The most important factor in survival is neither intelligence nor strength but adaptability.
It feels like we are all groping in the dark, trying to find our way through uncharted territory. The coronavirus has thrown us for a loop, and no one knows how it will leave us.
Tragedies and disasters have been around forever, but this new challenge is different because it’s affecting everyone, because eventually everyone has to have contact with the outside world, right?
To be isolated from others has always been considered good for a ‘break’ or ‘getaway’ but as a way of life it’s been reserved for those few hardy individuals who are often described as anti-social.
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There is a group of such like-minded people who have been given the moniker of “Doomsday Preppers” in the United States. The name is somewhat self-explanatory as it signifies those who are preparing for the end of the world. Yet often they are not planning for the literal end of the world but more so for major cataclysms that will disrupt many of the things that are necessary to support life. It may be appropriate that the US, a place known for prizing individuality and personal success, gave rise to such hardcore survivalists, but they have become an international movement.
A few years ago they even had a TV show called ‘Doomsday Preppers’. It was considered quite entertaining to watch the lengths that some people went to in their preparations. It was also common for viewers to laugh at them. They’re not laughing now.
So, how far should we take things under this new post-virus paradigm? Is it the new norm that people will want to be able, at a moment’s notice, to separate themselves from the rest of humanity in order to survive?
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Social distancing means to not interact with people outside of your own household except for limited necessities like getting food supplies. When it comes to the corona pandemic, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) gave it a more specifically oriented meaning: a set of "methods for reducing frequency and closeness of contact between people in order to decrease the risk of transmission of disease".
The vast majority of people have cooperated with this concept but there has been a growing number, particularly in the US, who have been protesting the stay-at-home, or ‘lockdown’, orders. And many of these protesters have guns.
These people believe their rights are being violated, but the people who are self-isolated believe the protestors are putting their lives at risk. This is similar to the old argument about smoking where the people who want to smoke claim: “I should have the freedom to breathe smoke into my own body” and those who don’t counter with: “Yes but you don’t have the right to cause me to have to breathe your smoke into my body”. The smokers lost that argument, but these protesters may not give up so easily.
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For doomsday preppers, the coronavirus nightmare is not such a surprising development but one that many of them have been anticipating. A pandemic is just one of many possible scenarios that they have played out in their minds and worked on ways to respond to. For most preppers, a pandemic usually showed up farther down their lists of potential scenarios. It has undoubtedly moved up now.
Some of the more well-known catastrophes they are concerned with include economic collapse, nuclear and biological warfare, environmental disasters or falling asteroids to name the few.
Some preppers focus on one particular threat that they believe is the most likely to occur while others take a more generalized approach and cover all or most of the bases. This usually takes form in the following ways:
It’s very important to store enough food to last at least several months. This should of course take into account how many people may be staying there. Some push for the ability to grow their own food or even keep livestock to make sure not to run out. Further general supplies should be stockpiled, including medicines and the usually fast disappearing toilet paper. Essential is a water supply, although it should preferably be a replenishable one. To be independent of external power, most preppers prefer to be off-grid, relying on generators, solar, wind or even a stationary bicycle. Communication should be assured with shortwave radio. Finally, with law and order most likely out the window, security should be covered, often in the form of an assortment of firearms, but some even add explosive mines and other weapons.
For those who are more organized there is also a desire to accumulate an assortment of survival skills that can include anything from metal-smithing to medical training.
The preference is to have a second home that they can escape to at the first sign of danger, something they refer to as ‘bugging out’.
At the beginning of the pandemic in the United States, as people realized they could be required to stay in their homes, those who had second homes tried to leave in order to stay someplace that was presumably more isolated and therefore safer. This caused a surprising amount of backlash. In multiple small towns checkpoints were set up and anyone who was not a full-time resident in the area was turned away, even if they were a property owner. This type of response had never been seen before and may make it necessary for preppers, and others, to reevaluate how they can access their property in a crisis situation.
As with anything that concerns survival there are those who see business opportunities in providing for such needs. In Colorado Springs, Drew Miller built Fortitude Ranch for those who wish to have an escape option without building it themselves. Organized along the lines of a doomsday prepper’s timeshare you can buy a membership for an annual fee. He currently has a second facility under construction.
(Fortitude Ranch, Colorado)
But prepping is not solely an American phenomenon. In the Netherlands, Nander Knobben has seen a dramatic increase in orders to his online prepper business since the corona outbreak began for items including masks, water filters, radios, rations, etc.
It’s not only the virus itself that has caused all the problems, it’s the disruptions in the supply chain. The world’s economies have become more interdependent, plus people who live in cities need continual deliveries of food, power, gas and other items. If this breaks down even for a short time the results can be – well – deadly. People may not think they’ll get infected but they’ll still believe empty store shelves or power outages and this is what’s likely to drive an increasing number of them to make preparations, doomsday preparations.
With most things, as time passes, people’s fear lessens and they tend to return to their normal lives and habits. But there will be those who desire to make an extra effort to protect themselves and their loved ones from the unknown. Social distancing may suffice as a short time solution but not be good enough for those who have experienced the feeling of powerlessness that it brought and don’t want to again.