If our public servants focused on enlightening the unpreppared, what would they say?

I’m running for president (LP) not with any hope of winning even the nomination, but to try to change the discussion. Eventually- I can’t broach this ‘radical’ notion ’til I get name recognition- I aim to focus on our declining air, water & food quality, extreme weather, dwindling resources, diminishing sperm counts and testosterone levels; basically all the things that went into the 1972 MIT study that says societal collapse around 2040, and everything we’ve learned since then. Any ideas on what to say and how to say it would help. My basic message of now is, “You can’t count on the gov’t, learn some stuff, and build a community.”
BTW, my handle is short for, International Thrival Society: a coalition of like-minded groups who accept things change, and the best way to meet those challenges is through fortitude & community endeavor. And, the more prepared there are, the less hysteria there will be.


  • Comments (20)

    • 4

      Interesting concept inthso, I’ve recently had similar thoughts – if individuals can each become slightly more resilient, that compounds to the community becoming much more resilient.

      I’ve recently listened to news reports about Storm Arwen here in the UK which left some people without power for over a week.
      They all focused on what the power networks were/weren’t doing. Yes there were some reports of people/businesses going out to help but no one asked the ‘why weren’t you prepared?’ question of the general public (thinking of guy who said he couldn’t brush his teeth without electricity for his toothbrush!). 

      I feel like preparedness is not promoted in a way that encourages people to take action. For example, information on preparing for emergencies from my council is a 2 page pdf buried deep on the website that consists of an infographic on what to put in a basic emergency kit and a form to fill in with useful phone numbers (school, insurance company, power company)!  You wouldn’t even find it unless you were looking for it but if you don’t know you need to look for it how do you get that information? It feels like in one or two generations we’ve lost basic common sense!

      I stumbled into preparing from a house cleaning site, which encouraged people to  plan for an evacuation in case of emergency and I’ve dabbled since (finding this site has helped me to prepare in a sane way even if some of my family don’t see it that way). 

      I think telling people ‘You have to get prepared’ is likely to fall on deaf ears or meet with ‘no one tells me what to do’ resistance. 

      Instead I would focus on the barriers that stop people becoming prepared. 

      Cost – let’s face it getting prepared can be expensive, could you find a way to encourage the sort of co-op buying of supplies Bob often mentions?

      Stigma – can being prepared be promoted in a way that doesn’t play into media portrayals of bunkers and hoarding. If being prepared became the norm (think Switzerland) think how differently recent disasters might have played out.

      Knowledge – decide what basic skills you think people are going to need and find a fun away to promote their learning, start teaching them in schools, especially team problem solving.

      Overwhelm – I think this is a big reason people don’t get prepared, there’s just so much to think about and it’s scary stuff sometimes. Find a way of promoting it as ‘do one thing’ – can’t afford to buy a months supply of dehydrated chicken? No problem buy an extra pound of rice next time you’re at the store. Can’t afford a bunker? See if you buy a tent at a garage sale. Promote positive forward steps however small. 

      Longer term ideas

      Food security – find a way to encourage people to grow gardens not lawns (now that is a big challenge)

      Home building – apart from the obvious stop building on natural flood plains, encourage the building of resilient homes, with space to store supplies 😂! And built in water capture maybe?

      Community resilience – encourage communities to become more resilient by assessing the risks they face and finding practical solutions to combat them. I was travelling recently and stopped for a leg stretch in a village next to a river. Beside the car park was a ‘community flood pod’ which was obviously there for anyone to be able to deploy should the river level rise! 

      This has just been where my thoughts have been going lately as I toss up whether I level up my pantry or my 1st aid supplies next!

      • 2

        Great answer. I know what I’m up against- SOCK: Stigma, Overwhelm, Cost, Knowledge. I realized when I started what I lacked in anything else, I had an advantage in awareness; that in terms of food at least, gathering from nature is not scary or dangerous or confusing or anything many people think it is. My father was a Euell Gibbons type, and in all our hikes in the woods he was  either teaching us (brothers, friends) about wild edibles, or gathering, and even though I don’t remember much, I know there’s a lot out there, and much of it more nutritious than what we eat now. In other words, if I’m near nature, I know there’s no cost, stigma or overwhelm concerning food. Convincing people to overcome cultural conditioning will be the hardest thing for me, or anyone, to trying to instill a prepper minset in others. Thanks. 

      • 3

        Your comment is making me think of a friend who asked me to be her prepping consultant. She is a homeowner, pet owner, and small business owner who does a lot of travel by car, so there was a lot we needed to address. I wanted her to take it bit by bit, i.e., via Do One Thing, or for her to come up with a monthly prepping budget (I would then prioritize all the items and tell her what to get each month), but she kept saying, “I just want to do it and be done with it.” I spent an evening at her house inventorying what she already had, then built her a list of what she needed to get, and was afraid to tell her the cost. The experience illustrated two challenges of basic preparedness: You either have to spend a lot of money up front, or you have to commit to giving preparedness a lot of brain space for the foreseeable future (as you slowly build up stock of things you need).

        Of course, most of us on TP are invested in the latter model, and in a version of prepping that is more focused on gaining skills than gaining supplies, but a lot of people are probably always going to view this stuff as a chore— like doing the laundry or changing the oil on the car, except with a faint odor of mortality hanging around it, and none of the exigencies associated with running out of underwear. So it’s a recipe for inaction. I love Do One Thing for people who are anxious about being unprepared but can’t get stoked on prepping.

        Sidebar: So interesting that a house cleaning site is what led you to preparedness!

    • 3

      I appreciate your intention to encourage preparedness. It seems to me there’s an inherent contradiction in being a member of any level of government and saying, “You can’t count on the government.” If you want to be in the government, then maybe change the message to “What the government can do in the short term is limited. To enhance quality of life for yourself and your loved ones now and in the future, here are some ideas.” The emphasis on quality of life keeps things positive. 

      • 2

        Thank you, let me clarify: I don’t want to be in government, I want to have a voice to influence those who may actually be elected. And to inform those who rely on gov’t, they may want to rethink that. I really don’t believe you can count on gov’t, even long-term, as gov’ts, societies, empires etc. fall, and this one looks headed in that direction. And that’s not just recent politics, it’s unsustainability, collapsing industries, and other factors, and it’s not just US, it’s worldwide. My intention is to convince those that are open-minded enough, that vast changes are coming, and they can be faced with fear & panic, or calm acceptance. The amount of hysteria involved at the beginning of the pandemic, and even now with moderate shortages can turn an inconvenience into a nightmare. Even if we’re not all survival experts, we  all could at least show more backbone, resilience and helpfulness. Just look at how the TX cold snap turned out. No-one had to panic, or die. But that’s what happened.

    • 7

      Welcome and kudos on putting yourself out there for the greater good.

      I haven’t talked much about this here in the forum before, but I was an advisor to the Obama White House (invited but declined to continue for the Trump admin) and have a lot of firsthand experience trying to change things like this. I had an odd meta role/goal of “figure out how to fix government” — obv an easy task lol. I’ve also advised the leaders of DOD/FEMA/DHS/TSA on some of these issues, such as how the DOD needs to think of personal preparedness as a national security issue. 

      So there’s one bit of advice: Tailor it to your audience. For example: Hawkish folks who think more about a strong defense will react more to those kinds of needs… “if a Russian/Chinese hacker can kneecap a huge part of the country by turning off the grids, and individual people are so dependent on the grids that this will result in mass chaos, then preventing both of those things (the cyber attack and the personal vulnerability) is a very smart security move.”

      On the other end, people who are only focused on community good will respond to the ideas that being prepared is pro-social / pro-liberal. The more individuals and neighborhoods are prepared, the better a safety net we have for everyone, can focus scarce resources on those most vulnerable, etc.

      • 2

        “how the DOD needs to think of personal preparedness as a national security issue”

        I’d be curious to hear about how government officials in the emergency response agencies tend to think about personal preparedness. On the one hand, I see government websites and programs that seem intended to encourage personal preparedness, such as ready.gov and CERT. On the other hand, such programs are not heavily promoted. From the outside, it seems like a lot of effort was put into creating educational materials, with no concern about how many people were learning from those materials.

      • 2

        I think there’s ambivalence there- they want to be seen as promoting preparedness for individuals facing emergencies, but especially security/intelligence agencies view preparedness with suspicion. And, the more reliant you are on gov’t, the better for elected officials, especially as they don’t have to actually deliver on your reliance.

      • 4

        I live in southern Cal, earthquake country.  There is plenty of promotion of preparedness.- earthquake awareness month when people are urged to have two weeks supplies on hand, with lots of references to ready.gov and the Red Cross.  In the immediate aftermath of many disasters, like an EQ or the Kentucky tornadoes, everyone is in the same pickle, including gov resources….

        My town’s Gov’t sponsored CERT class – take care of yourself and your family first, then your neighbors, and then look further afield to help others – is just the right strategy for an EQ response.

        And always, the closest aid available is yourself – that’s the way it has always been

      • 2

        Good reply. I like the site- it looks better than a .gov site.

      • 4

        A big key for me was reframing “preparedness” as “insurance”.  Nobody says, “OMG you paid $600 for car insurance last year and never had a claim! You idiot!” People accept that you pay that amount hoping you won’t need it. I now view my preps through the same lens. I hope I won’t need my BOB and my tent and my Big Berkey. I’ve probably invested several thousand dollars over the years into my – insurance.  The peace of mind it gives me is similar to the peace of mind I have when I get a rental car – my car insurance covers rentals. So instead of being terrified I might get a ding, I just realize there’s a possibility it might happen, but if it does, it won’t be the end of the world. 

        I have had to use my preps on a few occasions, never for the reasons I thought I would. A mixup with the bank meant our water was cut off when my husband was terribly ill with the flu. Thank God I had enough potable water in my stores at home to continue to care for him. A relative was hospitalized unexpectedly and a neighbor brought me my BOB so I had the medications, etc that I needed to be at the hospital a few days.  And even fun reasons – someone invited me on a fun trip at the last minute and because I had a “go bag” ready, I was able to enjoy a great weekend without having to pack!  My backup generator made me a hero during a camping trip when others had no power.

        So while I invested in my “insurance” in case of a hurricane, or flood, or long-term power outage, what it has really done is smoothed over the bumps in the road for me in other ways. This “insurance” has dramatically decreased the stress in my life.  Impending snowstorm? No need to rush to the store for supplies; I already have plenty. Water main burst during construction in the neighborhood? No problem – I have enough water for several days and plenty of hygiene supplies to keep myself presentable. 

        I think if everyone would normalize the behaviors common to those on The Prepared as just – what adults do – then more people would do it.  I think insurance companies should offer discounts to people who can demonstrate that they know how to turn off their water and gas, that they have tarps etc. at the ready, that they have backup generators to keep their food cold, etc. – just like they offer discounts for those that have alarm systems.  A little bit of carrot, a little bit of stick….

      • 2

        I’m so glad that you wrote a bit about this work here, John! I’ve heard you allude to it in interviews, etc., and have always been curious about what it entailed and would love to read more…

      • 3

        @pnwsarah thanks! What kinds of things would you want to hear more about? There’s so much that can be said about gov / my experiences.

      • 4

        I realize you weren’t asking me, but I would like to hear more about the human side of all of it. You hit a very interesting note above, about meeting people where they are. I feel like in the echo chambers our lives have become thanks to social media, so many people forget that other people do think completely differently and that isn’t wrong. It is just different. The world has always been made up of people who see things from a different angles, and always will be.

        The objective is not (in my opinion) to make them see things the same way I do. The objective is to get all of us to do what is best for all of us. It seems – logical – to me that having a populace that can take care of itself for at least two weeks if critical infrastructure goes down would make us a more resilient country.  So your thoughts on meeting people where they are would be wonderful.

        If and when you decide to release “Poise and Preparedness: Cultivating a Resilient Country with Wisdom and Wordcraft”, I’m open to being your ghostwriter. This is a genuine offer. We could make the world better. 

      • 3

        Aw thanks!

        To build off your point as an example of why things are irreparably broken in politics: Bad people exploit the otherwise-valid idea of “we have different views/opinions, not wrong ones!” as their wiggle room for bullshit. 

        Many things do not have room for subjectivity. The climate is changing, for example, and it’s not a valid opinion to claim otherwise. But for a long time people could say “hey wait a second, that’s just your opinion that the climate is changing, and you need to respect mine while we argue about it until it’s too late.” 

        Or, an expert: “Covid is real and will kill people!” … Random person: “That’s just your opinion, and I disagree, so you must give me equal weight!”

        I do think one of the biggest, most impactful problems in our culture is the lack of nuance and empathy. Much of the blue vs red conflict would be reduced with more lowest common denominator understanding of each other.

        But part of why we’ve lost those nuances/empathies is because of how bad folks have exploited and twisted them to the point of meaninglessness.  

        Did that make sense? 

    • 4

      There is no “one way” to encourage the unprepared, because threats and reactions are so individualized.  But, governments can (and do) have great success throughout the world using various techniques.  So, two things: 1) study success stories like Japan, Switzerland, and Israel.  2) Fear can be a PART of your message, but should NOT be the focus (there are great studies on this).  Instead, the focus should be agency; what you can do, what you can choose.  Show how prepping can be rewarding and practical (gardening, soap making, colorful eggs from different chicken varieties, etc).  Give examples that are not too difficult.  And yes, sell it like insurance; connect it to “normal” rather than “radical.”

      • 2

        Thanks. I wouldn’t try to scare people into preparing, but try to convince them not to be apprehensive about starting, and the ones who don’t will be the ones who panic, which is easy to avoid- just start. Wherever you’re at, start there. Any little thing you learn helps, do a little every day. I’m not very prepared, but I think I have a more relaxed attitude about TSHTF, whatever that looks like, because of time on the streets, lots of camping and outdoors, knowing a little about wild edibles and how easy it is to get food with the proper knowledge and environment, etc. I think it’s fear of those unknowns, the inconceivability of many to live without stores, money, however things pan out, which make people reject the notion of preparing.

      • 4

        A small and successful thing I have tried with my friends is to simply tell them to start with three days of water. That’s it – three days.  I don’t even tell them how much that is, because I want them to think it through and do a little research.   

        And a lot of them have done it! And that starts them on the path.  Because once you’ve done one thing, then you do the next thing. You just have to start

      • 3

        Water is such a great place to start because it’s practically free and actually the most important prep. Try not drinking any water for two days and tell me how you feel. 

    • 3

      People respond to a positive message, even if it is couched in the negative, “Great Again” implies both hope for the future and the carnage of the present. Change in other words. “Morning in America” implies the dark present. 2 Chickens In Every Pot, Return To Normal, etc

      Perot wasn’t very successful with “Giant sucking sound” even though correct . But he was warning of a bad future rather than promising a bright future while damning the status quo.

      So your message must be positive, promising something better than current conditions: Hope and Change, Yes We Can, Peace without Surrender—not Survive TEOTW

      Right now many people are nervous, afraid, on all sides. They want a more secure future.  So, greater security than the riot of today is the idea, not Beware the End Times Are Near!  LOL

      Policy proposals would be concrete programs to increase preparedness for the future, not just preaching. about pork and beans. A crazy benefit of the pandemic spending is the average person has somewhere around $1,200 in savings right now —2 years ago most couldn’t come up with $400 for an emergency. So policy number one would be a tax credit up to $1,000 for keeping something in a savings account all year. Maybe it is a dedicated account, don’t know.

      Policy 2 would center around more tax credits for climate and disaster mediation. This is a huge program to make homes more resilient to whatever the most likely disaster in an area. From weather stripping to moving entire homes out of flood zones, to creating micro-grids, storm shelters, grid hardening, etc

      #3 would be localization. Globalization has made us vulnerable with the meager benefit of saving a few cents. 75% of computer chips are made in one country and the world is paying dearly in shortages and high cost. There needs to be carrots and sticks to bring suppliers back home (wherever home is). Diversity is resilience and we’ve been marching away and toward monopolization.  

      All these programs would give opportunity to talk about preparedness on the individual land community level. Maybe it gives an opportunity to promote and support church and community groups like pantries, farm markets, Red Cross, and all the groups who back volunteer service.

      Crap, I prattle on like a politician! LOL