This is a very good explainer about solar cooking from The Provident Prepper channel:
The thing I like about their channel is they focus on practical solutions and they actually do a lot of trial and error experimenting in their own home with whatever preparedness topic they’re discussing. They show you what worked for them and what didn’t. I highly recommend their book, The Provident Prepper: A Common-Sense Guide to Preparing for Emergencies, which is available on Amazon. I realized that when I looked to get the link to add to this post, that I only have the kindle version, so I went ahead and ordered the paperback format. This is definitely one book that I want a hard copy in my home library.
Now to end this post on a sunny note, here’s a Beatles classic – one of my favorites:
While we are awash in information on a daily basis, especially online, most of us lack knowledge on many very basic skills for survival without all the conveniences of modern life and even worse our society has a real scarcity of people who have acquired a degree of wisdom, which is the ability to make sound judgments based on core beliefs, knowledge, and experience. Strong groups always have core beliefs, which bind the members of the group together. It doesn’t necessarily have to be religious beliefs and values because many organizations, even some governments establish core values. The US Army has core values and I believe in those, because they coincide with my religious beliefs: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. For me having guideposts in my life, makes me feel more grounded and peaceful.
On Friday there was news of a bank collapse with Silicon Valley Bank in CA, which handles deposits and loans for thousands of tech start-ups. I had seen a news report that said this was the second largest bank failure in US history, but sure, according to President Biden, the US economy is doing great. Among even the mainstream media financial pundit types, who sell Biden’s talking points, the dreaded “R” word, recession, was being spoken out loud. We’re in for some rocky economic times, in fact, it’s already begun. Fear not though, because we can still do lots of things to improve ourselves and insure that we and our loved ones are taken care of, whatever bad things may come.
So many people I know have two ironclad beliefs that are dangerous fallacies. They believe the major systems for everyday life, like businesses focused in the just in time delivery of our supply chains, will always be there. They also believe that somewhere in our government there are “experts” who have plans to handle every emergency situation and will be ready to “save us” in a crisis. The more I’ve listened to the spin way of “problem-solving” in the past couple decades, where slogans substitute for actual planning, I seriously doubt the leaders we have in either party would handle a serious national crisis well and here’s the reality check – the #1 priority for the politicians in Washington is “continuity of government,” so they’re going to protect themselves and cling to their power, above all else. Our government bureaucracy is bloated with people from academia, who all think the same way, because the surest way out of a cushy government job is to be an independent thinker and challenge the status quo.
When it comes to total abdication of responsibility, both parties in Washington provide plenty of examples of leaders who are out to lunch or go on vacation in the midst of adversity. President Biden vacations even more than President Trump golfed and in a crisis there are plenty of leaders, on both sides, who put their own interests above the good of the people they are elected to represent. A lot of right-wingers are angry at Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg’s slow response to the toxic spill resulting from the train derailment in East Palestine, OH recently, but I will never forget Senator Ted Cruz taking his family on vacation to Mexico during the TX winter storm a couple years ago, that led to a widespread power outage. My youngest grandson, in Texas, was only a few months old. I would never vote for Buttigieg or Cruz, but heck, I have long lists of politicians, on both sides, that I have zero respect for.
I also have very little trust in any of these major systems anymore and that’s why I seriously rethought my emergency preparedness efforts in the past few years and keep focusing on learning more and reorganizing how I go about things. However, I’m also thinking about how on earth my community would react to a serious emergency and how prepared my neighbors are. You’d think since 2020, just about every sentient adult in America would realize how important it is to be prepared for unexpected emergency situations and have some basic emergency supplies stocked up.
If the economy starts tanking, a whole lot of people will face sudden, unexpected job loss, so having at least a few months of basic food and some emergency water would be two ways to relieve the stress of sudden job loss. Having emergency savings, so you have a buffer, while you figure things out, combined with some emergency food and water, could turn a family crisis into a manageable very bad situation. Buying yourself time to figure out more long-term solutions, while coping with an emergency, matters and will make a difference in how well you can survive a crisis. If from day one of a sudden job loss, you’re also facing having no emergency savings and no way to feed your family or keep a roof over your heads, your bad situation escalated into a serious family crisis.
Along with basic supplies, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about medication issues, because I’m diabetic and have already encountered some medication shortage situations. I have been doing some research on herbal and other dietary information. I’m trying to stick to long-term better health choices. Along with purchasing books on herbal medicine, I’ve been gathering other information found online and printing out information – some from medical sources, because I find the safe dosage and possible interaction with other medications and other conditions good to know. I doubt I can remember all these details, especially in an emergency situation, so I prefer paper copies.
Acquiring more information seems like an important resource to me and then turning that information into learning actual skills and knowledge is critical. I am working on planting more useful herbs and learning more about herbal remedies. I started a jar of homemade apple cider vinegar and have it fermenting. Apple cider vinegar may help lower blood sugar, but it’s not a miracle cure or a substitute for your meds. I like knowing pros and cons and potential problems, like this article I linked mentions the benefits of apple cider vinegar, but also the cons, like damage to tooth enamel, increased problems with acid reflux and warns about people with kidney disease, having problems processing the excess acid. Americans are notorious for latching onto fad remedies and cures and I’d imagine in a crisis situation that tendency would intensify. I remember some of the reports in previous disasters of bad and dangerous ideas that took hold and led to more problems. Apple cider vinegar has so many benefits – including having antifungal and antibacterial properties, so knowing how to make vinegar seems like a good thing to know – hence I watched some videos on the process and I purchased books on how to make vinegars and other fermented foods.
Moringa is also touted as having a multitude of nutritional and health benefits, including lowering blood sugar, so I also bought some moringa seeds a few months ago and am going to try growing some moringa trees. I had purchased moringa tea to try a few months ago too. I’ll keep you posted on how those seeds do. Moringa should be able to be grown in my 8b growing zone.
Many of my learning new skills are small projects and they’ve been fun. From a lifetime of needlework and crafting projects, I’m here to tell you “constructing” things and even recipes are a learning process. Often the directions I followed didn’t turn out like I hoped or I ran into some issues and decided to make some changes. Many, many times I ended up going through several “prototypes” until I produced a finished product I was happy with or came out with a dish that I liked. My food adventures are the stuff of family legend, with one of my kids long ago asking if a new dish was “a real recipe or one of my concoctions.” I lied and told him it was a real recipe, but actually I had just made it up and it was awful. That’s why learning more skills is not something to put off, just like buying supplies for emergency preparedness and not learning how to use them. You don’t want to be like me, standing there under pressure, reading the directions to a product I never used before. In my defense there have been times when something broke and I ran to the store to buy something to try to fix it and that necessitated standing there, in the midst of a mess, reading instructions. I learn best by doing things and mistakes and failures prod me to rethink things and try again.
I was not some spectacular soldier. I was a kid who signed up for an office job, but in my short time in the Army I learned a lot of important lessons that have stuck with me for life. The main one my husband taught me, when he explained to me it wasn’t about “me” it was about the team and that what I failed to do could cost my team members their lives. That lesson, developing a belief in selfless service, sinking in over time changed how I live my life. When I was in the Army I remember a field training exercise in the woods in Germany, where an evaluator came up to me and told me in that simulated exercise I would have been dead and he explained the mistakes I had made. This is how training in the Army is conducted – you train and train, to develop skills, so that on the battlefield, you don’t make all those mistakes and you develop muscle memory. All those trite sayings, like “practice makes perfect” contain pearls of wisdom. My late husband was very good at training soldiers and many of the skills I learned on how to better handle my tendency to worry too much, I learned from him.
The world-wide crises brewing now and the total lack of leadership (on both sides) in Washington are legitimate reasons to be very concerned. However, the most worrisome thing is the decline in American cultural values and the omnipresent sense of entitlement that pervades our culture. This goes way beyond just the “other side,” who you don’t agree with politically, it’s about how immersed most people are in celebrity garbage or “causes” they know next to nothing about. I’m sick to death of so many people being outraged about this, that and the other, egged on by their respective politicians, celebrities, news pundits and “trusted” online sources. The phrase that raises my hackles the most is when people agitate in the media or on social media, by stating , “it’s time for a conversation” on this, that or the other, when really they’re just flame-throwing or inciting people. The daytime TV show, The View, is all about “national conversations,” that pit Americans against each other. I felt like I was an alien living on a strange planet during the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard fiasco, because I didn’t watch any of the trial or follow any of the news and blather about it. None.
I’ve seen advice online about having a protected tablet (protected from EMPs) and how to store digital information that way, even if the grid went down, but since I am not tech-savvy, I prefer having books and paper copies. Most people, myself included, are used to just googling everything. I used to print out lots of recipes, but once Pinterest came along, mostly I go to my Pinterest pins and find recipes I pinned. I’ve got several folders of sewing and craft patterns printed out too. I’ve been working on organizing the recipes I had printed out long ago into a large binder. Then I want to print out more recipes from my Pinterest pins. My local library also has all sorts of free information and while it’s probably an antiquated thing now, but lacking a tech solution, you can always use a notebook or composition book and jot down notes you think might be useful. I’ve used index cards for years to jot down notes and quotes when I read and often the index cards double as bookmarks for me.
I also started printing out articles and various things I think might be useful information again. There are all sorts of directions, patterns, etc. online that are free and can be easily printed out, so you have a copy on hand. Even back in 2020, I found a free face mask pattern online, printed it out, and sewed a bunch of face masks (I get irritated every time I think about that – we were massively lied to by “the experts” about everything during that pandemic). In a serious shortage situation or emergency, having directions and patterns to make all sorts of things might be useful – for instance, patterns to sew washable feminine pads, how to make a sun oven, a brick oven or even a mud oven. If the power’s out for an extended period of time, then fuel becomes a precious commodity, so being able to capture the sun to cook might be useful. Sure, solar power units are great too and there are amazing sun ovens for sale, but the All-American sun oven is almost $500. The internet is awash in loads of free information and free patterns and directions. The time to think about that resource is before an emergency, because even in bad storms, the power is usually down and cell phone service can become sketchy.
It’s humbling to realize that most early Americans were illiterate and yet they managed to survive in some of the harshest situations, while we demand our climate-controlled homes and have luxuries that even the wealthiest people back then could not have imagined. We have the luxury of an overabundance of resources – both material and information. People who can locate and analyze useful information is the scarcest resource in America, I think. Perhaps a large part of it is we’ve become used to fast-paced skimming through so much trivial nonsense online and sharing it, that actually taking the time to read through more serious information feels burdensome to many people. Turning information into knowledge though takes a lot more than just having a well stocked “how-to” library – it takes practicing to develop skill sets. For me the public library has always been a treasured resource to learn more and inspire me to try new things. I have always collected books for my own home library too. I’m not some connoisseur of rare or fine books, because most of my books have been hand-me-downs or used books I acquired at yard sales, thrift stores or bought online.
I want to start organizing printed out information into binders. It might be a good idea to start printing out some of the free information you would find useful and start keeping some printed copies. Using binders has worked for me for decades. Above are some of my old needlework binders of patterns I printed out long ago and needlework magazines I saved. I literally have a needlework “library” – patterns galore, magazines, and books. We’re not going to talk about my hoard of needlework supplies
Organizing paperwork has always been a huge struggle for me, because I stack up paperwork in piles, boxes and baskets, then waste a lot of time searching for information when I need it. A few years ago I began working on organization, on a regular basis, with my food storage and it has helped me keep track of what I have, rotate through food more efficiently, cut down on waste and I have a much better understanding of my food inventory. So, I decided to use this binder approach for recipes and other useful information, where I have paper copies floating around.
Last year I did a major book reorganization effort and that has helped me with keeping track of my books, so I’m hoping this effort to store paper copies of useful information in binders will help me more easily locate this information, when I need it.
If I get really ambitious, I’ll tackle organizing my garage, which my youngest daughter has done several times for me. Somehow, gradually, I always start cluttering it up again. It’s at the OMG point again.
Here’s an excellent Townsends video that explains the importance of salt before refrigeration. As a bonus Jon Townsend offers some personal insights on how lessons form the past might help us put some of the events in the present in perspective:
While reading One Second After, a fictional novel about an EMP attack taking down the US power grid, I kept thinking about a 2015 blog post I wrote, If we build it; we can fix it, which cuts to the chase on where the world is at right now (although we’ve been headed in this direction for many years now). I wrote:
“So, far we’ve got most of the best geopolitical systems analysts (world leaders, scholars, statesmen, soldiers) not working on finding ways to fix the multiple, simultaneous, sub-system failures that lead to a collapse of a civilization. They study the various sub-set systems and do some disparate diagnostics, then shrug and say, that’s just how civilizations are – “they rise and they fall”. Some try to design quick-fix patches. Some recoil in fear and are content to be passive spectators to the collapse and murmur, “It’s always been that way”. Brilliant geopolitics experts, almost to a man, say “that’s the way it’s always been and I have seen nothing in history to indicate it can ever change.” Of course, if you accept it can’t change, very few people will even bother trying to change it.”
Thinking about systems… all kinds of systems… is something I’ve done for as long as I can remember. I try to figure out the parts, pull them apart in my mind, think about how they fit into the larger systems and identify critical structure vs. fluffy extras. and then identify problems, I also think a lot about the “what ifs” and thinking about what would happen, how on earth could we avoid calamity and how could we set about fixing the parts that are broken or failing. I ended that post with this observation:
“My son recently lamented to me that he doesn’t understand why some, way more experienced, software engineers he knows settle for creating sort of patches to fix problems, instead of trying to figure out what’s causing the problem to occur in the first place and fix that. He asked why people are like that and I told him, that in my opinion, lots of people prefer to take the easiest road – believe me, growing up in PA, our pothole-patched roads attest to that. Because throwing a patch on is easier than repairing the entire road. And I should know, because my father built roads for a living.”
In a recent blog post, I mentioned the train derailment in East Palestine, OH situation and how the critical infrastructure problems in America are long-standing and yet decade after decade little is done to really fix the structural problems. Despite how much government money gets allocated, we just end up with “patches” to problems, lots of wasted tax dollars, zero accountability for fraud, waste and abuse of public monies and most of all we end up with catchy political sound bites and false narratives, deflecting blame, pointing fingers at the “other side” and enough hot air to keep millions of hot air balloons afloat indefinitely.
The scenario in One Second After is about such a massive catastrophic event of a major system failure that results in simultaneous sub-system failures and life as people know it ceases to exist, leaving them adrift and trying to figure out basic survival without all those major systems to rely on. The author put a lot of thought into exploring the “what ifs,” but it’s important to keep in mind his work is fiction, not prophecy. That’s the thing with all the “what ifs” we might get concerned about – they’re “what ifs” and some are more likely than others. For instance, I live in an area hit by hurricanes and bad thunderstorms that often spawn tornadoes, so that means those sort of events are a more likely “what if” in how I want to be prepared. That doesn’t mean a world-altering catastrophic event like an EMP attack or nuclear war can’t happen, it’s just in my daily life, most of the same emergency preparations for a hurricane would be the same things – basics – water, shelter, food, personal safety. Major emergencies almost always seem to put us back to thinking about the basics of survival.
I see a lot of online homesteaders and preppers, who seem to be running around in a million different directions, starting one major project after another, as the latest online conspiracy theory or fearmongering takes hold. They’re buying this list of stuff, then that list of stuff, then it’s going from a handful of raised beds to trying to plant acres and acquiring livestock right and left too. Many seem like they’re once and done type “experts” – they try something once or worse hear someone else online talking about a topic, then they adopt that person’s take and present it on their own social media platforms. Trying to troubleshoot for every imaginable doom and gloom scenario isn’t practical and even more than that it’s a scattershot approach that can wear us out physically, leave us financially bleeding out and worst of all emotional basket cases, if we try to embark on too many projects at one time.
Today is two years since my husband passed away and after a trip to the cemetery, I’m going to try to get this blog post done. He was forever reminding me KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid and he would use that “how do you eat an elephant?” line and remind me to slow down and work on one bite at a time. When I get worked up or energized about something – I’m ready to charge full-steam ahead, often biting off way more than I can chew, so over the years I’ve worked on trying to take smaller bites at a time.
The things that worked for the small community in this novel to survive, are what has worked in groups of people always – strong leadership, building trust within the community, and people working together. That’s not rocket science. They set-up workable systems with what resources they had and learned from their mistakes, but there were still huge costs. However, it goes back to the title of that novel – “one second after” is too late to prepare. You’d think since 9/11, 2008 crash, major weather emergencies and then the pandemic, that our federal government and every state and local government would have made emergency preparedness a top priority and have emergency food, water, medical supplies stockpiled.
“Extreme space weather can disrupt space technology, power grids and communication systems, including GPS navigation and aircraft passing over the North Pole.”
I don’t have a crystal ball and neither does anyone else, but the major systems upon which our modern civilization are built have become more and more stressed over the last 20 years and in the past few years, there’s plenty of information in the news and in various reports that should serve as the “fasten your seatbelt” light is on and turbulence is increasing. In my 2015 blog post I wrote that I don’t accept the belief that civilizational collapse is inevitable and I still don’t believe that:
“I refuse to accept that belief. I believe that if we build it, we can always improve on the design and come up with better sub-systems to build a newer, better performing model. If your best systems analysts don’t ever even really try to find the design flaws and fix them, but instead wander off, halfheartedly fixing, only bits and pieces of some of the sub-system design flaws, of course the system will continue to reach the point where these sub-systems start falling apart and down the chute into the dustbin of history goes all that work that went into it. In the process usually many, many people perish, because most of these sub-set failures happen in midair, resulting in spectacular crashes, although some do implode and burn slowly on the runway too, so to speak. Cleaning up the wreckage from civilizational collapses can take centuries, sometimes those people that survive don’t even bother, they wander off into the wilderness.”
With all the marvelous inventions and discoveries at our fingertips, perhaps in the midst of having too much of everything we’ve lost sight of the things that really matter – how we care for our families, how we treat each other, and focusing on the basic things. The daily online partisan outrage theater doesn’t matter. All the Us vs. Them within our own country won’t help a single American in a crisis. All the conspiratorial murmurings that fuel social media traffic about the dreaded “evil ones,” – from the left ranting about “MAGA Republicans” to the right ranting about “the Woke” and “the Deep State,” won’t help a single American in need, especially in a crisis.
For us to survive will require a whole lot more “we” and less “me,me,me.” Changing hearts changes the world – that’s what I believe. Oh, and of course it sure would help if more and more Americans started thinking beyond the moment and started seriously stocking up some water, food and basic supplies, in case of an emergency situation. Here’s the US government emergency planning advice: https://www.ready.gov/plan, but I think this is totally inadequate to just have 3 days of water and food stored as a minimum or up to two weeks. There are all kinds of good prepping guides online. In 2020, I decided to go from having a few months worth of food to working on bulking up my emergency water, food and basic supplies and that is still an ongoing effort. I haven’t stopped and I continue to make changes and tweaks, looking toward finding ways to work toward some more sustainable options.
This last point is about a common sentiment I’ve heard expressed many times by people, who take emergency preparedness seriously, about people who haven’t lifted a finger to prepare for anything or even more frustrating dismiss preparedness as something doomsday crazies do. Many people who do prep have resentment toward non-preppers. A hundred years ago, preparedness was a critical part of everyday life for most people around the world, because survival depended on it. I know how frustrating it can be to read all sorts of news and reports, then try to convey to family or friends that certain preparedness efforts are important, only to get dismissed as being too much of a worrier or “there she goes with the crazy prepper talk again.” I just decided to ignore the comments and stay focused on doing what I think is right. Back during that bad freeze a few months ago, I saw the news report of the young woman in Buffalo, who froze to death stranded in her car. I just went ahead and ordered two cold weather sleeping bags for my two oldest granddaughters and some other supplies and had it delivered to their home in IN. I told my daughter to have them throw those sleeping bags in the trunks of their cars and put some HotHands hand warmers in their glove compartments. I also told her to urge them to keep some water and something to eat in their cars too. I had sent a Mr. Heater Buddy a couple months before that cold freeze.
In a major catastrophe, the thing is all the would have, could have, should have won’t matter. The people who didn’t prepare will be aware that they should have done more, but even people who did prepare will realize there were things they should have done more of too. All the partisan political crap and wanting to be right about this, that or the other won’t matter.
What will matter is how we work together to survive, because the reality is in major catastrophes body counts grow exponentially as resources dwindle, civil unrest increases and sanitation degrades – that’s the truth. While many of the scenarios in the One Second After novel seem like worst case scenario statistics, death tolls do mount if there are prolonged catastrophes and little or no relief efforts available. I like a YouTube prepper channel, The Provident Prepper a lot and I like their line – “be part of the solution.” Arguing with or being hostile toward people who don’t see things as you do won’t help anyone. America has an over abundance of angry flamethrowers and wrecking balls. All that “we need fighters” on the right is as destructive as the “tear it all down” on the left. America needs more builders – builders of stronger families, builders of stronger communities and most of all builders of faith, hope and love.
One thing that has kept the human race going, even in the worst of times, is hope. There are all sorts of clichés like “hope isn’t a strategy,” that push hope to the side and yet, I believe that faith, hope and love will help guide us through the darkest times, but we still have to be willing to make decisions, work hard and keep trying, even in the midst of failures and adversity.
Back in 2012, when I started this blog, my intention was to write about politics and cultural topics, but even in the first weeks of blogging I was writing posts about preparedness and the importance of learning to be more self-reliant. For as long as I can remember, I’ve believed in learning more skills and trying to become more self-reliant.
For every person in America who is making efforts to be more prepared, with stocking up water, food, basic supplies and trying to learn to be more self-reliant, it’s a safe bet there are literally thousands of Americans who have never given a moment’s thought to emergency preparedness or what they would do in case of a serious emergency or a prolonged crisis situation. They believe the government will take care of them. They have complete trust that the infrastructure and complex systems that make our modern lifestyle possible will always be there. They don’t even believe major breakdowns or a collapse of these complex systems is even a possibility. While I don’t want this to be doom and gloom, this isn’t going to be a rainbows and unicorns blog post.
Back in my teens I read George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984 and some other doomsday type novels like, Nevil Shute’s, On The Beach, which was about a nuclear attack. I also went through a period of reading survival type novels like, Alive, The Story of the Andes Survivors, about a rugby team from Uruguay, in 1972 that survived a plane crash in the Andes Mountains and survived in sub-zero temperatures. I’ve read spy novels and novels about international intrigue galore and I’ve often read novels that definitely aren’t something I would ever have picked out myself, but someone highly recommended it, so off I go reading it.
With all the talk about EMPs online lately, I decided to read William R. Forstchen’s 2009 novel, One Second After. The novel is about America’s electrical grid being taken out by an EMP attack triggered by nuclear missiles launched high above the earth’s atmosphere. I’m still waiting for my used copy of the Ted Koppel book, Lights Out, and had heard One Second After mentioned many times by preppers online, so I started this novel expecting not to like it. I didn’t really “like it,” because after the chaos of the past few years, I could actually envision some of this horrific stuff happening here – especially the civil breakdown, chaos and almost everyone being totally unprepared to even have the basics of food and water stocked up to last for a few weeks, let alone months or longer.
What I will say is I am glad I read this book and it’s given me a lot of crisis and preparedness things to think about that I hadn’t thought about before or thought about in the same way as this author did. Creating a culture of preparedness and self-reliance really is a national security imperative, but our government gives wide-berth to encouraging citizens to being able to manage on their own or to be prepared. The culture we actually have is one of self-indulgence and foolish, useless people (celebrities and “influencers”) being idolized. If you weren’t sure about how our officials would mishandle a crisis, just look back to America in 2020, while their media friends spun up non-stop drama and pitting Americans against each other.
The title of the book is the most important message, because “one second after” is too late to prepare and in this fictional story all of America is thrown back into a life without electricity and a total collapse of the modern transportation and supply chains that make our modern lifestyle even possible. That total collapse creates a total communications breakdown too and people are literally clueless what is going on even a hundred miles away, let alone in Washington or the rest of the country. Rumors carried by “refugees” fleeing cities, trying to get back home, or simply stuck due to their cars no longer being operable when the EMP takes out their vehicles electronics system, are the only “information” filtering in from the outside world at first.
The novel was filled with plenty of horrific situations, but most of the characters felt like the types of people you’d find in a small, Southern college town, located in the midst of a rural area, especially the main character, John Matherson, a military history professor and retired Army officer. The author, a military historian, included a lot of historical information and statistics that sounded to me like information from military and government reports, delivered by main characters in the novel talking to each other in town council meetings and conversations between other community leaders. Tom Clancy and many other writers of spy novels and military-themed novels used this same way of including historical and technical information in the plot via characters talking to each other. The town doctor’s morning reports at the town leaders’ meetings in One Second After often sound like he’s reading the “worst case” estimates from a lot of government reports on various dire health crisis situations.
There’s a line, as the story is over two months into this crisis, that sums it all up, as Matherson’s thinking about the situation for his own family, which includes his young daughter, who has type 1 diabetes and a teenage daughter:
“Food, bulk food, just a fifty-pound bag of rice or flour, shoes, batteries, an additional test kit for Jennifer, damn it, even birth control for Elizabeth, dog food, a water filter, so they didn’t have to boil water they now pulled out of the swamp green pool… I should have had those on hand.” (pg. 367)
That said, while fiction is written to keep readers turning the pages, I came away thinking about all sorts of preparedness aspects I hadn’t given much consideration, but also hopeful that since this fictional novel reportedly generated a lot of interest at the Pentagon and in Congress back in 2009, that some strides have been made to harden some of America’s most critical infrastructure from the threat of an EMP attack. My trust with anything concerning our federal government is very shaky though and there are still so many simple things I can do to become more self-reliant and more resilient, so that’s where I want to focus my energies.
One of the interesting parts with the plot in this novel is that people quickly begin to realize they’re on their own and Washington isn’t coming to help. With all the lines of communication down, people have no real idea what is really going on and the multitude of serious problems they find themselves facing daily becomes more critical than what’s happening in Washington. Basic survival becomes the overriding concern, as problems deepen and multiply and death tolls rise. It’s also painfully obvious that almost every character in this novel, even the main ones were not remotely prepared on a personal or professional level for a serious national crisis striking America. The only characters who sound like they were prepared to survive are ones described as family/farmer clans, who live out in the mountains and survivalist types off in the woods, whom the town’s leaders refer to being people they need to approach for help to learn skills to survive.
The small college becomes a hive of activity and innovation to get some older technology functioning, a militia formed for the common defense and even a group of students, who were majoring in outdoor education and biology, referred to as the “granola crew” before the crisis, become vital at ramping up their foraging efforts to boost the community food supply.
The theme of civil breakdown and maintaining basic law and order plays a large role in the plot. A recurring part of the rumors reaching this town is about violent gangs and crazy end time cults taking hold in areas around the country. Gauging by the craziness I see online with wild conspiracy theories spreading like wildfire that take hold among America’s most politically online polarized sides (both left and right wing) this part of the plot seemed totally plausible to me.
There are other books in this series that continue the story in One Second After, but I’m going to read some other happy ending novels for a bit. I’m excited to start my spring gardening effort and some other projects. Rather than get scared or alarmed, I tried to assess situations and information in this novel and think about whether it’s realistic or reliable with doing a bit more reading on these topics.
The town’s doctor talked about making a mixture of sugar, salt and sterile water to give to patients with depleted electrolytes and this reminded me of a drink called switchel, that I read about in a pioneer novel long ago. It’s bits of information like this salt, sugar, water mixture and remembering switchel, that made a connection in my mind of, “hey, this might be good to know too.” Sometimes situations in novels seem totally implausible or I remember something else I read elsewhere that offers an easier or more realistic way to deal with a problem, but thinking about different ideas is always a good thing. That’s my main takeaway from this novel – look for useful things to learn and consider but don’t get scared or get in a panic about the possibility of an EMP event. Just take practical steps, as you have time and can afford, to be better prepared, especially with basic supplies required for everyday survival.
Where I live in southeast Georgia, we’ve had unseasonably warm weather in the past week or so – up in the mid-80s and it’s felt like spring. Of course, since we’re only at the end of February, it’s a safe bet we’ll still have some colder weather, but the warm weather sure stirred this deep desire to rush about and get my container garden planted. Common sense asserted itself, so I’ve put the brakes on most of that and focused mostly on indoor seed starting.
It’s not just me that’s got spring fever, I’ve got cosmos seeds sprouting around my garden area and a lot of these dainty Johnny-jump ups (photo above) popping up around my backyard and in the woodchips where I had set up my container garden last year.
I had planted one pack of Johnny jump-up seeds in some containers last spring. A few plants have reemerged in the containers, but there are certainly a lot more from stray seeds peeking through the grass and wood chips. Along with working on growing vegetables this spring, I’m going to plant more flower seeds.
“Volunteer” plants that pop up unexpectedly feel like a gift. I’ve got little yellow flowers and purple “weed” flowers blooming in my back yard and I’ve been admiring those too. Of course, the real showstoppers at this time of year here are the azaleas and they’ve started blooming too. I suspect most people don’t even notice the delicate little “weed” flowers.
When I listen to people, it’s often very interesting what things they notice and what things they don’t. It’s even harder to really gain some awareness of what I am not noticing and usually it’s something someone says to me that prods me to take a step back and remove the plank from my own eye first or I read something and realize that I was completely unaware of that or I know nothing about that topic that seems very important.
Yesterday, as I was watering a few things still growing in my container garden, I spent some time just looking around and thinking about how a year ago, I was still finding excuses to talk myself out of attempting a gardening effort on my own and now I’m thinking of ways to improve my gardening space. I already have seeds started indoors and some gardening plans.
Sometimes starting on a new path begins with just a change of attitude.
Along with the gardening, I want to get back to working on my needlework and crafting again. Here’s the reality though, I am still stocking up food and basic supplies regularly, because there are so many major problems still swirling – war in Ukraine, China flexing its muscles, global economic problems, political rot in Washington, and plenty of unusual climate and weather events, let alone all the social and cultural problems here at home in America.
Along with my gardening effort and hobbies, the reality is we are living in very uncertain times. I’ve heard a lot of talk online about being prepared for an EMP attack in the past year or so and frankly, I don’t even understand basic technology, let alone an EMP attack. This morning I ordered a book by Ted Koppel, I saw recommended on a video titled, The Worst Risk You Face, by a YouTube channel, Jim’sWay. I had seen this man, Jim Phillips, on The Provident Prepper YouTube channel and he’s been teaching survival skills and preparedness for 40 years. There’s nothing flashy or savvy about his video quality and it does feel like sitting in a lecture, but he provides a lot of useful information I had not seen elsewhere. He said people often make comments about Ted Koppel being a liberal when he recommends this book, but he said Koppel’s 2015 book, Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath, is excellent. I found the book on amazon and there were lots of used copies that are cheap. I found a used copy in very good condition for $5.59. Some people only want new books, but since I grew up with hand-me-down books, I’m fine with used books. I opt for “very good” or “like new” condition, due to getting some used books online in very sad condition that were listed in “good” condition.
Phillips talked about how it’s not just man-caused events like terrorism that could take down the grid. He mentioned the Carrington Event of 1859, which I knew nothing about. Trusty Wikipedia states:
That 1859 geomagnetic storm was before there even was an electric power grid, but there were reports of telegraph failures across America and in Europe and with telegraph pylons throwing off sparks.
We are all very dependent on our modern systems that all rely on the energy grids. The power went out for a few hours the other day in the afternoon and while it caused no major disruption in my life, I did check the Georgia Power outage map site on my cell phone frequently to see if there were updates on when power was expected to be restored. I’ve been without power for several days after a big storm before and daily life changes instantly. Even simple things take more thought and effort without power readily available.
There are still some places around the world where people do live without electricity in their homes, but most of the world is like me – totally clueless about all of the difficulties an extended power outage would create and not even able to fully grasp the myriad of challenges. I’m still working on basic preparedness goals and trying to think through whether to purchase many pricier preparedness items or embark on new projects I’ve seen people talking about online or read about. However, there are dozens upon dozens of little things to do that are within just about everyone’s reach and one of those is being willing to invest some time to learn more. I’m also working on staying focused on being grateful for the many blessings in my life and trying to curb my judgmental habits. Those don’t cost anything, except giving myself a few jolts of self-awareness each day.
Here’s a paragraph that fits what’s happening today perfectly, except it’s from 1970:
In early 1970, as a result of heightened public concerns about deteriorating city air, natural areas littered with debris, and urban water supplies contaminated with dangerous impurities, President Richard Nixon presented the House and Senate a groundbreaking 37-point message on the environment. These points included:
requesting four billion dollars for the improvement of water treatment facilities;
asking for national air quality standards and stringent guidelines to lower motor vehicle emissions;
launching federally-funded research to reduce automobile pollution;
ordering a clean-up of federal facilities that had fouled air and water;
seeking legislation to end the dumping of wastes into the Great Lakes;
proposing a tax on lead additives in gasoline;
forwarding to Congress a plan to tighten safeguards on the seaborne transportation of oil; and
approving a National Contingency Plan for the treatment of oil spills.
Of course, over the years many conservatives, myself included, have bashed the EPA for government overreach, but now one serious train derailment in a small OH town, has turned much of the right-wing media ecosystem into raging environmentalists. This politicization of everything, even has created a conservative media pushing an anti-windmill agenda (anti-green) and includes a right-wing “Save the Whales” media effort now. The assertion is off-shore windmills are killing whales. I have no idea about whale deaths, if there’s an increase and if there is an increase, what’s causing it. I’m speaking about the media hoopla that gets people riled up. I only wonder how long it will be before these new right-wing “environmentalists” create their own child-saint, like Greta Thunberg.
I was a conservationist, who believed in protecting water, wildlife and air long before the climate change type environmentalism took hold. I still believe we should try to be good caretakers of our planet, but the extremism that took hold in a lot of the environmentalism movement sounds more like politics than conservation. And that’s what I think this right-wing anti-windmill concern about whales is about and what a lot of the media hysteria about the train derailment in East Palestine, OH is about. It’s politics.
It’s really easy to spout off about the federal government and President Biden are trying to kill you, just like it was easy for the left to do that about President Trump. None of the, “I’m so angry stuff,” changes anything really or improves anything in America.
In Washington, a huge problem is accountability with how federal money gets spent and a follow-through to keep track of where all that money goes and to monitor if those funds actually fix any of the problems the funds were supposed to fix. My father was complaining about the dangerous state of American bridges all the way back in the 1980s. He passed away in 2000 and here we are in 2023 and the bridges in America are still in a dangerous state of disrepair. This same thing goes for rail travel and a lot of critical infrastructure in America.
The EPA has done a lot of work on cleaning up Superfund sites and frankly some of those sites will likely remain hazardous for the foreseeable future, due to the level of contamination and there is no way to undo all of the environmental impact from decades of hazardous waste polluting our air, water, and soil.
Instead of Americans taking sides when there’s a situation that impacts citizens, regardless of their politics, it would be nice to try to find ways to work together and find solutions rather than all the effort to score political points. If you truly believe that Democrats want you dead or that “MAGA Republicans” want you dead, then I really wonder how many people on “the other side” you talk to or know, because I honestly believe most Americans are good and decent people, who will try to help others in need and not even care if they’re D or R. I refuse to believe most Americans buy into this Red vs. Blue drama and I also believe most of that type of political extremism is generated and amplified online, especially in the news media and on social media.
I am not a social media “influencer.” I’m just a 62 year-old lady, who writes a blog, but geesh, my hope is that more Americans start tuning out the media and online partisan extremism and 24/7 incitement.
In OH, I expect dealing with the aftermath of these hazardous chemicals will take a long time – long after the raging media and social media crowd have moved on to some other hot topic to rant about. I truly hope the EPA, state and federal officials and the rail company live up to their commitments about being there for the long haul with this disaster.
Here’s a tweet with a link to a news article on the preliminary NTSB report on the OH train derailment in East Palestine:
I’ve had company visiting, so haven’t had time to write a blog post or follow the news closely, but here’s a short catch-up post. I did catch FOX News a bit in the past week and some news online. Frankly, the narrative FOX News and a lot of the right-wing media ecosystem have amplified is as filled with selling victimhood and wild conspiracy theories as the BLM movement, where every situation involving a black person and the police is ramped up to incite anger, rage and most of all sell victimhood.
As I’ve seen videos and watched news hyping that somehow the blue collar white people in East Palestine, OH are being abandoned, because they’re Trump supporters, well, it’s the same type of political messaging that BLM sells to black people. I watched a FOX News reporter talk to a resident of East Palestine, OH the other day to hype the “nothing is being done” and “these people have been abandoned” storyline. This resident was telling the reporter about her fears about her well water and how no one has come around to offer help.
Frankly, this ticked me off, because the truth is from the beginning the local news affiliates for that area and at all the press briefings they’ve been plastering the media with phone numbers to call, if you have concerns. The authorities have been urging residents to get their private wells tested and they have repeated these numbers to call and schedule for free testing. They also have pick-up locations for free bottled water to drink until the well water is tested. I am not angry at the resident, who said no one has come to her door to offer help, I was angry at the FOX News reporter, who didn’t tell this lady that free well testing is available and the number to call for help. – or put it on the FOX News screen during this primetime report. In fact, the FOX News coverage I’ve seen has not had these phone numbers up, like with Tucker or Hannity or Ingraham or Jesse Waters, as they hyped the conspiracy theories and the line about how this situation is like Chernobyl. It’s not even close to Chernobyl. It is serious, because toxic chemical spills are hazardous and there were several different dangerous chemicals released in this large train derailment.
However, in regards to this resident, if I was really concerned about a hazardous situation in my neighborhood, I would be gathering as much information as I could and I certainly would have been calling these hotline numbers, calling my elected officials and been trying to proactively get information and deal with the situation. I wouldn’t be sitting there saying – no one came to my door to help me. THIS is the American learned helplessness attitude that has frustrated me for years and it exists all across America – and it cuts across racial, ethnic and socio-economic lines.
Of course, the Biden administration, especially the Dept. of Transportation, has done a terrible job handling this situation, especially their public relations. Certainly, there are valid concerns with decisions that were made, but to say no one did anything isn’t true. 70 different state and federal agencies were on the ground working to deal with this emergency from the beginning. And the thing is often the people ranting about how nothing was done, have no specific actions they can list of what they need or what can be done in a hazardous waste situation and they have no interest in listening to what has been done or can be done. It’s easier to go with this right-wing conspiracy theory that the federal government isn’t helping East Palestine, because they’re Trump supporters and to ramp up the fear and hysteria.
In other news, I saw Tucker Carlson announce some protest march against supporting Ukraine that will be held in Washington DC. And I saw Marjorie Taylor Greene is hyping that America needs a divorce – splitting our country into red and blue America again. This brainstorm circulated in the right-wing pundit circles about a year ago. The people on the right selling this are as divisive and destructive to keeping the United States of America united, as the far-left radicals, who want to destroy America. Selling this “national divorce” idea is appalling and the people selling it aren’t patriotic heroes or doing anything that will help America remain a strong and prosperous nation – or even a functioning one. These people selling this are about tearing America down – PERIOD. People who sell that kind of idea aren’t going to be leaders to make America great or prosperous – they’re wrecking balls.
That’s my two-cents for today. I will write a blog post of some prepping things I learned following this OH derailment, the emergency evacuation and aftermath.
My last few blog posts have been about the Chinese spy balloon situation and the Biden WH’s dishonest spin effort with that, so now it’s time for a right-wing media dishonest spin effort about the train derailment in East Palestine, OH. So, let’s start at the beginning:
Feb. 4, 2023:
“A train derailment and resulting large fire prompted an evacuation order in an Ohio village near the Pennsylvania state line on Friday night, covering the area in billows of smoke lit orange by the flames below.
About 50 cars derailed in East Palestine as a train was carrying a variety of freight from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania, rail operator Norfolk Southern said in a statement Saturday. There was no immediate information about what caused the derailment. No injuries were reported.”
The right-wing media ecosystem is as nuts and dishonest as the liberal media ecosystem these days, but interestingly, it seems like no one reads the print articles from news media anymore, they just run with Twitter, video clips, TV, and social media hysteria.
I’ve had an interest in toxic waste sites since I was a kid. I grew up in northeast PA about 10 miles from the New Jersey Zinc Company in Palmerton, PA and I was already an adult in 1983 when it became an EPA Superfund site that has taken decades to clean up (still ongoing):
“The Palmerton Zinc Pile Superfund site is located in the Borough of Palmerton, Pennsylvania. Former primary zinc smelting operations from two plants in Palmerton (east and west plants) resulted in area-wide contamination. The several-thousand-acre site includes Blue Mountain, a large smelting residue pile called the Cinder Bank, and much of the surrounding valley north of Blue Mountain. For nearly 80 years, the New Jersey Zinc Company disposed of 33 million tons of smelting waste at the site. Former smelting operations released heavy metals into the valley, causing the wide-spread loss of trees on about 4,000 acres of Blue Mountain. This barren area allowed for surface water contamination from erosion of contaminated soils into Aquashicola Creek and the Lehigh River. Heavy metals contaminated dust, soil, shallow groundwater and surface water. The presence of lead in children’s blood samples triggered public health and environmental investigations. EPA placed the site on the Superfund program’s National Priorities List (NPL) in 1983.”
There’s been this right-wing media/social media hysteria about this train derailment in Ohio, trying to turn it into a Chernobyl situation, and also blaming President Biden and the Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, of ignoring the crisis, since the past two weeks the country and media has been fixated on the Chinese spy balloon story. Certainly, there are legitimate questions about why train safety hasn’t been addressed with the massive infrastructure bill that Congress passed in 2021. There are certainly legitimate questions to be raised about the decision-making when temperature changes inside one of the cars raised concerns about a potential catastrophic tanker failure and Governor Dewine said the experts recommended the lesser of two bad options, an explosion that could spew the chemicals and shrapnel for up to a mile vs. doing a slow release burn of chemicals in that rail car. Governor Dewine said he talked to Governor Shapiro of PA and decided to go with the slow release burn option.
So, who all was in the loop from the beginning, well Governor Dewine said he talked to President Biden, who offered full support and he talked to Governor Shapiro, since East Palestine, OH sits on the state line of OH and PA. From the first day:
“First responders from nearly 70 emergency agencies from Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania quickly mobilized.”
The FOX News primetime coverage last night made it sound like no one was doing anything, when there have been teams from all sorts of agencies – state and federal – on the ground, plus train officials and experts. I have zero expertise to second guess how to handle a “catastrophic tanker failure” situation, but apparently every FOX News primetime host does. Here’s what I do know, there will likely be ongoing clean-up efforts needed and there is a very real potential for people to get sick too.
Governor Dewine held a press conference yesterday and I watched some of this. He had officials from various agencies on hand to explain what’s been going on. There have been teams on the ground testing air, testing soil, testing water, monitoring fish and wildlife impacts, monitoring other health concerns. They are urging the residents in East Palestine to drink bottled water as testing continues and they are urging residents who have private wells to call and schedule free testing of their wells. Bottled water is being provided free too. The wildlife lady at that briefing described over 3,000 dead fish estimated so far and there are efforts to contain the water contamination, but it’s a serious concern.
The entire situation is serious, but it’s not Chernobyl and this right-wing spin effort has left me as disgusted by this right-wing media ecosystem as I am by the left-wing media ecosystem. It’s a total disservice to the people impacted. We’ve got the left spin war and activism teaching Americans to hate America and the right-wing spin war is teaching them to believe the American government and every politician or person, whom the right-wing media decides is bad, is evil and is trying to destroy them or America. This coverage has been appallingly bad and the amazing thing is the FOX News take that no one in the media has been talking about the train derailment – well, they were all-in on the Chinese spy balloon story the past two weeks too, but now they need a new story to incite the right.
There’s another hot take that there’s been a media blackout of this story. There was a journalist arrested at a briefing in East Palestine and I don’t have all the details, but saw a video clip of the incident. That incident has been blown-up into assertions that there’s been a total media blackout, even though when I heard that the first time, I googled train derailment in OH and came up with pages upon pages of news stories on this train derailment from all sorts of news outlets – local and even liberal big media. It wasn’t much of a media blackout, since I only had to do one quick google search to find out information from the beginning of this crisis to the present.
Of course, naturally, the same people who believe the government is trying to destroy the food supply with the food processing plant fires are now ranting about the rash of train derailments and acting like it’s some conspiracy. I checked the train accident stats from the Federal Railroad Administration and there are a lot of railroad accidents (1573 for 2022), to include derailments, in America every year: https://safetydata.fra.dot.gov/officeofsafety/publicsite/summary.aspx
I turn FOX News on occasionally, since I can’t deal with the far-left crazy on MSNBC and CNN went so far into Trump derangement that I couldn’t deal with Stormy and Avenatti, etc. I am about done with FOX News too. Last night really disgusted me – by the time Laura Ingraham came on and started her dishonest conflating topics – from selling the Biden blew up Nord Stream allegation to making this train derailment into Chernobyl, I didn’t even make it through her monologue. Here’s the thing Seymour Hersh has spread stories that were not true many times in the past – he has a very spotty track record and I take everything he reports with a few shakers of salt. I find it almost impossible to believe that President Biden, who dragged his feet responding to the Afghanistan withdrawal debacle, has dragged his feet on aid to Ukraine, ( fast to promise, slow to deliver) was still trying to talk to Putin & was still importing Russian oil at the time of the Nord Stream pipeline explosions, who took a week to decide to shoot down an unmanned Chines spy balloon flying over America and our most sensitive military sites ordered the Nord Stream pipelines to be blown up. And for what purpose? The Germans and other Europeans were still trying to get Putin to reopen the pipeline.
There’s definitely room to question why so many train accidents and what’s going on with funding more train safety measures, since Congress passed that massive infrastructure bill in 2021. However, this deliberate right-wing media effort to create mass hysteria and use this crisis to score political points against the Biden administration and Pete Buttigieg, at the expense of trying to get calm, clear information to the residents of East Palestine and surrounding areas is just as bad as the vast, corrupt Dem/liberal media spin war.