Doomsday Preppers and Climate Change

Californians talk about how we’re overdue for a big earthquake on the San Andreas Fault. Our building codes were updated in preparation. The Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake would yield a worse aftermath in the Pacific Northwest. The Midwest could have a 500 year event on the New Madrid Fault. I once heard the East Coast would be destroyed in a tsunami from a Canary Islands volcano falling into the Atlantic Ocean. I’ve read recently that prediction was overblown. The waves would likely be 10 meters. Those would certainly cause widespread damage, but recovery would be more manageable than I assumed.

My Facebook news feed is filled with National Weather Service and weather alert pages. I aspire to know when something’s going down. However, Hawaii’s text alert event was a lesson that false alarms can be widely spread that look official. Hawaiians do live dangerously close to an active volcano. Its eruption was serious in 2018. The Pacific ring of fire is frequently raging. Humanity has always thought the apocalypse is around the corner, since biblical times. We believe in myths, but have you prepared for the worst? The Boy Scout motto of “be prepared” is applicable to a lot of what life throws at us. When a disaster happens, will you sustain yourself, or perish early on?

The emergent doomsday preppers appear to be delusional or extremely right wing, yet in an emergency they will be the most valuable individuals. They’re stocking supplies, planning, training, learning, and ready to adapt. People do waste hard earned money on Infowars emergency gear, but government officials recommend that everyone should have the basic necessities squared away. If you decided not to consider this, there may not be enough supplies to go around after a disaster. Sure, neighbors will actually talk again. Ultimately, the prepared only have so much space and will need to ration food and water.

The modern world is relatively comfortable. Everything easy now will become more difficult than you’re used to in a widespread disaster. The Walking Dead is a popular and recent, yet hypothetical depiction, with zombies. There are some groups preparing for survival in California. CERT has chapters in the big cities. Newt Gingrich (of all people) advocated for electromagnetic pulse readiness. His angle was a foreign power attacking us. My understanding is that solar flares happen more regularly than domestic attacks. The idea is the power grid would go down around much of the country as it did during the Carrington Event in 1859. Back then, there were fatalities and power outages from a powerful solar flare. Today, the world is vastly connected to and reliant on electricity. I’m no expert, but I’m sure electrical engineers have looked into the possibility of a grid shutdown.

When I mention these topics to peers, few of them have explored the issues in depth. The American South is frequently wrecked by hurricanes and floods. Much of the country gets heavier snowfall than the metropolitan conglomeration spanning Los Angeles to Tijuana, or the Bay Area. Mexico City rode through magnitude 7 earthquakes in 2017 and 2018. Guatemalans evacuated from the Volcán de Fuego eruption last year. The war-torn Middle East is familiar with disaster, most recently during the Arab Spring and Syrian Civil War. Much of the world is still addressing the problems and solutions of refugees fleeing that area. Venezuela has been through an economic collapse recently. Indonesia and Japan recorded many thousands of deaths from tsunamis in 2004 and 2011, respectively. Puerto Rico lost power from Hurricane Maria for a year with little assistance from the US government, despite being a US territory. FEMA’s response in Hurricane Katrina had oft-reported fumbles.

My state burns from wildfire in every month of the year, though Calfire manages it effectively as far as I’ve seen. There has been some criticism over using underpaid inmate labor. Prescribed burns are a method of prevention used in the Western US that works, even though residents nearby tend to be skeptical. Alberta, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Utah are dealing with a higher fire acreage every summer than the Golden State. Chile, Portugal, and Greece made news with wildfires in the past two years.

Warning signs of something amiss are eminent. If you’ve read Collapse by Jared Diamond, you’ve probably been analyzing this along with me. We can conceive of an apocalyptic cataclysm, but I’d call the transpiration a frog boil. Lesser increases add up to a greater whole. The new normal is a climate we’ve ruined through rapid industrialization, burning fossil fuels, excessive waste, resource extraction, and globalized trade. Venice, Miami, and Pacific Islands are being swallowed by the sea. I’m aware I’ve mentioned a lot of Western locations. Africa is dealing with the effects of climate change as well. Drought from climate change was a factor in the Syrian Civil War. The stranded polar bear is a visceral image. What is the plan when 600 million people residing on the coast are forced out?

The Netherlands has a promising model of working with floods and water. There are changes to be made that I haven’t noticed around me. The permafrost is thawing faster in Alaska and Siberia. That releases large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, and causes infrastructure damage. Thankfully, it’s less likely than The Atlantic reported that unearthed bacteria from the Arctic would spread epidemic viruses we haven’t contracted in millennia. This essay isn’t focused on pandemics.

The entrance to the supposedly impenetrable Svalbard Seed Bank was flooded with the water of melted permafrost. Ocean acidification is a result of our carbon emissions. Fish will be removed as a food source, or severely limited, for the billion people who depend on them by 2050.

I’m not intelligent enough to solve all of the problems. I’ve identified and combined the major issues in one place. Boyan Slat is the one who came up with ocean skimmers to dismantle the Pacific Ocean garbage patch. Carbon capture is being explored, but won’t be feasible for years. Climate treaties have been signed by a respectable portion of the world. Unfortunately, the United States never agreed to the Kyoto Protocol, and Donald Trump infamously pulled us out of the Paris Agreement. Those are voluntary pacts, so they aren’t exactly enforced. That particular solution is more of an international honor system.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is justifiably ruffling some feathers as a proponent of a Green New Deal in the House of Representatives. Mitigating climate change will absolutely be a tremendous expense. It’s my position that’s it’s our duty to the planet, and ourselves, to do what we can. The world will destroy the human race if we don’t act.

The recent fear over white supremacy is understandable. However, one pernicious future effect of their ideology isn’t covered as much as mass shootings. In a world of turmoil, weather extremes, famine, and mass migration, genocide will be their answer. You could say we’re not there yet. When the world is a harsher place, persuasion of the moderate can happen. World War II taught some of us this lesson. Doomsday preppers in Idaho and militias in Texas are training for the dystopic possibilities I discuss. I can sympathize that life is hard enough as-is. You can sit idly by. You can listen to the call of the void or the anti-natalists who promise another answer. Alternatively, you can prepare for the worst, hope for the best, defend the marginalized and the disabled, and change the way you interact with the world.

I’ll admit oil rigs and refineries have a detrimental impact on the planet. They also remove it from the ground or under the sea to power your car, your flights, and heat your home. If you weren’t previously aware, that’s what hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking does. Oil and natural gas are harvested from oil sands using injected water in much of the great plains. There are reports of the process poisoning local water sources and causing earthquakes. The 2010 documentary Gasland covered that, then FrackNation refuted the claims in documentary form 3 years later. Obviously, carbon emissions are associated with oil companies.

Coal mining is dying in America. It’s still big in China and Vietnam. Renewable energy is thankfully growing in much of the world. Windmills, solar panels, hydropower, geothermal, and bio energy are necessary, just not a panacea. Electric cars are popular again, and profitable. Complex problems require a multifaceted approach. Space travel is commendable and has been questionably postponed during my young lifetime. The reality is that there’s no habitable planet close enough to Earth to feasibly reach. I want our planet to remain livable, for my benefit, the choir I’m preaching to, and those who are ready to argue with me.

The burgeoning degrowth movement is addressing some of my concerns. Living with fewer amenities and inconvenience is likely a piece of the puzzle. We’ve run rampant with expansion and frontier conquering. Minimizing our wealth and economies is something we should wrestle with. The developing world will learn these lessons later, and it’s not my place to dictate their way of life. Thinking globally, acting locally has less meaning the more it’s repeated. I just predict this abstraction will be an actuality relatively soon. Are you prepared?

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