MagazineOctober 2012Prepping for Survival

Prepping for Survival

Survivalist preppers: wise or wacko? 

Preppers are modern survivalists preparing for natural disasters and potential doomsday scenarios.


Emergency preparedness, or “prepping,” isn’t about a bunch of nuts crawling around in the woods, preparing to fight off the starving hordes in some grim, post-9/11, apocalyptic fantasy. But in today’s world of terrorist acts, super storms, climate change, and an aging overloaded electric power grid, there is an ever-growing likelihood that most of us will experience significant disruptions in the flow of electricity and goods at some point in our lives.

In fact, these global trends are converging to form the perfect storm—a storm of such magnitude that it will dwarf anything that mankind has ever seen. If we are unsuccessful in our attempts to calm this storm, without a doubt it will destroy life as we know it on planet earth. Stocking up on extra supplies, learning new skills, and making a few emergency contingency plans is cheap insurance for peace of mind in turbulent times.

To do nothing is to behave like ostriches with our heads in the sand, blindly believing that “everything will be okay,” as our world inexorably drifts towards the next naturally recurring, 100 percent inevitable, super solar storm and resultant extreme geothermic disturbance. It will end the industrialized world as we know it, incurring almost incalculable suffering, death, and environmental destruction on a scale not seen since the extinction of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.

Start by putting together a 72-hour emergency survival kit for yourself and family. This provides the basics of food, water, shelter, clothing, first aid, and medicines should the need arise to evacuate. After the 72-hour kit, build your stores of canned and dry foods and your skill set. Some folks find that joining a local prepping group makes it easier to share knowledge and inspiration with like-minded people.

No one knows for sure how big an event will be. I call myself The Optimistic Doomer, because I believe we have a chance of averting global collapse, but current trends are headed for a definite large-scale collapse.  Preparedness goes a long way towards making a bad situation a lot less punishing, and could make the difference between life and death, or extreme suffering and relative ease. Surviving catastrophe takes preparation, skill, luck, and planning to be in the right place at the right time.

Matthew Stein is author of When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide to Emergency Planning and Crisis Survival.


Be prepared. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. It’s always a good idea to be ready for the unexpected, especially in these turbulent and tumultuous times. Preppers and other survivalists are to be commended for encouraging people to learn basic skills that every American used to have: being able to grow your own food, can and store it, and find water and shelter. They should have familiarity with the plants and animals in their bioregion. These are skills useful not only for disasters, but also for backpacking trips and everyday walks in the woods.

However, preppers who form militias and focus on guns and self-defense take things too far. These are also valuable skills, but often the tactics they use end up frightening and dividing people rather than bringing them together.

The best way to prepare for an uncertain future is to work toward averting disaster in the first place. We need to be building community, not creating suburban compounds and underground shelters loaded with weapons. We need to be lobbying for diplomacy and peaceful resolutions to conflict. We need to be providing leadership in disarming the world of its nuclear weapons. If we want to discourage other countries from creating a nuclear arsenal, we have to lead by example.

Nuclear catastrophe is probably the greatest threat to our collective future. Unlike a meteor strike or a cataclysmic volcano eruption, it is a disaster that we can do something about. But it requires a united, collective America working together, not hiding out in bunkers waiting to shoot their hungry neighbors.

Economic collapse could also be catastrophic—and it is also a tragedy that can be averted through collective action. Citizens demanding economic reform, fiscal responsibility, and strict regulation and punishment could ensure a safe, secure economic future for all, not just for the elite few.

While preppers have the right idea, it is not enough to hole up in a hideout and wait for the apocalypse. We can prevent it from happening if we work together, beginning with our neighborhoods and communities. Strong communities and an active, engaged citizenry can help us survive disasters, but more importantly, it can help us avert them.

Jeff Webb is a homesteader, hiker, and mountain man whose family has lived in Appalachia for five generations.

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