Today’s guest on Off The Grid Radio is well-known in the prepper community. In fact, his books have been read, recommended, dissected, and discussed on prepper forums all over the Internet. Writer, engineer, designer, and green builder, Matthew Stein, author of When Technology Fails and When Disaster Strikes, joins Bill Heid today as they discuss the implications of current events and what we need to do to be prepared for them.
Technology is too interconnected to the machinery of civilization and the mechanisms that run the global economy. Any disruption, from a natural event such as a solar flare, to the devious plots of potential dictators perpetrating an EMP attack on our country, we need to understand that the perfect storm is brewing and right on our doorstep.
If we were engaged with our government above the fighting and partisan bickering, we would know that for the price of a Stealth bomber—$3 billion dollars—we could save the world as we know it. We could harden our infrastructure to protect ourselves from natural solar events and enemy attacks. Please join host Bill Heid and Matthew Stein for today’s exciting and informative episode of Off the Grid Radio.
Off The Grid Radio
Release Date April 18, 2013
Bill: And here is today’s show. I’m Bill Heid, your host today, and I’ve got a very special guest. We’ve got Matthew Stein with us today, who is the author of two really fabulous books, When Disaster Strikes and When Technology Fails, both published by Chelsea Green. And Matt’s a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—MIT—where he majored in mechanical engineering. He is a husband and a father and someone that’s very concerned about our nation’s future, as are most of our listeners. Matt, welcome.
Matt: Well, thank you very much for having me on your show today. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Bill: Well, it’s great to have you. We were just talking a little bit about what’s going on in the world, but before we talk about that, these trends that we’re heading, I guess I have to ask you originally when you wrote the book that I have in front of me this morning—is really a masterpiece, Matt—When Technology Fails, you wrote that in 2008. What was on your mind at that point? Because most of the people in this self-reliance movement really didn’t kind of start moving into it until much after that and so prior to 2008—I think that was a tipping point year for a lot of folks—prior to that you must have had a lot of this in your head and it must have been swirling around, just the thoughts that you put in this tremendously comprehensive book. So what was going on in your head at that time?
Matt: Well, it actually started way earlier. That was edition number two, which was a massive update in 2008. Edition number one published in the year 2000 around Thanksgiving. So some people say, “Oh, you must have been worried about Y2K” and actually, I wasn’t at all worried about Y2K and I missed it in terms of getting it out in time to make a lot of money, so I missed it by 11 months or something like that. I mean if that had come out like a year earlier I would have made tons of money. But what happened… People say, “Well, why is an MIT engineer writing about when technology fails?” I mean I’m supposed to be a little cheerleader for technology and believe that it’s going to solve all of our problems. And they say, “Well, have you always been into this or have you always been a survivalist? Are you a survivalist?” All these kind of questions come up. And it’s kind of like, “No” to all of those answers.
And back in 1997, long, long before most of us got interested in this stuff, at that point in time I had a daily practice of prayer and meditation. Nothing earth-shattering usually, just something… a pleasant way to start my day and sometimes when I’m struggling with a family issue or a technical design problem I was having—I just wasn’t happy with the solutions I could figure out with my head—I’d pray and ask for guidance and inspiration and either when I was running or meditating pictures would snap into my head with solutions to these problems. Now in 1997 a very different thing happened. I asked a very generic question in my morning session of prayer and meditation, just simply “Guide me please. God, guide me. What am I supposed to do?”
And at that moment a bomb dropped in my lap. I all of a sudden received this holographic vision, this kind of moving picture, three dimensional storyboard outline for some massive book project to help people plan for, cope and deal with huge, widespread failures in central services and technology somewhere in the not very distant future. Now my first thought was like, “No f’n way. I mean I don’t know all this stuff. I just… I… I’m not an author. I’m an engineer. I can’t do this. I don’t know it all.” And the little voice in my head—Jesus calls it the “still small voice,” the Spirit—said, “Well, nobody knows it all.” And it assured me that I had the skills and the talent and that with my dogged determination and engineering training and background that I would dig up the experts and the reference materials for all those areas I was lacking in personal expertise and that I would get the inner and outer guidance I needed to help me fulfill the task.
So I didn’t just jump right up and say, “God, talk to me today and I’m going to write this cool book to help people in coming times.” It took me about a year to decide maybe it was a good idea and I could do it. I dug up the editor of the Whole Earth catalog in those days called… not Stewart Brand, but Howard Rheingold had taken over from Stewart Brand and he thought it was a great idea and my buddy—semi-world-famous, extreme skier and stuntman and wrote articles for various magazines, Outside included—thought it was a great idea and so after about a year I thought, “Okay, well, maybe I could do it.” And then a couple friends in the film and book businesses told me how to write a book proposal and so I wrote… spent the second year writing a 200-page proposal and finding a small-time publisher to give me a modest advance.
And then the third year I bit the bullet and racked up the credit cards and put my engineering business on hold and worked 70 hours a week to finish it off. So I figured I had—over that three year period, from Thanksgiving of ’97 to Thanksgiving of 2000—about two years of my personal labor and over a year of lost wages into the book. And so it was a massive, massive project. And then in 2008 I probably put another year’s worth of labor over the couple years before that reading in all the referenced materials and putting together the second edition in 2008 so…
Bill: But Matt, you know what’s interesting about what you were just saying is that here is as perceived weakness on your part, “Well, I can’t do this” and then you took the same sort of systemic perspective you have as an engineer and you kind of engineered it into this huge book with all of these solutions, so I’ve got to commend you. It really… Both books are pretty amazing, but they come from the same kind of line-by-line, “Here’s where I believe this.” You do have an engineer’s heart and so you’ve got this line-by-line, but I love the idea of “Well, what’s my biggest weakness becomes my biggest strength,” right? That’s pretty cool.
Matt: Well, it’s that and that sort of long term, dogged determination is what all people who are prepping for whatever may come in our future have to do. You can’t do it all in one day. You just… It’s not physically impossible and it’s financially out of the range of most people, so you just do what you can a little bit at a time and you kind of map out like a goal and a game plan and you don’t have to stick to it rigidly but you do your best to put one foot in front of the other. Lao-tzu is quoted—famous quote from thousands of years ago—is “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step,” you know? And that’s the way it is. You get motivated and you say, “This is something I need to do” and you start doing it little by little.
Bill: Years ago—and I think a while back, just reading your bio—another thing before we talk about some things, because I’d like to give people a little bit of background on you, I think one of the things that I read that I thought was pretty interesting too is you had something shake up your sort of billiard ball theory of the universe. So I assume what you’re saying there with that is you kind of had this maybe David Humes’ version of the way the universe was constructed and you had some kind of a metaphysical, sort of shaking up there about just the nature of the way things are crafted.
Matt: Well, I had some really huge ones. From the time I was five years old I’ve had minor, little spiritual experiences, but I was able to kind of ignore them and I grew up in a very rational, totally non-religious, Jewish father who is just… just… didn’t believe in anything spiritual in any way, shape or form. And so for years I was able to ignore the kind of minor, little tuggings at my soul, but then I had several big shake-ups. The first one was in college. Oh God, this must have been like the fall of 1974. That tells you I’m not a young man anymore, though I still… I still feel like a kid, you know? But I look in the mirror and it doesn’t look that way anymore.
And my oldest brother—a true geek, social outcast kind of guy—had taken to a program called Silva Mind Control and talked about how interesting it was and how you learned different things. So my sister and I—she was at MIT a couple years ahead of me—and we both decided to take it. And in the… You’re taught techniques to go into basic meditative states and alpha state of mind and they use it to improve healing and to improve studying and the ability to perform in your life and obtain objectives. But then in the very tail end of the class you’re given something called “health readings” where you are guided into this state through a rigid protocol so that nobody can guide you to the answers. They guide you into the state and then they ask you, following a very strict protocol, to like picture… You’re given the name, date—rough date—and place of birth of somebody who has had extreme health problems in their life and it’s someone that you don’t personally know and have no knowledge of.
And the assignment is to bring in the names of three people to the class that day and write down this basic information on a card so it’s there. After you’ve done the whole process you can look at the card and verify whether you got any of this information out of the ethers or not. So I really struggled with the process until the very last one and in the very last one, I saw and pictured this little girl perfectly and they said, “Well, what’s wrong?” I said, “Something is wrong with the spine.” I described her physical characteristics and then they said, “What’s wrong?” “Something’s wrong with the spine.” I described her as looking like the polio poster girl. I said, “It looks like she has polio, but I don’t think she does.” Well, in the little card one of the descriptions was “She looks like the polio poster girl.” And they said, “Well, what’s wrong?” I said, “I don’t know. It’s not polio, but something’s wrong with her spine.” It turned out she was hit by a truck at age three and she became paralyzed from that. And so she had leg casts that looked like she’d had polio, but she didn’t.
So that was pretty shattering, pretty shocking, but the real shocking one—the big, like bomb blast in my nice, comfortable, scientific, MIT mind type of world came a couple months later. See, I’d went, after this… This was about the middle of my freshman year at MIT, fall semester, and so I went home from this weekend workshop—two weekends in a row workshop—and given this assignment to keep practicing the technique. And it’s kind of an active meditation and so I didn’t really know exactly what to do. But one of the people I had brought into the class as an example was a friend of mine, Barb Rosenthal from Burlington Vermont, who had grown up a promising young ski-racer and at age… In seventh grade she started crying and really bad, in the middle of class, and several times she’d go out of class in extreme pain and then she was in and out for a while and then she was gone for a few months and was in the Boston Children’s Hospital and came back in a wheelchair with full-length leg casts and was crippled. And they gave it a name. They thought they’d seen it three times before, but they didn’t really understand it. So she went all the way through junior high and high school as a cripple and she finally graduated from the wheelchair to walking with full-length casts and braces and a cane and then finally just braces and a cane, with a very stiff-legged walk.
And so anyway, here I am not knowing what to do in my morning meditations. It’s an active meditation. So I thought, well… At the end of each exercise, after you do this health reading for someone, you put them back together in your mind. You picture them as healthy and whole. So every day in my 15-20 minute practice with the meditation, I would get into this alpha state of mind and breathing and then I would just picture my friend Barb Rosenthal and I’d picture her riding her bicycle and skiing. So I didn’t really give much thought, other than every day I was doing this. And so I came home for Christmas vacation and I called up Barb and the first thing she says is “Matt, my legs have gotten so much better! I’ve been riding my bicycle and I went skiing last week for the first time in six years!”
And I just… It just blew my mind. It just… I honestly just kind of freaked out at that moment in time because the thought that I could be 250 miles away from Barb, just simply visualizing her in my morning session of meditation. She had no idea I was thinking about her or doing anything and we hadn’t communicated since having lunch together—we worked around the corner from each other in our summer jobs—having lunch together in the end of August. It was the last time I’d seen or communicated with her. So it just totally… I mean I honestly totally freaked out over that one.
Bill: Well, you know what’s interesting is you… Here’s a guy… You’re sort of, as the MIT guy, you’re sort of Horatio, right? And Hamlet. And Hamlet’s saying, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, that are dreamt of than your philosophy.” So I think the conclusion you’ve come to—and I think it’s a good one and I would totally agree—is the universe is a bit of a strange place and we’ve yet to figure it all out. So as we move forward, that’s something to think about because I think just as sort of the rationalist side of us, Matt doesn’t give us all the answers.
And I’ll tell you why I say that. I was in China not too long ago talking to some of my friends and they’re raised kind of—in most of the state schools there—they’re raised with a strict billiard ball mentality in materialism. So… And I just mentioned to some of my friends that are engineers… We were having… drinking some Chinese wine and talking about engineering and talking about metaphysics and the universe and just having a good time because these are all just great friends of mine. And they’re all sort of positing this universe of materialism and I said, “Well guys, you… Every day you use laws, right? You use laws to sort of do your work as engineers. You’re using… We use the laws of logic. Well, you’re using engineering laws, the laws of physics.” And I said, “Laws, by their very nature, can’t be material or physical.” So I think it’s amazing when you can watch someone’s body language and kind of a coin drops for somebody. And at a minimum I’ve got some dualists now that are friends and sort of… just sort of changed the paradigm for them and I think that’s always just an amazing thing, to see someone go, “Wow. You know what? Maybe the world’s not just made of stuff. Maybe there is a spiritual side.”
Matt: Yeah. It was… It was a big… I mean there was a whole series of events, including receiving the outline in pictorial storyboard form for this massive book project in one… essentially one instant in 1997. That was just another one. But it’s been a whole series. In ’77 I managed to get a summer job as a junior engineer at Plantronics in Santa Cruz and I walked by a magazine stack in downtown called “The Good Times.” It’s sort of a local, free, entertainment rag and alternative magazine. And my fingers kind of buzzed and I picked up the magazine and flipped it open and found an article about 108 year old Indian yogi that people had like bona fide spiritual experiences and radical healings and all kinds of things. And my heart’s kind of pounding and something in me is saying, “You’ve got to go see this guy” and my mind is saying, “Well, I grew up in Burlington Vermont” and you hear all these stories about powerful yogis and you think, “That sounds like a bunch of crap, a bunch of bull but there’s so many stories; maybe there’s something to it.” And certainly in Burlington I never had the opportunity to check out a guy like that. So I decided to check it out and I just had earth-shattering experiences.
And then one day somebody around the yogi asked him… He had a picture of Jesus on one side and Krishna on the other and he said, “Well, what about Jesus?” and his answer was “Oh, he was the god-man. He was the avatar of the modern age. He was the example—supreme example—of God in man and what you might become if you totally give yourself over to God and become God in man.” And growing up in Burlington Vermont I was used to very Christian community. People trying to jam Jesus down my throat like, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ? You’re going to burn in hell forever if you don’t” and “You’re a Christ-killer. You’re Jewish and Jews killed Christ” and I kind of didn’t want to have anything to do with that.
And hearing from this yogi, who I’d seen personally people who had been healed of terminal cancers and paralysis and he touched me on the head and my head would explode with brilliant light and feel like I was full of a million volts, and he seemed like he had a direct phone line to God and yet he put Jesus on a pedestal far above himself. And so it was quite a shock to me and really opened my eyes. I was far less close-minded after that. So it’s been a whole series of awakenings, including getting yanked out of my body for meeting with Jesus a couple years… a few… a couple years later when I was a junior engineer at Hewlett Packard in Palo Alto in the… right in the middle of my lunchtime, long-distance run. So Jewish kid from Burlington Vermont sees Jesus on his lunch hour. I mean it’s a great title for the…
Bill: Yeah, there’s a headline in National Enquirer. I was just kind of thinking that same thought. It’s like a “Life of Pi” thing, right? It’s the guy at the beginning of Life of Pi. He says, “Well, something happened to me that’s going to make… that’ll make you believe in God,” right? That’s how that whole movie starts and it’s really interesting how it does start. And Matt, as you… You gather all of these experiences and you start looking about where America is now. And one of your themes is technology and of course we have this idea that the Division of Labor is a good thing and in so many ways it is, as you’ve articulated before. Modern dentistry is sure a lot better than the old days. However, when we start leaning on this, which we all do, there is like a tipping point where we just fall into what’s the course of least resistance. I think it’s part of the human nature. Talk a little bit about how… from where you sit, what’s happened with mankind and what’s happened with the Division of Labor and what’s happened with technology and how we’ve kind of all been hypnotized in a way, I think. I don’t know if that’s the right language you’d use. I don’t want to put words in your mouth.
Matt: I wouldn’t use that language, but we’ve got this like incredible, massive, complicated, interconnected machine that runs the global economy now and with complexity comes vulnerability. So it’s extremely vulnerable to massive disruptions for fairly simple acts, like acts of nature and acts of man. And it’s been… And we’re headed for collapse. I mean I am firmly convinced right now that we’re headed for collapse and let me explain that. I mean I grew up as an engineer, but everybody drew graphs in algebra in high school or certainly most of us did. And if you’ve got a graph that’s headed steeply downwards and you don’t do something different, then it’s going to continue going down until it hits the bottom and when it hits the bottom, that’s collapse if it’s a graph pertaining to a critical facet of our world’s ecosystems or our world’s societies.
And so I wrote an article a few years ago that went quite viral on the internet called “The Perfect Storm: 6 Trends Converging on Collapse” and in that article I outlined six major trends, each one of which could be a civilization buster. And there’s been collapse of many civilizations in the past. The Minoans got knocked out by massive earthquakes like 5,000 years ago in the Mediterranean Sea and they collapsed. And then Rome collapsed. And Easter Islanders ruined their ecosystem, overpopulated and cut down every last tree and lost the ability to make their big canoes that they went out and fished the ocean in. They went from eating dolphins and marlin and shark to eating little fish to eating rats to eating each other in their progression of collapse when they ruined the ecosystem on their small island. And they lost the ability to go to other islands because they cut down all the trees. There was nothing to make the big boats that the Polynesians used to go between the islands on. So they went… Their population collapsed to less than a tenth of what it was in its maximum and that all happened in just a single generation.
So right now, on our planet, in a nutshell with six trends are… We’ve got climate change, which sometimes I call “global weirding.” It’s not just warming, but it’s like certainly the climate is disrupted and less stable than it used to be. Number two is like the peak in world oil production. Our world eats, sleeps and you-know-whats oil, basically, to make the world go round. And the easy to get to stuff, like when they could drill a well in Texas and get a gusher and they’d get—for one barrel of energy’s worth of oil that was invested in getting that oil—they’d get 100 barrels back. Well, now in tar sands you’re getting like… You burn a barrel of energy to get like three barrels back. And with biofuels like corn ethanol, you burn a barrel of energy to get 1.3 barrels back. So I mean that’s pretty terrible return on energy invested.
So then number three is the collapse of the world’s oceans. Nine out of ten of the… Nine out of 14 of the world’s major ocean fisheries are now either dead or on the verge of collapse. The coral reefs are collapsing all around the world. I just read a recent report that 50% of the Great Barrier Reef on the northern coast of Australia are now gone. From the 1960s to now half of the world’s richest, most incredible reef is now gone. It’s disappeared. And those are like the rainforests of the ocean. The plankton is the bottom of the food chain and the bottom of the carbon-oxygen cycle on the planet. 73% of the world’s zooplankton have disappeared between the 1950s and today and over half of that since 1990. This is like the oceans are more important to the life of our world than the land stuff, but we don’t see it because most of its hidden from our eyes, underneath its surface. The forests of the worlds—over 50% of the world’s forests are gone and much of the other 50% is rapidly disappearing and degrading. The fifth crisis is the food crisis on the planet and that’s a combination of diminishing water for irrigation.
We’ve got six giant rivers in the world that either don’t flow into the ocean for good parts of the year now or flow into the ocean as a tiny trickle, like China’s Great Yellow River—first didn’t reach the ocean in 1970s for like a week and there’s been years recently where it hasn’t reached the ocean for almost 300 days out of the year. It hasn’t touched the sea. There’s been nothing coming out the end. So soil’s crisis—the ways of factory farming are blowing away a million years of topsoil in a very short period of time. And then there’s the climate change—the changes you see in the climate are going to—if they continue like they’re doing—we’ll render most of the world’s breadbaskets totally fried and unable to feed the world within the next few decades. And then the last of the big six trends is the population. And some say, “Oh, the globalists and Bill Gates, they just want to shrink the population” and well, they’re looking at it for some good reasons and just picture this in your head. From the time Jesus walked the world until Abraham Lincoln fewer people were added to our world’s population than we added in the last ten years. So think of that. Jesus walks the world to Abraham Lincoln. The last ten years we added… In every ten years we are adding more people than that entire time period.
Bill: And Matt, to feed… Let’s take that a little bit deeper. To feed them, you have to sort… To feed and clothe and warm and to do all the things that we all live… And they don’t want to live like third world… All of the new people that… The big bulk of people that are coming in, they want goods and services too, so what you’re doing with your last premise is taxing the first five, right? I mean so you’re kind of pushing the envelope on the first five in order to…
Matt: That’s correct.
Bill: In order to live on the sixth, which makes us even more vulnerable if something from the first five tends to go, then you… You can’t support the sixth.
Matt: And they’re all going. The first five are all degrading rapidly. Now when I was a kid, in the 1950s and early ‘60s, there was only three billion people on the planet. Now there’s—as of like end of 2011—we reached seven billion. So that’s well more than doubling just in my short lifetime. We’ve well more than doubled. And back in… According to the Global Footprint Network, back in the late 1970s, early ‘80s, we first passed the world’s capacity to support us. In other words, before that the pollution and the consumption of mankind was still at a sustainable level—maybe not a great level—but basically we were consuming and polluting the planet at less than the planet’s ability to absorb that consumption and pollution.
Well, since the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, we’ve now been consuming the planet faster than it can regenerate and what that means is for a while everything seems okay, but you’re in what’s called an overshoot situation, where if you keep up that trend, then eventually you consume the… You consume and pollute and destroy those natural systems of the planet necessary for life to the point where things start collapsing and falling apart.
And so let me give you like a classic example of overshoot. In 1944 some people got the bright idea to put a few reindeer on this island in the arctic, St. Matthew’s Island. It’s like a remote 128 square mile spot of land in the Bering Sea and they thought, “Well, if there’s a shipwreck, there is a war with Russia—whatever—there will be this like great supply of reindeer that we can… sailors and the Army or whatever can harvest and feed off of on St. Matthew’s Island.” Well, there are no predators in St. Matthew’s Island. So there was an out-of-balance situation—lots of food and no predators. So what happens? Well, the initial herd of 29 deer grew to at least 1,350 by 1957. So that’s in 13 years, 29 deer became 1,350 deer. And then by 1963, just six more years later, that more than quadrupled to 6,000 deer. Now it turns out an island of that size can only theoretically support long-term, sustainably, roughly maybe 1,500 deer or so.
So this was like four times to three times the caring capacity of the island. So what happens? Well, these deer, when they got to 6,000—three to four times as many as the island could long-term hold—they ate up everything in sight. And they ate it up so bad that the rains came down and like washed all the topsoil out to sea and they starved. And in a very short period of time, in just three years, that herd collapsed from the peak population of over 6,000 deer to only 42 in 1966. And the last starving, lonely reindeer died in the early 1970s. He was very sickly and alone and he was the last reindeer to struggle on and he was dead. So here this reindeer paradise in just like 25 years went from a reindeer paradise to a desolate, barren island where all the topsoil was gone and all the reindeers were gone and it would be thousands of years before it could ever support that kind of population of reindeer again because it would have to use the lichens and the small plants to start slowly rebuilding the topsoil. So this is our future when we don’t…
Bill: Well Matt, can I…? Can I add a seventh one, just playfully to your list? Because when you’re competing for things, what happens I think historically—you probably would agree—when nations start to run out of something, they look to other nations… Maybe this is what we’re seeing in North Korea right now. So I would add war to the seventh thing because naturally there will become a competition for resources and some people will say, “Oh, you’re taking my water. You’re diverting my water over to your big ag gig and now I don’t have any. So I can either sit here and not have water or I can pick up a gun” or whatever the equivalent that governments do when they talk that way. And so I can see that.
Matt: Well, Pakistan and India, you know?
Bill: Very much so. Yes.
Matt: Pakistan and India right now, they’ve both got nuclear weapons. Pakistan is becoming increasingly unstable because the radical Muslim element is getting more and more powerful and has infiltrated the army and Pakistan is… Their population has quadrupled since the ‘50s and they are just huge population, intense pressures on the ecosystems, intense pressures to feed them. And India has control over Cashmere, which is like the water supply in the Himalayan water supply that brings water for irrigation and to feed for the giant populations of both India and Pakistan. And India is scheduled to out… In 20 years or so they’re going to have more people than China because they have a higher birthrate and they’ll become the most populous nation in the entire world. And Pakistan is growing even faster than India and headed on the same track and they are competing. Because Pakistan is a far drier climate than India they feel extremely bitter and angry and resentful that India is stealing their water from Cashmere and that they don’t have enough water to farm and irrigate and feed their population.
So I mean there’s hot spots and failing nations happening all over the planet right now and the… I mean Rwanda—the population quadrupled in Rwanda since the 1950s and the intense struggle for feeding your family… Traditionally in Rwanda the family… The father grows older. He has a lot of kids so they can support him when he’s older and he takes his land and cuts it up and gives it to all his kids. Well, when you have families with six, seven and eight kids and ten kids, you cut up the land and then all of a sudden those kids were getting like not enough land to farm to feed their families. So it turned… It turned into intense hatred and pressure between the Tutsis and the Hutus and then turned into massive genocide because the people on top were the minority of the population and the people on the bottom were starving and they just uprose and slaughtered the people on the top. And the same thing happened in Iraq when the people on the top were the minority of the Muslim sect. One Muslim sect against another Muslim sect. People on the bottom, under Saddam Hussein, were the majority so it turned into a giant bloodbath there too. So it’s… This… You’re seeing these intense pressures destabilizing countries and causing countries all over Africa… There is a number of failed states in Africa. You’re seeing this like increasing exponentially in the last couple of decades and you just know it’s not going to get any better.
Bill: And Matt too, the… Civilization sometimes is veneer-thin and so I think the tendencies… Look, I love this country and… But the tendencies, I think, for many Americans to say is “Oh, that happened over there. Those people have brown skin. That could never happen here.” And I think that that’s a huge mistake because these things are swirling below the surface and never say never, right? When you get hungry or thirsty human nature… It doesn’t matter what point on the globe you are, human nature has some pretty nasty tendencies that just come out if we’re not… if we can’t drink water and if we can’t eat, just at the very primordial level, right at the very simple level. And then there is the politicians that you have that will exacerbate this, right? Because they have to come up with solutions. Let’s say you’re a politician in Pakistan. You have… You’ve got to come up with a position to bolster an anti-India position, to bolster yours, and the Indian government has to do the same. And so on and on and on. It’s perpetual conflict.
Matt: Yeah. Well, picture the United States now. We have an average of three days of food on hand in each of our metropolitan areas. When I was a kid there was giant warehouses of food and stocking distributions systems located in and around every single major city. But nowadays with just-in-time deliveries and the internet coordinating everything, the food you eat on… The food you buy in the grocery store on Saturday was on a truck somewhere across… driving across the country for delivery just a week earlier. It was still coming from somewhere else on a truck or a boat or a plane. It was in-transit. So imagine now if the grid goes down for a long… a significant chunk of time in America. What happens?
Well, three hours after the grid goes down, the cell phone relay stations start running out of backup power and start failing. Three days after the grid goes down, you’re running out of food in all the cities. I mean the shelves would be bare pretty quickly. But the money machines don’t work. Sewage pumps stop pumping. Water treatment plants stop working. The internet stops working, which is how everything is diagnosed and ordered and coordinated these days is through the internet and that stops working. Nuclear power plants are required to… When you turn off nuclear power plants it’s not like flipping a light switch. It just doesn’t shut down immediately.
So a week… Basically, when the grid goes down a power plant has to go into emergency shutdown mode because it can’t keep powering its own cooling systems and without those pumps running 24/7, then the cores of the power plants overheat. They have massive amounts of energy that they are producing and if you can’t keep that energy cool through the cooling systems—the massive pumps doing millions of gallons an hour through… pumped through the core of the power plant—then the core melts down and goes Fukushima-like-style. It starts blowing its top and melting down and the power plant is ruined forever. So every power plant in the United States—all 104—are required to have at least a week’s worth of backup fuel on hand. But what happens if the grid’s down for a month or six months or a year? Then they’re going to run out of fuel. There are no refineries. There are no fuel trucks going. There’s no fuel pumping. There’s no internet. There are no control systems. I mean this is serious. Now you say, “Well, this could never happen.” And… But that’s not at all true. This is guaranteed to happen the way our grid is currently standing. And let me… Let me go into that right now if you want. I think that this is such an important topic.
Bill: Yeah, let’s talk about that because I think in the news too, maybe… Maybe what we’re seeing with Kim Jong-un at this point is sort of a desperate… an act of desperation and let’s say these internet rumors are true—I don’t know—it seems like a lot of bravado, but let’s say they’re true and let’s say there is an EMP attack. You’ve got the same… You’ve got basically the same thing, Matthew.
Matt: Well, an EMP attack, the two things that could take the grid down long term in the United States… I mean there’s actually three and one is very, very low tech. The three things that could take the grid down long term in the United States. Number one is an EMP attack. And number two is an extreme solar storm. And number three is a low tech coordinated event where guys with high powered rifles in a coordinated attack target the massive transformers that support the grid—the extra high voltage transformers. These are transformers that go from like 250,000 volts to over a million volts step down. So what it is is when you’re transmitting energy over long—electrical energy—over long distances, the only way you can do that without having massive losses of power in the transmission is the higher the voltages when you’re transmitting over these massive power lines…
These are like the giant towers with… There are like a half a mile between each tower and they’re just giant and huge that you see crisscross the United States. So they step this up to hundreds of thousands to over a million volts and they… And then they… The high voltage current travels long distances of very minimal energy losses and then in the other end they step it back down to usable voltages levels that you can use in the local grid. Well, these transformers that do the process of stepping it up at one end and stepping it down at the other end, they’re tens of tons each… or hundreds of tons each. They are tens of millions of dollars each. There is a three-year waiting line to get a single transformer ordered and built and they’re custom designed and custom built for every location.
And when one or two of these go down it can often cause a cascading grid failure. If dozens of them… If ten or 12 go down, like happened in South Africa in 2006 from an electromagnetic solar storm, the only way they could compensate was through rolling blackouts through the entire country, to ration power for the grid. And if dozens or hundreds go down, then you’re talking years to build… rebuild the massive grid. So okay, so what’s going to happen?
If you had… Let’s start with the solar storm because that’s actually the worst case. Every 75-100 years in the average our planet experiences what’s called an extreme geomagnetic event where the sun has this giant burp, basically a bunch of highly charged plasma sun-stuff gets thrown out of the sun at hundreds of thousands of miles an hour, speeding out into space. Now this happens all the… fairly often and… But most of the time it goes out into space far away from planet Earth and it’s no big deal. Well, every now and then it comes towards planet Earth and you get this geomagnetic storm and you get incredible northern and southern lights—aurora borealis—and the sky lights up beautifully in the far north and far south.
Well, every now and then, you get a pretty extreme event and… Like the last one happened in 1921, the extreme solar storm of 1921, and before that was the great granddaddy of modern history called the Carrington Event in 1859. Well, in those days when it happened, the sky lit up like incredible colors, from the North Pole all the way down to Haiti and Hawaii and Puerto Rico and from the South Pole all the way to American Samoa. And so all of the world was lit up at night except for a very narrow sliver around the deep tropical zones. Well, in those days it was kind of no big deal. It was like this incredible light show. It burned down a bunch of telegraph stations and it disrupted telegraph communications around the Earth and in 1921 it burned down Penn Central Station because of the induced currents. But there was no grid. There were just simply electrified cities and so it was not a big deal.
Well, today if it happened, there is over 100,000 miles of extra high voltage power lines across the United States and they act like giant antennas and they… When these extreme solar events happen they suck up huge amounts of energy and that energy is in millions of volts and amps and it’s enough energy that the transformers could normally handle it but it’s totally out of phase with two… with 120 and 240… 60 cycle electric current that our grid runs on. And so when it runs into these transformers, it kind of throws up these giant eddy currents and they lose efficiency and when you’ve got millions of volts… millions of watts flowing—of energy—flowing through a massive transformer, if it loses 10 or 20% efficiency, then all of a sudden those watts turn into heat and it burns the transformer up. Well, you burn one or two up, like happened in 1989 in a solar storm one-tenth the size of the 1921, it burned up one of these transformers in Quebec and threw out power to nine million people for six hours to two days. It burned up a transformer in the eastern coast, I think, of New Jersey and it burned up a transformer in the UK. But they managed to keep the United States grid going and the UK grid going because it was only a single transformer.
Well, fast forward to the next extreme event, like 1921 or 1859. The United States got concerned about what might be happening, so they sponsored a study by Meditech Corporation and it was… It was the Sandia National Labs doubled checked. It was sponsored by Oakridge National Labs in FEMA. And they modeled… did these extremely complex computer models of the grid and they determined that in a storm like 1921, which is 50% as strong as the 1859 Carrington Event, that approximately 350+ of these transformers are burned out in America, estimated roughly 2,000 in the world. Well, that’s more than ten years capacity of the world’s manufacturing capacity to replace these. Like if the world was working well and worked at full speed, in ten years they could replace all of these it would burn up in a matter of hours to days in the next extreme solar storm. So you’re talking massive, long-term grid failures where the grid is down for many, many months to years over most of the populated parts of the United States. The less populated parts of the west and the deep south like Texas and Mexico and Philippines and Indonesia, they may survive fairly well because there’s less geomagnetic effects close to the equator but you’re looking at disruptions that will just destroy… The massive machine that keeps our world—complex world—going is just going to grind to a halt like instantly.
And within a week to a month, most of the world’s nuclear power plants will run out of backup fuel and will start melting down Fukushima-style. So that’s 442 reactors, give or take a few, worldwide, 106 reactors in the United States. It’s… We’ve got almost a quarter of the world’s reactors here. Now over 50% of the world’s… No, 37%–more than one in three Americans—lives within 50 miles of a nuclear reactor. So if you go outside and you see this most incredible lightshow at night that you’ve ever seen in your life but the lights have gone out—the electricity is going out—and day after day the electricity is still going out, then look at your watch; look at your calendar and realize that those nuclear power plants are going to start popping and going off within six days to a month time. And so you’ve got that much time to figure out if you’re downwind from these things and if you want to like put together whatever you’ve got to try and get away from there.
Now, now that I’ve made your day, let’s talk about the difference between EMP and solar storms. Well, solar storms disrupt the grid, which everything is based on, but they don’t really fry any of the… At least most of your electronics on the small scale will be okay. It’s just these massive transformers that our grid is totally dependent upon that’ll cook. And so everything starts cascading failures as things start running out of fuel. Three days, hospitals run out of fuel. Most of the cars will be out of fuel. You won’t have… The backup generators will be running out of stuff.
Now in an EMP it’s different. It’s sort of a good news-bad news scenario with an EMP. EMP is when some nasty country decides that they want to really put the screws to the United States and maybe it’s a small country and they buy a nuclear weapon on the black market or maybe it’s North Korea and they develop their own nuclear weapon and they don’t have to have an ICBM. They could just simply for $20 million on the black market buy like a scud missile and buy some black market, small, nuclear warhead from one of the failed states of the Soviet Union. People who are starving turned their… or paid lots of money to turn their back and be set for life while somebody walks away with one of these small nuclear weapons. They’re small enough to put on top of a missile that—like a scud missile—instead of an ICBM. Say they float this scud missile on a junk freighter off the United States. They throw it up and they blow it off over northeastern United States. Well, if it’s a small missile like that—it’s a fairly small warhead—you get about a 500 mile circle, which is enough to cover Washington DC, New York City, Boston—most of the highly populated parts of the northeast—and instantly it’s going to fry a lot of electronics.
Now what’s going to cook? There is a lot of brouhaha and disinformation and false information about EMP. Well, in the congressionally sponsored EMP Commission, bipartisan studied this and worked on the… did a lot of testing and EMP simulation and they found that roughly one in eight cars driving down the road—cars and trucks—will be disabled while driving down the road. So it’s not like 100% fail. It’s like one in eight. Most of the cars that are not turned on at the time of EMP, because cars are fairly isolated; they’re metal boxes; they’re insulated from the road with rubber tires; sparky things go on all the time inside of cars—so they’re somewhat EMP resistant so most of the cars would start and work if they were turned off at the time of the EMP. But the big problem… And most of your personal electronics, especially if it’s turned off at the time of the EMP—like your iPhones and things like that—they’re going to work. Your small radios, they’re going to work.
Problem is there are three effects from an EMP. There is an E1 effect, which is like… happens in like the speed of light, like a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a blink of an eye—nanoseconds. And that’s like this electromagnetic pulse goes out and sparky things happen all over. Well, imagine opening up your computer on a cold winter’s day and rubbing your feet on the carpet and putting your finger inside and holding it to a bunch of those computer chips and sparking them and saying, “Gee, I wonder if that did something. Hmm. Maybe this did something. Maybe this did something.” Well, that’s going to be going on inside of digital electronics all over the affected zone. And yeah, not all of those chips are going to fail but pretty much 100% failure happens in all of the complex, digital electronics that are required to control all the stuff that makes our world go round. So what does that mean? That means that anything that’s digitally controlled and has lots of wires in it and lots of runs of wire connecting things, like what runs our factories, what runs our nuclear power plants, what runs our pollution control plants, what runs our water treatment plants, what runs our internet—all that major stuff that we really like and need to run our world. Well, that’s… Those digital control systems are going to fail pretty much 100%.
Now an E2 effect follows briefly, in the next one to two seconds first one to two seconds after the pulse. An E2 effect is like millions of lightning bolts hitting over the entire affected area of the electromagnetic pulse, all at the same time, within that first one to two seconds. But unfortunately, a lot of the special stuff we have installed for electronic devices to protect them from electrical pulses from lightning storms will have been… will have been destroyed and stop not functioning because of the E1 effect from the E1 pulse that happened in nanoseconds.
Then this is all followed by the E3 effect and the E3 effect is like a long, slow burn. The E3 effect is essentially the same stuff over a much smaller area, as happens during this extreme solar event. So you get this long, slow burn that’s going to fry and cook the massive transformers that keep the grid going. So the good news is that the rest of the world and the rest of the country will be able to send the cavalry in to help the affected area.
The bad news is that you have like 50 Hurricane Katrinas going off at once for a large EMP attack and like at least a half dozen Hurricane Katrinas happening at once over the area of a small EMP attack, like a tactical nuclear device and a scud missile. So what happens to the big EMP? Well, say they get an ICBM with a big missile, like what the Soviets have, what India has, what Pakistan has—that’s the scariest one—say somehow somebody—one of those Muslim fanatics that has infiltrated the Pakistan government in the military—they organize a group and they’re able to actually commandeer and control and reprogram an ICBM with one of these larger missiles. Well, say they blow it off over Ohio. Draw a 1,500-mile circle. How big is that? Well, it goes to Quebec City and Ontario. It goes to Dallas Texas. It goes to Miami Florida. It surrounds Chicago area. It covers the entire east coast except the southern tip of Florida. It covers three-quarters of the population of the United States. It covers three-quarters—probably more like 90%–of the nuclear installations in the United States. And within that zone, the critical digital electronics that makes our world go round is instantly fried. The massive transformers that make our world go and will take years to replace are instantly cooked or certainly cooked within the first… within 15 minutes time.
And so what you’re going to have happen is instead of a week to 30 days for nuclear meltdowns, like in the solar storm, you’re going to have digital control systems that keep the nuclear power plants failing instantaneously and you’re going to have multiple Fukushima-like events happening like all over the affected zone. Now what’s going to happen to America? Well, most of America or what we know as America—where most of the people live in America—will become permanently radioactively contaminated and uninhabitable for hundreds of years if you want to not die of cancer like so many people around Chernobyl. Chernobyl… It’s estimated only a couple hundred people died immediately afterwards from the suicide mission to clean up and shut down Chernobyl, to encase it in a sarcophagus and earth… in a sarcophagus composed of earth and stone and concrete. But 10,000 people died in the not too distant future. It’s been estimated from epistemological studies that were done recently in Russia that a million people died in the next 25 years due to complications and sickness and illness from the radiation from Chernobyl and three million people were sickened. There’s Chernobyl AIDS. They say in towns and villages downwind, that the Chernobyl necklace is so common, like most of the people in the village have giant thyroid tumors and kids are born with weird limbs and 20 toes and heads stuck to their… no necks. I mean just bizarre pictures.
And this is from one Chernobyl. Well, every nuclear power plant in the world, they’ve run out of fuel every year or so and they need to put that fuel somewhere, so what do they do with it? Well, there’s no long term storage facilities over most of the world, so what they do is they have these massive cranes built on top of the nuclear power plants and they’re designed to go in and use mechanical couplings and dip into the power plant core and take the spent fuel rods out and lift them up contained in this like giant, water-filled bucket because the radiation is so extreme that if they’re not covered with water, then it burns things up all around them and kills people and destroys electronics. And then they reach over and this big crane—industrial crane—goes along a track and then it lowers these rods and via remote cameras and stuff they use mechanical linkages to download the rods and load them into racks buried 20 feet underneath in spent fuel ponds.
Well, in Japan, in Fukushima, they have an average of 10 Chernobyl’s worth in each of their six spent fuel ponds. So that’s like 60 Chernobyl’s worth of material plus four Chernobyl’s worth of material in the four reactors that were active there. So that’s 64 Chernobyl’s worth of material in Fukushima’s facility alone. The average nuclear power plant in the United States has 17 Chernobyl’s worth of materials sitting in a spent fuel pond onsite, the average one, so that’s 104 times 17. That’s 1,700 Chernobyl’s worth of material in the spent fuel ponds in the United States alone. Think of what one Chernobyl did when it burned up in Chernobyl. Killed long term a million people. Think about 1,700 Chernobyl’s worth of material in spent fuel ponds in the United States.
We say, “Well, why do I worry about spent fuel ponds?” Well, these fuel rods, when they come out they are extremely hot. They’ve got to be cool for three to five years after the reactor core has been shut down—actively cooled. So not only is the reactor core cooled but the reactor is contained in this six feet of concrete and steel. It’s supposed to keep all the nasty stuff inside in the event of a failure and in an accident. But obviously in Fukushima, it wasn’t enough because what happened is when the water shut down… See, the reactor cores did not fail directly from the earthquake. When the earthquake happened the grid failed immediately, so each of the four reactors that were active at the time—two were shut down for refueling the fuel rods so there’s four out of six that were operational—so when the grid went down all four of those six, the backup generators kicked in and they kept the water pumps—the cooling pumps—going. Well, 20 minutes later the tsunami came along.
Well, unfortunately some bright engineers—now they have cave paintings in local caves that are 1,000 years old that showed tsunamis in the area—but these bright engineers—and I’m one of them—they designed these power plants with backup generators on the ocean side of these plants. Well, one of the six power plants had a generator on the uphill side. Number six of the six power plants had a generator on the uphill side. So three of the four power plants lost their backup generators when the tsunami came in 20 minutes later. One of the four kept operating because its power plant was on the… the backup generator was on the uphill side. Well, they went and they shunted… The emergency crews went and they rapidly shunted power from number six to number five, so they kept… Well, they had only a partial core meltdown in number five, but the other two reactors had a complete core meltdown within like a half hour. The cores were melted. The reactors were toast. Well then what happened is they get so hot that those fuel rods started dissociating. The water started breaking down into its components, into its hydrogen and oxygen gases and they bubbled up into the top of the domes. They’re supposed to be so strong that they’ll contain any problem happening in the core and prevent it from leaking to the outside. Well, the hydrogen and oxygen bubbled up inside and they recombined and they exploded and they fractured this six foot thick wall of concrete and steel that’s supposed to keep all the nasty stuff inside.
And we all saw the pictures of those plumes of steam and stuff blowing out into the world. Well, the spent fuel ponds are similar to that. You see when… See, these fuel rods are so radioactive that they cannot withstand… Steel cannot withstand that level of radioactivity. It becomes brittle and it starts falling apart. So they’re encased in this special metal called zirconium. Now zirconium can handle the high level of radioactivity, but zirconium is kind of like magnesium, like many of us in chem lab in high school or maybe they’re pyromaniacs like a lot of kids, like myself, were and you get a hold of some magnesium foil and you burn it and it burns… It’s metal foil yet it burns so brilliant that like you’ve got to shield your eyes or you’re going to burn your eyeballs staring at it. You’re going to burn your cornea… burn your eyes out. And so this zirconium burns just like magnesium when it gets really hot.
So these spent fuel ponds that have an average of 17 Chernobyl’s worth of material all across the United States—so I think there’s like 97 spent fuel ponds in the United States, give or take a few—and if they boil dry, which they will, between four days and a month after they lose cooling power these spent fuel ponds will heat up and start boiling and bubbling. Within four days to a month, depending on how recently they’ve been loaded with hot fuel rods… The more recently fuel rods have been downloaded, the hotter they are and the faster they’ll boil dry. Then when they boil dry, they’ll start getting super hot and they’ll start burning just like the Chernobyl core. It’s a different design but just like Chernobyl burned out of control, well, your spent fuel rods will start—in the spent fuel ponds—will start burning out of control after they boil dry. And then you’ll have Chernobyl-like fires, only they’ll be fueled by an average of 17 Chernobyl’s worth of material in each of the 90+ spent fuel ponds in the United States. So this is… This is a really bad scenario. Now there’s some good news. The good news…
Bill: There’s good news? There’s good news, Matt?
Matt: The good news… Yeah, the good news is for a billion bucks—half the price of a B2 bomber—that we could provide EMP hardened containers and a year’s worth of fuel and backup electronics to protect all of our nuclear power plants from boiling down in the event of an EMP or solar storm. And the other good news is for the other half of the price of a B2 bomber, another billion dollars—so a total of $2 billion—we could provide the brand new technology that’s been invented but not implemented yet to protect the massive transformers, to prevent the end of the world as we know it. So here for the price of a single B2 bomber, we can prevent the end of the world as we know it and it’s not that hard. The technology is already there. It’s already been developed. We just have to decide to spend the money. Now we could bail out the banks for an official dollar amount of over $500 billion. That’s 250 times as much as saving the end of the world as we know it, which they jumped to because all those rich people were going to lose their asses and lose their finances in the crash of Wall Street. And unofficially it was something like $3-7 billion—unofficially—that the bailout was for. I mean nobody really knows, I think, the full number, but I understand it’s giant, whether you look at the official or unofficial. And yet they’re just talking about it and they’ve been talking about it for years.
Now they talked about fixing the levies around New Orleans—the US Army Corps of Engineers—for 50… more than 50 years, said this was a disaster waiting to happen. It was not a question of when but if. It was not a question of if, but when. They knew and guaranteed that the levies would fail. When a large, category three or higher hurricane struck New Orleans those levies would fail. Now for 50 years they talked about it and they hemmed and hawed and once they even approved the money but it wasn’t sexy to fix something that appeared to be fine to the average human being’s eye. Much more sexy to have a nice stadium for playing ballgames instead of fixing the levies. So sure enough, that storm hit. Those levies failed. Then much of New Orleans went away. Well, here we’re talking about a guaranteed natural event. Every 75-100 years these extreme geomagnetic events hit the United States, hit the world. It could be 10 years apart. It could be 200 years apart. But statistical average is 75-100 years. It’s been 90 years from the last one with 60 years before that to the big one before that and two of them in the last 150 years or so. So do the math. We’re basically due… overdue for one of these things to happen and they’re just talking about it. Now call me crazy but I think that’s totally insane. I mean we get 24 B2 bombers for the price of a single one of those—a single Black Stealth bomber—we can prevent the end of the world as we know it. We can prevent all of that stuff.
Bill: It would seem, Matt, to be a pretty easy exchange, a pretty easy transaction.
Matt: It’s a no-brainer.
Bill: It’s a no-brainer in some sense and yet we can’t… We’re kind of running out of time. We haven’t made… Our country in general doesn’t make good decisions and I think you just hit on something. We’d rather watch football than protect the helpless in some sense, if that’s the way you want to phrase it.
Matt: I’m honestly much more concerned about Jay-Z and Beyoncé and Cuba than I am about saving the world. Let’s put our priorities straight, right? I mean that’s… Let’s focus on what’s important to the American people in the media and it’s obviously Brad and Janet and Jay-Z and Beyoncé and saving the end of the world—that’s just so passé.
Bill: Yeah, and what’s interesting about what you just said, I think, is that media agencies—and people blame the media and is there blame to go around? Certainly there is blame to go around. But what do media agencies do? They have advertisers. They give the people what they click on or what they watch most of the time. So where should we place the locus of the guilt? And I would so… I hope that you’re going with me on this and that’s back to the heart of the American people. Once we start clicking on the other stories, once we start saying to the news media “This is what we want to watch. This is what we want to fix,” then they’ll say they’re economically driven. We have to hit them at the purse level, at the financial level, at the wallet level before we do anything, Matt.
Matt: And this is something where you can get active. Like go to my website WhenTechFails.com and right at the top there—somewhere near the top—there is this “400 Chernobyls.” So click on that “read more” and when you read it, you’ll see links to all of the major government and scientific studies and things that I used for data to back up what I’m saying. And then down at the bottom there’s links to get active and involved. I mean this is something where if a groundswell of people start demanding of our government “This is like really important. This is more important than anything else you’re doing. I mean stop what you’re doing and fix this problem. Just stop talking about it and do it.” It’s like, “Come on.” I mean when everybody’s starving and there’s chaos in the street, where does a city of 10 million people pee and poop and drink their water when there’s no elevators running, there’s no water flowing, there’s no sewage flushing? If those sewage pumps stop working the sewage is just going to just start coming up—raw sewage—through… right through manholes all over the place. Your toilets aren’t going to flush. What are you going to do after a week or two in your hotel… or in your high-rise condo or whatever—your luxury condo—when that toilet…?
Bill: And you thought that cruise ship was bad. And you thought that tour on the cruise ship was bad, Matt. This is going to be a little bit worse than that. We’re running out of time here. Can you throw our listeners a couple bones now? Your book—both books—are comprehensive. They’re massive. They cover so many different things on metalworking, making clothes—it’s all kinds of different things, but you’ve got a couple points just… And we don’t have too much time, but I wanted you to do me a favor and throw a couple bones. If you get into trouble and you’re hungry, you could eat bugs. What would be…? Assuming that the bugs weren’t near the nuclear power plant, what would be your favorite bugs to eat if you only had a minute to tell us?
Matt: Grasshoppers. Grasshoppers. People in foreign countries eat grasshoppers a lot. If you can, you can snag them like in wool rugs. I mean a wool blanket left out in a field at night and the barbs in the legs would get stuck in grasshoppers. That’s probably… Grasshoppers and kind of the white grubs, like in rotten stumps. But foraging. I mean I grew up in Vermont, hunting and fishing as a kid. And nobody wanted to go hunting on the last day of hunting season. See, there are a lot of people who think that their guns are going to save them. And I’m not saying you don’t need to be armed and I’m not saying I don’t recommend that because we live in a heavily armed world and not being armed puts you at a disadvantage when the starving masses are trying to figure out what to do and how they’re going to eat.
But the last day of hunting season is like the hunt… the game that didn’t get shot in the first couple weeks, they made themselves really scarce and they’re like… They’re smart. That’s why they’re not getting shot. When I ask a bunch of guys—macho guys in an audience—to raise their hands “How many guys had a good day on the last day of hunting season?” almost never see more than one or two hands. And when the things go down, it’s going to be 100 times worse than the last day of hunting season day after day after day. The people who can forage—those are the people who will do the best. That’s your best chance, especially if you have to pick up and leave. There is only so much you can carry on your back.
Bill: But the knowledge of foraging is amazing, right? I mean just… And you cover foraging a little bit in your book as well.
Matt: Yeah, having… You know one of the most critical items in your go-bag should be an illustrated guide with color pictures from multiple seasons of common, edible plants and medicinal herbs that you might be able to forage for. Things like cattail roots—Indians… Native Americans survive on that in a lot of places. You can dig them up any time. In the winter you can break through the ice in a swamp and pull out cattail roots and you can strip the stalks and eat them. If they’re young cattails, in the spring you can… The tops, before they totally flower, are like… kind of like mini-corns in Chinese food. So there are multiple foods.
There’s… In Russia and in North Korea when the Soviet Union collapsed, people pulled up grass and ate the white tips underneath the surface of the soil. All the rats, all of the mice, all of the squirrels were gone. The cockroaches were gone. I mean it’s like if you weren’t part of the government and tied into the military, you were on your own and millions of people starved and died in the long, harsh winters in North Korea. It’s not a pretty story. It’s not a pretty scenario. But that’s a country where people were used to getting by with very little if they weren’t tied in, so there were a lot of people with a lot of knowledge of how to do this. So there was a lot of competition.
In the United States people are used to everything working in McDonald’s and Costco and supermarkets, so if you have some knowledge of foraging and some knowledge of these skills, it puts you miles ahead of the average Joe. People say, “Well, why ‘when technology fails and when disaster strikes’?” Well, When Technology Fails is this massive handbook that covers old-fashioned technologies and the best of modern technologies. So while the world is working it covers the great stuff you should have on hand. If things totally fall apart it covers how things were done 100, 200, 300, 500 years ago so you could at least fall back to like 18th century technologies rather than caveman days.
When Disaster Strikes people complained, “Well, When Tech Fails is like this massive encyclopedia-size book. I can’t put that in my go-bag” and they said, “I’m just worried about short term prepping and surviving a disaster.” So I made a much smaller version that has… Oh, about 40% of it includes material from When Tech Fails and 60% is all new material and that covers strictly prepping and survival and it has specific chapters on like surviving extreme cold without heat and power. The last chapter is “The Unthinkable: Surviving a Nuclear Catastrophe.” The chapter before that is “EMP and Solar Storm.” It’s like preparation and survival strategies for both. And all these chapters… “Surviving Hurricanes and Floods,” “Toxic Mold: Flooding’s Evil Twin.”
I mean there’s tons of really great information in both books and there’s some crossover but there’s some independent stuff. So buy the big one in case the world falls apart and that’s When Tech Fails. Have the little one so you can throw it in your go-bag and you’ve got a first aid manual and a survival manual and a prepping guide all built into one. And so it’s like hey, information is critical in these times and it’s a lot easier to get the information now than if things fall apart and say, “Gee, I wish I… Shoulda, coulda, woulda,” you know? That’s… It’s like car insurance, you know? Nobody buys car insurance and plans on getting in a head-on collision. It’s like no, you buy insurance and you hope you never need it.
And you do this stuff and you pray and hope to God we get our act together and EMP or… The solar storm will happen and you hope we’ve done the right thing before it does so it’s not the end of the world. And the EMP will probably happen and it’ll be worse on a smaller scale and much better on a large scale than the solar storm. So neither one are much fun and one is guaranteed to happen and one will probably happen and… But hopefully we’ve done the right things to protect our world a lot better than it’s protected right now, before either of them happens, but I’ve got no guarantees. I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you what it is that’s going to go on. But I will tell you when I received the inspiration to write When Technology Fails and that blast from above in 1997, I was instructed that in the not too distant future many millions of people would be needing the information in these books. And it was a really heavy assignment and I would rather, honestly, to have not done it. It’s kind of like, “Why me?” and it’s like, “Well, you asked. You asked for guidance and you had the skills and talents to do it and you chose to step up to the plate so…” If the shit does… Excuse me. If…
Bill: You can say that, I think.
Matt: If the shit does come down, then… then thank God I had the… I stood up to the task and I did my homework assignment and I created these wonderful texts to help people do their best. And here is my motto I like to end things on. I urge everyone to do their best to change the world and do your best to be ready for the changes in the world. And thank you for having me on today and just do your best. That’s all you can do.
Bill: Thanks, Matt. That’s great inspiration and I am happy that you had that inspiration originally and your books are great. We really appreciate it and I want to thank you and on behalf of everybody here, we’d also like to thank our listeners. We know that your time is valuable. We just really appreciate you spending some of it with us. Thanks again from Off The Grid News Radio.