Prepare for these Challenges
“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn” – Hal Borland.
While this year has seen its fair share of challenges, there are several issues you need to pay attention as you continue preparing. In this blog, we will cover five things you should watch carefully over the next four months that finish this year. Prepping is about being informed and staying ahead of the curve on the survival side of the equation. Hopefully, being aware of these hurdles will keep you on that positive side.
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There are many moving parts to inflation, but the end results are all the same. At the end of the week, you have little to no money left in your wallet and hopefully gas in your car, a job, and food on your table. While several things are happening behind the scenes to keep people working and drive down fuel costs, you can expect food prices to continue to increase. There isn’t one singular cause for the higher prices. It is more like everything is going wrong all at once. Beef prices will continue to go up because feed prices have gone up, a mega-drought continues, and ranchers have downsized their herds. That lower inventory will drive prices higher through the remainder of the year. Whether those high costs will continue into 2023 will largely be determined by Cow-Calf operations calves born in the spring.
On the agricultural side, the high fertilizer cost, as we alerted everyone to well over a year ago, has lowered net farm income. Weather continues to be a challenge, and already many stories are circulating that warn us to have lower expectations for this year’s tomato, corn, soybean, and cotton harvests, to name just a few. Harvest yields are lower everywhere, and the transportation costs to bring that food to processing facilities, stores, and your table have also increased. This is a global problem that has been brewing for years. This year we saw dramatic price adjustments as fuel and fertilizer increased. Many countries have banned the exportation of some agricultural products to deal with this and the aggregating impact of war. A global readjustment that will continue through this year will leave some poorer, dependent countries on the precipice of famine and will result in shortages, scarcity, and hoarding activities in more affluent countries.
The reality of crop failures will be more apparent as the harvest season approaches September through November. Without the proper level of fertilizers and consistent watering, some crops cannot sufficiently harden themselves off against blight, insects, or extreme weather. Keep an ear out for any significant failures and watch your store shelves for dwindling selections or outright scarcity of products.
America’s infrastructure is aging and showing an increase of failures at a time when Americans are increasingly having problems paying their utilities. There are three types of utility companies in the United States. 3/4 of all utility companies are Investor-owned utilities, which are large electric distributors that issue stock owned by shareholders. IOUs are most prevalent in heavily populated areas on the East and West coasts. At the end of the day, these companies intend to sell utilities to generate profits for shareholders. The other 1/4 of utility companies in the country are publicly owned utilities that residents have voted into existence, and cooperatives, which are not-for-profit member-owned utilities. If your utilities are part of the majority 3/4’s of Investor-owned and profit-driven, you are probably experiencing some rather massive rate hikes. You are probably also seeing more than a few articles about Americans falling behind on utilities. Look for some utility companies to shut down some people’s delinquent services before freezing temperatures set in, but fortunately, several state laws make it impossible for them to do so after freezing temperatures occur.
You may have used less energy this year than last, but you paid a budget-breaking amount this year. The reality is that to maintain profits when replacement and maintenance parts are suffering from supply chain challenges, when extreme wind, precipitation, and weather are challenging old equipment, when demand is soaring amidst heatwaves and droughts, and production is decreasing because of the higher costs of fossil fuels or dropping lake levels feeding hydro-electric dams, prices have to increase for consumers. The current utility services are decades old in some places and centuries old in others. From rolling blackouts or power outages like we saw in Texas to municipal water failings like we today see in Jackson, Mississippi, expect utility services to be less-reliable and to fail in some places as freezing temperatures descend and challenge mechanical infrastructure.
There will be even more significant supply challenges in Europe as Russia seeks to weaponize gas flow through Gazprom’s Nord Stream pipeline. Europe is more dependent upon Russian gas than anyone wants to let on, so there are already many new preppers in Europe buying everything from personal space heaters to generators to camp stoves. Expect that trend to continue and political pressures to increase as winter deepens and the Russo-Ukrainian conflict continues.
Elections & Civil Unrest
Here’s the understatement of the year for you: our political system is a hot mess. The political climate here and in many places worldwide is in a very precarious situation. The last presidential election ended with protests and people forcing entry into the capital. The repercussions of that election are still being felt today. In November, perhaps a more tectonic political shift will occur when 34 of the 100 seats in the Senate and every single one of the 435 representatives of the House are up for re-election. 85% of the state legislators are in an election year.
After some recent Supreme Court rulings and nationwide grassroots efforts to push agendas through candidates from local school boards to national campaigns, depending upon where you live and whom you talk to, your area could make a highly contested and challenged hard right or hard left in political leadership. I don’t think that even the expert politicos, pundits, or pollsters have an accurate forecast. We will leave the forecasting to them and quote Thomas Jefferson here “The government you elect is the government you deserve.”
We can say with near certainty that temperatures haven’t really cooled over this year, and the political tit-for-tat will only stoke the flames of our differences of opinion. The extreme political positions on both ends of the spectrum appear to be digging in deeper, becoming more fixed and rigid in their views. Whatever the federal or local outcome is, it has a higher probability in this climate of being contested. It is highly likely that one group will feel as though they haven’t been heard or that they have been cheated. Pockets of dissent and civil unrest will likely occur. You may even feel compelled at some point to voice your opinion. While revolts and fighting at a national level are not likely (at least at this point in history), the likelihood for instances of small pockets of fighting increases.
We know that you should prepare, based on your area’s potential for volatility, for periods of civil unrest. Protests can move from peaceful to violent relatively quickly. Enflamed rhetoric can propel baseless claims into the manifestation of violent actions by others. Be aware of this potential flash pan from November 8th through mid-January, after the newly elected officials are certified and seated.
Rent & Real Estate
The median rent in the United States topped $2,000 in June of this year. If you are a single mother, that’s more than your median income. If you are a single male, that’s almost 70% of your median income in just housing. Rents continue to go up. The housing market continues to cool, and the commercial real estate bubble continues to grow. It isn’t a lack of housing as much as it is a lack of affordable housing. As of August, 8.5 million of the estimated 44 million renters in America were behind in rent, and 3.8 million indicated they were somewhat or very likely to be evicted in the next two months. Landlords will increase the tempo of evictions before the winter months make evictions more difficult.
As more information comes to light about China’s house of cards real estate fiasco, residential real estate cools, and commercial real estate, the bubble we have been living under could pop. More significant social problems will emerge when you have a climate of heightened political discord, where utility, food, and housing prices make it difficult for people to lead a decent life. Crime rates go up. Poverty rates go up. The general quality of living for everyone suffers. How bad this gets through the rest of this year will indicate how dark or light 2023 will be. Expect this housing crisis to intensify for the rest of this year and grab headlines that will put a damper on some holiday cheer.
We remain on the brink of a global war. The early volleys involved sanctions and secret arms deals. The rhetoric was about protecting nuclear resources and containing the conflict. As we mentioned earlier, however, the predicted frigid winter will bring all-new diplomacy, placing more aces in Putin’s hand. Europe is highly dependent on Russian gas. While the United States produces ample natural gas for its needs, the whole endeavor is profit driven. The natural gas operations here will sell to the higher bidding European markets. Alternative energy components like solar panels, inverters, and other electrical and mechanical components will become in higher demand and have a shorter supply. That’s a win for China which is one of the leading exporters of these. Moth-balled higher polluting plants will be dusted off and “temporarily” brought back online. There may even be discussions to bring back nuclear plants. Energy and food are both tied up in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, and the demand for both will be heightened in the winter months.
But what’s next for this conflict? The momentum has swung back in favor of Ukraine, but Russia is no stranger to wars that can drag on for years or decades. From 907 AD to today, there have been more years of war than peace. In the first six months of the conflict, Russia failed to gain complete control. They shifted tactics to focus on a few key regions and cities, and they are also losing some traction with those areas, primarily due to western armaments that can push the front line farther and farther away. Russian troops are suffering from low morale and a need for fresh troops. At the same time, Ukrainian forces have moved from the defense to the offense and attacked Russian supply chains at major air and sea bases and in previously secured areas like Crimea. The Kremlin labeling this conflict a ‘special military operation’ makes it difficult for them to recruit outside a regional level, but it’s necessary to appease the Russian population. Add to this that winter will slow ground-based offensive maneuvers, and the conflict may slow down in Ukraine but pick up tempo elsewhere.
Putin would benefit in Ukraine if he could escalate the conflict covertly and overtly in other parts of Europe. Amassing troops on another border changes the very nature of the conflict and deflects the world’s attention. While we wouldn’t entirely rule out the possibility of nuclear accidents, they remain improbable because of the world attention they draw and the multi-year fallout damage that would extend so far around the globe and across Russia. Still, it’s a threatening card in Putin’s hand. Even if Ukraine regains territories lost, they will have an ongoing guerrilla war with alleged separatists. We will just have to keep monitoring this conflict.
We know that this conflict will continue to drive up fuel and food prices worldwide and that there won’t be a quick end to the conflict. Expect an escalation of the conflict to be planned through the winter on the part of Russia and possibly some dramatic offensive just before spring in Ukraine. Expect more of a covert war from Russia during the winter months that won’t geographically be even in the area of Ukraine but will be intended to weaken western resolve and fracture alliances. The unknowns that could change the course during these winter months are the extent of opposition in the Kremlin, the underground opposition tactics of any emerging resistance movement, the continued impact of sanctions, and whether Putin can find, claim, and promote some winning narrative that allows him to save face and provide the visage of strength to the Russian people. So far, there are no indicators that Putin is looking for an out. That means this conflict will continue.
As this year enters its fourth quarter, we have to be aware that the potential for some pretty dramatic situations looms on our horizon. From food prices going up and fuel prices going down, rents and evictions too high while sectors of the real estate market cool or even collapse, ongoing war, and a massive federal election, a lot is coming to a boil in just the last three months of this year. Nobody can tell you with any certainty if these things will boil over and spill into your neck of the woods or neighborhood, but you would be wise to prep as if they may. Focus on your water, food, medical, energy, security, and financial preps. Download one of the City Prepping free guides or use the Prepper’s Roadmap to set a course and program and follow it.
At the end of the day, we’ll make it. It’s just that we’re in for some challenging times.
As always, stay safe out there.