There is a basic chronology & teleology to transitioning from being an individual in the collapse to becoming part of a sustainable agricultural community. It has four stages:
- sustainable community
First we have to square off with some harsh truth. Even the best-laid plans collapse. No matter what you have stored or what kind of doomsday bunker you’ve built, shit happens. The initial stage of the post-collapse is a war of all against all, vying for control over grocery stores, convenience stores, and warehouses, with gangs fighting over containerized food. Your gang has to win.
Should you make better preparations? Yeah, if you can afford them; I really cannot. Many, even most of us cannot. Maybe you are a wilderness survival genius who knows how to live off the vegetation in the nearby wilderness. I don’t yet, and most people don’t either. (Something to work on though!)
Are there sunnier outcomes? Sure. Certain communities may be better-prepared, or deal with things in a more civilized and collective fashion, taking control of food supplies and rationing them out fairly to everyone. Those same communities may suffer one wrong turn and suddenly turn into crazed dictatorships or free-for-all bloodbaths. Survival depends on re-establishing low-level civilization, so larger communities have to happen eventually, but you have to tread carefully in them nonetheless. Having a crew who knows how to fend for itself, even if as a sub-group conditionally blended in with the community, is the best thing. If better things happen, then at least you were prepared, and you can make a greater contribution to your emerging community’s welfare and security by putting your competent gang to work for the collective.
If you insist on taking the large community route from the beginning, it would be useful to immerse yourself in the volunteering scene before the collapse, so you can know a huge network of people in your community and be involved in local charities’ food pantries. These may act as the initial community rationing system. Then you will have to deal with setting up all the categories of infrastructure at an urgent, rapid pace far more accelerated than the path outlined below. Even if you want to be a saint, though, it’s nice to be a saint protected by an armed crew, so the below still applies.
You can also accelerate or alter the course of the below sequence by having stored supplies or a doomsday bunker, if you’re lucky enough that your system doesn’t completely fall apart when the rubber actually meets the road.
FROM INDIVIDUAL TO GANG
You as an individual need to find some makeshift infrastructure you can use. For example, you can find a toilet that you can take a few dumps in before using up its last flush. These kinds of things tide you over a few days until you locate something to replace it.
Then you need to form a gang.
And yes, I use the word “gang,” because while it may act as an engineering team at times, truly its main function is to triumph in the violent competition over procurement zones. And there is zero ethics to such a group or situation – both groups are trying to survive, and in doing so, possibly denying the other side the means to do so. As the phrase goes, there are no good men among the living. Let’s call a gang what it is.
How do you start one? The simple answer is that you find other preppers before the collapse, include each other in a collective survival plan, hang out, get to know each other, train a little (and have fun), and implement the plan upon the collapse. Set a place to meet if & when the collapse occurs, and a backup spot, etc.
But let’s say you didn’t do that, and you have to pull people off the street for your gang. What a gang needs is weaponry, and I’m not talking about baseball bats. You should either buy plural firearms before the collapse or, or know where you can scavenge some when things fall apart. (Of course, weapons caches are obviously well-guarded, lol, so just buy them beforehand.)
You need to know how to use weapons, and you need combat training. You can get combat training by joining the military (reserves or National Guard if you don’t want to be full-time), or taking the courses of professional trainers like Pulse (which I found from Jack Donovan). Any pre-collapse teammates you are including in your plans should also have previously acquired or be provided with firearms and combat training. Anyone you recruit after the collapse will have to learn from you (which means you need to know the stuff yourself!).
Say you have no gang organized before the collapse. That means you need to incentivize people to join your gang. How do you do this?
Persuasion is one possibility. Teaming up just makes sense. People might need something more though. Bribing them with some of your food stores would work. Offering them firearms to take up is a sure way to sell the idea. (If you don’t have extra firearms to pass around, you have to accept the fact that your gang will have a motley mix of gunslingers and club-swingers until new hardware is found.) However, one of the greatest things you can offer people is knowledge and education. If you have combat training, and you can help people absorb a crash course of its bare necessities, they will pretty much follow you enthusiastically.
But you need a gang that is willing to pull triggers. A lot of people are still adjusting out of standard civilized moral assumptions. They have a tough time admitting that it’s all against all now. They don’t want to be aggressors; they will want to talk things out in situations where you need to be the one who shoots first, because a meltdown was inevitable. Even if they intellectually grasp the new situation, many people have an adjustment period before their emotions can process and accept it. Stereotypically it’s women who can’t handle it, though life always surprises you; some women may turn out to have ice in their veins while some men break down and blubber in tears. People who can’t embrace the situation are like the people on The Walking Dead who feel bad about killing zombies. This means they are not reliable gang members, and you may have to persuade, challenge, insult, or even threaten them into getting some nerve. If you need help, here are some words of inspiration from a Sith:
Only those hardened by this ineluctable truth can survive…only those of you who are willing to turn upon one another and profit by the misfortune of others…
I have been sent to overturn your most cherished beliefs in a bright future, and to help you wage war on good intentions and the deception of pure ideas; to teach you how to accept the fact that even in the midst of this seemingly blessed era, this wink of the eye in sentient history, our baser instincts hold sway over us.
What this reordered galaxy will need is beings who are fearless to be arrogant, self-serving, and driven to survive at all costs. Here, under my guidance, you will learn to let go of your old selves and find the strength to recast yourself…through actions you might never have believed yourselves possible of performing.
Look, each of you, to the ones to your left and right, and to those in front and behind…and think of them as stepping-stones to your eventual escalation.
This brings up the issue of internal “ethics,” or at least, non-betrayal. You need a gang of people who are unethical enough to fight outsiders for food, but ethical enough not to slit your throat in the night. This is kind of a paradox, solved with the concept of group loyalty (itself a paradox since it applies ethics to insiders but not outsiders, but hey, it works). The better things work for your group, the more you stay together without internal conflict.
The art of dominating the procurement game deserves its own blog post.
The difference between a gang and a settlement is that a gang hasn’t really settled on a stabilized place to call home yet. As you accumulate people, your infrastructural needs will get bigger.
FROM GANG TO SETTLEMENT
A settlement is a centralized hub of different infrastructures. What was once your supply cache may eventually become where your gang lives.
You will need to find a good spot that allows you all the different categories of infrastructural needs to be covered. A settlement is not a sustainable community – a settlement is just a shelter for a gang which still lives entirely off of procuring containerized goods (or whatever containerized goods you had stored, and still have access to).
Some of the things you stored can come in handy here, and help provide the shelter with an infrastructure that can support a group. Water purifier pumps are a huge deal here. Having lots of stored food to bring from your storage to your settlement buys you time, but you can’t get comfortable; you have to keep stockpiling until you know you are solid for weeks, then months, then ultimately the years needed to survive the transition to agriculture.
As you grow you may change locations a few times, developing tighter and tighter systems of security. You win this survival game by covering all your different bases. Again, a settlement is a centralized hub of different infrastructures, even if it’s as simple as collecting rainwater from the roof and also having a designated hole to poop in, all near the same site. (Hopefully you have more.) Be systematic and cover all your categories. You have to be always checking for the category you are overlooking or forgetting, and always trying to stay ahead of the game, by using downtime to create redundant systems in case your current rig-up fails. You run your infrastructures with either appliances brought from prep storage beforehand, creative solutions using scrap materials, or a sustained flow of procured containerized supplies.
Keep stockpiling, keep defending, and begin transitioning from procurement to agriculture.
FROM SETTLEMENT TO SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY
The main transition here is sustainability, which mainly means setting up agriculture. You must progressively wean yourself off of procuring containerized supplies produced in the pre-collapse world. You may rely on supplementation from procurements for literally years before you have fully-operational, year-round group-feeding agriculture online. That’s fine; America creates and warehouses tons of junk, enough to last a while, and any successful gang is going to be very adept at locating and securing it.
Your procurement runs have to start including a focus on finding seeds, fertilizer, livestock, and farming tools & equipment. They may also take a less survivalist turn, toward searching for and mapping other pockets of survivors and re-establishing civilization, for its own sake. As you stabilize, situations where you had to shoot or turn people away may begin to blend into situations where you greet and take those people in as your own. Your procurement runs may evolve from hikes to car rides, if they haven’t already. This means a mechanic would be good to have around.
You may begin to add extra infrastructure as your community thrives. Maybe you can focus on re-establishing communication with civilization using radio or any remaining Internet lines. You may advance as you accumulate people, finding people with skills. Instead of just having a bunch of first aid kits, maybe you’ll encounter and recruit a nurse. Maybe you’ll get some blacksmithing going so you can make ammunition instead of just having to find it.
Ultimately, you should do more than survive. You should do more than rebuild, even. You should analyze what went wrong with the system in the first place. You should create models of operating based on freedom and cooperation. You should make your community an example of it, and build your community up so that your model becomes influential in the re-emerging world, where remnants of the old system are sure to be lurking, and spreading their tyrannical influence likewise.