Those impulses are not as contradictory as they seem. Technology rewards the ability to imagine wildly different futures, Roy Bahat, the head of Bloomberg Beta, a San Francisco-based venture-capital firm, told me. “When you do that, it’s pretty common that you take things ad infinitum, and that leads you to utopias and dystopias,” he said. It can inspire radical optimism—such as the cryonics movement, which calls for freezing bodies at death in the hope that science will one day revive them—or bleak scenarios. Tim Chang, the venture capitalist who keeps his bags packed, told me, “My current state of mind is oscillating between optimism and sheer terror.”
Young’s observations rang true: Though the Wise Company meals would keep me alive in the event of an emergency, they were simply a lot more carbheavy, with a lot less animal protein and a lot fewer vegetables, than what I eat on a typical day (many of the Wise meals I bought substituted small globules of vegetable protein for actual meat). For the next two days, I supplemented my diet with freeze-dried vegetables, fruit, and yogurt I’d bought from another company, called Thrive Life, and felt the low-bloodsugar sensation dissipate. (Wise Company also sells individual ingredients, in addition to full meals, but I thought I’d diversify my sources.)
There’s been a general increase in anxiety across the board among people in the U.S. over the past year according to an online poll from Psychiatry.org. About 2/5ths of all adults are more anxious now than they used to be. Of course, you don’t really need to turn to polls or research to have a gut feeling for this. The sheer amount of chaos since the start of 2017 has been steadily increasing. Following a highly divisive presidential election events have spiraled to a point that it can be hard to keep up: claims of fraud, and collusion from both major political parties; an endless parade of hiring and firing of high level officials in the White House and on Capitol Hill; mass shootings; rising tensions with North Korea, Russia, China and Iran; accusations (and confirmation) of sexual harassment of many once-respected individuals; ever-growing racial tensions; the impending end of net neutrality; the big data scandals.
Now, a word of caution: beware of debt. Many of us are taught that owing money is normal, even desirable; indeed, for middle-class folks, some forms of indebtedness may be difficult to avoid. But unnecessarily accrued debt cuts into your bottom line in two insidious ways. First of all, monthly installment payments limit your flexibility in an emergency - so if your income shrinks, your savings will be depleted at a merciless and non-negotiable rate. Secondly, high-interest loans, such as credit cards, amount to giving out a good chunk of your income without earning anything useful in return. They are akin to voluntarily accepting a pay cut.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the likelihood of someone spending money on survival gear appears to increase with household income. Of those with a household income of up to $25,000 a year, an estimated 2 in 5 (40.43%) won’t spend any money on survival gear. In comparison, only 1 in 4 (24.59%) people with a household income of $100,000 to $150,000 didn’t spend any money on survival gear.
These days, when North Korea tests a bomb, Hall can expect an uptick of phone inquiries about space in the Survival Condo Project. But he points to a deeper source of demand. “Seventy per cent of the country doesn’t like the direction that things are going,” he said. After dinner, Hall and Menosky gave me a tour. The complex is a tall cylinder that resembles a corncob. Some levels are dedicated to private apartments and others offer shared amenities: a seventy-five-foot-long pool, a rock-climbing wall, an Astro-Turf “pet park,” a classroom with a line of Mac desktops, a gym, a movie theatre, and a library. It felt compact but not claustrophobic. We visited an armory packed with guns and ammo in case of an attack by non-members, and then a bare-walled room with a toilet. “We can lock people up and give them an adult time-out,” he said. In general, the rules are set by a condo association, which can vote to amend them. During a crisis, a “life-or-death situation,” Hall said, each adult would be required to work for four hours a day, and would not be allowed to leave without permission. “There’s controlled access in and out, and it’s governed by the board,” he said.
In the US, long guns are subject to fewer restrictions than handguns, chiefly because of their negligible role in street crime; that said, "assault weapons" - i.e., semi-automatic rifles with scary-looking cosmetic features, such as barrel shrouds or forward grips - have been a subject of recurring moral panics and various state- or municipality-level restrictions and bans.
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