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.

So what is his cure for the country’s ailing soul, his recipe for our deliverance from civilization and its discontents? This is the aim of “Self-Reliance,” which Emerson culled from a series of lectures he delivered at the Masonic Temple of Boston — his “Divinity School Address” at Harvard in 1838, denounced by one listener as “an incoherent rhapsody,” had already caused an outcry — and published in his collection “Essays: First Series in 1841.” Cornel West has praised Emerson for his “dynamic perspective” and for his “prescription for courageous self-reliance by means of nonconformity and inconsistency.” Harold Bloom noted, in an article for The Times, that by “‘self-reliance’ Emerson meant the recognition of the God within us, rather than the worship of the Christian godhead.” This is the essay’s greatest virtue for its original audience: it ordained them with an authority to speak what had been reserved for only the powerful, and bowed to no greater human laws, social customs or dictates from the pulpit. “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” Or: “No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature.” Some of the lines are so ingrained in us that we know them by heart. They feel like natural law.
Since the events of September 11, 2001, and more recently, Hurricane Katrina, Americans are more aware of emergencies. According to a 2004 Harris Poll, 96 percent of Americans feel it is important to prepare for emergencies, but less than 20 percent describe themselves as totally prepared. Despite guidelines from government organizations and community based services like the American Red Cross, only 42 percent of Americans have created a personal emergency kit.

People with disabilities may be especially vulnerable during and after emergencies. In an emergency, many systems you rely on may not function as well as they usually do. Familiar landmarks and usual travel routes you and your service animal know may be altered. Utilities like electricity, water, gas and phone service may be disrupted. You might need to temporarily evacuate to a shelter which may not be fully accessible for your needs. The tips and strategies in this newsletter can help you plan to be prepared for these situations.
“[M]ost men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief,” a disenchanted Emerson observed, “and attached themselves to . . . communities of opinion. This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, but false in all particulars.” Society operates like a corporation that requires its shareholders to sacrifice their rights for the comfort of all, Emerson believed. Instead of “realities and creators,” it gives men “names and customs.”
People who carefully and painstakingly prepare for mass extinction don't exactly seem like the type of people who plan great parties. At least, with those vast collections of guns, ammo, and other terrifying armaments, I certainly hope not. Then again, I suppose everyone will need a drink or 10 to get through the inevitable horrors of forever navigating the "what's for dinner" question without Seamless or, you know, realizing that your urban-dwelling family members will probably never arise from the blasted pit of rubble where their apartments once stood.
Around 2011, Finelli sat in the waiting room at KWTO ahead of his radio appearance. He was there to spread the gospel of preparedness to family and friends who he thought needed to know. It was his first time on-air. He was nervous. Springfield pain specialist Dr. Norman Shealy noticed Finelli’s angst after he finished his own radio spot and gave him a few drops of Air Bliss, an essential oil blend he developed to calm the nerves. The remedy worked, and Finelli began wearing his new friend Norm’s sapphire crystals around his neck. 
Three hours after I arrived, Andrew: senses it’s time to wrap up, but not before breaking into one last story about the Bigfoot footprints he keeps in the back of his car. The prints were collected in Arkansas in 1956, he says, and they belong to an adult male, a juvenile female and an adult female. He says he himself came from the “drug scene hillbillies” and that his ancestors had six digits. 
In his book Dancing at Armageddon: Survivalism and Chaos in Modern Times, Mitchell, the sociology professor, develops a working theory of survivalism as a response to living in a society where every object we could possibly need is already taken care of for us. “The shelves are full, and the channels are full,” Richard tells me over the phone. “This is a response to a culture that has stripped away from us our sense of efficacy, our capacity to craft culture.”

What programs like Doomsday Preppers have accomplished, or at least contributed to, is turning sometimes well-informed, sometimes totally unwarranted paranoia into a booming prepper-industrial complex. Each year, swap meets pack hundreds of convention centers and fairgrounds across the nation—they’re like camping shows with a dose of military surplus and hands-on instructional sessions. The September 2017 Kansas City Survival Expo & Gun Show, for instance, had tips on seed saving, “Overcoming 900 Health Diseases” and “A Devastating Street Self-Defense System.” The latter was taught by Norman Cantwell, who inspired Patrick Swayze’s character in Roadhouse. You get the feeling that he and Steven Seagal would be friends. 
Everyday more people discover that more freedoms have eroded and much of what they depended upon is in danger of not existing tomorrow. Retirement funds lose substantial value as politicians ask for more from citizens and then give it away to questionable recipients. People want to know what they can do to survive the uncertain future looming on the horizon.
Carlyle has learned to repudiate, and he would have others repudiate, 'The Everlasting No,' the materialistic attitude of unfaith in God and the spiritual world, and he proclaims 'The Everlasting Yea,' wherein are affirmed, the significance of life as a means of developing character and the necessity of accepting life and its requirements with manly self-reliance and moral energy.
Emerson tells us to take action and get to work. He tells us that to envy great and successful people is to be ignorant. What’s the point of being jealous of what other people have and what paths other people are walking? We are simply unaware of what we truly want in our lives and decide that living the life that “looks” fun, comfortable and filled with luxury is what we want.
“Preppers are on all different spectrums. Some people are preparing for nuclear war, but I also just used my bug-out bag when Hurricane Harvey hit and we were going to be without electricity for 48 hours. So really, a bug-out bag and preparedness are common sense. To start, you definitely need a bag. Some people use a tote, but you’ll really want something comfortable with adjustable straps that will connect across chest, or maybe even on waist as well, to take weight off the shoulders. 5.11 Tactical has a lot of good bags that people use.”
To the extent that one exists, the public image of a prepper is of someone who's getting ready for the collapse of society, at which point money and electric grids, along with all the things that depend on them, will become unavailable. Preppers are ready to purify water to drink, hunt and butcher for meals, and scare off anyone who tries to get a piece of their post-apocalyptic bliss, possibly via gunfire. There may be bunkers involved.
We are never truly alone with our thoughts. And there is no one to blame but ourselves. As a society we have chosen to block out certain things, to refrain from talking about things and identify them as taboo or rude, to try to be as comfortable and happy as possible by avoiding the uncomfortable conversations and thoughts that we must inevitably confront. We find distractions to keep us going throughout the weeks, months and years.

The populace think that your rejection of popular standards is a rejection of all standard, and mere antinomianism; and the bold sensualist will use the name of philosophy to gild his crimes. But the law of consciousness abides. There are two confessionals, in one or the other of which we must be shriven. You may fulfil your round of duties by clearing yourself in the direct, or in the reflex way. Consider whether you have satisfied your relations to father, mother, cousin, neighbour, town, cat, and dog; whether any of these can upbraid you. But I may also neglect this reflex standard, and absolve me to myself. I have my own stern claims and perfect circle. It denies the name of duty to many offices that are called duties. But if I can discharge its debts, it enables me to dispense with the popular code. If any one imagines that this law is lax, let him keep its commandment one day.
“I’m actually responsible, indirectly, for the end of the meetups,” Dr. Shealy tells me inside his Springfield clinic off Chestnut Expressway, and not just because he thinks the earth is more than 6,000 years old. (Andrew: says you can’t trust anyone who believes that.) He sports a red crewneck, navy blue sweatpants, a stretchy metal watch and rectangular glasses. The 85-year-old—he’s more energetic than most people half his age—specializes in holistic medicine; the first thing he asks me is my birthday, and do I know what my astrological sign means. On my way out, he asks if he can hug me, and when I oblige, a toothy grin pulls wide the spritely doctor’s cheeks. “I believe it’s an important part of human contact,” he says. 
“You’ll also want a really good flashlight and a headlamp so that you can be hands-free. One thing to note is that you’ll want all of your electronics to use the same kind of battery so that you don’t need to be carrying backups of all different size batteries. For flashlights, we talk a lot about the Outlite, which actually has rechargeable batteries. They’re also cheap, so you can buy two to carry around and they have a lot of lumens, so they’re very bright.”
However, a few unintentional similarities to the Quiverfull movement doesn't mean that preppers can't still care about safe sex. Hunting, canning, and digging your own latrines does nothing to make the threat of an STD less real. After all, gonorrhea and genital warts are going to be a whole lot harder to treat without reliable access to medical care. And there must be at least a few survivalists out there rational enough not to want to endure the horrors of premodern pregnancy and birth unless absolutely necessary.
In the end, what it all boils down to, at least for the preppers, is self-reliance—a concept as old as the human race itself. As survival blogger John Solomon pointed out in a recent column, during the Victory Gardens of WWII, Americans managed to grow 40 percent of all the vegetables they needed to survive. "My mother's parents had a 10-acre garden, and my grandfather worked at the dairy farm next door," says Hill, the former jet mechanic. "They worked by raising their own food, they had their own chickens, they canned vegetables, and my grandfather fed a family of 12 like that." But in the modern world, he says, many of those skills are easily forgotten. Today, our food comes from dozens of different sources. Most of us aren't quite sure how electricity gets from the wires to our stoves. We use debit cards to buy a can of tuna and we wouldn't have the slightest idea how to filter contaminated water. We are residents of the new millennium; we simply haven't needed to prepare.
Everyday more people discover that more freedoms have eroded and much of what they depended upon is in danger of not existing tomorrow. Retirement funds lose substantial value as politicians ask for more from citizens and then give it away to questionable recipients. People want to know what they can do to survive the uncertain future looming on the horizon.
Still, these extraterrestrial-looking foodstuffs seem to be having something of a moment: For the past four years, Costco has been selling pallets of shriveled vegetables, fruits, grains, and meats that promise to feed a single family for up to a year—and if you’re not a member, you can purchase similar survival kits, many of which boast a 20- to 30-year shelf life, at Walmart and Target. One top seller, Wise Company, saw its sales nearly double over the past four years, reaching around $75 million, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek cover story last November. The company’s CEO, Jack Shields, told me he estimates the industry as a whole generates between $400 and $450 million annually in retail.

I don’t encounter any preppers at the school that day, but I do meet women from all over the United States and with all kinds of reasons for wanting to learn how to cut and drill wood, including a young yoga studio employee from Wisconsin who is building some custom shelving for her kitchen appliances and cookbooks, as well as two seniors from Washington, DC, who want to build a set of matching cabinets to house their prized collection of vintage wine glasses. Down by the garden, I meet a pair of women from Missouri who are hoping to go into business flipping houses. “We’re tired of waiting for our husbands to do it,” one of them says.
Also in 2011, Finelli started running the Get Prepared Expo series at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds, bringing in hundreds of exhibitors and more than 70 preparedness seminars. Before doors opened, he’d host a get-together at Ziggie’s Cafe on North Glenstone, which he soon moved to Jimmy’s Egg on East Battlefield to accommodate the crowd. At Jimmy’s Egg, Finelli found another platform from which to preach preparedness. He started drawing a crowd—more than 330 on expo weekends—so Finelli made Jimmy’s Egg a weekly affair. On Monday nights, his radio instructors showed up or Skype’d in to mold the minds of 50 to 100 students. The meetups—a name borrowed from Ron Paul’s 2012 community get-togethers—were also social events, although Finelli kept the BS to a minimum. 

In his 2016 book, Can It! The Perils and Pleasures of Preserving Foods, Gary Allen, a food writer and adjunct professor at SUNY Empire State College, traces the evolution of food preservation as a source of culinary innovation. “The original food-preservation methods—like salting and drying and all that—actually turned the food into something else,” he told me over the phone. “Cabbage sauerkraut is not the same thing as cabbage. Wine is not the same thing as grape juice.”


“A bug-out bag is meant to get you to a location. Sometimes people are misinformed and try to load everything and the kitchen sink into that bag, and that’s not a good approach. You usually have a place you’re going to, like a family member’s house or a country home or a cabin or something along those lines, so it’s all about what’ll hold you over until you get to that place. One of the most important things is water, so you’ll want the Sawyer Mini Water Filter. That’s the one that the preparedness community talks about the most. You can filter 10,000 gallons with one of those. The top-of-the-line is Katadyn, but I haven’t seen a Katadyn talked about in years. Usually, it’s just too expensive, and the Sawyer is smaller and more compact.”
That reaction, of course, means different things to different people. Some prep for economic disaster, while others prep to escape genetically modified foods. An organic farmer could be considered a prepper; so might an urban gardener. Some preppers fear putting their names out in public—they don't want every desperate soul knocking down their door in the event of a disaster—while others see it as a network they can rely upon were something horrible to happen. Some preppers fear the complete breakdown of society, while others simply want to stock up on extra granola bars and lighter fluid in case of a blackout or a storm. Hard-core survivalists might think of preppers as soft; "Eventually, the Chef Boyardee is going to run out," jokes Cody Lundin, the founder of the Aboriginal Living Skills School, a survival camp based out of his home in Prescott, Az. But prepping, says Martin, is just a new word for a very old way of life. "You don't have to have a survival retreat loaded with guns secluded in the wilderness to be a prepper," adds David Hill Sr., 54, a former jet mechanic who runs the Web site WhatisaPrepper from his home in rural West Virginia. "There are many people who live in urban and suburban areas who don't own guns who also identify themselves as preppers."
A second motivation comes from the media, which tends to provide nonstop coverage of natural disasters and their aftermath. Mills said nearly every subject mentioned Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, or both. Mills' road trip took place in 2014, and Ebola and ISIS both made frequent appearances in the risks mentioned by the preppers (as they might again today).
“There is a time in every man’s education,” Emerson writes, presuming, with his usual élan, to both personify his young country and issue a decree for its revival, “when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on the plot of ground which is given him to till.”
“I appeal from your customs. I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I must be myself. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me and the heart appoints. If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions”

But women like Jennifer aren’t preparing for a currency collapse, biowarfare pandemic, or any of the other fantastical global crises that have made America’s prepper subculture synonymous with bunkers, bitcoin, and Infowars conspiracy theories. Instead, they view prepping as a lifestyle — one that has very little to do with defending their territory from hostile invaders and everything to do with the more quotidian business of providing for your family and running a home.
However, if some tales of survivalist stockpiling are to be believed, our nutty neighbors have enough of the social lubricant squirreled away to hold the most epic end-of-the-world-party of all time outside of Edgar Wright's social circle. It might not be practical, but who needs practical when you and everyone you know is doomed to die from radiation poisoning or cancer?

“A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition,” Emerson advises, “as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he.” If this isn’t the official motto of the 112th Congress of the United States, well, it should be. The gridlock, grandstanding, rule manipulating and inability to compromise aren’t symptoms of national decline. We’re simply coming into our own as Emerson’s republic.
From a modern Preppers perspective, Y2K was a marketing gaffe which led to millions of people piquing an interest in Preparedness but then throwing everything out when nothing happened.  These people were concerned about a single event and not truly converted to a life of Self Reliance and Preparedness.  This same concern holds for 2012 scare marketing.

“I’m actually responsible, indirectly, for the end of the meetups,” Dr. Shealy tells me inside his Springfield clinic off Chestnut Expressway, and not just because he thinks the earth is more than 6,000 years old. (Andrew: says you can’t trust anyone who believes that.) He sports a red crewneck, navy blue sweatpants, a stretchy metal watch and rectangular glasses. The 85-year-old—he’s more energetic than most people half his age—specializes in holistic medicine; the first thing he asks me is my birthday, and do I know what my astrological sign means. On my way out, he asks if he can hug me, and when I oblige, a toothy grin pulls wide the spritely doctor’s cheeks. “I believe it’s an important part of human contact,” he says. 
Being self-reliant means that we don’t wait for cultural acceptance to do what is right. We don’t behave based on the narrative society has developed for our social class, but what we believe the right thing to do is. This doesn’t necessarily mean we create values from scratch: we can choose which communities or people celebrate the best values and join them.
Believe it or not, many people who like to call themselves “preppers” don’t actually practice prepping. They simply binge watch Bear Grylls or Survivor man on TV. They read articles about prepping on the internet, they talk about survival with their friend and watch hours of prepping videos on YouTube. These people aren’t preppers – they’re just fans of prepping shows and videos. If you’ve been thinking about prepping for a long time, but haven’t really made any substantial progress maybe it’s time to start practicing what you preach.
During his presentation, Mr. Charles suggested that a well-prepared bug-out bag was only part of the equation; just as important was knowing where to go. “Bugging out will not be easy,” he explained. “It might take three or four hours to get out of the city. If the bridges are blocked, you might have to use a raft to get across the river. Everyone’s situation will be different.”

Government has always played an active role in emergency preparedness. Nuclear-raid drills were part of everyday life for school children in the 1950s and '60s, and building bomb shelters was encouraged because of the nuclear threat. In 1999, the government set up a $50 million crisis center to deal with the computer threats posed by Y2K, and after 9/11, residents were pushed to stock up on plastic and duct tape to seal their homes in the event of a biological attack. But in 2010, as we enter the new year under an elevated threat level, the problems at hand can seem insurmountable and unknown, to the point that even Barton M. Biggs, the former chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley, warns in his 2008 book that we must "assume the possibility of a breakdown of the civilized infrastructure." Where that leaves preppers is struggling to fill the void. "We want people to understand that preparedness is an individual's job, too," says Joseph Bruno, New York City’s commissioner of emergency management, where polling has shown that more than 50 percent of residents are thinking about preparedness—up from just 18 percent in 2004. "I'm a newsaholic, and that probably feeds some of this," says Bedford. "But I like to think that if we're prepared, it's one less family the government has to worry about."
And now, there are Democrats. Fear of the Trump administration is largely responsible for an urban and liberal renaissance within prepping; left-leaning Facebook groups and urban prepping YouTube channels brim with freshly paranoid Americans who attend the same expos, talk the same shop and wipe with the same bulk supply of toilet paper as the conservatives who voted the other way. That said, I met no openly liberal preppers in Springfield. 
That spirit of self-sufficiency runs through the history of American food culture. Lydia Maria Child’s 1829 manual The Frugal Housewife, one of the first American cookbooks ever published, instructed women to contribute to their family’s finances by making sure no scrap of food was wasted: “Nothing should be thrown away so long as it is possible to make any use of it, however trifling that use may be.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints* encourages members to keep a three-month food supply on hand at all times, and even sells dehydrated food products on its official website. This Mormon connection may be why Utah is such a freeze-dried food hub: Of 21 freeze-dried food companies I counted online, 16 were from the state, and Bedford told me she first learned about long-term food storage by reading blogs by Mormon women.
There is a downside to ordaining the self with divine authority, though. We humans are fickle creatures, and natures — however sacred — can mislead us. That didn’t bother Emerson. “Speak what you think now in hard words,” Emerson exhorted, “and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today.” (Memo to Mitt Romney: no more apologies for being “as consistent as human beings can be.” You’re Emersonian!)
Thus all concentrates: let us not rove; let us sit at home with the cause. Let us stun and astonish the intruding rabble of men and books and institutions, by a simple declaration of the divine fact. Bid the invaders take the shoes from off their feet, for God is here within. Let our simplicity judge them, and our docility to our own law demonstrate the poverty of nature and fortune beside our native riches.
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.

It was, however, the first spiritual healing session since Andrew: took over. Andrew: is a Mennonite, hardly a contemporary sect of Christianity—the denomination is currently split on whether homosexuality is a sin. Andrew: believes Christians are being persecuted in the United States today, and the “sodomites” are lucky. Because they “don’t have children,” he says, the Department of Human Services can’t take their kids away, like they did his first daughter 30 years ago when the 22-month-old burned herself on a range stove and Andrew: refused to take her to the hospital because he doesn’t trust doctors. I asked what he meant by sodomites. “The gay community,” he says. “The scripture calls them sodomites, so we have to be honest. They’re not gay at all; usually they’re very unhappy.”
We are never truly alone with our thoughts. And there is no one to blame but ourselves. As a society we have chosen to block out certain things, to refrain from talking about things and identify them as taboo or rude, to try to be as comfortable and happy as possible by avoiding the uncomfortable conversations and thoughts that we must inevitably confront. We find distractions to keep us going throughout the weeks, months and years.
These individuals study End Times prophecy and believe that one of various scenarios might occur in their lifetime. While some Christians (and even people of other religions) believe that the Rapture will follow a period of Tribulation, others believe that the Rapture is imminent and will precede the Tribulation ("Pre-Trib Rapture[41] "). There is a wide range of beliefs and attitudes in this group. They run the gamut from pacifist to armed camp, and from having no food stockpiles (leaving their sustenance up to God's providence) to storing decades' worth of food.
FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness Division (ICPD) is committed to helping local efforts achieve greater community resilience.  In order to determine how best to assist local preparedness activities, we conduct periodic research in the field of disaster preparedness to evaluate the nation’s progress with whole community preparedness. These findings are particularly relevant as we prepare our communities for a possible pandemic flu outbreak, hurricane season and other emergency incidents. Furthermore, findings from the research measure the public’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviors relative to preparing for a range of hazards and provide valuable insight for increasing personal preparedness, civic engagement and community resilience.  Below are examples of the research FEMA ICPD has conducted:
×