How to survive flood, famine, flu, and financial catastrophe

Neil Strauss has a tough assignment ahead of him- survive the worst:

Like any good journalist he documented his journey in The Game’s successor, Emergency. Emergency works both as a gold-standard piece of gonzo journalism, with Strauss sharing the extraordinary lives and motivations of his subjects, and as a detailed manual on how to prepare yourself before the long wild party of civilisation comes to a messy end.

Longer chapters detailing his quest to transform himself from an effete, deskbound writer to a self-reliant woodsman are interpolated with short two-page comic strip ‘how to’ segments on everything from evasive driving to sawing through plastic handcuffs with a pair of shoelaces.

I’m here today, at a self-sufficient farm outside Guildford, to get a small flavour of Neil’s research. Despite the jeremiads you might see in some of the more excitable newspapers, the chance that ours will be generation that sees a colossal social collapse like the Fall of the Roman Empire or a pandemic on the scale of the Black Death is still reassuringly slim.

How Neil Strauss became Mr. Doom

10 End of the World Survival Essentials
From the Daily Mail (UK): Meltdown! A solar superstorm could send us back into the dark ages- and one is due in just THREE years!
[Headline copied verbatim! --ed]

Oh, my fuzzy ears and whiskers- what a headline! Have a taste of the article:

The catastrophe, when it comes, will be beautiful at first. It is a balmy evening in late September 2012. Ever since the sun set, the dimming skies over London have been alive with fire.

Pillars of incandescent green writhe like gigantic serpents across the skies.

Sheets of orange race across the horizon during the most spectacular display of the aurora borealis seen in southern England for 153 years.

And then, 90 seconds later, the lights start to go out. Not the lights in the sky - they will dazzle until dawn - but the lights on the ground.

Within an hour, large parts of Britain are without power.

By midnight, every mobile network is down and the internet is dying. Television - terrestrial and satellite - blinks off the air.

Radio is reduced to a burst of static.

By noon the following day, it is clear something terrible has happened and the civilised world has plunged into chaos.

A year later, Britain, most of Europe plus North America is in the grip of the deepest economic catastrophe in history.

By the end of 2013, 100,000 Europeans have died of starvation.

The dead go unburied, the sick untreated.

It will take two decades or more for the first green shoots of recovery to appear - recovery from the first solar superstorm in modern history.

This catastrophe is not some academic one-in-a-million chance scenario.

It is a very real threat which, according to a report in the latest issue of New Scientist, remains one of the most potent, yet least recognised, threats to the future of human civilisation.

Moreover, it is something that has happened before - not that long ago - and indeed has the potential to arrive every 11 years.

So what actually is it?

Solar storms do not normally cause much concern. Swarms of electrically charged subatomic particles from the Sun periodically buffet the Earth and its surroundings, causing health worries for astronauts and the owners of satellites, whose delicate electronics can be fried.

But down on the surface, cocooned under an ocean of air, we rarely notice more than the pretty lights in the sky, created as the electrically charged particles from the Sun sweep into the Earth's own magnetic field to generate the Northern and Southern Lights.

But every now and then, the Sun is convulsed by a gigantic tempest: 50,000-mile-wide eddies of boiling hydrogen plasma on its surface ejecting a billion-tonne, malevolent blob of crackling-charged gas into space at a million miles an hour.

And, very occasionally, one of these mighty coronal mass ejections, as they are called, smacks into the Earth head-on.

This last happened on the morning of September 1, 1859.

In spite of the unfortunately lurid headline, this is actually a pretty good, and yes, factual article. There's more to it, and it's definitely worth taking the time to read in its entirety, and if you keep archives, to archive [note to self- start 2012 article archive collection]. I don't know how long the Daily Mail keeps its articles available, but there is plenty to read about solar storms, the solar cycle, and the upcoming Solar Max, which is what is being described in this article. And yes, we'll be reaching Solar Max in 2012.

Most people don't realize that the Sun is such an active component to our lives- but it is. If it chooses to spit out a coronal mass discharge in our direction, there's not a damn thing we can do about it. Considering that the protective magnetic field around our planet, which acts as a blast shield for such things- is rapidly weakening, this is going to be an interesting time.
Salon Magazine writer David Sirota wonders if we're experiencing the 'A-word':

Recently, I've been groping for the precise word to characterize the zeitgeist of this (unfortunately) historic moment. I know it's not merely "demoralized." It's something far more dread-laden -- a word I finally found during a visit last week to central Mexico.

Sitting atop the famed Pyramid of the Sun, I took in Teotihuacan -- the ancient metropolis outside Mexico City. Its weathered bricks and mortar look like many great archaeological wonders, except its annals include a harrowing asterisk: When the Aztecs discovered the site, it was abandoned, and nobody knows what happened to its inhabitants. The ruins thus feel like monuments to an apocalypse.

That's the term that popped into my mind as I baked in the Mexican sun -- "apocalypse": a phenomenon whose signs are everywhere these days.

Iraq bleeds from unending strife, while Israelis and Palestinians appear intent on annihilating each other. Pakistan just released A.Q. Khan, the scientist who delivered nuclear secrets to North Korea -- the country that's again threatening long-range missile tests. Colombia’s civil war rages, and the "great news" in Mexico is President Felipe Calderon's announcement that drug cartels haven't totally taken over the country.

In America, our apocalyptic symbols are usually subtler -- the birth of octuplets or a restaurant chain's Chicago Seven pizza, which consumerizes a renowned court case into a fast-food dish. But Wall Street and Washington exhibit a more overt Sodom and Gomorrah quality of late, to the point where even business magazines like Portfolio are invoking the A-word.

Is it 'the' Apocalypse? Or is our particular gift for hype and hyperbole manifesting itself once again? Are we near that edge, or have we already reached that tipping point?

Which reminds me... I need to get and read "Tipping Point", and re-read "Collapse" and, and...