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Book group last night was great. We ended up finishing the chapter well before our allotted meeting time was up and decided since there are more than twelve chapters in the book, let’s just discuss it now. As I mentioned Monday, the chapter is about preparing for failure. The failure might be a short term one that leaves you without power for a day or two after a storm or it might be long term. At the moment, we are lucky enough in the US to pretty much only have to worry about failure caused by natural disasters like storms, earthquakes and forest fires. However, Sharon Astyk is talking about more than these kinds of failures.

Part of the chapter talks about climate change and peak oil and the failures that will most likely happen because of those. The chapter also talks about when an entire country collapses and actually outlines a number of key features those that study these things have observed as being common across time and culture. When reading this outline it became rather troubling to note that several of the elements are currently present in the United States.

One of the things the group talked about was how not being prepared was seen as normal. I brought up a friend who, a couple years ago, began learning some new skills and buying equipment that does not need electricity to run (solar lantern, a camp stove, etc). At first he told people he was getting ready in case the power grid failed or the government collapsed. People freaked out, told him he was being paranoid. So then he began telling people, if they asked, that he was preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse. And they thought that was great! As though zombies were something that might actually happen and it was right to be ready but peak oil or social collapse was unrealistic.

Another member of the group said she had been doing quite a lot over the last several years to prepare for failure and in the process was labeled by several friends as being a survivalist. People started calling her a crazy “prepper.” While it is good to be prepared, “prepper” has a pejorative meaning and is associated with the gun-toting anti-government, usually far right, individuals who also believe in conspiracy theories. If this is what we think being prepared means, it is no wonder that so many people don’t do it.

The thing about the transition group is that none of us need to be convinced that we need to prepare. All of us know climate change is real, all of us know that peak oil is on the horizon, all of us know that things can potentially get really bad. So the discussion pretty quickly turned to all the various ways we are working to prepare, with lots of ideas and suggestions floating around. We also got tips of the sort, “don’t make the same mistake I did.” Like the person who bought a twenty-pound container of dehydrated pineapple. Once the container is open, it all has to be used up within a pretty short timeframe. She has yet to open it because she has no idea what to do with all that pineapple once she does!

It was a really good discussion and Bookman and I walked out with our heads buzzing about things to investigate further and plans, plans, plans along with a loose timeline so we stop saying “one day we will …” and instead start getting it done now.

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