Return of the Prepper #5 : 100 seconds from Doomsday

Today the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists made its annual Doomsday Clock pronouncement.

This year the clock has moved another 20 seconds closer to midnight. It is now set at 100 seconds to midnight.

This is closest the clock has ever been to midnight – the point of imminent threat of global disaster.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was an organisation set up in 1945 by a group of University of Chicago scientists who had helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project.

They created the Doomsday Clock in 1947, “using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet”.

Every year the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board together with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 13 Nobel laureates, examine the current global threats and determine whether to set the clock nearer or further from midnight.

The Doomsday Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and disruptive technologies in other domains.

This year’s moving of the clock to 100 seconds to midnight is a reflection of both the growing threats of nuclear war and climate change…

Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change—that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond. The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.

On the nuclear front the Bulletin’s Board cite the continuing tensions in relations between the USA and Iran and North Korea, along with the ending and undermining of several major arms control treaties and negotiations during the past year.

On climate change they state…

This limited political response came during a year when the effects of manmade climate change were manifested by one of the warmest years on record, extensive wildfires, and quicker-than-expected melting of glacial ice.

Alongside these two major threats the Bulletin also consider information wars, and continued developments in biological engineering, hypersonic weapons and space weapons, and artificial intelligence as all increasing the global threat level.

To put this new clock setting in context it has previously ranged from 2 minutes to midnight in 1953 with the advent of the more powerful Hydrogen bombs, to a much more hopeful 17 minutes to midnight in 1991 following the end of the Cold War and significant nuclear weapons cuts.

Since 1991 the Clock has been on an ever diminishing path until it reached 2 minutes to midnight in 2018.

I am sure there will be detractors who dismiss the Doomsday Clock as attention seeking from the prophets of doom, but as a prepper I am quite willing to take notice, both as an indicator and a warning.

It certainly does nothing to lessen my growing sense of urgency to turn my prepping dial up to max.

And to top it all, the Bulletin in its pronouncement made no reference to the ongoing threat of global pandemics. The current coronavirus outbreak in China is a worrying reminder that that threat is always only a couple of mutations away from becoming reality.

These are dark and dangerous times we live in.

Sometimes it is so, so very hard to see the light at the end of the funnel…

The full 2020 Doomsday Clock Statement from the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is available here…

[ image by Gerd Altmann from ]

5 things I have done today to help the planet… [Day 013 – 27 May ’19]

Are we in an emergency?

When do we need to do something?

Yes and ASAP.

Make your choices. Make your changes.

Act. Now.

1. Emergency, Emergency – it’s a Climate Emergency

Declaring a Climate Emergency is becoming ‘de rigeur’ amongst governments and councils across Britain now.

As well as all the national governments it looks like around 100 councils of all shapes and sizes across the country have now made declarations of some sort.

It is difficult to get exact and up to date figures but these two lists get pretty close :

My local town council made there declaration in February but isn’t on either list yet.

They have pledged to make the community carbon neutral by 2030.

That is an admiral, but tough call to make.

So far they have not made any substantive progress other than set up a 6 month consultation to gather ideas from the community of what should be done.

I think they need to pick up the pace and get motoring. 2030 is only 11 years away.

The powers of a Welsh town council are rather limited. Most significant powers are held by the county council above them but there are some obvious areas they can start with.

In an attempt to make a positive contribution I have today sent the mayor and other leading councillors six initial suggestions…

  1. Ask for a ‘Climate Action Statement’ from any organisations that the Town Council gives funds to.
  2. Ask for a ‘Climate Impact Statement’ from any events that the Town Council gives funds to – and tie the amount donated to the amount of ‘climate amelioration and healing’ the event organisers are including in their event planning.
  3. Move all, or at least a significant part, of the Town Council funds to the Triodos Bank that supports planet positive organisations.
  4. Invest in subscriptions to a range of ‘planet positive’ magazines such as Ethical Consumer, Permaculture Magazine, Resurgence etc and donate one set to the public library and one set to the local school library.
  5. Require that all refreshments (tea, coffee, milk, juice, biscuits, cake etc) at all Town Council events and meetings are organic and where possible locally sourced.
  6. Ask all councillors to volunteer to produce ‘Climate Action Statements’ for what they and their families are doing to reduce their environmental impact. Publish and publicise these on the Town Council website, and maybe also the official notice boards.

I am eagerly awaiting their response.

2. Moving the chickens to their summer home

Over the winter our three remaining hens and their accompanying guard goose have been living in the orchard behind the house.

The orchard is a bit more enclosed and sheltered but although it is a fair size they have almost stripped it bare now.

So today we moved them to their main summer compound in the field. This is over a quarter of an acre and fully fenced in so provides plenty of space for the hens to scratch and the goose to graze.

Although it doesn’t have the fruit trees for aerial protection from the buzzards, the nettles are now high enough to give the hens pretty good cover.

They live almost entirely from grazing, scratching and some kitchen scraps now and only rarely need any external input of corn or layers pellets.

The three hens still manage to provide us more than enough eggs – particularly with our near vegan diet.

3. Pottering in the Polytunnel

I managed to get a bit more time out in the garden today.

Always my favourite place. But today it was raining so I was confined to the polytunnel.

I potted out some tomato plants. Usually I grow them in pots but now I’ve got the tunnel I thought I would see how they go straight in the ground.

While I was clearing out the conservatory I discovered a couple of bags of seed potatoes that had been left chitting under the table. I had totally forgotten about them.

It is a bit late in the day to be planting potatoes but there is a bit of space left in the polytunnel so I am putting them to allow them to catch up.

I think I need more lists to remind me what’s what, and what’s where…

4. Films for Action

Films for Action in the number 4 slot again today!

Today I joined up and downloaded my first film – “Living the Change: Inspiring Stories for a Sustainable Future”.

This is a 2018 film from New Zealand exploring solutions to the problems the world is facing.

I thought this would be a good inspirational place to start.

Films for Action includes a Top 100 Documentaries list.

This caught my attention – maybe I could watch all 100 films, in ascending order, and provide a little commentary or review on each?

That should certainly get me up to speed on all that is going wobbly in the world.

5. The Daily Donation – The Green Party

In view of their impressive showing in the European Elections I am giving today’s £10 donation to the Green Party.

I have had connections with the Green Party since way back in 1978 when it was still known as the Ecology Party.

There is little Green Party activity around this part of Wales so I haven’t had any direct contact for some time.

I am going to watch more carefully now to see how they progress.

Today was a public holiday.

More time to catch up with what is going on in the world.

And to sit back and wonder… can we still do it?

[ images from @pennsif ]

Floody hell – and mine is only 4 inches

We are currently experiencing our first ever house flood.

About 2.30am on Friday night I went to the kitchen and discovered that it was flooded and just starting to enter the living room.

First off I thought a pipe had burst or something was wrong with the washing machine (as has happened before) but after a quick survey of the situation and a peek in the dark outside the back of house I realised we were being flooded.

With very heavy continual rain for the past few days the massive amount of water pouring off the mountain side behind the house had just overwhelmed our protective drainage system and was then coming through our old farmhouse walls.

And it was rising fast.

I woke my wife and we kicked into action. By now most of the living room was already flooded and it was moving to the hallway. From there it was heading to the office.

The office is the centre of operations where all the computers were located and where I am writing ths post.

We rushed to grab old towels and blankets and anything absorbent we could find to try to stem the flow from kitchen to living room.

We failed – it was rising too fast so we moved our efforts to barricading the door to the hallway. The dog’s spare bed was even called into action.

We had more success there and managed to stop more ingress into the hallway and office.

The situation was just about under control. The flooding was contained in the kitchen and living room. My wife went back to bed. I stayed on watch until my wife came back on duty before 7am.

With daylight we were able to make a better assessment of the situation.

Being preppers, although flooding of the house was never on our risk radar, we were partially prepared.

We had an old submersible pump that was called into action to try to at least stabilise the still rising water level. The pump only had a capacity of 7000 litres per hour but it did seem to make some impact holding the kitchen to just around 4 inches.

We also had a builders dumpy bag of sand on hand, and a pile of hessian style sacks. Our youngest daughter joined in making sandbags. They reinforced much more effectively the barrier to the office in particular.

By now we were getting reports from friends of the situation around the area. The nearby town was more or less all flooded including the supermarket, many shops, the local college and many houses.

Indeed one friend’s house was under 4 foot of water and the fire brigade was trying to pump him out. We were lucky with our meagre 4 inches.

This is all the fault of Callum – Storm Callum in fact…

* Storm Callum : One killed as Wales suffers ‘worst flooding for 30 years’

Next we turned our attention to the back of the house. I was clear that we could not do anything about the existing drainage – it was just overwhelmed by the volume of water coming off the mountainside.

We started digging a secondary drainage ditch. My trusty mattock was definitely the tool for the job.

An hour or so later we had a working drainage ditch with a good flow of water away from the house. It still needs deepening further but it started to do its job.

With the extra drainage in place and the pump running full tilt, after a couple of hours the water level in the kitchen began to go down even though it was still raining heavily.

I stayed on duty through the night to monitor the pump. By the early hours of the morning – just over 24 hours after the flooding started the water was down to just over an inch and the submersible pump shut off. It had done it’s job as best it could. It is now over to us to do some bailing…

The very annoying side effect of the flooding is that it got into the electrics of the fridge and central heating boiler. I am very much hoping that they will just come back on when the water has gone…

So this was, and still is, a real life prepping situation for a real life prepper.

We haven’t done too badly. A bigger pump and having sandbags more immediately to hand could have been very useful. And a secondary drainage ditch looks like it will be a necessity.

But house flooding was never a risk on our preppers radar. Now it is.

Keep on prepping…


Pennsif’s Progress #589 – Hothouse Earth – how can I prep?

Last night I read a headline on the BBC :

>> Climate change : ‘Hothouse Earth’ risks even if CO2 emissions slashed

It made me wonder, and it made me worried.

Some people dispute the science of climate change, many people don’t.

Either way, the hard reality is that weather patterns are wobbly, and the climate seems to be taking on a life of its own.

This summer for example has seen heat records broken with abundance across Europe. Even in my usually wet and windy Wales it has been super hot and super dry these past couple of months.

My neighbour came round last night and told me his well has run dry and he is totally out of water. Up on the hills his sheep are braking through fences trying to find water as all the springs that usually provide for them have stopped flowing.

On our homestead we are just hanging on, but our garden and our trees have been hit hard.

Whichever the climate science blows, as a prepper I need to be prepared.

I have a duty to my family, our animals and our homestead to ensure we are not put at any living disadvantage from our ongoing journey to an offgrid state of being.

First stop, water

As we have learnt this summer water is a key point of inflection as the climate makes its twists and turns.

We are not connected to the mains. We have a mountain spring that fills two 5000 litre tanks.

Alongside those we have an old well and a lake. While these give us some resilience it is not foolproof by any means.

I have long had plans to install two more similar tanks just below the first two. If we get another very dry summer next year these new additional tanks will have to move to the top of the investment list.

Having sufficient water is half the story. Getting it to the crops and the fruit trees is the more difficult part.

Hosepipes and watering cans are not an efficient way of distributing water over a large area. Installing some form of drip irrigation system, particularly in the polytunnel is a must.

Then comes winter…

While summers are likely to be hotter and drier, weird weather times will likely bring colder and stormier winter times.

Our house is a 200 year old stone farmhouse. It is not thermally efficient.

We need to continue work on the insulation for one part of our winter prepping.

More importantly we need to resolve our heating dilemma.

Currently we are using oil for our heating. But this is a costly, increasingly unreliable and environmentally inappropriate option.

With 15 acres of woodland some form of wood burning system will be our way to go for heating.

We have one woodstove and one open fire in our house, but we really want to move over to a full-on wood/biomass boiler solution.

We have had the quote for the biomass boiler installation but it is a big one, so we are not sure yet how and when that will come to pass. But it is on the shopping list and when steem moons to $10 I’ll be all over it.

And then there is everything else to do !

Prepping for climatic change is a big challenge. Will it come gradually or suddenly and catastropically?

I guess gradual, but if you watch the right movies you might think differentyl.

If it is sudden and catastrophic who knows what will go down. Mass migrations could become the order of the day. Crop failures and food shortages will become commonplace. Electricity brown-outs and power grid failures will be a regular occurrence.

There could be some rough times ahead…