Peak Oil News, Surviving Peak Oil, The Economic Meltdown and The Possible New Great Depression: Hypothetical Scenarios and Crazy Ideas For a Crazy New World.
The following survival strategies are for the possibility a post peak oil world that is truly in chaos. No one knows if we will see such a scenario come to pass but keep these ideas filed away. I’m not a survival expert but am a self described “survivalist” and a Red Cross Volunteer who has spent time at the epicenter of category 5 hurricanes. I have first hand knowledge of what you need to stay alive. You need clean water, food, shelter, medicines and communications, basically in that order and last but not least, a good plan. Don’t deny reality until it is too late and be caught with no preparations for the survival of you and your family. Save these crazy, crackpot ideas for, God forbid, future use. Neil Nolan
If you are one of the lucky ones and can afford to keep your home during the current financial crisis or an even worse one that could happen, what kind of neighborhood will your home be located in? Already, in the early stages of the mortgage meltdown some of our suburbs are turning into suburban slums as the homeless and criminals occupy foreclosed homes and mosquitos breed in abandoned swimming pools. (See news stories) Chances are that there are abandoned, bank owned homes near where you live. Who will buy them, even when the new government bailout plan buys them up and what shape will they be in on auction day?
Now there are nearly 12 million U.S. homeowners who are upside down on their loans. source They owe more than those homes are worth and many people are walking away, bad credit be damned because they can now rent for a fraction of what they were paying the bank. For those who choose to hang on to their homes it will be a challenge to keep that home safe as the crime rate increases.
Strategy # 1: Standing Your Ground In The City
If you are able to hold onto your home and can find work in the area where you live then your home will become your fortress against the increasingly dangerous urban world around you. Residents of “bad neighborhoods” such as parts of East Los Angeles already have experience in protecting their castles against invaders. But for those of us accustomed to living in “nice” neighborhoods the learning curve will be steep. You can start by spending some of the money you might have left on security bars for your windows, a shotgun, and a fence for your yard. By this time property associations will be bankrupt and won’t be able to enforce rules so make your fence as high as possible. You’ll be building the fence to keep thieves out and a dog in. Dog food is an added expense but a good watchdog can be worth their weight in gold.
You’ll need a backup source of power since the power grid will become increasingly unreliable and power may only be available for certain hours of the day. A tri fuel generator that runs on natural gas, propane and gasoline is a good choice. So is a diesel generator since you can store barrels of diesel more safely than gasoline. Ideally a large propane tank, in an area away from thieves, is the best way to go. You can run a tri-fuel generator several days straight on a 150 gallon propane tank. You will need at least 5000 watts of power to run your appliances.
A more lasting solution is to invest in a solar power system of at least 500 watts for battery charging and to power an inverter to run small appliances. If you can afford a larger backup solar power system with multiple deep cycle batteries now is the time to buy one before prices skyrocket. An Air Marine wind generator can provide additional power when the sun is not shining.
A wood stove can burn waste wood and lumber to keep your home warm in winter. Choose one that has a cooking surface. You will need a flue cleaning kit to clean your smokestack regularly when burning anything other than clean firewood.
For water you can divert your gutters into a 1000 gallon or larger fiberglass tank and use a solar panel and RV type demand pump to pressure up your plumbing if city water is interrupted. Broken water mains will be a frequent problem as cities go bankrupt and can’t afford to pay for repair crews.
If your yard is big enough you will want to replace much of your existing lawn with food producing plants including fruit trees. There are many varieties of greens such as mustard, collard and kale that grow in marginal soil and shade. You can plant pinto beans, straight from the pantry to produce green beans in spring and summer. Choose hardy varieties of plants such as hybrid tomatoes that are resistant to blight and fungus. Plant the eyes of russet potatoes in deep flower beds or stacked up tires filled with soil. You can kill pests with diluted dishwashing soap and by picking them off by hand. It is unlikely that you will be able to produce enough food on your own city lot to feed your family but your garden will fill in when other sources are scarce. You can also trade for different varieties of vegetables with your neighbors. Two excellent books about survival gardening are “Gardening When It Counts“ and “The Self-sufficient Life and How to Live It“. In “The Self Sufficient Life and How To Live It” methods of food canning and preservation are described that will come in handy.
Since food supplies will be disrupted having a good supply of food on hand is a must. Buy canned staples such as corned beef, evaporated milk, brown rice and beans and keep them in airtight containers such as Rubbermaid trash cans. Rust is the enemy of canned food so add dehydration packets which are available at boating supply stores. Keep a stock of dehydrated and freeze dried food for more long term storage. One good tasting brand is made by a company called Mountain House. Also keep a good supply of multivitamins to supply the nutrients you may be missing. Body-builder’s protein powder made from soy or whey also keeps well.
Skills like sewing will be needed again to mend items. Get a good quality sewing machine, a supply of thread and spare parts for it.
You’ll need a source of news and it is unlikely you will be able to afford or even get cable at this point. A simple solar powered radio may become your entertainment center. A small portable TV that operates on 12 volts can be operated from your solar battery bank.
You may not be able to afford medical care. Keep a good supply of broad spectrum antibiotics such as Cipro and pain killers. You may want to consider stocking up on essential prescription medicines that you need but do so with caution and always store medicines in a cool dry place sealed in airtight containers. The definitive guide to emergency medicine is an expensive but indispensable book called Wilderness Medicine, 5th Edition.
Garage Tech To The Rescue
It is unlikely that you will be able to afford cell phone service in a severe depression if it is even available. Instead you can utilize long range handheld GMRS radios to keep in touch with family around your neighborhood. Unlike some peak oil “doomers” I don’t see high tech going away in the near term. There are enough garage inventors out there to scavenge and come up with all kinds of technology to fill in the gaps when the grid goes down as we have seen in third world countries. In Thailand entrepreneurs pedal around neighborhoods with solar powered Wi-Fi. In third world countries like India, neighbors use high powered wireless adapters and amplified routers to set up and share a single secure wireless connection across several city blocks with long range wi-fi antennas. There are long range wifi antennas that can enable you to connect to a friend’s or other open wireless network up to a mile or more away and they are available for both PCI, PCMCIA and USB type high power wireless adapters. Internet telephony services like Skype may replace traditional phones as land based networks become increasingly unreliable and unaffordable.
Someday you may have to decide to either hit the road or stand your ground. Should you start buying guns? Should you start a neighborhood watch organization or patrol? Should you put in a garden for extra food or buy emergency rations? What about the infrastructure? Will power keep flowing down the lines with no money to fix our upgrade our electrical grid? Should you put in an auxiliary power supply such as solar panels or a generator? Maybe you should just pack up and hit the road.
Strategy #2: Going Mobile, Mad Max Style For each of us our personal survival strategy may be different. For some it may mean leaving the home behind and taking to the road to find a less violent place to take shelter or an area where work can still be found. An RV, travel trailer or even a large tent might become your new residence as they have become for so many evicted homeowners recently. For those who choose the mobile path traveling smart and light are essential.
You’ll want a good supply of freeze dried food or MRE’s, tools, a multi – fuel generator for power and some communications gear such as a ham radio, CB or long range wifi gear and a laptop (see above) in you vehicle for emergencies. You’ll also want a number of water storage containers and a pump system for filling from streams. You will need a good water purifier to deal with contaminated sources. You will need a means of buying food so you will want a hiding place in your vehicle or RV for cash and small denominations of silver and gold coins in case the dollar becomes worthless. A versatile gun that can also be used for hunting, such as a shotgun is a must . You’ll want a good supply of ammunition. Just remember to keep that gun in a safe place, both from thieves and your kids.
“Here’s your burger sir, that’ll be two twelve gauge shells and five 22 calibers please”. It is very possible that ammunition will become a currency itself so carry a large supply of the most commonly used sizes including 12 gauge shotgun shells and 22 caliber bullets. The barter system may replace currency for most transactions. Items such as disposable razors, cigarettes and hand tools will be good for trading for gas and food. Sticking with a group of like minded people will be good insurance against trouble. This means finding safe RV parks and campgrounds where law and order still prevails. You’ll need good neighbors to watch your things while you leave to find work, if there is any.
For those without a car you’ll need a good frame backpack and everything you need to survive in miniature. Weight is your enemy so choose lightweight tents, sleeping bags, water purifiers and take along freeze dried food and MRE’s to live on. Carry your cash, silver and gold in a money belt or shoe hiding place. You’ll want to avoid crime ridden cities and find shelter and camping in safe campgrounds or on farms where you can find work. Setting up camp near a body of water has advantages for bathing and catching fish. Since you may be crossing many jurisdictions carrying a pistol may not be wise. Consider large pepper spray – dye spray containers instead. You’ll need a lightweight crank or solar powered radio for news and if traveling with family a couple of GMRS radios to keep in touch with each other plus a solar battery charger.
There are other options. A small sailboat is one of them. A self contained sailboat can provide shelter and mobility without the use of fuel. It can allow for movement to areas where there is work and safety along the vast Intercoastal Highway and navigable rivers as well as a way to leave the U.S. if necessary. There are many books that have been written about self-sufficient living aboard sailboats. In a post peak oil world sailboats may be one of the only affordable means of covering long distances. A fuel efficient motorcycle is another. The same packing strategy for backpacking applies to traveling by bike. Carry spare motorcycle parts, tire tubes, a good toolkit and extra gas.
Strategy #3: Rural Survival
If you are lucky enough to own your own farm you will be in the best position of all for survival in a post peak or post economic meltdown world. You will be able to produce not only enough food to supply yourself but also for trade. Since the supply chain will be disrupted and parts hard to find you will want to have spares of everything and the means to can and store your own food. Farmers will undoubtedly form closer alliances with other nearby farmers and cooperative groups for tasks like firefighting and crop harvesting. Home canning and self sufficiency skills as described in the aforementioned book “The Self-sufficient Life and How to Live It” apply both to urban dwellers and rural residents. It will be essential for small farmers to re-learn the ways and the wisdom of the old timers before they pass on, such as growing crops without expensive chemical fertilizers. Take The Middle Path, Be Prepared In The Early Stages Of The Crisis I have met quite a few other individuals who call themselves “survivalists” in the hurricane ravaged areas where I have volunteered with the American Red Cross. Although it is never a good idea to try to ride out a hurricane, the ones that made it had electricity, water, food and medicine plus communication gear such as CB or Ham Radio. Unlike the common image of survivalists as gun toting hoarders, these individuals often became excellent volunteers, helping their less prepared neighbors and beginning the rebuilding of their community.
A total economic meltdown caused either by peak oil or something else will bring out both the best and the worse in people. I’d like to think that most will choose to work to keep their community intact but those who are inclined to take advantage by looting and stealing instead of cooperating will do so. I believe, cynically perhaps, that many of our citizens would react differently than they did in the Great Depression of the 1930’s because now many of us see having certain possessions and lifestyles as a right and therefore any means of getting them is justified.
I think that we would seem like a spoiled nation to those people of the 1930’s if they could have looked into the future and seen us now and the excessive energy wasting lifestyle that we take for granted. Once this is ripped away from us how will Americans react and who will they blame? Surely not ourselves. When the full blown crash comes there will be calls for more government bailouts or even wars to punish whoever caused us such hardship. Few will realize that it was living beyond our means and failing to have a plan of energy self sufficiency behind it all.
The current economic situation could go either way. There are many signs that point to it getting worse and all it will take is some type of unpredicted event to send the economy spiraling downward toward total collapse. The best thing to do right now is to prepare for the worst case scenario that could happen. Tailor your personal survival plan to either one of staying put or going mobile, based on your home ownership situation. You may want to prepare on both fronts, by having a ready pack of supplies in case you are forced to leave and at the same time preparing your home for a long term crisis.
Start by preparing your home to be a safe place when outside support systems fail. If you can afford to add things like solar backup power and rainwater collection now is the time to do it, not when it is too late. Invest in things that make your home more energy efficient and vehicles that use less fuel. Stock up on freeze dried food and MRE’s now before they become unavailable or extremely expensive and have things like home medical kits and supplies already in place. In case paper money becomes worthless you should keep a savings of small denomination gold and silver coins in a good hiding place to buy food with.
Whether our nation turns a corner and is able to establish a renewable energy future and avoid a severe peak oil crash remains to be seen. Yet investing in home energy efficiency and more efficient vehicles is a win-win way of preparing. Having a stockpile of food and supplies is a cheap peace of mind insurance policy, regardless of how things turn out.
Ultimately it all comes down to preparedness and keeping one step ahead of the tide. Those who make fun of your survivalist ways will be the ones coming to you for help when the poop hits the fan. Neil Nolan