Monday, December 06, 2010

The Times They Are A'Changin'

Anyone who has read this blog for any amount of time, knows I am not an "extreme" personality.
I do not think extremes are healthy; for anyone.
But I believe in being prepared. For anything.
Once in my lifetime, I knew people I thought were extremists. They talked about the changing times, they bought batteries by the dozen, canned tuna and soup by the cases. They had an elaborate system of organizing their food, oldest products eaten first, dated and so on. Nothing expired. They had medications and antibiotics stockpiled, they made sure they were located close to water, away from major cities...all "in case".

At the time, I thought they were going a little over the top.

Years went on, I moved on, made a family of my own.
Then I woke up one day to watch how the horror in a major, American city unfolded. I watched a vibrant, lively city suffer, weep, die and decay. As horrified as I was at that, I was not prepared for the news coverage that showed a dead body washing up against a fence, in the backwash of a news boat. I was not prepared for that at all. I thought then, and still believe today, that the news media should never have shown such an image.
That was someone's parent possibly, someone's cousin, someone's sibling, daughter or son. That was once a human being.
And shocked, appalled and stunned as I was; I did learn something from the entire situation.
No matter how advanced our society is, our civic structure, our government can not always help us.
Yes, Hurricane Katrina was years ago. August 29th, 2005 saw massive flooding, which resulted in massive loss of life. The blame was eventually laid on the doorstep of the US Army Corps, who were responsible for the building and maintenance of the levees and floodgates. 80% of the city flooded, and much of that stayed flooded for weeks. The hurricane caused 7 million gallons of oil to spill into the water. Part of the cleanup involved dumping floodwater into Lake Pontchartrain for 43 days. That water contained raw sewage, pesticides, heavy metals, and bacteria.
When the hurricane left the city on August 30th, the people who had survived became desperate. There was excessive looting as people began to do whatever was necessary to get food, water, baby food and diapers, pet food and anything they thought they needed. The city was not prepared. There was a sharp rise in violent crime; rape, home invasion and so forth. It is a part of government responsibility, at all levels, to be prepared for disaster of all kinds; man-made and environmental. Part of the tragedy of New Orleans came about because the varying levels of government suffered from poor communication. FEMA claimed to have supplied over 700,000 applicants with emergency housing, but only one-fifth of that was actually supplied. All levels of government were criticized for poor response, much of the criticism came from the Mayor and Governor of New Orleans. There were deaths days after the hurricane had blown itself out, from thirst, starvation, exhaustion and dismal hygiene. There was poor planning on a civic level, where buildings and relief centers were concerned.
The Louisiana Superdome was designed for an occupancy of 800, but 30,000 arrived seeking safety. The New Orleans Civic Center was not designed as an evacuation center at all, but 25,000 arrived seeking safety, food and water.

So, what did I learn from this?

I learned that no massive structure can offer safety from death by dehydration, hunger or un-sanitary conditions. No government can protect us properly from Mother Nature when she's pissed. Rarely will a neighbor sacrifice to save another, but it IS possible. I learned too that people, generally, have a herd mentality. I also learned that man will turn on their fellow man in order to survive, to a great degree.
I learned that, essentially, we are all in this for ourselves first. Then, when we are comfortable, warm, fed and safe, THEN we have a responsibility to help our fellow man.

Do you know how you would accomplish this?

Neither do I.
So as of last night, Betty and I started thinking in a logical way about our own state of preparedness. We started looking at what we know how to do, what supplies we already have and so on.
I know how to skin an animal, I know how to make a fire. I know, in theory, how to acquire safe drinking water, although I've not yet had to do it. Betty has a firm grip on the physical aspects of what we'll need to keep us alive and fed, and hydrated, and comfortable.

We face some challenges, to be sure. We will not be ready for quite some time. We have to plan and prepare; but do it all rationally and calmly without shrieking about the sky falling around our ears.
And we will.
Hang on to your hats and rainboots as I take you along for the ride in the days to come.

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