Why We Should All Become Preppers (part two of two) – James Ballou

Why We Should All Become Preppers

(part two of two)

By James Ballou – Read part one here

The Crash of the Internet, Cyber Terrorism, and Other Computer Disasters

It may be difficult for some to envision a plausible scenario where the World Wide Web and AOL go down for any substantial duration, especially since the Y2K “millennium bug” computer virus turned out to be a non-event fifteen years earlier despite all the fear and hype leading up to it. But I do believe that we should seriously consider the possibility of something like this actually happening for the reasons I will present here, and we should consider what it would mean for all of us.

The threat potential of a cyber terrorist attack is taken very seriously by the governments of the world. And we have some real-world examples of just how devastating this can be. The first well-known example that comes to mind was the cyber attack on Google, allegedly by members of the Chinese government in March 2009, known as “Aurora”. The second is the cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear program in the summer of 2010, some believe carried out by either Israel or possibly even the CIA, known as “Stuxnet”, where a computer worm infected as many as 30,000 computers!

But there have been plenty of other very nasty computer viruses that have spread rapidly and caused literally billions of dollars in damages within just the past dozen or so years. Some of the better known computer viruses include: “Melissa” in 1999, the “LoveLetter” or “iloveyou” in 2000, “The Klez Virus” in 2001, “Code Red” in 2001, “Sapphire” or “SQL Slammer” in 2003, “MyDoom” in 2004, “Sasser” in 2004, “Netsky” in 2004, and “Storm Worm” in 2006, to name a few.

Just the “iloveyou” virus alone caused somewhere from five and half to ten billion dollars in damages, depending on the source of information. Considering that computer hackers are increasing in number and getting ever more sophisticated as time goes by, how destructive will the next major computer virus potentially be? What are the chances of something being created one of these days that will completely shut down the Internet for a prolonged period of time? I think these are questions worth considering.

Consider that nearly everything we do in society these days is in some way tied to or dependent upon the Internet. Many of us do our banking and pay our bills on-line now. Pretty much all banks and financial institutions depend heavily on the Internet. Stocks on Wall Street are traded daily on-line. Most of us communicate with others largely using email.

According to Yahoo! Answers, there were 20,340,000,000 web pages indexed as of November 2009. That’s more than twenty billion! And we might also consider that many of the web sites in existence are the primary income-generating tool for the businesses and individuals who maintain them.

Just imagine your world suddenly without Google, YouTube, Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, eBay, LinkedIn, E-Trade, PayPal, Craigslist, Wikipedia, Answers.com, Netflix, Pogo.com, MSN, Aol.com, Hotmail, Amazon.com, mapquest.com, AT&T Worldnet, Road Runner High Speed Online, EarthLink, NetZero, all of the other databases, Internet service providers, search engines, web browsers, news sites, blog forums, online catalogues, or other Internet-based entities and devices.

I am personally of the opinion that any long-term crash of the Internet at this point would so disturb the business world that it could potentially trigger a global economic depression.

Economic Collapse

We’ve already been to the edge of this cliff in recent history, and we’ve all had our eyes opened to the potential unpleasantness of an economic meltdown on a national, and possibly even a global scale. I think it’s probably safe to say that prior to 2008, most Americans had no real worries about a major depression or recession rocking our nation. But this certainly seems not to be the case now, after we’ve seen major corporations and financial institutions like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Washington Mutual, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and General Motors either collapse into bankruptcy or require massive amounts of tax payers’ bailout money to save them from the brink.

And we’ve seen the real estate bubble pop, the ensuing foreclosures of homes numbering in the millions, and for a while a dramatic drop in home values nationwide. With the sum of these events we were given a glimpse at how fragile (and potentially problematic) our whole national financial infrastructure really is.

I can think of at least five reasons why I believe that an economic depression occurring in our time would likely be more severe than the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

My first reason is essentially that there are more people alive today than ever before (the 15th census conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1930 determined the population of United States was 122,775,046 residents, while the recent 2010 Census shows the population to be: 308,745,538), and this would mean more people competing for any available resources and for the potentially shrinking domestic employment opportunities than there were in the 1930’s. In other words, more mouths to feed with potentially less to feed them with.

Second, Americans are much more dependent upon government today than ever before for so many of life’s necessities, with all of the social and entitlement programs that have been in place now for over a generation, and any severe economic condition that could threaten the safety nets now relied upon so heavily would most certainly be much more traumatic for the masses than they could have even imagined during the last depression, before anyone had become dependent upon such government programs.

My third reason is that Americans were overall more accustomed to comparatively adverse, less convenient lifestyles seventy-plus years ago as compared to the average living standards of today, and losing any of our present luxuries and conveniences such as our daily warm showers, fast-food restaurants, the majority of licensed drivers having their own cars to drive, closets full of perfectly usable clothing rarely worn because of changing fashions and tastes, 24-hour convenience stores – as well as ATM machines – in almost every part of town, running water and indoor plumbing in every city home or apartment, personal computers and smart phones providing us with instant communications and information 24/7, VCR’s and movie disk players that allow us to watch movies whenever we wish, refrigerators and freezers in every home, microwaveable foods, electric dish washers and clothes washing machines, television sets in several rooms of the average home, and our ability to buy goods with credit cards (not to mention some of the more extravagant luxuries enjoyed by millions of Americans like boats, RV’s, ATV’s, snowmobiles, riding lawn mowers, heated backyard swimming pools, etc.), would tend to cause quite a shock for most of us now, especially if we were to lose nearly all of these things at the same time. Many of these luxuries were either unknown or uncommon in America before the 1930’s, but their sudden loss would certainly magnify the pain felt by the victims of any future economic collapse.

Additionally, Americans were much more agriculturally diversified and self sufficient prior to WWII than we are today. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, early 20th century agriculture took place on a large number of small, diversified farms in rural areas where more than half of the U.S. population lived. By contrast, 21st century agriculture is concentrated on a small number of large, specialized farms in rural areas where less than a quarter of the U.S. population now lives. In 1930, 21.5% of the nation’s workforce was employed in agriculture, while in 2000 to 2002 only 1.9% of our country’s labor force worked in agriculture.

On the Wessels Living History Farm website it is noted that in 1900, 98% of all American farms had chickens, 82% grew grain, and 80% had at least one milk cow, while in 1992 only 4% of farms reported having chickens, and only 8% had milk cows.

So we can see that in the first part of the 20th century a much larger percentage of our country’s population lived and worked on small farms, kept chickens and cows, and grew their own food, than we find today. Food and some of the other farm-produced basics will be statistically less accessible to the average individual in the next Depression.

Finally, it stands to reason that a much larger economy, such as this global economy we have now compared to that which existed prior to the 1929 stock market crash, has farther to fall when it collapses, and I believe this means it could potentially fall harder. For mainly these five reasons mentioned above I might as well go on record right here as predicting that the next depression, whenever it occurs, will be considerably more devastating to almost every American than what was experienced in the previous.

The unprecedented, and arguably unsustainable, size of our national debt (now at $18 trillion), combined with the overwhelming number of baby boomers who have begun reaching retirement age and drawing social security, increasing the burden on an already stressed program, plus the complexities of this new global economy should perhaps have us all concerned.

Impact of Space Rocks on Earth

This scenario might fit into the general natural disasters category above, but I thought that because of its potential magnitude of destruction it deserves a place under its own separate heading.

In spite of the many popular science fiction novels and Hollywood movies developed around this theme in recent years, the comet or asteroid hitting earth event might actually be one of the least likely doomsday scenarios to consider here, as far as any near future probability perhaps. Even so, I think it’s worth reminding our selves that huge space objects have collided with earth before with devastating effect, many, many times. As they say, it’s only a matter of time before it happens again.

Can you imagine the force of an impact made by a boulder weighing thousands of tons traveling at a velocity of multiple kilometers per second? Some 50,000 years ago, a space rock measuring roughly 150 feet in diameter (considerably smaller than a cubic acre) traveling between twelve and twenty kilometers per second carved out a crater in the Arizona desert that still exists, measuring approximately ¾ mile across, and 570 feet deep! What might something like that do to your neighborhood if it flew in tomorrow?

Author Tom Kay paints a surreal picture of a global end-of-times event associated with the arrival of a comet, citing prophecies of Ezekiel, Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, Gordon Michael Scallion, and Paul Solomon among others in his interesting book, When The Comet Runs, published in 1997. However, the expectation in most of these prophecies seems to be that the appearance of a comet will signal the timing for the end-of-times event, or the apocalypse, rather than an occurrence of a comet actually slamming into the earth.

Small meteoroids and even dust-sized space particles do fall on the earth every day – perhaps as much as 78,000 tons of it in a whole year according to Lynn Carter in the 2003 Cornell University Astronomy Department’s “Curious About Astronomy? Ask An Astronomer”. Our earth is regularly bombarded by debris of various sizes from space, so I believe we should consider the possibility of a devastating asteroid hit in this chapter, and we should perhaps form some idea about how we might be affected by such an event, and how to best prepare ourselves for it if should it come to pass in our lifetime.

A Shifting of the Earth’s Poles

In the preface of the original edition of the book, Pole Shift, by John White (first published in 1980), the effects of a polar shift were characterized as follows:

“We can describe it as ‘the ultimate disaster’”. Enormous tidal waves, electrical storms, hurricanes, poisonous gases filling the skies, and tremendous earthquakes are mentioned as being some of the likely occurrences resulting from a shifting of the earth’s poles, should our planet experience this event.

Psychic Edgar Cayce, known as the “sleeping prophet”, in the 1930’s predicted a coming polar shift, but in his predicted time frame he apparently envisioned it occurring no later than the early 1980’s, and obviously this cataclysm hasn’t happened yet.

However, in the NOVA documentary, “Magnetic Storm” that originally aired in 2003, it was explained that scientific evidence shows there have been polar shifts in the past, many of them in fact, and they seem to occur roughly every 250,000 years. We are now believed to be long overdue for a shift at this time.

Evidence exists in the form of iron minerals in heated and cooled lava rock and clay that end up pointing toward the magnetic pole as the material cools and solidifies. Scientists are able to see these iron particles pointing in reverse direction in samples from different periods of time. Additionally, the earth’s magnetic field is measurably getting weaker at present, and some believe the process of a polar reversal may already be starting.

Of course, we cannot possibly discuss every conceivable doomsday scenario in this article, but hopefully this has given you some food for thought, and provided some vivid reminders about why we prepare.

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

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