Letter Re: Anticipated Refugees Flows in a Grid Down Collapse

Friday, Nov 16, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
I'm currently trying to do a cogent analysis of the lower 48 and where my optimum safety location/region might be. I've read your articles on the great redoubt, rankings and ratings etc... I can respect your criteria and agree with most of it. The question that I'm pondering however, is that in a serious SHTF scenario, how will mass migrations occur. The "head for the hills" mentality will motivate millions to escape die off zones desperately seeking life's basics. I agree that in a scenario of seriously "grid down", a great many Americans will die. In contrast to your "Great American Redoubt"  however, I would posit the following; 
1. Logistically the "Redoubt" is challenged. From a foraging standpoint, there are precious few distribution points, raw materials or other commodities stockpiled. 2., The population density, while generally fewer than 50 people per sq. mile, will suffer from a lack of abundant skill sets in "post event industrialization". 3. While agriculturally strong, the Redoubt lacks basic transportation infrastructure to economically drive it in a post event scenario. Primarily a sustenance existence with localized bartering.
As an assumption, mass migrations will occur primarily from urban to rural, I'm thinking that most folks will look to their neighboring "mountains" as eden. Meaning that most folks in New England would probably be inclined to migrate to Vermont or Maine. (The nearest "perceived sanctuary".)  Folks in the mid-Atlantic will hit the Blue Ridge or middle Appalachia--south eastern to Georgia/Alabama Appalachia. I realize what I'm speculating is just that but the underlying psychology of terrified sheeple seeking quick gratification I believe, supports my theory of regionalized migration patterns.
Based on the 2010 census county population data, I'm starting to believe that southern Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas might end up fairly well. The large population centers will have exhausted themselves before they breach to deeply into the rural areas of these states. The road networks, outside of the freeways, allow themselves to be easily blocked and the terrain suitable for extended blockades of key choke points. Population densities in these areas average about 50 people per square mile. High enough to have a good bullpen of expertise, low enough to feed off the excellent farmland and growing seasons and also deep in folks that know how to hunt and fish. Added to this is are other points, such as many stockpiled warehouses and transportation hubs, abundant fresh water, mineral reserves, natural gas and oil. In a totally "grid down" situation, these factors, at least to me add up to the positive.
I am new to prepping but have always been an avid camper, hunter and fisherman. I'm a Navy vet, good marksman and Christian man, though not as devout as I should be. I love my country and what it stands for, or used to stand for. I ask for your opinion on my analysis. I know how busy you must be and should I not hear back from you, rest assured that you have an avid fan of your books and precepts!
Kind regards, - John T.

JWR Replies: To begin: urban "foraging" is just a polite term for looting. (Here, I'm not talking about true foraging, for wild edibles.) Urban "foraging" would be conscionable only in near extinction-level catastrophes, where many properties (buildings with intact contents) are left truly abandoned and without rightful heirs. But don't plan on that, since the chances of such an event are very small.

I'm aligned with the geographical determinist camp, in both history and predicting future outcomes. (Although some new transformational technologies such as large scale desalination plants, inexpensive photovoltaics, and perhaps even seasteading may make my determinist stance less firm.) In general, geography and climate have shaped human settlement patterns and in many ways they will shape future events. The core risk in a grid-down collapse will be directly proportional to population density. Think of it this way: during a full scale societal collapse the actuarial risk of having a high velocity lead pellet pass through your chest cavity or brain box on any given day increases with the population density of your locale. There will simply be more starving people with guns surrounding you in cities than there will be in the hinterboonies. While geographic isolation is not a panacea, it certainly beats the odds of hunkering down in the Big City and hoping to persevere to the far side of a massive population crash, with the intent of "foraging", post facto. That would be Armchair Commando naiveté, at its worst.

You might feel comfortable with 50 people per square mile, but I do with five people per square mile.

In my estimation, after the first winter without grid power and pressurized natural gas pipelines, virtually everyone north of the 40th parallel (north) who feels the need to bug out will head south, to warmer climes.

Most of the colder climate regions such as the Inland Northwest and Michigan's Upper Peninsula will not be see any substantial in-migration. Exceptions will include Vermont and Maine, they will likely face temporary in-migration from both New York and from the heavily-populated Montreal region.

If the grids go down and stay down, then I expect population die-off ranging from 15% to 90%, depending on local population density. The highest losses will be in urban centers in the northeast. The lowest losses will be in the Inland northwest and the more lightly populated portions of the southeast. But even southern metropolitan centers like Atlanta, St. Louis, and Dallas/Fort Worth may suffer 60%+ population losses--and notably not from cold weather. Those will mostly be losses from instantaneous lead poisoning.  

After the second winter, we will see an entirely transformed society.  It will be a harsh existence, at least for the first decade.

The ideal solution is to relocate well in advance of any collapse to a lightly-populated farming region that enjoys reliable annual precipitation for growing row crops. (In the west, these are called dryland farming regions.) It should be a region that is well-removed from major population centers. There, you should look for a property with spring water or shallow well water that is geographically isolated from the natural lines of drift that refugees and looters will follow. The key phrase for your property search: "On a side road of a side road.") See my Recommended Retreat Areas web page for further details.

It was not happenstance that I set my first novel Patriots at the eastern edge of the Palouse Hills region. But the Palouse grasslands are not unique.

Relocate, stock up, and team up!

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