Why We Should All Become Preppers
(part one of two)
By James Ballou – Read part two here…
I don’t think any of us really ever know exactly what the future will bring. We can speculate, and we can think sometimes we know what’s going to happen before it does based on interpretations of ancient prophecies, biblical scripture, the Mayan calendar, psychic predictions, on a hunch or a vision from a dream, or on some other special insight – we might even get lucky with our predictions once in a while and foretell something fairly accurately, but whatever cataclysms might await modern civilization I believe are ultimately anybody’s guess.
I think it is interesting though how some of our casual thoughts about these kinds of things occasionally do tend to be unknowingly prophetic. I remember talking with a friend around 1997 as we traveled in his pickup out of Spokane, Washington, when our conversation meandered to the subject of terrorism and Middle East suicide bombers, and we both thought it surprising that no suicidal terrorist had yet ever guided a jet liner into a tall skyscraper, like in New York City or somewhere like that. That would cause massive casualties and property damage, we speculated. And then just four years later that very smae nightmarish scenario unfortunately became a reality.
We may not be able to predict the future with any high degree of accuracy on a consistently reliable basis, but we can form educated guesses about possible future world conditions, in part based on the trends of current events and also on what we do know about history. We can, and probably should, consider as many different potential apocalyptic scenarios as possible, and that’s what we will endeavor to do in this article.
Those of us who grew up or were around during the Cold War are very familiar with the psychological weight of the possible threat of a global nuclear war. It is the first scenario we will consider in this chapter because it constitutes the absolute worst kind of nightmare that this author can possibly imagine.
Even though the Cold War era officially ended in 1989 or 1990 with the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the global arms race never actually stopped, and my guess is that the threat of a nuclear exchange between nations is probably even greater now than at any time in the past, simply because more nations possess nukes now than ever before (according to Wikipedia, as of 2009 there were nine nations generally presumed to have nuclear weapons, including the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel), with plenty of others like Iran, Burma, and Saudi Arabia that may not yet have nukes but are believed to be actively seeking them.
There also seems to be more tension in the world now than I remember there ever existing in my lifetime, especially over in the Middle East and maybe other regions as well, like Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and South America, although I do acknowledge that this is merely my own subjective perception. But if we consider how many nations are armed with nukes and that not all of them are friendly with each other, and combine this with the instability of some of the governments running those nuclear armed nations, then one might come to the conclusion that a very destructive World War III is probably inevitable, and that it’s only just a matter of time until the missiles fly and major cities are reduced to ruins in short order. I am actually surprised that this hasn’t happened already.
The atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on the morning of August 6, 1945, code named Little Boy, was the first atomic device to ever be used in warfare. It had the explosive force equal to that of from 15,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT. Much of the city was leveled or destroyed from either the initial blast or the resulting firestorm, with the most conservative official estimates counting approximately 78,000 people killed, another nearly 14,000 believed missing, and at least 84,000 seriously injured.
By contrast, the first thermonuclear “hydrogen bomb” tested less than a decade later was equal to 10 million tons of TNT, or 500 times greater than the Hiroshima blast! The variety of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons and their delivery systems that exist in the world today is truly mind-boggling. I personally doubt that any arms treaty or U.N. sanctions will ever be able to rein in the proliferation of the world’s nukes, despite our universal desire for a safer planet.
The question as to whether or not the human race can survive an all-out nuclear conflict is one that is often debated, and one I’ve been pondering as far back as I can remember. My sense is that some people will indeed survive, but their existence afterwards will be very difficult.
Chemical and Biological Terror
Chemical and Biological types of weapons present similar threats to consider along with the nuclear war discussed above in the sense that massive numbers of casualties might be expected, and exposure to contaminants would be among the primary long-term concerns. And these three methods of unconventional warfare are often included together in military training, at least as I remember in the U.S. Army, these types of weapon systems were collectively referred to as NBC for nuclear, biological, and chemical hazards.
The anthrax attacks in 2001 gave legitimacy to any fears there may have previously been concerning the possibility of a biological terrorist attack upon civilians, bringing the whole frightening possibility of it to the attention of the American public like never before. We will now forever have to wonder what sort of toxic chemicals or contagions will be unleashed on us next, whether it will involve city water systems being poisoned, infectious organisms secretly released in crowded stadiums, dirty bombs detonated in city centers to rapidly disperse deadly viruses, crop duster planes spraying toxins over gatherings of people, or God only knows what else.
Here’s one that isn’t always envisioned as the primary threat, but often as a consequence or byproduct of some other initial calamity that creates the ideal conditions for the rapid spread of horrible diseases.
For example, there might be a nuclear war as we contemplated above that so severely cripples the matrix of civilization that the health and medical infrastructure has been stifled while at the same time other essentials for proper human health like proper nutrition, shelter, personal hygiene, and clean air or water might all become rather scarce. Such an environment could be the perfect breeding grounds for some kind of nasty pestilence that evolves and strikes terror upon any existing, severely weakened human populations.
Whatever the reason, we can be fairly certain that either a previously unknown disease, a resurfacing of a previously eradicated illness, or a totally new deadly strain, be it a bacterium or virus, will strike the human populations of the world in the foreseeable future, if we are to consider the past.
We all know that every so often some new kind of wicked illness makes the rounds, be it the bubonic plague, smallpox, influenza, cholera, Ebola, hepatitis C, AIDS, mad cow disease, avian or bird flu, swine flu, or what have you. Perhaps not all of them have amounted to much in the overall scope of things, but some certainly have, and the frightening possibility for an out-of-control epidemic is always there.
To put this expectation of a future outbreak of some new or previously unknown pathogen into perspective, we only need to reflect back to a time as recent as the 1970’s when none of us had yet ever heard of HIV or the AIDS virus.
Here are some things to think about: According to Wikipedia, the bubonic plague, also known as the “Black Death” that swept through Europe in the 14th Century killed an estimated 75 million people, possibly as much as 60% of the whole population of Europe of that time!
Also according to Wikipedia, influenza kills between 250,000 and a half a million people, every year! And according to Answers.com, the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 (lasting from March 1918 until June 1920) killed an estimated 20 to 100 million people worldwide. For a reference of comparison, the total number of people of all nations (military and civilian) killed during World War I is estimated to have been 16 million.
This fairly broad topic has received an enormous amount of attention in mainstream media, as well as in documentaries and Hollywood films in recent years, and there seems to be a greater public awareness about things like tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes, earthquakes, mudslides, winter ice storms, blizzards, floods, forest fires, famines and droughts, and all of these natural kinds of severe conditions than perhaps at any previous time in history.
Some scientists tell us that these natural disasters are increasing in frequency and magnitude. Regardless of whether this is true or not, or the validity of the controversial reasons typically given for some of the weather extremes we seem to see a lot of these days, we are all very much aware of the major natural disasters that have occurred around the globe over the past few decades, and how they have impacted the world.
One fairly recent catastrophic event that often stands out was the earthquake and tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean and areas of Indonesia in December of 2004, which killed roughly a quarter of a million people. Another was the earthquake that rocked Haiti in January of 2010, resulting in an estimated death toll of nearly 230,000. Despite the massive international humanitarian efforts and financial assistance these regions have received, recovery to pre-disaster conditions will clearly take many years, if full recovery is even a possibility at all. And now with the recent devastating earthquakes and tsunami, and nuclear plant meltdown that occurred in Japan in March 2011, this type of disaster is fresh in everyone’s mind.
Seismologists expect a major earthquake to occur in California in the near future, along the San Andreas Fault that runs more than eight hundred miles through the western part of the state. The government of the State of California has taken this expectation very seriously and has tried to prepare the citizens for such an event, but there is really only so much they can do to ready themselves for something like that.
Something I recently learned about, and I understand hasn’t even been known to scientists for more than about fifteen years, is the existence of “supervolcanoes”. Unlike the more familiar volcanoes that erupt periodically, supervolcanoes don’t blow nearly as often, but when they do their destructive force is typical several thousand times greater than that of, say, the Mount St Helens eruption that sent clouds of volcanic ash high into the skies across the Pacific Northwest in 1980. Some scientists have suggested that the ash-filled skies caused by supervolcano eruptions occurring thousands of years ago have blocked out the sun for long periods, leading to prolonged winters and possibly even ice ages.
According to The Discovery Channel, there are six known supervolcanoes in the world. Three of them, including Long Valley Caldera in California, Valles Caldera in New Mexico, and the supervolcano in the Yellowstone National Park – Yellowstone Caldera, are within the Lower 48 of continental North America!
Also according to the Discovery Channel, the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption ejected 1.4 billion cubic yards of ash over 22,000 square miles, it blew 1,300 vertical feet off of the mountain, and killed 57 people. Wikipedia describes Mount St. Helen’s large scale pyroclastic flow that flattened vegetation and buildings over 230 square miles, and the more than 1 ½ million metric tons of sulfur dioxide being released into the atmosphere. The last major Yellowstone eruption that occurred approximately 640,000 years ago, by comparison, ejected 8,000 times more ash and lava than Mount St. Helens! Wrap your mind around that if you can.
Although it appears that the U.S.G.S. does not expect a major volcanic eruption at Yellowstone anytime soon, a number of earthquakes have been recorded in the region – as many as 80 earthquakes occurred in the Yellowstone National Park region during just the month of December 2010 alone, according to The University of Utah’s Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, and this has drawn a considerable amount of recent attention to this volcano. Some seem convinced that the volcano is getting ready to blow again.
Bio: Jim Ballou has worked as a self-employed, independent insurance agent and a freelance writer for over sixteen years. More than sixty of his magazine articles on a variety of topics ranging from primitive and early American crafts and tools to wilderness survival skills have appeared in five periodicals since 2000, includingBackwoods Home Magazine, The Backwoodsman, Wilderness Way Magazine, Primitive Archer Magazine, and Modern Survival Magazine.
Mr. Ballou’s first non-fiction book titled: Long-Term Survival in the Coming Dark Age was published by Paladin Press in 2007, and it quickly became a Paladin best seller. This was followed by four other popular non-fiction titles with Paladin Press, including: Makeshift Workshop Skills for Survival and Self-Reliance, MORE Makeshift Workshop Skills,Arming For The Apocalypse, and the most recent title, The Poor Man’s Wilderness Survival Kit.
Ballou’s interests are too varied to list here but include blacksmithing, gun collecting, target shooting, reading and learning about history, writing, camping, hunting, fishing, treasure hunting, exploring, experimenting with tools and creative processes, survival and self-reliance related topics, plus all of the primitive skills, among numerous other interests and hobbies. He lives with his wife and two kids in Idaho.