Pre-Apocalypse Living In A Post-Apocalypse World
March 7, 2006 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Ways to maximize one's chances of survival, or even to regain some mere semblance of pre-disaster developed-world lifestyle, after an apocalyptic event?

Apologies for any incoherence, and for any overlap with previous questions. I searched for a handful of words/tags and found nothing that really matched.

I was thinking about the average post-apocalyptic scenario, and how the authors of such usually present the world and how society and technology exist afterwards.

The stories taking place long after the event show a feudal/medieval society where the old world technology exists only in a few artifacts (e.g. Fred Saberhagen's Empire of the East). The ones closer to the event show people still trying to use remaining scrap, such as fighting over existing resources required to run technology, like gas for vehicles (e.g. Road Warrior).

The main reasoning behind these scenarios appears to be: current technology depends on the entirety of civilization, and could not exist outside it. For example, take a machine gun--even if you had blueprints for one, you'd still need raw materials, mining abilities, the machinery for both of those, electricity and its infrastructure, and so on and so forth.

So, given that any sufficiently "modern" piece of equipment requires a pyramid of now-mostly-destroyed technology, I wonder: just what could a sufficiently driven individual or group accomplish post-apocalypse? Consider it fairly open-ended w/r/t timeline and amount of left-over pre-apocalypse tech (within reason).
posted by cyrusdogstar to Technology (36 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: One example that crossed my mind was a simplified hydroelectric generator powering a small, isolated compound that would also just happen to be near a mine. Such a spot, with enough blueprints/documentation/in-good-condition tools, might be able to eke out something vaguely resembling current life, at least in having some modern conveniences such as light in the evenings, maybe some plumbing, and so on.

Note also that I assume farming and general survival would not be a huge problem, and so am focusing mostly on ways of bootstrapping oneself above that basic norm and into either comfort and/or the ability to project power over others (i.e. furnishing armed forces capable of repulsing attacks by a larger group).
posted by cyrusdogstar at 9:04 AM on March 7, 2006

The fiction books A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and Deathworld 2 cover this topic.
posted by malp at 9:13 AM on March 7, 2006

First, fill the bathtub with water. You'll need it and the electricity running the pump won't last long.
Get an axe, take out the stairs. Zombies can climb stairs but if you hit the steps right in the center you'll create a ramp.
This guy claims that a trenching shovel is the best weapon in hand-to-hand situations - I say that's hogwash, get yourself a good, solid baseball bat.

The most important part of the plan is the plan itself. Don't wait untill it's too late - get your friends together and build a blueprint for survival today. Over-unders make excellent weapons - they give you some ranged accuracy without sacrificing the stunning effect of birdshot at close range. (The savage is my favorite and is available at wal-mart but at $500 it's a bit pricey).

How many people are you going to need to protect? Figure out which of your friends have a high 'freak-out' factor - who's going to break down early and have to be used for zombie-bait?
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:23 AM on March 7, 2006 [2 favorites]

According to James Burke, the answer is the plough. Most major civilizations springboarded off of having a food surplus, which allows people to do other things than gather food.

I think that in one generation, given a plough and some livestock, any small set of modern engineers (mech, ee, chem) could get a community of willing learners back to 19th century standards in a ~20 years.
posted by plinth at 9:25 AM on March 7, 2006

Learn to farm.
posted by orthogonality at 9:27 AM on March 7, 2006

I know that this isn't exactly what you are asking about, but the book 1632 by Eric Flint might be pretty interesting for you. The premise is that an entire town from the present day gets transported back into 1632 Germany. So, many of the same issues you are discussing above are relevant. For instance, the Americans have some modern guns, medicine, knowledge, etc. but they don't have the infrastructure to replace all of that stuff. So even though it doesn't take place after an apocalypse, the characters have to deal with many of the issues you are interested in.
posted by bove at 9:27 AM on March 7, 2006

In the long term knowledge capital is going to make a huge difference to quality of life. The greater the availability of trained & experienced personnel the greater the potential for coming up with applied technological solutions. Availability is likely to vary depending on the nature of the disaster and any ongoing dangers, the damage to infrastructure and access to resources, post-apocalypse population levels of population and problems such as disease.
To give some example a post-nuclear world (or at least the formerly developed countries) faces potentially irradiated food and drink issues, irradiated soil, possibly a nuclear winter, reduced life span (potential plusses and minuses), severe disease risk.
A zombie apocalypse may mean ongoing dangers in the long term (as with Romero) or not (28 Days later) but less infrastructure damage and less resource damage. However, the smaller the community the greater the chance of lacking some key workers, matched with little access to resources that can address this shortfall. For example, if you have no doctor then there is considerable difficulty in finding one.
The danger inherent in an ongoing zombie apocalypse can place a significant strain on the regrowth of civilisation, as demonstrated by Romero.
A further interesting apocalypse scenario is the one in the Y: The Last Man comics, all men die leaving only women and 1 man which leads to a short-medium term skills shortfall as well as considerable social upheaval. Physical infrastructure damage is minimal though some strain is placed on delivery mechanisms and on the rule of law in the short-medium term.
posted by biffa at 9:43 AM on March 7, 2006

Lucifer's Hammer covers some of these ideas, from a 1980s perspective. One of the things mentioned is a particular book... I can't remember the name of it offhand. I think it's called "The Way Things Work", and it's in two volumes. (if someone else remembers better than I do, please chime in.)

Per Niven/Pournelle, those two volumes have all the necessary knowledge to recreate civilization up to about the year 1900... everything from how to build a loom for cloth-weaving, to the Bessemer process for smelting steel. In many respects, 1900s-era lifestyles weren't that much different than ours, although the healthcare really sucked.

I suspect, with those books and access to raw materials (likely abundant, if civilization has been destroyed), a group of 15 or 20 thousand people could make a pretty darn fine mini civilization.

Could it be done with fewer people? Probably... but you've got the fundamental problem of feeding everyone. If you're really starting from scratch, agriculture is very manpower-intensive... it would take a lot of field workers to support themselves, plus a few specialists. Over time, as the technology improved, you'd be able to farm with fewer and fewer people, and devote more and more effort to progress, but the first ten years or so would be terribly difficult. A single crop failure could wipe out your nascent civilization.

I don't know what the fewest number of people would be, but it would have to be in the thousands... a group of a few hundred simply couldn't maintain anything resembling a modern lifestyle, starting from nothing.

And weapons would be terribly important. Even if the vast majority of people wanted to be peaceful, it would just take a few thugs to turn everything violent. And there are always a few thugs.
posted by Malor at 9:44 AM on March 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

The main reasoning behind these scenarios appears to be: current technology depends on the entirety of civilization, and could not exist outside it.

This seems like a very optimistic assumption to me. But then, I suspect most modern apocalyptic fiction is optimistic. Current technology depends on the cooperation of nations and corporations for mutual benefit. There's no reason to assume an apocalyptic event could undo this cooperation. In other words, global capitalism would likely survive the apocalypse. You'd still have governments forcing some people to do unpleasant stuff like mining. You'd still have international trade. You'd still have advertisements selling people shit they don't want or need. You'd still have corporations routing profit into research.

All an apocalypse would do is drive up prices.

So, short of a near-total population destruction event the current forms of power would continue along fine. I doubt the technology level would even decrease that much. Massive infrastructures like sewer, water, electricity would be affected but the market would still provide these luxuries for those who could pay. You'd still see things like arms manufacturers and weapons would certainly continue to be made. In the end, you'd still have some people who could maintain a near-modern quality of life, but they would be very few. Most people would be shunted back to the third world. Which makes you think--maybe the apocalypse has already occured?
posted by nixerman at 9:44 AM on March 7, 2006

It would depend, I think, entirely on the resources available and the knowledge of the survivor. For example: while a plough is a wonderful thing, but do you have farmland around that can be ploughed? Is it heavy soil that benefits from ploughing, or are you in an arid area where you'll simply destroy your topsoil? Do you have livestock able to pull the plough? Do you know how to make a collar for the livestock so they don't throttle themselves as they pull? Do you have two animals so they can breed? Do you know how to birth the young? Do you know how to shoe and feed them over the winter months? Do you have access to seed to sow in the ploughed field? Do you know how to grow hedgerow to provide firewood and enclose your farming area? Do you have any hedgerow plants?

Or, on preview, what Orthogonality said. Caveat: farm with pre-Green Revolution technology.

I reckon the key thing, though, would be surviving the initial enormous population crash and chaos. Have you a hidden bunker?
posted by alasdair at 9:49 AM on March 7, 2006

The biggest and most important thing? Start hoarding knowledge and try to salvage whatever books you can find. Stake out any local universities or libraries that may have been destroyed and try to get the most useful books you can find relating to science and engineering. Hell, anything would be pretty much useful.

Next important, start stockpiling metals like aluminum, copper, iron, gold, etc. Without a huge infrastructure, metals will never be able to be mined again. So you will have to recycle what you can. Aluminum is pretty easy to melt ,mold, and machine. You don't need any huge arc furnaces as with steel. As long as you have basic tools like lathes and drills, aluminum is the easiest thing to work with and can be used to make vehicles and airplanes.
posted by JJ86 at 9:52 AM on March 7, 2006

I'm currently working on a post-apocalyptic project, and have pondered some of this stuff (~20 years after apocalyptic event).

For city-dwellers, it would a tremendous change. Used to a relatively easy life of firemen, police and grocery stores, they may fall into barbarism or an opportunistic authority figure.

On the other hand, there are communes and other independent groups who currently deal with self-reliance and governance. For some, the end of civilization may be what they were preparing for anyhow.

The most important assets one can take from modern civilization is knowledge. Agriculture, sanitation, medicine and socio-political organization are inventions for which raw materials aren't as necessary as weapons or vehicles.

When most people think of technology, they think of things like computers or airplanes, though the most valuable tech in a post-apocalyptic environment would probably not come from the last few decades. Things like Agriculture, domestication of animals, socio-political organization, sanitation, medicine (first-aid would probably be the extent, not having anti-biotics would be a big problem), codified laws, carpentry, food storage, etc.

As long as the knowledge is there (in books, or if enough knowledgeable professionals survive), humanity could probably get back on its feet in time. Once the mess settled down, people could get on with things like mining, metallurgy, etc.

The biggest issue would be whether people expended their energy fighting over resources or cooperating to generate resources. Of course, this is assuming a non-zombie/alien invasion apocalypse.

On preview, what many others have said.
posted by Durhey at 10:03 AM on March 7, 2006

Malor writes "with those books and access to raw materials (likely abundant, if civilization has been destroyed),"

That's the rub though. Much (most?) of the raw materials available with 1900 tech has been recovered already. You need year 2000 tech to extract what is around. Many have speculated that if Earth ever sees either a massive population crash or falls into a Mad Max type post apocalyptic arrangement we can't get back to where we are now for millions of years because all the low entropy, easy to harvest minerals and agricultural land have already been used.
posted by Mitheral at 10:10 AM on March 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Being in NYC, I think I'd definitely head to the library. Aside from the great points about accumulating knowledge (which can be bartered), it's probably a relatively safe place. Big, stone building, with lots of material to make fire (though the building itself can't burn down), and roving thugs aren't likely to pillage it.
posted by mkultra at 10:18 AM on March 7, 2006

Oh, so to answer your question: I think the single most important thing an individual or small group could do to prepare for post-apocalyptic living is to get used to it beforehand.

People going from the relative luxury of modern living to a post-apocalyptic state may be too "messed up", with shock, depression, or terminal nostalgia to be useful. Those who have to make few changes to adjust will be more productive. Not to mention honing the necessary skills to survive without modern tech.
posted by Durhey at 10:18 AM on March 7, 2006

The easy-to-harvest minerals are now even easier to harvest, because they've been refined and made into things. You have no need to mine iron if you're surrounded by rusting automobiles.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:23 AM on March 7, 2006

I think there is a lot underestimating going on here. I remember seeing an american new report from Afganistan during the russian invasion about how small shops were turning out guns. There was a guy, using hand tools like files and drills, making 9mm semi-auto pistols (copies of german lugers) at the rate of one a week. It showed him filing on a piece of rebar, holding it with his feet. They made nitrocellulose gunpowder from shredded movie film.
Another interesting read may be the foxfire books. They describe how blackpowder guns and ammo were made without outside support.
posted by 445supermag at 10:24 AM on March 7, 2006

I am actually really concerned about not having glasses or contacts. I don't know how long my glasses would last, and my vision is bad enough that, at best, I would be highly dependent on others for my survival. You think about diabetics and other people dependent on medication dying in an apocalyptic situation, but you never think about all the people with poor vision. Seriously, it's just like that episode of the Twilight Zone.
posted by lunalaguna at 10:26 AM on March 7, 2006

445supermag and nixerman of course it depends if you still have active trade and economies. But if the scenario is big enough with a large population decline, then the ability to trade is going to decline to nothing. With nobody there to sell you gunpowder, making a gun is pointless even with metal and a machineshop. Governments and trade will only exist with a specific population level, density, and communication. I know for a fact that given no supplies of gunpowder, I could not make it on my own from the raw materials available here.
posted by JJ86 at 10:31 AM on March 7, 2006

Regarding what a number of people of said RE: all the easy to access minerals/raw materials being used up in a scenario where technological civilization has been wiped out, thus making it harder to do the industrial development all over again (see the early post about living near a mine, and the later post by Mitheral), I have heard this argument before, and don't really find it convincing.

After all, it's not that we've used up all the easy-to-access minerals so much as that we've mined them out of the ground and refined them.

In a post apocalyptic world you won't need steelworks, let alone iron mines--all of the nice refined material is going to be sitting right on the surface (in slag heaps maybe, if you're talking about a REAL apocalypse). Am I missing something here?
posted by jackbrown at 10:40 AM on March 7, 2006

Sure given an arc furnace, recyclling steel is easy from existing and abundant supplies. but that is given an arc furnace and it's requisite power needs.....
posted by JJ86 at 11:15 AM on March 7, 2006

To survive the initial collapse, have firearms and food stockpiled. Have a plan for friends and family. There is truly safety in numbers. As long as there are more of you than there are in that roving band, you win. Assuming of course you have enough weapons and are all trained in their use.

Longer term, have food plant seeds that you rotate out and keep fresh.

Don't live in a city. Have access to arable land.

Stockpile information and how-to books.

Making gunpowder and gun cotton is not difficult. Dangerous but not difficult. Finding the ingredients should not be too difficult. Be forewarned that researching this now, before the collapse, makes you a turrist.

Another question: How long do you think all of those sources of already mined iron are going to last out in the weather? 20 or 30 years? Longer? How long before it is all oxidized to the point of being unuseable?
posted by Seamus at 11:18 AM on March 7, 2006

Many people in today's society are not exposed to life the same way our founding fathers were. This limits their capacity to operate/function efficiently in a electricity-disabled world.

Just think, does the average person:
Know how to start a fire?
Collect or evap fresh water?
Grow simple vegetables? Or decide which are proper to eat?
Catch/Kill/Cook prey?
Defend him/herself effectively against threats?
Know how to engineer solutions based on random objects?

As we progress down the technological path, these basic traits will become even MORE diluted in populations. In the event of an apocolpyse, efficiency for shelter, food, water and resources will be key to survival. May the best man win.

Unfortunately, most people will be looking for their lost contact lenses.
posted by omidius at 11:27 AM on March 7, 2006

Stirling's Island in the Sea of Time books go into this, sort of. Nantucket gets sucked back to ~1500BC, hijinks ensue. They use what they have lying around to bootstrap themselves pretty quickly (though with some real hardship) to a mix of 19th and 20th century tech.

The books are fun, if entirely nonchallenging.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:27 AM on March 7, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the replies thus far! Obviously this is closer to ChatFilter than anything with a specific answer, but so far just about everything has been really interesting and thought-provoking.

jackbrown: The only thing I would wonder is just how easy/hard it is to get the metals back out of the objects they're in now. I assume it would be fairly easy to break apart a car and melt down its constituent metals, but not being an engineer or metalsmith I have no real clue.

JJ86 is right, I'm chiefly interested in the slightly more pessimistic scenarios where a majority of the population has left this mortal coil and there simply aren't enough people left to extend trade or power over significant distances, at least for the short term.

445supermag, you present one facet I was hoping might come up--while I and most people assume things would be really difficult, examples like the one you provide are the sort of thing I was wondering about. Just how much could we accomplish with less resources?

general points re: hoarding knowledge: excellent points, although that's something I would consider a given in my base scenario--what could be accomplished if the documentation isn't really a factor. Still, you all bring up excellent tangential points I hadn't considered (re: knowledge effecting quality of life irrespective of high technology). Made me think about how, for example, the Romans had a remarkably "modern" lifestyle in their cities, despite being 1800 years before the industrial revolution.

nixerman: You used the word twice so that makes it less likely, but did you mean pessimistic instead of optimistic? If not, I'm a little confused.

Durhey: You're "working on a post-apocalyptic project"? I'm curious how that's going, without an available apocalypse ;) (I assume you mean a work of fiction?)

Again, thanks all, and keep it coming :)
posted by cyrusdogstar at 11:29 AM on March 7, 2006

Erm, indeed, it does not involve an actual apocalypse, either the planning for or planning of. It's a post-apocalyptic RPG (but not that post-apocalyptic RPG).
posted by Durhey at 11:43 AM on March 7, 2006

Other sftnal takes:

Lest Darkness Fall: perhaps the first of them (Connecticut Yankee notwithstanding.) A 1939 man in 6th century Italy.

Island in the Sea of Time: in 1998, all of Nantucket, and the boats around it, including a Coast Guard ship, ends up c. 1250 CE

The Cross-Time Engineer: a 1986 engineer ends up in 13th century Poland, 9 years before the Huns are going to invade

I agree with the above that having your own farm is key. But I expect defending it against all the hungry people would also make for a difficult job.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:47 AM on March 7, 2006

JJ86 writes "I know for a fact that given no supplies of gunpowder, I could not make it on my own from the raw materials available here"

The sulfur is the hard part, it is probably fairly available in the small quanties you might need if you start looking around.

jackbrown writes "In a post apocalyptic world you won't need steelworks, let alone iron mines--all of the nice refined material is going to be sitting right on the surface (in slag heaps maybe, if you're talking about a REAL apocalypse). Am I missing something here"

Have you seen what happens to a piece of steel that isn't protected from the elements? OK, so you luck out and happen to be located next to one of the US army equipment boneyards in nice dry Arizona. Manually salvaging iron, steel and copper is a major undertaking, even if you have transportation.

But the real problems are consumables. Oil, gas, coal, whales, trees(lots of 1900 tech depends on trees that essentially don't exist and won't for 300 years), potash, tin, clay, etc. etc. Alloying materials like moly and chromium. Rubber. Natural rubber grows on trees. Salt! One of the reasons the British were able to control India for so long is they controlled the distribution of salt which allowed them to both suck the Indians dry and keep them to lazy to do anything about it.

Some things are easier: Hemp would be wildly cultivated again for fibre to make cloth and more importantly rope. We'd end up with a lot more horses around so hide glue would be available but the strongest stuff comes from fish. Hopefully stocks will start recovering.
posted by Mitheral at 12:08 PM on March 7, 2006

Zed_Lopez writes "The Cross-Time Engineer: a 1986 engineer ends up in 13th century Poland, 9 years before the Huns are going to invade"

This series is excellent.
posted by Mitheral at 12:12 PM on March 7, 2006

Location location location!

damn server timeout

lunalaguna - I guess the trick would be to have a special skill or ability such that others would be willing to take-care-of/protect you.

Then again, there's always rearing of youngsters which would allow the other members to go about contributing to the survival of the group.

Me, I can make antibiotics from, essentially, dirt.

cyrusdogstar - collecting and preserving knowledge is all well and good but a lot of it would be completely useless without a significant body of knowledge.

Instead of preserving textbooks on proteomics or how to code in C#, perhaps farmer's almanacs or survival/construction handbooks would be more useful. For the short-middle term, I'd hazard that skills such as carpentry or basic machining or farming and animal husbandry would be more useful.

I'd imagine groups such as the Menonites would get along pretty well after a civilization apocalypse.

As for the romans living pretty well, well, they had slaves.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 12:13 PM on March 7, 2006

What kind of population decline and how fast what kind of infrastructure destruction? That is a crucial part of planning.

Here is what people forget. Our trash is precious treasure. Think about paper. Our litter, a mere two centuries ago, would be like gold.

A visit to a landfill (let alone the hulks of our usable materials like steel, copper, aluminum, and plastics) would supply you with all sorts of raw material for constructing simple tools, weapons, and clothes for probably centuries.

Like any natural disaster the problem would be water. Then Food. Then infectious diseases. Once these things are handled there is plenty of on hand material for developing more sophisticated technology.

Learning to farm? Not sure. Depending on how soon after the event. Learning to do a combination of scratch farming, scavenge and steal. Model yourself more like a hunter gather off of pre apocalyptic human refuse would be better at first.

Living off the land - as in moving to the woods and hunting and eating natural flora and fauna? Imagine if only 1% of the population of New York survived an event and they all decided to live off the land in rural upstate New York and New England.
That's still 700,000 people.

Now that is a very vast area. But not that much of it suitable for scratch agriculture. And natural game would be gone mighty quick. Animals tend to flee when large populations of predators enter their territory. And even if they didn't they would be eaten up pretty damn quick.

People forget that cities are where they are for a reason. Geography, natural trade and transportation routes, climate. Moving out to the boonies to avoid civil collapse may be smart initially - though likely NOT possible for most people - but heading BACK into the cities would be smart later on. You have ready made shelter, fortifications, material, and most important of all PEOPLE.

Your greatest survival tool is not stocking ammo and smokes (though not a bad idea at all) but learning to create, and maintain, social networks. PEOPLE, their brains, bodies and labor, are your best survival resource.

Going off into the woods is a Red Dawn fantasy.
posted by tkchrist at 12:27 PM on March 7, 2006

cyrusdogstar, I meant optimistic. The irrational belief that some apocalyptic event is enough to destroy civilization's current power structures is a fundamentally optimistic POV. Like traditional apocalyptic thinking it strikes me as hoping to hope. As I said earlier, I don't think anything but a near total population destruction would be enough to prevent the nation/corporation structure from re-emerging. I suggest then that the synthesis of global capitalism would quickly re-establish itself and your apocalyptic future would look very much like the world today: a very few people enjoying very high standard of living and the overwhelming majority stuck in third-world conditions. The best way to protect yourself after an apocalypse is then to acquire resources and have the support of the army. In other words, be Dick Cheney.
posted by nixerman at 1:08 PM on March 7, 2006

Optimistic? Not from an average human's POV. The average anarchist would wholeheartedly agree with you, though.
posted by JJ86 at 1:36 PM on March 7, 2006

Response by poster: In other words, be Dick Cheney. LOL :)

I think we're coming from different sides here which is why I'm confused--when you say optimistic, I think you're meaning that I am hoping that some apocalyptic event would destroy the existing power structures? Because that seems like an odd extrapolation to make.

But, whatever, no big deal, I understand your main point. Not sure if I agree with it, but if I was qualified to refute it conclusively I wouldn't have posted my question in the first place ;)
posted by cyrusdogstar at 1:37 PM on March 7, 2006
posted by neuron at 10:49 PM on March 7, 2006

If I knew things were going to go crazy I'd probably find a way to Papua New Guinea, the Amazon rain forests or some such place and get friendly with indigenous people living there. Who is best placed to survive the end of modern civilization? Those who don't really participate in it as things stand now. I might also take along a book or two by Ray Mears.

A decision to fight to maintain the veneer of civilization as we know it would be an exceptionally difficult one to take. The main problem would be that unless you are smart enough to ensure that everyone in your locale can survive, you cannot go about as if nothing or little has changed, because you will be preyed upon by those with less bookish foresight and rather more malice aforethought. To avoid this you must either be discreetly living the highlife or militarily superior to any rival grouping that notices your comfort.

Unless you are lucky enough to already live in a secluded area well suited to supporting say 10,000 people, the likelihood of armed robbery/pillaging will be exceptionally high; unless you are well armed. So, in the short term the primary goal would have to be arms and men to enforce the law.

One likely facet of post-apocalyptic law, would likely be a decline in justice being as fair or as reasonable in its punishment as it is now. Justice will probably be far more of an emotional, social-coherence exercise in which the punished serve as a brutal warning to others, communal scapegoats for a society's shitty luck and a means of tying together the others. When the stakes are high, people tend to lose patience with the reasonable way of doing things. I'd expect lots of summary justice.

This is in the short-term. In the medium to long-term (say 10+ years), the significant population die-off would likely already have occurred, and those who have managed to pass 10 winters must be doing something right. Things would likely get better from this point, because there would hopefully be enough peace and certainly enough time (no TV, radio, internet) to take advantage of the mass of knowledge lying about. There is so much residual knowledge just in people alive let alone in libraries and hard drives, that I can't see the entire world returning to a pre-industrial level. Even if certain things are no longer possible due to the energy requirements, the vast majority of technology will be available to us at the level that actually matters - 10,000 people living in a fairly self-contained community. It could be quite pleasant for generations ahead.

Also: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham for a look at fundamentalist Christian society in Newfoundland long after a nuclear war. Oh and telepathic kids.
posted by pots at 12:58 AM on March 14, 2006

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