2011 wasn’t an easy year for most families. With storm clouds of uncertainty on the horizon, more and more people joined the prepper bandwagon. Preppers made the news in multiple news stories and in reality TV shows, such as “Livin’ for the Apocalypse”, and it became almost trendy to have buckets of wheat in the back room.
Here is my own list of the top stories of 2011 related to preparedness and survival, along with important lessons from each.
10. The Mountain House food shortage. Headlines read, “Mountain House confirms freeze dried food shortage” and “Demand for emergency food supplies causing shortages.” Companies selling the Mountain House brand sent out memos to their customers and affiliates advising them that #10 cans of Mountain House entrees were not available. So what happened? Where did all that food go? Is turkey tetrazzini really that popular?
I think those are questions preppers will have to consider and answer for themselves, especially in light of emerging information about FEMA camps, see item # 4. What I gleaned from this is that freeze-dried entrees aren’t all that. It’s so much smarter to stock up on ingredients that can be stored long-term, so while the residents of the FEMA camps are eating their thousandth meal of Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, my family will be enjoying a huge variety of meals.
9. The LDS Cannery non-raid. This gem hit the internet in early December via an article on the Oath Keepers website. The article claimed that federal agents had visited an LDS cannery in Tennessee demanding customer records. The source was an employee of the cannery.
Well, in short order, the story exploded all over the internet and just as quickly fell apart. Incredibly, the original source denied he had ever told the story. Some people conjectured that the source was being threatened, but from the beginning, there were problems. What agency did the feds represent? No names or locations were included in the original story. Was there a warrant for the information?
From this incident, I learned just how small the prepper community is. Within just a few hours I was contacted by readers, the story was all over Facebook, people were warning and looking out for each other as well as their civil rights. At the same time, all this underlined the high degree of suspicion many in our community have for government entities and agents. These are interesting times, indeed.
8. Preppers on TV. When a fad hits reality TV, it has hit the Big Time. Hoarders, “little people”, tattoo artists and the morbidly obese all have a claim to fame once a reality show is created highlighting their lifestyles. In 2011, NatGeo produced, “Doomsday Preppers” and TLC came out with, “Livin’ for the Apocalypse,” complete with a transgender prepper. Preppers were big news in 2011!
Sometimes the TV shows were evenhanded, but just as often, they were skewed and didn’t show the whole picture. Why the sudden interest? The answer is the bottom line. The media will go where there’s money to be made, and for the time being, preppers and survivalists bring in money. And, you can depend that the most extreme cases will be highlighted, especially on reality TV.
7. A huge upsurge in the purchase of food, guns, and everything related to survival. Not only was Mountain House selling unbelievable amounts of food to unknown buyers, but everybody and their dog was setting up online “survival goods” stores. Not only that, but gun sales and concealed carry license applications soared.
I’m not sure if all this was due to more people becoming aware on their own or because preppers were in the news so much, but for whatever reason, even our 70 year-old family friends are buying freeze-dried food. In December, a record 1.5 million background checks were ordered for gun purchases, and that doesn’t count private party transactions!
More Americans are making preparedness a priority, and that’s a good thing. It also helps you not look like a whacked-out radical to all your friends and family!
6. The prices of gold and silver went crazy. I found myself calling my friend Chris Slifeand asked, “What’s going on with gold today?” Precious metals were a hot topic all over the internet and on financial websites and cable TV. There were rumors of gold being bought
and sold by the ton, and, in fact, Venezuelan strong man, Hugo Chavez, ordered all his country’s gold shipped back to Venezuela from the Bank of England. Everybody, it seemed, had turned into a gold bug.
Most preppers took the middle ground, and that’s where we should stay. First, making sure we have enough hard goods (food, water, tools, seeds, etc.) to keep our family safe and sound, and then buying gold and silver as a way to preserve whatever wealth we have.
2012 is sure to bring just as many wild swings and hysterical headlines when it comes to gold and silver, but holding a steady course is the best way to be prepared.
5. Inflation reared its ugly head in 2011. Whether by paying higher prices or paying the same price for smaller packages, Americans were hit with higher totals every time they stepped in the check-out lane. This makes preparedness more urgent and important than ever. When we stock up on food, we are quite literally buying groceries for tomorrow at today’s prices.
4. The rise of the FEMA camp. I’m no tin-foil hat wearer but even I couldn’t ignore all the reports on the internet and hysterical emails about FEMA “concentration” camps. I did some digging around, and the reality is that, yes, there are numerous FEMA camps around the country. Whether they are there for good or evil depends on your point of view.
Fear of these camps is rampant on both the right and left sides of the political spectrum. Have they been built (and possibly equipped with Mountain House food) as a benign way to provide shelter and security for masses of Americans in a worst-case scenario or have they been established as America’s Gulag?
Passage of the National Defense Authorization Act in late December, was hardly reassuring and lent more ammunition for the Alex Jones and Jesse Venturas who promote the “FEMA Concentration Camp” meme.
Again, preparing on our own for worst case scenarios may be the best way to not encounter one of these camps up close and personal.
3. Japan’s worst-case scenario grand slam. Only in a nightmare should any country experience a 9.0 earthquake, devastating tsunami, and multiple nuclear disasters all within a few days. In March, 2011, the Japanese people were dealt these three events and managed to handle them with dignity in spite of a dearth of Japanese preppers.
Citizens lined up for drinking water, blankets, and food, and the crisis continues for many. Over 160,000 Japanese remain displaced as of this writing. At this point, a FEMA camp might be a blessing to some of these stalwart survivors.
The lesson I drew from the Japanese disaster is that some things aren’t survive-able. A tsunami, a wildfire, an earthquake can be so sudden and fierce that even the most prepared prepper will be caught off-guard. Another lesson is that a bad situation can be made far worse when people respond with violence and uncontrolled emotion. This didn’t happen in Japan, and their recovery was able to proceed without delay. In America, we had a year of riots in Wal-Marts over shoes, video games, and even a waffle maker. If anything should make you fear for the future, it is that.
2. Wild weather throughout the United States. What a year! From horrific droughts and wildfires in Texas to massive flooding along the Mississippi River and record setting tornadoes, millions of Americans were hit hard. Freezes in Mexico affected produce prices across the country. Restaurants found themselves either raising prices or deleting some items from their menus. Unfortunately, extreme weather added to the misery of an economy that was still floundering.
The fine people of Joplin, Missouri, experienced the wrath of a monster tornado that devastated large portions of the town in a year that saw more than 300 tornadoes touch down across the country. From Joplin, though, came multiple examples of strangers reaching out to strangers to help, comfort, feed, and shelter. Busloads of volunteers came from all over the country to lend support and crank up chainsaws.
There are times when any one of us could face losing absolutely everything, and that is the point when even the proudest prepper must ask for help and rely on the kindness of strangers and even, gulp!, government assistance.
1. Unrelenting unemployment in 2011. American families continued to be devastated by unemployment and under-employment. Over and over again, official unemployment numbers were found to be trumped up. Some cities and areas experienced
unemployment rates of 20% and more. When we drove through Blythe, California, four weeks ago, it was like driving through a ghost town. Fewer blacks and young people have jobs and a record number of Americans, almost 15% of the country, are on food stamps.
This headline from Huffington Post, “Number of Americans on Food Stamps Hits Another High Years After Recession’s End,” illustrates the illogic of some in the media and most in politics to turn a blind eye to reality in an effort to create a false story. How can the recession be over with 45.8 million people on food stamps, unemployment over 9% (using the official number), foreclosures continue, and almost a third of homes are now underwater? What kind of recovery is that??
In the meantime, real families are experiencing real pain and despair. The suburban poverty level has risen sharply over the past year, and fewer families have a safety net other than unemployment benefits and food stamps.
This, to me, is the biggest story of 2011. I believe that the strong middle class, the backbone of America, is being destroyed one job loss, one foreclosure, one emptied savings account at a time. By far, the most devastating catastrophe most Americans will face is a personal, financial one. If you can prepare for that, one bag of rice at a time, you’re doing yourself and your family a favor.
There’s no way to know what 2012 holds, but a wise course of action will be to learn from 2011 and plan for similar scenarios in this new year.
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