Posts Tagged ‘TEOTWAWKI’

Doomsday Preppers: Big Al

They’re back! NatGeo has renewed Doomsday Preppers for a second season, and the interweb seems to enjoy my commentaries, so let’s get started.The season premieres with a look at a fellow called ‘Big Al’ from Nashville. The show says he’s a musician (who in Nashville isn’t?), but I’m going to guess that’s code for producer or maybe songwriter. We get to hear a little bit of some modern-country guy singing a novelty song about preppin’ (you can hear the whole thing here), and then Big Al starts on about how in all his studies of Russia, he’s terrified of nuclear war. It’s a valid concern; I certainly don’t want my gross body to be intraconverted into light and energy anytime soon, but I’m not sure we should be looking at Russia in this case. Sure, Putin has the makings of a Mark II Stalin, but if you’re worried about stray nukes, be worried about semi-rogue states with something to prove (Iran, N.Korea, etc.).
Mr. Al says that in his worst-case scenario, the missiles will start a-flying right after a “run on the dollar, closing banks, and the fall of the stock market”. Apparently, he thinks that Russia will only push the button once they’re absolutely sure our economy has fatally weakened. In the event that these red flags appear, Al’s plan is to hop in his van and bug out 1,800 miles to his mountain hideout, which actually looks nice, sitting on 40 acres up in the mountains somewhere. But his “underground house without windows” is a different story. Like most of this show’s homemade underground retreats, it’s pretty ugly and Hoarders-y. Al says he “prefers not to use” the word ‘bunker’, but apparently has no problem going on and singing songs about his ‘bunker stew’. He claims to have 1,500 cans of food, 1,000 gallons of local spring water (I’m wondering how he gets it into the bunker?), and five tons of firewood stored up, because—get this—he spends three full months out of each year ‘practice living’ underground.
Right after that fascinating development, the narrator informs us that isolation can lead to “acute anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia, and uncontrollable rage or fear”. Well, that’s definitely going to color our impression of Big Al for the rest of the segment. Well-played, producers.

Now, what does Big Al do while he’s shut himself away underground for a season? Chops firewood and watches movies about the Motherland. I guess at some point in all this obsessive Russophilia, he learns about Ivan’s fifty-year-old hydrogen bomb, the Tsar Bomba. Well, that gets him all worried that there’s another one out there just waiting to be dropped on us, and so something something gamma radiation. Now, if you’re somehow lacking, Our Culture’s answer is almost surely going to be, ‘buy stuff to feel better!’ And sure enough, Big Al buys himself a big steel tube to be an “annex” for his bunker. Well, that apparently alleviates his worry, and he gets so excited he spraypaints the name of the bomb he’s afraid of on the side. For some reason. Of course, the producers never tell us the name of the bomb, so it just looks like he’s writing nonsense on the tank.
Anyway, this season the show has added a degree of superfluous quantitative-ness to the ‘expert’ analysis. Five categories (water, food, shelter, security, and ‘x-factor’ which I guess is just miscellaneous attributes), 0-20 in each one for a total possible score of 100. He gets a score of 69, which the experts say computes to equal one year initial survival time. What this really means is, The Points Don’t Matter.

In Al’s submitted post-filming update segment, he seems to have had an epiphany and decides that  he needs to really work on his health, and learning some skills to work with his hands to “be able to build things…instead of focusing on things that can be purchased”, which is a good lesson to be learned. Of course, if all these preppers learned that it’s mostly what’s between yer ears and not what you’ve spent on Stuff, the ‘experts’ would be out of a job.

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Doomsday Preppers: Mike Mester

Episode six introduces Mike Mester from Georgia. He manages logistics for warehouses at work and at home too it seems, because he claims to have enough food stacked up to feed TEN people for two years.
We’ve got to the point where I could do a ‘prep by numbers’ and it would probably come out pretty similar to the final product. Actually, from here on, I might start a condensed breakdown of these segments.
Mike Mester. ATL. Civil unrest from Global Economic Collapse.
Solution? Type 1, stockpile.
Difficulties?
One): son is 250 miles away at college. His bugout kit will last four days. Family plans to come get him once the dust settles, in 30 days. If I were the son, instead of waiting around for mommy and daddy to come rescue me, I’d grab my gear and a buddy or two and start hiking to a halfway point to link up with the family.
Two): Family’s plan to rescue son relies on gas-guzzling SUV. They need to ditch the Merkamobile and get a car with decent fuel economy. 16 mpg might seem okay now, but in the crunch of a post-collapse world it’d be downright horrible (Who am I kidding? It’s horrible now, too). My unassuming nineteen-year-old station wagon gets at least 20, maybe 25 when I’ve got it tuned up.
While he’s filling and cycling through his tanks of stored petrol, he asks, “But what happens when fuel is not available?” Here I expect them to whip like, a sweet folding bike or a solar Segway out of the trunk. But no, just a couple more gas tanks. And what happens when that fuel is gone, Mike? Eventually these supply-hoarding survivalists are going to have to face facts and embrace a sustainable solution.

They do have a pretty cool idea I’d never seen before. They combine leaves and shredded newspaper into a slurry, and then pack it into forms; once dried, these briquettes get burned in a neat little indoor stove. If you live in the suburbs where there there aren’t a lot of options for firewood, it’s really not a bad idea.
Luckily, this seriously Type 1 family redeems themselves at the end, by starting a backyard garden, and by building community by giving extra German Shepherd pups (future attack dogs) to neighbors.

The Green Man Says: Life As We Knew It

part of an ongoing series of columns I’ve written, reprinted from the TU Rambler.

May, 2009.

(This conclusion to “The Green Man Says”, Vol I comes hot on the heels of The Swine Flu and associated Chicken Little-esque pandemic paranoia.)

When I went home for Mayterm break last month, my librarian mom was reading a book called Life As We Knew It, which deals with the chaos that ensues when the moon’s orbit changes; narrated by a 16-year old girl, it’s basically Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging meets “The Day After Tomorrow”.  As someone interested in end-of-the-world scenarios, survival, and the estranged relationship between modern civilization and the natural world, this book seemed right up my alley, and I flew through it in about four long sittings.
While I’m sure it’s fine reading for the target audience of middle school girls, readers looking for an insight on survival strategies or the future of the human race would be sorely disappointed.  Up until the lunar cataclysm, the main character’s family makes absolutely no preparations; they spend the book living off a supply of canned goods bought in a panic after the disaster; and while the mother does try to grow a food garden, she only starts after the proverbial shit has hit the fan.
However, the author—whether or not she meant to—does show the reader the extent to which most people are painfully dependent on the infrastructure of our ‘civilization’ and disconnected from the natural world.  As a species, we Homo sapiens lived in kinship with nature for 100,000 years; now, as a consequence of shortsightedness and poor decisions stemming from our separation from nature (which only really began in the last 200 years or so) we might not survive another hundred years.
My main complaint with Life As We Knew It is this: the character and her family spend most of their time huddled inside their house waiting to be saved, believing that their world will eventually be getting back to normal, and they are completely unable to imagine a different, better world; they are content to live by the rules and norms of the ‘old’ one.  The late Michael Crichton once wrote that the only difference between a bear and a human is imagination; at this critical point in our species’ history, it is imperative now that we work to imagine a new future for ourselves, one that is actually sustainable*, because the present system—rooted in petroleum, consumption, and convenience—certainly isn’t.
“Get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand, the times they are a-changing”.

*(For the inquisitive reader, looking for specifics, I point to the concept of Permaculture, which is probably the best middle ground between the two extremes of Primitivism (the Project Mayhem-style, all-out destruction of civilization) and the dead-end that, unless we make some big changes, is where we’re headed now).