I've hammered the theme of preparedness for emergencies in these pages for several years. Since COVID-19 made its appearance, I've emphasized that even more; and given the political, social, economic and cultural unrest (euphemism!) in these dis-United States over the past couple of years, that's merely added another element of uncertainty to our already uncertain future.
I've quoted Michael Yon on the subject before. He's one of very few journalists I respect, because he's put himself into danger to report and not relied on third-hand gossip and propaganda. Here he is just yesterday:
I’ve loudly warning since January 2020 of PanFaWar. I’ve said a thousand times in the past 22 months to STOCK UP on items you need. First real of Prep Club is there is no Prep Club. I would not breathe a word of my preparations if it were not my responsibility to take a leadership roll at a time like this.
Prices will go up up up as shortages ripple across the earth. Actual shortages will coincide with devaluation of our money. One curve up, the other curve down. Crime will explode. One of the greatest dangers will be neighbors. Ask your cop friends.
There's more at the link. He warns that most foods in nature will disappear fast because everyone will be after them, and notes that international competition for food may lead to war. (That last shouldn't surprise you; it's been a reality for literally millennia, and modern times are no exception.)
Here are a few more warning signs I've noted during the past week.
- An acquaintance works for one of the major Texas power utilities. He told me last week that after February's disastrous power outage in that state, the utilities had given "undertakings" to the Texas government concerning their ability to cope with any future such crises. He tells me they've had to inform Texas that they may not be able to keep their "undertakings", because the federal government - specifically the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency - are hamstringing their efforts to have emergency power generation capacity ready to go at a moment's notice. Apparently that won't be approved or allowed due to "pollution" or "environmental concerns". They'll have to apply to the Feds for permission to use them; and unless and until that permission is granted, they've been told they'll face criminal charges for using such capacity. Result; Texas may be screwed for power once again this winter - and not just Texas, because other states are apparently being hammered with the same requirement. One gets the impression that environmentalist and ideological purity are more important to the Federal government than practical reality. (Note that right now, just when demand for heating fuel is peaking at the beginning of winter, the Biden administration is actively considering shutting down yet another major fuel pipeline from Canada. Of all the ideologically-motivated stupidity . . . !!!)
- I've had several online orders from places like Amazon, Walmart and other vendors over the past few weeks that have been "delayed" or are "missing in transit". This has happened occasionally in the past, but the sudden increase in such cases (currently affecting seven of my orders) is unprecedented. One third-party supplier sent the wrong product. When I called the online vendor to complain, I was told that the supplier had been "deleted from their system" because of failure to supply what had been ordered, or supplying the wrong goods. I was given a refund, but to find a supplier selling normally one week, but deleted the next, is surprising. So is the suddenly increasing scale of the "delayed shipment" problem. Over the past two to three weeks, it's affected over a third of my online orders. Looks like supply chain issues are trickling down to the microeconomic level, and are no longer just national or regional problems.
- Local meat prices, particularly beef, rose by plus-or-minus 12% in the space of 48 hours two weeks ago, and they're still rising. That's a heck of a price jump in such a short period. I spoke to a local butcher I trust, and he could only shrug his shoulders. That's what their suppliers are charging. His advice was to establish contact with a local farm-to-market direct buying network, and to buy half a cow, or pig, or whatever, from a local farmer who may charge higher prices for his meat, but at least you'll know it was properly raised, slaughtered and prepared. He says a lot of the meat the big wholesalers are offering is not up to his standards (which are admittedly high, but that's why we patronize his store). Food for thought, that.
- The shelves of local supermarkets are still considerably understocked compared to the norm. On careful examination, I'd say they're at least 30% understocked, and are positioning cans, boxes, etc. to hide the fact that there's a lot of empty space towards the rear of the shelves. Choice is also reduced; instead of six or eight brands of a given food, one might find two or three, and those will be reduced in quantity and size selection as well.
- Food production worldwide is threatened by economic factors. A Norwegian fertilizer company has just warned that rising energy prices are severely restricting fertilizer production. "I want to say this loud and clear right now, that we risk a very low crop in the next harvest," said Svein Tore Holsether, the CEO and president of the Oslo-based company. "I’m afraid we’re going to have a food crisis." That's world-wide, not just in the USA - which means that food we currently import may not be available, and countries that rely on us to export food to them may also be S.O.L.
- There are almost no Thanksgiving turkeys to be had anywhere. The big stores have some, but not a lot, and at much higher prices than usual. The smaller shops are just plain out. An assistant at one of them told me that their suppliers have nothing to give them, because "the big stores" ordered them all months ago, and thanks to COVID-19-related staffing problems, the producers have not been able to prepare enough birds to meet market demand. We've grown accustomed to buying turkeys during post-Thanksgiving sales for a few cents per pound. This year, there won't be any.
- An acquaintance who works at a local vehicle service facility told me last week they're getting an increased number of calls to "rescue" drivers who've run out of gas on the side of the road. He says people are simply too short of cash to refill their tanks completely, and are trying to make their daily rounds on partial tanks. Given that fuel tank gauges aren't the most reliable instruments, they're running out of gas before they expected it, and are having to call for help. If their transport budgets are being hit that hard, what about their food budgets?
Remember Ernest Hemingway's famous dialog about bankruptcy in his novel "The Sun Also Rises"?
“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”
That's what I'm afraid is happening with "normal" supplies of essentials like foodstuffs, electricity, gasoline, propane, and the like. Things have been getting worse, but slowly. Now the rate of deterioration is speeding up. As I noted about our supply chain difficulties some weeks ago:
If the supply pipeline gets much more clogged - and it's getting worse almost by the day - there will come a time when nothing can move. The deadweight hanging over the system will squash it flat, and everything will come to a grinding halt.
I wasn't joking about that. It's happening right in front of our eyes. As the supply chain gets tighter and tighter, everything in our economy is slowing down. I'm worried it may end up so clogged that routine business and commerce becomes almost impossible. That may happen faster than we'd like to believe. Remember Hemingway's words: "Gradually and then suddenly." I fear we're almost at the end of the "gradually" phase.
Looking at the evidence all around me, that's what I see. I hope and pray that I'm wrong . . . but the facts on the ground suggest I'm not. What say you, readers?