“At some point in the not-so-distant future, world oil production will peak and turn downward. When it does so, it will be a seismic event. The only world we have known is one where oil production is rising. In this new world, where oil production is no longer expanding, one country can get more oil only if another gets less.” — Lester R. Brown | author of Plan B 3.0 —Mobilizing To Save Civilization
With much anticipation several weeks ago, I sat down and watched National Geographic’s Season premier of Doomsday Preppers. For those of you not familiar with the show, the premise is to feature various American preppers providing insight to not only the motivations behind their prepping but also an inside look at their actual preparations. Last year they launched a one episode-pilot that highlighted some great resources in the prepper community like Scott and David at Practical Preppers and Lisa at The Survival Mom. The guys at Practical Preppers were even retained this year as consultants for Doomsday Preppers to provide the show’s producers the subject-matter expertise last year’s pilot lacked.
This year's series not only grades the preppers on their level of preparedness but it then identifies the gaps they should incorporate in order to strike that perfect balance. In addition, the show then discusses the threat (either real or perceived) that motivates the subject preppers to become better prepared. For those of you getting this weekly email called The Dispatch and signing up for our monthly newsletter called The Beacon, you will notice similar themes as we strive to strike the perfect balance between situational awareness and prepping.
Each episode of Doomsday Preppers highlights various people with diverse backgrounds, ages, and motivations as to why they became a prepper. While I applaud National Geographic’s efforts to cover the topic, I felt that the show tended to put the entertainment factor on par with the actual practical preparation information—often at the expense of the preppers. Like any reality show, I am sure they have taken liberty with all their film footage but nevertheless, I felt compelled enough to write about my take on one of the show’s first episode’s case study: Megan Hurwitt—commonly known as the “Young Urban Prepper.” I thought I would also use this opportunity to share with you my thoughts on her motivations (i.e. fears) and perhaps present a more balanced approach to what she was doing to prepare.
Megan Hurwitt, a young computer programmer living in Houston, claims she is “...prepping to survive a catastrophic oil crisis.” Nick Weismman, the producer of Doomsday Preppers has this to say about Megan: “Preppers come in all shapes and sizes. Such is the case with Megan Hurwitt, a metropolitan party girl living in the fourth largest city in the country: Houston, Texas. To see her driving through the sunny downtown streets in her Mustang convertible, one might not suspect that in her nearby apartment, Megan has an impressive gun collection, a seed bank, and an intricate plan for evacuating the city.”
Megan is concerned about Peak Oil. I studied Peak Oil for over three months as part of my research into our forthcoming Thinking the Unthinkable series, one of which is entitled: Energy Shock! I thought I would use Megan’s concerns of a “Peak-Oil Event” as an opportunity to briefly explain to you what Peak-Oil is and more importantly, what it’s not.
Peak Oil is defined as “…the point in time, when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline.” Recognize the fact that oil is a finite commodity (i.e. there is only so much that exists on the planet); the chances of finding a new abundant supply of cheap oil are minimal since most of the easy/cheap sources were tapped long ago. Michael C. Ruppert, a leading expert on Peak Oil explains, “All oil production follows a bell curve—always has, whether it’s an oil field or an oil well. Everything that goes up must come down. The midpoint is reached at the top of the bell curve and hanging from the top is the big fruit or the easy game that’s easy to reach and take… As you go down the down slope of that curve, every barrel of oil you will try to get will become harder to get and more expensive to get, because you’re reaching out further on the tree to get the fruit on a weaker limb—deep water horizon drilling illustrates that perfectly, which is what Saudi Arabia is doing now—a clear indication that Saudi Arabia has reached peak oil.”
Megan is correct in her fear that if (without warning) the world suddenly ran out of oil, chaos would immediately ensue. However, where Megan is misinformed about Peak Oil is that it won’t suddenly just dry up like a chocolate milkshake being sucked out of a straw. It happens over years, decades even. This fact does not, however, make her concern unfounded. Dr. James Schlesinger, the former Secretaries of Defense and Energy had this to say about Peak Oil: “We are not good at recognizing distant threats even if their probability is 100%. Society ignoring [Peak Oil] is like the people of Pompeii ignoring the rumblings below Vesuvius.”
Oil is truly one of the most fundamental cornerstones to the world’s economy. Without it, our modern global economy would simply not function. Oil is so prevalent in our daily lives that it is often called “nature’s feedstock.” Oil is used directly or indirectly in the production of 95% of all industrial goods we manufacture. When oil is refined, its various chemical parts are separated. Some of it becomes gasoline, or lubricants, or even pesticides. Some parts go into asphalt, while other raw materials are used to manufacture such things as plastics, rubber, and even clothes. Our iPods, iPads, iPhones and computers rely on oil in order to be manufactured in Asia, then shipped halfway across the globe, and finally trucked in from our seaboard ports. Something as simple as a car tire consumes seven gallons of oil. Ruppert reminds us, “…that there is nothing anywhere, in any combination, that will replace the edifice built by fossil fuels. Nothing.”
In a hundred years, mankind has used up an estimated one-half (if not more) of all the oil on the planet.
Take a look at how our whole economic system works and you will quickly see our total dependence on oil. We not only depend on imports for most of our manufactured goods, we then transport these goods over great distances across our nation--to be assembled and packaged here, or sent to the final destination on the store shelves across America. The U.S. economy is probably more dependent on an ever-abundant supply of cheap oil than any other world economy. We are one of the world's largest consumers of oil, yet we produce very little of it domestically for our own needs.
The Peak Oil scenario presents some very real challenges for mankind's future, especially if you consider that our explosive population boom over the last century was literally only made possible by our discovery and harnessing of oil and its many derivatives. We can thank oil for our mechanized farming equipment and pesticides we need to feed all these people. Prior to combustible engines, we were pretty much limited to being an agrarian culture dependent on our free access to sunlight. Because mankind was able to modernize our ability to harvest vast tracks of land without the need for physical labor, our population was able to flourish.
It is hard to argue that oil is becoming more and more scarce worldwide, so Megan is certainly smart to have this on her list of threats. Oil is becoming harder to find just as our own government hobbles our ability to tap into our own domestic resources. We expect this trend to continue and consequences of its absence will have permanent ramifications if other forms of alternative fuel are not quickly discovered and harnessed! But, this issue is a slow-burn threat. It could get more serious if war ensues in the Middle East, but an outright shut-off of oil is not likely to happen overnight. It will likely be something other than Peak Oil that may cause Megan to bug out of Houston or otherwise need to use her preps!
Now let's focus on some of Megan's preparations, because it's plausible that she is not totally consumed by Peak Oil that she hasn't prepared for a broader range of threats. The producer of Doomsday Preppers, Nick Weismman said, “Megan revealed that she carries a compact “go bag” with her at all times. Inside the small gadget bag you’ll find a compact mess kit, survival knife, compass, flint, pepper spray, family photos, as well as a few other hygienic essentials. I was surprised to learn that it even had an SD card with important financial, identification, and medical documents in case she has to leave in a hurry. I guess you could call it an “end of the world purse.” At that point, I knew that there was an interesting story to tell about urban prepping.”
Kudos to Megan for having a Bug-Out-Bag! That is one of the most fundamental preps we all should have at the ready. The concept of having backup copies of our important documents such as deeds, social security cards, driver’s licenses, insurance policies, wills, legal papers, bank accounts and financial records stored off-site, and even on a jump-drive in our personal go-bag was definitely an excellent idea we should all implement! Like we have said before, redundancy is key. So while you can look to companies like Apple and Carbonite for off-site “cloud storage,” I would suggest you not be 100% reliant on the internet for backup (think EMP...). Store away your important documents on a couple of discs or jump-drives for those emergencies that might make access to the internet impossible. We also suggest you consider storing all those digital photos and videos of your children, grandchildren and family. We all hear of tornadoes wiping away a family's home and all its contents...including photos, mementos and memories. Speaking of photos, I think it we should also keep a recent photo of our loved ones, extended families, etc. in our go-bags. In case of a Black Swan event that (heaven forbid) separated you from your loved ones, having a handy photo to show to other survivors may be a godsend when trying to reunite with your family.
Other positives on Megan’s preparations include her desire to stay athletically fit, her owning and practicing the use of firearms and her seeking more training. It is commendable for any urban prepper (young or old) to seek advice from others. The fact she has the discipline to carry her bug out bag wherever she goes and that she has a bug out plan, (ie. route) and contingencies are also to be applauded.
The ability to bug out if a nasty situation arises is essential, especially in a major urban environment. Again, having that plan predicated on a Peak Oil crisis is probably a stretch, but we'll give the producers "credit" for this being her only concern... There are many other doomsday or natural disaster scenarios such as a pandemic, a terrorist event involving weapons of mass destruction or even a major hurricane that would warrant such a bug out plan, but the core of her preparations will be useful in any of these events with some minor additions.
Megan is correct in her belief that society could unravel within a matter of days of a disaster scenario. All major cities are critically dependent on transportation. If this function were to suffer a breakdown, you would witness a vast array of essential food supply chains suddenly halted. You would likely see runs on local grocery stores and since most of these stores require daily restocking, it would only be a matter of a couple of days before a major city could run out of food and other essentials. This would likely be worse in denser urban settings where the average American household has less than 9 days of food on-hand at home.
Megan discussed briefly some of the challenges an urban prepper faces such as limited space. I have a lot of respect for the ingenuity of urban preppers on this regard. Her 700 sq. ft. apartment doesn't lend itself well for stockpiling adequate quantities of food, water and other supplies. While she has seeds for both growing food and herbs, she didn't elaborate on the challenges an urban prepper faces when trying to cultivate either an indoor or outdoor garden in a major urban environment. We have linked many posts from Apartment Prepper.com that give great tips on prepping in tight spaces.
I was also impressed to see how comfortable she was when displaying her use and handling of firearms. The fact she had gun safes for both her pistols and rifles should be an example to those of us who don’t.
But in spite of all the positives, Megan's bugout plan is potentially a flawed one in that she plans to bug-in her tiny 2nd story apartment for two-to-four weeks avoiding the mass panic on the streets. While avoiding the panic induced hordes of starving lunatics is appealing, I believe the longer she bugs-in, the more at risk she will be.
Should an event usher in a total collapse that overwhelms local law enforcement, the longer she waits in her apartment, the greater the potential for a) looting and break-ins and b) the streets being far more dangerous when the decision is finally made to bug out! After four weeks, if law enforcement is nowhere to be found, the streets would arguably be controlled by the most dangerous elements of society at that point. The ability to slip away quietly out of the city (remember the "Gray Man") is likely much safer in the beginning of a crisis than during the height of one. We don't know any details of the bug-out car she has "stashed away", but the longer she waits to get to it, the more likely it is that this car won't be there when she finally gets to it!
A final observation I had was that trying to survive this with just her and boyfriend may not be the ideal plan. Having other like-minded folks that you can trust and count on WTSHTF is absolutely critical. There is always strength in numbers, so having a community (even a small one...), whether it is your neighbors, family, co-workers, etc. could be an essential part of surviving a nasty event.
To wrap this Dispatch up, I sincerely applaud Megan for having the guts to participate in Doomsday Preppers! There are few upsides to having your identity known by the rest of the world, but the more people see this type of show, and start to air out concerns about the threats that face us, the more prepared our nation will become. I may have poked some holes in her preps and plans but can safely say that Megan is more prepared than 99% of the rest of America! We hope that the airing of this show will lead some other Houston-area preppers to reach out to Megan...she'd make a great teammate when WTSHTF.
I also hope you enjoyed the piece about Peak Oil. For those of you interested in learning more about Peak Oil, please consider purchasing our report Thinking The Unthinkable: Energy Shock! -- ON SALE in APRIL! It is our hope that we at SurvivalWeek can help shed light on the most serious threats facing our nation and our communities. By becoming educated on these topics, we can all better prepare for these events.
In the meantime, keep your powder dry and your faith strong!
Steve Nolan, Co-Founder & Publisher of SurvivalWeek.com and The Beacon