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An Intermediate Lesson on Surviving the Climate Crisis

An Intermediate Lesson on Surviving the Climate Crisis

Thus begins a series of grounded newsletters that deal with some of the realities of the crumbling world. Today we're going to focus on what major, common threats climate change is going to pose to most people reading this letter, and how to best deal with them.

Though it's old news now, while writing this, heatwaves were spreading across most of the global north*. States like Kansas and Oklahoma were facing extreme heat–over 100°F–while whole swaths of Europe endured, shockingly, the same. Where these heatwaves differ is that, while this is a hot but not entirely abnormal summer for the US (so far), it is extremely abnormal for Europe. Records were shattered. Infrastructure there was not meant for such heat, illustrated best by the fact that an airport north of London had to close because the runway melted. Melted. The runway melted, y'all. Wildfires burned through more of the European countryside so far this summer than in any previous year on record. Over a thousand have died from the excessive heat in Portugal alone.

We can expect unprecedented weather events like the European heatwave with more regularity and more severity. What this means is that, if you think you're out of the range of x weather phenomenon, congrats! You aren't. Even if you aren't gonna get smacked by, say, a hurricane in North Dakota–don't worry! You can still experience a derecho and atmospheric river that will 100% blow your farm away before it floods the field where it stood.

*It's funny–not funny ha-ha–that as the publication date for this letter nears, heatwaves are back in the news a second time. China has been hammered with an extreme heatwave, and rivers across the country–and Europe–are running dry. This has been a phenomenally bad summer, with weather patterns and ramifications we expected to happen decades from now. It's the world of tomorrow, today.

Weather Disaster v Changed Climate

It's important to make the following distinction before we move on: while we may prepare for an acute weather phenomenon like a powerful storm or heatwave, we must not forget that a changed climate is itself something for which we must prepare. This may be more applicable to agriculturally-minded folk like myself, but that doesn't mean it's not applicable to you.

Generally speaking, we can all anticipate warmer weather year-round. Hot days will be hotter, cool days will be less cool, nights will be less cool, providing fewer opportunities for respite–which is more crucial than you may think. With hot days increasing the potential for damage to infrastructure, exhausting animals and prohibiting growth in plants, this chronic heat has a very real economic cost. In addition, hot air carries more moisture than cool air, meaning that there is a greater potential for heavy precipitation. This doesn't always mean that there is a greater chance of precipitation–increased variability means we may see lower chances overall–but that when it does rain, it will rain harder, as it has in St. Louis this summer, crushing their last rainfall record. The DC metro flooded a couple weeks before this posting, with some areas in the metro region seeing three inches of rainfall in an hour. Articles abound stating that we have seen four 1-in-1000 year weather events in the span of a few weeks. Seoul was flooded, killing several. Death Valley flooded. Much of Kentucky flooded*. These events are becoming more numerous and stronger. Soon they'll change the definition of what a 1-in-1000 year event is, and it will be terrifying. Gone, it seems, are gentle summer rains, replaced by torrents or nothing. This combination of increased heat, decreased occasion of rain and increased intensity of rain is your new climate. Flooding is simply inherent in it.

Remember that climate change is referred to as a threat multiplier. Even when it is not itself producing a primary threat, it exacerbates existing problems, whether that be social tensions, supply chain issues, international conflict, or any number of other things. A bridge that would otherwise stand for another few years cracks from heat stress, drought and heat enflame economic troubles for farmers (and thereby everyone else), energy demands skyrocket during a heatwave (or polar vortex cold-snap, for that matter) while one empire battles another. In Jackson, Mississippi–the capital city of Mississippi!–the state government failed to adequately address infrastructural issues, which, when coupled with this summer's flooding, caused the city to be entirely without water. (Donate to Jackson Mutual Aid here). You see what I mean. And that is, underscore, a Tuesday for climate change, which is still, mind you, in its younger days. It is its own threat often enough, with a major increase in famine, flooding, wildfires, and landslides par for the course.

*Again, I sat too long on this newsletter and climate change has outpaced what I've written. Pakistan faced flooding from melting glaciers so severe that fully 1/3rd of the nation was underwater. Imagine more than one third of Texas being underwater at one time. Millions upon millions of people have seen their homes destroyed, and thousands are feared dead.

Living Through It Together

We've been schooled before on how to survive heat and cold as temporary events and as individuals. But soon enough the world is going to look like some of these disasters permanently, and moreover, the infrastructure we rely on is not going to be 1. capable of withstanding these changes; and 2. repaired or replaced by the government, leaving a great number of people up a flooded creek.

What has to be done, then, is to create a community-centered replacement of the infrastructure and services that crumble–this idea is at the heart of dual power and mutual aid. The grid is going to fail us, therefore we must have systems in place that can act either as a stopgap or as a permanent safety net for people in need. Our ultimate goal is independence–as with all things–and having a means of restoring power to your community, or even a small, public part of that community, would safeguard lives. But a whole local grid is an enormous task, so we'll start smaller.

No matter what the weather situation is, the loss of power is going to create the same problem: difficulty in temperature regulation. The easiest way to restore that regulation is by restoring power, but that's also the most costly. Having said that, for a community or a small group, it's not out of the question. There are a million options for this, most of them fuel-based, which I consider non-starters for what I hope are obvious reasons as we hurdle toward climate-driven collapse. But among prepper types, even leftist preppers, opinions will differ on energy generation–especially in emergencies. There are plenty of generators out there that are cheap, that are relatively quiet, that are fancy, expensive, run on wind and solar and fairy dreams, all that. They all have pros and cons. In a widespread blackout, fuel is going to be hard to come by–so it must be something you already have on hand. This causes its own problems. Some fuel can keep for years–propane's shelf-life is virtually indefinite–but that means you're keeping a big tank of something flammable on your property, which is generally fine out in the country but less fine in the city. Solar or wind generators on the other hand, are somewhat new tech. They're expensive, they're intermittent, but they're clean and they will work independent of external input–that and your solar panel isn't likely to explode or go bad in a couple years. What's more, a battery, rather than a traditional generator, is not going to make as much or any noise, and create no harmful exhaust. In most cases, this is going to require purchases by yourself or your community–which is something I try to avoid, but it's mostly unavoidable. The components to this setup are definitely procurable, though–anyone with some electrical savvy can probably help you put together a bank of batteries connected to a controller and solar panel or wind turbine. This setup, assembled by a community, could then power a public space that can give respite from the weather to a number of people.

There are other, more affordable ways to help keep your community healthy during a heatwave, power outage, or cold snap. Depending on your location, as little as a stand-up tent, a fan, and a cooler of water can be enough to keep someone from heat stroke. There are a number of DIY air conditioners you can attempt as well. The supplies needed for cooling stations and shelters can be got and stored for relatively little, and then put in place quickly during the summer and winter. You can assist in the creation and management of these facilities, help with distribution, or simply donate time, money, or goods. Now, as with most guidance I provide about group work (here, imagine the clapping hands emoji between each word): neither you nor I are the first people to think of these things. There are most likely organizations already doing at least some of this work. Don't reinvent the wheel–instead, work with what is already around you.

Building on The Basics

Surviving the increasingly severe climate and helping others through it requires that you live through acute situations to make it to the longer-lasting ones. Remember to stock, first and foremost, water. Lots of it. Make plans for escape from appropriate weather disasters as necessary. Pack and re-stock your bugout bag seasonally.

The reason I'm starting off this series with climate change is because it is our future. We may defeat fascism, we could stamp out inequality, we could, even, topple capitalism. But climate change is a bell that will not be unrung. And since it is a threat multiplier, we have to keep it in mind for every future scenario we plan. We can't ignore the problems it poses, or the ways it will exacerbate all the other threats we face. You may be focused on fighting a squad of Patriot Front members and collapse from heatstroke before they ever open the back of their U-Haul. As this series continues, don't forget the immediacy of peril that comes with climate change: it only takes minutes to die from exposure, days to die from thirst, and weeks to die from hunger. For that matter, it only takes seconds to drown. All this and more can come for us in the future, without any intervention from jackbooted Nazis or militarized cops. And after we survive both, it will still be hotter than hell.