NYTimes | On a clear morning in May, Ron Douglas left his home in exurban Denver, eased into his Toyota pickup truck and drove to a business meeting at a Starbucks. Douglas, a bearded bear of a man, ordered a venti double-chocolate-chip Frappuccino — “the girliest drink ever,” he called it — and then sat down to discuss the future of the growing survivalist industry.
Many so-called survivalists would take pride in keeping far away from places that sell espresso drinks. But Douglas, a 38-year-old entrepreneur and founder of one of the largest preparedness expos in the country, isn’t your typical prepper.
At that morning’s meeting, a strategy session with two new colleagues, Douglas made it clear that he doesn’t even like the word “survivalist.” He believes the word is ruined, evoking “the nut job who lives out in the mountains by himself on the retreat.” Instead, he prefers “self-reliance.”
When prompted by his colleagues to define the term, Douglas leaned forward in his chair. “I’m glad you asked,” he replied. “Take notes. This is good.”
For the next several minutes, Douglas talked about emergency preparedness, sustainable living and financial security — what he called the three pillars of self-reliance. He detailed the importance of solar panels, gardens, water storage and food stockpiles. People shouldn’t just have 72-hour emergency kits for when the power grid goes down; they should learn how to live on their own. It’s a message that Douglas is trying to move from the fringe to the mainstream.
“Our main goal is to reach as many people and get the word out to as many people as we can, to get them thinking and moving in this direction,” he said. “Sound good?”
The preparedness industry, always prosperous during hard times, is thriving again now. In Douglas’s circles, people talk about “the end of the world as we know it” with such regularity that the acronym Teotwawki (tee-ought-wah-kee) has come into widespread use. The Vivos Group, which sells luxury bunkers, until recently had a clock on its Web site that was ticking down to Dec. 21, 2012 — a date that, thanks to the Mayan calendar, some believe will usher in the end times. But amid the alarmism, there is real concern that the world is indeed increasingly fragile — a concern highlighted most recently by Hurricane Sandy. The storm’s aftermath has shown just how unprepared most of us are to do without the staples of modern life: food, fuel, transportation and electric power. Fist tap Arnach.