I love my family, and I always worry about their well-being. I also love to read books, particularly science fiction books. Sometimes, these science fiction books are set in the not-so-distant future and describe Really Bad Things happening. I'm reading such a book right now, which is making me think about ways I can better prepare my family for just such a catastrophic event. As I was writing this blog post, it occurred to me that it is fairly rare that a book does this to me, and I can actually count them on one hand. Here they are for your amusement:
- One Second After, by William R. Forstchen. This is the book I am reading right now, which describes the events in a small North Carolina community in the aftermath of a nation-wide electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack. It makes me concerned about being able to store refrigerated medications in a no-longer-electrical world, having enough water available for my family, and storing fuel for both cooking and transportation. It has also caused me to contemplate my own powerful dependence on electronic devices, most especially including my car.
- Mariposa, by Greg Bear. This is a book I read last year, which describes a near-future history where the ability to create biological weapons becomes more available to terrorist groups. It makes me concerned about my ability to keep my family isolated in the midst of a highly communicable disease.
- Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. This book I read several years ago, which describes the aftermath of a cometary impact on Earth. It makes me concerned about having a long-term store of food and water, as well as bringing into question my ability to protect my family from those who would take what we have.
It makes me wonder all sorts of things, such as how desperate our neighbors might become if the grocery store no longer had food for them to purchase on a near-daily basis and the eating-out establishments were to close. Would they try to take what they know we have? I'd like to think we'd be willing to share, but would I do so if the Really Bad Thing that happened didn't look to be resolved any time soon, and we needed to be prepared to dig in for the long haul?
A few years back, I attended a training class sponsored by CERT (see here for details), where I learned all sorts of things about how to help in the event of an emergency. We talked about all sorts of scenarios, including earthquakes (the most likely event for where we live), building fires, and chemical spills. The one thing that the trainer, a fireman, kept saying throughout the course was that when things get really bad, "We ain't comin'." This was a good reminder to all of us in the class to pay attention, as in the event of a major disaster of any kind, the firemen, policemen, and hospitals will be so overwhelmed that we should have no expectation that they will come to save us.
Having read these books, I feel a bit wiser as to what to expect, but one thing these books don't really talk about is how specific groups of people would band together for their common good. I think specifically of my own church, which has a very clear organization of authority and an infrastructure to look after and care for the needy. This organization is no small thing, with tiers and redundancies that flow all the way down and ensures that every single person that is a church member has several people looking after them.
I have no doubt that if any of these Really Bad Things were to happen locally, my church would be a source of order and help for the entire community. We see evidence of this whenever an earthquake strikes in some of the more obscure places in the world, from Haiti to Samoa to Indonesia. This is not to say that the church can swoop in wherever there is trouble and make everything better -- clearly this is not the case (see: Haiti) -- but it certainly can be a moderating influence to help avoid the bands of marauding hordes that these books suggest will roam the countryside eating everything in their way.
Even so, there are plenty of things to be learned from them. First and foremost is that one's priority will naturally be to look after oneself and one's own. This natural instinct will drive the behavior of those who have and those who have-not in dire circumstances, which means that one can, if not plan for it, at least anticipate it. Read into that whatever you will.
As for me, these books encourage me to be better prepared.