Written by Colleen Owens
Prepping (Seceding AND Succeeding - One Family at a Time)
“Growing your own food is like printing your own money!”
This sentence seems like something most could imagine coming from a libertarian/conservative type person that practices “prepping”. Instead it is something that Ron Finley said in a recent TED Talk. Finley is a self-proclaimed “guerilla gardener” from South Los Angeles.
Watching his video, Finley does not seem like a conservative prepper and the people in neighborhoods he is trying to help definitely are not conservative. Yet, much of what he has to say about growing your own food is very similar to the philosophies held by people that consider themselves ‘preppers’.
Finley, along with other volunteers, is working to plant vegetables in urban vacant areas around where he lives. His TED Talk has gone viral with ove r 615,000 views as of March 26th. In Finley’s lecture, he talks about helping poor urban areas often referred to as “food deserts” because of the lack of grocery stores and fresh food. His group is trying to teach food independence.
The normal food market system has mostly bypassed many poor neighborhoods. Finley and his nonprofit group LA Green Ground are trying to educate people that living and eating better is within their control. “Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do,” he says. Most libertarian/conservative preppers would enthusiastically support that statement.
The average person’s only exposure to someone that refers to themselves as a prepper is often on the extreme side, as depicted on the very popular National Geographic channel’s Doomsday Preppers. Many would consider this a movement exclusive to libertarian or Tea Party people, but it is really not that simple. Many green, sustainable living, environmentalist liberals would probably be surprised that many of their goals are similarly aligned with the average prepper.
According to Time magazine’s Amanda Ripley in her book, Unthinkable, “More than 80 percent of Americans now live in or near cities and rely upon a sprawling network of public and private entities to get food, water, electricity, transportation and medicine. We make almost nothing for ourselves.” These same facts are used on most prepper/survivalist websites and books as the main reason for getting prepared in case any of those supply chains break down.
As Finley’s TED Talk points out, those long market food chains are bypassing the urban poor right now. Environmentalists promote “buying local,” or locally grown food. This would reduce the amount of food trucked in from thousands of miles away. The prepper, the environmentalist, and the advocate for the poor all seem to agree that the idea of growing your own food, and buying locally grown food, can benefit everyone.
There is also a large growing interest on Facebook for pages related to survival, homesteading, and living off the grid. For instance, the page Homesteading/Survivalism currently has 944,000 likes, up from 851,000 about a month ago. Living off the Grid Facebook page has gone from 341,000 to 426,000 in the same time period. Many other similar sites have had marked increases (not quite as dramatic) As many preppers will attest, these numbers are probably only a fraction of the preppers that actually view the pages but will not press “like” because of their distrust of the government. Homeland Security and the FBI has publicly targeted prepper-type people in their publications as potential domestic terrorists.
The growing interest in survivalism/ homesteading is also becoming evident in other areas online. Visiting the online big box bulk discount stores like Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale, you can find a large selection of emergency freeze dried food products along with water storage tanks and other supplies. Some of the food costs thousands of dollars for one year of food supplies for 4 people. Emergency food isn’t cheap, and Tess Pennington, author of The Preppers Cookbook and the homesteading blog Ready Nutrition says, “You can buy all of the emergency food in the world, but you need to have the skills to survive to the best of your nutritional abilities.”
Survival Blog covers possible scenarios that can prevent those shelves from getting restocked and how to prepare for that possibility. (Rawles’ blog states that it has had 52 million unique visits since 2005 and 300,000 a week.)Homesteading, defined by Wikipedia, is a “lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs.” Many people that are actively preparing, or “prepping,” for harder times are familiar with acronyms like, TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) or WTSHTF(when the sh-- hits the fan). These are terms that can have many different meanings to people. In simplest terms, James Wesley Rawles, in How to Survive The End of The World As We Know It says, “..less than 2 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture or fishing...just 2 percent of us are feeding the other 98 percent.” Rawles’ book realistically describes many types of potential catastrophes that could interrupt the overly long food chains that supply our food. Anyone that lives in an area with snowfall or hurricanes knows that food and supplies can be wiped out in a matter of hours from store shelves. His book and website
Prepping is about getting prepared and becoming self-sustaining and self-sufficient. This includes knowing how to grow your own food. On Amazon, Brett Markham’s book, Mini Farming: Self Sufficiency on ¼ Acre is a popular gardening book. Markham says that his readers are from both sides of the political spectrum. Liberals are “seeing it from the angle of being more earth friendly and as a way for people who are poor in benefiting their life.” Markham purposely avoids being political. He writes to educate anyone that wants to improve their life through healthier living. He especially hopes to help people on increasingly tight budgets with rising food and gas prices.
Pennington, from readynutrition.com also tends to steer more towards homesteading. “I really try not to use any kind of scare tactics on my website. I am seeing a shift to homesteading and going back to those agrarian times like our grandparents. I really think that’s where this movement is going, towards self reliance.”
Many people may have the impression that most preppers have an “every man for himself” mentality. Delving into this world, however, you will find the opposite to be true. The online community of survivalist/homesteaders is very generous with their knowledge and many allow postings from readers that have great ideas and suggestions. Pennington says, “I just want to get the information out there to help people. The unprepared will be in a lot of trouble if a disaster hits, the disaster could be a loss of a job. The only thing you can do is start with your household. Hopefully the way you live your life will then be a witness for other people”
US News & World Report recently posted an article about America’s exploding black market. A portion of this may actually be people trying to live self-sufficiently. Just as Ron Finley stated, “Growing your own food is like printing your own money.” Brett Markham states on his website that becoming self-sufficient “will increase your standard of living just as certainly as getting a big raise.”
Markham believes we are in an economic decline and more people are seeking ways to take care of their families. ”Across the political spectrum people feel politics can’t be changed. So what they are doing, they are seceding in place. They are turning their back on the system as much as they can. By doing that they are doing something that’s more profoundly political. When you grow your own food, you are taking money out of the system and are defunding many levels of taxation.” As the number of people growing their own food increases, it can start to have an economic and political impact. “People don’t have to see themselves as soldiers in an army to actually be carrying out the work of an army.” The growing interest in a self-sustaining lifestyle may begin in the desire to take care of one’s family and not be political. But it could turn out to be the common ground in which cooperation can be grown between people from across the political spectrum.
Seceding from corporatism, politics and a precarious economy, and living a self-sustaining, independent lifestyle may be the new measure of success in the coming years. Prepping is not only about preparing for disasters but also encompasses self-empowerment, self-sufficiency, living healthier and having a political impact.
This begs the question: Now wouldn’t you like to be a prepper too?