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 (emachineshop.com) on metalworking.

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

Huh?

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,

george@ure.net

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