Prepping: “What Can You Make or Do?”

An economic Depression is on the way.  We don’t like to think about it, because it’s much easier to listen of the “ siren song” of politicians.  It’s our great human “power of denial” that just won’t let us think anything bad can ever happen to us.

Prepping, a movement this site helped “found” when we began posting on the topic back in 199, has evolved from being a cottage industry to a billion dollar thriving segment. But, like so many “new products” out there, that start off as a “good idea” – sounding useful at the time – turns into a train wreck eventually becoming excessively monetized.

That’s what has happened to prepping.  Monetizers have converted millions to their own version of “Guns, grub, gold, and God.”   Misses mujch of the point.  Prepping is a combination of lifestyle and a mindset. Understanding, anticipation, and first to act on the future.

There’s an almost unwritten belief that even if we get a replay of the Great San Francisco Quake, or the New Madrid, or there’s a global pandemic, and the lights go off (taking down cell phones, water systems, radio, television, and oh yeah…computers) that someone will turn it all back on, again.

In fact, that’s quite possibly true But there is this another – smaller – but far more deadly – possibility:  That – when it all hits the Fan – there will be no “Bounce-Back.”

The definitive books on point come from two genius-level writers., Jared Diamond and Joseph Tainter.  Prepping, in my view, begins with their work.

Today’s discussion is a couple of micro book reviews – which will give you a solid grounding in the “What if there’s no Bounce-Back?” kind of planning. When would you recognize full-on collapse?  Then, what could you do to survive it personally?

First book to read is Joseph Tainter’s Collapse of Complex Societies 1ed..   This was the first book I read that really got me to thinking through what Collapse might be like.  The evidence is abundantly clear to research scientists, yet it hadn’t crossed the chasm into mainstream thought until comparatively recently.

Tainter’s book, 1990, read while living aboard my personal bug-out vehicle, a 40-foot offshore capable sailboat I called home for more than a decade, helped me to understand that while some of the time is it true that societies Bounce-Back, there are other times when they do not.  How you plan for that determines whether you live and work through difficult times (and leave a family behind to continue), or whether you’re “under the bus.”

The second book, much along the same lines, is by Jared Diamond.  It’s a later (2011 book) that followed his 1999 “Guns, Germs, and Steel.  This one was Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition.”

On my Christmas reading list this year is his more recent (May of this year, in fact) “Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis.”  Which is something of a follow-on to Diamond’s 2013   “The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?”  Some don’t like Diamond and claim he “oversimplifies history.”  And true, some of his generalizations are a bit sweeping, but it’s a useful way of stringing together history.

Rather than watch “junk” TV over the holiday, that is, crap for the lowest common-denominator classes, try an hour and a half with Joseph Tainter on YouTube in this video (the audio improves as it goes).  Then sample some Diamond in this the hour-long YouTube here.  The actual talk starts  4-minutes in.

“What’s Ure DO Angle?”

This morning’s discussion was triggered by something I wrote back in 2003 for a client ( on metalworking.

“Metal fabrication processes are generally classified as cold, warm and hot working, depending on the temperature at which the material is processed. “


I often talk about mental frameworks here, so listen up.  Just like there are three temperatures to work metal, and five processes (sawing, shearing, broaching, tapping, and blanking – as with punch and die), there are similar ways to categorize our thinking about “Readiness for the Future.”

Naturally, everyone just assumes that tomorrow will be generally like today (continuation bias), but there are plenty of environmental changes (as Tainter and Diamond instruct) that can ruin the best-laid plans for a prosperous and happy life.

Take places along the upheaval zone along the west coast of northern South America as a geologic example.  The countless inundations of the Bering Islands of Alaska due to things like undersea landslides from places like the Molokai run-out in Hawaii.  Or, the functional end of the Anasazi due to persistent drought as climate changed in the 1400’s to a much drier period of Arizona history.

Realizing this, it’s not a bad idea to work up a plan to line up some skills that will help you cope with a swath of large-scale disasters.

Real work may be involved, though.  All the prepping with long-range hiking shoes won’t help you escape certain death if you can’t reach for a pre-packed bug-out bag and reliably walk 25-miles.  Blistered feet a couple of blocks in?  You’re toast, bubba.

Or, if it’s not the right tactic to bug-out, what’s your plan both short-term and long-term in a small geographic area?  (Hint:  Where does the food and water come from?)

Savoring the plentiful examples in Tainter and Diamond we’re reminded of a Warren Buffett remark.  Words to the effect “You know, in a previous era, I would have been dinosaur food…”  At this moment, at the prevailing level of financial complexity, Buffett is the “perfect specimen.”  He’s also smart enough to realize, there’s maybe a bit of good luck in there somewhere.

Drill down into the the “three temps to work metal” idea, we can quickly see that complexity of society increases the number of available job skills.  Let me show you what I mean:

Essentially, when times are good and society is NOT falling apart, there are maybe 20,000 jobs you could hold.  During war, or other social emergency (like war), job choices tend to become limited.  During World War II, for example, there were almost mandatory jobs to be filled.  Old enough to remember The Draft?  Or, during the Great Depression, we had WPA, CCC, and even a Federal Writers Project to make-up jobs.

Yet, immediately after a massive disaster, like the 2004 quake or the one in Haiti, there may, effectively, be no recovery.  And in this case, you may be “complexity limited” to only one or two ways to trade “personal effort” for the basics of life.

There aren’t too many jobs where you can get a good general set of widely-applicable skills.  A few careers give you exposure, though:  Home construction, especially building your own home, add-ons, additions, and remodeling (throw in roofing, if you must) will give you a broad systems exposure.  Walls, ceilings, roofing, plumbling, and electrical.  With side orders of concrete, septic, and landscape/gardening, too.  Firefighters (like my son) get a huge education not only in home “systems” but also in emergency medicine – another reason to be nice to firefighters!

I’m fond of telling you the virtues of owning your own home, because the homeowner who can watch a few YouTube vids really  can learn to do damn near anything.  Gardening food is something that never goes out of style.  A handful of chickens?  You bet!

I wanted to kick this around with you before the holidays because with any luck you may be able to carve-out some time to learn a new skill or interest.

Thing to remember is “Is the new skill something that will serve me well, as a meal-ticket, through a broad range of future challenges to continuity of future?”

Answer that one right and you’ve got more going between the ears which is the place where contingency planning – the heart of all prepping – springs from.

Write when you get rich,

28 thoughts on “Prepping: “What Can You Make or Do?””

  1. Certainly over the next 10 years, you better have a skill to barter with !! So many people are completely helpless, or bereft of common sense. Know your neighbors and there ingress/egress habits, and develop a self defense program for your neighborhood.

  2. Key government economic statistics having been turned into a feel-good propaganda machine in past decades. Shadow Stats alternative data is probably closest to some level of objective truth. Real unemployment levels have been at recession levels since the 2008/2009 era:

    The situation has eroded so badly that any administration which attempted to correct the situation with honest statistics would be committing political suicide.

    Interestingly, the government money supply statistics might currently be honest:

    I suppose there is no propaganda value in cooking the money supply books, the way that unemployment statistics has been done for decades.

    Consumer inflation levels remain high. This does not disprove the presence of a depression economy; credit deflation can exist side-by-side with consumer hyper-inflation in a worst case depression scenario:

    John Williams is currently forecasting a recession:

    “ShadowStats broad outlook in the weeks and months ahead remains for: (1) a rapidly intensifying U.S. economic downturn, reflected in (2) mounting selling pressure on the U.S. dollar, against currencies such as the Swiss Franc, (3) continued flight to safety in precious metals, with upside pressures on gold and silver prices, and (4) increasingly high risk of extraordinarily heavy stock-market selling.”

    Concentration of wealth and wealth inequality is another measure of economic dysfunction relevant to this era, but I don’t know of an honest source of statistics for that. The leftists typically propagandize those statistics.

    Are we headed for a depression? It depends on how you define a depression. By some measures, the entry occurred in the 2008/2009 period, with statistics carefully camouflaged to mask the continuing level of economic dysfunction. The depression of the 1870’s was labeled the “Long Depression” by the following generation; maybe we are facing the longest depression.

  3. Another book I enjoyed that you & your readers might also like is “Dies the Fire” by S.M. Stirling. The laws of physics changes in this one and electricity and gunpowder no longer work. Yet a sliver of Humanity survives and copes with living in the “Bronze Age”.

    • W/D I’ve never read that one..thanks for sharing. It sounds like a great book to read.. I’ll get it today…

  4. “Home construction, especially building your own home”

    Years ago when I built our first home. We needed space bad…. lol lol I was in a lumberyard and seen a cheap book and video on how to do it. A guy I met offered me the option to tear down a three story barn. I had a hammer and borrowed a sledge lol lol and the plan was.. story at the top of the barn and work down.. not even giving consideration to just how much work that is. I loved the place though and if I ever won the lottery I’d own was like stepping back in time.. there was an ice house.. it was beautiful.. and huge uphill from a would have made a beautiful home..
    The video ( beta) was of a young blonde making a house it was a half hour long.. as long with the book the whole time I was going yeah I can do lol lol..
    Then build time I’d hit a snag and go back to the book and watch this cute blonde only to notice.. they zoomed past the tricky areas…
    My favorite books are
    Survival skills of native California by Campbell
    The lost ways book
    And the encyclopedia of country living.
    Where there is no doctor and we here there is no dentist, the knowledge, a history of engineering and technology..and last the trappers bible..

    I have a couple hundred favorites..

  5. George,
    You are sure getting negative lately …OK, so you’ve been that way for a while.

    Have you ever heard of “planning for success”?

    There is an often observed connection between what you plan for (I.E., what you spend your time and energy thinking about), and what happens in your life.

    A few examples:
    1. I have observed time and time again, that the best way to have a friend, is to be a friend.
    2. I once took in a homeless gal who was, for want of a better description, looking for a place to die. All her life her parents told her she was stupid and would never amount to anything. She believed her parents. She was a high school dropout.

    I told her how smart she was. I told her that every way I could think of. (She probably got tired of heard it! Grin)

    Long story short, today she has her Masters in Pharmacology, and was accepted into a Doctoral program with scholarship.

    Every person I know who has focused on something has (or is the process of) achieving it.
    Good or Bad.

    It pains me when I think of the number of people who have focused of being sick, becoming what they focused on, and in many cases, died.

    In many cases I have watched wealthy people who were afraid of being poor, become exactly that.

    And I’ve also watched people turn their lives around by changing their focus.

    I do wish you would stop focusing on doom and gloom.

    • I’ve done that, and am open to doing it again. Finding a homeless girl that’s sufficiently honest to not rob you blind is difficult, but possible. I’ve lost a little doing such things and gained a lot emotionally. I’m also glad to see someone succeed. The most bittersweet moment was after rescuing and supporting someone emotionally and physically, watching her fly off and marry someone else within three months!

      Being a friend will not always bring you one, though it’s the right thing to do. The same is true for being a lover.

      Regarding positivity – it does have a better long term track record according to psychology, but planning for the worst is always a good idea. I spent a week incarcerated in my house with the flu and have all I need to get by without even thinking of going out in cold, nasty weather. I’d rather not think of this continuing for the next three or six months, but I could do it.

      • NM Mike… when I go to someones aid I usually try not to get involved in their personal dramma..if at all possible be anonymous..
        Through the years I have only been taken advantage of a couple of times.
        It’s like borrowing money to a friend or family.. never expect a return .. if you expect a return you’ll rarely get it..
        I had a really expensive air painter.. it was my.pride and joy.. it took me a very long time to buy it..
        A dear friend asked to borrow it to paint a barn.. sure but clean it and return it.. he painted the barn.. two months later I went to pick it up. He failed to clean it . I tried everything he even spilt paint in the motor.. I never used it again..
        The moral of that is never give something you will want back..even your love and concern give it as a gift.
        Karma will bring it back to you..

      • LOOB – All true, and I agree. For some of us, not being emotionally involved is a non-starter. The heart will hurt regardless.

    • KAS…. have you ever realized how absolutely amazing it feels when you’ve been able to offer someone truly needing a hand up.. give them the glimmer of hope and inspire them…

      I have seen waitresses after getting an oh shizt tip start to cry or have them run out to give me a hug of gratitude.

      My new friend got tears in his eyes this past weekend over the thoughts of what they’ve done to him and his life..unfortunately all I could tell him is you move forward..have faith. Your safe and warm

  6. I personally am not sure we can overcome a catastrophic event this time around.
    If its war.. we live in the cloud the reach out and touch someone days.
    Nostradamus covered it pretty good..
    An economic event.. we have cheapened our currency so bad.
    The riots..civil unrest.. if you pay attention it looks to me like it’s all beginning to unravel.. starting with Sweet Joe getting testy when asked about his boy. Theres plenty there that makes the question a good one.. then with nancy and her outburst of anger when asked a simple question..
    What scares me is what are the global plotters planning..

    • Not to mention we have outsourced our most valuable commodities.. talent, education, inventiveness and skill..
      Our manufacturing was sent overseas for a number..

      • But you’re forgetting the one thing that makes all of this moot.

        We are in this together. Nothing binds a team and instills resolve like a common hardship. And we’re Americans. I’ve been to a lot of places on Earth and no place compares. We are a unique, bold, and very capable culture. Did I say bold? It’s just that we’re now like that big sleepy giant in the old cartoons — push and prod to your delight but watch out when he finally gets up!

  7. Much wisdom here, much you have missed. Your knowledge and skills are second to none. I wish I had 1/10th of what you posess.
    Still I feel you do not yet have the complete picture.
    Peter Zeihan,Accidental superpower,Absent superpower, Sounds crazy but I feel I must tell you about them.Better picture of possible futures for our children,grandchildren.. Unless Politicians Screw us.Much good science,
    Thanks for your business letter and Urban.
    Jesse Belville,PA-C

    • “Unless Politicians Screw us”

      Makes me wonder ..when did the people of the country and their needs become second or third place..
      Since we haven’t dealt with our own infrastructure in over sixty years.. it’s become defensive repairs rather than offensive repairs.. we repair after the failure instead of preventive maintenance. would it be the turn of the century or just after the last depression.

      • Remember biorhythms back in the 70’s? Oscillating waves and cycles — it’s nature’s way. Cycles by definition have ups and downs, ebbs and flows, inhale and exhale (with an occasional coughing fit). We’re simply witnessing a phase…

  8. hi George old mate .. yep .. the ebbs and flows of capital and debt.. . this one is gunna be super fast and super deadly to wealth .. from the ashes the phoenix will rise it always does .. greed and fear .. two opposite emotions of deadly power .. yes keep on telling people read kipling .. the great poem

  9. gees I love reading George.. he is the only constant in my career in 25 years .. no ego , no snake oil selling , no patriotic garbage .. just the facts.. good on yah mate

  10. Believe Government Stats and Lying Politicians…at YOUR own peril….Truth might not set YOU free….BUT….it is better than LIES…and those that ‘mouth ‘ them… for old books….only one stands the test of time…….and sees the ‘future’ ….based on YOUR….’faith’….Ignore it again at YOUR ‘eternal peril’….Semper Fi

  11. “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.
    Specialization is for insects.”

    ~ Robert Anson Heinlein

    • That’s a tall order for the average man. Not many opportunities in life to do all of these things.

      One of my favorite quotes is for success — “Have I not lived for 70 years without being eaten?” For the life of me, I can’t remember who said it.

      • “How can they say my life is not a success? Have I not for more than sixty years got enough to eat and escaped being eaten?”

        – Logan Pearsall Smith

  12. yep the gold salesman all out in force today , dec 10 , gold cure for everything .. absolute lies and garbage.. yep 25 years of it , and it gets taken over by salesman with no economic capacity .. as Armstrong said years ago in the best 76 pages of the decade.. its time.. poor old kontratief.. tells the truth and still gets no respect after70 years

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