|Oh no! Scientists brought dinosaurs back to life and they're in my house!|
Sometimes, I like to indulge my paranoid side, especially as it links up with my imaginative side. I love making lists and thinking of possible contingencies. I know exactly how I should prepare to have enough food and water in my house to survive a months-long disaster of unspecified cause. I know various methods of food preservation requiring no electricity or other fuel. I know methods of gardening for dealing with drought and methods for extending the season. I know how to build a solar powered water distiller.
Unfortunately, all of this is in my mind. I'm a planner - not necessarily an executor of said plans. Other than freezing two gallons of water to take up freezer space (a full freezer is more efficient), I've done nothing to prepare for an emergency. (I don't like to think about what happens to my freezer half-full of locally pastured beef if the electricity cuts out for more than 24 hours. Since I only have the vaguest notion of how to smoke things, a block party, maybe? Hmm, that bears thinking about...)
I don't think I'm unique in not being prepared for a major disaster, or even a minor one. I'm sure more than a few of you have heard that, if supply lines are cut, grocery stores have about three days of food - perhaps less if people go crazy stockpiling in the first day. I have enough food around the house to survive for a couple of weeks without shopping, although I would probably be missing some key nutrients by the end of our reliance on rice, dried beans, and the aforementioned beef, and I'd have to find a toilet paper substitute. More than a few weeks? That's where it get sticky.
My friend Tracy told me that if a disaster happened, the first thing she would do is gather her extended family together. She's lucky enough to have them close to her. I would probably take my family, my seed supply, and head out to a relative's farm. But what about people who don't have those connections?
I read a quote the other day that in our society "the interdependency of individuals [is] not mediated through political, social, or religious institutions but via the market and contract". When that market contract fails - when the stores have no food, when the city's water treatment plant is malfunctioning, and we can't purchase what we need to live - do we have connections, institutions, that will help us and wherein we can help others? Who's going to save you? Your church? They don't have the resources. Your family/friend network? Not if they are likewise dependent on purchasing the essentials of life.
This is not a hypothetical situation in many parts of the world, where the water supply is unreliable or too expensive, where food prices may rocket out of reach and droughts annihilate subsistence crops. However, in some of those places, people do have something we lack here, in our "independence" of one another: interdependence. And this interdependence can cushion catastrophe.