TreeHugger has been stressing the importance of resilience, “the capacity to adapt to changing conditions and to maintain or regain functionality and vitality in the face of stress or disturbance.” We tend to think of those stresses and disturbances being natural events, but a lot of people think they might well be political, or the result of a breakdown in society as we know it. Some become survivalists or “preppers”; Others, with more money, make bigger plans. Evan Osnos wrote a long piece in the New Yorker, describing how “some of the wealthiest people in America—in Silicon Valley, New York, and beyond—are getting ready for the crackup of civilization.”
It is an eye-opener; we learn of one investment banker who tells the writer “I keep a helicopter gassed up all the time, and I have an underground bunker with an air-filtration system.” These are people with money and resources, who think of this all as a form of insurance.
Many are buying property in New Zealand, considered one of the safest places in the world to be in the face of disaster. It was just revealed that billionaire Peter Thiel even became a citizen. Others are sticking closer to home and investing in underground real estate like the Survival Condo. It is a converted Atlas missile silo that has been divided into condo units. It can feel just like home:
“Most people just assume improbable events don’t happen, but technical people tend to view risk very mathematically.” He continued, “The tech preppers do not necessarily think a collapse is likely. They consider it a remote event, but one with a very severe downside, so, given how much money they have, spending a fraction of their net worth to hedge against this . . . is a logical thing to do.”
The condo walls are fitted with L.E.D. “windows” that show a live video of the prairie above the silo. Owners can opt instead for pine forests or other vistas. One prospective resident from New York City wanted video of Central Park. “All four seasons, day and night,” [engineer] Menosky said. “She wanted the sounds, the taxis and the honking horns.”
There are other amenities like a swimming pool, a pet park, gym and library. Of course, there is also an armoury and shooting range and medical facilities.
Evan Osnos looks at the other side of the story, what people are doing to try to make the world a better place instead of running away from it. Stewart Brand of Whole Earth Catalog and How Buildings Learn fame looks on the bright side of life, and…
…is less impressed by signs of fragility than by examples of resilience. In the past decade, the world survived, without violence, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression; Ebola, without cataclysm; and, in Japan, a tsunami and nuclear meltdown, after which the country has persevered. He sees risks in escapism. As Americans withdraw into smaller circles of experience, we jeopardize the “larger circle of empathy,” he said, the search for solutions to shared problems.”
Osnos has written a long and fascinating article that takes you from a missile base in Kansas to the beach in New Zealand. It’s a world that very few of us will ever see, but it doesn’t mean regular people can’t plan ahead for resilient living. Sami has written:
Resilience doesn't mean abandoning all high-tech projects or retreating to the hills with our guns. It doesn't mean going without Agatha Christie reruns. But it does mean paying attention to where we are most vulnerable, and then taking steps to build redundancy and adaptability into our systems so we can keep going through such shocks.
The resilience movement has had its ups and downs, but is definitely heading into up mode these days, along with the dissatisfaction with the high tech green gizmo approach to sustainable design. I have written that “You see it in houses with the Passivhaus movement, where one trades active systems for insulation and sunlight; you see it in the streets with the cycling phenomenon. It is a conscious choice to use simpler, repairable, resilient systems.”
We don’t have to hunker in the bunker, head for the hills or fly to New Zealand, but we do have to get very serious about resilience. Meanwhile, have some fun in related links below, where we have covered many survivalist alternatives.