Feb 242013
 
Your mom knew what she was saying when she told you to eat your vegetables.

Your mom knew what she was saying when she told you to eat your vegetables.

You already realize that once TSHTF, food will no longer grow on trees.

Well, okay, to the literal-minded of you, of course, apples etc will still grow on trees.  What we mean is that food will no longer be cheap and plentiful, requiring no more effort on your part than a drive to the local supermarket and paying a relatively small amount of money for a relatively large amount of food.

Instead, for most people, providing food for their family will become pretty much their primary activity for most of most days, and they’ll have little spare food left over from their labors.

So, obviously enough, if you waste, say, 10% of the food that comes into your house and kitchen, that means you have to work 10% harder than if you didn’t waste that food.

But there’s another issue that might be more subtle, but which is almost as important.

Saving on Food Means Saving on Water and Energy Too

Yes, food will become very precious and in short supply.  But one or two other things will also almost surely become very precious and in short supply too.  The first of these is water.  Depending on where you live and your water sources, you may find that at some times of the year (or, worse, at all times of the year) you do not conveniently have as much water as you might wish.

The second of these is energy – particularly in the form of electricity, but also more generally in the form of heat and fuel.

So let’s think about the first of these things first, and the second thing, second.  If you have a water shortage, you probably do things like take shorter showers, right?  You’re probably also careful to not flush the toilet more than necessary, and perhaps go easy on washing dishes and clothing too.  Maybe with some care, you can reduce your domestic daily water consumption from 75 – 100 gallons per person down to 50 – 75 gallons, and if you are fastidious, you could get as low as 25 – 50 gallons.

But the greatest need for water is outside your retreat.  It is in the fields, where you water your crops and feel your cattle and other farm animals.  You will probably use 100 times more water in the fields for agricultural purposes than you do in your retreat for household purposes.  So here’s the thing – if you can cut down your food waste by even 2% or 3%, then if you don’t need to grow 2% or 3% more food, the water saving from this will allow you to take long showers whenever you like.

Perhaps the extreme consumer of water is growing cattle.  Depending on your preferred study and analysis, it takes anywhere from 440 gallons to 2500 gallons of water per pound of beef that ends up going in your pot.  If we take a half-way point of 1500 gallons, and if we say you use 50 gallons of water a day, each pound of beef represents a month’s water supply.  That’s not a problem if water is plentiful, but if it is scarce, then it is a massive constraint.

A pound of chicken requires ‘only’ 500 gallons of water.  A pound of corn requires 110 gallons, a pound of wheat 150 gallons, a single egg requires 400 gallons, and a pound of potatoes only needs 10 gallons of water.  (Go to this page, guess at the values, then submit the form for the correct answers and data sources.)

Although your food savings may allow you to take longer showers, they will probably be cold.  Because there is the other constraint that you’re sure to be facing – energy shortages.

You can probably guess what we are about to say.  Growing your food requires a lot of energy – either your energy, or energy from horses and other animals that are helping you, and/or energy from farm machinery if you have fuel for them.

Indeed, you can get locked in a nasty cycle – growing crops to convert into bio-diesel and ethanol to power the machines you need to use to grow the crops you need to power the machines.  That’s a nasty loop to get into.

The bottom line for energy however, is the same as it is for water.  Small savings in the net amount of food you require and consume will translate to bigger savings in the energy you need to produce the food.

Almost Half of All Food is Currently Wasted

Currently, we live in an extremely wasteful society.  At present, estimates suggest that 40% of all food in the US is wasted, uneaten.  Waste occurs at all steps of the process – in the field, in distribution, and in the supermarket – not just in your house of course, but household waste is still a large and controllable part of this.

One could even say that at present, with food costs low, it makes sense to waste food.  It can be more of a hassle, and more of a time cost, to not waste food.  For example, carrots cost $1/lb or less, and potatoes maybe 20c/lb.  If you earn $30 an hour, taking five more minutes of time to save a pound of carrots or potatoes doesn’t make sense.  The five minutes of time is sort of worth $2.50, whereas you are only saving between 20c and $1 from an activity that has a ‘time cost’ of $2.50.

This is a far from perfect calculation, however, many people perceive, and more or less correctly so, that currently the time costs of being frugal outweigh the savings involved.

The present reality is reflected in other forms too.  For example, if you have a choice between making some vegetable soup from scratch, or opening a tin of Campbell’s soup, many people will reach for the Campbell’s.  Making it yourself might save you $1 in ingredients, but might cost you half an hour or even an hour in extra time.  Ignoring issues such as the quality of the final finished soup, most people understand the value of saving an hour of time and will choose the commercially prepared soup.

But this will all change when the food you eat is not grown by low-cost labor and high levels of mechanization, with no appreciable shortages of anything, probably thousands of miles away and speedily/efficiently flown from their field to your front door, but instead is grown with little mechanization and probably by yourself and your immediate neighbors only.

You are more likely to find that it takes you much more than five minutes of time, as well as lots of resource, to grow a pound of carrots or potatoes, and so if you can save a pound by spending five minutes doing something, it is time well spent.  And as for those cans of soup – they won’t exist at all.

So, how to reduce food waste?  It is easier than you think.  Here are four simple considerations.

1.  Change how you prepare food to minimize waste in preparation

Try to change your cooking style to minimize the waste.  For example, scrub rather than peel potatoes, and the same for carrots.  This will not only reduce your waste, but will increase the nutritional benefits – much of the vitamins and minerals in vegetables are closest to the outside.

If you trim the stalk off broccoli or cabbage or whatever, consider using that for a soup base.

The same thing for the water you boil your vegetables in – that is now a rich nutrient broth of vitamins and minerals.  Reuse it the next time you boil vegetables, then use it for broth or soup too.

Soups (and stews) will become your friends.  They are both great ways of using up leftovers, and reducing the amount of waste that would otherwise occur.

Okay, you can still trim some fat off your meat, but in what is almost certainly a more active lifestyle, maybe you can leave a bit more fat on the meat than you normally would.

2.  Change the type of food you grow

Oh – one more thing about meat.  Beef is by far a more energy and resource intensive type of meat to raise than pork or poultry.  You know that pork is cheaper than beef in the supermarket meat case at present, but the real difference in cost, when you have no subsidies, is much more than double.  Plan to raise pigs, and go easy on the beef.

You’ll of course want (need!) to do a similar thing with the fruits and vegetables you grow as well.  The crops you raise will be determined of course in part by the climate and soil conditions you have, and by the need to rotate crops, but also by which items will give you the greatest yield for the least amount of effort and energy.

At present, with home gardens, people have the luxury of growing the vegetables and fruits they most enjoy, but in a survival situation, you need to switch to those items which return the most nutrition per unit of energy, water, and time expended on your part, and which yield the most output from the smallest amount of ground.  Sure – you might have 10 acres around your retreat to cultivate, but the less distance and more compact your gardening, the more efficient its management becomes when you are more likely to be walking than driving everywhere.

You want to consider seasonality of when foods need to be planted and can be harvested, and also storage issues.  A fruit or vegetable that doesn’t last long and can’t be easily stored for extended time (eg lettuce) is not nearly as sensible a choice as something that can be stored and consumed over the winter season.  Chances are you’ll be growing plenty of potatoes, which are not only a high yielding crop but also a crop that can be stored for an extended time.

3.  Change what you do with cooked food to minimize leftover waste

Adjust the quantities you cook so you don’t end up with too much leftovers that eventually get tossed out, uneaten and spoiled.  Sure, it makes sense to cook in moderately bulk quantities – that can be both time and energy-efficient, but don’t overdo it, and also remember you always have to guard against appetite fatigue setting in.

Be careful at ensuring that you properly store and eat any leftovers you create – for example, quickly cover and refrigerate leftovers after cooking them.

There is nothing worse than leaving a pot of something, especially uncovered, on the stove and allowing it to naturally cool.  As the item cools, it goes through a temperature band which represents the ideal temperature band for bacteria, yeasts and molds to grow, and anything that might land in the item from the general air, or perhaps be introduced by handling, will find itself in an ideal environment to grow.  Keep all pots covered, and once you’ve finished serving out the food, quickly cool them then prepare them for storage, ideally in sealed containers with little or no headspace for air.

At present, with plentiful cheap energy, it is fine to cool things in the fridge, but in an energy scarce situation, you will probably choose to cool them with a water bath before then refrigerating them.

Depending on the item, cooked food may last longer than raw food, so plan what you have in the way of raw food and how/when you cook it.  As we said in the preceding paragraph, stews and soups will be your friends.  Don’t let appetite fatigue set in – you must vary your meals, but you also will find that some types of food preparation work better for you than others in terms of the ‘yield’ of edible food compared to raw food you start with, how much energy it takes to cook the food, and how long the prepared item lasts and can be eaten.

4.  Don’t throw away any food items – use everything in some way or another

Disable the waste disposal unit in your sink and instead place a filter over the drain so that no food goes down the drain and all is salvaged for some purpose.

This will help you two ways.  It will salvage a lot of food scraps that otherwise would disappear, and it will reduce the biomass inputs into your septic system (we are assuming your retreat will almost surely have a septic system).  Remember that pretty much all the solid that goes into the septic system will sooner or later need to be cleaned/cleared out of the tanks, and when you consider that after TEOTWAWKI, you can’t just call the local septic pumping service and have their truck come up and do it all, as if by magic, in an easy simple procedure.  You’ll have to do it yourself.  It will be smelly, dirty, and nasty; definitely something you want to do as infrequently as possible.

Any truly waste food unfit for humans should be fed to animals if possible.  And if that still leaves some items left over, put them into your compost bins.

Summary

Your life in a Level 3 situation will be defined and constrained by two related factors – the amount of energy available to you, compared to the amount you need; and the amount of food available to you, also compared to the amount you need.

Because growing food is an energy intensive process, anything and everything you can do to minimize your food needs will be beneficial, and help you better manage both your food needs and your energy needs.

With food, the adage ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ is very true.  Every reduction in the amount of food that goes into your kitchen will greatly pay off (maybe nine-fold, maybe more) in reducing the inputs you need to grow the food in the first place, giving you a better lifestyle overall and/or making you hopefully food ‘wealthy’ rather than food ‘poor’.

Feb 192013
 
High capability remote controlled drones can be purchased for civilian use and costing as little as $1000 or less.  But be careful how you integrate such capabilities into your retreat's defensive strategies.

High capability remote-controlled drones can be purchased for civilian use and costing as little as $1000 or less. But be careful how you integrate such capabilities into your retreat’s defensive strategies.

I was reading an article on the comprehensive Survivalblog website – an impressive site that should be on your ‘must visit’ list.  It has a huge compilation of content, albeit some of it user-contributed and occasionally overlapping and repetitive in nature.

This particular article was about using radio controlled planes/helicopters (ie what are commonly now being termed ‘drones’) for reconnaissance and security purposes at one’s retreat.

The author of the article was talking about how these sorts of devices (possibly augmented by fixed wireless remote cameras too) provide excellent security and surveillance, and can even send live audio and video feeds direct to his cell phone and tablet, wherever he was.  It all sounded wonderful and appealing, and I could understand the author’s enthusiasm for the concepts he was proposing.

But.

This is the part which gave me pause, and served as the inspiration for the article you are now reading :

The other clear benefit to employing drones to keep watch, is that even if the device is spotted, and even engaged and disabled, it’s much better than risking losing a member of your team, or family. Machines are expendable, and replaceable, while people clearly are not.

A much better scenario would be to be sitting snuggly in a central command area equipped with CCTV monitors, powered perhaps by a genset, or re-chargeable solar/battery banks. Or even streaming into your laptop, I-phone or I-pad, regardless of your location relevant to the drones area of observation.

This is all great stuff, and as a high-tech gadget lover myself, music to my ears.  But there are three huge assumptions inherent in his recommendations.

The first assumption is not one to be discussed here – and that is the assumption that glorified ‘toys’ can provide an effective and secure observation/security/surveillance system, saving you from needing to have ‘boots on the ground’ out there, in observation posts and walking patrols.  That’s an assumption I’m very uncomfortable with; and so much so that it should be the subject of a separate post all on its own.

Suffice it to say that any type of security system is best with multiple layers of sensors and sensing, and that there’s still nothing out there that can entirely replace the good old Mark 1 Human Eyeball and Ear.  And whereas people and ‘human sensors’ are moderately all-weather capable and can be deployed for some hours at a time, most drones costing less than five or six figures are very limited in their weather handling, their range and their endurance.

The other two assumptions are what we wish to discuss in this article.

His second assumption – when he says that machines are expendable and replaceable, yes, that is definitely true today.  You can order spare parts or complete new machines online or over the phone today and expect them delivered a day or two later.  And probably you’d keep at least one spare for such a mission critical capability on-site, too.

The third assumption – when he talks about streaming video into a laptop, iPhone or iPad, regardless of location, that too is largely true today, as long as you are within a Wi-Fi or wireless data coverage area.  Of course, many of our retreat locations suffer from poor cell phone signals at the best of times, and very few also have good fast data service, but that is a known variable that can be factored in to one’s planning.

But – and here’s the huge, enormous, overpowering but.  What happens in a Level 2 or 3 situation (defined here)?  Even a Level 1 situation will pose problems.

What happens when the grid goes down, and society suffers a short, medium, or long-term collapse?  How do these assumptions withstand this type of adverse scenario, which is, after all, the scenario we are planning for?

You can’t then go online and order things, because the internet will be down.  Within a few days, landline phone service will become increasingly fractured too – where will the phone companies get electricity from to power their exchanges, their repeaters, and everything else needed to drive the wired phone system?  Sure, you probably understand that if you have traditional ‘POTS’ (Plain Old Telephone Service) at your home/retreat, you don’t need power for a wired phone to work – but that is because the phone company is powering the system at its end.  What happens when they lose power?

How will you then order a replacement drone?  You can’t, can you.  All of a sudden, that ‘expendable and replaceable’ item has become precious and irreplaceable.

Okay, we’re absolutely not saying you should carelessly hazard the lives of your community members instead (although a cynic might point out that replacement community members might be more readily available than replacement high-tech drones!).  We’re simply saying that basing your retreat’s defense strategy on the assumption that your main asset for observation and local intelligence gathering is conveniently available in limitless quantities and can be freely sacrificed is not a good idea.

The second of the two paragraphs we quoted above has another enormous assumption built-in to it.  While it is true that you could create your own LAN within your retreat, and you could of course use Wi-Fi routers to provide a wireless network that your portable computer devices could connect to, the range and coverage of this network will be limited and much less than the author’s expectations of being available ‘regardless of your location’.

Using omni-directional wireless hubs, you can expect a range of little more than 100 ft in the ‘best’ indoor situations, reducing substantially for every wall, floor or ceiling the signal needs to travel through.  An outside Wi-Fi antenna can radiate its signal 300 ft or maybe slightly more.

These ranges can be massively extended by using special directional antennas on both the Wi-Fi hub and the Wi-Fi device that is connecting to the hub, but an iPhone or iPad has no way of adding an external antenna to boost its range, and while a directional antenna will give you more range in its favored direction, the rest of the 360° of coverage area will have correspondingly less coverage.

Furthermore, when your device gets out of Wi-Fi coverage and switches to use the wireless phone company’s data signal instead (3G, 4G, LTE, whatever) that embodies a huge assumption – that the wireless company is still providing service, and that there is an internet connection between the device that receives the drone’s transmissions and the wireless company’s servers.  That’s just not going to happen – it only takes one link in the complex chain of dependencies between your drone’s receiver and your phone to go down for the connection as a whole to totally fail.

Don’t get us wrong.  As we said before, we love technology, and our own retreat is full of high-tech features and capabilities too.  But we’ve planned for a future where there are no external resources, and we fully expect our high-tech capabilities to degrade over time, so we have fall-back alternate approaches ready to deploy as this happens.

You must not rely upon being able to get resupply of anything.  Not food, not fuel, and definitely nothing high-tech.  You must not rely upon the continued existence of any external communications of any sort with the outside world – not data, not phone, not even snail-mail.

This is part of the differentiation between a Level 2 and a Level 3 event.  In a Level 2 event, you can plan to use your stocks and stores of ‘modern day’ conveniences (as long as they don’t require external support from sources and services outside your retreat) in the semi-confident expectation/hope that by the time you have used them all up, life will be back to normal.

But the Level 3 event – a longer term one than a Level 2 event, with a slower recovery back to ‘normal’ life – assumes that you are exhausting your accumulated inventories of everything and are having to shift to a type of sustainable life-style that you can support indefinitely, due to an extended time without the benefits of our modern world being restored.

Summary

Our point is simply this.  Examine very carefully the assumptions on which you are basing your planning and preparing.  Have you – like the writer of this article – accidentally slipped in some assumptions that the world we experience and enjoy at present will still be there to support you in an uncertain future?

If so, adapt your plan to reflect a situation where this external support resource is not available.

Sep 012012
 

Don’t be secretive about your support of prudent prepping. But don’t shout it out at everyone all the time, either.

It is easy for us preppers to feel isolated; indeed, a key part of choosing an ideal retreat location is to seek out a measure of isolation and remoteness.

Even though the concept of prepping is becoming more widely understood, the unfortunate fact is that by far the majority of the people around us have no interest in prepping, and view it as a cross between something slightly strange and something threatening, almost as something akin to plotting to overthrow the government.

This surely doesn’t make it any easier for us to be open about what we believe and do.  One survey recently suggested that there are now more than 3 million preppers in the country.  That’s good, but it leaves more than 300 million people who are not preppers, and that’s not so good.

And then there is the doctrine of ‘op-sec’ – something many preppers misunderstand and misapply – that seems to require us to be secretive about all aspects of our prepping.

All of this creates a perfect Catch-22 and self-fulfilling prophecy.  By being furtive and secretive about our prepping, we not only imply that there is something to be ashamed or embarrassed about, but we allow the naysayers to ridicule us and shape overall public awareness and perception into a form that generally disapproves and rejects the concept of prepping.

Becoming Positive Opinion Leaders

Perhaps if we were all more open and positive about what we do, we would help to bring prepping into the mainstream of society’s awareness, and make it more generally accepted as a good and sensible thing.  After all, everyone prepares for disasters to some degree and extent; the only difference is that we prepare more thoroughly than do most other people.  It isn’t a difference as stark as that between, say, communism and democracy, it is more like the difference between Libertarians and Republicans – both groups share many views in common to start with.

You almost surely have friends who spend lots of money on their hobbies and interests.  Maybe you know someone with a motor home.  That could be a $100,000+ investment up front, plus plenty more in ongoing costs, maintenance, and so on.  Maybe you know a keen golfer, and when you start to look at the money he (or she) spends on golf clubs, clothing, professional lessons, memberships, green fees, travel to far away courses and golfing events, they can be spending tens of thousands of dollars every year, and spending hundreds of hours of time in the process.

And so on, through all sorts of other interests.  In all such cases, the people who have these interests are not shy about sharing their interests with anyone and everyone.  Indeed, some of them become colossal bores and want to speak about nothing else, even to people who don’t share their same interests.

Now we’re not suggesting you should become a colossal bore, but we are suggesting that you shouldn’t avoid talking about your interest – your prepping activities and values.

If you have a retreat, there’s no need to call it your wilderness mountain man survival cabin to help you survive Armageddon.  Instead you can talk about your second home/holiday home/retreat, as a lifestyle enhancing investment for now, and as a hedge against any future issues too.  That is a positive way of explaining your interest.  After all, the money your friend spends each year on his hobby is probably money gone forever, but the money you spend on developing a retreat is an appreciating and lasting investment.  With the notable exception of the last few years, any real estate investment can reasonably be expected, over the longer term, to appreciate in value and bring a profitable return to its owner.

When things happen in the news, and you and your co-workers discuss them around the coffee maker or photocopier at the office, you can gently add your own prepping perspective.  For example, as we write this, Hurricane Isaac’s impacts on the New Orleans area are just starting to subside.  Typical office chit-chat about events such as this is ‘how horrible it was for the people affected’, but it is a passive sort of concern with an underlying smugness (unstated) of ‘thank goodness it would never happen to us, here’ (assuming of course you don’t live in the next parish over from Orleans or Jefferson!).

There’s an opportunity for you there to say something like ‘I wonder what people in this area would do if we had some sort of disaster strike here, too’.  Depending on where you are, you might be able to cite a local vulnerability – maybe your area has a low risk of earthquake, or flood, or is coastal and so vulnerable to tsunamis, or has a nuclear reactor not far away, or a volcano that conceivably might surprise everyone and erupt, or who knows what else.

Your point isn’t so much the specificity of any particular threat, but rather the question of what would the people in your area do if such a thing impacted on them.  If you can get people thinking about that, you’re halfway to having a positive discussion about prepping in general.  Don’t be aggressive at forcing a conversation your way, and ensure you suppress any type of smugness you might feel about your own resilience to disasters of all kinds.  But simply raise the issue, and focus on the people who look thoughtful, rather than the ones who shrug it off as not a problem that would never happen, and who cares, because if it did, the government would come along to save the day and help everyone.

Such brief and casual conversations, repeated occasionally but not too frequently, will help you to decide who in the group of people you interact with are open-minded to the concept of prepping, and who are uninterested or close-minded.  In a gentle and slow manner, you can befriend the more open-minded people, and start to share a bit more about your concerns and what you do to counter those concerns and respond to the risks you perceive.

Don’t be a Single Minded Bore

We spoke before about people who are very one-dimensional.  All they seem to be interested in, and all they talk about, is whatever their particular fixation may be.  Maybe they are a dedicated equestrian.  You know that no matter how any conversation starts, it will inevitably twist and turn and end up with them telling you about their new saddle, or their riding experience the last weekend, and so on and so on.

You not only find yourself avoiding that person, but you also find yourself slightly put off the concept of horses in general.  If liking horses makes a person so myopically focused only on horses, then you sort of choose to avoid any contact with horses and horse enthusiasts, for fear of being ‘infected’ yourself and becoming, in turn, a colossal bore too.  (Our apologies to horse lovers – and we like horses ourselves – we’re just using this as an example, not as a real issue!)

It is the same with you and prepping.  You need to show yourself as an ordinary and interesting person with a broad range of interests, and you want to only very sparingly and occasionally allow prepping to enter into your conversations.  Don’t become the slightly strange/weird person in the office, and don’t encourage people to see prepping as being something that makes people become slightly strange and weird.

One thing you can do, and one time when you should lead conversations to the concept of prepping, is to be sure to distinguish your view of ‘normal’ prepping from occasional stories in the media about extremists and the way that extremists are somehow often bundled together with preppers.  You’re not an extremist, you don’t have a swastika tattoo on your chest (well, we hope you don’t!), and you don’t have a week’s worth of food conveniently stashed away in the inner parts of your mountain-man beard (again, we surely hope you don’t).  You are a normal person, ‘one of the guys’, and your interest in prepping is a similarly normal thing and an integrated part of your normal balanced life.

How to Advocate and Explain Prepping

There is a temptation to make prepping seem like a very special sort of thing, and a thing which, alas, very few people comprehend.  But this risks alienating people before they’ve even started to consider what prepping is and if/how they could integrate it into their own lifestyles.

In discussing prepping, you always need to make it seem like an easy concept that people can integrate into their regular lifestyles.  The easier it is to do something, the more likely it is people will choose to do it.

For example, if becoming a cigarette smoker and addict was an enormously complex process that involved expensive special equipment, and consumed a lot of time, and could only be done in special places, and required you to fill out paperwork, pass a test, and get a license, few people would decide to do so.  But instead, as many people know from personal experience, at a young and impressionable age, someone you respect or like offers you a ‘quick puff’ of a cigarette, and then generously shares their own cigarettes with you, and over time what is a special ‘one-off’ occasional event becomes integrated more and more into your life.  You feel the need to reciprocate your friend’s generosity, and you buy a pack of cigarettes yourself, so as to be able to share them with your friend the next time a situation arises where you will have a cigarette, and then all of a sudden, you find yourself somewhere without your enabling friend, but in a situation where, if he (she) were present, you’d probably have a smoke, and, with the packet of cigarettes nearby, you have one by yourself, and before you know it, you’re a pack a day smoker.

Now, don’t get us wrong.  We’re not saying that prepping is addictive or a bad habit or anything!  We’re simply showing how a person’s lifestyle evolves in small steps.  Most of the things that these days are core parts of your life and lifestyle started off small and only over time evolved to become important.  Maybe you have strong political views and are active in that scene.  You weren’t born that way, were you.  You slowly grew into that interest and activity.

It is the same with prepping.  Don’t immediately start urging everyone you meet to spend millions of dollars in building an underground survival bunker in their back yards (indeed, we hope you’ll never suggest that!).  Instead, take their present levels of preparations and make suggestions for slight enhancements of those.  Of course they already keep spare food in their pantry, spare lightbulbs somewhere, a flashlight and batteries, and other sorts of entry-level preparations.  They have insurance on their house and car, medical insurance on themselves and their other family members.  When they go out somewhere, if the weather is uncertain, they bring a jacket or umbrella to prepare for the possibility of bad weather.

Help them to see how they are already a prepper.  All they need to do now is think about preparing some more.  The thing is that the more people start to prepare, the more they realize that they have a lifestyle worth protecting and preserving, and the more committed they become to extending their preparations to counter more difficult situations.

The chances are that your state, county or city government has some type of disaster preparedness advice on their website, urging everyone in the community to keep various supplies and resources.  Use that as a talking point.  The next time there’s a power outage in the area, discuss what you and they would do if a power outage affected you too.

You need to first encourage new potential preppers to consider how they could and would respond to mild problems before you drop them in the deep end of severe national crisis type challenges.  Help them become better able to withstand a Level 1 challenge before you start to talk about levels 2 and 3.

Before you know it, maybe they’ll be going to Costco with you and buying a bulk pack of AA batteries and a dozen spare lightbulbs.  That’s a bit like a person’s first puff on their first cigarette.  Next time they might buy a pail of 25 year shelf stable dehydrated food.  And so on and so on.

Maybe you’ll invite them to spend a weekend at your retreat and maybe they’ll be interested in becoming part of your retreat community, and gradually over time, they’ll become as enthusiastic and active as you are at preparing for the uncertainties of the future.

More Preppers = Less Risk

Here’s the key thing.  If we had to sum up the biggest vulnerability that we confront today, it is the fact that 99+% of the population is unprepared for disaster of any/all kinds.  Our problem is not so much the potential for disaster to occur, but rather the dysfunctional way that our society would respond when a disaster did occur.

If everyone in our community was well prepared, then the outcome of a disaster would be mild and moderate.  We’d have no social breakdown, we’d not have people starving in the streets in a matter of days, and looters would be kept at bay by a determined lawful majority of people.

Even if half the people were well prepared, it would probably be possible for the half who were well prepared to assist the half who were not, and to avoid a meltdown of the city.

So the more people we can encourage to join us in preparing for adverse events in the future, the safer we make ourselves.  If our neighbors are no longer people who potentially will be threatening us and attacking us to get our food and supplies from us, but rather, if they’ll be part of our ‘neighborhood watch’ and sharing their various supplies with us and our various supplies, our situation and our security is enormously boosted.

In a Level 1 situation, the more people in your neighborhood who are at least moderately prepared to withstand a short-term disruption to the normal services in our society, the fewer problems you will have, and the less likely it is you’ll have to escalate your response to a bug-out point and making it into a Level 2 situation.

And, in a Level 2 or 3 situation, the more people who will join with you in a community retreat, the better off you’ll all be.  You will have been able to share in the up-front costs of developing the retreat in the first place, enabling you to get more resource overall for less money per person, and you’ll then have more people to share with you in the ongoing business of living in the retreat and creating a self-sufficient lifestyle into the future.

The best thing you can do to prepare for a safe future for you and your loved ones is to help the people around you to similarly prepare for their safe futures, too.  You make the other people in your world become assets and supporters, rather than liabilities and detractors.  So, not only for their benefit, but for your own benefit too, you need to become a careful and positive advocate of the prepping concept.

Two Final Thoughts

First, if you are in the greater Puget Sound area, we are always pleased to address any type of group of people, giving a presentation on prepping in any form and at any level you’d like.  We can bring high quality a/v materials with us, and provide an interesting, thought-provoking and positive presentation.

We’ll do this for free, because just as you benefit from surrounding yourself with fellow preppers, so do we, too.

If you’re not within an easy drive of Puget Sound, we’ll still come present to any sort of group as long as you agree to cover our direct costs associated with doing so.  If you’re looking for an interesting ‘twist’ to your next convention or conference or whatever, here’s a way you can introduce prepping to a group of non-preppers and also make your overall program seem more interesting and distinctive.  We are experienced public speakers and can positively enhance any meeting activity.

Secondly, the need to build a prepping community does definitely extend beyond having your neighbors buy a generator and lay in some canned goods for the next windstorm that blows down the power lines, or the next snowfall that closes off the roads.  You need to have, build, or join a community for Level 2 and 3 situations, too.  If you can create your own community, we’d love you to come and be our neighbors in our selected part of ID/MT.  Or, better still, please consider becoming part of our Code Green community.

Aug 272012
 

Your foreign language skills – or interpreter – may end up as being literally a life or death choice.

In thinking about possible international bug-out locations, an obvious variable is the degree to which a foreign location is filled with English speakers (or not!), and the degree to which we might already be or could become proficient at the language of the destination we are considering.

We in the US are either blessed or cursed by being born speaking English.  English is not the most common mother tongue in the world – it is actually the third – Mandarin/Chinese is of course the first, and Spanish is second.  After English in third place, there is Hindi (India) and Arabic to round out the top five.

But when you factor in the number of people who speak English as a second language, English starts to catch up with Mandarin and may even overtake it.  Some studies suggest a total of about 1.15 billion Mandarin speakers (first or second language) and about 1 billion English speakers; we feel this probably understates both languages and the number of people who can speak them to some degree or another.  There are over 1.3 billion people in China, and while not all of them speak Mandarin as their first language, many speak it as a second language to some degree or another.  And as for the number of people who speak English, that is a very definitional thing.  In addition to the mother tongue countries, there is almost all of Europe who speaks it as a second language, then countries like the Philippines where it is an official language, India where it is widespread, and so on around the world.  It is easy to add up more than a billion English speakers.

There’s another element to the importance of English.  While there might be more Chinese speakers in the world as a whole, most of them are in China.  But English speakers can be found in just about every country in the world (including an official 10 million in China too, but the generally accepted number of Chinese who either speak it well, poorly, or are currently learning it is believed to be more like 300 million).  Although other countries have been keen to have their language become the international ‘lingua franca’ the reality is that English is unassailably the dominant second language that people learn if they want to be most likely to be understood everywhere in the world.

Learning Other Languages

The bottom line is that due to the prevalence of English all around the world, we as Americans have seldom felt the need to learn a second or third language, and if we as adults are now to start learning a second language for the first time, we will find it very difficult.  Language learning ability is something that drops off steeply as people age, and if you’ve never learned a second language before, you’ll find it difficult to do so as an adult.

In other words, we suggest it is very beneficial to consider primarily countries that have a good level of English spoken in them; and/or if not so good, you absolutely must start learning the foreign language now.  We’ve found the Pimsleur language tapes and CDs to be the best way for us, but you need to go through all three levels (a total of 90 lessons) to have even a basic level of ability.

You might want to try one of the short, sampler versions of a Pimsleur language to see how easy they make it.  They are not very expensive (usually under $30) and give you a good feeling for their style of natural learning.

Beyond the Pimsleur system, you also need to start reading (and ideally writing) in the foreign language, and also listening to the foreign language and learning to recognize the words as much as possible.

There are any number of easy ways to start reading a foreign language – just go to the internet and start browsing websites from the country in question, in their own language, for example.

As for listening to the foreign language, we recommend getting DVDs of movies from that country that have subtitles in English.  The subtitles won’t necessarily be a perfect one to one translation of what is being said, but it will help you during the course of multiple playings to get the sense of most of the words.

It is important to regularly practice your developing language skills so as to shift what you are learning from your short-term memory into your long-term memory.  If you don’t do this, you’ll be forgetting stuff as fast as you learn it.

Some people recommend a full-immersion approach.  Go to the foreign country and just start speaking the language.  If you are adventurous and willing to make lots of mistakes, this could work.  But we’ve found, when traveling to countries where we speak only a little of the local language that sometimes our language skills drop off while we’re in country!  The reason for this unusual outcome is that the locals all want to speak to us in English to practice their English, and when we use their local language, we of course only use the words we know and are comfortable with, and so aren’t really extending or developing our vocabulary and skills at all.

Some people also advocate getting a native speaker to help you learn the language.  We think this is a bad idea.  The reason we make this unintuitive comment is because native speakers of a language have never formally been taught how to speak the language – they’ve just grown up, learning the language ‘organically’.  So when it comes to teaching someone how to speak, they have no experience in learning the language the way we would learn it, and so can’t do as effective a job at helping us learn it other than as an infant.  It is better to have a professional teacher, whether they be a native speaker or not, teach you.  The key thing is to find a person skilled in the methodology of teaching the language – this is more important than a person who is 100% fluent.

Some languages are easier or harder to learn than others – if you have a choice of where you go, you would be well advised to give preference to countries with easier to learn languages.  Here are some of the issues to consider in judging if a language is easy or hard.

Unfamiliar Alphabets Add to the Difficulty

Are we stating the obvious by pointing out that not all other languages use the same 26 letters that we do?  The good news of course is with languages that use fewer than our 26, and it is also acceptable for languages that add a few accents over some selected letters.  At least if the basic letters are the same, they are familiar and easy for us to instantly recognize, even if we have to give them different sounds.

But how about languages with totally different letters?  Not just ones which look the same, albeit slightly different (ie Greek and Russian) but ones which look totally utterly different such as Arabic and Hindi?  Languages that go from right to left, or vertically, rather than from left to right?

That makes things much harder to learn.

Furthermore, when we learn one word, we get clues from the word as to what other similar words might mean, because they have the same ‘root’ components.  For example, in English, if you know the word ‘build’ you can maybe guess at the word ‘builder’ or ‘building’.  It is the same sort of concept in most other languages too.  Once you know some words, you can guess at the meaning of other words.

But wait – there’s more.  At least most other foreign languages use the same concept as we do with English – they use words which are made up of letters, just different shaped letters.  How about languages such as Japanese and Chinese that instead use a different character for each word?  Instead of learning just a foreign alphabet of 20 – 40 letters and how to pronounce their words based on the letters contained within them, you need to learn thousands of different pictures, one for each word, and you have no real clue from the picture as to the word’s meaning or its pronunciation.

That massively complicates the learning process.

Unfamiliar Grammatical Concepts

In some respects (but not all!) English is easy for non-English speakers to learn, perhaps because it has been formed, over the years, from a combination of many elements of many other languages, becoming a sort of ‘lowest common denominator’ for many of them.  It seems the more that a language ‘evolves’ the simpler, rather than the more complicated, it becomes.

As a result, English no longer has some of the more complicated aspects of grammar and syntax which other languages still have.  For example, our nouns do not have a sense of gender, unlike almost all other languages.  In most other languages, all nouns have a gender – for example, the word for building might be a masculine word, but the word for garage might be feminine.  There is no consistency or easy way of guessing whether a word should be male or female.

It is necessary to match the gender of the noun to related adjectives and verbs.

To make things more complex, some languages have three genders – masculine, feminine and neuter.

You are familiar with the concept of singular and plural, but some languages have two forms of plural – one form for a few more than one, and a second form for many more than a few.

Then there is the concept of tenses.  In this respect, English is actually more complicated than many other languages, with many different tenses, but the concept of tenses in other languages is something to be wrestled with as it is not always intuitive or structured the same as in English.

A much bigger deal though is the concept of the ‘sense’ of a noun.  At least with tenses, we understand the difference between the past and future tense, a perfect or an imperfect tense.  But our nouns are usually unchanging, no matter how they are used in a sentence.  We build the meaning of a sentence based on the word order.

For example, the two clauses ‘John shot Bill’ and ‘Bill shot John’ clearly mean very different things, and we know who was shot based on the order of the words.  If we want to say the name of the person shot first, and the name of the shooter second, we have to add extra words – ‘John shot Bill’ and ‘John was shot by Bill’ give us the two meanings without changing the names of the two people.

But most other languages are less focused on the order of the words, and instead add different endings to the nouns to indicate their role.  For example, the ending ‘-a’ might mean ‘this is the person who is doing something’ and the ending ‘-en’ might mean ‘this is the person who had something done to them.  So, in that case, you could say ‘Johna shot Billen’ and ‘Johnen shot Billa’ and you know in each case who did the shooting and who was shot, by the endings rather than by the word order.

The example we just gave is a very simple example.  There can be as many as six different senses for nouns (well, actually, some languages such as Finnish have a dozen or more!), and different endings not only for each different sense (they are officially known as ‘cases’) but also for if the noun is masculine, feminine, or neuter, and also for if it is singular, slightly plural, or very plural.  How many different possible endings is that for a noun?  The answer is ‘Way too many’ and with us not having an instinctive sense of such things, it can get terribly confusing.

Oh – if you do end up needing to wrestle with cases and noun endings, here’s a trick.  Speak the first part of the noun clearly, and then just mutter the ending.  Many native speakers will automatically ‘hear’ what you said as if you said it correctly.  And, in using this trick, you’ll be doing the same thing that many of the locals do, too – even they often have difficulty with matching endings and cases for nouns.

Pronunciation

There are two elements to pronunciation.  The first is whether the foreign language uses similar sounds in similar ways to English or not.

Many do, but some are very different.  Some languages place great importance on the stress in each word, others less so.  And some languages not only have basic pronunciation issues, but also pitch issues too – rising tones, falling tones, steady tones, and so on (eg Mandarin).

Clearly, the easier a language is in its sounds to English, the easier it will be to speak it clearly and be understood by the locals.

The other element of pronunciation is whether you can guess at how a word is pronounced by simply seeing it written down.  Some languages are excellent at being ‘self pronouncing’ and you can usually work out how to say the word simply by seeing it written.  This is actually one of the huge problems for people learning English – due to the mixed roots of English, there is no rhyme nor reason to how English words are pronounced, with the much-loved example being the made up word ‘ghoti’ – how would you pronounce that word?  There are of course lots of answers, but the one which confounds people is when you say ‘Well, actually, you could also pronounce it as “fish”‘!

A self pronouncing language is much easier to learn.

A slightly related point is that of dialects.  If you are learning a self-pronouncing language, it probably has less of a range of dialects, due to the self-pronouncing rules more or less forcing people to say words the same way.  But if it is a more free-form language, be sure you are learning an appropriate dialect, and that you can also understand other dialects you might encounter.  (This is another challenge for English students – imagine trying to learn how to understand someone from the Deep South and also someone from the Scottish Highlands both as part of one single language.)

Translation Programs, Dictionaries, etc

These days there are amazingly clever translation programs, available either as computer programs or as internet based applications (most notably Google Translate) that will translate not just single words but entire sentences and paragraphs and complete documents from one of many different languages and to another of many different languages.

But as good as these programs and automatic ‘machine translators’ are, they are far from perfect, and while much of what they translate reads clearly and appropriately, if you start to use special terms, words, and phrases, they may colossally fail.  If you are translating from a foreign language to your own language, you’ll usually notice the failures when they occur, but if you are translating in the opposite direction, you’ll have no idea if what you are ending up with is sensible or nonsense.

Furthermore, these programs increasingly rely on the internet and distributed/cloud computing.  In an EOTWAWKI scenario, such resources will probably be absent – and might not be available to you while on the street in a foreign city, even now.

These services can help, but they will not make you self-sufficient.  They might help with emergencies and when you have time to read and write replies, but they are no good for interactive conversations, real-time, face to face.

Subtle Problems as well as Obvious Problems if You Don’t Speak the Local Language

As you may have realized from your own possible impressions in the past when reacting to a foreigner who can’t speak English here, when a person is confronted with someone who doesn’t know the local language, there is more a feeling of alienation and a temptation to view the person as stupid, just because they can’t speak the language well, rather than a feeling of sympathy and support and admiration for the fact they can at least speak a few words of English.

You may have also felt frustrated and annoyed – ‘Why can’t this guy speak better English, and understand what I say?’ you might think.  ‘He has come to my country and is trying to deal with me, why is he so lazy/stupid as to not speak better English?’

Assuming such people are stupid is almost always a very incorrect assumption to make, but human nature being what it is, you would suffer it yourself if you went somewhere where you were not able to speak the language well.

Furthermore, it is not only harder to integrate into a foreign culture and society without speaking their language, but by not so integrating, you stamp yourself as ‘one of them’ rather than ‘one of us’, causing you to be much more the focus of exploitation and rip-off schemes.

The more disadvantaged the country to start with, the more you will be spotted as a target for exploitation.  If you can at least speak the local language, you’ll neutralize some of that prejudice/opportunism, and you’ll also be better keyed in to what is happening around you.  It has happened to us – particularly in the US but also in other countries, where people within earshot assume we’d not understand what they are saying (in some foreign language), and so they have spoken about us, in front of us, and it has amused us greatly to understand what they are saying.  Whether or not we choose to reveal our comprehension depends on the situation – sometimes it can be good to pretend to be ignorant.

There are also safety and related issues.  For example, if you are about to take a train from one station to the other, and hear an announcement over the PA system but don’t understand what it said, and then notice people starting to leave the platform, you wonder ‘Was that announcement telling us the train would be delayed, or cancelled, or shifted to another platform, or that there’s a bomb scare, or what???’.  Such puzzlements and frustrations happen a dozen times every day when you’re in a foreign country and not speaking its language.

You are also reliant on translators/interpreters to help you in your business and life interactions.  Quite apart from the cost of hiring such people, it is a difficult situation to be in – on the one hand, your ability to understand nuances and to finesse negotiations will be totally destroyed and lacking, and on the other hand, you may find that ‘your’ interpreter gangs up on you and allies him/herself with the other side in negotiations.

Problems with Interpreters

From our own experiences traveling, doing business, and living in very foreign countries where English is little spoken, we’ve sometimes found ourselves trapped with interpreters that would do the classic thing of first the other person would speak for several minutes in the foreign language, then the interpreter would briefly chat with them in the foreign language, then after all of that, the interpreter would say to us a single sentence.  What was everything else the other person said?  We had no way of knowing.  Knowing that we were getting a very filtered and summary-only version of what the other person was telling us would be a great frustration.

The exact opposite can also happen.  We’d rattle off a very eloquent commentary and then pause for the translator/interpreter to repeat it in the foreign language, only to hear our minute or two of monolog reduced to half a dozen brief words.  We’d say ‘We are very pleased to accept your much valued order for 1,000 of our finest quality widgets.  Unfortunately, due to the massive growth in global interest in our widgets, our production lead times are extending, and we would have difficulty meeting the delivery schedule you are requesting.  Can we possibly extend the leadtime to get our product to you by an extra few weeks?’.  The interpreter would translate ‘They can’t produce them for you.  You will have to wait.’

What happened to our eloquence, our flowery statements, and everything else?  All thrown out the window by a lazy interpreter.

Or else, we’ve had interpreters who were almost impossible for us to understand.  We couldn’t tell if the other person was saying ‘Yes, I love your deal’ to us or ‘No, I’m insulted by your low-ball offer’.  Truly.  We went through several negotiations with no idea if we were agreeing or disagreeing, and what it was we were or were not reaching agreement about.

The next problem is when the person you are wanting to negotiate with says to your interpreter, in their shared native language ‘Look, you and I are both (whatever nationality); we need to help ourselves.  That guy is a wealthy American, help me to get a good deal from him’.  And before you know where you are, the interpreter is actually working for the other person rather than for you, either out of a sense of national solidarity, or to protect their future opportunities translating for the company, or as a result of an out-and-out bribe.  As well as passing on your official comments, the interpreter will also be saying things like ‘I think he is prepared to pay more’ or whatever other helpful information they can.

We’ve also had interpreters who have simply refused to pass on our comments to the person we wanted them passed to.  When we have wanted to express something in strong terms, as one equal to the other, the interpreter, as a socially ‘inferior’ person, has not felt able to say the things to the other person that we wanted them to say on our behalf, because it might appear disrespectful.  So we might say ‘That is a ridiculous low offer, and outrageously unfair terms.  Unless you’re prepared to double your offer and give us a 50% deposit right now and the balance before we deliver, we’re ending the negotiation’.  The interpreter would say ‘My client appreciates your kind offer but wonders if you could slightly increase it and make a small deposit before my client ships you the goods’.  By the interpreter being submissive, you are judged to be weak and submissive too.

Which leads to a very important point.  You will be judged by your interpreter.  An incompetent interpreter, a poorly dressed one, or an interpreter with ‘image problems’ of any other sort will result in the other person attaching similar attributes to you, too.

The Spread of English

This Wikipedia page lists countries by the percentage and total number of English speakers.  We feel that in almost every case, their figures understate the level of English that is spoken – in part because the growth of English as a second language is increasing and these numbers are often five or even ten years out of date.  A lot has happened in that time (ie the growth of the internet where English still dominates).

So the information is pessimistic rather than optimistic.

On the other hand, you should also appreciate that within any given country, there are huge shifts in where and how common English-speaking ability is.  Typically the larger and more prosperous cities will have many more English speakers than the smaller and less prosperous country towns.  A country that boasts a 50% English-speaking rate might have 65% in its big cities but only 10% in its villages.  And/or it might have 90% of its school children speaking English, but only 10% of the adults you’ll be dealing with who can speak it.  Or possibly the level of English fluency to qualify as an English speaker might be very lax – you’ll find people who ostensibly can speak English, but who you can’t understand and who can’t understand you.

There’s another consideration to also keep in mind.  If a massive societal breakdown occurs in the US and possibly elsewhere in the predominantly English-speaking world, English might lose its primacy of place as the global language.  For countries that don’t yet have a clear commitment to supporting English as a second language, English could very quickly be discarded, and you might find yourself in a country that abandons English and instead turns to some other language more representative of the changed geo-political nature of the world in a Level 3 situation; or a country which simply becomes much more inward looking and gives up on all foreign language learning entirely.

Similar things have happened to us, for that matter, too.  Second language choices go in and out of fashion.  For a while, it was common to learn French, or German, or Russian, or Japanese.  Nowadays, it is more common to learn Spanish or Chinese.  Maybe in a decade, Arabic and Indian (Hindi) will be the new dominant languages – not just for us in the US, but for other people in other countries too.

Summary

Assuming you don’t already speak the native language, we suggest that the higher the incidence of English being spoken, the more suitable a foreign country may be as an international bug-out.

Not only is it much easier for you in such a case, but the greater the level of English that is spoken, then – as a very rough approximation – the more outward looking the society and the more ‘connected’ it is to the world in general and the less out of place you’ll seem.

However, you should also consider this as a first step only.  For true integration into another country and acceptance by its citizens, and to be able to live effectively and comfortably, it is essential that you learn the local language as quickly as possible.

There is another dimension to foreign languages.  Some are easier to learn than others.  If you are moving somewhere foreign, consider also how difficult it will be for you to learn the local language, because no matter how high the level of English may be that is spoken there, the better you can integrate yourself into the local society (ie by speaking their language) the more the local society will accept you as a member, and change from looking at you as a foreigner to be exploited and instead looking upon you protectively as ‘one of them’, if not by birth, at least by adoption.

Aug 242012
 

International migration is a long accepted concept. Could it be an option for you too WTSHTF?

When we are considering a retreat location, we are typically looking for somewhere that isn’t too impossibly distant from where we normally live.

There are obvious reasons why this makes sense, but there’s also one obvious drawback :  Whatever the event was that caused a collapse of society at our normal residence will probably be affecting our retreat as well.

So while our retreat gets us away from a dangerous and unlivable urban environment, and hopefully to somewhere where we can set about creating a low-tech sustainable self-contained lifestyle indefinitely into the future, we’re not actually escaping the loss of the previous benefits of civilization and returning to somewhere with water and electricity that works, and food that appears in the supermarkets every day.

Almost by definition, any event which causes a major collapse of society and its services in our region and which requires us to bug out, will be an event that is national in scope.  Regional disasters, like Hurricane Katrina for example, or a massive earthquake or whatever else, are quickly responded to by FEMA and volunteer organizations, and while there might be some lawlessness and unpleasantness for a short while, everyone knows that ‘the cavalry are coming’ and help will soon be at hand.  The rule of law will largely be intact and still observed by most ‘ordinary’ people.

But with a cataclysmic event, the country as a whole will be affected.  A multi-warhead nuclear exchange with another major nuclear power, an EMP attack, a collapse of our electricity grid (whether from ‘natural causes’ such as the sun or from terrorists) or a cyber attack destroying most of the nation’s control systems would be examples of this type of event.

However, most of these types of events, while affecting the US, are not global in scale.  Of course some could be global.  All out nuclear war might cause massive climate change, destroying the world’s ability to grow sufficient food for several seasons; similarly an asteroid strike could also modify the weather for some time into the future.  A nuclear exchange could see both the US ravaged, and other parts of the world too as we strike back, and as the aggressor nation takes out our allies as well as ourselves.  A major pandemic is likely to affect the entire world.

But while some events could be global in scale, many others might be ‘only’ regional, leaving much of the world untouched and unscathed.  In such cases, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to simply leave the affected region and move to somewhere unaffected by the problems we were leaving behind, and resume a reasonably normal and comfortable lifestyle, complete with flush toilets, television, and all the other fruits of modern civilization?

An option to bug out to another country accordingly has a lot going for it – at least on the face of it.  But, in reality, it may not be as easy as we’d hope if the time should come.

An International Bug Out Option Should Not be Your Only Option

Considering the comments in the preceding several paragraphs, it should already be clear to you that while there may be some scenarios where it makes good sense to relocate internationally (if at all possible) there are also many other scenarios where such a move would simply be a transition from the frying pan to the fire.  There are also many scenarios where your attempts to extract yourself from your current location and travel to a far away destination may not be feasible.

So, in case it isn’t already obvious, our point is simply this :  Relocating internationally should not be your only developed option for responding to a Level 2/3 crisis.  It should be a supplemental option, developed only after you already have a closer retreat created and able to support you if needed.

Specific Issues, Locations and Considerations

Please visit other parts of our series on international bugging out (currently being developed) for further articles on specific countries to potentially bug out to, and the considerations and constraints you would face when considering an international bug-out strategy.

Aug 232012
 

When your local community decides how to respond to TSHTF, make sure you are viewed as part of the solution, not part of the problem.

In our article about the most dangerous ‘fourth wave’ of threats against your retreat and its members after a societal collapse, we talk about the risk and problems you’ll encounter from regional ‘power groupings’ and gangs; some of which may be true lawless gangs, others of which may be groups of people cloaking themselves in the mantle of semi/pseudo legitimate authority.

Yes, you can resist such power groups, but we make the point that such resistance is likely to be more harmful to you than to them.  Wherever possible, you want to co-exist with such groups rather than to be in conflict with them.

There are some ways in which you can make yourself, your retreat, and your resources, an asset to some types of more realistic lawless gangs.  For sure, there will be some situations where you have no choice but to ‘fight fire with fire’ and resist with all means available to you when roving gangs of looters and marauders seek to take over your retreat.  But this is your last resort and least desirable strategy.

There is nothing much you can do about lawless gangs prior to WTSHTF.  But the other category of fourth wave risk/threat is one which you can take advance precautionary measures to minimize.  We are talking about the effects of semi-legitimate seeming groups who assert control over an area, using some thin legal basis for their actions – a legal basis doubtless enhanced by including the local judge and sheriff as part of their group.

Let’s come back to the scenario we posed in the earlier article where the local judge, mayor and sheriff turn up on your doorstep, themselves all ‘needy’ and demanding, under the authority of ‘law’ which they’ve granted to themselves, that you surrender your supplies of food and share your shelter with other locals.

Complying with their demands would destroy the viability of your retreat.  You’d lose the inventory of food that you had amassed, and all that would happen is the many other people would have their food needs met for a short time, then all of you would starve together.  Hardly a win-win outcome.  But not complying to their demands would see them return with a posse of equally hungry and heavily armed locals, using the authority of the law to evict you from your retreat, and possibly imprisoning you too (and that is assuming that a rougher form of ‘frontier justice’ hasn’t already taken hold of the region).  The local SWAT team would descend upon you with their automatic weapons, their armored vehicles, tear gas, and who knows what else.

What would you do?  Give in up front, or have your food taken from you by force and your retreat destroyed as part of the process?  The question is partly rhetorical, but also completely serious, because it is a situation you quite likely may face.

Fortunately, is a question that may have some possible answers – there may be a third option, beyond the two we’ve just mentioned.

The Third Option

What you want to do is when the three leaders appear on your doorstep, to be able to say ‘Good morning, John, Bill, Paul.  Great to see the three of you today.  You’re all looking good, which is surprising after the late night the four of us had yesterday.  That moonshine really does pack a kick, doesn’t it!  How are things going, and can we do anything more together to keep the town ticking over?’

In other words, you don’t want to passively hideaway and only encounter ‘the other side’ when it has become too late and they have already committed to a course of action, without any inputs from you as to what it may be.  You want to be part of the community and thought leadership, right from the get-go, so you can influence and shape what happens.  You don’t want to be seen as an impersonal ‘one of them’; you want to be thought of as ‘one of us’.  You want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

How to do this?  Rather than isolate yourself from your local community (something many preppers instinctively feel to be best ‘Opsec’), you want to integrate yourself into it.  You – or some member(s) of your group – need to be volunteer deputy sheriffs, volunteer firemen, volunteer paramedics.  Is there a local Civil Defense group?  Join it.  Become a leader of it.

Indeed, why limit yourself to being volunteers?  If some of your group have chosen to move permanently to your retreat, they can become fulltime members of local organizations and businesses.  Even become the barman at the local watering hole – sometimes people like that occupy a more key role in ‘thought leadership’ than do elected officials!  Teetotalers might find a similar opportunity at the local library.  If your community doesn’t have a local library, why not coordinate the creation of one.

You should belong to the local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club or Lions or whatever else.  Women can join local women’s groups.  Is there a sports team to belong to – or at least support?  Maybe coach little league baseball.  For the less physically active, how about a bridge club?  A local historical society or something else?

Join a church or other social group, and as broadly as possible, generally be a respected member of the community.  Maybe you don’t have a lot of money to throw around, but you can contribute your time and provide positive inputs into these essential parts of your community as well as simply money.

If resources allow, consider establishing a business in the community.  It may employ other members of the community, and provide helpful services to the community as a whole.  It needn’t be extraordinarily profitable, but if you have members of your group with time on their hands, this could be a good way of getting established in the community and even making a small return on the time you invest.

You need to be part of the community.  Get involved in local politics – indeed, if some of your fellow retreat members get involved in the Democratic side and some in the Republican side, you’ve covered your bets both ways.  Don’t think of this as being tricky or underhand – every large company in the country gives to both sides in election campaigns.  In reality it is our country’s approach to paying protection money, but in a different way and by a different name.  Consider running for elected office – although this risks polarizing your support, with some people now liking you and others disliking you.  However, in addition to such positions, maybe there are other public service roles you can take on – become an appointed member of the local arts commission (if there is one!) or some other committee or grouping.

You also want to consider deliberately ensuring you have some surplus resources, so that when pressed to do so, you can contribute some support without harming your own viability.  To contribute nothing would be a modern-day response similar to that which sparked the French Revolution when Marie Antoinette’s response to the starving people who complained of having no bread to eat was ‘Let them eat cake’.

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

When you are integrated into the community, you’ll be plugged in to how the community responds to a societal collapse.  You’ll be able to be present at the meetings where people gather and discuss what they can do to ensure their safety and survival.

People are less likely to say ‘Let’s go take all Bill’s supplies’ if you (ie Bill) is present at the meeting.  Instead, you could stand up and volunteer ‘Look, I’m in as difficult a situation as everyone else, but I can probably spare some food; it won’t be much, but I’ll share all that I can’.

If you can be present when policy is being formulated and plans are being made, you’ll be better able to slightly shift and deflect the meeting’s focus from going after you and your resources, to instead seeing you as ‘part of them’ and also being in need of assistance.

It is always very much easier to influence policy in its earliest stages of being formulated.  But after policies have been established, they take on a rigidity and life of their own, and it becomes very much harder to then get them changed or cancelled.

If you’re hiding out in your retreat, you’re not able to help shape the policy positively.  But if you’re in town, attending the public meeting, and if the other people in the meeting vaguely know of you and understand you to be ‘one of us’ then you’re going to have a much greater chance of controlling the outcome.

If nothing else, you can switch the tables on the group – instead of having them deliver a fait accompli to you and have them tell you to go protest it to no-longer-existing appellate courts and distant authorities, you can at the meeting point out that the meeting’s authority to resolve whatever it is considering is questionable and uncertain, and it needs to get the approval of these higher authorities before it implements its actions.

Plan to Incorporate the Local Community Into Your Future Survival Activities

A danger is that if you offer the local community a conciliatory olive branch and give them some spare food and supplies, you are almost certainly not buying an undisturbed future, free from their ongoing requests (and demands) for more and more support.

Rather, you can be creating a dependency cycle.  You give them food and supplies which they passively accept and consume, then they come back to you for more.  During the extra time your food and supplies has given them, they’ve done nothing about creating any self-sufficiency, they’ve merely done what they’ve done all their lives to date – eaten the food that comes to them without giving any thought about where it came from, or how it was grown, or what they could do to create their own food in the future.

Adopting this strategy of appeasement will be no more successful to you than it was to Britain’s appeasing of Hitler prior to the eventual collapse of that policy that saw a much stronger Germany then embark on World War 2.  Appeasing will not buy you much time and will definitely not ensure your future survival and safety.

Instead of simply giving food and supplies with nothing in return, you should offer to exchange their labor for your support on a fair basis that is win-win.  Have a plan for how you can grow your farm production if you suddenly get a large growth of manpower.

If you say ‘Sure, I can help out; I’ll create jobs for the local people and pay you all in the food and energy we create together’ then you are a positive part of the solution, and you’ve shifted responsibility for caring for these people from yourself to themselves.  They no longer simply passively take from you under a banner of entitlement.  Instead, they work with and for you, and earn support directly proportional to their efforts.

People can no longer say ‘You should give us more (and more and more)’.  Instead, they can see, from their work each day, how much food and other resources they are creating, and their only remaining negotiation should be one about what percentage of the food and other resources they create is theirs to keep, and what percentage is yours.  As long as the net result to you is that your net personal productivity is at least as great if you are supervising other people compared to if you are doing the work yourself, you don’t really care too much if the split of food produced is 50/50 or even 90/10.

You have placed the responsibility for providing for themselves onto the people who are now working for and with you.

This is like the concept of ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’.  Help the people in your community to fend for themselves and to become self-sufficient; either completely independently or integrated and coordinated with your own activities.

You will benefit from this too.  You’ve in effect helped these other people to become fellow survivors.  And the larger group of you is now united with a common shared goal of self-sufficient surviving.  You can also now spread your risk – by having two potato fields on opposite sides of town, maybe one might have a good yield and the other a poor yield, but you’re no longer now in an ‘all or nothing’ situation with only one potato field.  You can also diversify into more crops and activities.  This is definitely a win-win for you and everyone else.

Use the Collapse of Current Laws Positively

As we details in our article on urban drift, our society is now dominated by city dwellers.  Many of these city dwellers are affluent and influential, and they have very little comprehension of the ‘real world’ outside of the cities and what it takes to produce the food that conveniently appears – as if by magic – in their neighborhood supermarket.

For puzzling reasons that we really can’t guess at, these people have caused a growing number of laws to be passed, laws that restrict and interfere with the normal prudent use of our land and its resources.  Although the history of mankind and its evolution and advancement to date has been built on the concept of productively using the planet’s natural resources for our gain and benefit, these city-dwellers seek to turn that around.  Spotted owls and other obscure species that may or may not even be present are now considered more important than our own welfare.

We’re not allowed to drill for oil in places that people never visit, for fear of destroying the claimed natural beauty of such places.  Rational people would point out that who cares what a place may look like if no-one ever visits, and they might also point out that when carefully managed, oil drilling does not measurably harm the environment anyway, but these city dwellers are more emotional than rational.  They’d rather pay dollars more per gallon of imported gas than allow us to drill for our own.

They complain about power plants that burn fossil fuels and demand we shift to ‘renewable’ energy sources, but then they also demand that hydro-electric power stations – the ultimate in renewable energy sources, and which have been in place for 50+ years – now be destroyed because they interfere with fish migration patterns.

Okay, enough of such griping!  Our point is simply this.  Your ability to create a viable sustainable existence in the harsh reality of a Level 3 situation is constrained and compromised by laws passed by people who never had to suffer the impacts of the laws they passed, in a world that was much kinder and gentler.

In a Level 3 situation, maybe you can turn the sudden flexibility in lawmaking to your advantage.  Perhaps you could get a new law passed authorizing you to dam a nearby river, something that was formerly banned by various state environmental laws and regulations.  All of a sudden, you – and others around you – have sudden access to plentiful water, and maybe even the ability to build a small hydro-electric power plant as well.

Maybe you can get the city, county or state government to assert ownership over government lands and forests.  All of a sudden, there could be an instant timber industry, and a huge source of fuel for the community.

Maybe the zoning restrictions on your land can be lifted.

Do some dreaming based on the area you’re in, and the current opportunities and constraints, so that if a crisis occurs, you can lead public opinion with solutions that are more long-term and beneficial to all, rather than becoming a focus of a short-term temporary fix that simply involves taking everything you have.

Predicting the Future Social Evolution and Issues – Lessons from the Movies and History in General

People who don’t learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.  You don’t have the luxury to make mistakes, so you need to do all the learning you possibly can.

While it is true there has never been an event in history analogous to the sudden collapse of an advanced civilization, there have certainly been plenty of examples of new social systems wrestling with ideologies, corruption, the external elements, and so on and so forth.  Indeed, our own country has some relevant and moderately recent past to draw upon – the period from about 1850 through about 1900, primarily west of the Mississippi – what we look upon as our ‘Wild West’ era.

This was a period redolent with struggles between good and evil, between lawlessness and attempts to impose law and order, rapidly changing social values and culture clashes, fast wealth alongside poverty, hard times, and so on – many of the same things that we can expect to encounter in a future Level 3 situation.

It is common to turn to old books to learn how to grow food using ‘low tech’ methods; we should also turn to old books (ie history books) to learn about ‘low tech’ methods of social structure and order, and how to manage and govern pockets of civilization that are surrounded by modern-day ‘wild Indians’ and definitely modern-day gangsters and gunmen.

The actual reality of what the wild west was truly like is open to much debate – perhaps because if you could imagine it, then it probably happened somewhere at some time, so maybe everyone’s perceptions are right to some extent or another.  Whether accurate historically or not, the movie depictions of the wild west can have some interesting worked examples of potential social scenarios that might evolve in our own Level 3 situation, a situation not very different to the wild west of 150 years ago.

Think of some of the western movies you’ve seen with power struggles between wealthy ranchers, poor townsfolk, an under-manned local sheriff, an exploitive gang that allays itself variously with the shadier of the wealthy ranchers, out of county politicians who are either honorable but powerless, or dishonest and influential, and so on and so on.  There’s a lot to learn from and anticipate.

Remember also stories about how the villains end up running the town, electing themselves as mayor and sheriff.  Or about how the sheriff himself becomes corrupt.

If you have time, it also would be helpful to read some accurate history of the social evolution of the wild west, and in particular, how small towns formed to protect themselves against external threats from marauding bandits.

A Major Social Change

One of the great things about US society, and something very different to many other societies around the world, is that – currently – people can make money and become as wealthy as they like, while attracting little negative response from the people around them.  This is because, at present, we understand that the success and wealth of one person in no way detracts from the ability of other people to also succeed and become wealthy too.  If anything, the success and wealth of one person or company helps the people around them – they spend money in their local community, they create jobs, and so on.

But things will be very different in a Level 2/3 situation.  People who are poor will definitely resent people who are wealthy, and there will be a large push to force wealthy people to share their wealth on a much greater basis than that which is created by today’s graduated taxation systems.  This is because the people who are poor will be very poor, and will also be very aware of their massively reduced standard of living, having of course formerly been living in a much more comfortable situation.

They won’t feel they have the luxury to wait indefinitely until someone else’s wealth might trickle down and impact on their lives; they will want a restoration of their previous lifestyle as urgently quickly as possible.  Whether fair or not, whether rational or not, they will resent your success and your better lifestyle.

In other words, be discreet about your own standard of living.  Be like the people in some countries who have beaten up old doors and entry ways into their apartments, but luxurious inner interiors, carefully concealed, that can not be seen by chance from open doors or windows.

Summary

Like it or not, we all live in the society that surrounds us.  We can’t avoid it, and with each passing year and more constraints on personal privacy and more data collection, our ability to obscure our lives and insulate ourselves from the watchful society around us becomes more and more limited.

This is the reality.  We mightn’t like it, but we must accept it and plan our present and future lives within it.  Rather than either withdrawing from society or fighting against it (in the figurative rather than literal sense!) we need to become a part of it – both now and definitely in the future after TSHTF.

If we integrate ourselves positively into our local communities we can help shape and influence how the communities react and respond to the collapse of society and its support mechanisms.  We can guide them positively towards becoming self-sufficient, and we can minimize the risk of them using either pseudo-legal authority or just plain blunt brute force to take our supplies and resources from us.

We should make ourselves part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Everyone will benefit when we do that.

Aug 232012
 

The waves of refugees after TEOTWAWKI will be both heart-rending and dangerous.

Shortly after some type of disaster that disrupts the normal flow of food and energy into your nearby towns, people will be forced to leave their residences and fan out into the countryside, foraging for food (and subsequently shelter too).  That is obvious – if there is no food in the town/city, people can either stay where they are and die of thirst or starvation, or they can pro-actively start looking for food.

People will initially look for food on one of two different levels.  The first level is ‘looking for food nearby and returning back to one’s normal home to eat it and continue living’.  The second level is ‘abandoning one’s former residence and moving, as a refugee, towards wherever the possibility of ongoing survival may be greatest’.  A third and fourth type of food seeking will develop later into a crisis.

It is helpful to understand the differing types of contacts you’ll have, because each poses different challenges, problems, threats, and even opportunities, calling for different responses on your part.

And while we consider our four different waves to be more or less chronologically sequential, there will be some overlaps, with some people representing some waves either earlier than most others, or later than most others.

The First Wave

The first wave will start shortly after the social disruption occurs, initially as a trickle, and then successively greater and greater as more and more people run out of food and come to realize that the government won’t magically solve the problem that occurred.

It will only take a week or two before the first type of food-seeking necessarily ends, due to people running out of gas for their vehicles, and being reduced instead to only traveling and foraging as far as they can walk or bicycle (although, on flat terrain, fitter people could fairly easily cycle up to 50 miles out and then 50 miles back home again).

We predict that people in this ‘first wave’ won’t be very threatening, because they will be more in a hurry to cover as much ground as possible to find as much easy food as possible, rather than becoming fixated on specific potential targets.  Plus, the ‘kill or be killed’ reality of tough survival won’t yet have fully penetrated, and the region will have patches of remaining lawfulness alongside areas of growing anarchy.

Furthermore, these people are primarily seeking food only, not shelter.  They’ve not yet accepted that their city residences have become unviable and need to be abandoned.

Your tactic to resist problems from the first wave of food/shelter seekers will be to maintain a low profile, so most of such people pass you by, and to positively respond to people who do come visiting, encouraging them to go find easier targets/food sources elsewhere.

Of course, the further you are from the nearby towns and cities, the fewer the number of people who might stumble upon you.  But you’ll never be 100% guaranteed to be safely far from such itinerant scavengers.  Fortunately the danger they pose to your retreat at this early stage is low, so while your location choice will ideally not be right next to a freeway exit, a mere 10 miles from the city center, you don’t need to keep yourself hundreds of miles away from any and all population concentrations.

The Second Wave

As the first wave ends and is replaced by the second wave, people’s attitudes will be hardening, because their ability to travel far and wide is massively reduced.  They have probably used up most of their emergency food stores, and now, limited primarily by their ability to walk, any source of food becomes one they must take full advantage of.  They can no longer afford the luxury of leaving empty-handed, and their lack of mobility now reduces the number of places they can travel to in search of food.  They have to make the best of every possible opportunity.

The grim reality of the ‘eat or be eaten’ concept will also be one which the survivors can no longer ignore.

If these people come across your retreat, they are likely to be a stronger and more determined adversary than people in the first wave (and people in the second wave could well be the same people who visited more peaceably in the first wave, too).

Fortunately, most of these people in the second wave will still be nomadic and itinerant.  They’ll be traveling in the hope of finding a Shangri-La somewhere that is full of food, energy, and welcoming people keen to help them, and probably won’t yet be in the ‘looking for anywhere to settle’ mode that will come later.  They might hope for overnight shelter, but they’re not yet looking for a place to settle – or, if they are, they’re probably not yet realistic enough to appreciate the value of your retreat.

People will start abandoning their homes anytime after only a very few days of the crisis commencing and once they start to accept that no magic solutions are forthcoming.  This won’t only be due to the lack of food and lack of any future food supply, but may also be due to lack of water, lack of plumbing, and lack of energy in general.  A high-rise apartment with no water, no working elevators, and no lights or heating/cooling will quickly become uninhabitable, food or not.

The second wave will probably diminish after three or so weeks, because by that point, people will have either left the city, or died, or created some sort of semi-stable ongoing basis of existence in the city.

Your strategy during this exodus stage is to be located somewhere reasonably far from the main routes people are likely to travel along.  It is as important that you are off the likely refugee routes, whether you are 1 mile or 100 miles from the major population centers, because people will potentially be traveling long distances in their search for somewhere better to live.

People may fan out slightly from the main routes as they search for food en route, but they will generally follow the major arterial routes.

Major routes will tend to be well maintained highways, and generally we expect people will move to the coasts and south, rather than inland and to the north.  People will, either by reason or instinct, seek out warm climates and water/ocean.  The warm climate reduces their dependency on shelter and energy, and the ocean has the appeal of ‘free fish’ and also some type of instinctive deep-seated lure.

The Third Wave

The third wave will be refugees, the same as the second wave, but this time it will be people looking for somewhere to settle.

These will be people who are becoming more realistic in their expectations, and now rather than mindlessly going anywhere in the hope of finding (nonexistent) salvation, they are now looking for somewhere they can settle and survive for the medium or longer term.

Your appeal to these people is not just the food you have stored, but also your retreat as a whole, the under-way food cultivation, the energy creating resources you have, and everything else you have done to prepare yourselves for this future.

Some of these people will be seeking short-term easy solutions.  They’ll want to rob you of your food, your shelter, and everything else you have.  They have no concern for sustainability, they want to live for the moment, and when they’ve exhausted everything you have, they’ll move on to somewhere else.

Others of these people will be more realistic, but they’ll still want to displace you from your property and take it over.

There will also be a very few people who will be fair and honest and decent, and who will offer to work their way for and with you.  They’ll offer their labor and their skills, in return for your shelter and assistance – probably as a ‘package deal’ for themselves and their other family members.

It would be good if you had a way of responding positively to such people, because they may prove to be valuable additions to your small community.

The Fourth Wave

The fourth wave is very different from the other three.  It is longer lasting and more potentially impactful on your retreat and community.

Due to the importance of this fourth wave, we have devoted a separate article to it – The Fourth and Deadliest Wave of Refugees.  Please click the link to continue reading.

Aug 232012
 

A 13th century depiction of the red – second – horse and rider of the Apocalypse. The biblical prophecy of the four horsemen is eerily similar to how we see the four waves of refugees after TEOTWAWKI.

No-one really knows what to expect after TSHTF in an extended Level 2 or 3 situation, but it seems universally agreed that the starving masses will be forced to flee their city dwellings and do whatever it takes to survive, wherever they can find the opportunity and ability to do so.

It is helpful to look at the types of people who will come out from the cities as a series of different waves, each with different characteristics.  We’ve discussed the first three waves of refugees in this other article, and the good news is they will be relatively brief in duration and not necessarily ultimately threatening to the wellbeing of your own retreat community – indeed some people in the third wave could well become positive additions to your community.

In this part we wish to instead look at the last of these waves – the fourth wave.  And rather like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, this is the most threatening and dangerous wave – not only by its nature, but also because it will be the longest lived of the four waves.  (Christians will be impressed at how closely all four waves can be viewed as having characteristics similar to the four horsemen described in Revelations.)

The first two waves were fairly simple and easily understood.  In the third wave, we saw how some members were threats but others could be valuable allies.  There is a similar dichotomy to the fourth wave, but in a very different sense, and their duality is part of their danger.

Both will be organized groups, and both will probably already have their own shelter and possibly even other food sources.  They probably don’t need your shelter, and they may not even need your food and other resources.  But, taking advantage of a collapse of law and order, they want to take it simply because they can, and because all around them, other people and groups are acting similarly, just like the looter who takes items from stores in a city riot, even if they are things of no value – they just take them for nihilistic reasons.

Organized Lawless Gangs

The first of these groups will be organized lawless gangs, seeking to dominate and rule their new expanded territory.  The might possibly seek ongoing tribute and ‘taxes’ from you in exchange for their ‘protection’.

Or maybe they’ll be less formal, and will simply be roaming around as an organized and maybe nomadic gang, taking and destroying as they go.

Gangs that seek to impose their own structure and what passes for their version of order may be groups you can negotiate with.  But groups who are little more than anarchistic looters will not be people you can negotiate or create win-win outcomes with.

When encountering the former, you need to shift their perception of you from being a one-way source of goodies they can seize from you, to instead being a two-way trading source and resource they can benefit from.  Maybe you can help them maintain some of their equipment.  Maybe you have medical resources.  Maybe you can trade with them – exchanging items they’ve plundered elsewhere and have no use for, and giving them in return food or other things they do need.

When encountering the latter, you are best advised to indicate to them that you are not an easy target, and any attempt to attack you would seriously weaken or destroy their own force, while leaving you relatively unharmed.  With most of the rest of the entire continent lying helpless at their feet, encourage them to go after easier targets.

This encouragement is best done in a ‘face saving’ manner.  If you challenge the gang leader’s authority, and the overall ‘machismo’ of the gang itself, they may have no social choice but to fight it out with you – and from their perspective, the lives of their junior gang members probably has much less value to the gang leaders than do the lives of your family and fellow community members to you.

We’re From the ‘Government’ and We’re Here to ‘Help’ You

The second of these groups may be more dangerous.  They will claim to be semi-official government groups, seeking to impose their definition of emergency martial law on the region they have assumed control of.

Sometimes their intentions may be honorable and well-meaning (even if dysfunctional and dangerous to you in the process), other times they may be as corrupt and despotic as the outlaw gangs, but cleverly seeking to wrap up their dictatorial actions with an ill deserved veneer of assumed legality.

Unfortunately, whether honorable or not, it is almost a certainty that these self-appointed groups of enforcers will be primarily tasked with taking stuff from you – either to keep for themselves, or to give to the unprepared other people in the region who have empowered these people to act for their benefit.

They may attempt to claim special emergency powers that suspend all your normal legal protections and constitutionally guaranteed rights, and if they have been sufficiently clever and sophisticated, they’ll have compliant judges ready to issue court orders authorizing things that should never be authorized.

If you don’t like it, they’ll say, you can go appeal, all the way to the US Supreme Court if you wish – this being in a scenario where the Supreme Court may have ceased to exist, and even if it did, it would be close to impossible for you to go there, and may take years for you to get a case heard and resolved.  Meantime, you will be told you must comply with what they tell you is a lawful order to surrender your food, to take in refugees, or in many other ways to destroy the viability of the retreat that you built, for yourself.

Some of the people in this fourth wave will be people you might choose to reluctantly ‘do business’ with.  If they are realistic and don’t seek to ‘kill the goose that lays the golden eggs’ and understand that only if your are prosperous can they take a levy or share of your prosperity, then all you’ve done is substituted one form of previous law, order, and taxation for another.  And whether the people imposing it on you are bona fide government officials, lawless gangsters, or ‘pretend’ government officials, the net result is the same, and you simply have to matter-of-factly strike the best win-win deal you can.

But if they ask too much, and leave you with too little, you have some real problems to face.

Even a True Democratic Elected Government May Abrogate Your Rights

In particular, you know that even in the ‘best’ of our 50 states, the massive majority of the population is not nearly as well prepared as you are.  In the normal world, they might be wealthier than you and have more possessions, a fancier house, and who knows what else, but in the post-crisis world of a Level 2 or 3 event, their wealth and possessions become meaningless while yours become invaluable.

Any sort of democratic majority based government, especially one raised on the notion that the ‘wealthy’ are obliged to support the ‘poor’, and doubly especially where the lawmakers themselves are not prepared and are faced with their own pressing life or death challenges, won’t hesitate to urgently pass any needed laws to compel you to give everything you have to them.

This may well be unconstitutional and unlawful and illegal.  But who are you going to complain to, when the local mayor, the local sheriff, and the local judge all turn up on your doorstep together, themselves all starving, and demanding by their joint powers that you give them all your food?

We don’t have easy answers to offer you about these ‘fourth wave’ attackers.  But we can tell you that the fourth wave will be an ongoing thorn in your side, and you may find it increasingly difficult to tell between the ‘lawless gang’ fourth wave members and the ‘lawful posse’ fourth wave members.

Hiding from Fourth Wave Threats

Many preppers feel that an important part of their overall defensive strategy is to keep as low a profile as possible; to obscure the existence of their retreat, so as to avoid being noticed – both before and after the onset of some type of societal collapse.

Obscuring yourself prior to social collapse is getting harder and harder with every passing year.  The ‘information society’ is finding out more and more about us, and with the increasing tendency of government drones, spotting planes, and even satellites to survey vast areas of countryside, and to create extremely detailed ‘GIS’ databases of all the land and structures in a region, your retreat structure will surely be noticed and if not officially registered, sooner or later will cause the authorities to respond.

If you have an unauthorized structure that has not been permitted and which is not compliant with applicable zoning and health and other regulations and restrictions, you risk having it seized and destroyed.  You also risk civil and possibly criminal penalties, and being labeled as another crazy group of survivalist/supremacists.  You can imagine the headlines now – ‘Anti-government supremacists arrested, large weapons cache found on site’ and so on and so forth.  Remember that what we consider prudent, and what is indeed truly lawful, can – and will – be portrayed as evidence of crazy extremism by the news media and the authorities.

Because one of the fourth wave groups you may encounter will be some form of revived local government, it is inevitable that the ‘footprints’ you have created in developing your retreat will be uncovered.  Local health department approvals for your septic system.  Utility records for electricity or internet or cable services.  And so on and so on.  Indeed, one of the weaknesses of the generally sensible strategy of locating in an area with low population density is that you become more obvious by your presence than you would in a denser region.

You may delay your discovery, but you will not prevent it.  You need to have a more viable plan to ensure the safety and security of your retreat – fortunately, we have some suggestions on this point to share.

Becoming Part of the Solution, Not Part of the Problem

Your key strategy is to position yourself, your retreat, and your community, so it can create ‘win-win’ relationships with organized ‘fourth wave’ groups.

One of the key things about this fourth wave threat is that it is longer term.  Earlier waves of threats can be repulsed or ignored or in some other way worked around, but the fourth wave will be a longer term issue that must be resolved.

A confrontational approach risks failure on your part.  And any type of exchange of hostilities can be much more damaging to you than to your opponents.  Your opponents probably have either greater manpower to start with, and/or greater ability to recruit new members into their forces.  They are willing to accept some risk to their rank and file ‘foot soldiers’.

But you have a finite community of friends, family, and colleagues.  You can not dispassionately risk their lives in an encounter.  Remember also that with a loss of the sophisticated healthcare facilities we enjoy at present, even minor wounds become life threatening, and even if the wounds can be treated and resolved, they risk depleting your precious limited supplies of antibiotics and other medical resources.

There may be times when you must respond to force with force yourself; where the potential outcome associated with giving in to a fourth wave group is worse than the potential outcome of repulsing their attack, and in such cases you must be resolute in your defense of your retreat and its community.

But in general, you want to position yourselves so that you can find ways to co-exist on a win-win basis with these fourth wave groups.

How would you do that?  Please see our article on becoming part of the solution, rather than part of the problem, for a discussion on strategies to create win-win situations for you and the community you are close to.

Summary

After an initial period of grave social disruption, during which the first, second and third waves of refugees will occur, the rate of change will slow and some periods of semi-stable social arrangements will probably follow.

Invariably, regional leadership organizations will appear, and whether they are ostensibly benevolent or despotic, you need to position yourselves and your community so that it can co-exist on a win-win basis with these other (and possibly stronger) forces around it.

Aug 032012
 

You need to have a policy on accepting refugees. You’ll have way too many people seeking to join your community – how will you choose who to accept and reject?

Let’s say that TSHTF and we find ourselves deep into not just the brown stuff but an extended Level 2, possibly a Level 3 situation.  Fortunately, you have the supplies and the skills necessary to ensure the probable survival of you and the other members of your group.

So far, so good.

But what about the other people, everyone and everywhere else in the country?  They have neither the supplies nor the skills, and they are facing a high probability of failing to survive the upcoming winter (always assuming they don’t starve prior to then).

Okay, so you know that your small group of, let’s say, 20 people can’t possibly turn around and support the entire 300+ million people in the US.  Neither can you support the maybe 5 – 10 million people in your state, the 500,000 people in your county, or the 100,000 people in the nearest city, or the 2,000 people in the nearby small town.  Those are easy issues to agree upon.

Enough of the easy.  Let’s move on now to the hard – to the challenges you are most likely to confront and need to resolve.  Note that the scenarios below assume that your ‘community’ shares a number of communal resources – perhaps these would include living in the same retreat structure, sharing food communally rather than having individual stores of food, and sharing water and energy as well.  In such cases, what one person does obviously impacts on other members of the one community.

If your ‘community’ is more like a tiny village, with a cluster of separate dwellings for separate families, and each family being responsible for its own food, water, and energy, but the community as a whole coordinating defense and food production type matters, then clearly each family has much more flexibility as to how it manages its own situation.

Adding One More Community Member

What happens if say your spouse’s brother (or, for that matter, your own brother) turns up and asks to be admitted to your community?

Your spouse pleads with you to let him join you, and for sure, what you have for 20 people will also be fine for 21.  Your spouse even says ‘I’ll share my food with my brother’, although no-one seriously expects that is exactly how the food would be re-divided.  What do you do?  Welcome the guy in, or risk a major failure in your marriage and turn the guy away?

We’ll guess that most people will take the path of least resistance, and let their brother-in-law come join the community.  Going from 20 to 21 is no big deal, and certainly one more able-bodied participant can help with chores and security and general community dynamics.

When One Becomes Many

Next, we need to consider the implications of this.  If you’ve agreed that your spouse can allow your brother to join the community, does that mean that all 20 community members are equally allowed to invite one additional person in to the community?  It would be very hard to understand what type of community dynamic would allow some people the right to bring in additional community members, but not allow others the same right.

It goes without saying that while your community can almost certainly grow from 20 to 21, and would probably actually benefit from the extra person’s presence and participation, what about if the community grows from 20 to 40?  Is that feasible or not?  Your food will only last half as long.  You need twice as much water.  You have twice as much sewage to dispose of.  Your living spaces are now twice as crowded.  And so on.

Furthermore, what happens the next day when your spouse’s other brother turns up.  You’ve let one brother in, how can you refuse the other brother too?

Or what if your spouse’s brother (or of course, your own brother or anyone else’s brother) is married and has a wife?  And a child too?  Where do you draw the line?

Less Desirable Additions

What if, instead of the person being an able-bodied male who can work and positively contribute to the community, the person is instead an aged parent who can’t add any value to the community and who in fact needs support and care?  We could be totally off-base here, but we suspect you’d have an even greater battle with your spouse if you refused to allow their aged mother to come live with you than you would if you turned away their brother!

You should also consider people at the other end of life’s journey.  What about a young child – someone who again would be a net drain on the community’s resource for some years to come, and someone who needs to be cared for and schooled.

Or how about a regular adult but with disabilities, or special medical needs?

Choosing Between Too Many Applicants

What say five people present themselves and ask to join your community.  One is a weedy nerdy IT guy, the second is a beefy brawny farm manager, the third is a dentist, the fourth is an elderly infirm person, but who turns up in a truck fully loaded with enough food supplies to feed a dozen people for a year or more, and towing a 500 gallon tank of diesel, while the fifth is a beautiful blonde woman in her mid 20s, who formerly worked as a public relations representative.

Do you have some sort of skills inventory or rating system to evaluate and prioritize who you would and would not accept?  How about choosing between the empty-handed farm manager, who comes with no physical goods but lots of skill and knowledge and physical strength on the one hand, and the elderly infirm person who can’t contribute skills or physical work, but who has 500 gallons of diesel and twelve man years of food with him?

And what about the dentist?  Let’s say you have a community of 20 people, and the dentist says ‘I’ll provide dental care for all of you for free, but in return, I expect you to feed and shelter and support me’.  There are no other dentists in your group, and none that you know of within 100 miles of where you live.

Is the cost to the community of supporting the dentist sufficiently balanced by the benefit of having at least some basic level of dentistry resource?  If you had a community of 200 the answer would probably be yes, but what about for only 20?  Where do you draw the line?

What about a choice between the nerdy IT guy and the beautiful blonde?  Let’s say that your community currently has more men than women in it, and many of them (and possibly yourself too) are already drooling over the sight of the blonde.  If you had to choose only one of these two people, who would you choose?

The nerdy IT guy is intelligent and clever and offers to maintain your computer network, to write programs, and to help any way he can; and let’s give in to stereotypes and say, for the purpose of this scenario, that the blonde is rather vapid and not very down to earth or sensible.  Her idea of cooking involves being taken out for a meal by a man, or perhaps popping something in the microwave, her idea of gardening is to water the pot plant on her balcony, her idea of prepping is to have plenty of spare shoes in the closet, and she doesn’t really have any other skills of value to the community.

Another Variation

What say your community group refused to allow your spouse’s brother to join the community, and so he sets up a shack immediately next to your community building, and your spouse unofficially shares food and other supplies with him.  You confront your spouse, and s/he says defiantly ‘I am not taking your share of anything, I’m merely sharing my share with my brother, you can’t tell me how I use my things’.

What your spouse says is half-true, but also half untrue, because your spouse is actually now taking larger meals so as to be able to then split them, and the other supplies that your spouse has given to his/her brother are now supplies that have been lost to the community, and while they might seem to be spare today, in a day, week, month or year, they might be essentially needed but no longer available.

What do you do?  Forbid your spouse to share ‘their’ food and ‘their’ other supplies?

Even More Extreme

So your spouse’s brother, and all of his family members too, have set up camp right next to your community retreat.  They are a constant nuisance and interference to the entire community, and, while you can’t prove it, you are fairly certain they are stealing food out of your vegetable gardens, and in other ways stealing your community’s supplies and resources, and by their presence, affecting the overall community morale.

You confront your brother-in-law and he refuses to back down.  He says to you ‘What are you going to do – kill me for doing what I have to do to survive?  You’ll never miss a few carrots and potatoes, and it makes the difference between me and my family living or dying.  Do you want us to die on your doorstep?’

So what do you do?  This isn’t just a stranger talking to you, it is your spouse’s brother and his family.  Or maybe your own brother/sister/whoever.

They make it clear to you that they’re not going to stop stealing your food unless you kill them.  Do you?

Other Scenarios

There are plenty of other scenarios that also impact upon the size of your community and the circumstances associated with how you might select additional or replacement members.  What say, for example, that you have 20 people who belong to your community, but only 15 have turned up at your shared retreat location.

How long do you hold their spaces, their share of everything, before you decide they’re not coming, and you then open up the spaces to other desirable community members?

Or what say part of your community is a family of four, but only three of the family successfully make it to the retreat.  Does the fourth space belong to the family, to assign/sell/trade any way they wish, or does it pass back and become community property?

What happens if a community member leaves (or dies) – does the share in the community pass on to his/her family, can he sell it as he wishes, or does it revert back and become a shared community item for the community as a whole to do with as it chooses?

The Need to Prepare Community Rules in Advance

What all these previous examples have done is try to illustrate some of the type of ‘what if’ situations your community will likely encounter.  You will probably have more people approaching your community on a non-violent basis, pleading with you to be allowed to join your community, than you will have violent attacks from marauders seeking to separate you from your supplies by force.

Each of these different people will come to you with a different set of pluses and minuses, and for a while you’ll feel like a kid in a candy store with so many different people, all potentially great additions to your community, seeking to join.  Whereas, just a week or two prior, when life was normal, people would sneer at you and spurn your suggestion they consider joining your community, but now, all of a sudden, so many people want to be your best friend forever.

You have two problems that you need to address in preparing some rules in advance.  The first problem is simply one of creating a framework to help you judge and evaluate, on a case by case basis, who you should and should not consider adding to your community after TSHTF.

The second problem is more subtle.  The larger your community starts off as being, the more divergent will be the people in it and their own views about how each scenario should be handled.  The rules you prepare are a way of codifying for the entire community what you’ll all collectively do and how you’ll respond.  It is essential that you get the rules 100% established and fully agreed to prior to any event.  If you have a code of procedures, then you can dispassionately evaluate each person’s request to join the community as and when they appear, without having to get involved in any individual personalities and issues between your existing community members.  Community members know what to expect and plan for in advance, and can anticipate how cases will be handled based on the rules as they have been promulgated.

If you don’t have the rules already established, then you get trapped in an expanding spiral of exceptions (albeit exceptions to no existing rules to start with) on the basis of ‘If Joe was allowed to invite in Peter, then I’m entitled to invite in someone too’ and ‘If your friend Bill and his family were allowed to come join, then my friend John and his family should be allowed to come too’, as well as ‘I can’t believe you’re not allowing me to have my dear old dad come join us, especially after I agreed you could bring your kid sister in’, and so on and so on, without limit, until the entire community collapses into some sort of internal civil war.

The solution to this is in two parts – the first is that all decisions need to follow pre-established guidelines so as to distance the individual people and personalities from the process and make it less personal.  The decision then becomes one of simply following the policy, rather than what you agree/disagree between yourselves each time.  It makes it fairer for all to have a consistent approach.

The second element is to make all decisions not clearly covered by the published rules as community consensus decisions, again to diffuse the personal nature of such decisions and to make them more as ‘body corporate’ type actions that, while possibly disappointing to some, aren’t taken as quite so strongly personal rejections/affronts.

Specific Guidelines for Evaluating Potential Extra Community Members

We’ll write a subsequent article with some specific considerations for you to keep in mind when deciding who you might allow to join your community after TSHTF.

Of course, prior to TSHTF, you also need to exercise a modicum of discretion as to who you allow to join your community, but while you are building your community during normal times, one of the greatest considerations will probably be to simply grow your community as much as possible due to the three benefits of strength in numbers, economy of scale, and diversification of risk.

Please see also our article suggesting how to accept new members into your community.