Survival Prepping Goes Mainstream

One of the interesting things about human nature is its ability to block out ‘inconvenient realities’. Whether it’s in our personal or work relationships, or in the society we inhabit. We all tend to rely on past and current experiences to guide our expectations of the future. We ignore new potential threats when they do not appear imminent and take comfort in our complacency; that is, until our reality gets too uncomfortable to ignore.

I believe that another psychological element among the mainstream is that the very notion of ‘survivalist’ appears inclined towards pessimism or cynicism for the future. We are taught from an early age that we need to be positive and optimistic to get ahead and that nothing good will come from being negative about our future. The survivalist would agree, and quickly add that they are simply injecting a little pragmatism into the picture. They argue that prepping uses the same logic for why we have life insurance: we are hoping for the best, while preparing for the worst.

Now the arrival of the C-virus (and the rapid economic dislocation of millions of people) has sparked long dormant survival instincts. The future is not clear. And to steal a line from Game Of Thrones, “Winter is coming..” and we all need to be prepared.

Committed survivalists number over 3 million in the US alone. Hint: They are not the ones on the news, racing around trying to hoard tined food and toilet paper! But now there are growing ranks of new survivalists. Not the militant ‘fringe dweller conspiracy theorists’ that most people imagine as being preppers. These newly converted survivalists are often well-educated professionals. And they are ordering much more than tins of beans!

The difference this time is that there has been a virtual explosion for bulk orders purchased online. Now it’s the survivalist stores turn to be on backorder. It’s the people with disposable income that are in a position to take action and start to make “what if” plans. Typically survivalists will spend $1-2k per year on food supplies and another $1k on gear. Some will spend a lot more.

In the last 20 years a whole industry has grown up around the survivalist movement, or “emergency management” as its now called. Some estimates put it at a $100B industry globally. Its interesting to see that growth points match times of social upheaval, like during the GFC in 2008 and periods of geopolitical tensions (think North Korea; Iran). Think of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath and imagine how that spurred many across the country to think about storing some emergency supplies. Even emergency agencies like FEMA recommend that citizens keep a two-week supply of food and water; and now the mainstream are beginning to understand why.

An interesting proposition to consider is whether mainstream society has now reached an inflection point where ‘prepper habits’ are here to stay, or will we inevitably slip back into our complacent ways. Only time will tell.

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