This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Elizabeth talks to Margaret about coming into preparedness as an urban PTA mom, building family preparedness, teaching kids about disasters, and flipping the prepping narrative to focus on building inclusive communities and resiliency.
Elizabeth Doerr (she/her) is a writer and parent. You can find her work at https://www.elizabethdoerr.com or her newsletter on Substack at https://crammingfortheapocalypse.substack.com or on Instagram @crammingfortheapocalypse or on Twitter @ElizabethDoerr
This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.
Elizabeth Doerr on Family Preparedness
**Margaret ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host this week, Margaret Killjoy. And this week, I have Elizabeth Doerr on to talk about her journey into preparedness. And, I think y’all are gonna get a lot out of this conversation. I’m really excited to have it. I first talked to–I guess I’ll get to that later during the actual interview. But first, here’s a jingle from another show on the network Channel Zero Network, which is a network of anarchist podcasts. So here’s another one. Dah dah duh dah duh dah [singing the words like a simple melody]
**Margaret ** 01:31
Okay, and we’re back. Okay. So if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then maybe like, how you got started on your preparedness journey?
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 01:40
Sure. Um, Hi there, my name is Elizabeth Doerr, and my pronouns are she/her. And, I got started on my preparedness journey mainly because we moved to Portland, Oregon in 2016 where there is going to be a huge earthquake that can devastate the city. And, then subsequently had my son and became–and had already been concerned about climate change, but then that fear of climate change really kind of ratcheted up a lot more with having a kid. And so, over the last few years, I’ve really been trying to do more to prepare, not just for the earthquake but really for climate change in general, and trying to figure out what that means just in terms of society, in terms of the way we can–not just in personal action–but how we can really just change the entire system altogether. And, so that has turned into a Substack called Cramming for the Apocalypse, which is also going to be a book eventually, as well. But, for the last year, it’s been in newsletter form.
**Margaret ** 02:54
Do you ever have this thing where you’re like, "But you have to hurry up and make it a book because what if the apocalypse happens before you get the book out?"
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 03:01
Well, it’s funny because my agent was kind of…she’s like, "It’s an evergreen topic." But she’s like, "It always feels so urgent. I want to get it out as soon as possible." But then also at the same time it’s like … yeah, I know. Yeah, exactly. I do have that pretty much every day. But, also it takes forever to write a book. So it’s…yeah. But, it’s amazing even just in traditional publishing how long it takes to get a book out into the world, and it’s like, "Well, in three years, what could the world be like?" So, yeah.
**Margaret ** 03:34
I think about this all the time. I actually–because of the 2016 election and stuff–I, for a while, stopped writing books and started focusing more on music because everything felt so immediate in crisis that I was like, "I don’t have time to finish this book, take a year for my agent to find a publisher, take a year for them to publish it, take a year for people to read it and care about it." Like, I just need to make music that people hear tomorrow because, otherwise, what am I doing? And then it turns out, we had more than three years, so it’s fine. [Laughing]
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 04:10
And I love that. I wish I had that skill and ability because that would be so…And I actually think that with like, I wish I was a really good artist too because friends who are excellent at, you know, drawing and art–or at least visual art, that is–I’m jealous because it’s like, that’s something you can see now. I mean, you can do with writing too but it’s just a little more visceral immediately. But yes, totally.
**Margaret ** 04:37
No, that makes sense. Okay, so one of the reasons I wanted to have you on, one, is that you were working on an article that we might talk about later, and reached out to me, but one of the things that I’m really excited to talk to you about and that I think that people might get a lot out of hearing from is you’re like…you are not the stereotypical prepper in the traditional sense, and you’re also not necessarily the stereotypical, like, what people might imagine when they imagine the leftist prepper, right? Which might look more like me. I don’t know. I don’t know what people have in their minds. And, you know, when I asked you how to how to describe this, you were like, "Well, you’re a white middle aged urban mom who has progressive values, who is learning…is getting more and more interested in anarchism and more radical values beyond that, but you exist within the mainstream culture. And then also you’re a PTA mom, for example," right? I’m really excited to talk to you about all this shit. It’s like, this is the stuff that like…like people who like…I really love that you found–Well, I guess I want to ask you more about how you found your way into radical politics from this, like you mentioned that like your study of preparedness has like led you to being like, "Oh, what if we, what if we need to structure society differently?" Like, what has that journey been like for you?
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 05:53
Yeah, I mean, I guess the question is how far back to go? I mean, so I, you know, it really…I mean, I’ll give you a little bit of a snapshot kind of like before this whole journey, but I, you know, it started as, I was a Peace Corps volunteer after I graduated from college. And, so I lived in Malawi, in southeastern Africa. And I had gotten in with a very, like traditional, like, I guess, liberal views about what international development being good for, you know, developing countries and then came out of it with a vast nastily different perspective, that actually, you know, that’s a part of imperialism and we’re doing harm. And it’s, you know, it’s just a, you know, it’s just a holdover from colonialism, and that I still, you know, a belief that I still hold. But I had a really hard time, I guess, articulating what that was until I went to graduate school for International Education Policy at University of Maryland. And it’s pretty radical…I didn’t know this going into it, but it was like the perfect program for me, because the way they viewed international development was very much aligned with the kind of critiques that I had.
**Margaret ** 07:06
Oh cool. was,
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 07:07
Yeah, so like it was more…I would say they took a more like, Democratic Socialist view of it. I don’t think that they had[unhearable] …. That’s my perspective that, you know, we needed more community based solutions happening and that kind of stuff. And so that really started that on that path, and I worked in higher education, working in social justice education. And at that time, had really–and still I think I have some of these…you know, that’s when I kind of started calling myself a Democratic socialist and probably, you know, in theory would call myself that now, although it’s a little blurrier. But yeah, and so, you know, so and then it’s, you know, I think becoming a parent actually radicalized me even more, because, you know, I just, especially with what’s going on in the US about how our school choice system really perpetuates segregation, racial segregation. And I really didn’t want to be a part of that. And, but it’s also like, you know, especially like being in my role as a PTA, like a middle aged PTA mom, with my kid going to public school system, it’s like a conversation about, you know, "Which school should I send my kid to?" as being kind of this constant, yet nobody points out how racist it is. And so that’s a big part of it. And then, these are all values that have really been a part of me in most of my adulthood. So it really was, as I embarked on this whole process, like anti racism, social justice, you know, these kinds of radical values, were always going to be a part of this project, that Cramming For the Apocalypse art project. I think I wasn’t completely prepared for all of the things that I was going to learn, which I love. Like, it was really new to me. You know, I don’t think I ever really questioned the kind of, quote "definition" that everybody, you know, every mainstream person in society from left to right deems anarchists, as, you know, being a kind of chaotic force, whereas as I was diving into this project, I was like, I started to realize that, one, that we have the definition completely all wrong.
**Margaret ** 07:07
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 07:09
I’d say the majority of people in society still get it wrong. Even just hearing it in, you know, from quotes on the news, I get kind of triggered. [Margaret laughs] And then also knowing that I was like, "Oh, well, there are aspects to this that I really think could be the solution, and especially the solution to things like climate change, or at least get to, one, averting climate change but also in just recreating a completely different society that can thrive in that post apocalyptic environment. And I, do you want me to talk a little bit more about my kind of like–you know, because as we were talking about this, I have this kind of like…I live in mainstream society. I’m very much a PTA mom. So like, I think that I hold this interesting role because I, you know, I’m very active in our PTA. I mean, we are a PTA that’s pretty social justice oriented, very diverse. My kid goes to a school with majority kids of color, which can be unusual in Portland, Oregon. But then also, I don’t know, like, I like, you know, I like to do things that the average white American middle-aged mom is like, "I like to go to drinks with my friends…"
**Margaret ** 11:00
Do you like to eat brunch? So that’s the only cliche I can come up with.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 11:06
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I mean, yes. Yes. I love brunch.
**Margaret ** 11:10
I’m sure it’s great. Yeah.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 11:14
Although, with a kid, it does make it a little bit more challenging to do like Sunday morning, Saturday morning things that are not soccer related. Yeah. Soccer mom. There, that’s another cliche.
**Margaret ** 11:27
I could have led with that. Yeah.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 11:29
Yeah, I know. I didn’t even think about that. I should have. But anyway, I think that what’s been kind of cool about it is that it makes me relatable in that way to people who might be questioning, you know, who exist in this mainstream environment, but also I’m also really vocal. I’m a very loud person. And I don’t have much to hide. And so I’m like…. So a lot of people know my values. And so, you know, I’ve had friends who will text me being like, "Okay, how do I approach this situation? How I approach that situation?" and that kind of stuff. And so I think that that…and that’s actually why I think this book and this newsletter can be really useful in that, like, you know, people who might be really questioning what’s happening in the world, really worried, but they can see themselves in me and my journey and know that it doesn’t have to look one way and that you can do these really weird things. Like, weird to like this environment to me, like learning how to hunt when I haven’t ever seen a gun in real life.
**Margaret ** 12:37
Yeah. So, no, okay. So this is like…there’s so much here that I’m really excited about. But okay, so to start with your newsletter, Cramming For the Apocalypse, you just hit a year of it, right?
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 12:52
**Margaret ** 12:54
Okay, so what are some of the–besides the sort of political angle–what are some of the directions that it took you that you didn’t expect? Or like, what are some of the things that you’ve learned by writing about preparedness from your perspective for the past year?
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 13:07
Oh, gosh, yeah. I feel like I should have better formed thoughts on this.
**Margaret ** 13:13
It’s okay. Whenever anyone asks me, like, "So, what books do you like?" I’m like, "I’ve never heard of a book."
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 13:19
God, I know.
**Margaret ** 13:19
"What’s a book?"
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 13:23
I know. Well, you know, I think that…. Okay, well, I can say that…let me just say that I started the newsletter because I had been working on the book project, still trying to get it out to publishers–I have an agent now, which is exciting–but I really…I was doing so much and I wanted to just get the journey out there in some way. I needed to be writing about it. And so I…and it’s been…I mean, I…. What has been really interesting to me is that…. I mean, my idea of what a prepper is has changed. I mean, I think I had preconceived–I mean, a lot of mainstream media and all of us in society probably have a preconceived notion of a doomsday prepper–and, you know, I had already pushed past that a little bit by the time I started the newsletter, because that’s the whole reason…I mean, that was the whole reason of doing this book is really kind of flipping the narrative of what a prepper is or could be, but I still think that, I realized how much I had to learn about what that even means. And, you know, I mean, we could talk about this too, the story that that I interviewed you for, for The Progressive. That kind of shows a little bit of where I kind of have come through with this is that, you know, I think that we…you know, prepper exists…. The term "prepper" exists in a variety of different ways that just might not be called "prepper." I mean, I think that the idea–or prepp-ing–you know, talking about mutual aid and even, you know…. And even you, I think, really helped me see this too even more, is that we have a lot more in common with those kind of on the right wing who are prepping than we might think. And, you know, there’s a way to find common ground. There’s a way. You don’t have to….
**Margaret ** 15:28
Depending on where they’re coming at it from, you know, but yeah.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 15:31
I mean, I would say not everybody. Like in the political realm, that, I think, is maybe not where we’re going to be finding common area, but I do think that the values of: you just want to have…you want to protect your family, you want to be safe, you want to have community. Everyone wants community most. And so, how can we find common ground about that? And I think that’s something I’ve been really trying to come around about is like not to be too judgmental off the bat when that, you know, when somebody expresses these views that might shock me at first, but I mean it’s still tricky when you get down the political realm and the humanity of all humans.
**Margaret ** 16:16
Yeah, exactly. It’s like, when someone’s being bigoted, that’s different than when they think that different laws should apply to rural people about gun ownership than or, like, you know? Like, there’s different takes on different things, you know?
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 16:33
Exactly. Like, yeah, I’m not gonna be debating the humanity of other people. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So, I think that’s one big one. You know, and this is like, I feel like this kind of gives away some of my book, but it’s alright, people can still read it. But the idea of it is that it’s, you know–and I don’t think this is a secret–but it’s less about the skills than–because, you know, I started this because I wanted to learn how to do things like grow food and, I don’t know, fix things in my house, just practically speaking, because my husband and I are always joking about how I’m going to die in the zombie apocalypse because I don’t know how to fix anything. And, um, but, you know, what I’ve also discovered is that it’s not just the things you’re learning how to do, it’s the people that are around you and the community that you’re building, and the collective gifts that everybody has, and that we all have something to contribute. Which, of course, is something that can help you survive an apocalypse, but it also is just a better way to live in community and that maybe we can strive for that now and not wait until the world is over.
**Margaret ** 18:00
Yeah, yeah. No, that’s what… I feel like when we do anything right, like anything for the future right, it also makes our present better, you know? And I’ve been enjoying getting better at cooking and growing food and stuff, right? You know, and it’s like, if all I care about is making sure I don’t starve to death in the apocalypse, I can just keep buying dried rice in buckets, you know?
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 18:29
**Margaret ** 18:30
But I’m like…no, it’s really nice to like…I finally made bread for the first time a couple months ago. And now like every week or two I make a couple loaves of bread and it just feels amazing. You know? I haven’t figured out how to make it so that it freezes well, because my favorite store bought bread, when you like freeze it and then you toast it, it’s really amazing. I really like that. If I was gluten free, I’d be in trouble. But okay, but to go back to what you’re saying, one of the things that I’ve been thinking about a lot while I talk to people for this show, and also the history podcast that I run, I think a lot about how stuff gets done. And it’s organizing. Nothing gets done unless someone organizes and makes it happen. And so, like even just like oh, okay, you might not know how to fix a toilet, but you know how to run a PTA meeting.– [Both laughing] I don’t know fuck all about PTAs. But like you operate in a volunteer organizational situation on a regular basis and that’s an incredibly useful skill, you know?
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 19:31
Yeah, totally. Yeah. No, I mean, that’s…. You’re right. And I think that that’s something that I’ve also like played out, or is going to play out in the book as well, is that is my superpower is bringing people together. It’s also like, I mean, I can’t even tell you since my son was born how many Facebook groups I’ve created based on certain shared interests or whatever. I mean, some have continued, some have not, but, even, I’m a co-founder of an organization for moms who write and so we’re having a retreat pretty soon. And so it’s like things like that, any small thing people have this idea to rally around and I think that that is something that I’ve especially appreciated in the last year in that like I do…. You know, I don’t have to bring my terrible gardening. Although, they have gotten better. It is working. And I have grown way more tomatoes this year than I did last year.
**Margaret ** 20:33
[Laughing] I was gonna guess tomatoes. It’s the easiest….
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 20:40
Well, last year was a failure. I decided to grow–I mean, I know this is a tangent–but it was a funny thing. But I grew only heirloom tomatoes. And I mean, they don’t…they don’t…. Like, they grow so slowly. So I did not get tomatoes until almost November. It was like late October.
**Margaret ** 21:03
Which means that there’s no sun on them because you live in cloud land.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 21:07
Well, yes, but last year was like a crazy….
**Margaret ** 21:11
Oh, that’s right, the rains didn’t come till really late.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 21:14
But I got 15 tomatoes that were just okay. But this year, I grew different kinds and I have had abundance. So I’ve learned my lesson. That lesson at least. Yeah. So I do think that I bring…I bring different kinds of…. I think that another value is that soft skills and hard skills are equally as valuable and we need to honor those as well. And that’s kind of the evolution of how I see the book going is that it starts with the hard skills, but then it really gets into the soft skills. And then also, you know, re-envisioning society, how do we do that?
**Margaret ** 21:16
Yeah. Okay, but are you gonna do the opening chapter where it’s gonna be, when you finally go out and hunt, right, and it’s gonna be like, the blood and the thrill and the not sure how you feel about it, and then the like, grizzled, you know, anarchist lady who’s handed you the rifle. Like, it’s gonna be a really good opening chapter. If you do this.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 22:16
Yeah, that’s gonna be a good one. I don’t know if it’ll be the opening chapter. But it will definitely be in there. I have to bring some blood in there. I haven’t done the hunting yet. Which part of…
**Margaret ** 22:25
I don’t hunt yet. Yeah.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 22:26
Yeah, well, and part of the reason is that the hunting season is so short that I keep missing it. And I’m like, okay, I’ll wait until I have the book deal. Then, I can hunt.
**Margaret ** 22:38
Yeah, okay. Well, like, so one of the things that you’re talking about like building the mom’s who write thing–and in some ways that seems unrelated to preparedness–but one of the things that–and I’m kind of curious…this will be a different question that I’ll ask later about what kind of questions you get from people–but one of the main things that I get from people is people being like, "But I don’t have friends," or "I don’t have community," or like, you know… And I actually think a lot of the preparedness that focuses around you and your family and build your bunker and blah, blah, blah, sometimes it comes from a reasonable place where it comes from a place where it’s like, "I don’t…. I am alienated by our capitalist society and I don’t know how to interact with other people." And so, I mean, it’s funny, because when I lurk on center or right wing preparedness spaces, all of these people are building community with each other. But, they’re building a community about how as soon as everything goes bad, every man for himself and like, "No, you can’t come over to my house. You’re gonna be a, you know, mooch off of all my stuff," or whatever, you know. And I’m like, y’all were so close. You’re like building community. But when I think about having a moms who write retreat, you know, you’re talking about people who are alienated by their position in society–and, you know, moms have a very specific role within capitalist society that alienates you–
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 24:02
**Margaret ** 24:03
–and getting together to build this thing. And it’s like, the communities that I find that are the strongest and most interesting to me aren’t necessarily politically focused communities but instead, communities that are focused on something else that then have a shared political vision–or even if it’s not a like ideologically labeled one–overall, you can have kind of a like, "Well, we build a community where we take care of people and where we, you know, hate the fact that there’s murder buoys in the rivers on the southern border." And, you know, without it being about that…. I don’t have a question. Yeah.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 24:38
Yeah. I think I got what you were…. Yeah, well, and just to put a little plug in, we’re called Scribente Maternum, which is the writer moms group. And we…. Yeah, I think it’s worth actually noting when we formed our group we had–my friends who I co-created this with, Carla Duprey, who’s in Baltimore, and Rachel Burkeshearer, who’s in Minneapolis, we had known each other before, but it really started because of the pandemic. And a lot of that like alienation as mothers because so many of us, you know, took on the extra child care roles left, you know, when schools closed and when daycares and childcare closed. And, you know, we…. I mean, all of society really lost a lot of like women and moms from the workforce because of that. And so, we were like, you know, we so started these as virtual retreats and now we’re doing it in person because it’s safer to do so. But yeah, you know, and that has been so transformative and valuable. And last year, during our inaugural retreat in Baltimore we knew it was gonna be great, but it was like–I don’t think we realized how much this community of people was craving this. And it was transformative. Like, it really felt like just… We all needed to be in a space that acknowledged those really important identities that we had. And I should note, too, that we have kind of–I guess it’s like political–but we’ve been very focused on ensuring inclusivity, too. And so like, we say, "moms," but it’s kind of, you know, it’s an inclusive… You know, it’s inclusive of, you know, gender and also of role. Like sometimes aunts take mom’s roles. And there are some people who can’t become moms, you know. And so it’s just like…. And that also was part of the ethos that we bring to it. But it really…like sometimes you just need somebody to create it. And sometimes you didn’t know that you need it until it’s there. And you’re like, "Oh, my God, where has this been my whole life?" And I don’t know if I would have created it by myself. I created it because there were two other, two friends of mine, who also saw this need, and we were like, "We can do this. We can do this together." And I think that that…. But yeah, to find that…. I mean, I think it really is–I mean, and I’m an extrovert so it’s really just more natural for me to be in these spaces, but being married to an Uber introvert, I know the need for anybody, regardless of the community that they have around them, to have that connection with other people. And so sometimes you just need somebody to kind of create it and also find you. And that…. I mean, that’s hard, because it’s kind of out of your control a little bit. But like I do think that that…. I mean, I guess maybe it’s an advocacy for like, if you are the kind of person that is good at creating these communities, do it, and find the people who need to be found. I don’t know.
**Margaret ** 28:12
No, that all makes so much sense to me. And it’s funny because it even ties into…there’s this sort of anarchist cliche, "The secret is to really begin." And it’s an impetus to direct action. It’s an impetus, if you have a problem, figure out what needs to be done and start doing it. And I like that this is a…I mean, this is a life skill. It’s not just a go get involved in the following conflict kind of thing. You know, it’s…. And yeah, I guess that is, like that kind of almost answers the question when people are like, "Well, how do you build community?" And the answer is, like, well you find people based on like, a similar level of interest, or whatever, like, a specific interest. And then you do in person things together and you organize making that happen. And one of the things that I’ve found, if you’re the kind of person who goes to events and you don’t know how to talk to people at events, like if you’re an introvert and you are going to these events, if you get involved in the organizing, now you have a reason why you’re there and now you are talking to people, you know? Instead of fly-on-the-wall, you can just go and be part of it. And even if it’s like, if you go to a thing and you volunteer–a lot of the activist type things I’ll go to have like a kitchen, right–And you know, everyone gets fed. And like, if you don’t know how to cook, just go prep cook or even just go wash dishes and then by volunteering into this organization, or even if it’s a temporary organization, this thing that is existing is a really good way to meet people.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 29:38
Yeah. Oh, I think that’s such a really good recommendation. I think that that’s something I’ve struggled with, like you know, being an extrovert, like seeing it from the side of introverts. It’s less awkward when you’ve volunteered for the kitchen or… And also that relates to the climate activist and writer, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, she has this venn diagram of climate action that I think about a lot where it’s like, "What needs to be done and what gifts do I have that make me feel good?" And like, it’s such a simple thing, but it really is profound because you don’t have to legislate at the policy level, or you don’t have to do certain things that feel really out of your realm of comfort, but you can do things that are something that makes you happy and you’re good at and also needs to be done. Like I’m a writer. That’s my form of climate action is this book and this journey that I’m on, that I’m really good at sharing things about myself. And so this is the climate action that I’ve chosen. I mean, I do other things, too. I work with climate justice organizations here as well. But like, it doesn’t have to be one thing. And I think that that’s the same thing with finding community and also finding your place and community is that it doesn’t…you don’t have to be the leader. You don’t have to be…or the fly on the wall even. You can find your place in that.
**Margaret ** 31:15
Yeah. Okay. It reminds me of a different Portland writer who I care a lot about, Ursula Le Guin, the science fiction writer that used to live there.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 31:23
I love Ursula Le Guin.
**Margaret ** 31:25
I interviewed her when I was 26, or something like that, and it changed the way I think about a ton of stuff because I interviewed her about anarchism and fiction. And I was trying to find my place as a writer. I was moving more and more into being a writer after having been just like a direct action, protest organizer, and squatter, and all these things for years. And, and what she said was basically, she was like, "I like hanging out with people who let me do what I’m good at, which is being a writer." But then she also talked about how she was like, "Don’t get me wrong, I still will stuff envelopes for Planned Parenthood and go to every peace March that I can," you know? And it was like, oh, that’s the perfect…you’re like, I feel like you have your like organizational level skills, or like your main thing you bring, and then there’s like grunt work, and you’re not excused from the grunt work because you’re like… Like, the really amazing musician still has to like wash his own dishes, you know?
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 31:27
**Margaret ** 31:30
But maybe the really amazing musician focuses on being a really amazing musician and doesn’t figure out how to structurally develop the dishwashing system, you know?
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 32:37
Yeah, like, totally.
**Margaret ** 32:40
Yeah, no, no, I just, I really liked that. It’s been a really useful thing for me as I’ve tried to figure out like…
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 32:47
I love that. I love Ursula Le Guin. And actually her book, "The Dispossessed" was really, I think, what transformed my ideas of anarchism the most because it’s the most coherent and clear and comprehensive description of an anarchist society that, you know, you can find anywhere that really gets you to actually understand what that is. But also on a personal level with Ursula Le Guin, I had…I wrote…I read a book and I interviewed the author of–actually her biographer–It’s called "The Baby On the Fire Escape" by Julie Phillips. And so Julie does a really beautiful job of talking about the motherhood and the identity of various authors. But Ursula Le Guin was pretty fleshed out because she’s also her biographer, which is pretty cool. But she, but what was real…but like, kind of, I think what I relate to Ursula Le Guin is that she was like, you know, a soccer mom of her era.
**Margaret ** 33:50
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 33:51
And like, she really had this similar identity that I feel like I have now but like, was really radical in her beliefs and expressing it in the way that she was doing it. And so I feel really like connected to her in that and also I live in Portland. I don’t know.
**Margaret ** 34:07
Yeah, no, she’s really…. We really, we really lost something when she passed and like…
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 34:16
I’m so jealous that you got to interview her. That’s so cool.
**Margaret ** 34:20
Yeah no, and honestly one of the reasons I’m so grateful to her is that by giving me attention, she helped my career substantially, literally just by being like, "Oh, yeah, no, this person seems cool." You know, and talking to me, and we did a talk together at Powell’s a million years ago. And it completely changed the course of my life. And I really will be forever grateful. And I like to think about that a lot when I’m like…just like small acts of kindness that change people’s lives and like…. No, I think…I love the way she writes about anarchism. I love that she talks about the marriage of responsibility and freedom and how they go, you know. And then one of my other…it’s been a couple years since I read "The Dispossessed," but I just like, I think about this a lot. One of my favorite parts of "The Dispossessed" is the love story, because it’s a love story about why monogamy is totally chill in a polyamorous world. And basically, this refusal to have these two forces be antagonistic to each other. And instead be like, "No, like, free love includes choosing to be like in this…" And so like, I only once watched her interact with her husband but it was just so beautiful to me. There was a point where–uh, now I’m just, whenever, I think about this all the time–there was a point where, you know, someone was coming up and being like, you know, "Oh, let me get the microphone set up." And she was like, "We’re not doing anything until my husband has a comfortable place to sit." And then so they like, switched all their priorities to make sure he has a comfortable place to sit. And then she was like, "Okay, great. Now, what did you need for me?"
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 36:02
Oh, my gosh, I love her. I love that. That’s a really good point. It’s something I remember thinking about when I was reading it, but I don’t know if I really processed it because there is so much to process in that book. I need to–I mean, it hasn’t been that long since I read it, but I want to just go back and read it again because I, you know…I don’t think I knew what I was getting into when I started reading it. And then we’re like, yeah.
**Margaret ** 36:29
Well, she didn’t know what she was getting into when she started writing it. It was like the thing that kind of made her more into an anarchist, was writing that book.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 36:35
I love that.
**Margaret ** 36:36
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 36:37
Well, and also same. Me. What made me more of an anarchist was reading the book. So there we go.
**Margaret ** 36:44
Okay, wait. So, to back up one step, you’re talking about, like, for example, your role as an extrovert–and I know that we are going to have all these other things talk about but I want to talk about this building community thing and ways of including people because this is one of the things that comes up so much. I think I pointed that out. And like one of the smallest things that I’ve seen people do, there’s like a culture…. I go to a couple different types of gatherings with very different types of people. And one of them is science fiction conventions, and specifically the ones for like writers and stuff, and there’s this culture that’s been developed where if you’re standing around in a circle of people talking, and there’s someone kind of just hovering at the back who’s like doesn’t know whether or not they can come in and join, you open the circle up. And it doesn’t matter if anyone there knows them. They are now part of that circle. And like, obviously, then sometimes people get really annoying and they talk too much and whatever. But like, it’s a culture of introverts. And so they’ve developed these like habits about how to take care of it. And the reason that I wanted to bring this up and ask you about it is that I’m kind of curious, how do we anti-gatekeep? How do we invite people in? Because one of the things that you’ve talked about is by being in the position you’re in, you’re able to talk to people about ideas. And so I actually, I guess, I’ll ask this about specifically preparedness to kind of bring things back to what we’re supposed to be talking about. How do you work to help people feel welcome in preparedness communities? Or like preparedness…concepts or something?
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 38:20
Yeah, well, it’s hard because I don’t know if I really have a ton of experience in that because I feel like I’m still pretty new in the preparedness circle, which I think is part of what makes me kind of accessible in that area. And so what gave me my–I mean, I’m still, you know, even though I’m an extrovert I get really nervous going into spaces that I’m not originally a part of. And so, you know, anyone from introvert to extrovert is going to feel out of place in new scenarios.
**Margaret ** 38:59
I thought you all just have these superpowers. Extroverts have the power to talk to people.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 39:05
No, no, no, but I get nervous too. And sometimes to a fault. But at the same time, I’m…. But what I do is like, I think…. Gosh, I don’t know if I can answer that as far as preparedness goes, but I can tell you how we do it in other things. And then maybe I’ll get back to the preparedness part. But yeah, so I mean, this is a thing with our writer moms retreats. I mean, one of the things that we really have been grappling with–I mean, because it’s a retreat and it kind of falls into that wellness industry category, which is really white and affluent. So how we’ve done it is really just, especially in particular, reaching out to moms of colors and just trying really hard to create partnerships with communities of writers of writers of color. And trying to really, you know…. Last year we did get some funding to support five Black writer moms. And I think that that was a big starting point to that, but we didn’t have that this year. So I don’t know, I think that’s one. That’s kind of an inclusivity thing. But also, regardless of who came, nobody really knew anybody coming into that. So, I think there was such bravery on the part of these people to attend something that they’re like, "I don’t know anybody." But kind of like with the science fiction community is that we created, you know, we facilitated it in the way that it’s not…you don’t need to know anybody to get something out of this. And like, you know, circling up, like making it, you know…and creating an environment where we have small groups where you can really make individual connections and that kind of stuff. And I think that like that is… I mean, that comes from like my…. I was in higher education. I was in higher ed doing social justice education. And so I kind of employ a lot of these facilitation skills where we’re creating experiences that are good for extroverts and then some that are good for introverts. So ones that let you think before you have a conversation, or have one-on-one interactions before having a group discussion with everybody where not everybody’s going to feel comfortable sharing. So as far as like–let’s see if I can bring this home to the prepper thing. I mean, for me trying to like kind of get into this and like…. I mean, I guess part of it is I don’t know if I really found myself in traditional prepper circles yet. I think in some ways I’m kind of…. Like, what I mean by "traditional preppers" is I mean kind of from the stereotypical, the stereotype, that we would think, but…. Yeah, but coming at it from an individual skill level has been useful because everybody has a different reason for being in the place that they are. And so, kind of remembering that when I go in and being like, "Okay, you know, everyone’s here for their own reason and maybe your goal is to find out what those reasons are." Yeah, I get nervous, even if I have a friend with me, I get nervous every time I take a new class, because it’s like, not something that I…. But I have felt really welcomed so far because the communities that I have sought out are people that are really excited to share the skills that they have and really don’t care where you’re at with it. And so I think for me, it’s like, and I think that maybe is…. I, that’s what I would emulate is like that excitement for the skill and not necessarily looking for a type of person to be joining these circles. It’s really like I’m excited to share this idea. I’m excited to share this skill because it means something to me. And so I think for somebody who’s creating a group or creating an environment for that, that’s what has helped me feel a part of it. And with each class I take, the less scared I am for the next one. Although, I haven’t gotten to any gun related things yet. So we’ll see.
**Margaret ** 43:27
My recommendation, I try not to be super–let’s say gender essentialist or something–my recommendation is that some of the more macho type skills that lean towards machismo, getting people who aren’t cis men to be your teacher can be really useful. And there absolutely are a lot of women and other folks who train in firearms skills. And I’ve even had this experience where even when someone…. It’s not even necessarily the fault of the instructor sometimes. Like I’ve been…. Like, I’ve taught a decent number of people how to shoot firearms and sometimes the other co-trainer who often is the more knowledgeable person for fine tuning skills and things will be a cis man. And, you know, and I will find that I have…. I’m so great is what I’m trying to say. I find that sometimes people have an easier time learning from me than learning from the other person who’s teaching about specific parts of it. And it’s not even like a mannerism difference. It’s just kind of like…there’s a… You know, when you’re used to a culture of being like, "Oh men are gonna gatekeep this skill from me," you know, or like why is exactly the following thing happening? And like I think about like–well, I used to think…I used to pretend to be a boy for a very long time–and so I would go to these climbing camps when I used to do more forest defense and I’d learn how to climb trees and stuff. And then, and I wasn’t particularly good at it, right. And I like learned it. And I kind of, you know, I’ve treesat a couple times successfully and haven’t died. So, I feel like I’m doing alright. On the other hand, I think–I don’t know what percentage of the trees I’ve sat in are still around–but, you know, forest defense is a heartbreaking task. And then I went to, you know, there’s this group called TWAC, Trans and Women’s Action Camp, and it’s forest defense skills taught–and it’s an exclusive space where cis men are not allowed, right. And exactly what that looks like has changed over the years as our terminology and understanding of different things has changed, right? But I could climb so much higher there because instead of like…instead of people…because I would get up to like 20 or 30 feet and then I’m like, "This sucks. I’m scared. I’m coming down now." You know? And when I would do it around men, I’d be like, "Oh, I don’t even want to climb the tree anymore." You know? And instead, it’s just like, all these women being like, "You can do it! Or maybe you can’t do it, in which case you should come back down."
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 46:12
I know. "We’re here to support you in whatever you decide!" I know, I mean, that’s actually the thing that I’ve really…. And I had to kind of make that decision early on too, about what kind of spaces that I want to be in for this. And I really, I was, like, I am gonna stay true to my progressive values. And I really just don’t–I mean, and that doesn’t mean I can’t interact with people who have different values–but I don’t want to be…. Yeah, I want to actually learn these skills. And that’s not going to happen if I’m feeling emotionally threatened. And so I really have been trying to seek–and I still don’t know if I’ve found the right search terms, [Margaret laughs] especially for like hunting and that kind of stuff. But like, you know, so you know…. And part of that comes out with reaching out to people who I trust that can kind of give me recommendations, like you, you know, that know where I’m coming from. It’s easier with things like foraging than it is for hunting. Because, like, you know, it skews a little bit more lefty, but not always. Not always. But yeah, no, totally. I think that that’s…. Yeah, I’m a different person depending on who is gatekeeping and then being just aware of that in myself. And maybe that’s just, you know, the age, when we get older and want to actually, you know, exist in the world, we’re like, "Okay, how do I do that in the best way I possibly can?" And that’s being surrounded by people that make me comfortable.
**Margaret ** 48:00
Totally. And, you know, there’s lots of ways to do that. And I would also just say, like, okay, cis men, if you want that kind of experience, you just have to do it. You know? And I’ve seen folks do it, where they’re like, "Oh, it’s okay. We can all do this together. And like, you know, I’ve seen good, positive…. But I’ve also, even in otherwise good spaces, I’ve seen people being like, "Oh, we don’t have time to like, stop and put on sunscreen." And you’re like, "Why?" How can you teach a first aid class then? Like, what are you doing?
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 48:35
Yeah, I mean, it’s funny….
**Margaret ** 48:36
And if you’re the person that I’m accidentally saying this about, I believe you that you heard me when I had this upsetness and I think you’re doing better and I’m not mad at you at all. Yeah. Anyway.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 48:49
You know, it’s funny, I keep bringing up the writer moms retreats, but my friend was at one of our–she was at an event advertising it–and she kept getting these, like, "Well what about the space for writer dads?" And she’s like, "Well, one, you can create it. And second, that’s everywhere."
**Margaret ** 49:09
Yeah, no, totally. Yeah. It’s like…. You know, and they might need it. And that’s great. They can do that.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 49:17
Yeah, but that’s not my job to create that for you.
**Margaret ** 49:20
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Okay. Well, I have one main other topic I wanted to ask you about. You know, you’ve written about a lot about parenting and preparedness and we’ve talked about it sometimes at different times on the show in different ways. But, I kind of wanted to talk to you about talking to your kids about preparedness, like creating a family plan. Like I’m kind of asking for almost–not hard skills–but like some like how-to-ish stuff. Like, how do you create a family plan? How do you talk to your kids about disaster and uncertain futures? Not a small question.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 49:58
No, it’s not but it’s an important one because we have to. And, I mean, so I…. I’ve written about it and I struggle with it kind of constantly because it’s like talking to…. Any parent…. I have a six year old son and he, you know, he’s his own person and has his own desires. And so it’s such a fine line trying to talk to your kids about big topics that we’re…they’re, you know, they’re going to…. If you drone on about it, they’re gonna get bored and just walk away. Or, you bombard them too quickly or are like too intense about it, they’re, you know, you’re going to develop this pattern where they’re not going to want to talk to you about certain things. And so it really is a challenge. But I’ve done a lot of, you know, since he was little, I’ve listened to a lot and read a lot about also talking to kids about race, especially white kids who don’t have to worry about it because the world is built for them. And, that, I think, the tools are similar to talking about race, and racism, and systemic racism as climate change. And so part of it is that you…. For me what has worked–and and I’m not saying this as like I’m a perfect example because I’m still learning a lot–but is that putting him into an environment that prompts a discussion about it. So, like going to a racial justice protests, and we’re talking about racism. And, you know, he will bring up the questions that kind of leads the way. And if we’re talking about climate change, it’s the same thing. So, I took him to–we live in the– our science museum OMSI, which is wonderful and they have an orca exhibit, which talks about climate change and talks about healthy oceans and a lot of other things. And, you know, I took him there and we had some conversations there, but then as we’re driving home, he was asking some really specific questions about climate change, questions about like, "Okay, well, you know, why can’t we stop it? Why can’t we do this, this and this?" and all of these kinds of things. And, you know, he asked questions for like…we had this conversation for about a half an hour, which is a long conversation with a six year old because usually they’ll move on to something else. And I think that like that, at least for the age that my son is, is that really is the best way to prompt these conversations. Like you want them to lead the way but you also can’t avoid it. So like, you know, books are a really good way to have these discussions, too. I don’t know if he’s ready for this, but just because I was doing my own research on what books would be good for kids but the YA novel. "Two Degrees" is a great one for young, for preteens and teenagers to read and like something that you can do with your kids, is read. But, the other thing that I have learned from also talking to your kid about racism is really teaching them not to be racist, really. What actually…. Like, those conversations are essential and you need to have them. But what they learn the most from is your actions. So, it’s really, you know, going to, for in our case, going to protests, both climate protests and antiracism protests or racial justice protests. It’s going…showing, you know, or talking about it. Like I do this. I’m writing this book about this. And, um, you know, it was, as far as like, preparedness goes, I struggled with this early on when I was trying to, when I was writing the book proposal, about how much I would involve him in the preparedness part of it, because, you know, I was like, "Oh, I’ll sign him up for Scouts and he can learn all these skills." And there’s a great place here that teaches bush skills to kids, which is cool. And he’s done a couple camps, but like, I can’t…. I was like…I had to be like, this is my journey. Like, I can’t…. Like, he’s into dragons. Like, if he doesn’t want to, you know, go bushwhacking then like I need to be okay with that. And so, you know, I think that that’s where it comes in where you can kind of…it’s really that showing, being the example. I mean, I still am gonna sign him up for some like one-off camps, but he didn’t want to do the year-long apprenticeship and I had to be cool with that. And also, you know, it helped to not have to pay for yet another thing. But, I think that’s, I think, the challenge for a lot of parents for any kind of skill that they want them to learn. And so it is…. So as far as the like family plan goes, you know, it’s funny, I don’t know if I’ve actually involved him in that because ours has–I have to say that we have a pretty basic plan. I think of it in terms of the earthquake because it’s easier for me to…. It’s very familiar. Like, we have a river that bisects the city and my husband works on one side, and we live and my kid goes to school on the other. And the bridges are all gonna go down.
**Margaret ** 55:46
So you need the "How does your husband get home?"
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 55:49
Or like, if I am at a meeting across the river, who gets the kid? And so, this is how I’ve said to my son is like, you know, if something happens, I have–I’m very lucky to have family nearby–so my sister, I will just text them and be like, "Hey, I’m going to be across the river." And they’re not like, weirded out by me being like…
**Margaret ** 56:13
Because they’re used to you? [Both laughing]
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 56:15
They’re used to me and like…. Yeah, and that’s the other thing, I’ve had other friends who I’ve had this conversation with too, is that they think about it all the time but they haven’t employed anything. Yeah. And so just talking about it has helped them be like, "Okay, if I’m at a meeting across the river, I’ll text so-and-so be like, ‘Okay, you’re on. If there’s an earthquake that happens, you’re on for child duty.’" So, you know, like, kind of stuff. So yeah, but yeah, I think it’s like involving him in that kind of stuff. And really having…. And having the conversation about like, okay, if something happens, like, these are the kinds of things that can happen. And he knows about the earthquake and we talk about that. And then he, obviously he knows about climate change too, but it’s tricky because that’s, you know, that’s a series of multiple climate disasters versus like, you know…. So it can be…. And actually maybe that is, that is actually a tool too, is to really think about what is the most likely disaster that could befall your community and your home? I mean, here, earthquakes are one, but wildfires are a constant threat every summer. And smoke is, you know, always there. And so, use that as like a frame of reference to have these conversations with your kid and also to make your plan because it’s just easier to do than be like, "It could be anything."
**Margaret ** 56:39
Yeah. If aliens come down, this is what you’re doing. Yeah. [Laughing]
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 57:46
Exactly. Zombies. Yeah. So, if we end up in The Last of Us, what’s going to happen?
**Margaret ** 57:53
Okay, if dragons come and attack…
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 57:56
Oh, yeah, he’ll be really into that.
**Margaret ** 57:57
Yeah, no, it makes sense. There’s like some level of preparedness where…. Because I feel like everyone I know who does preparedness has people involved in their preparedness plans who don’t care about it and roll their eyes at it, right? And so like, I just put food in my parents basement. And my mom doesn’t listen to the show, so I can say that. And like, but I’m able to also like…. Sometimes with people who are gonna roll their eyes at it, you’re like, "Okay, well, you’re gonna roll your eyes at it, but we’ll have made a plan." You know, you could just be like, "Hey, if the following happens, here’s the plan." And everyone’s like, "Okay, whatever." Mostly just to shut me up. But I’m like, great. No, it’s in place. We know the thing. We know the plan, you know? Yeah.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 58:46
Yeah. Yeah, no, totally. Well, and this is something we kind of talked about before is that like when I started this project, there are a lot of people who were like, "What are you doing?" My mom was really worried. She’s was like…. I really just…. She was more worried about the perception that people would have about me, that I would be seen as this, you know, kind of a wacko, And I was like, "You know, but, I’m a writer, mom," Like, this is how you like change the narrative is by being very specific about what I mean this is. And she’s really come around to it in this conversation and is like–not to the extent that they’ve made decent preparations–but you know, it’s like…. You know, but also like, I think that that’s, that’s something I wonder if I should have…. And now I’m thinking out loud, like should I be putting…how do you get more people in your immediate community to actually do something. They think it’s good that you’re doing it, but they’re not doing it themselves and….
**Margaret ** 59:52
I find it’s like…. I mean, honestly, what I used to do is I just made emergency kits and I gave emergency kits to probably 50 or 60 people. And just was like, it cost me a grand or so. Which is, you know, not…it’s a lot of money. But I’m like, you know what, that was one of the best $1,000 I ever spent. And every now and then someone messages me like, "I was at a protest and I really needed the Advil that was in my emergency kit. Thanks!" You know, and it’s like, everyone I give it to rolls their eyes like, "Alright, whatever." But then like, you know…. It’s just like, whatever. It’s, my peace of mind is why I just like…
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 1:00:29
Totally, I love that. That’s a brilliant idea, actually. Yeah, that’ll be my Christmas gifts this year.
**Margaret ** 1:00:36
Oh, yeah. Okay, the trick that you have to do is–because I give my family preparedness stuff every year for Christmas– you have to give them other stuff, too. It actually means you have to give them more stuff than you would otherwise give them. You know? Otherwise, they’re like, "God dammit, why did….?"
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 1:00:52
To be prepared.
**Margaret ** 1:00:56
Yeah, they’re like…. You’re like, "Here’s a mug that made me think of you and the LifeStraw that you can put in your car. You could just put it in the truck or your car and forget about it. And you’ll probably never need it." I don’t know. Okay, well, is there any major thing that you wish I’d asked you, or like final thoughts, or anything like that?
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 1:01:20
No, I don’t think so. This is really fun. I yeah, I guess maybe just the plug. Yeah, follow my newsletter at CrammingForTheApocalypse.substack.com.
**Margaret ** 1:01:32
Cool. Okay. Well, thank you so much for coming on. And whenever your book comes out, we’ll have you back on to talk about it more.
**Elizabeth Doerr ** 1:01:38
Thank you so much, Margaret. This is really a pleasure and always fun talking to you. I’m glad we had the time to do it.
**Margaret ** 1:01:43
**Margaret ** 1:01:44
Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, well, obviously, go follow Cramming For the Apocalypse and slip food into people’s basements. But, it has to be rodent proof. Otherwise, you’re actually just doing them a disservice. And then everyone would be really mad at you because you’re the one who left dried bread in their basement and now there’s rats everywhere. Unless the people become friends with the rats, in which case it’ll all work out. But that’s usually not how it goes. If you want to support this podcast, you can do so by supporting our publisher, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness on Patreon, which is patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. Your funds pay the people who do the thankless work, the grunt work as we were talking about before. It pays the transcriptionist and it pays the audio editor. And we, you know, value trying to make sure that our podcasts are as accessible as possible. So, yeah, and you can support us there and also we send out free zine–not free, you have to pay us, that’s how it works–we send out zines every month, but we also do free other podcasts, including a podcast called Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, which is a free version of the zine that comes out every month. So I wasn’t lying to you. And as well as a podcast called Anarcho Geek Power Hour, for people who hate cops and love movies. And in particular, I want to thank some of our patrons. I want to thank Eric and Perceval, and Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, Funder, Janice &O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, SJ, Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jennifer, Kirk, Chris, Michaiah, and as always, Hoss the Dog. All right, well, thanks everyone for listening and I hope you’re doing as well as you can