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Famine Memorial sculpture on Custom House Quay
Famine Memorial in Dublin by Rowan Gillespie. Photo by Bernd Thaller, CC BY 2.0 DEED

The concept of mass starvation has not been in the forefront of American society for a very long time. Even during the Great Depression the US was majority agrarian and most people knew how to live off the land. In fact, the US has never suffered a true national famine.

There have been smaller regional instances of famine (such as during the Dust Bowl in the 1930s), but nothing coming remotely close to the kinds of famines we have seen in Asia, the Eastern Bloc, Africa or the Middle East in the past 100 years.

Even Western Europeans dealt with major famines during the World Wars (like the Dutch Famine) and that experience has left an imprint on their collective consciousness. Most Americans, on the other hand, don’t get it. Because we have lived in relative security and economic affluence for so long the idea of ever having to go without food seems “laughable” to many people. When the notion of economic collapse is brought up they jeer and call it “conspiracy theory.”

Compared to the Great Depression, the US population today is completely removed from agriculture and has no idea what living off the land means. These are not things that can be learned in a few months from books and YouTube videos; they require years of experience to master.

I will say that things have changed dramatically in the past two decades I have been writing for the liberty media. When I started back in 2006 the preparedness movement was incredibly small and often people were afraid to broach such topics in public forums.

In the past several years preparedness culture has EXPLODED in popularity. Millions of Americans are now dedicated survival experts with extensive preps and firearms training. Prepping and shooting is no longer the realm of tinfoil hat “crazies”, now it’s considered cool.

The credit crash of 2008-2009 certainly helped wake people up to the reality of economic instability in the US. Then the covid pandemic, the lockdowns and the attempts at medical tyranny really shocked Americans out of their stupor. Everything we “conspiracy theorists” have been warning about was suddenly confirmed in the span of a couple of years. Every time globalists and governments create a crisis they only inspire more preppers.

The greater problem in terms of famine is not that individual Americans are not aware of the threat; many of them are. The problem is that our infrastructure and logistical systems are designed to fail and there’s not much the average citizen can do about it.

The just-in-time freight system is perhaps one of the worst ever devised in terms of community redundancy. Any disruption no matter how minor could cut off supplies to a town or city for days or weeks. Then there’s the interdependency that comes with food being produced outside most states. If your state does not have a solid agricultural base then it will be reliant on outside food sources during a crisis. What guarantees are there that your region will be able to secure food from elsewhere?

Furthermore, most of the populace, even those that are preparing, have never experienced large scale starvation events before. It’s difficult to adapt mentally to a threat that one has never seen.

I suggest people who want to know what starvation feels like practice it from time to time. Try fasting for 24 hours, then try fasting for 48 hours. See how many days you can go without eating (just be sure to drink plenty of water). My maximum was seven days (after months of practice), and what I found was that after day three the hunger pangs actually stop altogether. You don’t go crazy, you don’t get violent; at most you might get tired, but you will also be surprised at how heightened your thinking becomes and how much energy you still have.

The human body can survive for three weeks or more without a single bite of food. My suspicion is that initial panic over potential hunger is the thing that causes the most violence during famines. People encounter starvation and lose their minds within the first three days. First-stage stomach pains and fogginess causes them to react without thinking and this leads to the widespread riots and other crisis events we are used to seeing in history during food shortages.

Fasting is a way to educate yourself on what it means to starve; it’s not as bad as it seems as long as you have some fat stores in your body. When you hit the point of muscle loss and organ deprivation, that’s when things change and the possibility of death arises. Having some familiarity with the feeling of true hunger will help you to avoid panic should the real thing ever occur in the future.

The greater problem is not what you can endure, though. Watching people you care about starve is much more difficult. This is not something you can practice for and it could be a far more powerful motivator when it comes to looting and crime during a crash.

The goal of course is to avoid famine altogether. Food storage is the foundation of any survival plan. Anyone who claims that jumping right into agriculture and hunting and wild edibles is the solution has never actually had to survive off the land in their lives. The reality is, finding enough food and growing enough food to live on is difficult for most people even in normal times.

During collapse crops are often difficult to plant safely. They can be stolen or destroyed easily and require large communities of people to maintain and protect. Even smaller gardens can draw attention from undesirables and are hard to hide.

Hunting might be useful initially if you live in a rural area, but you won’t be the only person with the same idea and animals will move out of a region quickly if they are being hunted on a daily basis. You’ll have to go further and further out to find them and that’s risky during a crisis.

Wild edibles are nice in spring and summer when they are plentiful, but then again, if you’re hiking around expending more calories that you can get from these plants then the entire exercise is pointless. I tend to find that wild edibles proponents are the most delusional when it comes to the logistics of survival. Survivalists who think they’re going to run to the woods and live off of the random plants they find will probably die.

Growing food, hunting food and foraging food are all supplemental measures, especially in the first years of any crisis event. Without a primary emergency supply most people will not make it. Food storage has been a mainstay of civilization for thousands of years for a reason – It works. When larger secure communities are established then agriculture can return and self sustaining production makes food storage less important. Until then, what you have in your basement or your garage is the only thing that’s going to keep you alive.

Unfortunately, there are some people out there who think they don’t need to store supplies because they plan to take from other people. Firstly, anyone who makes this their Plan A is probably a psychopath and I have zero empathy for them. Secondly, such people won’t stay alive very long. With every violent encounter the risk of injury or death increases; looters and raiders will be whittled down rather quickly as they get picked off by people defending their resources.

It’s not like the movies, folks; marauders will disappear swiftly during a crash. After the first year I would be surprised if any of these individuals or groups still exist.

In the meantime, the initial stages of collapse are going to be a shock for many Americans. It could be a grid down event, an economic collapse, a supply chain collapse, etc., but the panic associated with hunger will be ever present. People who understand the nature of famine can avoid panic and organize for safety. They will survive and thrive. People who don’t understand famine will freak out in the first week without food and make detrimental mistakes.

Mental preparedness is just as important as physical preparedness. Keep that in mind as we move forward into uncertain times.


Brandon Smith: "My goal is to encourage people around the world (and Americans in particular) to start decoupling from the existing system; we must become more independent and self reliant as individuals, and communities must adopt localized economic networks including barter markets in order to insulate themselves from the ongoing decline of the corrupt financial structure. In other words, if centralization is the problem, then decentralization is the answer."

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