Why I wrote: The year the crops failed and famine began in North America

Please see the bottom of this original post for an edit which explains why I wrote this scenario:

It is early evening and you have settled in to relax after this evening’s rations.

Rations. No one used the words “meal” or “breakfast” any more. “Lunch” and “supper” were long gone out of everyone’s vocabulary as well.

The word “snack” was considered vulgar and unthinkable considering the situation. People were hungry all the time now. Some people were even starving.

No one in North America ever envisioned the lands of big sky and bountiful prairie fields to become massive tracts of unproductive wastelands. They were now ugly reminders of a time when bellies were full, so full in fact, that people had to exercise and diet.

No one said the “diet” word anymore either.

Food security was assumed, expected, like a tap that delivered when it was turned on. There was food in the fields, food in the store and food in the cupboard. Then in 2024, a series of events pushed most of the world’s nations into famine.

Climate oscillations triggered climate variability which triggered yield variability.

Climate change had become the tortoise of the fable and it was slowly crossing the finish line first in the battle against environmental disaster.

Bees were on their knees in the fight for their survival and the world had the low yields and harvest failures to prove it. Many countries followed China’s methods and were now reliant upon hand pollination.

Developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America were homes to the vast tracts of monocultures grown to feed the global market, including soy for livestock.

It was an unprecedented alignment of events that became the dominos that fell, one by one, colliding into each other and finally ended with a massive global famine.

You are one of the prepared who accounted for this risk in your planning and preparations.

You learned to garden and save seeds many years before this event. You also created indoor garden space in your garage and home and practiced growing in those conditions in case it wasn’t safe to grow outdoors.

You created a secret garden to supplement your meager food supply. You venture into the parks and back country to forage for food.

The rations supplied by the government provide some nutrition, but your stored food items, plus the indoor and secret gardens give you hope that you and your family can survive this disaster.

Your reverie is interrupted by the commotion outside. You grab your gun and check the security cameras.

There is a man, roughly late 20’s who has breached your fence. He is agitated and yelling something about food. Another desperate one, you think. Were we sloppy with ration handling? Did this guy smell something?

You key the mic. “You are trespassing. Get off this property now.” Your voice booms through the air.

It has no effect on the man who continues yelling. He is saying “Help, please help me. I need a bit of food. Anything, please, I’m begging you.”

Again, you key the mic. “I’m not telling you again. Get off this property now or I will shoot you.

This agitates the man even more and he moves closer to your back door. “No, no, no. Please, you don’t understand, I need help, please, just a bit of food.”

You take aim through your gun port and squeeze the trigger. The man crumples to the ground. You didn’t want to do it, but there are so many of them roaming and looking for food. They are becoming more aggressive and there have been reports of increased violence.

You are getting ready go out and drag the body off your property, when suddenly, there is a shrill cry and a little girl around five years old comes running into the yard. She runs straight toward the man’s body and throws herself upon him. She is crying and wailing.

“Daddy?” “Daddy, wake up!” “Wake up, Daddy.” “Daddy?”

Then little girl suddenly stops and sits silent, still and in shock.

What do you do now?

How would you have handled the situation?


Crop failure risks

Monocropping and harvest failures

Secret garden – growing food in plain sight

The reason for writing this scenario is buried in a response and I would like to clarify that this was not intended in any way for shock value. It is to outline a very real aspect of prepping under conditions when we have prepared and others have not prepared.

It was also written as a commentary on the fragility of our food security. Here is the piece extracted from the replies:

“I posed a similar scenario to some people many years ago, but did it in two stages and under different conditions. It took place in a pandemic. I was truly surprised back then by the answers I received. I did do it a bit differently.

In the first part, I didn’t disclose the child, only the adult male. Some people shot the guy. A few people social distanced and threw him a takeaway bag of food.

Then I posted the second part about the child. I had made reference to increasing violence in that scenario as well as this one. Now this vulnerable child appears and she is at risk of violence.

In the pandemic scenario, some people were prepared to shoot her also.

Others said they would just go out in ppe’s and take the child in, put her in quarantine in case she was a carrier, and then have her stay with them until things could be sorted out.

Back then, I responded, “You just shot her Dad in front of her. Do you think she will want to go with you?”

The responses that were the most chilling, were from people who stated that they would leave her out there to fend for herself alone, amidst the violence.

Those responses came from people who didn’t seem like the kind of folks who would ever respond that way. It was an eye opener.

It got me thinking about building prepping community. When we build prepper community, we are looking at a criteria. I realized back then, that we have to look deeper into how people will react under various conditions.”

In the replies is a link about my friend’s father who was a Hong Kong Vet. The long term starvation aspect was the reason I mentioned it in the replies and then decided to include his story from the Hong Kong Vets Association. It is a riveting account of how a group of young men used guts and ingenuity to survive as POW’s in the notorious Chinese and Japanese POW camps. 

These men were starving and maltreated and yet they found ways to eat, improvise medical equipment and endure the brutality of the camps. Ultimately, you will see an incredible story of survival and courage with lessons relevant to this day for anyone who prepares. May we all be as strong.

William Bell Hong Kong Vet POW and Survivor


  • Comments (29)

    • 6

      One of the big collapse-level problems people aren’t talking about enough is the loss of topsoil.

      • 4


        Yes, topsoil is a big issue and thank you for bringing that much overlooked isue up. 

        You know, I am surprised to see that any farmer is just ploughing their fields in at the end of the season and not leaving them to fallow. 


        We always did that on that our farm. And as you can see from the wiki article, fallowing fields have other benefits for wildlife.

      • 2

        Recently I was reading Matt Powers book Regenerative Soil. In it he said that there us not much topsoil left – about 50 harvests?


      • 5


        It is being depleted due to farming practice. I am not familiar with Matt Powers work, however, I did pull this story that is close to his timeline and the urgency of the matter:


        I also ran across this article on acquatic farming this morning. It was an interesting read, although not a perfect solution “after researchers found that the animals may accumulate toxins from their seaweed-enhanced diet.”


        I see the topsoil blowing away in the area where I live. It doesn’t have to be this way. That’s the sad part.

        An aside, I just got a notice for the chemicals they want to spray to control weeds this year. I’m planting my yard to help save the bees. I’m going to try to stop them from spraying by referencing the bees and offering alternatives.

        Some days, I’m surprised we’re all still alive on this planet.

      • 4

        Matts book is a good read. I only had it 3 weeks from the library, so didn’t get the full benefit, but will reserve it again. He provides the life cycles of the various elements. It was a really interesting book. The focus us building and feeding the soil. He comes from a permaculture perspective, which is imitate nature. Definitely worth reading.

      • 3


        This sounds like exactly the type of book I enjoy reading and learning from. I have added to my book list.

        John Ikerd was a Missouri professor and you may find his approach to agriculture interesting. He campaigned for years to stop factory farming and employ more sustainable methods.


        The big tracts of farm land is what destroyed rural communities. So many are ghost towns now. I believe that we can rebuild healthy rural communities with clean industry. Not everyone has to live in a city.

        Masanobu Fukuoka is another author you might be interested in. He was born in a farming village and later trained in microbiology as a plant pathologist. At twenty-five, he had doubts about his training and questioned “modern” methods.

        This incredible man went on to blaze his own trail. He is the author of “One Straw Revolution” among other books available in English. He authored many books in Japanese and I am not certain if translations have been done. I was very fortunate to find a used copy of one of his rare books “The Natural Way of Farming – The theory and practice of green philosphy” that was published in 1985.


        He is worth reading if you can find copies of his work.

        Thank you again for the info on Matt Powers. I will be sure to get a copy of his book.

    • 6

      Well, if you are killing the hungry because you can’t, or won’t, share, then I guess your only option would be to kill the little girl.  Why would her death be different than her daddy’s?

      Hard to say what I would do.  I would most certainly kill someone who is a threat but someone who is hungry?  Guess it would depend on what we had.  Maybe first fire a round or two at their feet to show you mean business.  Then if they continue, they now have become a threat.

      I know a prepper, his screen name is Slippy, who plans to put such people’s heads on a long pike as a warning to other intruders.  Sounds rather awful but this has sure been done in the past and would be effective.

      Depending on where you live, a secret garden could be a great idea.  Not so important for me, where I live, but I do give it thought.  I’m really surprised that article didn’t mention amaranth, my top survival plant.  The whole plant is edible, from the leaves to the seed which can make porridge or flour.  It looks like a weed & no one would think a large patch was anything but a patch of weeds.

      • 5


        I posed a similar scenario to some people many years ago, but did it in two stages and under different conditions. It took place in a pandemic. I was truly surprised back then by the answers I received. I did do it a bit differently.

        In the first part, I didn’t disclose the child, only the adult male. Some people shot the guy. A few people social distanced and threw him a takeaway bag of food.

        Then I posted the second part about the child. I had made reference to increasing violence in that scenario as well as this one. Now this vulnerable child appears and she is at risk of violence.

        In the pandemic scenario, some people were prepared to shoot her also.

        Others said they would just go out in ppe’s and take the child in, put her in quarantine in case she was a carrier, and then have her stay with them until things could be sorted out.

        Back then, I responded, “You just shot her Dad in front of her. Do you think she will want to go with you?”

        The responses that were the most chilling, were from people who stated that they would leave her out there to fend for herself alone, amidst the violence.

        Those responses came from people who didn’t seem like the kind folks who would ever respond that way. It was an eye opener.

        It got me thinking about building prepping community. When we build prepper community, we are looking at a criteria. I realized back then, that we have to look deeper into how people will react under various conditions.

        I like that secret garden idea, too. I had never considered that method. I may try it this year or the next as an experiment.

        Amaranth is coming up as zone 5-9, yet I found an article by a woman who claims to have grown five plants. 

        No offense to Slippy, but I think he was born in the wrong century. Doing something like that could get him killed because other people might consider that he was very unstable and a threat to them necessitating his excision from the community. Apparently, that’s why inmates kill certain inmates, so as to protect themselves from the really bad and violent ones.

        Do people call him Slippy because of the slip and falls that occur due to all the blood outside his property?

      • 8

        It is hard, if not impossible, to answer this question regarding how we would act.  The person we are now will not be the same person during such a crisis.  The world will have changed.  We will have changed.

        How can we properly answer now with our bellies full and no reason to think they won’t be full in the future?  As with giving in church, it is easy to give from your excess but how many of us give sacrificially?  In this crisis, would you give the strangers some food if it meant you & yours would have less to eat?  And would probably mean they would come back asking for more.  And would also probably mean they would tell others & now more would want what you are giving away.

        Point being, if there ever is such a crisis, where mostly every decision you make means life or death for you & yours, then we will do things then we thought unimaginable today.

        A head on a pike sends a message understood by all.  Don’t mess with this mother.

      • 4


        Your reply is the best considered response I have ever heard on this issue.

        It is hard to fathom what we will do in times of crisis. I think about these things in the here and now as a kind of drill, imagining what if and also as a form of spiritual exercise. For me, if I can’t retain my humanity, what am I surviving for? I don’t want to become some horrible corrupt person.

        This issue plus the head on the pike leads me to another story best told by the person who survived his 5 year ordeal.

        He has passed on and I was priviledged to attend Mr. Bell’s funeral. One of the more touching moments at that funeral was when a Hong Kong vet read the Hong Kong vet’s prayer at the podium.

        William Bell was a Hong Kong vet. His story is an inspiration for those of us who seek to prepare, survive a long term crisis and retain our humanity even in the face of the horror that can mark this world.

        It is with respect that I present Mr Bell’s story:


      • 5

        Redneck – 100% agree with you that it’s impossible to know how we will act in a disaster/survival situation. 

        I have two examples of this. The first is when my wife is overly tired or hungry, there is no reasoning at all with her. She is grumpy, snappy, and mean. But she is the nicest and sweetest woman otherwise. This came as a shock for me because I am not as affected by lack of sleep or hunger as she is. She just changes and is not aware of how she is during those moments of weakness. I can see people becoming like this or much much worse when stressed out to the max. 

        The second example is when I was a young lad and went on a 50 mile with some other kids my age and some leaders. Even though we brought enough dehydrated food to last us that long, after 2-3 days of eating that, no one could stomach that food any more. (side lesson of living off of your food storage and working hard to see how your body will react to it) We ended up not eating like the last day of our hike because we were so put off by the taste of that fake hiking food. Around the second to last day I pulled out my two pound bag of sour skittles and everyone was on me! They all were shocked that I was holding out on them and wanted some because they were starving. I am one of the nicest guys you could probably know, but in that moment I was in survival mode and in my brain that bag of sour skittles was the only thing keeping me alive. Survival mode Robert replied with “No, they are all mine!” I hoarded, rationed, and protected them and at the end of the hike I still had 1/2 a bag left. I clearly could have shared and would have been fine, but my brain thought otherwise. After a huge BBQ at the end of our journey, I was satisfied and was able to clear my mind of the funk it was in and I offered the bag of sour skittles to others to try and make up for how I acted, but they were no longer interested. 

        Survival, stress, and hunger are three powerful forces that when combined can lead even the nicest religious person to do nasty things. So try and keep a sane level head if put into a situation like that, have the ability to recognize how you feel and how you are acting. And if you see others acting in a negative way because of one of those factors, then try not to judge them too harshly because that’s not who they truly are.

      • 7


        I wanted to give you a heads up on something health wise regarding your wife’s deameanor when hungry. Very often people in the medical community miss because they lump high and low blood sugar as part of diabetes.

        Hypoglycemia means low blood sugar, and you may have heard diabetics talk about whether their blood sugar is low (hypoglycemic) or high (hyperglycemic).

        But, hypoglycemia can also be a rare endocrine condition. I know because I have it and I only knew to get checked because I had a boss who had it. He used to be so grumpy when his blood sugars were low.

        Has your wife ever had a 4 hour Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT) to see if she has hypoglycemia? The 4 hour timing of this test is very important. Some Dr’s only order a 3 hour test, but that can sometimes fail to catch hypoglycemia.

        Does your wife ever start shaking when she is hungry. Like I mean cold sweat and her hands are trembling?

        People who only eat 1 meal a day are susceptible to developing this condition, although I suspect a genetic component for myself.

        It is managed the same way as for a diabetic regarding healthy diet, however, I have to carry glucose and watch if I need to snack and definitely pack food if travelling or working out. 

        It is worth checking on with your Dr because the consequences of low blood sugar is very serious. I don’t want to alarm you but this can life threatening. I hope she doesn’t have it, but if she does, you both need to know about it.

        If she does have it, ensure anytime she is in hospital that they understand that she is a non-diabetic with hypoglycemia as a separate condition. 

        I have stopped countless medical persons from writing “diabetic” on my chart. Just imagine what would happen if someone gave a hypoglycemic person insulin?

        I hope this helps.

      • 4

        Thank you so much for thinking about her and taking the time to share your knowledge about the subject. I’ll bring it up to her and see if she wants to talk about it with her doctor. 

      • 5

        Regarding amaranth, when I search Google, I see sites that say up to zone 2 or 3.  I saw this statement:

        Amaranth is a warm season crop that requires full sun. Best germination occurs when soil temperatures range from 65 to 75°F (18-24°C). For southern Canada and the northern U.S., this usually means a late May or early June planting. 

        For me, the biggest value of amaranth comes from the super nutritious leaves & ease of growth.  I would think you should be able to get a nice crop of plants but you might not get fully developed seed heads.  Now you could jump start by starting in seed trays, at least for a few plants to get seed for next year.

        Last year, when I removed my amaranth at the end of my growing season, seed fell off the plants.  This seed germinated by the thousands in the bed & in the aisle headed to the compost pile.  It was rather cool then & I was amazed how long it hung on as it got cooler.  I suggest you give it a try.  The one I just planted is red stripe (or red leaf).  It is supposed to have the sweetest tasting leaves.


      • 8

        Thank you Redneck!

        I kept running up on different kinds of amaranth and I could have sworn that I bookmarked zone 3 info. So today when I looked, I got “Palmers Amaranth” in specific Manitoba results.

        I am going to track this down.

        Thank you again!

      • 8

        Palmers amaranth is the weed cousin of the “edible” amaranths.  As with all amaranth, it is edible but not as tasty as varieties selected to be eaten.  Palmer amaranth is the scourge of farmers all over, even in North Dakota & southern Canada.  It is becoming resistant to Roundup.

        I suggest using a variety bred for tasty leaves.  The red leaf is supposed to be the best but I’ll know this summer.  This will be my 3rd variety I’ve grown.

      • 4


        Roundup resistance is not good.

        I will remember to check for leaf edibility and look for the red leaf variety.

        Thank you!

    • 5


      Some in North America envisioned crop failures – and food seizures.

      Some survivalists can make culinary delights … as per the situation … with eel grass. A couple in our small group are researching.  I’ve got our Queen Mary ready to retrive the bounty of the Bay. A foot note placed here: Traditionally, marine biologists called stuff of fresh water “aquatic” and sea water “marine” (eg marine mammals).  The above link tells of the chef in Spain who is doing premier research to introduce eel grass into the human diet. Bay of Cadez is just west of Gibraltar, where the joint US-Spanish base Naval Station Rota is located.

      Is not a garden without a security program – especially involving perimeters – really a public food bank ? 

      Prior to the 20 y.o. and daughter arriving, there would be others more heavily armed and equiped than homesteaders unless the homesteaders have substantial security programs.

      The scenerio’s 20 something doesn’t understand English. 

      During WWII there were similiar situations.  After the war there were the tribunals and sub-tribunals. The big change in the US post WWII is addition of the COGCONS. There will be continuity of Government. If there is no continuity of Government, the masses from south of the border will be here and some will not be Share Bears or even Care Bears.

      • 5


        For some survivalist research, above link is a good place to start. 

      • 2


        Thank you for the link.

        I collect edible wild food info and am now including aquatic thanks to you.

        I wasn’t factoring aquatic edibles. Yikes! I have been swimming in a sea of prairie grain for too long!

      • 6

        Good afternoon, Bob

        A good point that there would be others on their doorstep prior to the man and his daughter.

        Perimeter security was one of the first things I was taught to pay attention to. No matter where he was, my Dad always paid attention to how his yard was set up. He was also very aware of his environment no matter where he went.

        I am setting up a perimeter that looks like a garden fence around my planter beds with a few embellishments in case someone wants to ignore my security camera.

        I realized as I read through the eel grass link that I recognized it. BBC just did an article on it as well. Very interesting plant.

        The humble cattail can be used for it’s pollen which is supposed to make a nice pancake.

        I just thought of Euell Gibbons. He passed in 1975, but he was a strong advocate of simple natural food and I believe he did foraging.


      • 3

        Good afternoon Ubique,

        Just read the Euell Gibbons link … real good info. If anyone’s really a survivalist – using the real meaning – he is ! He’s conversant in neglected wild plants, spend 2 weeks with a small group on an unpopulated Maine island, …

        I’ll hold off on tree stump dining but like sugar cane.

      • 3

        Good evening Bob,

        Euell had quite a life – he packed a lot of living into it.  For some reason, I don’t have any of his work in my library. His book(s) are on my acquire list now.

        I look at the plaintains that grow freely as weeds here and think food.

        Except I just got a weed control notice for the community. I’m going to (hopefully) stop them from spraying around my yard (chemical allergies and sensitivities). We’re losing bees so quickly and they want to keep spraying that garbage.


    • 7

      Speaking of a crisis in farming as background for food scarcity and follow-on violence, …

      Disappearing Rivers: The Indian Farming Crisis That’s Going Under the Radar

      This link gives a decent view of a large ag situation and some solutions.

      Note “The loss of tree coverage…”. 

      Note term and discussion of “agroforestry”.

      Link’s tropical river revitalization as a global matter is a political topic not for here.

      Sidebar/footnote; Just read the William Bell WWII HK vet link. Appreciated reading it. The following day after the HK Handover, visited HK’s  Stanley Military Cemetery. Only 2 were present: my daughter and me. 

      • 4

        Hi Bob,

        Thank you for the link. The loss of tree coverage is a huge issue – so much is being destroyed in South America now to grow soy.

        Agroforestry – is it a way to legitimize forest destruction?

        Mr Bell was quite a man. So were his comrades. Their courage and ways of surviving are integrated into my preparedness thinking. What wasn’t in the story was how Mr Bell used to fight almost daily in order to learn martial arts and understand how the Japanese fought. These stories sometimes get lost and they are so relevant today for what it takes to survive. I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. Thank you.

        Visiting Stanley Military Cemetery with your daughter must have been a powerful experience for you both. I believe that is where Gordon Bell is buried.

      • 4

        Good morning Ubique,

        The HK Handover had all the basics present and compressed into only a block measured in hours. These basics were magnified to the utmost.  Some demographic groups had great parties. Some were sad.  Some were fearful. At Stanley Military everything was calm and quiet. It was a defining event for both of us.

        Agriculture and specifics like forestry and agroforestry are as politically charged as are fossel fuels, global health care delivery and mass migrations.

        Rather than study survival manuals – many are here – I study and talk to people about the WWII survival stories. 

      • 2

        Good morning Bob,

        I remember the accounts of the hand over. I can’t imagine what that felt like for the people living there. It’s like there were part of some bizarre chattel arrangement.

        A defining moment indeed and the two of you witnessed it. Powerful.

        BC destroyed so much with their forestry. When I first lived in the Okanagan, I had the opportunity to witness the destruction way up in the back country. It is not natural and anyone could see that there is something wrong with how they were doing it. 

        Reforestration is not restoration. They found the last grove of yellow cedar and put a fence around it to protect it from salivating loggers.

        They should teach forestry, agroforestry, fossil fuel, global health care and mass migration as part of every university/college Poli-Sci program.

        The WWII survival stories are incredible. There are other stories on the HK Vet site. I am going to read some of them today. The WWII stories afford us the opportunity to study how people improvised and coped with extreme, long term stress, and hardship.

        I believe this aspect of survival is lacking in the mainstream survival manuals. They stop short of talking about this part of survival. The manuals, and I do have a couple, Clint Emerson 100 Deadly Survival Skills and another one of his, John “Lofty”Wiseman and the classic SAS. They are wonderful how-to books, but they don’t cover the other aspect of survival.

      • 4

        Good morning Ubique,

        Excellent point re reforestration is not restoration.

        Our education systems teach little for intellectual need. Much of these organizations are really artificial employment factories.

        The WWII survival stories inject the human element into the austere living conditions. The famous quote of Jean Paul Satre, “Hell is other people”, as applied to the WWII stories explains the human factor in, for example, seeking food.  Someone will feast on someone else’s dangerous efforts …. and then kill this person.


      • 1

        Good Evening Bob,

        Education has been devolving since the 60’s.

        Do you remember that book “How to B_ll Sh_t Your Way Through University?” I remember my peers who were fortunate enough to be able to go to university waving that book around and bragging about how easy it was to get good marks by  regurgitating the prof’s words to him using key words/terms favored by him or her.

        I remember thinking you’re not learning, you’re manipulating. They went on to be one trick ponies. No depth or evolution in their intelligence. Definitely not salon material.

        Education is such an important issue. How else are future generations going to learn how to survive in a world that is getting tougher to navigate? They need to know how to research and sift through the online “info” to ensure that what they are absorbing is even accurate.

        Jean Paul Sartre hit that nail on the head. I was trying to find his book just now. There were some I didn’t get moved. Quelle Domage. 

        Instead I offer this quote by Adorno:

        “The almost insoluble task is to let neither the power of others, nor our own powerlessness, stupefy us.” – Theodor W. Adorno