I wrote these two essays for StrongTowns almost two years ago:
I don’t suppose I need to convince anyone whose been reading my blog for more than a few months that my overall outlook is apocalyptic. I’ve often softened that perspective by explaining that having been raised “Latter Day Saint” it was not surprising that my neural pathways would contain deep ruts connecting events and scenarios for the End of Days. That said, I think the primary motivator of my apocalypticism has been the fact that I live in a society that has been in overshoot relative to its resource base for most of my adult lifetime and things that can’t go on forever generally don’t.
Regarding the current trigger event for what certainly seems to be the inflection point of discontinuity for industrial society I have to give Chris Martenson at Peak Prosperity 100% of the credit for sounding the alarm and giving Elizabeth and me time to become at least a little bit more logistically and emotionally prepared for what was to come. In late January we started to discuss at our morning conversations over coffee and our evening conversations, sometimes over a small glass of wine, what we ought to do to be able to spend an extended period of time at home. Being natural born preppers, and with helpful tips from Johnny Sanphillippo at GranolaShotgun and some of my wife’s family members, we looked around and thought that what we really needed to do was make sure we had what we thought we had and…”steady as she goes”.
On February first my wife sent a text to a family member in Westchester County who is a “first responder” in both his full time and part time careers. His wife has a very significant position in a portion of the health care system which is at the front line of pandemic response. My wife listed some things that we had done and were doing to be ready for what was clearly headed this way regarding what is now called Covid-19 and this is the response she got quoting a local leader:
Is this just a long, drawn out, “I told you so”?
A little bit, sure.
Mostly however, it’s about improving my understanding regarding what I should expect in terms of the responses to what comes after.
There has been, at least in my experience, a weirdly political component to the acceptance and therefore a rational response to Covid-19 among the people connected to me via Facebook. I pretty much quit that social networking platform 2 years ago or more as far as posting my perspective, (or even photographs of my dinner time ravioli) but I do enjoy lurking from time to time to assess the zeitgeist. Among my former students who had joined the military, and the conservative Mormons of my youth there was truly aggressive and pointed mocking of those who were sounding the alarm regarding what was happening first in China, and later in Italy.
One case in particular, a former missionary acquaintance of mine who was also a physician was posting all about this being much less serious than the flu and that panic and hysteria were the only real problems connected with Covid-19.
What has followed has been “radio silence”.
The military people have transitioned from mocking those who were getting prepared to threats, always involving firearms, relative to (Wait for it!) the inevitable breakdown of cities at their cores and the ensuing bands of marauding savages:
With the economic downturn/Greater Depression I think the expectation should be the same. Most people will mock anyone who presents a viewpoint that energy, environmental, and economic realities are going to obligate most of us to change our expectations regarding the future in terms of what we view as normal. As reality becomes impossible to deny there won’t be any cathartic acknowledgement that they were wrong in any way, but rather an understandable fear followed by anger will likely cause them to leapfrog over rational responses right into aggressive threats towards people who more quickly assimilated the new reality and so prepared for it.
The transformation of prepping into hoarding in the vernacular has been interesting. My wife and I haven’t been out of the house for over a week; we haven’t taken any toilet paper from any store shelves; we haven’t been filling our shopping carts with canned goods: Because we always maintain a pantry, we’ve practiced storing food and preparing meals from scratch for years and years. That means that we’ve left space for others who were less willing or less able to do so now to obtain what they need. I imagine communities with large numbers of Mormons, who put great focus on preparedness, have seen a little less chaos in terms of filling pantries with the basics.
Beyond that we informed our friends and family weeks and weeks ago that perhaps THIS was an important time to take stock of your household and contemplate what a week or a month at home might signify. I think we can point to at least four families that weren’t out during what has been a trying time in the world looking to purchase basic necessities. The problem isn’t so much with those of us who have engaged in preparing for the unexpected as it is with those who’ve had the wherewithal to do so and haven’t.
Do everything you can to stay out of debt, have some money in reserve, have some food and water set aside for emergencies, learn to garden, get to know your neighbors, make yourself more resilient in every way you can. The more of us who can do this who follow through and do it the more focus can be placed on helping people who lack the resources to be prepared. My wife and I have had friends, colleagues, and family members who have asked us for advice on these things but who have completely rejected it as impractical: Instead of setting a price point for a home and finding an acceptable one within those constraints they’ve committed themselves to thousands and thousands of dollars a month in mortgage payments for homes valued in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars with property taxes of a thousand dollars a month. Add to that two monthly car payments and correspondingly high insurance payments, and a comfort level with consumer debt that boggles the mind and, like the economy these behaviors rest on, in a crisis there is almost no resilience.
In all the things I’ve written over the last 8 years I never once mentioned global pandemic as a concern, and I assume there are a whole handful of crises I’ve never contemplated which may become realities. What I have done is listened to people whom I respect regarding general preparedness. I know that I’m not prepared for everything, but even that awareness is of itself of incredible value. It keeps me in a constant state of auto-evaluation. Even this week I’ve reached out to people (mostly Johnny at GS) for not just advice, but an honest critique of where I am and what I’ve done.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s never too late to start, but the sooner the better for all of us.