Posts Tagged ‘water’

Doomsday Preppers: David Nash

Our other Tennessee prepper this episode is David Nash, who is also concerned about the likelihood of a modern New Madrid earthquake.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentDavid explains how he and his wife Genny have “chosen careers that fulfill us but don’t necessarily leave us with much in the bank”, ergo he is DIY all the way! Which is great—less is more! I like it!
He starts off by showing Genny his homemade ‘saline converter’ to turn saltwater to bleach, which he could then add to contaminated water to make potable.
I’m not totally sold on the chemistry(NaCl+H2O -> NaOH + Cl ->bleach?), but if it checks out, that’s not a bad little system!
And because David thinks ahead, he DIY’s himself a stringtrimmer motor/wood-burning steam engine contraption to charge the battery he’ll use to run his bleach-maker. I’m not sure how all that comes together—I have little mechanical knowledge of anything more complex than a forge-bellows, but if he can indeed charge a battery by burning sticks and small wood, that’s a winner.

After that, David reveals his build project: a geodesic dome shelter to resist the shaking expected in an earthquake.
He cuts the aluminum pipe framework pieces in his shop, assembles them with his dad’s help in the woods, and then drapes it with a big heavy-duty piece of signage tarp. The dome gets draped in three kinds of wire mesh (probably could have gotten by without the chickenwire), and is coated by sprayed concrete and then given a camouflage paintjob. It looks solid, if a bit melty organic, but to make sure they give us another requisite DP tannerite explosion test, with dad inside! (the shelter appears to survive).

I had a friend in the UP who built a shack along similar lines some years back—except he used steel cattle panels and reclaimed plastic sheeting and old carpeting, all bermed with soil, to make a sort of ‘longhouse’. Apparently it was pretty much invisible once the woods grew up around it.

Oh, and for lighting inside his dome, David installs a two-liter ‘light bottle’—a really genius DIY lighting system—and some DIY gutters for water catchment.

Anyway, geodesic domes (yay, Buckminster Fuller!) are always awesome, and I love the use of the reclaimed billboard tarp. For a non-mobile DIY bugout shelter in the woods, the sprayed concrete shell is probably pretty hard to beat (I wonder if their concrete sprayer would be compatible with any of the alternative ’cretes—something with more solar mass for passive heating/cooling?)

After watching this episode and about the same time coming across this art exhibit, I got to thinking about the utility of combining modern materials like David’s tarp (which already exist in great numbers) with traditional indigenous building shapes and materials. I can pretty easily imagine a band of neotribal folks walking or riding (horses—no Ancient Sunlight Juice for these sustainables) across the post-Long Emergency landscape (or even the Right Now landscape, if you can imagine such a thing!), towing their travois loaded with a couple of these waterproof billboards (emblazoned with images of golden arches or sports mascots or other similar logos that must have once held great significance to the old ‘uns of the Fourth World, but are now no more than mysterious runes) and a bundle of tentpoles, all ready to set up camp at the next watering hole.
Just something to think about, it’s always fun to combine ‘new’ and ‘old’ and imagine different ways of doing thing. After all, there is no One Right Way to Live!

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’.

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: 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: Suzanne Strisower

This episode wraps up with a visit to the California homestead of Suzanne Strisower (on the right:).
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertaimentAccording to her blurb on NatGeo’s page, she “and her life partner Dave (on the left^) are both psychics. She was led to her hilltop home several years ago by her spirit guide.” Man, I’m infinitely thankful that they somehow managed to not touch on this angle at all in the segment—talk about dodging a bullet! (I don’t really have anything against New Age-y types, but I can only tolerate them in extremely small doses).
As it turns out, Suzanne is another one of these folks using her appearance on the show to pimp whatever she’s selling, which in her case is ‘spiritual life coaching’ with runes/crystals/energy-work/past-lives/astral projections/other such that-sort-of-thing. Honestly, if her page used Papyrus font, I would’ve had to punch something.

Anyway, Suzanne maintains a 30-acre plot near the Sierra Nevada mountains, which she is slowly turning into a complete self-sufficient homestead. As the show insists on pigeonholing her as a true prepper, she asserts that she’s getting ready for—surprise!—economic collapse.

However, as she explains, she’s definitely a ‘lifestyle prepper’ instead of a doomsday prepper—meaning that she’s ‘prepared’ only due to the simple fact that an off-grid lifestyle is naturally more self-reliant and therefore less affected by those potential shocks to the System that cause doomsday preppers to lose so much sleep.

In her obligatory declaration of evidence, she explains “The U.S. is doing things that are unsustainable for itself…”
Honey, I got news for ya—it’s not that the U.S. is doing unsustainable things: it’s that the U.S. as we know it is fundamentally unsustainable. And it’s not just us, it’s Our Culture’s entire six-thousand-year-old history of Empire which we’ve inherited and blindly continue to carry on. Read a book, wake up, recognize the bars of your cage, and do something about it.

So…as part of her continuing efforts to maintain self-sufficiency, Suzanne places a big focus on bartering. And why shouldn’t she?—her land supports fruit trees, nut trees, chickens, goats (dairy), and llamas (wool)—she’s got plenty of high-value goods.
After doing some bartering for bulk grains with a neighbor, she takes a trip to the local recycling center and does some more bartering with the gentlemen there. I was kind of surprised at how it played out—usually on the show when someone goes a-bartering, they edit it to make them look all kooky and like it’s so out-there to trade goods instead of pieces of green paper. But not this time—the guys haggle a bit and then go along with it. Suzanne winds up with a junked refrigerator, which is going to be turned into an industrial-sized food dehydrator? Awesome! As an avid dehydrator advocate, I’m really curious to see how that works. Surprisingly, they bring back the post-filming update segment (remember those??) so Suzanne can show off her repurposed-‘fridge-dehydrator. Looks like they just took the top off to let sun in, and put food on screen shelves, which seems like it would actually work pretty well. Thumbs-up.

As you’d expect from someone who wears a giant crystal-thing around her neck, Suzanne is adamantly nonviolent. And as you can imagine, that kind of puts a damper on her efforts to defend her homestead. She goes to the local surplus shop and consults with the guys there. Eventually they decide to hook her up with a paintball gun. I dunno about that. Sure, they sting and leave welts, but is that enough to dissuade hungry marauders? Wouldn’t bear mace or something be more effective?

In her ‘expert’ assessment, she’s given 49 points (four months). The experts’ breakdown—as usual—makes little sense, for example scoring her only thirteen points on water, even though she has over 9,000 gallons stored. Once again, those guys seem unable to accurately assess someone’s preparedness when that approach stems from a completely different worldview from theirs.

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: Cheree

The episode concludes with a literally ten-minute look at Cheree of California’s Sierra mountains.
Since they live in Cali, it’s only understandable that their preparations focus on a ‘mega earthquake’.
With such a ridiculously short segment, there’s really not much material here to discuss. But don’t worry, I’ll find something!

With her parents, Cheree runs some kind of religiously-minded camp. While they seem pretty strongly ‘Christian’, I also caught the slightest hint of a New Age-y vibe off their descriptions.
In the event of the Big Quake (or, conceivably any other disaster), Chree’s main objective will be “to follow Christ.” Ohboy.

I generally try to stay away from conspicuously ragging on hot-button issues; they say you’re not supposed to bring up religion or politics, but without those, everything else is superficial small-talk (and I don’t mess around with that stuff)!

Okay, I can understand how the historical figure Jesus of Nazareth could be a good person to seek to emulate in your relations to others: stand up for the meek, champion gender equality, fight the powers that be, all that (Jesus was a lot like the John Lennon of Imperial Roman times).
So, why do I cringe when I hear that someone’s chief post-disaster strategy is to “follow Christ”? For starters, Christianity is—like the Judaism it grew out of—fundamentally a Younger Culture religion of civilization: at its core is the message that Humanity is flawed and unable to be fixed. The founders of these religions believed this because they looked around and saw only cities and miserable people living in them; having abandoned (or destroyed) their tribal histories, leaving their earliest records to date from post-city-dwelling times, they incorrectly assumed that humanity was born to build and reside (and be miserable) in cities, and if that was the case, and humanity had never been any other way, then human nature is simply to be depressed, violent, selfish, abusive, ignorant, and generally wicked.
Of course, anthropology has proved all that to be completely wrong, and so we should, for the good of Everyone, abandon such fallacious thinking as soon as possible.
Secondly, Christianity’s focus on post-death reunion with their creator in ‘heaven’ has been simply disastrous for the planet (and the rest of we heathens who have to share it with them). Y’see, when Being With God In Heaven is your life’s main goal, you tend to not put much priority on the actual being-alive-here-on-Earth part of life. As a result, you’re not going to care about keeping the place nice for the rest of us, because you’re ‘just passing through’ (those ‘be fruitful and multiply’ and ‘have dominion over the earth’ clauses didn’t help matters either), so you’d best ‘get what you can while the gettin’s good’.
In conclusion, anytime I meet an otherwise rational and intelligent person who self-identifies as a follower of one of the Humanity-is-Flawed religions (Christianity especially), I have to ask myself if they don’t have a loose wire somewhere upstairs.
Really, just be a decent person and leave the labels out of it.

Anyway, in order to practice living through a disaster, Cheree gets together a few like-minded folks to do a weekend full-immersion scenario. Kudos to them for that! They turn off the Juice and spend a few days living without all the modern conveniences we’ve become reliant upon and/or take for granted. Some of the guys install a few 250-watt pv-solar panels on the roof, while others build and install a DIY PVC hand pump for drawing water. And I think I saw someone do a tiny bit of gardening??
However, that’s about all the good stuff, because the remaining five minutes are concerned with a contentious debate among the group over whether or not to allow a member, Garry, to remain in the group, since he advocates armed self-defense. After some waste-of-time scenes, they agree to remain unarmed and excommunicate him from their little network. I guess when a disaster goes down, they’ll defend against hungry marauders with harsh language, man!

Experts give them 58 points for 8 months. They tell them to learn food-canning; Cheree admits that she has already has all the stuff to do it, she just hasn’t gotten around to it yet. She concludes by reiterating her strategy for surviving—to maintain her mantra that “God is on our side!” Okay, kid, keep telling yourself that.

And just for fun:

Harhar.