Confessions of an Atheist Prepper

I have had people in the past ask me how what got me involved in the prepper (survivalist) movement? While many reasons are religious based and involve practices taught to them by their faith, I can only attest to a partial truth in that answer. I did grow up during the 80s and while baby boomers and a few numbers of Gen Xers can remember the nuclear drills that schools did back in the day, I can still recall in detail putting a book over my head and thinking this was somehow going to protect me from the radiation and intense heat that would strip the flesh from my bones like Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. The drills were ridiculous and even one kid in my class asked the question on how to not look once you saw the light when a nuclear detonation happened?  As he pointed out once you saw the light your retina was already burned. The drills and precautions done during that time were pointless and amounted to nothing when the real event came upon us and fortunately for us it never did.

There was something else that happened when I was in middle school. The administration at St. Monica’s had gathered together and tried to figure out what issues the future generation might have to be prepared for. Out of nuclear war, plague, over population, or devastating asteroid, climate change ended up being the winner of the conversation. Our class learned about gardening solar energy, and peak oil, an issue they were hoping might happen sooner than later in order to counter the effects of climate change. Global Warming was the term we heard back then until the Bush administration changed the term to make the effects sound more natural and less dangerous. Regardless there was an importance instilled in me about the future and what science said was coming.

During that time my parents were doing a lot of things around the house that were also prepper related. Buying large amounts of canned goods and storing them away, canning their own vegetables, growing a garden, attempted bouts of hunting that ended with throwing the deer in the bed of the truck after hitting it in the road. Most of these activities were for the purpose of saving money and instead resulted in the hobbies being quickly dropped due to the time and energy involved in them. I was seeing and learning these things as I grew up but the thing that turned me off from it for a long time was the religion aspect that was tied to it. With every event, news story, political concern, and scientific study there was a reference to the book of revelation or the apocalypse. During the cold war, we faced nuclear annihilation and that was God’s plan. After the fall of the Berlin wall it changed to the Iraq war and the battle of Armageddon where Saddam was the anti-christ and America was the Christian warriors who were fighting for the side of good. I remember my mother worried about Saddam’s chemical weapons and destroying the planet, an irrational fear told to a child and something that a more intelligent person would have found to be ludicrous. Still this was the world I was growing up in and no matter how many times the end of the world didn’t happen there was a push by the religious right to find the next big thing. I became tired of this and other aspects of religion as I grew older.

Going to catholic schools there were several times that what I was being taught and what the school did were opposites of each other. While the teachings of the new testament were prioritized as the most important aspect of the bible, the school and church were run under old testament rule. When I pointed these things out and argued against the things I was seeing I was told that was not how the real world worked and not to question authority. Wasn’t that exactly what Jesus did? Question the old rule of the Jewish state and try to change minds to a better world? And why was I the only one who was trying to practice what was being taught?

I never went back to the catholic church after graduation feeling no need or desire to connect myself to an organization that blackmailed people with threats of where they would be after they died. I later married into a Methodist church where I thought there might be a resemblance to the teachings I was taught but that fell to the wayside after a pastor complained about a person calling the church asking for help, then demanded that the parish donate to the church so that they could install air conditioning. I quickly left the church after that.

For a few years, I found a home in Buddhism and practiced that philosophy for a while until there was an issue with what the “true path” was. I still find meditation handy and feel disappointed with the organization of a philosophy whose teacher stated, “Everyone can find enlightenment in their own way, this is what worked for me.”

Since then I have found a comfort in atheism. After all of the ridiculous stress and anxiety that came with being the member of a world ending religion seeing a reason and logic behind what was said had a comfort, the book of revelations would never offer. What was the point of doing anything when those around you were constantly saying “this is the end.”

With science, climate change came back into view. Because the effects of this event continued to come into play over long periods of time it didn’t have the effect for the churches to claim it as part of their world ending religion. The end of days has a very specific short term time line for any idiot to follow. Climate change on the other hand is an event that takes years if not a century to show its full effect. While religion depends on events like solar eclipses and other events that can be predicted through science to legitimize it, a long-term event like climate change is something that churches or religion in general have not only been unable to fit into their dogmatic role, but also denying its existence regarding it as a threat to their own existence. I can’t help assume that not only do the leaders of these churches know that climate change if real but that they deny it for the simple short minded reason that it will cost them money in the end. The shell corporation knew that climate change was real in the early 1970s and even taught their staff members about it to figure out what to do in order to stay in business while not destroying the planet. In the 1990s they changed their tune and started a campaign to deny the existence of climate change and not reduce the use of oil but figure out more ways to extract it in more costly ways.

Becoming an atheist didn’t change my view on the end of the world, it focused my attention to the one route it was proven to take that religion was denying. Sure, there is still fear of nuclear holocaust and another world war considering the current administration in office, but if I had to put my money on anything, climate change is the one circumstance that won’t change even if other events don’t happen first. A hundred years from now, if we don’t have a nuclear holocaust, world war, or plague that wipes out half of civilization, the earth will still be warmer, the seas levels will rise, and a good portion of the species on the planet will be gone. Out of all the ridiculous situations that we consider to be a threat to our way of life we ignore the one that is in our face and currently happening.

These days our government distracts us with things that are less likely to occur like terrorism from a threat that will cost their donors money. Terrorism is one of the issues that can promote while making a profit. To wage war on climate change is anti-climactic and while it does save the planet the enemy is hard to see and the positive effects of the efforts are difficult to measure over time. During war, bodies can be stacked and counted. Saved lives are harder to measure. How does one estimate lives saved from doing something that some would argue “might happen.” This argument was made at the end of WWII to justify the use of the atomic bomb against the civilian cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The White house argued the lives saved was greater than the lives lost to end the war early. History would later show that not only was this assumption false but the reasons were more sinister than that.

Al Gore tried to bring the issue of climate change to the forefront and succeeded for a short time. His efforts were overshadowed by the Bush administration’s war on terror and soon Gore was forgotten and his push to change light bulbs was thrown to the wayside. Gore’s attempt to save the world backfired like Jimmy Carter’s attempt to change the American psyche.

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Renew, Reuse, Recycle

Over a year ago I started a hobby that has taken a few twist and turns. While thinking about global warming and where our world is heading I quickly realized that there aren’t many things made these days that will be around a decade from now. However, there are many tools and items that were made a hundred years ago that not only still exist but still work.

This adventure started with an interest in typewriters. I had bought my first typewriter, a Smith-Corona super speed that had a few parts missing and needed a little love. The adventure took over a year, it was finally fixed a few months back, but after ordering a few parts online it was working perfectly. During that tim,e I came across dozens of typewriters that had different things wrong with them and I was able to fix them all. It was during that time I realized I was saving these machines from the recycling and trash dumps to continue being used. I became a middleman between a death that would come too soon and a new life with a good home.

While a part of me wonders why people won’t take the time to figure out what is wrong with these machines it also keeps me busy looking for more that people are trying to flip or make a profit from. The oddest part of this trade is finding rusted out machines with broken carriages and platens missing from the rubber rotting off are the machines that have the highest price. People will look online and see what some machines are selling for and thing their piece of junk will sell for that, not seeing what it really is. These machines I would find useful for the parts they contained. For the price they are being sold for they will sit on the shelf and eventually move on to a darker place.

A few months back I found three AM radios at a sale where everything was half off. I picked up the radios to see if I could figure out how to fix them. I knew little about vacuum tube radios or electronics in general, but I replaced the power cords and cleaned out the bodies. Plugging in the first radio and turning it on I waited a few seconds to see the lights turn on and the static from the speaker start to fill the room. An old zenith radio had found a second chance.

When it comes to the eco conscious individual I see a few things that make sense but there are many aspects of their personality I can’t get past. They will buy new cars that cost several barrels of oil to create from the beginning of production to the point of reaching the parking lot. They by cell phones from china, eat food from supermarkets, even if it is organic it was still harvested, wrapped, and shipped from oil. At the end of the week they feel good about putting their recycling out and making money for somebody else who sells the raw material produced.

Growing up I learned three words to help the world. Reduce, reuse, and recycle was printed on a triangle pinned to the board on the side of the classroom. So far recycle is the only one that has gone anywhere in the last 20 years. Reduce is not popular with the Walmart crowd, but let’s look at reuse. I’m the type of person that likes to go to garage sales, antique shops, estate sales, and flea markets. What I try to find is items that are at their last leg in life and have a second chance waiting for them. Many of these machines are better for the environment and had their carbon bill created almost a century ago. A typewriter is Microsoft word on a machine that prints what you write while you write it, no electricity needed. The AM radios offer entertainment that have a classic sound and still play modern music if you tune in to the right channel.

My latest project is a 1922 Minnesota domestic model A sewing machine. This machine is a clone of the Singer sewing machines of the time and came with a solid oak cabinet that contains the foot pedal and belt that powers the sewing machine. Again, a fully functional machine that doesn’t use electricity. Not only is it useful but the quality of materials and the beauty they were made with isn’t matched by anything today. With a little oil, cleaning products and love the machine came back to life for another hundred years. The oak cabinet is still solid and just needs a little sanding and finish to come back to life.

While people stick to their recycling and think they are making a difference I have started to look at the other two words in that phrase. Reuse isn’t just taking stuff out of the closet and using it once in a while, for me it means bringing things back to life that people will want to use again for a second or maybe third lifetime. As for the reduce aspect of the triangle I can say that selling these items takes care of the stockpile that builds up while fixing these machines. Their sale isn’t for much profit since I try to sell them for a price that the average person can afford and are more likely to appreciate. For the type writers I don’t see many collectors trying to find typewriters, what I have been seeing is people who want one to use for letters or writing that novel they always wanted to do.

Reusing items isn’t just that one word. You are recycling the material they are made out of, reducing the need for more items to be created, and renewing a machine that somebody will love for the first time. While I have expanded into world of sewing machines it won’t stop there. I have seen quite a few tobacco pipes that are looking for a second chance and what I have learned is that with a little buffing, cleaning and a shot of whiskey they are like new for a new owner to enjoy. Who knows maybe renewing old products that were created so long ago will become a new industry.

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Creating the Man of Tomorrow

The future doesn’t consist of a world where one can become anything they want just by pursuing it through hard work and really wanting it, although that was a myth. Instead we have a future where we have a very good idea of what is going to happen, the only catch is that we don’t know how soon it will happen. Currently the predictions of climate change are speeding up and what climate scientist originally thought was going to take decades to happen is now occurring at this present moment. The year (2017) has seen the second year that the arctic hasn’t frozen over and the current temperature (Feb 9, 2017) is fifty degrees higher than normal. Oklahoma reached 100 degrees today as well. The arctic hasn’t been free of ice since human kind started civilization 40,000 years ago.

I bring this up for several reasons. Our current administration denies that climate change exist. A witch hunt is underway for scientist and government employees who study the weather and its effects. As if silencing the scientific consensus will somehow change the fact that the human race as a whole is under the threat of extinction. The rate at which our climate is changing is happening faster than anybody anticipated. The release of methane from the arctic is expected to speed things up even faster. Methane is a more toxic greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and there are large amounts of it trapped under the frozen surface of the Siberian tundra and the waters of the arctic. When that methane is released temperatures will rise regardless of the carbon dioxide levels measured by our governments.

The earth is changing, and if mankind is going to survive he has to adapt to it or risk going extinct like so many species that came before. So, what do we do?

As I write this my girlfriend is 9 weeks along with our first child. If things go as planned it will be our only child. At 37 years of age there isn’t much room for anymore and I don’t want to run the risk of being mistaken as grandpa when they are in their 20s. Boy or girl there is a long list of things I will be teaching them along the way. Much of it should come as a normal part of life. A healthy curiosity for learning is key. Self confidence in themselves will hopefully be instilled. But beyond that there are simple skills that most people don’t have anymore. Fishing, hunting, gardening, respect for the earth and everything it provides. Enjoying your life. The part of the collapse I look forward to is the disappearance of the banks and the 40 hour a week bullshit of a thing called a job. Seriously, homesteading would be a permanent vacation for me. There are more skills that will be taught and with the way things are nose diving into the ocean I don’t know if there is enough time to get everything in. The reality of being a parent is knowing you won’t be around forever to take care of them. The natural way of things is that eventually the child replaces the parent.

It’s no secret I don’t like how things are going right now. Between climate change, the banks, a fascist president, internet surveillance, and war on the horizon how is one supposed to have confidence in anything other than their own ability? When the people you are supposed to trust let you down repeatedly at what point do you walk away from the mess and go about it on your own?

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The Times They Are A Changin’

For the second day in a row I was outside cleaning my yard. Racking leaves, cleaning out the garden, this was February 14 and it was almost 50 degrees in Michigan. This kind of thing has been a re-occurring trend in my state. Granted, the state is known for having all four seasons in a week, or sometimes a single day depending on its mood. For most of my adult life I cannot recall the last time we had a real winter, the type of season where kids could build snow forts and have snow ball fights while hiding behind snowmen. The last time we had an accumulation of snow and it stuck around all winter was 1999/ 2000. That was 17 years ago, in the early 2000s we had a snowless Christmas with 70-degree weather and I was outside wearing a t-shirt and shorts.

Again this year, the weather bureau stated this was the hottest summer on record and the warmest winter ever recorded. Last week the arctic was 50 degrees warmer than normal and was the highest temperature ever while humans have been on the planet. The arctic, for another year, never froze over.

I know that things change, the childhood that I had was not the world my parents had, and the world I grew up in was my version of normal. Every generation goes through that transition. When I was growing up war was a televised spectator sport, celebrities had live trials, and the president’s sex life was broadcast on television. That wasn’t my parent’s world. The one that we are moving into isn’t the world I grew up in either. Normal for my kid could look like snowless winters in Michigan. Animals I saw alive at zoos will no longer exist. If some people have their way, the National Parks might not be around either for them to enjoy. A think called privacy will become an odd habit for prudes. The world I grew up in, the one that currently exist will be gone and what comes next will be the new normal, the only one my child will ever know. The fast-changing world is a challenge for parents, seeing their kids with things they themselves do not understand and are too busy working several jobs to have the time to keep up with the times. It’s no wonder there is a disconnect between the generations.

The times they are a changin, and what the world will look like I can only guess. Winter has become a short one month event with bits of fall and spring dotting the calendar here and there. The bits of warm weather at the beginning of the year has caused havoc with the fruit trees, causing blooms too early for bees to pollinate and catching the flowers in early season frost to dry off, killing the chances of growing fruit. Hunting season has been thrown off as well with the rut taking place earlier in the fall so that it is done before gun season opens. The earth is changing and the rest of the planet is trying to catch up in its own way, but nobody knows how to do that. In a world that we depend on to remain normal I find myself questioning what exactly is normal?

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