Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thought Links

David over at Photon Courier links to a fascinating site, Bruce Charlton's Miscellany, athe following post Does hereditary psychology explain broad cultural types and trends? The whole site is quite remarkable.

For those who missed the connection, Photon Courier is David's cross-posts from Chicago Boyz, an excellent group blog with strong University of Chicago connections.

Also today, Future Pundit speculates on all those "survival in apocalyptic disaster" preparations and points out some flaws in the reasoning. He is distressed that the disaster prep discussion seems to be in the hands of those expecting a complete societal meltdown, when more moderate disasters deserve decent discussion as well. I would add that at the other end of the spectrum, disaster prep literature is mostly concerned with very brief emergencies, such as power outages for a few days or shallow flooding which brings everything to a halt then seeps away.

I had some bags of non-perishable food stashed in the basement, plus some plastic jugs of water, all of them put down years ago and forgotten. It occurred to me a few months ago that this wasn't really thought out, just something that I had vaguely thought I should do. But our most likely minor disaster is a power outage in winter, with travel possibly closed down. Food and water aren't really the issue there. Even on the last day before shopping, we have enough food for a few days, so long as we aren't picky about it. And we're on city water. It's always possible that something could happen to make the water unsafe, or our ability to get to food be impaired for a few days longer, but these bags weren't likely to ever get used. Why pack the Red Cross recommended tools when it's all stored right next to the tool bench? Better to focus on batteries and spare toilet paper.

So I thought about second and third-most-likely disasters, deciding that evacuation was the thing we really aren't prepared for that could reasonably happen. Storm, chemical spill or heavy smoke, plus highly individualised disasters could send us scurrying. Maybe projected flooding, though our terrain suggests it would have to be pretty severe for us to be better off on the move than here.

But preparing for a week's evacuation overlaps heavily with what we would need in the second week of a disaster which isolated us at home, so I figured that would do double duty. I noticed that long-cooking rice might be an unwise choice compared with minute rice - things like that. Over February vacation I researched and rethought Bug-Out Bags, as they are called, and redid the emergency supplies with that in mind. No one seems to mention packing a pump or a can of fix-a-flat, BTW, which struck me as useful thing to have.

If we get one of those societal meltdowns we're pretty well screwed up here, so I'm not putting much energy into that. I don't know how to skin a squirrel or fire a warning shot into someone's leg or anything.


james said...

Great minds thinking alike--I was planning to post on this issue myself. I agree that the super-doomsday scenarios aren't what most of us need to worry about (and from the popularity of zombie entertainment I suspect a lot of people are mulling them over).

Intermittent shortages, overall decline, unreliable electricity: those are more likely, and people can live with this (and do--I grew up in Africa).

What you need most is a social infrastructure with a sense of solidarity. Trust will be a really big deal--which means there's a trade-off you have to worry about. Big cities will have more different kinds of jobs and opportunities to find scarce resources, but they'll also have much lower trust and be more likely to have rival gangs.

And I think things will be more explicitly tribal--probably mono-ethnic, though commonality of religion might work too.

Which reminds me--with the general strike threatened here in Wisconsin, we should stock up on a few consumables...

Dubbahdee said...

Interesting that the last sentence was about using a weapon.

If everything else in your bugout plan is in place, does weaponry deserve consideration? I have heard it said (and I agree) that while violence is seldom the solution, when it is the solution, it is the only solution.

Like insurance, we often think we are paying for nothing, until the roof caves in. Then, oh boy, are we glad we have it. It's easy to poo-poo and think one may never need a gun. But when you do need one...?

Of course using a weapon also requires some degree of training. Not a lot perhaps, but some. A shotgun less for instance. A handgun some more.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do not own a weapon. Not because I object. Because at the moment, it ain't in the budget. Neither is a lot of insurance I should have. That's the way it goes.

Anna said...

So you sniffed out the Prepper zeitgeist then? I figured once it appeared on Instapundit, it was all over with.

I gotta say that I do agree with you more than some Pro Preppers out there. You will recall that my maternal side of the family lived through the Lebanese civil war which was just about as bad as it gets in terms of hell on earth. In reality, life goes on, it just does.

Although the one thing that sticks in my mind about their experience was the hyperinflation. They went from 10 Lebanese Lira on the dollar to 1500 LL/$. Some people were smart enough to convert to dollars at the outset, some weren't. The ones that did were able to move here (USA).

When should we start buying Canadian dollars?? Just sayin'...

Texan99 said...

I agree that trust and social infrastructure are key in any meltdown, large or small. The larger it is, the more important it's going to be that your neighbors know you. In even a moderate natural disaster (hurricanes are the most likely culprit here), law and order tend to break down at least a bit for a while. You'd like your neighbors to know you on sight and to trust your intentions, and vice versa.

In my tiny community, the volunteer fire department (and, to some extent, the entire able-bodied population) are an informal law-enforcement agency, and practically everyone is armed. Perimeter defense in this terrain is hopeless, so you have to count on your neighbors. The VFD patrols 24 hours a day after hurricane evacuations until everyone comes home.

Many of us stockpile all kinds of things. My own home has a 20,000-gallon cistern. Most of us have generators and propane tanks and wells and septic tanks. I've been through weeks-long power outages in the city; they're no fun.

We're not even remotely independent of the global economy, nor ever likely to be, but we do what we can to think through how to do without.