Reader Request Week 2012 #5: Them Crazies What Live in the Woods

Joe Beernink asks:

What do you think of the prepper/survivalist/sovereign citizen movements in the US? Complete nutbags? Grains of reason, seasoned with nutty goodness? Or are they three steps behind you already? Do you have plans for various types of disasters? Which types do you now worry about? Have you ever found yourself beginning to stock up on canned goods after reading a book? If so, which book?

I think there’s enough of a range of people on the prepper/survivalist/sovereign citizen spectrum that I don’t think it’s accurate to lump ’em together. For example, I suspect a reasonable number of “sovereign citizens” aren’t prepping for an apocalypse scenario in any meaningful way other than having lots of weapons; they just don’t want to have to pay taxes or follow laws they find inconvenient. Conversely, you can prep for disasters without being bug-chompingly crazy. If I recall correctly members of the LDS Church are encouraged to keep a store of food and supplies designed to last for months in the event of a genuinely significant emergency, and most LDS Church members I know are fine, upstanding members of their community who are not waiting or hoping for something horrible to happen so they can break out the dried beans.

In a general sense, I think the Sovereign Citizen-types are more problematic than the generic survivalist types, since I think people who believe they are not answerable to the law of the land are probably rather likely to end up coming to grief, or unnecessarily cause grief to others. It just seems like a dumb way to live one’s life, thinking the rules don’t apply to you, so nyah. I have no doubt they have a more complicated formulation to it than that, mind you, but from this end of things it seems that’s what it boils down to.

As for the folks prepping for the end of days, well, if it keeps you busy and you’re not bothering other people with it, why not? I have no objection to people practicing their weapons, skinning and stewing rodents and filling their cellars and bolt holes with root vegetables and potable water. It’s not my favorite way to spend a Saturday, I have to admit, but then they don’t need my approval.

Do I think such extensive survival preparation is necessary? Generally, no. I do think it’s prudent for people to have a week or two of food, water and supplies on hand for general emergencies, which will knock out your power and otherwise make your life unhappy and difficult in the short term. In my neck of the woods, the types of emergencies I worry about are tornadoes and snowstorms, and both of these, typically speaking, are not long-term concerns. As for the collapse of civilization as we know it, I imagine it will take longer than most people suspect, and we’ll be able to see it a while off, which will give me some time to prep. And while I’m sure some folks would disagree with me, in my assessment we’re not actually close to the collapse of every damn thing. In which case, two weeks of supplies should be just fine.

And no, there’s never been a book that’s made me want to start stocking 55-gallon drums of beans and rice. I don’t think fiction writers have any clearer insight into the future than anyone else. With non-fiction writers, if their niche is scaring the crap out of people, well, that’s nice for them, but it’ll take more than a single source of data to get me into survivalist mode. I think that’s probably a good way to be overall.

83 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2012 #5: Them Crazies What Live in the Woods”

  1. I’m a normal reasonable guy on the leftish end of the political spectrum, but I do believe in crazies and out-of-the-blue terrorist attacks around a big city like Chicago where I live.

    I have extensive survival gear in the basement; enough to last 5 people for about a month or so….maybe a bit more. Food, water, hygiene, refuse,…all taken care of. No weapons.

    When that dirty bomb goes off, I can seal up the house for a week or two and wait it out.

    -Dr Mike

  2. The LDS Church does, in fact, recommend keeping a supply of food and water. Ideally, it would be a year’s worth, but really it’s whatever you can afford and can store. My mom spent several years accumulating cans and bags and boxes of food. She covered stacks of boxes with cloth and called them end tables. We had boxes under our beds instead of bed frames. It was nuts. Until my dad lost his job. I was married and out of the house by then, but my parents and a couple of my brothers pretty much lived off of Mom’s storage (with things like milk and other perishables coming from the store) for almost 2 years, I think.

  3. After reading Lucifer’s Hammer, I was extra-happy to own my grandmother’s 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

  4. ::blush:: I was actually worried enough about Y2K’s effect on hidden infrastructure controllers that I persuaded my hubby to purchase two (three?) cords of well-seasoned wood for our wood stove prior to the event.

    We moved from that house in 2007, and still had some of the wood left.

    On the other hand, when the power went out for 3+ days in the winter, it was *very* nice to have that good wood for the stove. It heated our large living room very nicely; we cooked on the stove and slept in that room and All Was Well.

  5. I think I first encountered survivalists about 30 years ago. Then it was fear of the Soviets or a nuclear war. Now it’s terrorists and economic collapse. (I think economic collapse is a fear that’s always been with us, but its potential trigger is always changing.) While I think there are people who could survive any sort of man-made or natural disaster, it won’t be the ones who buy surplus MREs and commando knives and think they’re all set.

  6. Possibly useful note: the LDS Church also counsels establishing a financial reserve, along with one’s 3-month supply of normal food items, drinking water supply, and longer-term food storage. When my dad lost his job and was out of work for almost a year I don’t recall that we survived on rice and beans all that much (and we already ate a lot of home-ground whole-wheat bread) but that financial reserve was absolutely beneficial in keeping my family afloat.

    That said, according to family stories my paternal grandfather, a WWII Marine, was one of those survivalist types–he absolutely believed that someday the Communists were going to attack and he’d need to defend his family. After his death (in a mountain-climbing accident in the 80s) my dad and his brothers went through the weapons collection and turned up a lot of pretty dangerous stuff, like armor-piercing rounds, etc. And yes, he did live in Idaho.

  7. I think there are different ways of looking at it… I always have a few days (up to a week’s) worth of food/water in the apartment due to unexpected outages, because not doing that is just a bad idea (snowstorms/hurricanes seem to be the more common issues). Having a (very) well-stocked pantry has also been an asset in the past (being able to eat from frozen/preserved foods for 3-4 months was REALLY helpful in stretching the budget while unemployed, for example).

    That said, in case of economic collapse, I’d personally bet on the person who knows how to run a large kitchen and a small farm, rather than the person who has MREs in the basement. (I say that as someone with cooking as a main hobby: baking bread, making cheese, growing vegetables, and smoking meats are all things I do for fun. That said, I can also feed a family on less than 500$/month, and this includes steak, scallops, organic vegetables, and a generous wine budget…)

  8. I am not a survivalist but I really enjoy those books, such as Farnham’s Freehold and the like. Scrambling to make do and reinvent technology, etc. However, I don’t do that in my own life because I don’t have the mechanical skills and I don’t like beans that much. In theory though, creating your own bunker and being able to survive sounds pretty cool.

  9. Having used the Ada programming language for the last 20 years, I am now rediscovering how evil a language C is. How am I going to tie this fact to this thread? Just this way:

    Knowing how much of the worlds infrastructure is dependent on C (and its evil spawn) I am fully expecting and preparing for the collapse of civilization.

  10. Echoing a couple of other commenters, the most practical use I’ve seen food storage put to is in times of personal or family economic hardship. If you lose your job, having a food storage or financial reserve can make a big difference for the weeks, months or years it takes to get back on your feet.

  11. If it was the total collapse of society, would you really want to survive anyway? I like my creature comforts, and the all the benefits of modern living. I might just be being a Spoilt Western Brat(tm), but on the quality of life versus quantity of life scale I am definitely in the former camp. If society collapsed to the level we’d have to be skinning rodents, eating dried beans, and generally boiling all water like it was the 18thC again, I’d be happy to vacate the planet. That isn’t my idea of living.

    As far as general emergencies go, I’m fortunate to live in country that has enough resources that are close enough at hand to make any sort of natural disaster that you can live through be a very temporary affair (like on the order of a couple of days temporary).

    We don’t have the “sovereign citizen” nutters here (thankfully), we shipped them all off to the US and Australia a while back. In fact our nutters are quite keen on there being a social structure that everyone is part of, they just want to be on one of the upper rungs of it and to make sure there are plenty of people on the rungs below so they can feel better about themselves.

  12. We know some local Transition Town folks, and while they’re worried about dramatic near-future social/economic/environmental changes, I find their general response much more reasonable. They focus on building community and local self-reliance rather than hunkering down and hoarding weapons. They tend to be an upbeat bunch, considering that they’re expecting TEOTWAWKI. And it’s not because they’re looking forward to the apocalypse, they’re just enjoying the benefits of their approach to preparing.

  13. This is dangerously optimistic on Our Host’s part. The Snarkocalypse is coming, and I know where the epicenter will be…

  14. WP is still boogering up my account, and it just ate my well-reasoned screed :) The Reader’s Digest condensed version:
    We have friends who I consider on the farther end but still rational side of preparedness: a few guns safely stored (mostly for hunting), and skill sets that will be useful in case of short or long term crisis. Ourselves, we have supplies and bugout kits for hurricane or tsunami. On the flip side of the survivalists are the wannabe hippies from Y2K, who are sure that any emergency which knocks out modern civilization can only bring in the Age of Aquarius and peace and prosperity. I prefer hot water and indoor plumbing.

    p.s. Sorry about my previous ill-considered post yesterday.

  15. @ OmegaMom:

    My general attitude in the run-up to Y2K was that it looked like the resources thrown at the problem had probably deflected any big disruptions, but it wouldn’t hurt to make some preparations, most of which would be good anyway because, hello, New England winters. That attitude calmed down some friends and — conversely — got my workplace to set up some emergency procedures we should have already had.

  16. Barring a mass outbreak of mushroom clouds, I seriously doubt we’d even notice the collapse of civilization. One day, we’d be telling our grandchildren, “You know, it’s weird. We used to pay these people called cops to keep the criminals off our lawns. But then we also used to pay these things called ‘mortgages’ to places called ‘banks,’ which stored this stuff called ‘money’ for us. And that’s why I had to shoot the neighbor with a crossbow and butcher his dog for dinner.”

  17. Coo1b1ue writes:

    Having used the Ada programming language for the last 20 years, I am now rediscovering how evil a language C is. How am I going to tie this fact to this thread? Just this way: Knowing how much of the worlds infrastructure is dependent on C (and its evil spawn) I am fully expecting and preparing for the collapse of civilization.

    Strange, I was just re-reading last in Harland and Lorenz’s “Space Systems Failures” about the first Ariane-5 launch, and the wonderful ADA code overflow handling failure that took out the inertial measurement units and caused it to go out of control and break up.

    And all the wonderful program alarms as Armstrong and Aldrin were landing on the Moon for the first time.

  18. My two cents –

    There are local extended breakdowns of civilization that happen (even today), usually in wars (and rarely outside them), but the usual failure mode of civilized life is “I’m now obsolete” where job skills and experience become useless. There’s a tendency to stop learning new skills as one gets older, and many people don’t get exposed enough to that as a lifestyle in the first place.

    Hiding in the woods, and practicing your traps and bunker building, is “a” skill but not helping keep you relevant to modern civilization.

    I have a tendency to be about a generation and a half (2-3 years) behind on consumer electronics, in part because a lot of the time I’m consulting or working on the back end servers/infrastructure for the bleeding edge and find things just a bit too cringeworthy. But it’s not out of lack of understanding how the end products work or what you can do with them.

  19. I freely admit, I’d die the second civilisation collapes, you know, with all that “needing medicaments to survive” I won’t make long.

    Plus, live without central heating ain’t worth contemplating, at least not at my spot of living. I don’t like being cold.

  20. Forget all this. I hope I am at ground zero when the bleep hits the fan. Count me out.

  21. The veneer of society is thick as the amount of time it takes the mob to strip the supermarket shelves, and as robust as the predictable arrival of the next resupply convoy. Collapse, to this point, has been aligned to social disorder, or natural disaster. It has been patchy and localised rather than widespread. That said, if you make yourself reliant on the infrastructure of the state, then you are reliant on that infrastructure. The choices are yours to make.

  22. I used to scoff at the prepper types until Hurricane Katrina. After seeing the sheer governmental clusterfuck that followed, my wife and I stocked the house and both our cars. We live in earthquake country, so it’s a combination of common sense (ie there’s a good possibility we’ll get Northridge II: Seismic Boogaloo in our lifetimes, so be prepared) and cynicism (the government response will likely suck, and we’ll be on our own).

  23. Yeah, anarchy sounds great, and you might be the biggest, toughest hombre around. Then a dozen pygmies barbeque your a$$ and you’re looking for a cop…

  24. The only fiction which has ever come close to making me start preparing for disaster was the British TV series Survivors (specifically, the recent remake). It starts with most of the population being killed by a pandemic practically overnight – something which seems frighteningly more credible than most disasters in books & movies.

    If there ever was a disaster and we needed supplies, my family would be okay for a while – we have one keen survivalist type who reads non-fiction books about it, is growing vegetables in the garden, has some survivalist-y equipment (water filters, etc) and has a reasonable stockpile of tinned foods. Though we live in Liverpool, England – one of the safest areas around in terms of (lack of) natural disasters really!

  25. I live in Montana where there is quite a tradition of the “sovereign citizens” effect, the 1994 Freeman standoff being one example. There are some mighty remote places with heavily armed people not real interested in strangers. The feeling runs strong in the populace in general, as evidenced by these events and bills from the last State Legislature:

    – Had a Legislator deliver a tirade about the need to allow more drinking and driving
    – Discussed introducing a bill to have Montana secede from the Union. (Apparently not decided by a Civil War)
    – Introduced a Joint Resolution calling on Congress to withdraw the US from the United Nations
    – Introduced a bill to allow anybody with a firearms permit to carry concealed. (Law Enforcement freaked)
    – Had the head of the committee for DUI awareness arrested for driving I-90 with a drink in his hand (Can’t a guy enjoy a beer on the way home?)

    Meanwhile even though I am a registered independent politically, I have to say that I am a fan of government:
    – Every time in my life I have turned on the faucet, I have received potable drinking water
    – I flush and it goes away
    – I have called 911 and have had help arrive within two minutes
    – I had mumps and measles as a child. It sucked. My kids did not have these diseases
    – Did I mention I live in Montana? Interstates sure are nice.

    As Oliver Wendell Holmes purportedly said, “I love paying taxes, it buys me civilization.”

  26. If we get down to skinning rodents, we will run out of rodents. We are way past carrying capacity without an advanced agricultural infrastructure. There are usually a few lagomorphs hopping about our neighborhood, eating the plants, but they won’t survive a month of predation by every family on our street. I don’t think I’m young enough to survive a prolonged contest of canibalism.

    Preparedness for natural disaster, bad weather, power outage etc. is a good idea. I hadn’t actually considered the unemployment angle. If it really comes down to Collapse of Civilization (TM) for real, then even if you are a good ant, you will likely to fall prey to a gang of armed grasshoppers under thirty. If you are under thirty and join a gang of armed grasshoppers, you are still likely to meet your end at the hands of another band of armed grasshoppers. Hundreds of millions of people around the world would probably survive, but how likely is it that you will be one? Being good would help, being lucky would be essential.

    I sometimes get the feeling that some preppers want to see the world end, so they can demonstrate their awesome post apocalyptic skills and gain social status among the survivors. But if the goal is to actually survive, then the winning strategy is to keep civilization functioning; pick up a slide rule and stand a post.

    The first episode of James Burke’s Connections gets into the problem of being a good ant to some degree:, and Burke was speaking from 1977, when our dependence on technology was almost certainly less than now.

  27. BarryF says: “Had the head of the committee for DUI awareness arrested for driving I-90 with a drink in his hand”

    No doubt that made lots of people more aware of DUI. So that can go on his/her list of accomplishments for the yearly job review.

  28. After Hurricane Charlie I took “prepping” much more seriously. And really, as far as storing food goes, how can you go wrong with that? At worst, it’s an inflation hedge, and at best it can save your life if we have some sort of catastrophe. It’s kind of a thin reed of civilization that keeps the grocery stores stocked and there are lots of things that could interrupt that.

  29. @ Mike:

    It’s possible to do things that simultaneous prepare for drastic changes in society *and* make those changes less likely to happen, or at least less drastic. Thinking of it as an either/or is a mistake.

  30. The book that had me wanting to start stockpiling was Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfieffer. It showed a gradual retreat into complete dependence on stockpiles; nothing was growing or getting through to the stores. Several other books are good, but didn’t affect me as much. Some of them are Dies the Fire, Into the Forest and World Made By Hand.

  31. The thing about “survivalists” is most of them come from people who are hyper-conscientious outdoors men/women. If you’ve ever had to suffer through a weeks-long snow storm you have plenty of canned, dried, and otherwise preserved food in the house along with drinking water and at least a little bleach for being able to drink the toilet tank water. If you’ve ever had a family emergency you have a good first aid kit. If you’re a smart survivor of a violent crime or home invasion you own a gun. If you’ve broken down in the mountains while driving you have a compass, knife/multitool, water, food, your car. Combine all these, and have a person like me who thinks ahead along with people who like to hike (me), hunt, or fish and you end up with plenty of gear lying around that can get you through anything.

    So being a survivalist isn’t “weird”; it’s being, as the boy scouts say, “expecting the best but prepared for the worst”. Or just being smart.

    The “weird” ones I know are the apartment dwellers who, even though they live in a city that gets snow, refuse to stock up on more than a few days of food or water, have a first aid kit or other emergency supplies because they don’t “want to look like a survivalist”. I know many of these types and I’ve said to them “What other people think of you is so important that, in the event of a week-long snow storm, you’ll risk starvation, or eating the cat, just to please them?”

  32. My 2c….
    I live in Australia, where there’s not THAT much chance of dying of the cold if the lights all go out. Assuming you are mobile, there’s always somewhere warm within walking distance (even if you’d rather drive). We are pretty civilised down here, and in fact, you can even get bottled beer now ….

    In fact, you are more likley to be killed or injured by an avalanche of the first 50 volumes of “Lethal Australian Flora and Fauna” than a natural disaster ….

  33. “The “weird” ones I know are the apartment dwellers who, even though they live in a city that gets snow, refuse to stock up on more than a few days of food or water”

    Um, what? You live in a city. Why would you need to stock up because of weather? If there is a massive outage, there will be a massive number of people who will need basic services. Either there will be massive deaths because the rest of the country died, or you will stand in line with the other unprepared people. It isnt like you cant walk out side to the nearest store and buy/loot what you need.

    Now, if a meteor/nuke hits, you are either close enough to ground zero, or you have bigger problems than surviving a few days.

    Although, I was planning on leaving Chicago during the G8 meeting, until they changed the dates.

  34. Sovereign citizens are very different from survivalists, or even “prepared-ness-ists” (whatever label works there). The latter two are varying degrees of self-reliant, ranging from ‘let’s have some MREs in case of the power going out’ to ‘we will have years of food in the bunker for The End’. Sovereign citizens, on the other hand, are a bubble off plumb. They are people who seize on weird, cherry-picked misinterpretations of the law in ways that are reminiscent of a five-year-old explaining how magic works.

    Survivalism and preparedness are not just about having waterproof matches and flares, of course. An old friend of mine who is a survivalist and a first responder has some wise advice about the survival value of community, as opposed to holing up in a bunker. As she lives halfway up a mountain in a small rural community, has been an emergency worker in Haiti, and converted her husband to self-reliance when her preparedness got them through a week of ice storms, I tend to listen to her.

  35. I have a couple of books issued to US and British special forces on survivalism. With those books I feel fully prepared for any disaster up to and including a zombie appoclypse.

  36. @Mike (of comment #315559) pretty much nails my concerns.

    Pre-collapse society doesn’t worry me. (duh). The long-term post-collapse society doesn’t worry me either. As he says, the way to survive is to reestablish society. Hopefully without sounding like an arrogant Pollyanna, I am cautiously optimistic that I know enough about how to grow food on my property, cure meats, et cetera, that I could keep my family from starving in the long run.

    It’s that transition period in between, the chaos of the collapse itself, that worries me deeply. How do you survive that? How do you keep the gangs of armed grasshoppers at bay long enough to get through the transition? More particularly, is there a reasonable and practical strategy that a typical DYI’er suburbanite who doesn’t have tons of free cash can implement in order to substantially increase my family’s odds of surviving the transition?

    This is the question that does, actually, keep me up nights.

  37. Um, what? You live in a city. Why would you need to stock up because of weather?

    Because living in a city doesn’t make it any easier to go without electricity, water or food, particularly if knocking out basic services like electricity makes it hard to store and prepare food and water? Because “just go to the store and buy/loot what you need” doesn’t help much when everybody is doing the same thing, it takes hours to get a roll of toilet paper if you can FIND one, and police are dealing violently with looters?

    There’s a lot of room for disaster short of the Zombie Apocalypse.

  38. Things to help you survive the transition:
    0. Be one of the 10% or so of the population who inherently don’t panic in disasters
    1. Water
    2. Food, even if it’s as useless as just rice and beans and sugar
    3. Any medications you need to be healthy for a month without doctor / pharmacy visits (may not be possible for all people in all situations, but do what you can)
    4. Vitamins
    5. Some flashlights and batteries

    $50 worth of water is a weeks’s worth or more; $50 worth of rice and beans and sugar is a week’s worth or more; $50 worth of vitamins is months worth. Flashlights and batteries are similarly cheap. If you haven’t got $200, take $100 and split it 40-30-20-10 and see how far that gets you (probably 5-10 man-days worth of stuff plus a flashlight). If you haven’t got $100, add a 10 lb bag of rice or beans or a couple of gallons of water or another container of multivitamins to your weekly groceries for six months.

    It’s really not that difficult, or paranoia-inducing.

  39. Peter Cibulskis, let me ask you something: do you own a fire extinguisher? Yes? What, you mean if there’s a kitchen fire you don’t just call the fire dept, sit and wait? You mean you actually prepare to actually take care of it yourself?

    And that’s my point: preparation.

    I’ve been through at least a half-dozen multi-day snow storms that cut off driving or even walking for more than a block. Every single time I have a friend or acquaintance on the phone to me (or at my door) 2 days after the snow hits saying “Please Scorpius, we’re out of food. The deliveryman won’t deliver. Please give us food or rescue us.”

    Now, I’m not a rock-ribbed, totally-self-reliant farm boy; I was born in the suburbs. But I still prepare. My friend who is a RR, TSR farm boy describes my friends/acquaintances above (and I guess you) as “city kids”. Kids who grow up actually living in the city and have everything provided for them: delivery people deliver food and groceries, cabs drive them around, the super repairs everything, etc. So when adversity strikes in any real way (say a snow storm) they are helpless. Hell, they’re helpless in making coffee.

    And yes, to this “city kid” culture having even a small pantry with a few days worth of canned, dried (mac and cheese?) food and a stocked fridge/freezer is a sign of being a nutter “survivalist”.

    It’s not. Preparing for the worst doesn’t mean you’re wanting or even expecting the worst; it just means you’re a realist and realize that the worst can come anytime. That’s why you save money. That’s why you keep enough food and supplies for a week in your house.

    Heck, it doesn’t even have to be a cataclysmic event. All it has to be is a really busy week at work where you can’t get to the store. And you’ll be thankful for preparation.

  40. @mythago
    What city do you live in? I guess I’ve only lived in cities where freak storms don’t knock out power for days and force swaths of the population to revert to barbarism. Hurricanes literally covering half of the city in water would be an emergency that would be not easily dealable with by emergency services, but in most American cities, even horrible storms/snowstorms don’t result in wastelands where everyone is left to scavenge for themselves.

    (My cities are Seattle/Austin; in the first a catastrophe snowstorm is 3 inches, in the second it’s half an inch.)

  41. I know Scorpius wasn’t talking to me, but having had experience in this situation recently, I thought I’d share my thoughts.

    let me ask you something: do you own a fire extinguisher? Yes?


    What, you mean if there’s a kitchen fire you don’t just call the fire dept, sit and wait

    IIRC, it was more running around flailing arms wildly, with the occasional panicked cry of “ohshitohshitohshitohshit”. Then the fire brigade arrived from their station and put a wet cloth over it. Then I made them all a cup of tea and they cleaned out all the tunnocks caramel wafers and kit-kats from my biscuit tine. Not sure if that last was in the name of fire safety, but can’t be too careful. I’ve since bought a fire extinguisher. Wait, did I say fire extinguisher, I meant more tunnocks caramel wafers and kit-kats. I do not intent buying a fire extinguisher when the fire brigade are a mere 999 call and two streets away. Seems like a waste of money.

  42. You know, I’m going to go ahead and be on record here suggesting everyone have a fire extinguisher in their house. A house fire can double in size every 30 seconds, so even if the fire brigade is two streets away, a fire has the potential to eat up a lot of your house between the time you call emergency services and the time the fire brigade arrives.

    We have three in our home, one for every floor in the house. They have never been used. I’d like to keep it that way. But I don’t consider the expenditure a waste of money.

  43. What about stocking up on gold coins? It seems every other commercial on my Sirius radio is warning me that I should be hoarding gold coins in preparation for the impending collapse of society! Strangley enough though, they all seem to require payment in US Dollars,. Huh.

  44. @ Jennifer:

    Re: “Life As We Knew It”, by Susan Beth Pfieffer

    I have to say that I’m glad I didn’t read that book when I was a “young adult”. Very good, but depressing. I immediately went out and bought “The Dead and the Gone”, but I haven’t quite brought myself to read it yet. Somehow there’s always something else I want to read first.

    @ crypticmirror:

    For running-around-flailing-oh-shit-oh-shit types, having a fire extinguisher probably *is* a waste of money. But that’s not so much about the fire extinguisher or however close the fire brigade is.

    As any good Boy Scout could probably tell you, being prepared is only partly about having the right materials. It’s also about having the right knowledge and an adaptable mindset.

    (Not that I was ever a Boy Scout, good or otherwise.)

    This all reminds me, though, that my Red Cross CPR and First Aid certificates have expired …

  45. I think if you live in a large metro area, it’s more important to have some extra food stockpiled. Large metro areas absolutely depend on transportation infrastructure to keep inhabitants fed. If there’s a disruption to the transportation network that prevents food from coming into the city, you are going to be competing with lots of other hungry people for whatever’s leftover in the stores.

    After what happened in New Orleans, I don’t think it’s good to count on the government to save you during a disaster.

  46. I can’t even imagine treating 3 inches of snow as a catastrophe. They don’t always even cancel school here for a measly 3 inches, then again they have been known to cancel snow for threat of drizzle so I don’t think treating the decisions of our school board as a rational and predictable thing is a good idea.

  47. In the UK after the WWII my parents lived about 20 miles from the center of London, and a couple of times a year the power would go out for long enough to make keeping candles and paraffin lanterns a sensible precaution.

    When they were retired, in North Devon in the 1970s, living a couple of miles from the nearest village, they were shut in by snow for a couple of weeks – it drifted into the deep lanes, although the wind kept the fields free. They had half-expected problems, so they had oil heating (power was out for a few days) and enough food to get by.

    OTOH, while I still keep candles and matches in the house I can’t recall when I last needed them – generally I just sleep through power cuts, which these days are mostly short, and I’ve never lived far enough from a town to make it worth stockpiling food.

    As always, it seems YMMV – Will

  48. Mirroring some other commenters above, Hurricane Katrina changed how I think of this and other things. A disaster covering a relatively small area DID break down society locally almost entirely for a shockingly long period of time…and looting doesn’t do you much good if the store shelves are underwater (or aflame). That being said, there was a spirit of cooperation from most people stuck down here, at least to a degree. I can’t say that I’ll ever trust the government to deal with a disaster again, however. Hurricanes are at least somewhat predictable, but many other disasters aren’t. There’s sensible reasons to have some food, cash, and other essentials on hand (including a fire extinguisher; fires were a major problem after the storm).

    Oh, and that BBC show Survivors (in its most recent version) mentioned above was filmed in St. Bernard Parish after Hurricane Katrina, not a set. They were able to just literally walk into the ruins and that’s what it looked like (after it had drained, of course).

  49. @ ADifferentJohn 10:54

    Re: A disaster covering a relatively small area DID break down society locally almost entirely for a shockingly long period of time…and looting doesn’t do you much good if the store shelves are underwater (or aflame).

    Just have to note that it wasn’t a disaster covering a relatively small area. It was a disaster hitting three states, wiping out coastal cities and towns in all three. People only remember New Orleans, but part of the problem was that it wasn’t localized and emergency crews had to rebuild or partially rebuild the roads leading to the emergency areas. (Also, NO doesn’t have many ways to get to it in normal times. Ever driven the Causeway?)

  50. @PresN: Seattle is d100 years away from a major (9+ magnitude earthquake); I used to live in Portland, in a high-rise apartment where I could actually look out my window and see the fault. Austin had some pretty nasty wildfires last year, as I can recall. There’s a lot of disaster and misfortune that can happen short of the End of Days and Collapse of Civilization, as the residents of San Bruno can tell you. And the city of San Francisco, an urban area if there ever was one, seems to think it would be a really good idea not to assume that all municipal services will be 100% in case of earthquake.

    There’s a lot of room for inconvenience and hardship in between the power going out for a few minutes and barbarism. Being prepared for an earthquake, or an ice storm, or a freak explosion doesn’t require an underground bunker stocked with rifles and ten years’ worth of MREs. On the other hand, “meh, they sell bottled water and canned soup at Safeway, if something goes wrong I’ll just shop there” is not a really good disaster plan, either.

  51. @ scorpius:

    Heh. I wasn’t a RR, TSR farm boy, but I did work part-time on the farm next door, and my family had a big garden and “put food away” for the winter, and we fished and hunted some. When I lived in a big city for a couple of decades, I would be occasionally reminded that lots of people around me had only the vaguest idea of where food came from. (Or water or electricity or phone service, etc, etc.)

    Of course, with the rise of big agribusiness, farming and the rest of the process has changed somewhat since I was a boy …

  52. George Herbert writes:

    Strange, I was just re-reading last in Harland and Lorenz’s “Space Systems Failures” about the first Ariane-5 launch, and the wonderful ADA code overflow handling failure that took out the inertial measurement units and caused it to go out of control and break up.

    Anyone can screw up in any language. Does not negate the fact that C is an evil language where typing is a mere suggestion to the compiler. And that’s only the most obvious evil thing it does.

    And all the wonderful program alarms as Armstrong and Aldrin were landing on the Moon for the first time.

    Ada was introduced in 1983, long after trips to the moon were history.

  53. “And no, there’s never been a book that’s made me want to start stocking 55-gallon drums of beans and rice.”

    Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, we were required to read Pat Frank’s “Alas, Babylon” in high school. It made me want to hoard salt for the upcoming nuclear war, however being there were three military bases I quickly realized I wasn’t going to need supplies, because I would be a smear.

  54. I still say it’s a good idea to educate your kids in some stuff that the school system no longer provides. Including

    1) how to cook
    2) how to sew
    3) what to do in case of a fire
    4) how to change a tire and oil on your car. And what to do about the dry radiator.
    5) how to jump-start a car.
    6) basic algebra and math proofs.
    7) how to spell and use grammar correctly.
    8) how to shoot a gun.
    9) how to give first aid
    10) how to swim
    Of course, following these and other suggestions would produce a confident, disciplined person whose view of life is reality-based. In other words, a libertarian/conservative. :p

  55. You know… it might be helpful to classify things.

    a) Short terms disruptions. Everything from a widespread power outage that lasts a day or three to flooding or, here in Seattle, 6 inches of snow which seems to shut the city down for days.

    b) medium to long term disruptions. Serious disasters that disrupt services within a city-sized area for 1 week to 1 month.

    c) like (b) but over an area of a state or several states.

    d) Long term, widespread disruption of services. Lasts for a period of months to years and is regional or involves the entire country.

    e) Like (d) but global.

    Preppers and survivalists seem to feel that (d) and (e) are likely and that (c) is a given. However, in the 53 years I’ve lived here, nothing like those has happened here. You could argue that (c) happened with Katrina, but as bad as that was, if you were able to evacuate or if you lived more than a few hundrad miles away Katrina didn’t even affect you as a disaster. It wasn’t even close to a civilization ending event.

    REally, it’s prudent to be prepared for (a) and (b). They’re unlikely but they do happen and, while you can evacuate and avoid their causes sometimes, others you cannot. Those aren’t the sort of things that preppers are talking about though. They seem to feel that civilization is going to end. In many cases they seem to want to see this happen – I wonder if it’s an apocalyptic desire to see the world remade in their image…. In any event, they’re poor judges of risk as are most people. While there are any number of civilization ending events that could happen (20m mile wide asteroid hitting us, for example), the odds of any one of those things happening within our lifetimes is vanishingly small. After all, if civilization ending events happens every few centuries or even every few millennia, we’d have actual historical examples to point to… and we don’t. we have a handful of serious events (Black Plague) but nothing really recent. COULD it happen? Yes. Is it likely to within our lifetimes? No.

    If you’re an adult right now, say over age 20, you have about a 50 year window of good health. What one really wants to do is evaluate what might happen in that window and prepare for that. For example, in the Pacific NW there WILL be another 9.x quake – the geological record shows that they happen every few hundred years. While it could happen the moment I hit Submit on this comment, the odds are VERY high that it will happen long after I’m dead. There’s little point in prepping for it in any event – if it happens when I’m in my 80s or 90s I’m not going to be in any shape to go all ‘live off the land and kill varmints for food’ anyway. So I look at the likelihood that it will happen in the next 20 or maybe 30 years, consider that it’s a pretty darn low risk and go back to living my life. If others want to live in fear or with some sick desire to see civilization end, that’s their choice.

  56. John,

    As a fellow Southern Californian child of the ’70s and ’80s, I’m sure you remember the periodic pushes for everyone to create 3-day preparedness kits for the Big One, particularly after the Sylmar and Whittier quakes. Less so after the Northridge quake, as I recall. Probably because, despite the interruption in services, L.A. didn’t descend into lawlessness they way it did in ’92.

    Of course, given that it’s been 18 years now since the last major earthquake in SoCal, I imagine most of those kits have long since been stripped of canned food and batteries.

  57. @George Herbert– Thanks for the tips, but it’s not supplies I’m worried about. Supplies I can stock, no problem. It’s the fact that _having_ supplies turns my house into a target for the armed grasshopper gangs once the supermarket shelves are stripped bare. Supplies are not the problem. _People_ who haven’t bothered to supply themselves are the problem.

    @rickgregory– Classifying disruptions by their extent in time and space is a very helpful idea. And yes, it’s the category c/d/e disruptions that worry me, because those are the ones where the rule of law is going to break down for long enough that armed grasshopper gangs will be a problem.

    Basically, as long as we have strong central government (and for the love of jeebus, please don’t start arguing about what exactly that means; for purposes of this discussion it means that the rule of law is in place), then we have a de-facto government monopoly on sanctioned violence. Violence that is conducted by authorized government agents (police, nat’l guard, etc) is sanctioned, is supposed to be minimal, and is supposed to be predictable in terms of what situations it occurs in. This doesn’t always happen, of course, but that’s the basic idea: non-sanctioned violence gets punished, It’s the knowledge that the state can and will shoot you if you go too far is what allows people to let the angels of their better nature determine their behavior in most situations, most of the time. Enough of the time, anyway, that I can go shop at a grocery store without really worrying about getting mugged on the way there, or about getting carjacked on the way back for my Fritos and Diet Coke. It’s what allows me to sleep easy at night with only a lock on my front door–rather than armed guards–to keep me and my family safe.

    What worries me is that category c/d/e disruptions take this basic understanding of how our world works, and throws them out on their ear. Comparisions to epic snowstorms, tornadoe events, Katrina, are in my mind _not_ applicable because everybody knows that a) those situations are transient, no matter how horrible they might be while they’re happening, and b) that their little pocket of chaos is situated inside a much larger region in which the rule of law _does_ still apply. They can expect, therefore, that the state will re-assert its monopoly on violence in fairly short order, and that any un-scanctioned violence in the meantime may be subject to punishment. The very locality of such disasters, coupled with that expectation of an imminent return to the rule of law, tends to minimize the violence.

    That’s not the case with categories c/d/e. That expectation goes away, leaving nothing to encourage the armed grasshopper gangs to self-regulate their behavior.

    That’s the scary situation. And it’s not a situation that laying in any amount of supplies does anything to alter. Supplies, in that situation, make your situation paradoxically _worse_ by making you into a target. That’s what keeps me up at night, and what I don’t have any answers for.

  58. George Herbert: “and the wonderful ADA code overflow handling failure that took out the inertial measurement units and caused it to go out of control and break up.”

    Famous bug found written in Ada involved the fact that “altitude” and “attitude” is the same by one letter but oh-fuck-we-are-gonna-die different when used in the wrong context. Which is to say, a good language doesn’t solve everything. But then again, I don’t think I would step on an airplane that had its fly by wire software written in anything but Ada.

    Scorpius: “I still say it’s a good idea to educate your kids in some stuff that the school system no longer provides. Including (snip) Of course, following these and other suggestions would produce a confident, disciplined person whose view of life is reality-based. In other words, a libertarian/conservative. :p”

    I have all ten. Not a libertarian.

    Jason Black: ” _having_ supplies turns my house into a target for the armed grasshopper gangs once the supermarket shelves are stripped bare. Supplies are not the problem. _People_ who haven’t bothered to supply themselves are the problem.”

    Speaking of reality-based… Does this total, long-term kind of collapse happen a lot in first world countries that you know of? Libertarians generally view the world through a “no such thing as society” filter. That they tend to prepare themselves for the “illusion” of society to collapse permanently is more a reflection of that worldview than of reality.

  59. rickgregory
    If you talk to microbiologists about bacterial resistence then they will tell you that the doomsday scenario has already arrived; your life-expectancy projections are therefore greatly over-optimistic. Governments tend not to publicise this since it might result in the electorate asking pointed questions…

  60. scorpius at 2:13 pm:

    Fascinating. I can do all of those things (and I don’t even drive!), plus clean the gun, dress down the varmint before cooking it (critical if you don’t want to kill your family), and create the fabric needed to sew (spin, knit, crochet, or weave), but I’m a pinko-commie-liberal-socialist-type. No wonder I’m not a libertarian: they’re under-skilled.

  61. Yes, Constance, a good reminder; we are indeed more than stereotypes and fear would have one believe.

  62. “Speaking of reality-based… Does this total, long-term kind of collapse happen a lot in first world countries that you know of?”

    High impact low probability events can be the bane of risk assessment models. Hedge funds using the Black-Scholes pricing model being destroyed by black swans come to mind. This sort of collapse only has to happen once.

    Civilization largely depends on fairly industrial farming technology. In essence we are eating oil. I don’t think it stretches possibility greatly where we experience a loss in food production capacity at a greater rate than can be accommodated by reducing the birth rate. At that point a considerable quantity of people currently living would have to stop doing so for one reason or another, and there isn’t a wider world from which one can hope to receive aid. In such a scenario the “transition period” is long as it takes for carrying capacity to exceed population plus the time it takes to produce the next crop.

    “It’s possible to do things that simultaneous prepare for drastic changes in society *and* make those changes less likely to happen, or at least less drastic. Thinking of it as an either/or is a mistake.”

    I agree to an extent. There are always opportunity costs. I think everyone should own fire extinguishers. If you want to survive the armed grasshoppers in a scenario like “Lucifer’s Hammer” then I think you are pretty much going to have to distract yourself from saving the world while you gather up a small army of like-minded people and build a hidden bunker and stockpile it with decades of food & tools. Some enterprising band of grasshoppers may still show up with a recoiless rife. If you are good at planning this sort of thing, you probably have good world saving skills.

    “What about stocking up on gold coins? ”
    It depends on what you are preparing for. Gold requires a fairly sophisticated civilization actually. You can’t eat it, or pound nails with it. It’s helpful in “Hide me from the Nazis” situations, but not so much in Zombie apocalypse scenarios. Food, fuel, & tools are more likely trade good if you really want to survive the end of the world. At least all the preppers stock piling cases of ammo will be able to use the stuff for trade goods. Even if you are really good at it, how many fire fights do you expect to survive? Make sure some of those stockpiled cartridges are big enough for deer & bear.

  63. Jason – My point, though, is that the C/D/E class of disruptions are incredibly rare. Quick, how many advanced countries have collapsed in the last 500 years? You can reach back farther, but I’m not sure that the feudal Middle Ages are a good model for present day North America or Europe (never mind the rest of the developed world).

    Keep in mind that there were people who, in the 50s, dug bomb shelters and stored food for the inevitable nuclear way. That was sixty years ago. For an entire lifetime, they prepared for something that never happened.

    Note, too, that in a developed country you can avoid some disasters that you could not have even a couple of centuries ago. i.e Katrina where people a) knew it was coming long before it hit and b) had the chance to evacuate in many cases. Even a couple of centuries ago neither of those would have been true.

    I don’t know… I guess I can’t help but approach this from the perspective of what someone alive and adult now should worry about preparing for and while it seems prudent to me to be able to live for up to 2 or 3 weeks without modern sources of aid, I simply don’t see any reasonable probability of civilizational collapse within my lifetime or of a natural disaster on the scale that would put us back to pre-industrial society. And, well, 40 years from now I’m 93 if I’m still here. I’m not going to be living off the land at that age.

    Finally, I don’t care about a disaster that ends civilization 500 years from now because I’ll be dead, so all of the “it will happen SOMEDAY” arguments mean nothing to me. The worst thing that’s likely to happen in my lifetime is either the 9.x quake hitting here with an epicenter close by or some variant of avian flu becoming easily transmissible while remaining very deadly. Neither’s LIKELY though, so once I’ve got a couple of weeks food and water and a decent first aid kit, I’m done prepping.

    Stevie – loosen the tinfoil a bit. But, of course, if you’re right I have even less reason to prepare for some supposed apocalypse since it’s even less likely to happen within my lifetime.

    To everyone else… it’s that kind of unsubstantiated paranoia that characterizes doomsday people to me. As with John, I don’t care what others believe or do on their own time, but intellectually I wish people would learn to more critically evaluate risks and expend energy on solving problems that we actually have versus obsessing over the end of the world where, in their fantasy world, they survive and are the tough people who come out on top. We have plenty of problems without fantasies of apocalypse.

  64. I know a guy who has apparently juggled around with the idea of becoming a sovereignst. He has never gone forward, because he admits it isn’t really practical when you have a family to look after as well. From my brief conversations with him, his reasoning for becoming a soverignist is he hates paying taxes and feels the government is stealing from him. I actually wouldn’t mind if he did eventually decide to become one, because then I wouldn’t have to read his annoying rants on Facebook (or I could just de-friend him or not read his stuff).

    I also know someone that stockpiled pretty entensively for Y2K. He bought a generator and a latrine and the whole army of survival type stuff. He had enough food for several months. He generally was mocked by those around him, but he’d always took a “wait until 2000 hits” type of smug response. I think he was saddened when he didn’t get to try out all his nifty gear when the power remained and fire didn’t come out of the sky.

    So, that is my closest experience with the type mention in this post.

  65. Mike: High impact low probability events can be the bane of risk assessment models. Hedge funds using the Black-Scholes pricing model being destroyed by black swans come to mind. This sort of collapse only has to happen once.

    Bah. Mostly, survivalists are like creationists: They have a dogma and then they latch on to very bad math to justify their paranoid dogma. Creationists often abuse the second law of thermodynamics. Survivalists mangle statistics.

    I don’t care that someone is a creationist or a survivalist, except when they go around teaching people extremely horrendously bad math.

    Survivalists cannot justify their bunker/fallout shelter mentality based on history, they have to base it on history plus black swan fantasies. The only problem is, once you start accounting for black swan fantasies, being a survivalist only really makes sense for a thin list of events. Someone mentioned an alphabetical list above. Well, if A is a thunderstorm that knocks out power for a couple hours, and Z is complete and total Armageddon (earth killing asteroid etc), then a bomb shelter and N months of food is overkill for A through M, and is insufficient for O through Z. There is an extremely thin list of events that are just horrible enough that a bomb shelter would prove its worth but have that event be not quite so bad as to kill the planet after six months.

    It’s like going into a casino and betting twenty five percent of your annual salary on the roullette wheel on the number “13”. Hey, I don’t *care* what you do with you money, but when you start trying to tell everyone that the math says it makes sense to do it, *that* is when I start getting annoyed.

  66. While I don’t have the money or space to go crazy with stockpiling, I firmly believe in the need for a 72-hour kit. Anytime there is a disruption, either weather related or something as simple as a power outage or gas supply disruption, it will take a while for help to arrive. Knowing that you can survive anywhere, home or in an evacuation area, for at least 3 days will give you time to make decisions without panicking.

  67. Preppers and survivalists seem to feel that (d) and (e) are likely and that (c) is a given.

    I’m pretty sure that not everybody who has a 72-hour kit is an End Times nutjob, although I concede it’s easier to make sweeping generalizations by lumping them all together as such.

    (And by the way, I’m guessing that people who had to deal with Hurricane Katrina would be astounded to learn that it “didn’t affect” them “as a disaster” as long as they got out ahead of the storm. You know, who cares about their houses and jobs and stuff.)

    The reason you probably don’t hear more serious-minded preppers and survivalists talk about very local, short-term disasters is that if you’re prepared for widespread, long-terms disasters, you’ve already got the small stuff covered</I.

  68. @Jon M: I live in Gretna (New Orleans suburb) so, yeah, I’m familiar with the few ways in and out. By “small,” I mean in comparison to the nationwide disruptions most people envision when thinking about disruptions in planning survival. Yes, it very seriously damaged three states (Mississippi’s gulf coast arguably was the worst spot), but that’s only three of 50, and not even the entirety of those. In comparison to a global disaster, as horrible as it was (and I was living here then, too, so I do know how bad it was), it was still a relatively small portion of the country…and the government still couldn’t deal with it.

  69. Mythago,

    I would suspect you know this, but it’s easy to attack any classification for ‘lumping people together’. That’s somewhat the point though, at least in internet comment threads where I’m not about to spend hours fretting over every possible counter to a quick scheme I spent 5 minutes on. I’m not trying to cover every detail but to tease out some differences between the people above me who seemed to be talking about prepping and meant ‘for the reasonable chance that I might get snowed in for 3 weeks (which happens every few years)” and those who use the term to mean we should prep for when civilization has collapsed.

    Likewise, while even the evacuees were obviously affected by Katrina in that their houses and possessions were probably damaged or destroyed, they, in their own persons were not affected. They didn’t need to ride it out. They weren’t forced to eat the food they stocked, worry about fresh water or retreat to a bunker. Again, I suspect you knew this.

    So, yes, not everyone who has a 72 hour kit is a nutjob. Thanks for repeating me and at the same time putting words in my mouth. Kudos, that’s a neat trick.

  70. Civilization has ended before. The fall of Rome effectively was an EOTWAWKI event.

    It can happen again.

  71. coo1b1ue at 1:59 pm:
    Um. Not so much. In fact, hardly anyone even noticed, and those that did were largely ecstatic. And the “Fall” of Rome took about 400 years, so it wasn’t all that EOTWAWKI, really. The decline of the Roman Empire is one of those topics that the Victorians bat about, but it’s more of a koan, then a historical, full-stop, OMG, EVENT.

    And of course, anything that interested the Victorians is going to end up being hotly debated in historical societies and on libertarian websites, so that keeps it fresh. These folks don’t really pay much attention to the idea that Rome didn’t so much fall, as continue to transform, as it had since the Republic days, and as most societies do.

    Jared Diamond, Arnold Toynbee, Joseph Tainter and others have pointed out that social collapse, on the order of EOTWAWKI, happens in small, geographically isolated societies. Which sucks if you live on Easter Island or Haiti, but doesn’t mean that North America is going to be overrun with grasshopper gangs next Monday.

  72. cool1: “Civilization has ended before. The fall of Rome effectively was an EOTWAWKI event. It can happen again.”


    Right. OK. Here I am, middling *nobody* living in the middle of the Roman Empire, middle geographically, and middle temporally. Before the empire was the Roman Republic which lasted 500 years, half a millenia. The Empire started with Caesar around 44BC. The western half fell around 500 AD. The Eastern half fell around 1500AD.

    So, again, here I am, a middling nobody living in the roman empire. My life expectancy might be 50 years. And you think it is realistic to *plan* for the fall of the empire, which will happen somewhere in a half-a-millenium or a millenium-and-a-half time period? 500 to 1500 years, depending on whether I live in the east or west empire?


    This is crazy bad math that’s trying to give a veneer of legitimacy to libertarian “government is an illusion” paranoia.

    The singularity is rapture for nerds.

    Survivalists of this extreme are simply holding on to (AND LOOKING FORWARD TO) a different form of rapture. A rapture where their paranoia is PROVEN and the rest of us *grasshoppers* will rue the day we didn’t listen to their rantings. That’s exactly the story line for a stock standard Mary Sue plot. You guys have written yourselves a Mary Sue piece of speculative (predictive) fiction and made yourselves the Mary Sue character.

    The problem with Mary Sue stories is they’re usually only interesting to the person who wrote them.

  73. I don’t have any problem with the folks stocking up on canned goods and ammunition, honestly, I just don’t think those people are very useful in emergency situations. Sure, maybe they’ll survive, but hunkering in your basement with a shotgun doesn’t help in a 9/11 or Katrina or even Seattle’s version of Armageddon (an inch of snow, OMG!). The most useful resource is between one’s ears, and if one has stocked that bunker with useful information–not the best way to skin a cat or how to make fire by rubbing two hippies together–then most situations fall somewhere on the inconvenience spectrum.

    From my own, personal, and thus anecdotal, experience of disasters natural or man-made, across three countries and two continents, the most useful “tools” are: creativity; a calm, authoritative voice and demeanor; and a variety of forms of payment. Most people just aren’t very calm or rational in a real emergency, and will obey anyone who seems to know what they are doing. Taking emergency management classes (usually free) at your local library, community center, or whatever, helps, as well. At least then you aren’t talking out of your ass when you start telling people what to do or where to go and how to get there.

  74. Rickgregory

    “Stevie – loosen the tinfoil a bit. But, of course, if you’re right I have even less reason to prepare for some supposed apocalypse since it’s even less likely to happen within my lifetime.”

    Er, I think you’ve failed comprehensively to grasp the relevant points; ignorance has a habit of doing that for you. Try reading the interview with John Conly on the World Health Organisation’s website:

    Sadly, unless your life expectancy is already really, really short the apocalypse will happen in your lifetime…

  75. “Q: Is this the doomsday scenario of a world without antibiotics?

    A: Unfortunately yes, with these new multiresistant NDM1-containing strains and their potential for worldwide spread. Doctors will face a terrible dilemma when a pregnant woman develops a kidney infection that spills over into the bloodstream with a pan-resistant strain containing NDM1 and there are no treatment options. We are essentially back to an era with no antibiotics.”

    Well that is certainly an ugly prospect, but it looks a bit short of doomsday– civilization did exist before antibiotics.

    If we all respond by fleeing from the tractors to live in the woods and shoot at one another, more will starve than will contract an infectious disease.

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