I’m not sure when the tipping point occurred, but at some point recently the “prepper” movement exploded and became mainstream.
Preppers are folks who detect the possibility of calamity and decide to increase their odds of surviving it by putting aside supplies. “Putting things by” — essential throughout most of humanity’s existence — was common in the United States up until advances in transportation logistics brought about the “just in time” shipping model. Suddenly, we could get almost any supplies delivered fresh and year-round to massive community stores. What our grandparents called “lean times” became a thing of the past for even the poorest Americans.
The expectation that we could always get whatever we wanted whenever we wanted it took a couple of hard jolts around the turn of the 21st century: predictions regarding the “Y2K bug” created a resurgent interest in self-sufficiency, which was further rekindled by the 9/11 terror attacks. A decade later, fears of nuclear terrorism, misunderstood popular views about the end of the Mayan calendar, and ginned-up fears of catastrophic climate change, economic collapse, and violent weather patterns have grown what was once a fringe culture.
I didn’t realize how mainstream it had become until Costco sent me an e-flyer: “Get Your Home And Garden Stocked For An Emergency And Save!” It promoted emergency preparedness, the top suggestions being a month of food storage supplies and emergency garden seeds.Modern prepping has come a long way from the survivalists of the late 1990s.