My best friend, K, is very patient. She’s listened to me go on about prepping and homesteading and politics. She’ll nod and ask questions and is genuinely interested in what I’m interested in. However, she is not a prepper. I’ve tried time and again to get her to put together a “get home” bag for her car, or put up a little food storage. I’ve talked to her about the just-in-time system and how fragile it is and how we’re only three meals from anarchy. I’ve tried to get her to go for a walk with me before or after our weekly dinner. She even admits that, yes, things are unstable and the world isn’t as safe as we might hope. But she doesn’t do anything about it.
When I press her, K’s answer is “I’d rather just die in the initial disaster.” This response leaves me flabbergasted each time. She’s not the first person to whom I’ve talked that has that thought. The real meaning of “I’d rather die in the disaster” is, of course, “I don’t want to think about how things could change” and “I don’t want to do anything to fix the problem”. It’s the same thing that makes people deny climate change or peak oil. It’s not that they’re bad people, or unintelligent. It’s just that dealing with the overwhelming concept of possible future crises is not something that they’re willing to do. So instead, they tell themselves they’ll just be wiped out in the initial onslaught of whatever.
Yes, if things went south it might be easier to be wiped out in the initial wave of the crisis. The problem is that of all the likely scenarios that would cause a person to need to use their preps, ones that would cause a large proportion of the population to die in an instant are few and far between. Nuclear war or a pandemic are two possible ones, or perhaps a gamma ray burst. Heck, a zombie apocalypse!
However, we’re far more likely to see a few isolated nukes go off thanks to terrorists instead of the old Cold War fear of being blanketed by nuclear bombs. Or if there is a pandemic that kills, just to be on the outrageous side of things, forty percent of the population, that still means that you have a six in ten chance of surviving it. Those are pretty good odds, though the overall population hit would be devastating.
The far more likely scenarios, the ones that leave the unprepared uncomfortable and struggling, are things like an economic depression, job loss, rationing due to a war, peak oil making shipped goods extremely expensive, having to leave your home suddenly due to a major storm or flooding. These kinds of “minor” disasters are the ones that are FAR more likely to happen than the end of the world as we know it.
The biggest misconception that non-preppers have about prepping is that we’re all crazy – whether they think we’re tin-foil-hat-wearing conspiracy nut jobs or they think that to prep you have to stop going to a grocery store, grow all your own food, and give up electricity. They don’t realize that having a 72-hour kit or “get home” bag, some extra food stored in the pantry, and the knowledge of how to deal with an extended power outage (like a week or so) will put them miles ahead of most people.
I know I’m not the best example of moderation – we moved out to the country and started a farm and I blog about prepping and homesteading. Most people will never even want to do that, much less be able to make it happen. But I have lived in cities and in suburbia. I still use the internet, have a desk job, and, on days like today when I just have too much to do and not enough time to do it, I still use my dryer instead of my laundry lines. I know what it’s like to look at my 500 square foot efficiency apartment and wonder where on earth I could put my clothes, much less a box of MREs or a pressure canner.
While self-sufficiency is an admirable goal, it’s just not possible for everyone. First of all, we all have different skills and interests. That’s a good thing as no one could possibly master all the skills out there. I may be able to grow you a zucchini (assuming the doggone squash bugs won’t kill it!), but I certainly couldn’t shoe a horse or code a database. The second issue is that our population density is just too high to allow it. There are just over 7.5 billion acres of arable land1 in the world. The world population is almost 7.5 billion people. That’s just about 1 acre of arable ground per person – and our population is increasing daily. Even if somehow we could shake everyone out so that they each get their one acre – and they could produce enough food on that one acre to survive, AND produce the other stuff necessary for life like clothing and medicines and such – the first baby born would upset the balance right away.
Even if we can’t all go off and do the homestead thing to be self-sustaining (theoretically – I certainly am not off-grid or able to support just me and Mr. WPW and our animals without buying things from others), there are things we can do to weather the storms of life. Prepping is just one of them. So stop and think about what prepping really is. It’s just having a little pad to help cushion you against the bumps and bruises inflicted by a world that sometimes seems to spin a little faster than we can cope with. No tin foil hat needed.