Thursday, September 08, 2005

we must plan for ourselves

Before reading my post today, I would ask that you read this article from the Hearld Sun.
[The article is no longer available at that link. You can read the story here.]

I am not interested at this moment in laying blame or shame on any specific doorstep. The point of my post is to draw attention to the lack of response to the disaster or maybe more appropriately stated, the chaotic nature of the limited governmental response to hurricane Katrina. The lesson I take personally from the catastrophe is not to count on being saved by the authorities of this nation.

Years of stable living for those of us lucky enough to be able to provide for ourselves and years of government subsidies for those of us who can not have produced a sense of complacency and entitlement. To believe that anyone owes us anything is to misunderstand the idea of generosity.

I believe in the spirit of giving and I believe this superb attribute to be one of the characteristics that define humanity and civil society. But it is not a certainty that our government will provide us with anything and should not be mistaken for one. Anyone who expects the government to care for him or her in times of crisis and chaos is placing false hope in our inept leaders. The responsibility for the well-being and safety of yourself and your family and your neighbors lies squarely on your shoulders. Are you prepared to take care of yourself and those around you?

I think it is helpful to consider the basic necessities of human life when evaluating your preparedness and the preparedness of those in your community. I find it useful to think in terms of what would be the most important resources to have, and to consider how long you could go without each. In other words a Nintendo Play Station is not necessary and you could go your whole life without it but without water you last only a few days. The short list goes something like this:

Medical Care

To be sure the above are interconnected. If you have transportation, you can probably obtain food. And in some cases, like the middle of winter in Maine, a heat source might be more important even than water in the short term. Having said that, I hope that as individuals, as families, and as communities we can use the crisis of Katrina to examine how we would go about filing these needs in times of trouble.

Ask yourself, do you have enough food in your pantry for a week? How about 3 months? From how far away does most of your food supply come? Where does your water come from? Do you know anything about rainwater collection and simple methods for purifying it? What sort of tools do you have and how handy are you with them? Could you heat or cool your home without electricity or natural gas? How about cooking with out it? Could you communicate to your family and others without your cell phone? Could you get out of the way of danger if the gas stations run out?

I am not suggesting amnesty for those governmental organizations entrusted by our society with the response to such storms. Nor I am not suggesting a panicked attempt to learn all the survival skills necessary to walk into the woods with only a backpack. You will drive yourself crazy with such a mindset. Further, I think a survivalist mentality runs contray to produtive local reactions to crisis developed through strong local connections. I do hope though that the above are all questions that Americans are asking themselves as they watch those stranded and displaced by Katrina amidst a government response that has lacked luster to put it mildly. I for one will not be sitting at home with my fingers crossed.

1 comment:

Abe Cooper said...

What really should be the lessons of Hurricane Katrina? It's not merely that we should be self-sufficent in the short-term.

We should look at the bigger picture. Historical circumstances, including government actions and inactions, led to the vulnerability of the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Some factors are: poverty, complacency, lack of will, expedience, inattention to the consequences on the natural environment (with the erosion of the marsh lands) and inadequate standards in the design and construction of the floodwall foundations.

Similar circumstances make us vulnerable to oil shortages. But we can expect those shortages to be increasing, permanent and global. Who is going to bail us out then?

So the survivalists may have it right, not only for their personal survival but as an ethical statement. The caching of industrial goods won't cut it. Rather, long-term survival for our species may require real local self-sufficiency. But what place is still natural and temperate enough (the South?) to support human survival, and who is courageous enough to shun outside dependencies and prepare for the worst?

This is copied in
(Incidentally, your Herald Sun link is broken.)