1999 was a strange year. Nostradamus’s famed prophecy that the world would end at the end of the last century seemed like it might have some kind of truth in the dreaded Y2K bug that was sure to cripple computers on New Years Day 2000, when the computer clocks that were only programmed with two-digit dates rolled back to 00 and interpreting that as 1900, thereby crippling the grid and bringing about the end of the world as we know it.

I had my first corporate job in the late 1990s and I remember all of the Y2K committees that were set up and the endless meetings to ensure that everything was Y2K compliant. But beyond that, the closer we got to the turn of the millennium, the hysteria started to spread to ordinary people. People pulled their money out of banks, afraid that their accounts would be frozen when the computers decided they hadn’t been born yet. People were stocking up on food and water and on low-tech Luddite gear. One of my favorite episodes of the brilliant King of the Hill gave a pretty accurate depiction of how people were responding to the perceived threat as 1999 drew to a close.

I didn’t buy into the hysteria then. I shook my head at dire warnings to stockpile food and water and safeguard my money. I understood enough about computers that I wasn’t certain how a double-zero date was supposed to disable them , and I just wasn’t worried. And it turns out, I didn’t need to be. I watched along with the rest of the world as the International Date Line counted down the final seconds of New Years Eve, and when nothing happened, I shook my head at the astonishment of the newscasters and got on with my life.

Fast forward to a little over a decade later. Things are looking eerily familiar. We’re coming up on a year that a certain ancient prophecy – in this case the Mayan calendar – foretells will be the end of the world. A general feeling of unease and uncertainty is in the air. As the economy gets worse and worse and isn’t showing any signs of getting better, survivalism and homesteading and disaster preparedness are becoming more and more popular.

Except this time, I’m not shaking my head dismissively.

Because the economy IS getting worse, and it’s already starting to collapse in Europe. Add to that the fact that natural disasters all over the world seem to be increasing in intensity. Whether you blame global warming or the hand of a vengeful God or you think those Mayans just might be on to something, the fact is that the world we live in is becoming more dangerous and less stable. Suddenly, the idea of making sure you have plenty of food and water on hand and knowing how to get by if the grid goes down doesn’t seem so laughable.

Except, there are still people who do laugh. The world is still filled with grasshoppers who refuse to see the signs that the season is about to change, laughing at the silly, paranoid, fear-mongering ants who are busy preparing for a long, hard winter. It’s also full of ostriches who see what’s probably coming, but instead of getting ready, they’re hiding their heads in the sand and hoping our government miraculously figures out a way to dig us out of our multi-trillion dollar debt and keep our comfortable, privileged First World existence going indefinitely.

Maybe they will. I hope they do.

In the mean time, though, there are all those natural disasters that I mentioned. In my part of the country, we’re prone to tornadoes, intense heat and drought, wild fires, floods, catastrophic winter storms, and now we can add earthquakes to the list. And each of these things are getting worse. Last year our state broke records in most of those categories. There’s not a single state in this nation that I’m aware of that doesn’t have some sort of natural disaster potential. And if you’ve ever been through one, then you know that things can get bad fast.

There are also personal disasters, things that happen to people every day but that most people regardless go through life believing will never happen to them. House fires, accidents, death of loved ones, foreclosure, job loss – basically, any negative life-changing event that comes on suddenly and unexpectedly is a disaster and feels like the end of the world to the people its happening to.

And this doesn’t even touch on man-made disasters and the constant threat of attack from terrorists and nations that hate us and want to destroy us, or the possibility of rioting and looting when our economy takes a turn for the worst. Think this won’t happen? Forget for a moment about Hurricane Katrina, or the Rodney King riots or any of the other race riots in our nation’s history, or even the more recent and less explicable UK riots from just a couple of months ago. Instead, go watch some footage from last year’s Black Friday sales. If people are crazy and selfish enough to pepper spray a crowd just to be first in line to get a discounted X-box, do you really think they’ll remain calm and rational when they’re hungry and angry and scared and there’s food on the line?

If those reasons aren’t enough to convince you that it’s a good idea to become more preparedness-minded, then maybe this will: If you prepare as much as possible so that you are able to take care of yourself and your family in the wake of a disaster, not only will that increase your own chances of survival, it will also mean that you are not a drain on the government’s resources, and you’ll be in a position to help out instead of adding to the burden of the Red Cross and other disaster-relief agencies. Those who prepare for disaster will have a chance to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Think of it this way: if you do go to the trouble of becoming prepared, what’s the worse that can happen? That nothing ever happens and you’ll be stuck with a year’s supply of food and water in your pantry? That food and water will still be usable, and if nothing else, you can always donate it to the local food bank if you’re in a hurry to get rid of it. What’s the worst that can happen if you don’t prepare and something does happen? You die. Or, you discover first-hand that there are worse things than a quick death.

It’s like insurance. You hope you’ll never need it, but you feel better knowing that you have it. Being prepared for disaster will give you and your family peace of mind, and the security of knowing that you’ve done everything you can to help ensure you’ll survive the coming storm, whether it’s a literal storm that just knocks out power for a few hours or days or weeks, or a veritable Armegeddon-like poo storm.