For Erica Nygaard, an Iowa-based mother of four who started storing and growing her own food after a divorce 11 years ago, the desire to prepare for the future stems directly from the vulnerability one can feel as a single mom. “When you become a single parent, that weight really hits you: I am completely responsible [for my children,] no matter what. No matter what happens, these four people have to be taken care of.”
I connected with Jennifer through Daisy Luther, the Virginia-based writer and survival preparedness expert behind the blog The Organic Prepper, which boasts more than 30,000 followers on Facebook and roughly 32,000 monthly visits on Pinterest. Jennifer says she learned a lot about prepping from the site and is a member of its affiliated private Facebook group, which Luther says is nearly 77 percent women. (Luther and other bloggers I spoke with for this story say that while they approach survivalism from a female perspective, they’ve encountered no small number of men who are interested in these practices as well.)
Survivalism is a primarily American movement of individuals or groups (called survivalists or preppers) who actively prepare for emergencies, including possible disruptions in social or political order, on scales from local to international. Survivalism also encompasses preparation for personal emergencies, such as job loss or being stranded in the wild or under adverse weather conditions. The emphasis is on self-reliance, stockpiling supplies, and gaining survival knowledge and skills. Survivalists often acquire emergency medical and self-defense training, stockpile food and water, prepare to become self-sufficient, and build structures such as survival retreats or underground shelters that may help them survive a catastrophe.
Richard Mitchell Jr., professor emeritus of sociology at Oregon State University, is probably America’s greatest academic authority on prepping. He says modern-day survivalism as we know it is a relatively recent phenomenon, born out of the U.S. real estate boom of the late 1960s and early ’70s and the concurrent rise of guns-and-ammo magazines. Together, he says, these developments gave rise to a baby-boomer fantasy: moving to your second home in the country and learning to protect yourself in the great outdoors.
Preparedness refers to a very concrete research-based set of actions that are taken as precautionary measures in the face of potential disasters. These actions can include both physical preparations (such as emergency supplies depots, adapting buildings to survive earthquakes and so on) and trainings for emergency action. Preparedness is an important quality in achieving goals and in avoiding and mitigating negative outcomes. There are different types of preparedness, such as public health preparedness and local emergency preparedness or snow preparedness (i.e.: Snow Preparedness Teams - SPT), but probably the most developed type is "Disaster Preparedness", defined by the UN as involving "forecasting and taking precautionary measures prior to an imminent threat when advance warnings are possible".[1] This includes not only natural disasters, but all kinds of severe damage caused in a relatively short period, including warfare. Preparedness is a major phase of emergency management, and is particularly valued in areas of competition such as sport and military science.
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