Published on The Doomstead Diner on December 11, 2016
Discuss this article at the Science & Technology Table inside the Diner
My first experience with the need for Flashlights (Torch, for you Brits out there) came in my childhood in Brazil in the 1960s, when we would have a Power Outage on average of about once a month. Normally, this was not a huge deal for me, since if the outage came during the day there was still plenty of light coming through the windows, and if it came at night I was usually asleep in my Bunk Bed. There was not usually anyone in the upper bunk, but I demanded a Bunk Bed of my dad the Bankster in case I wanted to have a friend over for a sleepover. Sometimes I would sleep on the top bunk just for a change of pace, but usually I occupied the bottom bunk. It kind of felt fortress-like to me and secure. I was age 6-10 during this period.
The only time the blackout problem got annoying for me back in those days in Brazil was during the winter if the power outage hit between about 6PM and 10PM, the latter being my normal bedtime in those years. My parents were pretty liberal in terms of letting me stay up pretty late even at age 6-10. On the days these power outages occured at this time of day/evening, the Flashlight was an essential tool.
The loss of power in the apartment had many other effects other than the loss of light. For me, it meant that the Black & White TV we had in those days did not function, and I could not watch the latest FIRST RUN episode of Star Trek! Dubbed into Portuguese of course, and this was a big help in getting me fluent in the language at the time.
It also was not too good for the FOOD kept in the fridge of the era, at least if the power outtage went for more than around 12 hours. This was not a big problem for me though, just for the cook and the maids. If food in the fridge went bad, they just threw it out and new food was purchased in the open air markets we shopped at. They did not have refrigeration at all. I got dragged along on many of those food shopping expeditions. Not that much food got lost even in really long power outages though, because most food we bought was fresh and did not need refrigeration if eaten within a couple of days, and the rest was dried and/or salted. Feijoada, the national dish of Brasil is basically composed from dried black beans, dried rice, and dried meats. We never had that much in the way of Leftovers in the fridge, because the cook and the maids would take the Leftovers back to their families in the Favelas and that's what they ate on. So a loss of electric power for even a day or two did not really have a huge effect on the food storage problem at that time. At least not for me anyhow.
Today of course it is a far different story. My own freezer is stocked FULL with various meats, and if I had a long power outage, I would lose $100s if not $1000s in ribeye steaks, hams, sausage, salmon, halibut etc. I combat this eventuality by having backup power to run my fridge and freezer in the event of a long power outage, but personally I could not eat all the food in there in a month, so unless I give it away (which I will, because others will be in trouble), it would end up going bad. I think max I can keep my freezer going in a real SHTF scenario is about 2 months. Since I live in Alaska now and not Brazil, if the power outage occurs anywhere from around November to March, I can use the Freezer of the Great Outdoors, stuff everything into Coolers and put them outside in my locking storage shed. However, again after a month everyone would be going so nuts this is pointless. Better to give it away at that point anyhow.
The next time Flashlights came in handy for me was during my years after Brazil back here in the FSoA at Summer Camp. Those years lasted from when I was around 10 to around 14. I went to two types of camps, one type was a relatively Plush arrangement at Camp Merrimac, which in those days was run by a fellow named Werner ROTHSCHILD. I do not know what his relationship to the whole Rothschild clan was, but he clearly had enough money to run this camp which was situated in Contocook, NH on probably at least 200 acres of property, with access to a good size lake as well as running streams on the property. All the campers had nice Cabins with electricity and running water, with about a dozen or so in each along with a Counselor and Asst Counselor or Junior Counseler as helper. In my last year there, I was a Junior Couselor.
The other camp I attended was a Primitive Skills camp, it was somewhat similar to Boy Scout camps but run privately. In that one, there was a central Base Camp, but the cabins had no electricity or running water. There were latrines on site and you took your showers or sponge baths outdoors. You only spent 2-3 days in Base Camp, the rest of the week you were either on the trail or in a canoe paddling down some river or across some lake. You got to these places with all your equipment in a Schoolbus that pulled the trailer of canoes behind it. Then you covered around 20-30 miles of territory over a few days, ate mostly dried or canned foods you packed along and at the end of the camping trip the Schoolbus was there waiting at the other end to pick you up and bring you back to base camp. The very LONGEST of these trips were around 2 weeks in length, in this case stored food caches were dropped on the way to the start point. The most we ever carried was around a week's worth of food, and the really light weight Freeze Dried stuff was only just becoming available at that time. I remember being loaded down with a canned Ham that weighed a TON on one trip. However, it served everyone for dinner on one night of the expedition.
At both camps, Flashlights were an ESSENTIAL tool. In the Plush Camp, you absolutely needed them to get back from the "Socials" held in the main big barn, where you got to Dance with the Girls to tunes like "Sealed With a Kiss", which was always the Closing Slow Dance Number. Although the barn and your cabins had electricity, there were no lights along the trail back to your cabin, so on the way back after the sunset, it was Flashlights that got you safely back to your cabin.
The Flashlights ALSO were essential in the middle of the night/wee hours of the morning when you would go on RAIDS to the Girls side of the camp to either steal Panties or get together with your beloved of the summer for some Smooching and Heavy Petting. Many of my fellow male campers CLAIMED to have actually gotten laid, but IMHO very few hit the Home Run. I think Second Base was about as far as anyone really got in those years. LOL. The Flashight though was an essential tool for making such trysts possible, however far you got inside some female camper's panties.
In the Primitive Skills Camp, the Flashlight was even MORE important. Once out on the trail, you had ZERO electricity, and in the evening besides the campfire no light at all. Inside your Pup Tent (fiberglass poles and Dome tents were not available at the time), you couldn't find anything after dinner was finished without a working flashlight. Dinner usually came a little before sunset, around 8PM at that latitude in the summer. Cleanup was done usually by dusk, and then you sat around the campfire telling Ghost Stories until maybe 9PM, and by then it was pretty dark. Flick on the flashlight, off to your tent, climb in your sleeping bag and wake up around 5AM to the Sunrise and Dawn, prepare breakfast then Rinse and Repeat the day while you got Sunlight to Hike or Paddle by.
The problem here with this in both the Plush & Primitive Camps is back in those days the Batteries for Flashlights positively SUCKED! They didn't even have ALKALINE batteries at the time, Duracell had yet to be born. The crappy Ray-o-Vac Batts they were producing got you MAYBE 2 days of light if you were real parsimonious about turning on your flashlight. So you had to carry several extra batts with you, adding weight and bulk to your pack along with the fucking canned ham. Besides that, I was working on a pretty tight budget, as I recall I had about $10/week to buy stuff in the "canteen", and that had to include my Almond Joy bars and Cokes besides the batteries.
I coveted a Rechargeable Flashlight in those years when they were just coming available, but never got one. So each summer I went through simply dozens of batteries, now poisoning some landfill somewhere I am sure.
I didn't use flashlights or need them all that much in the intervening years. Electricity here in the FSoA was very reliable, there were only a few blackout periods I experienced in all the years from my 20s to 50s down in the lower 48. It's only since I moved up here to Alaska in the last decade that Blackouts have come somewhat more frequently, though still not as often here as they were in Brazil back in the 1960s. In the interim time though I became a Doomer, and so having alternate light sources ready for occassions when the Lights Go Out has become important to me, so now I collect various types of flashlights for the emergency situations.
On the positive side to this, both the lighting source and the battery technology have improved substantially since the 1960s. Besides the Alkaline batts which now claim a shelf life of upwards of 10 years, there are many types of rechargeable batts available, Nickel and Lithium batts are common. Besides that, nowadays Diode Lights use a lot less juice than the incadescent lights of my youth, so together you get more light for longer for less energy input then you did back then.
On the other side of this equation, the Flashlight Manufacturers keep producing Flashlights with higher and higher Luminosity, measured in "Lumens". An old fashioned flashlight with an incandescent bulb and Ray-o-Vac batts might light up your pup tent or the trail right at your feet, but it won't light up much more than about 20' in front of you. On the other hand nowadays, there are super-duper "tactical" flashights capable of 700 Lumens and more, enough to light up your entire campsite like a Christmas tree!
Now, currently I have a nice little "Tactical" Flashlight, a Nebo Red which runs on 3 typical AAA batteries, either the rechargeable kind or typical alkalines. At MAX luminosity, it is around 350 lumens and lights up a typical space quite well. You can also tune it down to 10% of max to save power, and really this is all you need in most lighting situations. Do you really need a Torch with 350 lumens of light most of the time? Hell No. But of course besides that I have a Black & Decker Recharchable unit that puts out 700 Lumens! That sucker will light up all of fucking Kansas! OK, not quite, but you get the drift, it is way more lighting than you ever need for anything but the most bizarre of situatios.
Besides the main Nebo I usually carry around, sprinkled aroud my digs are a variety of lights to flip on in case of a power outage. I got one Magnetic one on the Fridge with about a Dozen Diodes on it that will light up the Kitchen area just fine. Then another one in a Tower shape I can carry around or drop in a room to light the place up, and it should work at least 10 hours even with normal batteries. Then the kick ass Black & Decker Spotlight that can light up the whole fucking world as far as I can see it around me. I am PREPPED for lighting!
Only for a while though of course, because at some point I am either not going to have electric power to recharge these cool devices or the rechargeable batts used to power them will not take a recharge, and they will go DARK for good. I would give that one a max of 5 years based on my experience to date with rechargeble batteries.
Does this make it STUPID to prep up with Flashlights, even when you KNOW in the longer term they will not work? IMHO, no, not at all. The Flashlights are a TRANSIONARY MECHANISM that can allow you to move from one form of existence (on demand electricity available all the time) to another (no electricity availale anywhere ever). It is highly unlikely we go from A to Z on this one immediately, although it is possible. More likely though seems there will be perioid with grid power, and others with not. So if you have ability to capture the power while available, you do so. CFS.
As this bizness spins down, you have to remember that it is not "all or nothing" anywhere along the way, although in the long term we are most likely all destined for Stone Knives and Bear Skins once again, for so long as we last anyhow. Your objective as long as YOU are still above ground here is to do the best you can to make your life reasonably comfortable, without causing too much havoc elsewhere. This is generally tough to do, since almost anything YOU do has a negative consequence elewhere.
Regardles of possibilities of Success or Failure here for yourself or your own little Tribe, it's the FIGHT that counts, not the OUTCOME. The way things look right NOW, just about all attempts at survival will fail. Success probabilities are low. But does that mean you stop TRYING? Does that mean you give up all HOPE? Does that mean you follow Guy McPherson into his sewer of Nihilism and Misanthropy? Do you want to finish your time on Earth as a member of a Death Cult? Nihililsts like Guy are Sick Individuals who suck others into their own state of misery. It's relatively easy to get sucked into this swamp once you become aware of the vast extent of the problems we have, but there is never NO HOPE, until the last two people on earth are DEAD. That day is not here yet, and the actual timeline to that date remains unknown at this point, although Guy will tell you it is coming Tomorrow or the next Day after that. He is a Death Cult Leader, and should be repudiated and shunned. He is representative EVIL and beneath contempt, as much Evil as the folks running the fossil fuel and banking industries. We may not make it through this Zero Point, but we still must try, we still must HOPE. As long as there is LIFE, here is still HOPE.