A second reason that preparers are important for biodefense is simply because there are millions of these people across the country and they want to be prepared. The inability to know what disaster it is preparing for, or on what scale, together with the perceived inevitability of the catastrophe, has created the palpable effect of fear on which preparers act. As a result, this research focuses on the materiality and temporality of space as much as on practices, since it involves working with preparers who not only accumulate goods, but also actively build new architectures for disasters. Instead of being paralyzed by fear, preparers act, even if those actions don't always seem totally understandable to others.
This unique case study has been selected from a three-year ethnographic research project on the culture, politics and practices of the so-called “doomsday preparers”, in which nearly a hundred project participants were brought together over the course of research in six countries. Any preparer worth his weight in freeze-dried meat stroganoff has been stocking up for years, patiently waiting for a moment like this, a moment that validates research, funds and family ridicule. Yoshida, Shaila and Redmer, Jamie, “Summary of Market Research Findings on Preppers, Internal Emergent BioSolutions Report, (June 2011). An interviewed preparer suggested that the bunker he was building was the best possible escape plan within the geo boundaries.
The bunkers that the preparers build are an ark to go through a probable (but often unspecified) catastrophe; they are a chrysalis from which to be reborn, potentially even in an improved environment. What is more difficult to explain is the desire shown by some preparers to 'just press the reset button now', as one interviewee said. Under the YouTube alias “The Angry Prepper”, he has been dispensing weekly advice on the coronavirus to his 5000 followers. Julie says she loves her city life with its restaurants and theaters, which makes her a far cry from lonely survivors — perhaps living on the fringes of society and suspected of any government interference in their lives — who populate the public imagination when it comes to preparers.
Silicon Valley businesswoman Julie Fredrickson clearly remembers the time she decided to become a preparer — someone preparing for the worst case scenario.