The prepper term TEOTWAWKI stands for “The End Of The World As We Know It”. And so it does not refer to the literal end of the world, nor to any religious version of the apocalypse. It is, instead, any event that changes our lives very substantially, for the worse, and for a long time. As you can tell from that definition, many disasters for which preppers wisely prepare, still do not qualify as TEOTWAWKI events.
Some examples of non-TEOTWAWKI events: a major hurricane, a power outage, a major snow storm, an earthquake, an economic downturn, a series of nationwide protests that turn violent. All of these events and many others are short term or they do not change society and our day-to-day lives to a great extent and for a long time.
An economic downturn is not TEOTWAWKI. But a total economic collapse certainly would qualify. If money is no longer worth anything, or if we cannot buy the goods and services we need, this would qualify as TEOTWAWKI. Our society is, for better or worse, highly commercialized. Without a functioning economy, it’s the end of the world as we know it. Moreover, such a total collapse of the economy could not be fixed in the short term.
But what about a partial economic collapse? Well, it depends on how bad the situation may be. A recession is not TEOTWAWKI. But any economic disruption that prevents people from buying basic necessities, especially food, medicine, and shelter, is definitely a TEOTWAWKI event.
Can a storm qualify as TEOTWAWKI? Not any storm in recent memory. Even a major hurricane is a fairly local event. And the same would be true for most natural disasters. The only natural disaster that I can think of, which might qualify would be some type of mega-tsunami. Or maybe a comet striking the earth. But those types of events are very rare.
What about a war? World War 2 was certainly a devastating and terrible event. Many lives were lost. Many other lives were changed forever. Perhaps a major war could be called TEOTWAWKI. But it depends on the war. A nuclear war would qualify as a TEOTWAWKI event.
Alternately, if an EMP device were detonated, destroying electrical equipment over a vast area (e.g. most of the U.S.), that would be TEOTWAWKI. Modern society is highly reliant on electronics for communication, travel, news, entertainment, and commerce. The nation would be thrown back to the 1800′s without electronics. And all it would take is one rogue nation with a nuclear missile that can reach the U.S.
There is a theory that an immense solar flare could have the same effect as an EMP device. But there have been very many solar flares, and no such disaster has materialized. So I remain skeptical.
On the other hand, a disease pandemic, like the Spanish flu of the late 1910′s, is a real possibility. Bacteria are building up resistance to all of our antibiotics, and research into new antibiotics is proceeding at a slow pace. As for viruses, we still do not have much in the way of treatments. Vaccines takes months to produce, when a new strain of the flu emerges. And it would take even longer to produce a vaccine to a new disease. A major pandemic could definitely be TEOTWAWKI.
Severe civil unrest could tear apart the fabric of society, making commerce and travel very difficult. If commerce fails, due to any type of severe event, then people can’t get the food and other necessities of life. And that would be TEOTWAWKI.
Well, it turns out that there are at least several different types of events that could bring the end of the world as we know it. Life would go on, for most people. It’s not the end of the world. Just a time for major adjustments in how we live.