When the Sh*t Hits the Fan

Whether it's a coupon-clipping, back-to-nature guy escaping the rat race, or someone certain we're on the brink of war or a future in which Barack Obama has taken away our guns, preppers are ready. The rest of us, maybe not so much.

Many preppers prefer to remain anonymous, Hogwood says, not just because they don't want to be bothered by big government now but because they don't want a future government coming in after a disaster and taking their stuff.

"Preppers don't want the people that ignored what they feel is one's personal responsibility to become somewhat self-reliant to come knocking on their door or taking their hard-earned preps by force," he says. "Many are also keenly aware of the ways that they can be found by government. Not that they are doing anything wrong whatsoever. But with the recent (and not so recent) executive orders that they feel are stripping away their privacy, the fear is that during a serious event, the authorities will come take their preps and redistribute to the masses for the better good."
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In spite of what some in the modern-day prepping movement might believe, the practice is as venerably American as cherry pie.

Wells is constructing a greenhouse out of shipping containers, which he also uses for rainwater collection. He eventually hopes to grow enough food to feed himself and to live off $10,000 a year.
Brittanie Shey
Wells is constructing a greenhouse out of shipping containers, which he also uses for rainwater collection. He eventually hopes to grow enough food to feed himself and to live off $10,000 a year.
Wells approaches a free-ranging longhorn named Denise, which belongs to a neighbor who lives several miles away.
Brittanie Shey
Wells approaches a free-ranging longhorn named Denise, which belongs to a neighbor who lives several miles away.

Followers of Mormonism, America's most prominent homegrown religion, are encouraged to keep at least three months of food and an ample supply of drinking water in storage. (That's according to their own public literature. Ex-adherents say that they are in fact told to hoard a year's supply of food, and that much of it goes to waste when older Mormons forget or neglect to rotate their canned goods and bags of flour.)

Prepping has come out of cover enough that it's now the subject of a reality show on the National Geographic Channel, Doomsday Preppers. Gun shows have become havens for prepping consultants, and in February of this year, Dallas hosted an expo dedicated to self-reliance.

On Pinterest.com, the visual bookmarking service that's popular with Web-savvy women, entire boards are dedicated to things like canning, disaster planning, raising hardy heirloom vegetables, and building seed kits and survival kits that can be traded after doomsday comes. A woman who goes by the name SurvivalMom has more than 600 followers, and has boards such as "Homeschooling," "Ideas for preppers," "Food Storage" and "In My Garden."

The movement has even landed on the shelves of Big Box America: Costco peddles ready-made emergency food kits composed of 4,866 servings of freeze-dried and dehydrated mixed proteins, grains, greens, fruit and dairy for $999.99. (The company declares that this is enough for one person for one year, so if you have a family of four, you'll need to quadruple your order.) And if a food hoard isn't enough, Costco also offers a more rounded survivalist kit that includes not just nourishment but other prepper must-haves including hand-cranked radios, tents, safety masks and, of course, duct tape.

Why this sudden resurgence in disaster prep? The nuclear threat seems to have diminished since the Cold War days, and there has not been a significant terrorist outrage on American soil for 11 years. When asked what kind of disaster people should prepare for, Hogwood gives a litany of scenarios, from the rising cost of beef to the kind of drought much of the United States faced last year.

And then there is globalization and its discontents. Hogwood says that Lloyd's of London has declined to insure tankers passing through the Straits of Hormuz, showing how ephemeral the world's oil supply is. The same goes for food: Hogwood says that the world has only a 47-day supply of corn on hand.

"Once we globalize, something happens overseas and it affects us," says Hogwood. "Look at the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918. With mass transit, in two weeks it could be across the world."

On prepper sites and forums, one of the most often cited reference books is Possum Living. It was written in 1978 by a 17-year-old girl named Dolly Freed, who lived somewhat off-the-grid with her unemployed father in Pennsylvania. Freed said sales of Possum Living, which she had reprinted and updated in 2010, jumped significantly last year, though she and her publishers could never figure out why.

She advises a mixed approach and a gentle spirit. "It was not about survivalists at all," says Freed, now in her 50s. "It was about living comfortably by doing the minimal amount of work. And one of the reasons we were able to do that was that we didn't depend on ourselves."

Freed decries the us-versus-them mentality a lot of preppers and survivalists have. She says the best defense against a disaster or societal breakdown is "having good neighbors." As an example, she talks about Native American tribes and how they survived for centuries by virtue of a group mentality. Freed believes modern Americans are atomized in their nuclear families and cliques.

"Nowadays, I think a lot of people are genetically missing that. When you have a good sense of community, you lower some of that anxiety."

Perhaps that's why the Internet is such a popular gathering place for preppers. Forums like the American Preppers Network, where members share how-tos and tips and make alliances for when the endtimes come, illustrate the off-the-grid-but-still-online nature of 21st-century preppers, one of the things that distinguish them from survivalists and other fringe groups. In fact, many preppers don't consider themselves fringe at all.

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8 comments
David Houston
David Houston

And by the way. Can I state the obvious here? If you paid $50,000 MORE for your home (as you stated down the page) than the tax appraiser valued it, then you might have paid too much! In this economy, all I can do is shake my head after reading your comment. It's a buyers-market right now. Hate to break it to you, but it sounds like the Seller/Real-Estate agent saw you coming....

David Houston
David Houston

Erm. Can I state the obvious here? If you paid $50,000 more for your home than the tax appraiser valued it, you might have paid too much!

David Houston
David Houston

Neartown/Montrose area, the tax appraisal has been stuck at the same rate for 3 years, yet the houses have dropped in value by typically figures of $100,000+. The city of Houston however have not reduced their taxes. Clearly you live miles from town. I gave you a real example already, go look a Zillow, examples are easy to find as you approach Downtown Houston.

David Houston
David Houston

Well someone has to dig in the dirt in the 100 degree heat to keep you safe doncha know? Whether it's The National Guard or just plain volunteers like you or me. Sometimes it takes a lot of work, to work out the problems. You have to contribute something to the greater good. Otherwise you're just a burden on the rest of the people. Katrina, Ike, need I say more? During Katrina, some people were happy to pee in holes and live in tents, trailers, cars, or whatever would save their lives. You aid society by not being a burden on it, that way the people who really do need the help get the help they need. Don't be a burden on the rest of us, if that day ever comes, next hurricane or whatever... At least prepare for that, as the News & Weather Channels and Government suggests you should.

Erik
Erik

like Jeffrey explained I didnt even know that a single mom able to earn $6503 in one month on the computer. have you seen this webpage lazycash42.c()m

Anse
Anse

Eh...I just bought a house and the county's appraisal is a good $50,000 less than what I paid for it. In fact I don't think I know anybody whose tax appraisal is actually above their real market value, and most folks I know have a tax appraisal that's less.

Anse
Anse

These folks can do as they like. The 95% of us who enjoy buying our groceries at the market so we don't have to break our backs in 100 degree heat digging in the dirt for our very survival are gonna go ahead and try to work out our problems so we don't ever have to live in tents and pee in holes.

Anse
Anse

Is there any political argument that cannot exploit Hitler in some way? I'm calling foul and charging you with breaking the Lame and Predictable Talking Points Rule. I just made it up. The penalty is me and approximately half the readers of this thread groaning and rolling our eyes.

 
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