the hubris of the Three Gorges Dam all get raked over the coals.  By poking fun at lots of Big Ideas (like the fact that whitecollar Americans can’t do anything for themselves anymore, or that our militaries are always fighting the previous war, or that our globalized, import-based economy has neutered the US&A), he effectively exposes the precipice upon which our modern world stands.

Of course, just because Brooks’ world is nearly overrun with the walking dead doesn’t mean that everything becomes primitive; Brooks still sprinkles high technology into his postwar world.  The depleted oceans are crossed on futuristic ‘infinity ships’ powered by solar cells and saltwater (or some such phlebtonium), modern dirigibles dot the skies, and civilian spacecraft taxi astronauts to the International Space Station.

However, what really speaks to me in Brooks’ writings is how DIY and decidedly un-hi-tech his recipe to defeat the undead is: go back to basics (“Everything had a kind of retro feel to it”). Tactics? Straight outta the nineteenth century: marching in two ranks, or ‘reinforced squares’. Weapons? Nothing tacticool, just a semi-auto rifle with a wooden stock “like a WWII gun”, and a glorified head-cracking shovel.
Simple, Efficient, and with a healthy worldview behind it, Sustainable.

Doomsday Preppers: Steve Pace

Next we come to Steve Pace, a retired Army sergeant living in Campbell, MO.
Like everybody else it seems, he thinks “the biggest threat to our civilization is the loss of our electrical grid”…so, yet another EMP-er?
He claims to demonstrate that a metal garbage can works as yet another homemade Faraday Cage.  He tests it out with a couple of walkie-talkies inside, because he hopes to broadcast survival info to neighbors post-disaster. I have to ask, what if their stuff is fried too?

Nice to see him doing some target practice with the SKS.

He tools around on his candy-apple red ‘quadracycle’, with a cop friend to check his speed. I’d be fine with it if his motivation was as fairly-reliable post-collapse transportation, but he hooks up a motor to it, so he can hopefully escape a horde of raiders (it doesn’t go as fast as he’d like).
Then, he and his wife drink some piss. No, really, they run some urine through a filter to demonstrate the lengths they’ll go to in a survival situation. Hmm…my producer-enforced-stunt sense is tingling.
Pace states that his motivations for survival are “family, community, freedom, and justice”.
Well, ‘family’ and ‘community’ are fine by me (variations on a tribe), but ‘justice’ makes me nervous—like he has an axe to grind. And ‘freedom’? Not until you can imagine a way of life different from the one that collapsed.

Also, I saw another one of those clientele-tailored food-bucket ad running during this segment.

Doomsday Preppers: Kevin O’Brien

This one doesn’t get a picture…because the NatGeo site doesn’t update beyond the premier episodes, and this one’s so boring he doesn’t even show up on a google image search. So…

Kevin O’Brien is a restaurant manager from Florida. He’s concerned about losing his home due to rising sea levels. That’s valid, global warming melting ice caps, sea levels rise, low areas get flooded and so on…oh, what? He’s concerned about rising sea levels due to polar shift? Sorry dude, you just lost me. As I understand it, polar shift has to do with magnetic poles, not with continents drifting around like air-hockey pucks. Florida will not wind up where Alaska is now, or at least not anytime soon.

Anyway (maybe he’s really prepping for something hyperinflation-related like the rest of them, and the producers figured we were starting to get sick of that, and made him pick something else), he has decided to buy property in Tennessee, and move his family there. Funny, I always thought the survivalist heaven was the intermountain West.

Of course, it’s just 130 acres and a barn, so they will have to build their new home when they get there. Wife says she ‘doesn’t want a bunker’. Good. They look at pictures of bottle walls and earthships. Narrator talks as if it’s going to be something actually innovative and unconventional. Kevin says he wants a really solid home…so their new place will likely be made of reinforced concrete. Sorry, sounds like a bunker to me. He wants something that is waterproof, fireproof, earthquakeproof, and bulletproof…clearly, dude hasn’t looked into cob building, not to mention things like strawbale, earth-bermed, cordwood, or the other green building techniques. Which is too bad, because while cob isn’t really bulletproof, you wouldn’t have to worry about being shot at if nobody knows you’re there, and from what they show, a cob cottage with a living roof could totally blend into the rolling landscape of TN.

Like this!

Their energy setup seems pretty nice—TEN big solar cells—plus an array of black plastic water barrels for thermal mass, always a solid plan. They work good for a solar shower tower, too.

His motivation for defense and security is that “people will know we have food”. Dude, if you’re moving out to the country with intent to homestead (because that’s what it sounds like to me), you need to make friends with your neighbors. Too much of this modern survivalist movement is focused on complete self-reliance and self-sufficiency. Like, I’m all about those kind of things, but do it in the context of a community. I see survivalists buying rural property, setting up their little bunker retreats, and then hunkering down. Don’t think your local neighbors don’t know what you’re up to.

He already has hundreds of pounds of dry staples stored in their FL home, in 2-liter soda bottles stacked pretty neat. It’s also good that they intend to grow most of their food, with the rice and dry goods as supplementary to the fresh stuff—so many of the other families on this show focus only on the food hoard of canned goods, and never even mention gardening.

In all, there wasn’t a lot to this one, mostly drama with the kids not wanting to move, and who can blame them? However, I would really like to see them follow up with this family once they get their country place up and running.

Doomsday Preppers: Jules Dervaes and family

Here we have another guy from Cali, this time preparing for the collapse of our industrial food system.
He says our reliance on GM  crops (not to mention petrochemicals) puts our farming model at the mercy of superpests, which—thanks to the monoculture of our totalitarian agricultural system—could destroy a harvest, driving up the price of food and thereby leading to hyperinflation.

In this scenario, fuel and electricity could become a luxury, and so as the narrator describes, “[their] strategy to live without…is to live without.” And good on them—plain living for the win!

To combat the shortsightedness of the food industry, he and his children have taken it upon themselves to try and grow as much of their own food as possible. And they’ve definitely succeeded— especially on less than an acre of land—as Jules rattles off a most impressive breakdown of their harvest: beans (188 lbs), carrots (38), cucumbers (241), onions (109), peas (115), peppers (113), tomatoes (958!), and 500 pounds of salad fixings, plus some comically large squashes. And I’d say it’s a safe bet that their produce is of the heirloom, organic, non-GM variety.

Basically, their system is what the city farmers call SPIN farming (Small Plot INtensive)— which is a great way to get the maximum amount of produce out of a limited amount of space.  By wisely utilizing vertical space instead of growing horizontally, they’ve turned their backyard into a permaculture ‘edible forest’. They also keep a menagerie of ducks, goats, chickens, bees, and fish for eggs, dairy, honey, and meat, plus a cat for pest control. In all, they have a pretty sweet self-sustaining spread.

As their car runs on old french fry oil, the expert appraisal is simply, ‘get a diesel generator’. This is the only problem I can see with this family’s plan: like a lot of biodiesel folks, their source of fuel comes from restaurants—so I guess it’d be hard to resupply post-disaster. Although it looks like they only use the biodiesel in the old Mercedes, I guess the experts want them to get a generator so they could use their extra fuel to keep their lights on, or something.

No mention of weapons or defense/security, although as gardeners they should have plenty of sharp metal things on long handles, and since they are part of a co-op, there’s a ready-made community to lend a hand in defending the ol’ homestead if need be.

After three episodes, I’m starting to notice a trend on this show: the ‘preppers’ who have low-impact, actually sustainable strategies focused on fresh foods (Chris Nyegres, the Harrisons, and these guys) are also the ones who don’t fixate on guns and ammo (or conversely, the guns-and-ammo preppers’ strategies are always focused on hoarding/stacking buckets of prepackaged, processed food up to the ceiling!). They’re also the ones I have a hard time labeling as ‘preppers’, because if something bad were to happen, I can easily picture these folks continuing to live pretty much like they do already.

For what it’s worth, this is another example of the show profiling people who aren’t just random preppers off the street. I mean, Jules Dervaes has his own page on Wikipedia.

Doomsday Preppers: Evers Family

I didn’t really have much to say on this featured family. They seem to have a pretty wide range of skillsets, or at least labour has been divided up pretty fairly. One couple is in charge of fuel (using a homemade logsplitter), one does tech and communications, one does welding, one does security (I’ve never seen anyone make a bow out of PVC and fiberglass, and I’ll probably stick with my handmade osage longbow, but it might be fun to give it a try—that kind of DIY/scavenging mindset is good to have). They don’t seem to be focused on anything in particular—like excessive storage of food, or water, or guns, or whatever—I get the feeling that like the New Englanders, this is really just an example of a family doing what they’ve always done, which you can call ‘prepping’ if you want to see it that way.

The expert analysis critiques them for reliance on power, and I have to agree. Of course, the experts say that they just need to store more fuel; the family patriarch says that they haven’t gotten around to it because it’s too expensive right now!  My take on this is that folks have been getting by just fine without petrol products for like, 99% of human existence, so head down to the antique mall or the flea market, get a two-man crosscut saw, an axe, a maul, and some iron wedges, and start processing your firewood the old-fashioned way. It’s like T.R.’s notion of ‘the strenuous life’: doing things the hard way might be a little more uncomfortable (eek! sweat and dirty hands!) but in the end is probably going to be more rewarding. Cutting and splitting firewood is some damn good exercise, not to mention all the added benefits that come with working outdoors!

Well, that brings us up-to-date with the first two episodes of the show! The third episode (of ten?!) airs tomorrow night, so expect analyses of those folks sometime later this week.