Hello! We'll be somewhat less depressing this week as we are talking about actions we can and should take to prepare ourselves for the growing flames of a runaway climate crisis. To summarize the previous parts of this series thus far: catastrophic climate change is not going to be averted by human intervention. As it will not even be somewhat mitigated, the ruin it can wreak upon us will intensify exponentially. This means that, in short, civilization is at risk in our lifetimes, and the whole journey to that point is gonna be rough.
The solution to this problem (the problem being survival, not climate change), if it can truly be solved, is the same one I've always touted: decoupling ourselves from capitalism and living in equitable and sustainable means. That sounds great, and it sure took just a few words to describe one of the most difficult things possible, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. Capitalism is, at this point, a giant upon whose back we are all affixed, and that fucker is going down. Being caught beneath its metaphorical corpse is a non-metaphorical death sentence.
In order to get out from under capitalism, we actually must replicate some of its systems, or at least bogart their shells. Whether we like it or not, we are extremely dependent upon capitalism because it has denuded us of broad skillsets and distanced us from resources. As the climate crisis spirals, we will need these resources, and more of them. Take, for instance, air conditioning–an energy-intensive commodity. As the planet heats up, more and more of us are going to need air conditioning in order to survive. Now, I don't mean be comfortable–I mean survive. It has been over 100° in El Paso for more than thirty days. It's been over 110° in Phoenix for twenty as of this writing. These temperatures are lethal without air conditioning, especially as this heat has tended not to dissipate at night as desert climates usually do. More and more of this country is approaching, with increasing frequency, the upper limits of heat tolerance for humanity. People with disabilities or who are taking various medications know all too well that tolerance is a moving target, frequently considerably lower than what is sometimes touted by science. And a movement for survival that doesn't consider everyone isn't worth fighting for.
The meat and potatoes of prepping tend to be in the physical storage of goods. Being prepared for a neverending state of disaster is both the same and very different. Whereas a basement full of food and water will keep you alive in a lot of calamities, in the climate crisis a store of goods is really just a buffer, because while in the past the need for these goods was temporary, in the future, it will be constant. Put another way: any amount of food and water you keep in your house, in a storage unit, in a buried treasure chest, is finite. The climate crisis, on the other hand, is infinite. We are working toward keeping ourselves, our loved ones, and our community alive–a whole-ass warehouse of freeze-dried food won't cut it forever. Therefore, while you absolutely need a lot of food and water kept by (or a friend with same), this is actually the easy part of prepping for the climate crisis.
Nevertheless, you need all of the following and more, and I'm not even going to put a par on any of this because the more the merrier:
-Food, water, basic medical supplies like bandages, antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen and antihistamines. Hygiene supplies. Prescription medications.
-First aid supplies, such as tourniquets, chest seals, hemostatic gauze and powder, splints, gauze, prep pads, rubbing alcohol, iodine, sutures.
-Firearms and ammunition if you're up for it. A handgun for concealed carry and a long gun for defense/hunting. Pick what you want but 9mm and .223/5.56 are your most common rounds.
-Energy. Whether that comes from fossil fuels or a solar setup, or wind, for that matter, you'll want and need a way to power devices when the grid is down or gone. As I said, air conditioning is absolutely essential to live in some places and conditions.
Comrades and Skills
Far and away more important in the future than what you physically bring to the table is what you can do and who can help you. Remember, we're building up to a survivable, sustainable, equitable community. That takes a lot of work–the more hands, the better. Moreover, we need a wide diversity of skills, such that virtually anyone is likely an asset.
In the early days, it will be most important to be able to assist in the wake of acute disasters–so organizers, medics, folks good with logistics, and maybe a pinch of community defense will come first, followed by plenty of those unskilled particularly just to help with labor. But as more and more social services fall away, as more infrastructure disappears and supply lines falter, we're going to need a variety of people to step up and replace them. This work, of course, can begin today–it's dual power that I'm talking about, which is the supplanting of the capitalist status quo with alternative methods of survival. This can come in the form of anything you can think of: free food pantries; skill sharing; bike repair; child care; HVAC services; arborists; gardening and animal husbandry; inclement weather shelters. Anything that helps turn people away from the death machine and toward a sustainable method of living. The core of those skills–what's most important to have on board quickly–closely resembles our immediate needs. Carpentry for shelter, farming for food, plumbing to (hopefully) maintain extant water infrastructure. The needs thereafter are no less important for being less obviously immediate, but they include quality medical care–doctors, nurses, and the substantial infrastructure that they require–as well as electricians to assist with creating smaller, more resilient and sustainable* power grids.
As services wither, and as supply chains shift or are disrupted, we will come to see what exactly we need, what we need to do without, and what we can alter to continue to live. There will surely be a mix of these three categories, and solving for some of them will be very difficult. However, this is not an all-at-once issue. These problems are going to rush us at times, but this is a dilemma of years, not days or even months.
*Understanding that no green energy is entirely sustainable, it is necessary to do what we can with the resources at hand to maintain a grid. See: the widening scope of unsurvivable heatwaves.
Sustainability and Degrowth
Degrowth is generally meant as a method of detaching whole populations from the notion of economic growth, which becomes an eventual impossibility on a finite planet–and a quicker impossibility on a planet riddled with fires, floods, droughts, and rising seas. But I think the degrowth perspective is useful even on small scales because it organizes, under one roof, notions of care-first social interactions, equitable production and consumption, and ecologically sustainable living. And as our resources become more scarce, living more sustainably is going to be crucial not only to our survival but, as silly as it may seem couched in the context of this newsletter, living comfortably. Which I believe is still possible.
This sounds like a tall order because it is. But you're not the only person doing the lifting, nor does it have to be done all at once. The kinds of mutual aid that you have, I hope, been engaging in from the jump are the kinds of starting points from which we can launch the work of surviving the climate crisis. This series is, obviously, a very remote aerial view of the work that needs done. But it describes some of the general shape. And I believe it not only needs doing but must be done if we're to make it. The alternatives–because there are alternatives–are far less equitable and, in a word, worse.
Closing out this series, I want to take a look at what this village of ours can look like–and it's not necessarily what you expect. We'll talk about the work that needs to be done to get one running and to keep it, and how the work itself can both make that community more resilient to the climate crisis but also ensure that what we do is improving our local ecology. As the world becomes more hostile to us, it becomes hostile to all life. We'll have to foster the environment for the good of everything around us.