Because we do sustainable agriculture and raise our own food folks often ask us if we are ‘preppers’. This often comes from our kids friends who’ve not been educated from folks who lived through the great depression or experienced life before technology and consumerism. My grandfather shaped my thinking a great deal as a child as he lived through the great depression and had a big farm in North Dakota. They were able to get by. But to his dying day he saved every milk jug he ever bought to be in a position to store food and water should another depression hit. I, as a little girl thought that was weird. I had no comprension of the suffering that transpired and the impact that made to that generation.
So, I ask those who ask, “what are preppers in your mind? … as that has so many different connotations to so many different people.” The college kids usually say preppers store stuff, hoard stuff, are preparing for the zombie apocalypse, are loaded with guns, and are going to survive when everyone else dies.
I really scratch my head by that. I tell them that they’ve been watching too many horror movies. I then tell them this and I tell them every time — we are simply being squirrels. Squirrels? … they ask perplexed. Yes, squirrels.
I tell them the story of the squirrel, who works hard all summer and fall to prepare for his/her winter, storing food. I explain that in nature this is life. And, I remind them that in spite of their phones and their insulated view of their digital world, they too still live here on planet earth and share the same living space with squirrels. So, what might a squirrel teach them? And what did our ancestors do before 1950 when big agriculture was developed to feed the world after World War II? Well, gardens by golly. In fact, all our ancestors had two gardens; one for food and one for medicine. It is only recently, even in America where real-time demand creation has marketed the notion that you can rely on the system to, in an instant, provide for you all that you need. And that is called consumerism…..we spend money so others take care of us. This is a very recent phenomena and not at all in keeping with natural laws of the universe.
Again, they are perplexed.
Squirrels worry not about the zombies or the raging tornado or flash flood or nuclear event on the horizon (as if there’d be one they’d say). Squirrels simply do the logical thing and work to store and plan to prepare. Period. End of story. It is their life. All animals in the animal kingdom understand this concept and also understand survival. But do we? I ask them.
Once again – deeply perplexed.
I then explain the amoeba. Amoebas are single celled organisms; not too sophisticated. However, there are three fundamental things the amoeba does that tells us everything we need to know about living. What is illuminating is their three top priorities (as in what they care about) in the correct order. First, territory. Second, food. Third, reproduction. Yes, amoebas care about territory then food then reproduction. That is the essence of life. It is in the make up of EVERY SINGLE LIVING CELL. Ameobas aren’t preppers. They are living cells as are we. They care about the territory they occupy to be safe and keep them alive and allow them to get the second item, food. When they get space to live, survive and eat, they can then reproduce. How about that simplicity?
The kids begin to get interested. They begin to see current news as spin, to drive fear, to have people run to government to keep them safe. Trusting big government to take care of us, at the expense of our own free will, is what we are witnessing. This begins to click for the kids. I show them promotions of our own leadership from the past where our government and company execs encouraged gardening while at war to keep the homefront safe and stable while the men fought for freedom. And the effort to help Americans keep food costs down was a big part of that too to ease suffering while we were at war. Yes, this was once a common and good thing for America, by America.
So, I then turn the questions on them and ask — can you feed yourself? shelter yourself? start a fire? identify edible foods in the woods, lawn or even your own garden? can you hunt, trap, fish? can you make a fire with something other than a lighter? can you find your way out of the woods with a map and compass? can you identify an alpaca versus a llama? can you milk a goat or cow?
Of course, the answers are usually all no.
I then explain to them that the term prepper usually is used in a derogatory way to imply people are fanatics and think the world will end. Prepping however is what every entity on this planet does that lives. Even trees do this. Sap from a pine tree is a healing agent used to seep through the cut that has harmed the tree. That tree is trying to save itself. And in fact that pitch is also a medicinal doing the same thing on us humans — healing our cuts.
Every entity in the natural system preps. Us humans have been conditioned NOT TO PREP and to rely on the governmental/societal systems to sustain us. That is the lunacy.
In all the natural disasters I have been in — the government never rode to the rescue during the strife itself, as in ‘fixing’ the problem. They were simply trying to mitigate further disaster. I was stuck in London when 9/11 happened, my husband was to be on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. He changed his flight only the night before on my request. Being stuck in a foreign country and not being able to fly out was scary. At midnight of 9/11 in our hotel in London, the hotel caught on fire. After being upset we couldn’t get home we were left standing on the London street in our pajamas watching a hotel fire with all our belongings in it. What do you do kids? How do you get home? How do you provide for yourself when you only have one more night at the hotel and a week before you can even leave the country? And, there’s no way to cross the Atlantic AT ALL….until planes flew again which we didn’t know when that would ever be. Pretty scary.
Hmmmmm. Blank stares.
I share with the kids another key point. Preppers tend to be about isolation and distrust of others. It works from a premise of fear versus working from an awareness about life. Life is about planning and preparing. If kids think preppers are crazy — then why listen and learn the skills necessary to be a functioning celled organism on this planet?
So, yes what I am talking about is simply the ‘word choice’. But, in the minds of the kids who really need to learn how to take care of themselves and learn how to survive and thrive, they get really hung up on the zombie apocalypse and guns and shooting people. This is not a healthy mindset and also is causing a great deal of depression and loss of hope with our youth.
I remind them that they have access to more knowledge at their fingertips than any other generation in the history of the world. I tell them that they can learn faster and with fellow learners easier than any other generation. This is worth celebrating. There is no need for our youth to be working and trying to survive from a point of fear when they can be thriving working from a point of TRULY UNDERSTANDING the fundamental realities of being human. The term prepper wipes out any of this awareness and throws a fear function out there that sends one into the fight or flight part of their brain — that is very emotional and lacks the logic that our higher brain (neocortex) has which is the place of higher reasoning and communication. Clear thinking, as a necessary pre-requisite for survival requires that our youth must learn and do through their logical frontal lobe – not the fear portion of their brain. And, being married to an Air Force man who’s taken all the POW training, survival training, underwater detonation training, etc. and was in Vietnam in 1971 and 1972, he’ll tell you that training the mind to not operate out of fear is the NUMBER ONE requirement to survive. All survival training starts with getting the head on straight. Period.
So, how do we help teach our kids that planning, preparing, skills development, access to knowledge, practice and getting to the point of expertise are worthwhile pursuits?
I believe it is by not dropping the big bomb shell term “prepper”. A quick short word to define a whole complex reality about existance on planet earth isn’t the way to go. I believe it is taking the time to teach kids the fundamentals about humanity, nature, living systems on this planet, how to work with different parts of our brain to stay in control and develop good thought out plans, teach them to develop skills and explain to them that if ***t would hit the fan — humans come together in groups, they don’t go off alone and kill each other. They don’t. Why do I know this? I study nature for best practices. The core understanding about survival is this fact: In research going all the way back to pre-history studying animal life and survivability, the animals that survived with the least amount of physical adaptation over time were the animals that lived and hunted in groups. LONERS, be it the ego centric leader off on its own, or the weakling, unable to keep up, died. They always died. In fact, many animal species that were lone versus herd, became extinct. The bottom line here is that survivability is directly correlated to working effectively in groups with each member of that group having skills. This is completely a counter concept to the prepper mentality that is going to lock themselves up and away from other humans. I always say that house is the first house that will be sacked and for good reason. There’s food there and if someone is hungry, if you don’t figure out how to team, they will likely shoot to get at the food. Why? Because of what the Amoeba teaches us: territory, food, reproduction. This is all logical and not shocking in the least. It is a fundamental natural law.
The things I tell young people are the following:
- Being prepared and the act of saving/storing is a fundamental reality to life on this planet
- To rely on others to do all that for you is counter to survival of the fittest – a natural law – and thus lacks staying power and will end in failure
- To live in your phone and not develop skills to survive in the real world is naive and downright ignorant
- To think you’ll go isolate yourself and lock yourself away to save yourself is equally naive
- But to be depressed and think the world is ending and there is no hope is truly fantasy. The only fantasy is that this society is safe and stable. No system is EVER safe and stable over time. This is another natural law. Learning to adapt is yet another fundamental law of life. Adapt or die. So, be happy you have more knowledge at your disposal then all other generations COMBINED who’ve ever walked this planet and rejoice in that and harness that knowlege!!
- Then I remind them that neaderthals survived and thrived for a long time and they didn’t even have a neocortex for a brain, not like ours anyway. So the question isn’t is a nuclear war going to kill us, it is, is our lack of awareness about the world we live in (ignorance) going to kill us? And, indeed ignorance kills. So, trust your neurons kids, use your neurons and test your neurons. Get good at living through these hands on skills.
So, am I a prepper? No. Would I encourage any teenager to be a prepper? No.
I would encourage them to get off their technology and begin to engage in nature and learn the fundamental laws of the universe that also apply to them. I’d ask them to study squirrels. I’d ask them to figure out why deer are the single most successful species on the planet because they have lived the LONGEST with the least amount of modification to their anatomy and make up. I’d have them go figure out why that is. Maybe that deer could teach them who they should become.
Survival and thriving is not about what we run away from. It is about what we are running towards. The healthy mind is the number one requirement to win in this race called life. Helping define for young people what that motivation is so they have the confidence and desire to say “I will survive and thrive” and “I can learn these skills on my own” and “my life is full of hope and possibility”, is where our philosophy is at and why we work with young people instilling a very positive approach to living sustainably.
I am sure I’ve upset many a prepper with this post but I’d encourage you to think about what was said and ask yourself, “am I driven by fear or faith, in myself to protect, provide and prosper?” And ask yourself if your communication, as in choice of words, does it scare your kids or does it excite them? Because I promise you, when they are late teens, if fear is the driver then of course they’ll opt out and live in a virtual reality because the real one sucks….right? Dad said so….. and he’s a prepper since the world is coming to and end. I am going in my bedroom, getting on my video game, escaping this hell hole and want to just eat my chips. Headphones on…..checking out.
Checking out on reality … is the killer. You are dead before you even start. And that’s not helping anyone.
Food for thought on a very sensitive topic.
God Bless! L. Davis