“The best way to keep something bad from happening is to see it ahead of time… and you can’t see it if you refuse to face the possibility.”
~ William S. Burroughs
“It won’t happen to us” – “It won’t be that bad” – “Somebody will come and rescue us” – “We’ll find a way to get over it, if it happens” – “We can’t do anything about it anyways, so why bother?” – “You are a doomer, let’s change the subject”
One of my jobs is to teach Emergency Preparedness, and believe it or not, this can be fun. It is empowering to know you have the skills to save a life, prevent an injury and be calm if something terrible happens.
Today we had “ShakeOut BC Day” a giant drill to create awareness about Emergency Preparedness, especially for the “Big One”.
In EP, we have a saying: “If you are truly prepared for an earthquake, you are prepared for everything”
The reality is that most of us are not “truly” prepared…
I always like to see the links between things I study, and EP has lots to do with Permaculture too: Permaculture is about observing relationships, patterns and factors, planning and designing to avoid problems or to turn them into solutions. Permaculture is also about becoming stewards of the Earth while practicing the three Ethics: Earth-Care, People-Care and Fair-Share. EP, on the other hand, is about caring for people using principles of universality, neutrality, impartiality and voluntary service (among others). Both are proactive and look to create solutions or minimize impacts and problems…
Most people wake up to EP when a disaster strikes somewhere close or when it affects millions. We just assume life will go on as usual forever an ever…
“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted. That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.”
~ Aldous Huxley
Let’s see what EP for earthquakes can teach us for other types of “disasters” (from sudden unemployment and becoming broke to water or food rationing, other natural disasters, collapses and war)
- Map yourself, your family and your community. What do you need? What are your non-negotiables?
- Make a plan: imagine the future and its multiple posibilities. Don’t be scared: just imagine the different scenarios and be practical: where would your water, food, shelter, transportation, income, entertainment, companionship, etc come from? How would you communicate with others if there are blackouts, no Internet and no phones?
- Have a back-up plan: List all your family needs. Now list where the resources come from. Think of a back-up plan: both in Permaculture and in EP, we encourage back-ups: important functions that are covered by more than one object or process: more than one source for income, food, water, heat, shelter and so on…(if one fails…)
- Learn the skills: imagine the skills you may need and start learning them now. Disaster or collapses are not the best moments to learn the skills you need.
- Stock-up: when disaster strikes, food, water, medicines and tools are the first things to become scarce. If the problem persists, they may become the centre of conflict or a means of exchange. Seeds and sprout seeds can become gold in bad times and they have the ability to be stocked-up for long periods of time, the same with dried and canned food.
- Have an evacuation plan and a “grab-and-go” kit always close to every member of your family, including one for your workplace, vehicle and your children’s school (in some cases, you won’t be able to stay. This is true not just in natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods or forest fires, but during civil revolts, cup d’états, pestilences, etc.
- Build resilience: we build resilience by practicing, anticipating, simplifying and cleaning our lives: imagine an earthquake, a fire, an economic collapse or a pestilence hitting a cluttered house or a cluttered life.
- Build community: those who think EP is about “survivalism” and stockpiling weapons are terribly mistaken. Same with those who see the “back-to-land” and “off-the-grid” as the only solutions to escape pollution and a terribly sick and dying system. First, not everybody can buy land or build a house in the middle of nowhere. Second, it is unlikely that somebody can be completely “self-sufficient” as everything is interconnected and almost nobody can produce absolutely all they need. And third, building community is the best way to withstand any collapses, disasters or challenges. If you work on building community, you’ll have the best back-up, health-care and age-care system ever for your family. You’ll have people to count on and who can count on you. You can exchange and share resources and skills, shelter, entertainment, information and protection.
If you ask me, I am not fully prepared. Nobody is. You can have the best of plans and a grab-and-go and survival kit in every room of your house, but the earthquake may strike when you are out walking your dog. You can have all planned out for your life but life may send you something you never thought of.
EP is a lifelong process. In these uncertain times, we can’t live it for tomorrow. We need to start somewhere. As Permaculturists say: “Start now, start small and slow, start where you are and with what you have”
Other things you can do:
- Pay off any debt. We live inside a bubble and it will burst one day. It can be tomorrow, next month, next year or in five years. But believe me, it is close. So work hard and pay off your debts, your mortgage and stop digging that hole.
- Simplify and clean your life: give away what you don’t need. Share the surplus. Leave lightly.
- Learn practical skills: in a few years, knowing how to cook from scratch, grow your food, mend your clothes or knit a sweater will be more important than any PhD.
- Forget money, build skills and resilience: money will lose its value more and more. Money in the bank can evaporate in seconds. Skills in your brain or hands or having the right tools when you need them, cannot.
- Forget insurance and benefits, build health, relationships and community: we have been enslaved to think that we need a job with benefits and to buy insurance for all we have and do. If you exercise and eat healthy, have good relationships with family, friends and community and skills to know how to use herbs and Nature, those are more than enough to keep you safe and healthy.
- Practice mindfulness: it may sound contradictory. But planning for the future and imagining different scenarios doesn’t mean to live stressed and forget about what you are and have today. Enjoy every minute and keep reminding yourself of what are the truly important things in life.
“Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.”
~ John Keats