Tuesday, June 25, 2013

INFORMATIVE - Gear Roundup - May 2013

INFORMATIVE - When the Food's Gone

The world is running out of food.

It sounds like the premise of an "end-of-days" type film, starring Bruce Willis, but unfortunately, it's a real thing. A combination of population growth, population concentration, world relations and climate change are causing us to reach a tipping point where there will - quite literally - not be enough food being produced by the planet to sustain all of its people. Experts are saying that we could start feeling the effects of this as soon as the year 2025.

So what can you do about it? Well, there are two scenarios that you need to prepare for: the immediate, where you're the victim of a natural disaster or other incident and don't have access to grocery stores, etc, for an extended period during recovery efforts, and the long haul, when the world can't provide food for you and you have to come up with your own. That scenario comes with its own problems that you need to be aware of.

The Immediate

Natural disasters are an unfortunate occurance in many parts of the world, and as I've stated in previous articles, they're going to become more violent and more frequent as time goes on. When they strike, your local community can be thrown into turmoil. What if, for some reason or other, the supermarkets in your area got emptied and weren't re-stocked for a few days? What about a couple of weeks? What about 3 months? A good example of what happens in this sort of thing is the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma.

Tom from WeaponsEducation goes into this in scary detail, and tells a chilling tale of how things went from bright to dark in only a week or two. It pretty much went like this:

Day 1 - Everyone was helping each other. Strong community spirit. Helping those in need, sharing food and water, helping with repairs and putting people up in their homes.

Day 2 - People realised that there was no access to supermarkets or stores, and those that were open were emptying by the minute. The community became more tightly-knit as a group survival method.

Day 3 - Food and clean water started getting scarce and people became less inclined to share what they had, as it was barely enough for themselves.

Day 5 - People started door-knocking, asking/begging for food. People became suspicious of each other, separating and becoming more isolated.

Day 8 - The first of the break-ins started occurring. People desperate for food started TAKING it from people who had it.

Day 10 - Anarchy.

Luckily, it was around this time that relief efforts reached his area and order was restored, but everyone living there got to see the darker side of their community. The neighbour that you exchange pleasantries with each morning and whom you would happily lend your garden tools to can and will turn into a dangerous, potentially violent scavenger in less than a week, and those who have supplies and means are considerably more at risk than those who have not.

Defending your stash and your property is another topic entirely, which we'll cover in future articles. For now, let's go into what you can put aside to keep you and your loved ones fed during a short-term case of isolation.

Equipment you should invest in:
- A solar shower (hygeine as well as morale)
- A rainwater tank for your yard.
- Some means of easy water purification. Perhaps a dynamo UV light sanitizer or a pump-based filtration system.
- A thorough medical kit (since doctors won't be available)
- A solid food store
- A wood-fire oven in your yard (even a simple one)
- A small, portable gas cooker with plenty of gas canisters (used for stealth cooking only)

So how can you construct a decent, long-term food store? It's cheaper and easier than you'd think, and there are multiple ways you can do it.

Hand-assembled - Using food-grade buckets, oxygen absorbers and mylar bags, you can prepare and store many food types long term. Even using 2L soft drink bottles or self-canning can work for you.

MREs - If you want to eat in style, and have a very compact food store, many MRE companies sell bulk-lot MRE meals in food grade buckets. One excellent supplier in Australia is Survival Supplies Australia, which sells a huge range of long-term food stores at very realistic prices.

Constructed - You can raid your local grocery store and find all kinds of things you can put together to make a combination-style mix. This is the method I use personally, but that is because it works for me. Here's what's in my food store as it currently stands:

- A 60 meal MRE bulk pack (more as a treat than anything, as they are very high quality, and if only used for dinners, will last myself and my wife for a month)
- 30 cans of baked beans
- 30 cans of spaghetti
- 60 packets of 2 minute noodles
- 15kgs of basmati rice, separated into mylar bags with oxygen absorbers
- 10 cans diced tomatoes
- 10 boxes powdered mashed potatoes
- 16 cans of creamed corn
- 5 cans of condensed milk
- 20 cans peas, corn and carrot mix
- 4 packets beef stock cubes
- Multiple packets of various herbs
- 4 packets powdered milk 1kg
- 5kgs museli, separated into mylar bags with oxygen absorbers
- 2kgs salt
- 2kgs peanut butter
- 2kgs vegemite
- 12kgs of white flour, separated into mylar bags with oxygen absorbers
- 30kgs of white sugar in a food-grade sealed bucket
- 20L of olive oil

While this store works for me and my tastes, other people may have different tastes and get things that suit them. My store is designed to provide options and alternatives. Morale is a big deal when you're stranded, and you don't want to be eating the same thing every day.

A couple of things you need to remember is that not any old plastic container is good for long term food storage, and you'll need to make sure you find food-grade containers. The quickest way to tell if a plastic container is food-grade is to check the recycling symbol. It will have a number in it between 1 and 7, inclusive. The container is safe for food storage if that number is 1, 2, 4 or 5.

Certain foods such as sugar, salt, dried beans, etc, are good to just dump into a sealed, airtight, food-grade bucket and store long-term in a cool, dry place, but other foods need much more care. Rice and any sort of grain, such as flour, are some of these foods. Generally speaking, most flour or rice that you buy is filled with microscopic weevil eggs which are harmless to eat, but if left long enough, they will hatch and infest your food store with weevils.

This sounds disgusting, because it is, but there are ways around it. Weevil eggs are killed at extremely low temperature, and also in low oxygen environments. A good practice when planning to store flour and rice long term is to get 1L mylar bags and oxygen absorbers. Divide your store into these bags and freeze them overnight in your freezer. Put the mylar bag inside of a larger, sealed plastic bag (such as a ZipLok bag) to prevent moisture from entering the store. Once that's done, drop an oxygen absorber sachet into the mylar bag and seal it shut with an iron. Over the next 24 hours, the oxygen absorber will suck up all of the oxygen in the bag, killing off anything that survived the freezing process. This way, when you go to use a bag, you'll only be opening 1L at a time, and so you'll be able to use it all long before any remaining eggs could hatch, or re-infestation could occur. It's a hassle, but it's safe.

The Long Haul

Prepping food for the long haul is a very different process, as the availability of canned and packaged food requires people to make it and people to transport it. During a global or even just national food shortage, this won't happen anymore, and it'll be up to you to provide your own.

To do this, you'll need to do several things:

Create a large water catchment system

Remember that depending on your climate there may be long delays between rain, so the larger your catchment, the better. You can lower or even eliminate the risk of mosquito infestation in your water system by installing a solar-powered pump to keep the water moving near the surface. Growing Duckweed in your supply is also a great way to lower mosquito population as well as provide you with an alternative food source.

Cultivate a produce garden 

Grow foods that are appropriate for your climate, and grow as many as you can. Excess food can either be stored or used as barter material for other supplies, so you can never have too much. Grow fruits, vegetables, herbs, medicinal plants, root vegetables... Anything you're able to. Keep in mind that for you to remain healthy, you'll need to include a good protein source (spinach), a good nutrition source (silverbeet/swiss-chard) and a good vitamin C source (oranges). Another handy hint is to replace any lawn that you have on your property with clover, as it is not only a food source, it attracts bees, which are a vital part of keeping your plants healthy. We'll be going into plant cultivation more thoroughly in a future article.

Get some chickens

The average egg-laying chicken will lay an egg once every day or two. This may come as a surprise to some people, but it only takes around 28 hours for a chicken to create and lay an egg. Remember that chickens kept in cramped spaces with lots of stress will only produce eggs for 2 to 5 years before stopping, but some healthy, happy, relaxed chickens have been known to lay eggs for 10 to 12 years! Take good care of your pets and spoil them rotten. When they stop laying, you also have a meat source. Be careful when keeping a cock in with them. It's a good idea to have one, but you'll need to keep him separate until he is "needed". Don't forget that chickens CAN fly, despite popular belief, but not far. They'll find ways to get out of their coop if you're not careful. Many people think of chickens as being quite dumb, but they're more clever than you might give them credit for. Keep them warm, keep them well fed, give them lots of space and they'll give you many eggs for many years.

Create a means of regular breadmaking/meat smoking

Build a wood-fire oven in your yard which includes a smoking stack for preserving meats. If you manage to hunt game, your best option is to preserve the meat by smoking and salting it thoroughly, as this will make it last a long time without refrigeration. Jerky is not only delicious and healthy, but it will become a delicacy very quickly in a food shortage environment and will be an incredibly valuable bartering tool.

Prepare a defense plan

If anyone identifies your property as being a source of food, then you will be at risk in a big way. Maintain watches, secure the perimeter, and be prepared to defend what's yours. We'll go into property defense in a future article.

So hopefully this has given you a few things to think about with regards to your food storage options. Remember, you don't have to be scared if you're prepared!

- CumQuaT

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

OPINION - "For your own safety"

This article is a bit of a rant, but I also consider it to be one of trying to raise public awareness. Not just for here in Australia, but for anywhere in the world.

I will do my best to avoid sounding like a hippie from 1969, raging about "the system, man" and "the corporations, man" but instead try to be as objective as I can.

You may have seen brief glimpses of the horrors affecting Turkey right now. If you haven't, take a look here, here and here before continuing.

What is happening there right now is nothing short of a triumph. A revolution. This is a country whose brave population have stood up as a whole and said "no, that's not ok." To do that takes courage, sacrifice and dedication. It takes a realisation that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and that it's not ok to simply "sit down and shut up" when your government starts opressing you.

This certainly isn't an isolated incident, what's happening to these people. Many countries do it. It starts slowly, with more rules, more restrictions. Perhaps a slow disarming of the population by removing the right to bear arms or the right to properly defend oneself. The government will impose more laws and give people less rights, all in the name of "keeping the people safe" but only serving to make the lawful weaker and the unlawful stronger. The resulting increase in crime and violence and the stamping down on revolutionaries are all skewed by the media (who is in the government's pocket in places like this) to incite fear in the people. The terrified population then turn to their governments, their authorities, to protect them from these scary things that are happening, and those same authorities use this to strip away even more rights, until there is nothing left but an unprotected quivering mass for a population, dependant on media and drip-fed information to know what's going on. In this weakened state a trigger will happen. Something will give way that incites drastic action. It must. It's the way of the human psyche.

Take what happened in London, for example. It started with the killing, by police, of Mark Duggan. He had been under investigation for illegal firearm possession. The police stopped a taxi he was in and, when he got out and ran, they shot him dead. The official statement from police say that he swung out of the car, drawing a firearm and took aim, and that is why they fired, but the taxi driver gave a sworn statement that all Mark did was get out of the car and run. This seems to be backed up by the fact that no firearm was found on his person when they examined his body.

This event was a catalyst that ignited a long-lasting feud between English police and the residents of some of the more impoverished towns, and it led to many aggressive outbursts towards police. Eventually, police attacked and beat a young woman whom they said 'provoked them' and the riots spread like wildfire. When the people saw that the authorities were being stood up to, it emboldened them to take action themselves.

This can also go other ways. After World War I, Germany was under extremely tight control from the rest of the world due to the Treaty of Versailles, and with the great depression hitting hard and a series of unstable governments, it left itself wide open for a dictatorship. The German people were scared from the aftermath of the war, they were unsure of the direction of their country because of the unstable government and they were desperate due to the financial imbalance caused by the great depression. When a country gets like this they look to a leader. Sometimes that leader is a revolutionary - some bold person who takes it upon themselves to be a leader to the people. Other times, it can be a radical. In the case of Germany, they turned to Adolf Hitler, and that did NOT go so well, as I'm sure you know.

While the scenario is well known to everyone, people choose to ignore it. This is known as "The Cassandra Syndrome", wherein people will know something to be true, and know that it exists, but actively choose to ignore its presence and do nothing about it. You see it all the time in scenarios like this, but also in things such as global warming, pollution, unethical legislation and corrupt world leaders. People are genuinely willing to sit by and watch utterly horrific things go on and not lift a finger because they are scared to be a lone voice, because lone voices are either ignored, or worse, silenced. It is because of this fear that these atrocities manage to take place at all. This concept has been used as the plot device of stories such as V for Vendetta, but other than that, rarely get comprehended by people.

People instead remain too frightened to act, and then, when boiling points are finally reached, it devolves, inevitably, into riots or dictatorship or even war.
The worst part is that many people will cajole themselves by saying "That won't happen to me. I live in a civilised country. I live in Australia, or America,  or England. We have rights here. We have choice. This is a democracy." but people who think that way are not seeing all of the things that are in plain sight. The rules. The police states. The people who disappear. They trust the media reports implicitly. They trust their politicians completely. They sit on their couches, eating their TV dinners, watching news programs that have their perspectives dictated to them by "elected officials" without ever realising that they are being spoon fed as their rights are slowly ripped away.

Australia, for example, is a country with rabid drug problems, increasing racial intolerance, terrible violence (for a 1st world country), huge networks of gang activity and violent crime... But what are people being arrested for? Crossing a road "improperly", or riding a bicycle without a helmet, or ordering a knife from overseas. These are the things that we are told are "important to control", and yet they instil a sense of fear in the people of what could happen to you if these things were allowed. They tell people that it's "for their own safety" and "for the greater good" but did you ever stop and think of why? Why are Australians not allowed to handle their own safety?

Many years ago Australians had their gun rights stripped from them for the same reason. It was for our safety. What the media and government didn't explain, however, was that gun crime in Australia rose by 67% in the first 12 months after Australians were disarmed. Why? Because the only people who still had guns were those who had obtained them illegally. Do you think that statistic was publicized? Of course it wasn't. What happened in Port Arthur was horrific. It was a deplorable act by a mentally deranged animal of a human being. Knowing that there will ALWAYS be people like that out there, however, is a fact that people need to take seriously.

If, fate forbid, someone ploughed a Hummer through a primary school one lunch time and mowed down 200 children before law enforcement was able to intervene, or before an evacuation plan could be executed, do you think cars would be outlawed? Of course not. Cars are needed. What if an organised group of 50 people all did that at the same time on the same day across the country? Do you think THAT would be enough to outlaw all cars? No, it wouldn't. One incident was the catalyst for Australia to be disarmed by its government, because its government had a regime it wanted implemented and it needed to make the people scared in order to make it happen. What's happened because of it? Have guns disappeared from Australian streets? Is gun crime eliminated? No. Not even slightly. But now it's JUST the criminals that have them and no-one else.

What about women who work late nights? What if, due to financial limitations, they have to work or live in a seedy neighbourhood? You'd think that's perfect justification for the woman to be able to carry some means of protection, wouldn't you say? Perhaps a tazer? Nope. Illegal. Mace/pepper spray? Nope. Illegal. A blade, perhaps? Nope. VERY illegal. It doesn't only apply to women, either. Barely a week goes by where you don't hear about innocent people being set upon by savage attackers for no reason other than sick pleasure. No pre-meditation. No forethought. No reason other than people wanting to hurt someone for fun. But if you train in and then carry a weapon to help protect yourself in this (increasingly likely) scenario, then you, yourself become the criminal.

It is rules and restrictions such as this which slowly build and build and build over time, quietly and subtly so people can't or won't notice, before you find yourself in something like Nazi Germany, or what Turkey is going through at the moment. But the people can and will fight back.

Be aware. Look and see. Don't just accept what is told to you, and question why. You are not free. Freedom is a choice, and most of you are, without fighting it, choosing to remain under the boot heel. Eventually that boot heel is going to come down. It is inevitable.

- CumQuaT

Saturday, June 1, 2013

INFORMATIVE - A Serious Issue - Coming to a City Near You!

We've all seen the crazy fads that spread like wildfire through youth communities. Most recent of which being things like "Planking". They're pretty harmless unless people take them too far, and can even be quite funny:

A notable aspect of these fads, however, is their propensity to spread on a world-wide basis. Since the advent of social media networks - especially with everyone owning smartphones now - this sort of thing can happen in one place before reaching an international audience within days.

So what happens when one of these fads is actually quite dangerous? What if it could affect you and your loved ones in such a way that it led to serious injury or even death? Well, that's something that might well be coming to you sooner than you'd think.

The fad is called "Wilding" and it is essentially a form of violent flash mob. Normally, when one thinks of a flash mob, they think of something like this:

They're harmless, well-organised and quite entertaining when they happen, and involve quite a large number of people.

But what if, rather than sing Hallelujah or dance or whatnot, that mob of a hundred or more people started wantonly attacking random people? Or smashing in shop windows? Or destroying public property? What if, in the middle of a mall or shopping center or public event, 100 to 300 people simultaneously started creating violent and destructive chaos for 5 minutes, then dispersed as if they were never there?

That, people, is what "wilding" is. It is a real thing, and it has started happening across The United States of America.

The trickiest thing about it is that it's organised via social networks, and the people involved have no connections to one another, or even necessarily know each other. People just "get on board" and sign up to do it. They're given a time and a place, and they blend in with the general populace until it's time to get violent. Once it's over, they disappear back into the crowd before law enforcement can stop them or contain the situation, and even if police were there, there are literally hundreds of people doing it in some cases. Even if the officers are armed with handguns, you just have to do the math to figure out that they won't last long.

Oftentimes, it hasn't even been the "wilders" that cause that much damage, but instead the literal stampede of crazed civilians trying to get away from the horror of it all.

It's not always a super-large group of people doing it, either. Sometimes it could just be 5 or 10. But the amount of chaos and destruction that even a small group of people can do in a heavily populated center can be catastrophic - particularly if weapons are used.

This isn't some minor occurrence, either. There are plenty of incidents that can be read about. But the question we must ask ourselves is this:

How long until it spreads internationally?

It happens with everything else, so why not this? In many instances, copy-cat-crime has done more damage than the original crime. As soon as the media picks up on something it reaches a vast audience and becomes imitated by tens of thousands of people. Currently, the media have kept quiet about wilding, but it's only a matter of time. When people hear about it, it WILL spread, so you need to be aware of it and prepared for it.

So here, I have a few tips to keep in mind, should you find yourself caught in the middle of a wilding attack:

Don't fight them any more than you have to
You won't immediately be able to judge the scale of the wilding attack, so don't assume you know how many there are. You may be able to take on one or two if you're a fighter, but there could literally be 100 more coming. Fight to escape, don't fight to contain.

Maintain awareness of multiple escape routes
Whenever you enter a public place, you should make a mental note of multiple exit paths should you need to get out of there quickly. Don't just pick one, as it might be blocked or become otherwise unusable. When the shit hits the fan, you'll already have in your mind multiple paths of escape and you won't freeze up. Seconds will count.

Don't use a weapon
Just in case we have international readers in the audience, don't pull your weapon in this scenario. A handgun will have roughly a dozen bullets, but the wildings will have 100 or more people. On top of that there's the high risk of collateral damage in a mob scenario. The attackers will be indistinguishable from the general populace.

Make escape your number one priority
Not only is there risk of attack from the wildings, there is risk of being trampled by the frightened mob. Move with the crowd, not against it, or lateral to it, to prevent getting crushed. Try and find a means of escape as quickly as possible.

Choose your safe zone carefully
Don't retreat inside of a shop to find safety. In many instances of wilding, the aggressors will smash through shop windows and do a bit of looting while they're at it. If you plan on taking refuge inside of a building, make it something like a hotel lobby where there would be nothing of value for the wildings to enter.

Think only of yourself and those with you
I know this sounds cold, but in a mob scenario, stopping to help a stranger could mean death. You need to focus on keeping yourself and those in your charge alive. It's horrific, but it's every man for themselves in this sort of scenario.

If all else fails, blend in
Keep in mind that large wilding groups don't know each other, so the only way they can distinguish one another is by their violence. In fact, many reported cases of this happening have shown wildings attacking each other in the confusion. If you don't have any clear means of escape, try to blend in. Shout, scream, wave your arms, do a bit of destruction - nothing serious. Perhaps throw something or kick over a chair. Just do enough to look like you're one of them, and, during this, edge your way to an exit point and escape. It may be your only way out.

It's terrifying, yes, but these tips could save your life.

Stay safe, and let's hope that this horrible and ridiculous trend doesn't spread to where you live.

- CumQuaT