Cover image: The late Bruce Beach, conspiracy theorist, anti-vaxxer and doomsday prepper horsing around outside Ark Two, a massive DIY bunker in Horning’s Mills in Ontario, Canada.
I regularly have folks ask me how long I’ve been prepping.
More often than not they’re very confused when I respond that I’m not a prepper and never have been. People are quick to come back with a comment about how I have all these survival skills and am constantly out in the woods. I appreciate preparedness—I have an emergency kit in my car, a wide array of outdoor skills, and the means to survive for days without electricity. I reassure folks that that doesn’t make me a prepper.
Culturally, most of us recognize preppers from shows like Doomsday Preppers where we watch these folks gather years worth of non-perishable foods and discuss potential disasters like Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attacks, terrorist occupations, and weather-related disasters. None of that on its own is inherently problematic until we look at what differentiates preparedness and preppers.
The majority of preppers are white men and self-identify as conservative, traditional, and/or right-wing. There is a connection between the amount of active involvement in the prepping community and who is currently president. On many of the websites I visited, the token diversity articles are written by white women discussing the challenges of being a “female” prepper and arguing that the representation of women in prepper circles is about 30%.
Even more frustrating, almost all of the websites I visited are openly Christian or run by pastors. It is the current dominionism of white, Christian men that have brought us to this place of climate collapse and capitalist enslavement. The demographics in prepper culture contribute to the already dominant voices of society and do very little to challenge this. I am a queer agender Luciferian who lives in a predominantly Indigenous community with the majority of my friends being queer; none of the articles that I’ve read on these prepper websites, or the shows I’ve watched about prepping, acknowledge our existence or appeal to us as people that aren’t dominant voices. Traditional white preppers don’t care to know about the unique circumstances that surround BIPOC or LGBTQIA2S+ folks when it comes to surviving ecological disasters, and that’s especially apparent when we see how much money goes into prepping.
Prepping can be outrageously expensive. It’s not uncommon to find the most committed preppers spending all of their money on building bunkers and storing years’ worth of provisions. Even articles offering advice for prepping on a budget admit that there is still a large investment of time, and time investments are still expensive for folks working multiple minimum wage jobs. Most of the websites I visited while writing this article were selling me something. There is so much money involved in prepping or to be made from prepping that you can buy everything from courses specifically for “survival moms” to a monthly subscription box that has everything a prepper would want.
What’s most frustrating about this privileged lifestyle is that poor and marginalized folks are disproportionately affected by natural disasters, so folks who could use these preparations the most are the least likely to be able to afford them. When prepper websites suggest that folks leave their homes and “bug out” to a place that is safer, it becomes apparent that these articles and websites are not for the average person but for people with money.
Regardless of who you are, most people become desperate when faced with tragic uncertainty, and this desperation ties into my least favourite element of prepper culture: Preppers have this bizarre obsession with firearms and self-protection. By Canadian standards, I really like guns, but maybe it’s because I’m a Canadian that I don’t understand the need to have more guns than your neighbour just so they can’t come after your stuff.
I never want to be prepared for just my family; I want to be prepared for as many people as I can and especially for those who are incapable of being prepared themselves.
The concept of only prepping for yourself and your family while being ready to shoot anyone else that comes for your hoarded stash is so confusing. What happens to the elderly lady down the street on a fixed income who can’t afford to prepare for a disaster? If she knocks on your door looking for help are you going to tell her to go fuck herself and shoot her between the eyeballs if she doesn’t leave?
This problematic attitude really becomes apparent when I notice that the Prepper.com section for tactical gear is far more comprehensive than the section for food, and how quickly I can find an article that shows how preppers don’t even really like other preppers. My tiny rural Canadian town probably isn’t too dissimilar from most American towns: everyone here has guns.
It’s partly because my whole community has firearms that I want to help them. I want people to come to me before times of crisis and learn from me. I want to offer them everything I know in regards to foraging, cooking and preserving wild foods, preparing and using wild medicines, and bushcrafting. I want people to come to me when they are hurting or hungry and to feel safe asking me for food because when folks aren’t scared and desperate, they’re much less likely to shoot you. I never want to be prepared for just my family; I want to be prepared for as many people as I can and especially for those who are incapable of being prepared themselves.
Having a 72-hour preparedness plan is a great idea. Living a life of secrecy because you have five years of hoarded food in your basement is weird. Instead of hoarding wealth and ammunition, I’d rather host classes on medicines in our biome at my local library. I have the means to bug out in the woods, but I also cook a free community meal at the end of the month as part of my mutual aid practice.
Humans are not designed to survive alone and I would much rather face a disaster with a diverse group of people who want to learn the skills to make it through “Shit Hit The Fan” together than with a bunch of preppers.