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Revisiting Zombie Apocalypse Scenarios

 
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So, here we are in the midst of the world-wide Corona virus pandemic.  The news changes by the day.  My own school has shut down for the semester, with classes to be delivered "at distance" or "remotely" -- the two phrases being tossed around.  Over the years there have been various threads on Permies.com that predicted what to do in the event of a SHTF worldwide event.  That day has apparently come.  If I may, let me offer a couple of thoughts about what I'm  seeing and what I'm predicting.

1.  San Francisco is locked-down.  Residents have been advised to shelter in place.  New York is reportedly considering this as well.  My home is in greater Los Angeles county, which is a massive place.  [If LA county were to become its own state, it would be the 7th most populous state in the Union -- we've got a lot of people living here].  For the foreseeable future, this is the new normal.  So the fear of zombie hoards roaming the streets, lawlessness, and gangs of rampaging hungry people seems less and less unlikely.  People are hunkering down.  If there are instances of lawlessness, my guess is that they will be swiftly and harshly put down.

2.  Related to the first point, transit is easy to control.  Once the airports are closed, and the train and bus stations shuttered, what's left?  Cars.  Easy to set up road-blocks and turn people back.  The imagery of hoards of people ransacking the countryside is fantasy.  People will go indoors and wait.  Already we are seeing 80% less traffic on the roads.  Freeway traffic is almost non-existent.  People are doing what they're told—sheltering in place.

3.  As predicted, if you wait too long, you'll be standing in line, picking through what little remains on store shelves.  Those who were prudent and jumped on this weeks ago are sitting at home right now with some sense of security that they won't have to go out and look for more.  Will there be food in the weeks to come?  Absolutely -- the warehouses are still full and trucks are still rolling down the highways.  Cows still need to be milked twice a day.  Crops are being seeded and farmers are still farming.  But those who had the foresight to squirrel away enough food so that they don't have to go out and stand in the lines are those who will minimize the risk of catching the virus.  

My fear isn't that I'll starve.  My fear is that I'll be exposed to some idiot in line who sneezes on the back of my neck.  Thus, food is the secondary issue here.  Security and limiting exposure is what keeping a well-stocked pantry is all about.

4.  It's not that easy to suddenly ramp-up a garden.  Those of us on this forum have spent years building soil, and creating the kinds of systems that are tremendously productive.  We have greenhouses and cold frames, we've got compost piles, chicken tractors, wicking beds, huglemounds, we've saved seed, we've established productive orchards . . . and that poor schmuck who is suddenly thinking "Maybe I could plant a garden" has none of these things.  Should said schmuck still plant a garden?  Absolutely.  But he's not going to see much yield right away.  But for all those who read these boards regularly, you've already ordered your seeds, planted them, and have things under cultivation.  We've been eating lettuce, radishes and sugar snap peas from the garden for weeks.  We've thinned the peach and nectarine trees -- first harvest is only 8 weeks away or so.  Mmm . . . apricots.  If someone went out today and planted an apricot tree, he'll be waiting 2 years for the first crop.  

Aren't you glad you had the foresight to build those raised beds?  Now get out there and turn that compost pile!  While you're at it, you might want to start another 25 tomatoes, 40 pepper plants, a few more herbs (cilantro, dill, basal) and another hill or 3 of cucumbers.  Our carrots are still a month away from harvesting, but I'll be planting a bunch more in the next few days.

Ramping up an existing garden is a whole lot easier than starting from scratch.

5.  All of a sudden, people are coming out of the woodwork: "Hey, we'll be over later to help you pick avocados, Marco."  No, you won't.  We will be generous, but the time to ask for my help was 5 years ago when I would have been happy to help you plant your own avocado tree.  The definition of a garden is a cultivated space WITH WALLS.  In times like this, you understand why walls are necessary.  Again, i don't anticipate zombie hoards roaming down the street in search of a squash, but there is a measure of security knowing that we control who comes and goes.  Will our non-permie friends all starve?  No.  But they also will not be enjoying fresh pesto from the garden, or have abundant access to all the produce that will come from the garden on a daily basis.

6.  Fresh eggs daily.  The old girls just keep producing.  Enjoy life's little luxuries.  Three weeks ago, I might have just taken this for granted (along with the fresh squeezed orange juice or the tender greens budding off the moringa trees).  Now I see what a blessing it is to have these simple pleasures.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll say a prayer of thanks for the lovely fresh egg omelet (with moringa and chives) and glass of blood-orange orange juice.

Stay safe out there.
m
 
master gardener
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I live in a county of 8000.  Life, for me, has had few changes.  I am traveling less.  That's about it.  But then, I never was a social butterfly.
 
pollinator
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I had a friend messaging me at lunch worried about money, hyperinflation, teotwawki etc.
His suggestion, start/keep gathering precious metals like gold silver and lead.
We're farmers so food isn't the issue.
 
gardener
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Original post a mixed bag for me to read. 1 and 2 were nice thoughts. But the rest?  

Glad for you and others in your situation. But, I need to be at work, can't exactly practice social distancing even though I have food and supplies at home. Hoping those of us who can't stay home short of a government order to do so don't get sick or infect loved ones.

And I'm new to this gardening thing (as an adult) and to practicing what I've been learning here for years. Lots of other people here in the same boat, I'm sure.  Hoping my garden and those of others in my boat grow well.  Chin up, newbies! We can do this!
 
master steward
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I think the biggest thing is to just do what you can. It's better than nothing. Sure, some of us started doing what we could a few years before. I've been at my place for 7 years. And, each year I couldn't do much, but I did SOMETHING. And now I somehow have like 15 garden beds. It adds up. Plant blueberries, plant strawberries, plant trees, make garden beds via potatoes. Every bit helps. Every bit teaches you a bit more. And, the perennials like sorrel and raspberries and strawberries and chives and elephant garlic and walking onions make more and more each year.

I'm still no expert. For some reason, none of my peas have come up. I see pea shells everywhere and no idea what went wrong. I have radishes sprouting, but no carrots. Did I plant too early? I'll throw out more seed and hope.

We all have to start somewhere, but the biggest thing is just to start and keep going. Who knows what next year might bring--it might be worse economically...but you'll have one more year behind your belt because you started this year. It all adds up, in so many, many ways.
 
Marco Banks
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Nicole Alderman wrote:
We all have to start everywhere, but the biggest thing is just to start and keep going. Who knows what next year might bring--it might be worse economically...but you'll have one more year behind your belt because you started this year. It all adds up, in so many, many ways.



Exactly.

Depending upon how long this crisis lasts, even efforts made today to build a bed or plant in pots will make some kind of difference down the road.
 
pollinator
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Marco Banks wrote:

Depending upon how long this crisis lasts,  




That's the big unknown. No one knows how long this crisis will last. There are a lot of people saying it will fizzle in a couple of weeks, but most of them were saying that back in January.

I'm packaging up some of the more abundant parts of my seed stash. If any of my neighbors suddenly decide it's time to garden but can't get seeds, I'll have squash, beans, and tomato seeds for them.
 
Marco Banks
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Two weeks later . . . let me respond to my own thread, if that's an OK thing.

We are seeing that in spite of the whole nation being "shut down", the food supply continues to move from farms and warehouses to the grocery store shelves.  Cows are still being milked.  Veggies are still being picked, packaged and delivered.

I've not read of any food production facilities closed, although that might be the case --- it's a big country.  There are a couple of things working in our favor.

First, the hardest hit areas are those with the greatest density of humans.  Thus, New York City is the worst, followed by other urban centers.  The least effected are rural states and rural communities.  Many of our food production facilities are in these rural states.  Veggies are canned, animals are butchered, grains are harvested and processed . . . and it's not taking place in Manhattan, Los Angeles or Chicago.  Yes, big bakeries are in these large urban centers, but a significant percentage of the stuff that sits on your store shelves (dried foods, canned foods, frozen foods) are prepared in rural America.  That bodes well for the future.  Even if the big cities are closed for business, those rural producers are still keeping the food pipeline open.

Second, after some initial hoarding, people have settled down and are following the rules.  You see them lined up outside of stores maintaining the appropriate social distance until it's their turn to go in and buy what they need.  It would appear that we are now right in the midst of the worst of this pandemic, yet social order hasn't broken down at all.  No rioting, no looting, no nothing.  Just tons of Americans tuning into Netflix to watch a bizarre show about a tiger guy who runs a private zoo.  I would expect this will continue --- people are behaving themselves.

Third, this whole crisis is a giant learning opportunity for our nation.  The next time something like this happens, people will be better prepared.  Our government will also know better what to do.  Will people start to convert their back yards into Victory Gardens and food forests?  I hope that one of the outcomes is a massive new influx of people interested in permaculture.  Now would be a great time to market this idea to friends and neighbors who have time on their hands and are a bit insecure about where their next salad will be coming from.

Fourth, I'm seeing more and more stuff being published about "regenerative agriculture", "agroecology" and "sustainable food practices".  It seems like in times like these, people start to considered new ideas and alternative ways of going about things.  While what we are doing—permaculture—is not a new idea (rather, it's returning to old ways), many are discovering permaculture for the first time.  Maybe we need a global crisis like this to serve as a catalyst for massive cultural change in this regard.

Stay safe everyone.
m
 
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Excellent post!
Due to emergency surgery on March 16, followed by 2 weeks in the hospital, I'm just now getting caught up on everything going on. Despite, technically, still being on bed rest, I've been working to overcome the setbacks on my spring gardens that resulted from my surgery, such as stunted transplants that didn't get planted or cared for while I was gone.
Lately I've been taking inventory of what all is alive/growing, and reseeding as needed. While I originally planned to keep the garden small & simple this year, I've found myself sowing more types & varieties of crops, just as a small security measure. My thought is, if the extra food isn't needed, I can always give it to friends/family, feed the pigs/rabbits/pou try, or build soil with it. Even though I recently lost my chicken flock to a pack of neighborhood dogs, if the "stuff" continues to hit the proverbial fan, I have the rabbits, 4 potbellies, pigeons, and guineas as a source of protein/meat (and I guess I'd eat pigeon eggs). While I don't know if I could fully sustain myself & 3 immediate family members; at least I know I have something to fall back on.

Currently Texas has the mandatory shelter in place order until 05/20, although it seems to get pushed back further each week. My county, so far, has 4 or 5 confirmed cases of the virus, and one death. People are still hoarding some things, but I don't think there's been any extreme shortages yet.
For now, I'm just staying home and focusing on healing my body & immune system. Thankfully, as a school administrator, I have the ability to work from home, allowing me to still get a paycheck. I've also been using social media to encourage people to start a garden & offering advice/resources for those who lack knowledge or experience. Additionally, I will gladly share my seeds with them if they are unable to get seeds. Since I hope to start a regional seed library, this could be an opportunity to build an inventory of regionally adapted seeds built up to continue sharing with others in the area.
 
pollinator
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Lots of good stuff here.

I do think it's very important to remember that the trigger, Covid19, is much less severe than it might have been. Extrapolating lessons from this crisis to future black swan events might be very misleading, if they are more serious.

I don't at all mean that Covid19 is not a serious issue, in both immediate and ripple effects, but simply that it could be much worse, and that systems which in many cases are merely shaken at this time could fail utterly.
 
Marco Banks
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D Nikolls wrote:Extrapolating lessons from this crisis to future black swan events might be very misleading, if they are more serious.



So true.  This has been something of a dress-rehearsal for the nation for the next time—and I do believe that there will be a next time.  If the next virus is much worse, I know that I have personally learned a great deal this time and will be better prepared for a total lock-down, should that day come.  But you're right -- the next one might be much more deadly and even more contagious.  We just don't know.

In my lifetime, I've witnessed the emergence of AIDS, Ebola, West Nile, Hantavirus, Zika, SARS, and now Covid 19.  I'm probably forgetting a few viral pandemics.  YES, there will be another one, and then another one, and then another.  


 
D Nikolls
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Marco Banks wrote:

D Nikolls wrote:Extrapolating lessons from this crisis to future black swan events might be very misleading, if they are more serious.



So true.  This has been something of a dress-rehearsal for the nation for the next time—and I do believe that there will be a next time.  If the next virus is much worse, I know that I have personally learned a great deal this time and will be better prepared for a total lock-down, should that day come.  But you're right -- the next one might be much more deadly and even more contagious.  We just don't know.

In my lifetime, I've witnessed the emergence of AIDS, Ebola, West Nile, Hantavirus, Zika, SARS, and now Covid 19.  I'm probably forgetting a few viral pandemics.  YES, there will be another one, and then another one, and then another.  




I have heard 'dress rehearsal' a few times; personally, I think it seems like more of an 'undressed rehearsal' in most places!

Definitely there will be more pandemics, but there will, sooner or later, be other entirely different black swan events as well. A book called 'the death of grass' posits a disease destroying grass.. ie, wheat, rice, pasture...

Lots of easy guesses... War. Asteroids. Magnetic pole switch. Major solar flare wrecking the grid. 3 years of winter after a major volcano. Nutjobs losing a single base/sub's worth of nukes. Numerous unknown unknowns though.

Stacking on top of already baked in yet unpredictable effects from climate change..


I dearly hope that the general lesson taken by the average person has more to do with self reliance and building resiliance than it does with expecting ever more babysitting from governments..
 
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At least two Canadian packinghouses are/have been temporarily closed  due to C19.

Meanwhile, in Africa, the worst plague of locusts in 70 years is going to cause millions to starve.  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-while-coronavirus-is-on-everyones-mind-another-plague-of-locusts/

I am not counting a zombie apocalypse out at this point, to be honest. Nothing more I can do but try to be as self sufficient as possible.
 
Ellendra Nauriel
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Tyson Foods has suspended operations at one of their locations due to the virus.
 
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I think maybe adding a list of "lessons learned" will be helpful.  Here are some of the lessons I want to believe at least some people have learned.

1) Washing your hands is important.  Far too many people seem to have forgotten how important this simple thing is.

2)  You'll still get where you are going and get what you need in public without standing so close you are touching me.  Maybe social distancing will become closer to the norm.

3)  Get some exercise and fresh air.  Diseases that attack your lungs and heart may not be able to devastate your body as easily if you have a level of cardiovascular fitness that is higher than that of the normal American (I can't really speak for where other countries are with this).  Ditto maintaining a healthy weight if at all possible.  Obesity is being touted as a big risk factor with this disease.  It makes sense that you are better equipped to deal with this if you can go up 10 flights of stairs without panting.

4)  Keep stocked up on essentials ALL THE TIME.  Waiting until something like this happens to make sure you have a few weeks worth of essentials stored up is just poor planning, and it leads to situations that have been seen where people clear the store shelves all at once and some poor person that doesn't have the financial means to do the same is desperate to find food.  Don't be one of the people that contributes to this.

5)  By all means, don't forget all about growing your own food the minute this is under control.  Make growing food something you do.  Permaculture is a stepping stone to food independence.

I know much of my list is preaching to the choir here and I hope it doesn't sound condescending.  Those are just things I really hope people take away from all this and incorporate into their daily lives.  I'm sure there are many more I haven't mentioned.
 
D Nikolls
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Trace Oswald wrote:I think maybe adding a list of "lessons learned" will be helpful.  Here are some of the lessons I want to believe at least some people have learned.

1) Washing your hands is important.  Far too many people seem to have forgotten how important this simple thing is.

2)  You'll still get where you are going and get what you need in public without standing so close you are touching me.  Maybe social distancing will become closer to the norm.

3)  Get some exercise and fresh air.  Diseases that attack your lungs and heart may not be able to devastate your body as easily if you have a level of cardiovascular fitness that is higher than that of the normal American (I can't really speak for where other countries are with this).  Ditto maintaining a healthy weight if at all possible.  Obesity is being touted as a big risk factor with this disease.  It makes sense that you are better equipped to deal with this if you can go up 10 flights of stairs without panting.

4)  Keep stocked up on essentials ALL THE TIME.  Waiting until something like this happens to make sure you have a few weeks worth of essentials stored up is just poor planning, and it leads to situations that have been seen where people clear the store shelves all at once and some poor person that doesn't have the financial means to do the same is desperate to find food.  Don't be one of the people that contributes to this.

5)  By all means, don't forget all about growing your own food the minute this is under control.  Make growing food something you do.  Permaculture is a stepping stone to food independence.

I know much of my list is preaching to the choir here and I hope it doesn't sound condescending.  Those are just things I really hope people take away from all this and incorporate into their daily lives.  I'm sure there are many more I haven't mentioned.




This is a good idea and a great list. And ya, probably preaching to the choir around here, but still.

The biggest thing I would add, is if at all possible, have some money for emergencies. I have been horrified for years about the willingness of many people to live right at the very edge of their means with no rainy day savings. Now we have a situation where governments are taking on absurd amounts of debt to bail out... well, just about everyone, because hardly any business or anyone had a cushion.

Everyone is going to be paying for this for a very long time. Both in terms of taxes, and in terms of increased government control.
 
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I've heard that searches for growing your own food has gone up sharply and some websites actually have a seed shortage. I would say knowing how to save seed would be something to prioritize learning. for emergency growing, knowing what yields most per square foot or looking into more efficient set ups would be good too. it sucks getting a new bed started, but with square foot gardening only 30 square feet is needed per person for fresh eating (supposedly) so it'd be less sucky. Also things that are cut and come again or that can be eaten as sprouts would be nice. sprouts don't have many calorie, but they are packed with vitamin.

Land is great to provide for yourself, and precious metals are great to preserve your wealth, but Pms aren't going to make you rich (outside of a few niche situations)

I don't know about high fitness protecting you, but exercise does stimulate the immune system, and at the very least it's easier to move someone smaller in an emergency. My mom had to take ambulance rides several times and it would take 4ish people to lift her and trying to navigate the bed thing was a struggle for them.

The stores near me are still low on preserved goods, but fresh produce is in abundance. in my case,  I've learned that having a large garden would be secondary to having the dry goods stored. I'm not in a situation where I can grow any major crops so things like flour are now at the top of my list. though admittedly, I don't bake as much as I could or maybe even should.

seconding having a rainy day fund. I worry about my friends that have never had the chance to build up savings. If I got laid off tomorrow, I have enough for the forseeable future -- joys of having no rent, even if I would rather have my own place now. If I am laid off I'm just going to 'hibernate' until this is over, for lack of a better descriptor. I can't imagine many places would be hiring and I'm picky on where I work anyway.

I used to have a bit of a prepper mindset but since my entire family was against it I pushed it aside. now, they're admitting that maybe some of what I said was right. I wish it hadn't come to this, but it's nice ot know we'll be in a better situation if/when next time comes.
 
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