You may have a relative like mine. We disagree about almost everything: foreign policy, stadium spending, military budgets, the role of government. It may not surprise you to discover that we really like and respect each other, but you might be startled how much we agree. He is something of a hunter/libertarian with a lot of guns, while I am a Gandhian anti-authoritarian who wouldn’t think of having a gun in the house and last caught a fish during the Eisenhower administration. But we both believe that our civilization is in deep trouble, that we are spending more than we can ever repay, and that some really hard times are coming.
What unites us is the urgent sense that we had better be getting ready. So all this week I have been spending hours and hours each day watching survivalist/prepper videos.
You may not know these terms. Basically, preppers believe that disaster is coming and we had better be prepared. The particulars vary: extreme weather events like hurricanes or drought, electro-magnetic pulses that crash our electric system, economic collapse, antibiotic-resistant germs causing a pandemic, even black U.N. helicopters. The videos show bunker systems, backup water supply, off-grid electric systems, techniques for repelling armed gangs of looters, and so on.
The logo is amazing, showing an attack weapon on one side and a stalk of grain on the other, with an erupting volcano spewing a nuclear mushroom cloud in the middle. A little paranoid, maybe? Yet I agree with some of the concern. I believe that economic hard times will return with a vengeance. I believe that both government debt and consumer debt are killing us. I believe that climate change and fragile top-down economic systems threaten the future of our food supply, our water supply, our transportation systems. I also agree that we need to get ready.
The way I see it, the path in front of us has two forks in it.
First, we need to decide if we want to deal with an uncertain future. It we don’t, our path is clear. We watch “reality” shows on television and watch our favorite professional “sports” teams lose in the billion-dollar palaces we build them. We bury our heads in the sand, occasionally poking our heads out to watch some grizzly murder drama on the tube, feeling relieved that that fake blood isn’t real and that the stage blood isn’t ours.
But even if we decide to prepare, there is a second decision to make. Do we go with the “lone wolf” model of buying lots of guns and ammo, putting bars on our windows and having a bug-out bag to take to our well-stocked bunker hidden in the woods. Or do we strengthen ties to the community, planting community gardens, helping our neighbors plant fruit trees, taking classes on seed-starting and sharing our harvests with the neighbor.
To me, the gun-toting route doesn’t make any sense. I am not talking about hunting here, but the common obsession that guns will protect us. They don’t. The numbers are pretty clear than guns dramatically increase the risk of both suicide and homicide. The truth is that owning guns and keeping them in the house will increase danger rather than increasing your security.
No, it is our community that will save us, not our weapons. If hospitals close, it is the nurse down the street who might give us first aid. If supermarkets close, it is the backyard garden that will provide at least some of our food, for trading as well as eating. If the public library closes, we had better have a bunch of those “little libraries” in front of our houses. If the 1% shuts down our orchestra, we might want to organize a community sing or a pick-up jam session on the porch. Even if we want to store food, which I think is a great idea, we will do it better if we have a veggie garden, a canning mentor and maybe some unused canning jars from our grandmother who no longer puts up her own food.
Right now, it would make sense to prepare. It would make sense to get to know the neighbors, so we can keep an eye on each others’ houses during vacations. It would make sense to support groups like Gardening Matters, who nurture community at the same time they distribute seeds. It would make sense to plant trees whose bounty you will eventually share. It makes sense to buy food from local farms and local farmers’ markets.
I doubt that we will be seeing black helicopters any time soon, but I also know that weather, economics, illness and much more are unpredictable. We always hope that we never have to use that CPR class, but it doesn’t hurt to know how to start a heart, or grow a pear, or trade greetings over the back fence.
So, on to the calendar:
Monday, Feb. 3, 7 p.m. Free but RSVP required. “Seed starting,” Mother Earth Gardens at Riverview Wine Bar, 3745 42nd Ave. S., Mpls. 612-724-8463 or www.SignUpGenius.com/go/10C094BA4A828A0FE3-winter
Monday, Feb. 10, 7 p.m. Free but RSVP required. “Neonics (insecticides) and honeybees,” Mother Earth Gardens at Riverview Wine Bar, 3745 42nd Ave. S., Mpls. 612-724-8463 or www.SignUpGenius.com/go/10C094BA4A828A0FE3-winter
Saturday, Feb. 15, 1 to 2:30 p.m. $15. “Seed starting basics,” EggPlant Urban Farm Supply, 1771 Selby Ave., St. Paul. 651-645-0818 or http://eggplantsupply.com/Classes.html
Wednesday, Feb.19, 7 to 9 p.m. $18. “Pruning trees and shrubs,” Lake Harriet, 4912 Vincent Ave. S., Mpls. 612-668-3330 or http://www.mplscommunityed.com/
Saturday, Feb. 22, 1 to 3 p.m. $25. “Home cheese making,” EggPlant Urban Farm Supply, 1771 Selby Ave., St. Paul. 651-645-0818 or http://eggplantsupply.com/-Classes.html
Wednesday, Feb. 26, 6 to 8 p.m. $18. “Veggies, flowers and herbs from seeds,” Roosevelt High, 4029 28th Ave. S., Mpls. 612-668-4828 or http://www.mplscommunityed.com/
Monday, March 3, 7 p.m. Free but RSVP required. “New Varieties,” Mother Earth Gardens at Riverview Wine Bar, 3745 42nd Ave. S., Mpls. 612-724-8463 or www.SignUpGenius.com/go/10C094BA4A828A0FE3-winter
Tuesday, March 4, 6 to 8 p.m. $18. “Growing herbs and microgreens,” Jefferson High, 1200 W. 26th St., Mpls. 612-668-2740 or http://www.mplscommunityed.com/
Monday, March 10, 7 p.m. Free but RSVP required. “Permaculture for the urban gardener,” Mother Earth Gardens at Riverview Wine Bar, 3745 42nd Ave. S., Mpls. 612-724-8463 or www.SignUpGenius.com/go/10C094BA4A828A0FE3-winter
Wednesday, March 12, 6 to 8 p.m. $18. “Vegetables and herbs,” Roosevelt High, 4029 28th Ave. S., Mpls. 612-668-4828 or http://www.mplscommunityed.com/
Monday, March 17, 7 p.m. Free but RSVP required. “Beginning veggie gardening,” Mother Earth Gardens at Riverview Wine Bar, 3745 42nd Ave. S., Mpls. 612-724-8463 or www.SignUpGenius.com/go/10C094BA4A828A0FE3-winter
Monday, March 17, 8 a.m. (order EARLY). $25. Mpls. residents can order good-sized transplant trees for their yards, including Honeycrisp apple, Autumn Brilliance serviceberry, Bali cherry, North Star cherry and Red Bud. More information at 952-767-3880 or http://treetrust.org/get-a-tree/minneapolis-tree-distribution/
A word about learning via internet: There is a series of free online classes (webinars). The dates given are the first date that subject is available, but they are available after that date, as are webinars from previous years. They are:
Tuesdays, Jan. 21 to March 11. Free but RSVP required. Beginning 6 p.m., online: Local Food College Webinars at http://localfoods.umn.edu/college
Jan. 21 –Soil fertility; Jan. 28 –Specialty products (asparagus, garlic, wild foods); Feb. 4 –Tree fruit and berries in high tunnel; Feb. 11 –Post-harvest handling and storage; Feb. 18 –Peddling your pickles safely; Feb. 25 –Food safety in farmers’ markets; March 4 –Marketing local foods; March 11 –Commercial kitchens for processing local food.