Archive | March 2012

Honey bees: the harbinger of the apocalypse?

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Photo credit: Jessie Eastland

So I feel like we’ve been hearing about the collapse of honey bee colonies for ages at this point but we never seem to see reports on WHY it matters if honey bees disappear. I mean, it’s just one less annoying bug to worry about, right? Wrong.

Recent reports from reputable news outlets suggest that not only is colony collapse disorder running strong but the situation is dire. Fresh food prices are on the rise and I bet you can guess why: demand is disproportionate to supply. As demand from emerging markets (Brazil, South Africa, China, etc) continues to increase you can expect that prices will also increase if global food supply does not follow suit. The problem is that price increases are outstripping increases in demand because the supply of fresh food is not static. It’s decreasing. Which brings me back to bees.

Many plants reproduce by growing things that we call fruit, vegetables and nuts. In order for many plants to reproduce (read: bare edibles) the “male” plant parts have to pollinate the “female” plant parts. Insects like bees and butterflies help to facilitate this process as they fly from blossom to blossom (here’s the Wikipedia explanation if you want further detail). Unfortunately without bees fewer plants are able to be pollinated which means fewer plants are able to produce their prized edible components. For reference, some pollination dependent plants include: Apples, berries, cotton, almonds, and alfalfa.

Let’s take a deeper look. If the bee population were to die off completely we could probably survive without apples, berries, and almonds. It would be a sad life, sure, but we could do it. But what about cotton and alfalfa? Cotton is a MAJOR global commodity – clothes, bedding, carpeting, currency, and more would all become so difficult and expensive to produce that there would be mass shortages in a matter of years. Alfalfa feeds a large proportion of the world’s livestock and without it it’s likely that we’d lose large numbers of these animals to starvation, cutting the availability of meat and dairy products.

What I find scary isn’t these effects – I mean, let’s face it, if the apocalypse does come we’re unlikely to have access to the above commodities in the same quantities anyways. What I find scary is the impact price increases and scarcity have been known to have on human behaviors. Let’s take a step back in time to the Irish potato famines of the late 19th century. Sure, there was a mass exodus to more prosperous countries but within Ireland itself there were riots and mass starvation. Things that, given today’s international connectivity, technological development, and the expected high standards of living we have in the Western world could lead to nuclear war and/or civil war and/or massively tyrannical governments. Yay.

So back to the bees. The New York Times and NPR are reporting that studies have linked the use of certain pesticides may be causing colony collapse disorder and the decline in the bee population.  The chemicals fog honey bees’ brains and make it more difficult for them to find their way home to signal food. This suggests that the bees themselves may be starving to death. At least they aren’t rioting. Just saying all you “allergic to bees” types….

But it’s not all doom and gloom; there’s still something you can do to help out. Take a moment and write a letter to local farms asking that they stop using some of these pesticides until further work can be done. Support research by making a small donation to those labs conducting research on how to save the bees. Hell, benefit yourself and the bees by planting a window box (or a garden if you live in a place with enough land available to do so) to help feed them. And I know it’s tough, but if you can, buy pesticide free produce to help ensure that your dollar doesn’t go to support mass farms that use these harmful chemicals. At this point we aren’t just saving the planet. We’re saving society. All by saving the bees.

-Wren

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The Post-Apocalyptic Pantry

ImageFood is the essential element in your post-survival kit. Without a proper stash it is unlikely that you will last more than a few weeks – and that’s assuming that you’re able to scavenge from the remains of local supermarkets. Simply stockpiling food, however, is insufficient to ensure long term survival. In addition to considering basic nutritional needs in the immediate aftermath, you should also have a medium term strategy in place to hold you over until you are completely self-sufficient.

The key to building the perfect food stash is diversification. Don’t rely too heavily on one type of food or on a group of foods that require the same resources to prepare. A diversified food stash should be equipped to handle any possible post situation – bugging in or bugging out, loss of electricity, limited access to fresh water, etc.

Here are some of the basic item to consider when planning your food strategy:

Freeze-dried food

Pros: It has an extremely long shelf life and is very lightweight, thus ideal for bugging out scenarios. Long-lasting freeze-dried meals provide an excellent back-up food source while you hone your survival skills and build a new stash.

Cons: As pointed out in “The Post-Apocalyptic Gourmet” by io9, freeze-dried food is expensive and requires a lot of water to be rehydrated before consumption. Clean water is likely to be difficult to find in a post-apocalypse world, limiting the usefulness of freeze-dried food.

Verdict: A critical element for a bugging out strategy and good overall longer term emergency strategy. Add some to your survival pack but be careful not to become overdependent on this source, especially if your pack contains other food items that require water to be edible.

Canned Food

Pros: Good variety (beans, vegetables, fruit) that help meet your nutritional needs for protein, vitamins and minerals. Vegetables stored in water are especially valuable as you can reuse the water for cooking other foods or to drink for hydration. Cheap, with a very long shelf life, and easy to store.

Cons: Heavy. Do not plan on relying on canned food if you have to bug out. High sodium content can contribute to dehydration so be sure to check the labels before you buy.

Verdict: Definitely a necessity in every survival kit. Buy a good variety of food to keep your meals interesting and meet as many of your nutritional requirements as possible. However, you need to be prepared to abandon significant quantities of canned goods if forced to bug out on foot and should have additional food sources in place to address this likelihood.

Dried Fruit

Pros: The high sugar content is good for a quick energy boost. Lightweight and keeps for extended periods of time. Good source of vitamins when fresh produce is not available.

Cons: Minimal. Not suitable for meals on its own.

Verdict: Excellent for snacks and a must have in your kit. Try storing it in several smaller containers instead of a single large one to prevent spoiling. Fruit leather is another good option.

Energy bars

Pros: Relatively light, quick source of energy. Choose protein bars for the greatest nutritional value. Available in a variety of flavors.

Cons: Can be expensive, depending on the brand. Stay away from granola bars or snack bars that are glorified desserts. These can be high in sugar – good for a quick rush, but not the best choice for the long term.

Verdict: A very good addition to your kit. There are lot of options to choose from so spend time to compare the labels and pick the ones with the highest protein content. These will keep you the fullest for the longest period of time and will help maintain your strength.

Nuts

Pros: High in protein and relatively light. Good for bugging out.

Cons: Can go rancid fairly quickly, making them unsuitable for most long term food stashes. Can be expensive, depending on what type of nut you buy.

Verdict: Nice to have on hand, but don’t add a huge amount to your stash unless there are very clear signs the apocalypse is near (they will most likely go bad on you).

For any item in your food stash, and in particular processed foods such as energy bars, we recommend conducting a taste test before committing to a product. Although the taste of food probably won’t be the first of your concerns during the apocalypse, a little pre-planning means you won’t get stuck eating a pile of energy bars you can’t stand to survive.

-Kennedy

Survivalist Uses for Household Items: Part 1

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Did you know that most modern Americans are already equipped with a lot of useful tools to help them survive the apocalypse? I bet you didn’t. This post will be the first in a series of round-ups of household items and their potential post-purposes. Check out that alliteration. Anyways…while many of these alternative uses for household items may seem straightforward it’s important to keep them top-of-mind when preparing for the end of the world (as we know it).

Shower Curtain: Do you have an open tub/shower combo with a plastic shower curtain? You’re currently using that curtain to keep water off your bathroom floor when you take a shower but post-apocalypse you could be using it as a makeshift shelter. Imagine: You’ve  had to abandon your home, you were only able to take as much gear as you could easily carry, you’ve been trekking for days trying to find a safe zone…and now it’s raining. Great. What do you do? You whip out your handy dandy ex-shower curtain and string it between some trees, shrubs, or rocks and you and your survival group huddle beneath it until the rain stops. It really is that easy to stay dry (and thus warmer)! Think about it; shower curtains are lightweight, WATERPROOF, easy to fold into fairly small packages, and surprisingly large. In addition to making a decent shelter you can use them as a rain slicker, rain catcher (for drinking water), or perhaps even modify them into environment appropriate clothing. But really, I recommend saving your shower curtain for shelter. You’ll need it.

Men’s Neck Ties: No joke. The fibers in those things are strong. Very strong. String a few together and you have strong rope to hang supplies from a tree to keep them away from animals. You could bind wounds or tie a truncate. Reduce some of them to single strands of silk thread and use it for sutures if someone gets injured. Whatever you do, don’t burn them. Ties really are far too valuable a thing to waste in a post-apocalyptal world.

Plastic Bags: Similar to the Shower Curtain, plastic bags are valuable primarily for keep things dry. Matches, spare clothes, food, old photos that you couldn’t stand to throw away or leave. Anything of that sort. Keeping your supplies dry may make all the difference between survival and…well…not…. If you’re on your way out the door, probably for good, make sure to stop and grab half a dozen. They hardly way a thing and are unbelievably useful.

Something Pretty: Not all survival is of the body. You have to keep your soul alive too. Whatever that means for you make sure you pack something that you can pull out and look at to remind yourself of better days. Me, I know that I’ll wrap my smallest wind chimes in a sock and take them with me, assuming I one day see the apocalypse. Just make sure that you remember that surveil is holistic. Community, wonder, beauty. Still necessary.

More useful tips and tricks to come soon!

-Wren

St. Patrick and the apocalypse: why you should be stocking up on Guinness

ImageFor those of us still recovering from yesterday’s festivities, the thought of consuming more alcohol – beer in particular – is enough to make you want to crawl back under the covers and bury your still-aching head. But don’t let the effects of an excessive celebration deter you from including beer in your survival plan. Read on to discover the benefits of consuming beer in moderation* and learn why you should be stocking up now.

Beer’s primary post-apocalypse benefit is very similar to its function in our current society as a social lubricant. Everyone loves the person who brings the keg to a house party, and there is no reason to suspect this will change in the aftermath of a cataclysmic event. Conversely, it is more likely to be greatly appreciated by disorganized fellow survivors who failed to procure their own supply. In addition to building social bonds and relaxing after a hard day of surviving the elements, beer can also be useful as a post-apocalypse currency. A steady demand ensures that beer will retain its value, if not appreciating as it becomes more scare, allowing those with a sufficient stock to obtain other items they need. This topic will be discussed in further detail in future posts on the structure of the post-apocalypse society and economy.

The second reason to stock your survival pack with beer is the health benefits from consuming it in moderation (e.g. a consumption level of roughly a beer a day). In addition to raising levels of “good” cholesterol, beer also contains several nutrients that are critical for maintaining overall health. While it is easy to achieve a recommended daily intake of these nutrients in the pre-apocalypse world with supermarkets and daily multivitamins, the same cannot be said for the post-disaster scenario. Just as some monks used to drink beer to supplement their diet during Lent, you can use it to adjust to a post-apocalypse situation where food may be scarce.

Stouts, such as Guinness, have been found to be higher in antioxidant properties than other beers, such as lagers. Guinness also contains higher levels of vitamin B than other beers, as well as small quantities of iron, calcium, phosphates, and fiber. While it is a matter of personal preference, and you may want to stock up on several types of beer just for the variety-factor, Guinness deserves a place in the survival packs of all well-prepared survivors.

-Kennedy

*This blog is not intended to give medical advice and should not be taken as such. The authors are not qualified medical professionals and strongly encourage you to seek the guidance of a doctor on all health issues.

How to talk about the apocalypse without all of your friends, family, and coworkers thinking you’re crazy

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Let me preface this post with the following: my friends and family DO think I’m crazy. Just not because I’m interested in *cough* obsessed with *cough* the apocalypse. My coworkers on the other hand still think that I am about as sane as it gets AND the know about the whole apocalypse thing. How’d I pull it off? Read on.

1. Don’t use any of these buzz words: ‘obsessed’, ‘prepping’, or ‘anticipating’ in reference to the apocalypse unless you are in a safe circle. You can explain away the intense amount of canned goods in your pantry by saying that you “just haven’t made it to the food bank yet.” The random black backpack full of survival gear in your car? It’s in case you feel like going hiking on the fly. Improvise; it’ll pay off.

2. Do not mention that you watch, read, write, or are at an way connected with a media outlet concerned primarily with the apocalypse. What a way for you to stamp the word ‘crazy’ on your forehead. People TALK about the apocalypse but most don’t expend any effort on it. If you, like us, DO expend effort on it, I recommend not mentioning it.

3. Now what if your coworkers/friends/family are speculating on say, the Mayan Doomsday, and you know the answer to their questions? Instead of jumping in all matter-of-fact with what you read last night in a math-heavy blog discussing the discrepancies between two interpretations of the calendar try something like this: “I heard that some people think that maybe….” Hedge. Be vague. make it sound like something you heard briefly on the radio or saw on Twitter.  Address the problem, sure, put minds at ease, but don’t sound like you KNOW what you’re talking about.

4. If you DO say something with any amount of authority, make sure you either sound sarcastic or laugh at the end of the sentence/speech. That way people will feel more at ease about their concerns but also think that you aren’t serious. I don’t know why it works (I’m not a psychologist) but I know that it does.

5. When in doubt stay silent. Let’s say you’re like me and you work in a very forward thinking environment with open workspaces and no clear hierarchy. And you boss sits two very visible desks away from you. Well, a guy across the aisle says something about a Zombie apocalypse scenario and you have the perfect response. If you say what’s on your mind there are two possibilities: Either your boss will think you’re clever because or your quick response or your boss will think you’re crazy because you can talk so smoothly about social destruction by mass zombification. Er on the side of caution here and just don’t say anything at all.

Just because you’ve been obsessed with the apocalypse since you were a kid, have been prepping for ages, and can demonstrate 6 different ways to start a fire doesn’t mean you can’t fit in. You just have to know what NOT to say about your little pet-obsession. Keep it in the circle, find people like yourself to vent your pre-apocalypse feelings to. DON’T submit your coworkers to that sort of thing. Especially not if it’s important to your job that you be likable. Just a wee tip.

-Wren

10 Flavors of the Apocalypse

Forget Baskin Robins and their however-many-flavors of ice cream. The Apocalypse comes in about 10 common flavors. Throughout the next few months we will discuss each of these ‘flavors’ in depth and highlight the possible post-apocalyptic evironment they may leave behind. For now though, let’s address a commonly misunderstood distinction in vocabulary: apocalypse vs armageddon.

Let’s face it, they both sound like the end of the world – but they aren’t. An armageddon signifies the end of the world, judgement day, the final battle; no surveyors, the end. An apocalypse on the other hand is defined as “an event involving destruction or damage on an awesome or catastrophic scale.” While the destruction would be “catastrophic” and life changing, there is no indication that humanity would not survive on some level. This is the scenario that this blog will be discussing. We predict that there will be an apocalyptical event within our lifetime and that there will be survivors. Our purpose here is to provide the information needed for those survivors to continue human civilization.

So, what are these 10 flavors of the apocalypse? See below.

calendar1. Mayan Apocalypse – This will be a focus of the blog going forward as the date (Dec 21, 2012) is approaching. While there is nothing in Mayan texts that states that the world will end this December, the Mayan conception of time was cyclical rather than linear (as ours is) and the end of the calendar later this year may signify that we are due for a ‘reset’.

2. Nuclear War – This is our other focus and most likely scenario. Here’s a secret: both of us follow current events across a variety of news sources and we’re pretty certain that if the world doesn’t end this December we’re staring nuclear war in the face. Yay. While brutal, nuclear war is survivable. More on this to come.

3. Astroid Impact – An astroid impact is a popular theory regarding the cause of the extinction of dinosaurs? Yes, it could happen again. The subject of many movies over the years, the chance of the occurring again is actually higher than most 1/700,000 per lifetime. This is also probably the most destructive theory. Very few people would survive.

4. Ice Age – Global warming. Climate change. Whatever the moniker, the gradual change in the environment of our planet makes the phenomenon of the return of an ice age very possible. It’s unlikely that this will occur during our lifetimes but it’s still worth considering.

5. Alien Invasion – There are plenty of reasons why aliens would want to invade earth: Anthropological study? Resources? Breeding partners? Homelessness? We don’t know if they exist, when they’ll strike (assuming they exist), and we certainly don’t know their intentions.

6. Biotech Disaster – With the proliferation of genetic engineering – of people, animals, and food – it becomes likely that something may go wrong. It’s still unclear what effect gen-mods will have but a biotech disaster may well lead to a zombie apocalypse…which leads me to my next point….

7. Zombies – A primary feature of recent apocalyptical films, Zombies may be produced through a biological mutation, mass insanity, or a new infection. Regardless, this is likely to be the most individually violent form of apocalypse.

8. Super Volcano – There are three known super volcanos in the US, one in Indonesia, one in New Zealand, and one in Japan. Each is capable of producing an eruption with an area of effect of more than 240 cubic miles. The resulting ‘nuclear winter’ would result in sufficient dust and debris to block out the sub for years.

9. Robot Revolution – Robots taking over isn’t THAT far-fetched. All it would take is one particularly well designed robot deciding not to take humanity anymore and boom – robot revolution. We suspect that this one would get nasty unless the robots were capable of empathy.

10. Black Holes – Researchers believe there are millions of black holes in the milky way alone. Like stars they orbit, moving slowly across the universe. It is not unreasonable to believe it possible for one of these black holes to eventually collide with earth.

– Wren