Friday, May 18, 2012

Kathy Harrison: Struggling a Lot with Labels

I have been struggling a lot with labels lately. People seem determined to define me as a prepper or a doomer or a bunker-dwelling wing nut when, in fact, I’m none of the above. I did appear in an episode of National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers series, so one could say I invited the controversy.

I agreed to participate for a couple of reasons: I’m the author of a family preparedness book and I thought it would help sales, and I am committed to teaching people how they can create more resilient lives. Part of that resilience involves stocking up a pantry when times and resources are abundant and having those resources available when times are lean. Another part is learning to do for oneself rather than relying on technology to meet one’s needs. A bigger part is building and contributing to the community you live in, whether that community is a rural village or a gated community or a towering skyscraper.

What I find fascinating is that these appear to be somewhat radical concepts when, in fact, until a couple of generations ago, it was what everyone did as a matter of course. Our grandparents and great-grandparents canned food and baked bread and kept poultry. They had never heard the words “organic” or “free range,” although that was all they ate. They had also never lived with the concept of terrorists or peak oil or climate change, but they had more than a passing familiarity with depression, war, and crop failure.

Please don’t call me a doomer. I’m a really cheerful person. I see life as a hoot, enhanced by the wine I make and the cheese ripening on the back of the stove. You can call me a prepper if you like. Lots of people did when they came to visit last fall. A freak snowstorm knocked out power for days, and we had a steady stream of friends stopping by to borrow hurricane lamps and jugs of water. They needed to use the hard-wired phone while they recharged their cell phones and hung around for hot coffee and conversation.

Here’s the truth of it: Life is unpredictable. We are conditioned to believe in the great “they.” “They” will fix it. “They” are working on it. “They” won’t let the system fail. I am fan of the “we.” We can fix it. We can work on it together. We won’t let each other down.

Here’s who I am: I’m your neighbor or your best friend. Maybe I’m your mother or your pastor or the guy down the street with the cool workshop and the messy yard. I care about my food, and I’ll bet you do, too. I care about my family, and I know you do as well. We are all in this boat together, and we need to figure out how to row together. And please — don’t call me a doomer.

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