Mark Fernquest

Pandemic Notes: Parts I and II

Part I

Greetings from the edge of the known world! By which I mean human civilization at this uncanny hour.

I’m a survivalist from way back, having grown up during the waning days of the Cold War, so pandemic is not a new concept to me. Combine survivalism with an innate spirituality and a lifelong interest in the history and future of human civilization, and you get a unique perspective. 

Here are some initial thoughts I have regarding the current coronavirus situation:

First of all, do yourself a small favor and, in the interests of protecting yourself against possible rolling blackouts, keep all your rechargeable devices charged at all times. Me, I only have to worry about a beard trimmer, a cell phone and a Mac. I have it easy.

In the interest of preparing for possible temporary water shortages, put aside some fresh, potable water. My Brita pitcher, electric kettle and coffee maker are always full, plus I keep 5 gallons of wash-only water in a plastic military water can on the deck.

Also, fill up your car’s gas tank and keep it that way.

Keep some cash on hand. A few hundred dollars if possible, in case the power goes out and credit card machines stop working. Smaller bills are better, so you can make exact change if necessary. No need to keep it all in your wallet, but have it handy in case you need it.

And review your food supply so you know what diet to expect in the coming weeks, the order in which you should eat it all and what you will need to buy when food gets low. Don’t let those fresh fruits and vegetables go to waste!

Also, review and pack your camping equipment, understanding that there is a small chance you may need to “bug out,” that is, GTFOOD (Get The F**k Out Of Dodge) due to additional calamity striking in the coming weeks or months. If you do, your camping equipment will serve you well. Also, make sure you have fuel for your camping stove, so you can cook with it if the power goes out.

All that said, I’m not here to spread fear. I don’t feel much fear, myself; I’m an introvert who’s been thinking about this pandemic scenario in the back of my mind for at least two decades, so hunkering down in place is not particularly difficult or different for me.

This pandemic is a 21st century global vacation as far as I’m concerned. It spells unprecedented change for all of us, but sheltering-in-place is also the very definition of a modern American vacation, a staycation, which involves taking a forced break from perpetual overwork and then fearing we’ll get sick because…we can now.

Part II

One notable aspect of our current pandemic moment is that government is unable to adequately provide for us. This is a glaring example of a decades-long trend. I sincerely hope that this wake-up call motivates us all to make some basic changes in our lives.

What changes?

We need to wean ourselves off of the industrial food supply chain and start using our basic freedoms to become self-actualized and solve problems for ourselves.

First, grow a vegetable garden. It’s not difficult, but it matters. Homegrown food is good for you and everything about gardening is healthy. It’s therapeutic, elicits peace and happiness, requires physical exercise and brings people together. And, while protein can be adequately and viably stored long term — think canned tuna or frozen hamburger — there is no substitute for fresh vegetables, which our bodies require. All of which is to say that you will be more able to take care of yourself and less dependent on possibly nonexistent outside help if you have a functioning kitchen garden in your yard.

Second, keep going on walks and bike rides and hikes after the shelter-in-place order is lifted. Incorporate them into your life, especially when they include the whole family. Outdoor activity is relaxing and breaks up the day and takes our minds off of deeper troubles. It provides us with fresh air and sunlight and exercise. Our current socioeconomic system keeps us overworked, worn out and in ill health, and we need to break that cycle and find a new one. In an era of absurd medical costs, consider this your first step in lowering those bills. Physical activity is one very simple way of getting back to basics and taking our health back, one step at a time.

Third, begin to meaningfully socialize again when you are able to normalize your life. How do I define meaningful socializing? Get to know your neighbors and your family. Reach out, stay in touch, have barbecues and potlucks and dinner parties at your house, in your yard or on your street. None of this has to be elaborate or overdone, just incorporate it into your life. The idea is to spend time together in a relaxing environment, to un-stress, compare notes and ideas and to shoot the shit. Do it on home turf — I can’t stress that enough. Do it on your home turf so that you actually bond around your home turf, with people who are important to you, in a meaningful way.

Why this? Because we need community now more than ever. We had but lost it in the past few decades. Now we need to get back in touch with the old neighborhood support system that includes leaving casseroles on someone’s doorstep when they are sick or grieving, having the neighbor children over to play in the backyard because it’s good fun for all of them, and volunteering to help neighbors with their gardening so we can get some exercise, drink a friendly beer and gain some constructive knowledge in the process.

But don’t stop there with your socializing. Continue to build your online relationships with family and friends. Expand your support network, which will also become your knowledge network. In an era of declining government, we need to look to each other to solve problems.

Read more of Mark’s work here.

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