Category Archives: Prepping and Collapse

‘The shelves looked wonderful, perfect, almost clinical, as though invented in a lab in my absence; but there was no smell.’ (Image: A. Britton/PA)

The Supermarket Food Gamble May Be Up

Brexit, migration and climate pressures mean our ‘too big to fail’ global food chain could unravel

The UK’s clock has been set to Permanent Global Summer Time once more after a temporary blip. Courgettes, spinach and iceberg lettuce are back on the shelves, and the panic over the lack of imported fruit and vegetables has been contained. “As you were, everyone,” appears to be the message.

But why would supermarkets – which are said to have lost sales worth as much as £8m in January thanks to record-breaking, crop-wrecking snow and rainfall in the usually mild winter regions of Spain and Italy – be so keen to fly in substitutes from the US at exorbitant cost?

Why would they sell at a loss rather than let us go without, or put up prices to reflect the changing market? Why indeed would anyone air-freight watery lettuce across the whole of the American continent and the Atlantic when it takes 127 calories of fuel energy to fly just 1 food calorie of that lettuce to the UK from California?

‘The shelves looked wonderful, perfect, almost clinical, as though invented in a lab in my absence; but there was no smell.’ (Image: A. Britton/PA)
‘The shelves looked wonderful, perfect, almost clinical, as though invented in a lab in my absence; but there was no smell.’ (Image: A. Britton/PA)

The answer is that, in the past 40 years, a whole supermarket system has been built on the seductive illusion of this Permanent Global Summer Time. As a result, a cornucopia of perpetual harvest is one of the key selling points that big stores have over rival retailers. If the enticing fresh produce section placed near the front of each store to draw you in starts looking a bit empty, we might not bother to shop there at all.

But when you take into account climate change, the shortages of early 2017 look more like a taste of things to come than just a blip, and that is almost impossible for supermarkets to admit.

Add the impact of this winter’s weather on Mediterranean production, the inflationary pressures from a post-Brexit fall in the value of sterling against the euro, and the threat of tariffs as we exit the single market, and suddenly the model begins to look extraordinarily vulnerable.

Read more: The Guardian

“You Can’t Handle the Truth!”

Movie buffs will recognize this title as the most memorable line from “A Few Good Men” (1992), spoken by the character Colonel Jessep, played by Jack Nicholson (“You can’t handle the truth!” is #29 in the American Film Institute’s list of 100 top movie quotes).

I hereby propose it as the subtext of the recently concluded Republican and Democratic national conventions.

At this point most people appear to know that something is terribly, terribly wrong in the United States of America. But like the proverbial blind man describing the elephant, Americans tend to characterize the problem according to their economic status, their education and interests, and the way that the problem is impacting their peer group.

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So we hear that the biggest crisis facing America today is:

  • Corruption
  • Immigration
  • Economic inequality
  • Climate change
  • Lack of respect for law enforcement
  • Institutionalized racism
  • Islamic terrorism
  • The greed and recklessness of Wall Street banks
  • Those damned far-right Republicans
  • Those damned liberal Democrats
  • Political polarization

The list could easily be lengthened, but you get the drift. Pick your devil and prepare to get really, really angry at it.

In reality, these are all symptoms of an entirely foreseeable systemic crisis. The basic outlines of that crisis were traced over 40 years ago in a book titled The Limits to Growth. Today we are hitting the limits of net energy, environmental pollution, and debt, and the experience is uncomfortable for just about everyone. The solution that’s being proposed by our political leaders? Find someone to blame.

The Republicans really do seem to get the apocalyptic tenor of the moment: their convention was all about dread, doom, and rage. But they don’t have the foggiest understanding of the actual causes and dynamics of what’s making them angry, and just about everything they propose doing will make matters worse. Call them the party of fear and fury.

The Democrats are more idealistic: if we just distribute wealth more fairly, rein in the greedy banks, and respect everyone’s differences, we can all return to the 1990s when the economy was humming and there were jobs for everyone. No, we can do even better than that, with universal health care and free college tuition. Call the Democrats the party of hope.

But here’s the real deal: a few generations ago we started using fossil fuels for energy; the result was an explosion of production and consumption, which (as a byproduct) enabled enormous and rapid increase in human population. Burning all that coal, oil, and natural gas made a few people very rich and enabled a lot more people to enjoy middle-class lifestyles. But it also polluted air, water, and soil, and released so much carbon dioxide that the planet’s climate is now going haywire. Due to large-scale industrial agriculture, topsoil is disappearing at a rate of 25 billion tons a year; at the same time, expanded population and land use is driving thousands, maybe millions of species of plants and animals to extinction.

Read more: Post Carbon Institute

The Pain You Feel is Capitalism Dying

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It can be very confusing to know that you won’t find a decent job, pay off student loans or put in a down payment on a house in the next few years — even though you may have graduated from a top-tier university or secured glowing references from all those unpaid internships that got you to where you are today.

Even if you are lucky enough to have all of this going for you, you’ll still be one among hundreds of applicants for every job you apply for. And you’ll still watch as the world becomes more unequal, with fewer paid opportunities to do what you feel called to do in your work or for your life path.

What’s more, you won’t find much help from your friends because most (if not all) of them are going through the same thing. This is a painful and difficult time that is impacting all of us at once.

There will be people who tell you it’s your fault. That you aren’t trying hard enough. But those people are culprits in perpetuating a great lie of this period in history. The standard assumptions for how to be successful in life a few decades ago simply do not apply anymore. The guilt and shame you feel is the mental disease of late-stage capitalism. Embrace this truth and set yourself free.

To see how broken things have become you’ll have to think systemically. Take note of the systems built up to create this situation and understand how it came to be — so you’ll see why it cannot possibly continue on its current path.

First, a diagnosis of the problem:

A Global Architecture of Wealth Extraction has been systematically built up to rig the economic game against you. This is why a tiny number of people (current count is 62) have more wealth amongst them than half the human population.

Read more: Medium

Energy use per person was on track to rise sixfold by 2050 across the world, according to researchers from Queensland and Griffith universities (Image: K. Frayer/Getty Images)

Parliamentary group warns that global fossil fuels could peak in less than 10 years

British MPs launch landmark report on impending environmental ‘limits’ to economic growth

Energy use per person was on track to rise sixfold by 2050 across the world, according to researchers from Queensland and Griffith universities (Image: K. Frayer/Getty Images)

A report commissioned on behalf of a cross-party group of British MPs authored by a former UK government advisor, the first of its kind, says that industrial civilisation is currently on track to experience “an eventual collapse of production and living standards” in the next few decades if business-as-usual continues.

The report published by the new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Limits to Growth, which launched in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening, reviews the scientific merits of a controversial 1972 model by a team of MIT scientists, which forecasted a possible collapse of civilisation due to resource depletion.

The report launch at the House of Commons was addressed by Anders Wijkman, co-chair of the Club of Rome, which originally commissioned the MIT study.

At the time, the MIT team’s findings had been widely criticised in the media for being alarmist. To this day, it is often believed that the ‘limits to growth’ forecasts were dramatically wrong.

But the new report by the APPG on Limits to Growth, whose members consist of Conservative, Labour, Green and Scottish National Party members of parliament, reviews the scientific literature and finds that the original model remains surprisingly robust.

Authored by Professor Tim Jackson of the University of Surrey, who was Economics Commissioner on the UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission, and former Carbon Brief policy analyst Robin Webster, the report concludes that:

“There is unsettling evidence that society is tracking the ‘standard run’ of the original study — which leads ultimately to collapse. Detailed and recent analyses suggest that production peaks for some key resources may only be decades away.”

Read more: Medium

Inception the Movie (Image: Warner Bros)

Britain’s property market is on the cusp of a crash as household finances reach breaking point

Britain’s property prices are skyrocketing but household earnings and savings can’t keep up.

Couple this with the amount of debt Britons are taking on and it looks like the UK’s property market is heading for a crash.

Why? — Because getting a mortgage is possibly the most debt you’ll take on in one go and rates can’t stay low forever. Eventually they’ll rise and so will monthly payments.

If household wages fail to keep pace as payments rise, they’ll be stretched further and further.

The average price to buy a house in Britain now stands at £291,504, according to the Office for National Statistics. Meanwhile, the average London property price is at a huge £551,00o.

Analysts say that the fundamental supply and demand balanced is so skewed that the only direction houses will go is up.

Research from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, estate agent Savills, the Council of Mortgage Lenders, and bank analysts has said prices will continue to rise over the next five years. Even a study published by Santander showed average house prices across the country will more than double to around £500,000 over the next 15 years.

Technically, this should be correct. There is way too many people looking to buy a home and way too little to go around.

But there are three key charts from the latest note from Citi FX’s strategy note entitled “UK’s increasing dependence and increasing vulnerability” which demonstrate how household finances can be considered being at breaking point.

And if rates do rise soon then more people will fall behind with payments which will trigger a real-estate fire sale and increasing defaults.

Read more: Business Insider

Do I need a bug out bag in the UK?

In case you were wondering. A bug out bag is typically a backpack containing enough items to sustain you for three days, or 72 hours. Thought by some, particularly Americans, as an essential item to have with you at all times. The reason for having a bug out bag is in case of natural or unnatural disasters. Or as some would call it. The zombie apocalypse.

Those that have bug out bags are often thought of as being ‘doomsday sayers’ or a bit strange. Particurly when you consider what Americans will include in their bug out bags. Which includes weapons for self defence.

Do I need a bug out bag in the UK?

But hang on a minute. Before we go down the ruling it out as a bit ott. Should we not consider our own situation in this country. The UK.

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Taking recent events and history in the UK as an example.

In the last couple of years we have been stuck in overnight traffic jams due to snow. Without electricity for three days. Stuck in a traffic jam for 7 hours because of a fatal accident. And more recently been flooded out of our homes. Admittedly, you don’t need to head for the hills and live like Grizzily Adams during these events, but just think how much easier our life’s would have been with a little preparation. The key is to think where you are most likely to be sent during an evacuation. The chances are that it will be a village hall or similar. It will also be more comfortable than trying to live in the woods. So it’s unlikely that you’ll need animal snares, knifes for skinning animals etc.

So do I need a bug out bag?

Perhaps not to the extent that the Americans go to. But I do think that a little common sense and a little forethought will help massively. Self reliance in such situations can make a very unpleasant situation tolerable. Think of a bug out bag not as a survival option for when the apocalypse comes, but more as a ‘comfort’ option, when you need to leave home quickly or get stuck in your car.

Read more: Midlife Crisis Man

Organic techniques are even more effective in developing countries, where most farmers cannot afford to buy much artificial fertiliser or pesticide (Image: AFP/Getty)

Organic farming ‘could be key to feeding the world as global warming takes hold’

Major study finds chemical-free agriculture restores the soil and can produce higher yields than ‘conventional’ methods

Organic techniques are even more effective in developing countries, where most farmers cannot afford to buy much artificial fertiliser or pesticide (Image: AFP/Getty)
Organic techniques are even more effective in developing countries, where most farmers cannot afford to buy much artificial fertiliser or pesticide (Image: AFP/Getty)

Organic farming – long held to be irrelevant in tackling world hunger – could be key to feeding the world as global warming takes hold, one of the biggest studies ever to be carried out into the “contentious” practice has concluded.

The research, which has reviewed hundreds of studies stretching back over four decades, not only overturns conventional wisdom but contradicts Britain’s official Food Standards Agency, which has repeatedly attacked chemical-free agriculture. It adds to emerging evidence that it may be more productive and profitable than conventional farming in the long term, especially in developing countries, and says it can provide an “ideal blueprint in addressing climate change”.

Read more: Independent

Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in “Mad Max: Fury Road (Image: J. Boland/Warner Bros. Pictures, via Associated Press)

Getting Older After the Apocalypse

Every now and then the Internet serves up something perfectly pitched to what you assumed were your own very individual fears.

On Thursday, for me, that was Romie Stott’s “futurist vision of retirement planning” at The Billfold. Planning for the eventual end of paid work isn’t just difficult because life is expensive and saving money is hard, she points out — it’s also difficult because the world is ending.

Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in “Mad Max: Fury Road (Image: J. Boland/Warner Bros. Pictures, via Associated Press)
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in “Mad Max: Fury Road (Image: J. Boland/Warner Bros. Pictures, via Associated Press)

Okay, that might be my fears talking. But Ms. Stott does note that climate change over the next several decades will, at the very least, affect certain popular retiree destinations: “If your retirement dream includes a beach house, lake house, Florida, or New Mexico, add four to 11 degrees to the daily forecast; that’s the EPA’s best prediction for 2100 AD.”

That may sound relatively tame, but she also mentions booming populations of disease-bearing insects, and increasingly catastrophic storms. It’s predictions like this that, for years, have made me think of retirement planning not just in terms of 401(k)s but in terms of learning to build a fire.

Read more: NY Times

Reserves: The Shaws have enough food and water to last them a year, stored in their garage (Image: M. Large/Daily Mail)

Stocking up for Doomsday

An amusing article from December 2011 – I suspect more families are stocking up now.

Picture the scene: It’s the end of January 2012 and already it is clear the year to come will make that which has just passed seem something of a picnic. The last strains of Auld Lang Syne had barely faded before Greece defaulted on its debts. Over the next few weeks, Italy and Spain will follow.

Reserves: The Shaws have enough food and water to last them a year, stored in their garage (Image: M. Large/Daily Mail)
Reserves: The Shaws have enough food and water to last them a year, stored in their garage (Image: M. Large/Daily Mail)

Across Britain and the Continent, bank after bank goes down, a domino effect exacerbated by panicking customers desperately withdrawing their savings. Where three years ago the giants of High Street banking were seen as too big too fail, now they are too big and too many for any Government to save.

Panic ensues. Within hours, the cashpoints are empty of money and the supermarket shelves stripped bare.

To make matters worse the country is hit by freezing weather. As temperatures plummet and snow falls, the road network stalls to a grinding halt, while large swathes of the country are hit by electricity blackouts.

The warning by economists that Britain is just ‘nine meals from anarchy’ is brutally borne out. Unlike last summer, the rioters on the streets aren’t looking for trainers and flat-screen TVs — just food.

An absurd fantasy? Perhaps so, but in an increasingly uncertain world, such a scenario can no longer be dismissed out of hand. And strange as it may seem, it’s one that many believe is worth preparing for.

Read more: Daily Mail

100 Things You Can Do To Prepare Yourself for Peak Oil

This is the followup 49-100 peak oil tools as written by Sharon Astyk. To read tips #1-49 read here

Floresville, Texas: Paul Range feeds his brood of livestock. Each can serve as a food source if things get bad. (Photo Credit: National Geographic Channel/ Sharp Entertainment)

49. Invite someone new to your house once every month. Try and expand your community and circle of friends regularly. Invite people to eat with you regularly – sharing food is an important part of community building.

50. Attend zoning meetings and consider running for zoning board. Work to amend local zoning laws to allow green building, composting toilets, clotheslines, small livestock, cottage businesses, front lawn gardens and other essentials.

51. Have a large house and not a lot of people in it? Consider a roommate, or borders. This will make you more economically stable and also expand your community and local resources. If you currently rent an apartment, consider sharing housing with a roommate.

52. If your community doesn’t have a food coop, start one now. There is a great deal of information on the web here: This can be a powerful tool for creating local food economies.

53. Consider creating a community currency. They keep money local and encourage small businesses and sustainable economies.

54. Sometimes you get more by giving things away than by selling them. Do you have something you don’t need? Extra produce? Spare time? Give extra tomatoes to a neighbor, offer spare items to friends, go over and help out someone who could use it. Good deeds mostly return to us.

55. Build an in-law apartment, or set your home up so that elderly family members can live comfortably with you when the time comes. Sit down and talk to them before the problem becomes acute, and tell them that you want them with you. It is easier to move elderly folks in with you before things become difficult.

56. Take time to get to know children in your neighborhood, especially teenagers. Make friends with them, talk and listen respectfully. Consider inviting them to apprentice with you on some work, or join in a work project (don’t forget to pay them for their help). Older children and teenagers need *meaningful* work – they need to know their contribution matters. Make sure it does.

57. Get to know local farmers and encourage them to fill gaps in your local food system – get together with neighbors and friends and create a market for local wheat, local dried beans, and other foods that are often grown industrially. If farmers know that even small quantities of these foods, locally grown, would be welcome, they will grow them.

58. Create a community festival to showcase local agricultural products, arts or other truly local creations and skills. Instead of focusing on simply drawing tourists, emphasize activities that bring the community together as part of it – dances, demonstrations of skill, children’s activities.

59. Draw attention to your local watershed, and on your vulnerabilities in that regard. Will you be competing with other communities? Are there areas of waste to be dealt with? Wetlands to be preserved? Make assuring a safe, long term water supply a community priority.

60. Create local educational systems – resist regionalizing schools and advocate for the creation or recreation of neighborhood school and library systems. Build homeschooling coops, and set up library branches at walkable sites. Encourage extension programs, community college branches and everything you can to make education more local.

Read more: Organic Consumers