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My Pet Bunker . Ronald Lairchild (November 23rd, 2005)

The only people who use the word “bunker” with any frequency are people in the military, World War One buffs, and gamers. Most people remember a time where bunkers were common, sometime before flower children and the war on drugs. Known by names such as “bomb shelters” or “blast shelters”, no matter what you call them they became a lot more common in North American houses with the Cuban missile crisis. As angry politicians mulled over the destruction of their respective nations, the great unwashed from Boston to Berlin begun to dig in and prepare for a war that thankfully never came (and hopefully never will).

A bunker, strictly defined, is an “underground war fortification”. Something can be “bunkered”, which means to set it apart in an industrial manor, such as mining sites, food storage areas, and safe dumps for (perhaps hazardous) materials. With reguards to was bunkers were origianlly used to be defensive nuts that the enemy couldn’t crack, but eventually turned into the “fallout shelters” so popular with the “duck and cover” generation. As hippies made way for yuppies and the cold war turned into history hundreds of bunkers and shelters across the world began to molder and rot. A few were turned into museums, others were declassified, and a few were simply covered over and became a new type of urban ruin for a new generation of explorers.

Perhaps we all feel safer underground, or maybe humans just feel better knowing they have an ace up their sleeve. Regardless, people have once again begun to look at bunkers as a routine thing to have on their property. If you live in northern Texas, Kansas, or Florida you know that having a safe place to hide is a really good idea (1). When the funnel comes for your house it’s good to have a safe place to hang out for a week or two that’s a good ten feet under ground.

But recently there’s another good reason to have a bunker, shelter, or similarly hardened space… and it has nothing to do with “the reds”. One of the things that Hurricane Katrina taught North America is that just because your nation is a superpower doesn’t mean that you won’t die of dehydration in a vast sports arena while you wait for the powers that be to get their act together. Slowly, as situations like peak oil approaches, more and more people are thinking that it’s a good idea to invest in their future… something a little more physical than a 401 K or Mutual Fund. All over the web there are sites that are giving out free plans for people to build their own shelters (2), and it is possible to buy a whole years worth of MREs that can be stored for at least ten years. OK, so many are a little paranoid, but if gas goes up to $30 a gallon in the space of a week (see the 1979 energy crisis for those who have short memories (3) a watertight bunker could serve as a place to store fuel.

One of the most interesting types of bunkers were/are the missile silos created during the cold war. These were essentially vast concrete tubes sunk deep below the ground, each holding a rocket with a warhead capable of destroying a city. As the cold war ended most of these silos were emptied of their deadly cargo and left to rot (4). Enterprising individuals have acquired these sites, “rehabilitated” them, and sold them to the public as ultra secure storage spaces and living quarters (5). Apparently an old Atlas-F missile site has storage space for around two hundred thousand square feet! Hey, lets face it, if you ever wanted to store something where it would be safe this would be the place. If your government has already spent millions and millions of dollars on something, one might as well take advantage of it and build a place you know you know your going to be safe.

In short, it looks like the 21st century still has a lot of tricks up its sleeve. With each nation on earth (even supposed superpowers) thrashing around in the global economy people are starting to think that while money is power, you can’t eat it and you can’t put it in your gas tank… unless perhaps you can ferment a dollar bill into ethanol. There are still many countries on earth where burying something is about the only sure way of keeping it yours, and there are still people on earth that can remember the Great Depression. Do you really want to bet that the President/Prime Minister wont just go on vacation next time the storm threatens your town? Don’t you want gas so you can get to a safe zone, the hospital, or simply out of town? In the end those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it… and when it comes down to resource scarcity, it’s a case of measure once, and dig twice.