72 Hour Kit
A few weeks ago, I finished an essay about Mormons, the left and climate change. I am submitting it for publication, so I can’t go into it all here, but I wanted to delve into a couple main points.
Growing up Mormon, was always taught to be prepared for natural disaster. Sometimes “disaster” meant a tornado or an earthquake. Other times it was obvious what we were really talking about: how to weather the weather that would precede the apocalypse. Either way, it was a mark of shame not to have a brimming 72 hour kit stuffed with food, flashlights and all the hand sanitizer a post-tornado victim could ever want.
But it’s not just the 72 hour kits. Everywhere I turn, I see the same thing: When Mormons think something is important, they give their all to it; when they think something is dangerous or avoidable, they do everything in their power to prepare for or prevent it. We have an entire city square dedicated to producing and packaging food for the hungry and the disaster-struck. We could make a funeral casserole in the thick of a hurricane. Teenage girls and boys spend dozens of hours doing things to improve their communities.
In this same spirit, there was a bucket toilet seat on my parent’s porch last month. The neighborhood emergency preparedness committee had dropped it off after an emergency preparedness guru had put the fear of God in everyone at the most recent meeting. He challenged them to really think about what they would need in the event of a disaster. That’s when they all realized they were toiletless and alone. So they figured it out, and in a few measly days, there were toilets on porches as far as the eye could see.
The weird thing is, most Mormons you talk to are either climate-apathetic or climate change deniers. If you asked them about the connections between the changing climate and the increase in the natural disasters they prepare for so dutifully, you’d probably get shrugs. Most of them don’t know and don’t care. But they are absurdly prepared to weather that weather.
And then there are the people on the so-called left, who believe in climate change with all their hearts. They know what’s coming and how bad it’s going to get. And yet they are absurdly unprepared to stop it. Their strategies are, by and large, tepid and timid. Most do not dare to tell the truth of the matter even to themselves, much less to someone else. And because of this, they are in the strange position of knowing the weather but refusing to report on it. Ironically, they are much less ready to fight what they believe is coming than the Mormons who don’t believe in why it’s happening but are ready anyway.
We who care about the climate, planet, or environment often play the issue vaguely, comforting ourselves that we are doing what it takes. I get that: It’s scary to face the problem and either prepare for or prevent it. The problem is, it doesn’t matter how scary it is if we let that fear keep us from preparing, keep us from the fight.
So my question is this: what if we who care about the climate thought like emergency-preparedness Mormons? What would a 72 hour kit look like for surviving climate change? And what would it mean to prevent it?
We are good at planning for what we care about. So let’s care about the climate and have an honest conversation.
Let’s ask ourselves only a few questions: How bad is the problem, how much time do we have, and what would it take to solve it? And then add one more: If it’s already bad and getting worse, what do we need just to survive?
I’m asking us to set aside our conventional wisdoms and comforting cliches and think about emergency preparedness like the good Mormons we are. I am asking what is missing from our 72 hour kits, and what we need to do to not need them in the first place.