Are you the sort of person who likes to prepare for all eventualities? Have you read up on past disasters that have befallen humanity? Do you have a stockpile of non-perishable foodstuffs available to you at all times? If you answered yes to at least two of those questions, then the chances are you're a prepper (but you knew that already, didn’t you?) For the rest of us, one question remains: what’s a prepper? Preppers build bunkers and prepare for the end of the world as we know it. Here’s what author Bradley Garrett told Oliver Callan on The Ryan Tubridy Show:
"I spent three years living with these preppers around the world. And I have to admit, there was a lot of doom and gloom, a lot of people speculating on potential disasters that could unfold. But there was also a lot of hope, because of course, if you don’t have faith that you’re going to make it through a disaster, there’s no point in preparing for it."
Makes sense. But when Bradley started working on his book about preppers in 2017, he had no idea that humanity was headed straight for a disaster. And Oliver wondered if the preppers Bradley met feel a little vindicated by the events of the last 18 months or so. They do, a little, Bradley told him and – needless to say – they were better prepared than most when the time came:
"I know a number of the prepper communities that I worked with were able to retreat to their bunkers in the first few weeks and months of the pandemic."
While the rest of us spent most of March last year frantically combing the barren aisles of our nearest SuperValu for more toilet roll, prepper communities were able to wait and see what happened in those first few months of the pandemic when things were very uncertain.
We tend to think of the whole notion of survivalists as being a very American thing, but Bradley travelled to four continents visiting prepper communities and they’re not all like refugees from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome:
"I visited some of the most extravagant private subterranean citadels in the world and, I guess initially, as a geographer I thought it was a quirky interesting topic about how people change space and control space and change space. But the more time I spent with those preppers, the more I realised there were some practical lessons that were actually worth getting into the book to pass on to people."
Ireland has its own government-funded end-of-the-world bunker in Athlone, built in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis and now decommissioned. But preppers around the world have been buying up decommissioned fallout shelters and kitting them out for whatever brand of apocalypse is next in line. Bradley threw this great stat at Oliver:
"Currently almost 13 million Americans are prepared to make it through 30 days without any sort of infrastructure, without grocery stores, food, water, electricity. That’s an astounding statistic."
You can hear the full conversation between Oliver and Bradley Garrett – including the story of the 535 concrete igloos and the geo–scraper built inside a decommissioned nuclear missile silo – by going here.
Bunker: Building for the End Times by Bradley Garrett is published by Allen Lane.