On Bringing Survivalism Into Mainstream Suburbia

The New York Times examines the booming business of selling preparedness for societal breakdown, with more and more Americans worried that civilization may be on the verge of collapse in the wake of major hurricanes, blackouts, financial crisis, Iran building the bomb, et cetera. The irony is that the movement’s proponents are so obsessed with “getting ready” for the end of everything that in a sense they have already given up on our world:

The preparedness industry, always prosperous during hard times, is thriving again now. In Ron Douglas’s circles, people talk about “the end of the world as we know it” with such regularity that the acronym Teotwawki has come into widespread use.

The goal isn’t just to sell to the same old preparedness crowd. Red Shed wants to attract liberals and political moderates to a marketplace historically populated by conservatives and right-wing extremists. It’s about showing the gun-toting mountain man in his camouflage and the suburban soccer mom in her minivan that they want the same thing: peace of mind.

Douglas [a 38-year-old entrepreneur and founder of one of the largest preparedness expos] talks about emergency preparedness, sustainable living and financial security — what he called the three pillars of self-reliance. He detailed the importance of solar panels, gardens, water storage and food stockpiles. People shouldn’t just have 72-hour emergency kits for when the power grid goes down; they should learn how to live on their own. It’s a message that Douglas is trying to move from the fringe to the mainstream.

At the Self Reliance Expo, Scott Valencia, a business developer from the video-game industry who formed Red Shed with Douglas last year, instructed vendors to avoid fear tactics and improve their displays while also making sure that the venues were welcoming and well lighted with wide aisles — the better to fit baby strollers and families. There was to be no more doom and gloom.

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  • “Big” Richard Johnson

    Pretty interesting stuff, but whats the food and water for?

    • Matt Staggs

      Roving mutants.

  • Anarchy Pony

    Yeah, but they don’t want you to be too self reliant. Who would provide them with revenue if everyone was already self reliant?

    • InfvoCuernos

      Maybe the goal is to have all the little worker ants hoarding food and for the army ants to collect after all the worker ants are shipped off to FEMA camps to starve.

  • Sonnenritter

    peak oil

  • BuzzCoastin

    it’s Déjà Y2K all over again
    McKenna was right
    it’s all repeating itself quicker & quicker
    no wonder Obama is Bush 3

  • alizardx

    You can be truly self-reliant and not dependent on industrial civilization if you are willing to pay the price of doing without what you buy from it. Computers, it’s unlikely any computer purchased today will still work 10 years from now. Wafer fabs used to make CPUs take the resources of a worldwide civilization to keep running Axes, can you make one from iron ore? Is there a source close by? Can you live without Big Pharma? Or an emergency room within a reasonable distance? I’ve looked at the specs on that Open Ecology:”build a permaculture town” project… don’t see a Class One wafer fab among them. Decentralism and improved resilience are possible. But not good enough to survive a collapse of civilization for anyone who wants to remain civilized.

    Disaster prep is just plain common sense, and the 72 hour FEMA rule of thumb no longer applies, to the new age of regional megadisasters that’s just started. it took weeks to get help to some after Hurricane Sandy.

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