#40 Develop an immunity to dioxins

September 16, 2010

dioxin breath

Love Canal in winter

When the cataclysm hits and everything in your ‘hood burns to charcoal, a whole lot of what burns will be plastic. The bad news is that many types of plastics, when they burn, they release a whole lot of something called “dioxins.”

The American Chemistry Council explains that

The term “dioxin” refers to a large family of compounds that includes 17 compounds of particular interest because it is thought that these compounds have similar mechanisms of toxicity.

The World Health Organization describes the health risks of dioxins this way:

Dioxins are environmental pollutants. They have the dubious distinction of belonging to the “dirty dozen” – a group of dangerous chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants. Dioxins are of concern because of their highly toxic potential. Experiments have shown they affect a number of organs and systems.

Dioxins made up just some of the many chemicals buried by the Hooker Chemical and Plastics Corporation over a number of years in the Love Canal in upstate New York. Leaks from those chemicals caused significant health problems for local residents, eventually becoming one of the most notorious environmental disasters in the US.

Cigarette smoke contains dioxins, but not nearly enough to prepare you for the cataclysm.

To survive the cataclysm, get your lungs ready to breathe some seriously dioxin-laced smoke.


#39 How will you recognize the cataclysm when you see it?

March 5, 2009

A worried reader recently asked me, Exactly how do you define “cataclysm?” How will I know one when I see one?

Good question. You don’t want to pull out your cataclysm kit and run for the hills if you only have a disaster on your hands, not a full-fledged cataclysm.

It may help to think of a cataclysm as part of a continuum of troubles that runs from everyday trials and tribulations to an outright nobody-but-the cockroaches-survive apocalypse.

Cataclysm ContinuumIn between, you have your misadventure, disaster and your cataclysm.

Think of it in terms of survival. Most people will survive their tribulations (bad hair day) and the ordinary misadventure (US Air Flight 1549). In this day and age most people even survive a disaster. A cataclysm, not so much.

But the best-stocked cataclysm survival kit won’t help you in the case of the apocalypse.

Next time something bad befalls you, or you read about some crisis or other in the news, try to place it on this continuum. As you do it more and more, you’ll start to get the hang of things.

When the cataclysm comes, you’ll recognize it for what it is. You’ll be fit and ready with your skills and stockpiles while everyone else is still twittering on about their very bad day.


#38 Blend in

February 7, 2009

When the cataclysm hits and marauding bands of your unprepared neighbors tear through the ‘hood looking for a bite to eat and some fresh water, your ability to stand out in a crowd will be definite disadvantage.

Note how this wily crayon cleverly blends into its surroundings

Note how this wily crayon cleverly blends into its surroundings

You’ve cultivated your own personal style and developed strategies to draw attention to how you are completely unique in the world. That’s the American way, after all – rugged individualism in the search engine optimized era.

After the global climate change cataclysm, though, you won’t want to show up on your hungry neighbors’ armed analog equivalent of a Google search for “local food.”

To the contrary, you’ll want to blend in and not be noticed. You’ll want people to pass you right by without seeing your well-stocked cataclysm kit.

Get started now. Start taking note of those background people in your life. You know – the invisible ones you don’t usually see. Study their habits of dress, behavior and driving habits.  They have a lot to teach, and you have a lot of bad habits to lose if you’re going to go unnoticed and survive after the cataclysm.

Crayon photo by EJP. Click to see more camoflaged crayons.


#37 Learn to talk to people face-to-face

December 28, 2008

Apparently, a whole generation of people is growing up unable to carry on a conversation with another human being face-to-face. They’re so used to email and texting with their friends, they’d rather do that than actually see them in real life.

The Onion

Source: The Onion

Great if we want to reduce the spread of communicable diseases. Not so good for after the global climate change cataclysm, when batteries run dry and the electrical grid collapses.

Imagine, you’re going though life just texting along, when your iPhone suddenly goes dead. You realize the last time you plugged it in, it didn’t actually juice up. You look up from the phone, only to discover the water has already risen up to your knees. What do you do?

You can’t start emailing or texting for help. You’ll have to shout. I know it sounds frightening, but you will have to talk to the people around you. They may be family, friends or even strangers. If you don’t know how to carry on a verbal conversation with the people who planned ahead for the cataclysm, you’ll have a lot of trouble getting them to row you to safety or share their freeze-dried Brunswick stew with you.

Practice now. Put down that phone or PDA and talk to someone. You may find it less efficient than email. It will require more words, and you may have to talk about things that aren’t on the topic you started with. You’ll have to use entire words. Then again, you may be surprised to find out it takes less time to say “by the way” than it does to say the letters “BTW.”

smileyYou’ll also need to make facial expressions and hand gestures appropriate to the content of your words. To do this, imagine the kind of emoticon you might use with certain statements, and try to make your face look like that. Many people of the older generation learned this as children, and may be able to help you.

Start talking now, lest you find yourself texting underwater.


#36 Make friends with old people

October 29, 2008

Many bloggers will find this hard to believe, but there are people alive today who were born before the television was a household item.

Some people alive today remember life before television

Some people alive today remember life before television

They remember life before there were such things as Social Security and the CIA. They remember having to entertain themselves by playing outside, singing aloud and using Go Fish sets that didn’t have little mermaids on them. Many of them, no matter what part of the country they’re from, remember growing their own food. Most remember cooking their own meals, or at least having someone around to cook meals for them.

These people are great resources for preparing for the global climate change cataclysm. They remember the life you’re likely to find yourself living. Limited access to electricity, reduced to depending on the sweat of your brow to get what you need.

So get out there and meet some old people. Learn from them how hard life used to be. They have the tips to help you survive it.


#35 Buy an old cookbook

October 13, 2008

If your favorite cookbook doesn’t include instructions on how to dress and cook a squirrel, it’s not going to be much use after the global climate change cataclysm.

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Cooking is cultural, sociological, environmental and historical. What we cook depends on what’s available in our local grocery store or market. As globalization and international trade have grown exponentially in recent years, we’ve grown used to seeing ingredients from around the world on local grocery shelves, like Bulgarian feta, Italian proscuitto and Philippine tilapia.

As ingredients have changed, so have cookbooks, which was nice while the global supply chain still functioned. When it collapses and you have to rely on locally-grown ingredients, your fancy-pants modern cookbook will be next to useless. Well, I suppose you could use it to start a fire.

Luckily, I have the 1975 edition of The Joy of Cooking on my shelf. It includes detailed instructions for how to dress and cook squirrel, opossum, porcupine, raccoon, muskrat, woodchuck, beaver, armadillo, and seven different ways to prepare rabbit. Plus recommended side dishes.

The 2006 edition only offers this advice: “Small game can be cooked following most recipes for chicken.” To survive on local game post-cataclysm, most of us will need more guidance than this.

I mean, the recipe for moo shu tempeh looks tasty – I’ll give it a try it while I can still buy the ingredients. But the odds of finding shiitake mushrooms, wood ear fungus, sesame oil, canned bamboo shoots and tempeh on the grocery shelf after the cataclysm are slim.

I’m keeping my old fashioned cookbook with old fashioned local ingredients in my cataclysm survival kit.


#34 Diversify your immune system

October 7, 2008

If you thought mononucleosis was bad, check out ebola.

If you haven’t yet, you may get a chance to try.

The Wildlife Conservation Society has identified twelve relatively uncommon diseases that are likely to become much more widespread after the global climate change cataclysm. See, as your local climate changes, pathogens that couldn’t survive there before will suddenly be able to. You’ll have to diversify your immune system if you want to survive.

Thanks to WCS, we know what diseases you should start preparing for now. The “Deadly Dozen” are (in alphabetical order)

  • Avian flu
  • Babesia
  • Cholera
  • Ebola
  • Intestinal and external parasites
  • Plague
  • Lyme disease
  • Red tides
  • Rift Valley fever
  • Sleeping sickness
  • Tuberculosis
  • Yellow fever

I once had a yellow fever vaccination, but I don’t have a clue what “babesia” is.

As we all know, the keys to avoiding illness are 1) keeping yourself fit and healthy, and 2) washing your hands every five minutes. So start with that. The next step is to beef up your immune system and diversify it.

Check the Centers for Disease Control website for reports of the deadly dozen popping up. I found a report of babesia in New Jersey from 2003. That will help you keep track of the geographic infection creep, and might show where you can visit if you want to try to to build up antibodies.

Whatever you do, don’t rely on those antibacterial soaps to save you after the cataclysm. They do more harm than good, and they’ll run out long before the deadly dozen pathogens do.