A few words for 2018.
Have a plan. Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better, and your goal is to rearrange your life to survive that. You need to stop being distracted now, or you won't have the option later.
To those in the UK, we have Brexit to look forward to in 2019. This means 2018 is the last year we have of relative abundance. Our last year to prepare ourselves for the outcome. And even if it is brought to a dead stop on January 1st, the UK economy has already been dealt a serious blow. We can expect higher prices and fewer resources. We can expect the cost of just existing to rise.
Even if you're the most faithful advocate of the idea that the UK is better off outside the EU somehow, we still have the slow threat of climate change starting to bite. And even if all the world were to instantly follow all the recommendations to prevent it, how many decades have been wasted bickering over whether it's worth the effort to have a world that isn't toxic? Climate change now has those decades of additional momentum. We've been adding a little extra push to that pendulum every year and now it swings further and harder. And that momentum means we can expect the climate to become more extreme for decades to come. We won't see the environment of our childhoods until the childhoods of our great grandchildren. And the time in between is going to become violent.
As a species we have mitigated it to some degree by lessening our reliance of fossil fuels and their associated resources. But we still grow our food in the open, and rely on the patterns of nature to do so reliably.
The effects on humanity from climate change are still the same. We can expect shortages of food & other essential resources, resulting in civil unrest and mass migration, with associated conflict and disease increases. We can expect the same again as large areas of land become too harsh to inhabit, battered by storms or drought. We can expect transport and resource costs to increase. Things that were easy to buy cheaply from the other side of the world will continue to rise in cost.
The UK is now geared for service industries. It is debatable whether it is capable of producing enough food for its entire population from its own farms. And even if it is, the cost of it's goods are held artificially low by government subsidies intended to make them competitive with EU markets. Without that, food is likely to become much more costly. And with our manufacturing industries largely sold off and relocated to overseas investors, household goods can also be expected to increase in cost.
There's a lot of society where capability and worth are equated to the ability to perform violence and survive on their own. And these same societies are ones where those acts are punished if performed. Many, particularly men, as such have essential to the survival of their ego plans and beliefs for what they would do in case of sudden disaster, where the legalities of society are gone and they can freely prove their personal worth. And as long as the legalities are there, they will never be called to do so. It's a safe, unprovable, fantasy. The sort of wish fulfilment that it's easy to bolster with expensive catalogue purchases for equipment you'll never have to prove you have no idea how to use, but the ownership of which must demonstrate your competence.
The problem with “prepping” is that nebulous definition on when it's finally time to act. When the shit hits the fan, you'll be ready. How far does the world have to fall before then though? When do you stop playing along and start acting out? How long before you're willing to see if you can act on your fantasy? How long before you're willing to be the first to risk your life?
The problem is there is no defined point. There is no starting flag. Society is a massive interconnected machine, and while it may fail in parts or locations, odds are there'll still always be enough functioning for you to hold back on actually putting your fantasy to the test. Because most of those fantasies run the risk of getting you killed. Society, for all it's flaws, is safer than anarchy.
I mention this because the sort of world we have ahead is a slow disaster. One where things will keep getting worse in multiple ways and there will be no hard defined point where it's suddenly time to make a single massive change to your lifestyle, throwing yourself unpractised and unfit into an alien environment. It's not a movie. Things will change slowly and you will get used to most of them. It may get worse, but never to the point you are willing to risk what comforts you have left.
What I'm planing is mitigation.
There is in the next couple of years the threat of essential resource shortages to the entire UK population, where one in every two hundred is already homeless. And beyond that an even more certain threat of the same thing, but on a longer timescale.
2018 is the year you have to prepare and practice. It's the year you finally get around to growing your own food, or cooking your own meals. Where you get into the habit of doing so before you're forced to do so clumsily later without a safety net.
It's the year you finally get that mini lathe, or learn to repair your own household goods instead of replacing them every time the fuse blows.
It's the year you get around to taking a self-defence class, or installing CCTV.
It's the year you get to know your neighbours. Those strangers always ominously present in your life. You will learn if you can trust them, or at least know them enough not to fear them. You will form community.
2018 is the cram-session before the exam. And if you pull it off you'll have better odds of surviving what comes afterwards.
- If you've been saving to build a small home workshop and are waiting for prices to come down, don't wait. Prices have been increasing since about 2008, roughly coinciding with the first suggestions of Peak Oil. It's not likely to get cheaper again all of a sudden.
- Invest in a slow cooker and a pressure cooker. A slow cooker can make better use of poor cuts of meat and allows very low-involvement cooking, giving more free time. Pressure cookers can allow food to be cooked very quickly, but also make it easy to get more from meats by cooking off scraps from carcasses and making stock.
- Make sure you have a dedicated freezer. Cooking has economies of scale. It's easier and cheaper to make a moderate amount and freeze meals for later than make multiple small meals on demand. A freezer also gives you the option to take advantage of food opportunities as they occur.
- Look into permaculture. It's not for everyone, especially as it requires growing space. But due to the often layered planting and complimentary soil chemistry, layouts tend to require far less active maintenance than farming techniques that result in needing crop rotation, as well as producing more for a set land area.
- Hydroponic food may be another option, but has a higher financial/material barrier to entry. I'm not yet convinced it's able to provide a financial benefit compared to shop-bought plants.
- Try to eat less meat. Moral choices aside, meat is less energy efficient. Veg will always be cheaper, and seeing meat as a luxury food item helps put that in perspective. You'll save money.
- Work to make yourself functionally fit. You're training for a job, not a race.
- Diversify your income if possible. It often won't be in the time remaining, but multiple trickles can be enough to live on if one main source fails. Diversify your savings too if possible.