Zombies, Nuclear War, Pandemic Virus: Can Society Recover From An Apocalypse?

North Korea is mad at us, the Iran nuclear deal might go sour, new diseases pop up every day, not to mention old ones like Ebola, there's a megadrought in California, and honey bees are dying by the tens of thousands.

So when the apocalypse finally does happen, how will society survive and what will it look like?

A new play called Salvage deals with that very topic. In the play, two government officials search a post-apocalyptic New York for valuable artifacts to help them survive, but when their manager hires a war veteran, they begin to question whether it's time to abandon the city.

The play makes the assumption people would still be living in the city, but a recent study by Cornell University says the best way to survive the apocalypse would be to flee to the countryside. Actually, the Rocky Mountains would be best if you can make it there.

Cornell researchers were hypothesizing a zombie outbreak, but the same advice would hold true no matter how the world ended. They made a fun interactive model you can play with if you're bored.

Zombies, nuclear war: can society rebuild after an apocalypse
VENICE, ITALY - FEBRUARY 15: People dressed up as Zombies and Hunters stages a scene on February 15, 2014 in Venice, Italy. The 2014 Carnival of Venice will run from February 15 to March 4 and includes a program of gala dinners, parades, dances, masked balls and music events. (Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images)

So with the world's industry destroyed and small bands of roving survivors trying to scrape out a living, would it be possible to return to a technological society?

Aeon Magazine points out the world's oil supply is already dwindling and without the infrastructure we rely on today, survivors would be hard pressed to recreate many of the things we take for granted.

Without many of the chemicals and industrial materials we rely on today, it would be nearly impossible to produce things like solar panels, fertilizer, glass, or steel, according to Aeon's Lewis Dartnell.

"When it comes to generating the white heat demanded by modern industry, there are few good options but to burn stuff."
Any surviving society would, at first, be forced to rely on electricity generated from simple machines like windmills and burning charcoal.

That is, of course, if there were enough smart people left around who remember how to build all these things and use them properly.

Any way you look at it, recreating society after an apocalypse seems like a pretty tall order. Maybe we should concentrate on saving the world we have?

Survival Tips

  • Ditch city life and high tail it to the countryside. In any apocalypse, large cities will become death traps for those who remain.
  • Bring supplies. The government suggests everyone have at least three days of emergency rations on hand, but most preppers will advise at least two weeks to a month of stored food and water. Oh, and be sure you have more than rice and beans.
  • Don't forget the medicine. Even though you're healthy now, an apocalypse almost by definition means there's going to be some injuries.
  • Batteries. You'll need some juice for all those electronic devices you need like flashlights and radios.
  • Arm yourself. You can almost certainly expect to meet some dangerous folks if you survive the end of the world, it's best to be prepared.
If you can make it New York by April 25, check out how the end of the world might look by watching the play Salvage at the Flux Theatre Ensemble -- it's free.