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Has the Prepping Movement Come to an End?

I was conversing with my buddy, Bev, when we got on the subject of whether or not the prepping movement has come to an end. That is, are all of the people who have or will “wake up” already here and there will be no more OR is this just the beginning?

That was a “hey, wait a minute moment” for me. After all, I’m knee-deep in the prepper movement and it’s difficult for me to believe that prepping has peaked and will be coming to an end soon. Even more so, I’m a blog owner and I’m interested in growing my site, which I can’t do if people are no longer interested in what I have to offer!

Let’s look at some basic facts of life. Any statistics or math professor will tell you that many things in life follow a bell curve. Technically, a bell curve represents a normal distribution function. It basically says that there will be a natural distribution in the measurement (or performance) of whatever is being tested with the majority of those tested being average and only few being outliers and some in between. Think about students grades or the heights of elementary school kids and you’ll get the idea.

A bell curve can also be used to model other things in life, such as the life-cycle of something. In general, whatever is being measured starts small, grows, comes to a peak, declines, and eventually ends. This could a person’s life, viral video, the growth and decline of a company or nation, or–dare I say–the prepping movement.

When did it start?

Before we can determine where we are we must first determine where we’ve been. A simple keystroke or two and we’re at Wikipedia looking at the Survivalism page. Though I feel there’s a bit of a distinction between survivalists and preppers (as Wikipedia lumps them together) and even homesteaders–including different connotations from the use of these words–they’re roughly the same thing for the purposes of this discussion. As I’m too young to know any better, I’ll have to trust Wikipedia when they say the movement started in the 60′s as a result of a worry over inflation (sound familiar?) and nuclear exchange.

When did it grow?

We might suggest that the movement began to grow in the 70′s amid the oil crisis and the resultant inflation. It really began to take shape with voices such as Kurt Saxon and Mel Tappan. The movement continued to hold it’s ground, if you will, in the 80′s due to worries of an arms race with the Soviet Union.

An interesting sidebar to note from the Wikipedia page is the claim that the 80′s “…marked a shift in emphasis in preparations made by survivalists away from economic collapse, famine, and energy shortages—which were concerns in the 1970s—to nuclear war.” I recognize that the concern shifted but I can’t imagine the strategy changed much.

Anyway, unlike a true bell curve, however, it seems the prepper movement had a lull during most of the 90′s economic boom but renewed again due to Y2K concerns and gained a huge “shot in the arm” as a result of the attacks of 9/11; I know I was one of those who began paying attention after that tragedy.

So, the question is, where on this bell curve are we?

Let me suggest that yet another push up in momentum has occurred in recent years as more and more people–knowingly or otherwise–sense that our way of life is unsustainable and the neverending printing press cannot be good for our future. I’m sure there are people far smarter than I who can apply mathematical formulas to the prepper equation and come up with a good idea of where we are. I cannot.

What I can do is observe. Obviously, it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees at times, and so it’s difficult to say whether we’ve peaked or are still ramping up… or, perhaps, even in decline. I can say that when the mainstream media begins to pick up on the subject there are likely two outcomes: it’s either ready to explode or it’s a dead subject. Though biased, I’m of the camp that the movement is “ready to explode,” especially as evidenced by the popularity of shows such as Doomsday Preppers. Sure, they’re not yet popular because people want to learn but, rather, because they’re ARE entertaining. Regardless, the fact that prepping is even shown on television is heartening. I’m further emboldened by the fact that we’re NOT in times of economic prosperity. That’s not to say I want bad times but people start to reconsider (a little) how they act when times are tough.

On the other hand, so long as the government continues to give away handouts like it’s Halloween candy, the Fed continues to print money literally out of thin air, and there’s a general sense that “I’m entitled” and that society will be today as it was yesterday… I’m not holding my breath that they’ll be coming in droves.

One last point to consider

I do want to point out that it wasn’t but a few generations ago that people were far more self-reliant than we are today. People actually did store food, grow their own food, repair equipment, raise livestock, collect rainwater (or dig wells), grew herbs for medicine, and so much more. While we like to believe that the progress of society is always a good thing–and in many cases it is–this drastic change in lifestyle may not have been a good idea for true long term sustainability.

Ultimately, the question is this: is prepping a simply movement or is it really a return to our roots?

 

16 comments to Has the Prepping Movement Come to an End?

  • Baron

    With respect to how long will the prepper movement continue, I think the real question is how long will it continue in its current form. This can actually be estimated using the Copernican Principal. Basically, it assumes that something that started in the past and is still going on is not in any special time of its lifetime. The bell curve that you mentioned also comes into this. Since you stated in your blog post that the prepper movement started in the 1960s, I choose 1965 as its birth. Without going into the math, it means there is a 50% probability that the prepper movement, as it currently appears, will go on for another 15.5 – 141 years. If you are not happy with an estimate as good (or as bad) as a coin toss, there is a 95% probability that it will go on another 1.25 – 1833 years. Either way, the prepper movement is likely to continue in its present form for at least a little while. I think a better question is what will it turn into or will it completely die out.

    • Very interesting to know. I’ll have to look into the Copernican Principal, although it was probably something covered in a math class I failed to attend in college. :)

  • Bev

    Kudos Pam! We must be close in age because it sounds like you to have been there and done that and remember also!

  • Pam

    Very thought provoking piece. You said,”People actually did store food, grow their own food, repair equipment, raise livestock, collect rainwater (or dig wells), grew herbs for medicine, and so much more.” Sometimes we forget that there are those who never quit doing these things. The more rural you get, the more you find individuals like this. Some were raised in this environment and are simply programmed to live this way. On the other hand, I know quite a few people who prepared for Y2K and by June 2000 had “disposed of all that junk” – those people “won’t fall for that hype again”. Significant numbers of people making preparations for ultimate disaster is cyclical. In between those peaks you find a few folks who become comfortable with doing more ‘by hand’, who perfect different areas of an ‘off the land’ type lifestyle and keep doing it because they enjoy it.
    In the sixties, true hippies were into communal living because it was cheap and easy for the lazy (Drugs, sex and rock and roll, Baby)… We had the nuclear threat, people built bomb or fallout shelters and school children were subjected to regular drills, climbing under their desks. There were riots and demonstrations regularly during the Vietnam era and into the ’70s. Some people became avid detectives when it came to learning the truth about government activities. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the people who saw the handwriting on the wall began prepping more as we know it now and we had a militia/survivalist movement. The big push was firearms, military surplus items, mre’s and survival gear for living months in the wilderness (a Red Dawn senario, if you will). That pretty much died with David Koresh. BUT, numbers were added to the group who hold warranted suspicion of the government (or those who own it). Who can forget Gary North and how life as we know it will end because all the computers in the world will blow a fuse simultaneously when the clock/calendar turns to 00. Many who prepared for Y2K let preparing for anything major go by the wayside even with 9/11 and the dawning of the age of terrorism. BUT, numbers were added to the group who hold warranted suspicion of the government (or those who own it). I don’t know why, but we love to be scared so to try to get things ramped up in another direction, Al Gore brought us Global Warming and Unsustainability. This made us aware of our food and power bills and ‘hot items’ were grid-tie solar power systems, insulated house siding, greenhouses and mostly herb gardens in the backyard. At the same time the prevailing movement was (and still is) toward obtaining more junk from Chinese companies and staying focused on whether our troops were kicking A in Iraq (or the next Middle East country)while the US went deeper into debt, paying out the kazoo to be the worlds bully. BUT, numbers were added to the group who hold warranted suspicion of the government (or those who own it).
    Now that the chickens are coming home to roost, so to speak, we have declining incomes and increasing numbers on welfare, and those with the sense God gave a goose recognize that our government is NOT here to help us and are trying to put up provisions to soften the blow. The financial manipulators may try to drag it out in order to ease us into destruction but there will be that magic moment when the freebies aren’t enough to keep the social dependents happy and violence will the order of the day. People who understand how this system works are already appalled with the 1%. There will be wide spread animosity toward the ‘haves’ by the ‘have nots’ without understanding that simply having a bucket of beans doesn’t make you a ‘have’.
    In a nutshell, prepping has been around for centuries in one form or another and will not only continue (under one name or another) but grow stronger until self-reliance takes over. The difference between the past and now is, it will take a full-fledged miracle to keep this Titanic afloat and I don’t think the guy capable of such a miracle is inclined to let this continue. The most critical preparation we can make is spiritual.

    • Wow. What a well articulated response. I do truly appreciate your input. You know, I find it interesting that you mention “People who understand how this system works are already appalled with the 1%”… these people are a true minority, in my opinion. But, thankfully, quite a few of them are preppers! I’ve recently begun to really understand who’s in charge in this country and who the 1% (really more like 0.0001%) are and what they’ve done to this country, and the world. And the amazing thing is that they know and don’t care so long as they continue to gain more money and power. Equally worse is the amazing entitlement sentiment so many people have these days. The statement that people who have an extra bucket of beans are the “haves” would be laughable if it weren’t absolutely true because that’s the way the entitled (and anyone who has nothing) will view someone like me or you. Best of luck to you, Pam

  • I regretfully believe that we are just starting out. I say this with regret due to my belief that many Americans will be forced into the prepping movement with continued problems in this country and this world. It is just a matter of time.

    The economy staggers along IN SPITE of actions made by the government. Government spending is out of control. Society continues to become more and more immoral and dependant on modern technology.

    The list of problems and dangers could go on and on. I think it is a matter of “when” this country will experience some form of “reset” – not a matter of “if”. As we get closer – more and more people will become familiar with preparedness.

    Take care all.

    • I always considered this a voluntary action by in-touch people… maybe you’re right that it won’t be voluntary at all for most of us! The problem I see is that most of the people who will be forced into prepping won’t ever get it and come “kicking and screaming” and likely die as a result.

      • You may be right. There are so many theories as to what may happen and how it will all go down. An economic collapse may NEVER happen. Yup – it’s possible. It may take 15 years – it may take two. I think it makes sense that a slow, gradual collapse will bring in more preppers voluntary. Rapid decent will bring many on too late to survive.

  • Aussie Mick

    The prepping seed has been planted…it has not yet broken the surface of the soil. Water…fertilizer…more seeds..a bit of TLC…IT AIN’T STARTED YET…

  • T.R.

    I think its also just getting started ……….no matter who wins the election , I dont see things pulling out quickly if at all . I predict more and more people collecting goods as prices climb , if nothing else but just in case of job loss . I predict more people are going to be doing this weather or not they are even aware of this sub culture ……I bet more people are stocking up on things than we think and dont consider themselves or are even aware of the term prepper .

  • Bev

    I think the key here may be lifestyle. Self-reliance, being frugal and preparedness were simply facts in our great-grandparents lifestyles. My mother is fond of saying, “What was old is new again.” And this may well be an example of her saying. People wanting to get back to their roots and a more basic lifestyle IS urban or rural homesteading.
    And maybe this goes along with the conversation of the “fake” preppers–those into it for show or just a while and if nothing happens they go back to their former ways. Our current lifestyles are NOT sustainable much less the exporting of the American lifestyle to India and China–which is what television has done.
    I forget the exact stats but I think it is 300 million Americans consume 25% of the world’s goods, including oil… Now imagine how quickly China and India are growing and they all want to be just like US! Sobering thought.

    • T.R.

      If there is a total world wide collaps ……….the nation will no longer export jobs , we will have to retool and once again manufacture our own goods out of need , both because we will need the goods and to help keep riots , theft , and violence down by getting people employed manufacturing these things . Best part of a total collaps is the end of globalization and a return to nationalism . Frugality will be forced upon everybody and after a time a way of life . A lot of pain in the short term , but good result for long term .

  • Suni

    I am of the opinion that the prepper movement is just getting started. As you have a conversation with people and find out “IF” they are preparing you will also find a dozen or more reasons to why they feel they have to. Distrust of the federal government, attack on our homelands, drought and food shortages, pole shift, earthquakes, Volcanoes, economic collapse, comets, you name it and people are preparing for different reasons or maybe multiple reasons. WE all seem to have one thing in common, that the government is hiding something and will not inform the people. Example: feds purchasing huge amounts of ammo, MRE’s, building and competing underground bunkers (think Denver area)
    The prepper community is growing as we try to get more and more people to wake up to the fact that to have stored food and water isn’t a bad thing. How many people do you know that live paycheck to paycheck? This is where I try and get my family to wake up and see if you lose your job at least there will be food to eat until maybe they can get back to work. NO matter the reason it is just good common sense to have extra food and water on hand at least that’s the way it is at our house. Eat what you store and store what you eat.

  • Anne Ollamha

    There have been cycles of movement to and from the city in response to economic/political conditions going back as far as the Roman Empire or probably even longer ago. In the 2nd century BC, Cato the Elder wrote “De Agri Cultura”, which was used at the time as a manual for the upper crust Roman wishing to return to the land profitably.

    You don’t have to be a rich “Roman” to see the writing on the wall in our modern world. The current system of servitude to the debt-mongers will collapse, as previous incaranations of the system have. The debt-mongers are already returning to the land, exchanging their unreal dollars for real land. The system is being propped up by the powers that be for now. But when they have their preps in place, they will allow it to collapse.

    The prepping movement will not end until the thing being prepared for occurs.

  • AniOre

    I agree w Ed, that its a movement (whatever title given) that is growing rather than waning ~ I think as more and more people awaken to what freedoms are being taken away,and how they are being forced into buying what the Govt approves …they will want to turn to a more self sustaining lifestyle of growing their own food, home skills that can currently bring in extra money … knowing how to fix things at home etc . I got into ‘prepping’ due to the inflation of goods and the possibility of future job loss. In doing so, I also got more interested in becoming more of a ‘homesteader’ … and becoming ready for a possible ‘off grid’ situation. My friends seem to have lost interest tho…that may be the peak and fall off that you mentioned …they were interested when I started sharing, but as ‘to them’ nothing has ultimately affected their lifestyle, they’ve lost interest and now ask …oh you’re still doing that? Its an ongoing struggle to keep friends and family on board. :( But still I think majority of people will wake up and start or continue their prepping.

  • Ed

    Good questions. I firmly believe that we are still in the infancy of the movement. It MUST only be able to grow because of the happenings in the world. People have to see that this way of life is not sustainable and, thus, will “return to their roots” as you put it. Overall, very good article.