I see the terms survivalist, prepper and doomer get used interchangeably. I’m guilty of it, too; often because I like alliteration, so I choose the word that flows, not necessarily for its exact meaning. You know, like “pandemic prepper” or “doomsday diva.”
For the average person vaguely familiar with preparedness, there may not seem like much of a difference between the words, a case of “you say tomato, and I say tomahto.” They’re all the same. The more seasoned survival samurai, however – knows otherwise.
Following are quoted sections from Wikipedia for conversation’s sake.
Survivalist – an individual who is actively preparing for future possible disruptions in local, regional, national, or international social or political order. Survivalists often prepare for this anticipated disruption by having emergency medical training, stockpiling food and water, preparing for self-defense and self-sufficiency, and/or building structures that will help them to survive or “disappear” (e.g., a survival retreat or underground shelter).
In the popular culture, survivalism has often been associated with paramilitary activities. Some survivalists do take active defensive preparations that have military roots and that involve firearms, and this is sometimes emphasized by the mass media.
Kurt Saxon is one proponent of this approach to survivalism. Saxon’s writings on survival tend toward Social Darwinism and Eugenics, with survivalism defined by Saxon as “Looking out for #1” and a need to be sufficiently armed to defend one’s refuge and belongings from hungry people who might demand that others share them if society breaks down.
The potential for Societal collapse is often cited as motivation for being well-armed. Thus, some non-militaristic survivalists often have developed an unintended militaristic image. Nevertheless, its prominence in popular depictions results in the term “survivalism” being sometimes used interchangeably with right-wing reactionary paramilitary activities. In particular, the mainstream media tends to loosely label many militants and miscellaneous extremists as “survivalists”, whether or not they are actively preparing to survive, and regardless of having any formal survival training, or any firm affiliation with survivalist groups.
Prepper – an individual or group that prepares or makes preparations in advance of, or prior to, any change in normal circumstances or lifestyle without significant reliance on other persons (i.e., being self-reliant), or without substantial assistance from outside resources (govt., etc.) in order to minimize the effects of that change on their current lifestyle
Preppers are sometimes identified as modern-day survivalists or neo-survivalists but are far from the stereotype of survivalists past. Prepping has also been dubbed as survivalism light. Many do not identify themselves as doomers or follow the 2012 phenomenon.
Preppers have many different mindsets and cover a broad spectrum of survival and preparedness interests. Some preppers prepare for economic disaster or to escape genetically modified foods through organic farming or urban gardening. Some may prepare for the possibility of a complete breakdown of society while others store up extra food and water for a more localized disaster. In addition to natural disasters, terrorists attacks as well as other crises, Preppers also prepare for personal disasters and economic hardships such as job losses or the loss of a loved one.
Doomer – a peakist (one who has peak oil related concerns that oil depletion will lead to a severe economic recession or another Great Depression) that also believes that a Malthusian Catastrophe will inevitably follow. Doomers attribute their beliefs to humanity’s over reliance on petroleum for agricultural and industrial productivity. Many doomers are also survivalists.
The typical Doomer response to peak oil and the collapse of the industrial system is to “ignore civilization to death” by setting up a Permaculture village. This Survivalist mindset is what distinguishes the Doomer from the Peakist. The Peakist may spend many hours campaigning for peak oil awareness, societal change and changes in government policy, while Doomers would generally see this as a waste of valuable time. The Doomer focus is more on preparing the family and local community for the imminent collapse of civilization.
The perceived extremism associated with “survivalist” is unfortunate. I think many people call themselves survivalists and don’t subscribe to extremist views.
– Ranger Man