Do You Have a Disaster Bookshelf?

I have a problem with preppers that is well documented.  It’s not that I disagree with being prepared for a general degradation of the complexity of our society, which I think is somewhat inevitable given the impending changes to the climate brought about by human action. Rather, it is that I see the actions taken by preppers to be short sighted.

Survival for more than six months or a year takes a different set of skills. Think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

800px-Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svgIgnoring for the moment the levels of Esteem and Self-actualization, which are probably only attainable in a stable social environment, the pyramid identifies that a person needs to take care of Physiological, Safety, and Love or Belonging.

If a person focuses on hoarding enough food for six months and enough firepower to repel ravenous hordes they will have taken care of the first two levels—Physiological and Safety—for a period of time. What happens when the food runs out?

This is where true, long-term prepping comes into play. To be truly prepared a person must consider how to sustain the first two levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in a sustainable manner.

In practice, I believe this means acquiring the knowledge and skill sets to reliably produce food from one season to the next without outside inputs, be that seed or fertilizer or irrigation water. Moving beyond taking care of the Physiological, I believe that Safety will be acquired through some level of community and shared responsibility.

Why community? I agree with Thomas Hobbes’ assertion in Leviathan that the natural state of mankind sans community:

In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving, and removing, such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

It is my belief that preppers, in general, are preparing for a world that resembles what Hobbes thought was the natural state of mankind. However, I believe a different state will emerge as the complexity of our society is undone. It will be a world on a human scale.

In that human scale world skills and knowledge will be invaluable since food will not be something you simply drive to the grocery store for and pay with a credit card. With that in mind I have started assembling my “disaster bookshelf.” It’s the books that I think encapsulate the knowledge necessary to thrive in a world where cheap, dense energy from fossil fuels is not readily available and climate change has altered our relationship with the planet.

What’s on your “disaster bookshelf?”


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