We hear about the end of the world bearing down on us from all manner of sources, like religion, global warming alarmists, scientists looking out for a killer asteroid, and such, but unless you’re a committed survivalist or some type of doomsday prepper, you might not be all that prepared when you find yourself the survivor of an apocalyptic event. Nor are most people likely to have a plan for bringing civilization back from the brink of a modern dark ages and attempting to rebuild anew. Lucky for you, there are experts like astrobiologist Lewis Dartnell of Leicester University, who not only is interested in life that might exist on other worlds but is also interested in prolonging the life that exists on planet Earth. He has compiled a list of requirements for the survivors of some region- or planet-altering event that can be used to not only keep you alive but also help in the rebooting of civilization.
Lewis Dartnell, who sort of wrote the book on rebuilding a civilization from scratch when the end of the world comes calling (actually, he did, and it is titled The Knowledge: How To Rebuild Our World After An Apocalypse), wrote a mini-list of essential requirements one would need to survive and perhaps even flourish should such an event occur. In an article for The Conversation, he notes how he used the idea of a civilization reboot and providing a survival guide for such an endeavor as the core thought experiment for his book.
So how does one go about the task of surviving, picking up the pieces, organizing, and getting on with the civilization-saving and rebuilding required after, say, some type of apocalypse devastated the Earth (such as a couple of ill-timed large meteor strikes, a limited nuclear weapons exchange, or a global pandemic)? Dartnell condensed his research down to seven key tips for continued survival after some form of global catastrophe.
Foremost among the skills needed will be the knowledge to purify water. There are several ways this can be done, such as adding iodine tablets and diluting bleach and pool chlorine to disinfect and make water drinkable. Boiling water also disinfects, but Darnell notes that this could be fuel-expensive. The easiest way to rid water of pathogens is to fill plastic bottles with water and set out in the Sun. The ultraviolet rays from sunlight will kill most pathogens within a couple days.
Infection could be a problem in a post-apocalyptic world. Soap is effective at warding off gastrointestinal and respiratory infections and can be easily made. Ethanol can be distilled from grains and fruits to also be used against deadly infections.
The third thing one will need to get everything up and running again is the ability to generate power. This can be done by scavenging alternators but one might find that fuel is or could become scarce, so building some form of wind or solar power generators would be a more long-term fix. Dartnell suggests storage in batteries, especially in those used to power golf buggies and mobile scooters, for they have a longer “life” than regular car batteries.
Individuals and communities will have to learn how to grow their own food, because canned goods in a post-apocalyptic world will only last for so long. It will become a necessity for survival, so the sooner one begins learning a bit about seeds and horticulture, the better. (Dartnell suggests the Global Seed Vault on the Norwegian island of Svalbard, but if one were trying to rebuild in the Andes Mountains of South America, getting to the Arctic Circle to get some seeds might have to wait awhile.)
The fifth tip suggested by Dartnell would be for apocalypse survivors to redevelop the technology of pyrolysis, which is the thermal breakdown of wood. Combustion engines can be modified to run on the fumes produced from pyrolysis, which is exactly what millions did in World War II to power vehicles when gasoline and diesel became scarce. Such “dry distillation” can be used to make useful substances like creosote, turpentine, methanol, and acetone as well.
Restarting the chemical industry through the making of potash and soda will also be of benefit. The two are alkalis that will be useful in making soap, paper, and glass.
The last tip on the list — be scientific. Much of the scientific knowledge accumulated up until the point of apocalypse and the possible collapse of most modern infrastructures could see an enormous loss, which means that rebuilding will include relearning that knowledge which was lost. In short, it was science that led to technological advancement and the capabilities of gaining and storing and thus accumulating even more knowledge, and it will be science that provides the foundation and framework for the post-apocalypse reboot of civilization.
As the Daily Mail reports, the ultra-rich are buying massive estates in out-of-the-way places like New Zealand as “apocalypse insurance” against the possibility of a coming cataclysmic event. And then there are the aforementioned doomsday preppers, whether they be societal collapse alarmists or fear nuclear warfare will destroy much of the world (among other end-of-the-world scenarios), who have their own plans for survival in both urban and rural settings. But most people will not have the option of “bugging out” to some mountain redoubt or fly off to a bunker in New Zealand. For those people, surviving the apocalypse will depend on what they know, the knowledge they can quickly gain, and gathering and reclaiming the scientific knowledge necessary for individual and communal survival, which, by extension, will lead to the rebuilding of human civilization.
[Featured Image by Fernando Cortes/Shutterstock]