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Meet the Preppers: Robert Earl

Robert Earl is collecting supplies to build a home out of recyclable materials.

Robert Earl is collecting supplies to build a home out of recyclable materials. (View larger version)

Photograph by National Geographic Channel

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"I'm prepping for the melting of the Greenland ice sheet."

Robert Earl is living with his wife in the ultimate bug out location. They decided to leave their retirement-friendly southern Florida to an off-the-grid desert area in the hills of Texas. Robert fears a sudden rise in the sea levels that will eventually melt the Greenland ice sheet, so his goal is to take refuge at a high elevation. Robert and his wife are currently living in a mobile home because they are building a self-sustainable property out of empty beer bottles and cat litter boxes. Robert consults with a local snake expert, who teaches him how to trap and kill rattlesnakes for food. He also shows us his massive stockpile of discarded materials that he plans to use as building materials and teaches us how he fertilizing their garden solely from fecal matter and urine.

The great recession left many Americans underwater, but in 2008 Robert Earl opened his front door to literally find himself underwater. Major flooding along the Suwanee River destroyed Robert’s chicken farm and the home he built by hand with his father-in-law. This was not the first flood they have suffered through, but this one left the Earls with more than $200,000 in damage. They had little hope for rebuilding their business or their home.

The way Robert and Debbie saw it, the flood was the first sign of the end of the world, as we know it. With global temperatures rising and the Greenland ice sheet melting, Robert believes rising sea levels will make floods like the one that destroyed their home commonplace.

So Robert’s wife Debbie suggested they relocate somewhere far, far away; a place that could never flood. They packed up what they could salvage – personal belongings and scrap material from their destroyed home – and bugged out to a place on the edge of society as most Americans understand it: rural Alpine, Texas.

The Earls settled into a slice of the desert with few discernable boundaries and even less water resources. With an average rainfall of 10-inches a year, the threat of another flood is highly unlikely.

Robert, being part Mad Max, part Rube Goldberg, part Al Gore, set to work building an off-grid compound using his know-how, ingenuity and imagination. Solar panels catch the blazing desert sun and wind turbines harness the gusts that race through the valley they now call home. He figured out a collection scheme that makes desert life possible, gathering water each week for consumption and recycling their grey and black water. Though Robert’s dream home is still under construction, he’s happy to spend his days collecting building supplies – beer bottles, wine bottles and kitty litter.

Robert doesn’t mind thinking outside the box, when it’s his idea. When an outsider suggests he might look to alternative water sources, Robert is pushed beyond his eco-sensitive prepping ways.

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