How Long to Restart Civilization? Part II


You make a good point and one that I thought of as well. The initial seed population needs to be sufficiently large enough to help fuel population growth but not too large so as to outpace its’ ability to sustain itself. You don’t want the population using up all the available foodstuffs without first establishing some reliable means of sustenance (e.g. subsistence ag, fishing, etc.). Plus, the population needs to expand rather quickly, but not too fast. There’s not a lot of room for error to determine what the initial seed population needs to be. Your right, Collounsbury, it’s the logistical problem from hell. Maybe we can channel Eisenhower for help :slight_smile:

If one is hell bent on trying to recreate 21st century civilization/technology as fast as possible, I can’t see NOT establishing a very strict, somewhat militaristic type of society in the initial stages of development. Your going to need one to keep check on population growth and resource use/allocation.

On considering the model of the American Colonization of Europe, don’t forget that that method included a continual influx, over hundreds of years of people, and materiel from the parent society. (1609-1789 as colonies under rule of England, and later as a destination of millions more even into the present.)

Remember as well that the Roanoke colony perished without a trace, and the Jamestown and Plymouth colonies would have as well without support from later contacts with Europe. If we are going to suppose annual shuttles from home, this problem becomes trite in the extreme. Without any further commerce it is a very difficult problem.

I think you have to ensure the continuity of culture first. Without it, technology will erode, either sooner, or later during crisis periods, whatever their source. I also think trying to exactly duplicate the technological model extant in our world would be ill advised for many reasons. We could do better, and it might be a lot faster if we were to do so. Our technology is based in very large measure on the centralization of population in cities. That is an inheritance of a cultural pattern that predates the industrial revolution.

Breaking that mold would make low impact, more easily reproducible technologies sufficient to provide high standards of living for multiple populations that can grow gradually, but with the benefit of decentralization to minimize the inevitable losses from disasters. It would reduce the transmission rates for epidemics of disease, as well. Planning prior to departure is critical in this matter.

Using the Mesopotamia without hominids world suggested provides us with a lot of specifically useful information which is (although absurdly unrealistic) of vast importance in such planning. The soft metal equipment, and low temperature smelting technology can be originally imported to the exact locale of the most ancient mining sites known in the region. If early bronze age miners could get early bronze age bronze out of this, certainly our intrepid colonists could be drawing wire, and making brass clockworks in pretty short order. Steel is nice, but there are a lot of very useful things which can be built without it. Glass production can be in place in short order as well, using only the same resources available to the artisans of 5000 years ago. We know where the oil is, by the way, and we know what can be done with every single tiny fraction of it.

Since we don’t need to search for eikhorn wheat, or such things, we can move into the Nile delta in just a very short time. We can have good agriculture abundance without plows or draft animals, if we practice the best of our horticultural technologies on multiple site small scale farms connected by seasonal river traffic. The abundance of game can be managed without the drive to compete with neighbors, and sustained for thousands of years. Keep in mind that a thousand miles north of here there are Aurochs roaming the primeval Asian forest. Given that good sailing ships are pretty low tech, especially once we get cloth making and optical equipment set up, we can disperse a population of a thousand or so at a time to new locations along the Mediterranean and other waterways in a few dozen years.

Without waiting for steel production, which is a very high cost endeavor, we can still have copper, silver, and electrical equipment of high levels of reliability within a generation. Steam power is great, but it isn’t needed for a long time, and we can leapfrog over to better methods before we invest so much in the mining of coal and iron.

Brass faced wooden gears can run mechanical mills powered by wind, water, and solar power to provide clean cheap mechanical energy in a distributed power system not reliant on large grids, or huge utility companies. As our manufacturing output increases, those same facilities can produce electricity. The existence of that power source will make electronics a far better investment than automobiles. The only real need for intense power application such as the automobile would be for railroads, which will require very large populations to build and maintain.

I think three hundred years, mostly because you really do need to get a very large population spread entirely around the Med. But by then I would expect to have flight, rail, and powered ships supporting a varied resource base, and a culture beginning to examine the desirability of recreating nuclear technologies. I would hope that the society created would have decided to let some portion of the Earth, perhaps the Americas, to go untouched. Perhaps a culture force to live with a common need to maintain its every ability and talent would prize its individual members enough to make their nurture its first priority.

Or, we could all go back to Mesopotamia and burn that great library like we did last time.

I always thought that that began in 1945 ;).


Please change of to by.

Darn those preposition.

Something bothers me about this whole thread and that is would we want to, or better–should we, follow those same paths that have lead us to where we are today? I would hope that we might make some better decisions if given a “second” chance. Prime example: “Okay folks, that whole fossil fuel thing–whoo what were we thinking?” My conception of a rebuilding would hopefully start with a small amount of “things”–a very small amount. I’m not talking about a return to a hunting and gathering lifestyle, however, I am suggesting that life can be considerably richer and more meaningful with fewer things and less reliance on technology to facilitate many aspects of life. Why do people continue to garden for recreation? Because there is something meaningful and personally, socially, and environmentally valuable about it. This type of gardening promotes a much more intimate relationship with the soil than one where someone climbs up on a tractor to till the soil, plant the seed and finally reap the crop. I guess my rebuilding would begin with a reevaluation of who we are and who we should be. Answering those questions will then lead me to choose what would be needed for the trip to the new world.

Note to: Equipment importation committee

Subject: Luddites

No wooden shoes to be included in equipment lists.

Eww, I hate boutique environmentalism. There is a BIG, big difference between puttering around in your hobby garden on the weekend on your schedule, and spending every day of your life on your hands and knees digging trenches in the ground.

As one who has been ‘intimitely familiar with the soil’, I’m here to tell you that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Let’s not forget that your hobby farmers don’t have to go out and work in the rain, in the wind, and in the cold. I suggest you go out to a real working farm (a poor one, without those fancy air conditioned combines) and help pull in a harvest when an early frost threatens and it’s raining. What a hoot.

This is what REALLY bugs me about ‘hobby farmers’, like some of those rich LA snots who have farms in the country with hired hands and workers to do everything. They show up on the weekend, ask Manuel to saddle up the horse, go for a nice ride in the afternoon, come back to the home-cooked meal prepared by the hired help, then come back to Hollywood all invigorated about their relationship with ‘the land’ and they start preaching luddite philosophy to anyone who will listen.

Give them a week with a pick and a shovel to break rocks out of the back ‘40’, and they’ll be sprinting for the BMW.

jharding, it sounds like you are more or less describing the Dark Ages. You sure that’s what you really want?

Although I like this scenario, the obsessive in me leads me to make some comments:

Good thing to keep in mind…

This has been something of my thought since the beginning.

There are efficiencies in centralization which we should not ignore, however.

I don’t think decentralization is the answer. Centralization brings a number of efficiencies and is to be recommended for a number of reasons, including security.
My only further comment is here:

I don’t think we can allow for very much progress without draft animals. The amount of work people alone can bring to bear is, in my opinion, not sufficient to allow for rapid accumulation of surpluses.

and later. . .

There are advantages to both. I think the creation of a larger number of centers, with less reliance on the monolithic city model would confer more advantages, although I do agree that that would take some time.

Actually, I do think that some draft animals would be essential at first. The Nile delta settlement would be some years later, and at that level, alternatives to the plow methodology could be implemented, to great benefit to both men, and the world itself.

That might well not be the best example of what I had in mind, which was the careful consideration of what technology to implement, and what to leave out of the new paradigm. We have more knowledge now, than our ancestors did. There are some elements of our technology that we might wish to abandon, given that there is no existing infrastructure to be abandoned with it.

He said boldly.

You’re speaking as if we have a choice of what technologies to not discover and use. Is this going to be a dictatorship? 'Cause if it’s going to allow people to be free, then they are going to gravitate towards the things that bring them the most value. If that means oil, then that’s what they are going to use.

You know, it’s not like there are plenty of equally valid alternatives. As much as environmentalists would like to believe that just being smarter means we can live lightly off the land while maintaining the same standard of living, it just ain’t so.

Cities spring up for a reason. It’s just much more efficient to keep people packed together once you evolve to the point where you need concentrated groups of people to run factories and such.

And I think that those people who think that we can use ‘soft’ technologies and communes and things to produce the same quantity of goods (or even a quarter as much) are vastly mistaken. They just have no grasp of just how efficient modern industry is. If you had to built a car by hand (even a light, solar power car if you please) it would take you several lifetimes if it were possible at all. But today you can buy one for the equivalent of maybe 1/2 to 1/4 year’s salary. That kind of efficiency is what makes us so rich, and that efficiency comes from mass production, assembly lines, and heavy industry.

And it’s not just large products like that. Do you have any idea how much time and effort you save being able to buy a high quality ceramic mug for a couple of bucks, when making one would take you hours or days of effort, assuming you already had all the tools to do so? Or how much time and effort old time farmers had to spend maintaining their soft-metal tools and repairing their wooden fences? A farmer today can go out and with less than a months’ income buy enough barbed wire and fence posts to fence in an entire herd of livestock. And that fence will last decades with minor maintenance.

Go have a look at some farms from the 1700’s and 1800’s. If they had fences at all (remember cowboys? Who spent their entire lives just herding animals?), the fences would be laboriously and expensively made out of raw lumber, and would rot and fall into disrepair within a few years. It was a constant chore keeping that kind of stuff up (and sharpening blades, and repairing broken things, etc). That leaves less time to earn money to buy other things.

It’s also fashionable to point to the excess ‘things’ that we have, and claim that if we just got rid of our materialism we could be happier and not need as many resources. Ignoring the fact that this is what humans apparently want, it grossly underestimates just how much of our societal resources are expended on that stuff. Assuming you want to live in a safe, well lit home that is clean and has running water and heat, and you want to wear comfortable clothes and eat a varied diet of nutritious food, you’re going to use up enough resources that you need that heavy industry to provide it for you.

Sam has raised an interesting point here.

Governance and contradictions therein.

We have a menu of choices in re governance.

Democratic, military/autocratic, something in between.

Each will have its advantages and disadvantages.

I was thinking that there may be tensions between best government – that is most efficient-- at early stages and later stages.

I think several posters have rightly posited that early stages of the project would require --in order to prevent chaos and collapse-- rigorous, military style control of the population. To help direct resources into the proper directions. However, as the colony/project matures, this form of government will probably not be the most efficient. Depending on rate of maturation (within the first generation, second?) we may have introduced a new wrinkle, which is to say inappropriate socio-political instututions.

Sorry to be so late responding-that pesky work thing, ya know. Let’s see what I can offer to clarify my earlier thoughts.

I now regret offering the ILLUSTRATION of gardening as a way of life for our new survivors. I meant only to say that I do believe technology in many respects separates us from important aspects of life. And despite my subject title in the first post, I am not as luddite as some, I own a <gasp!> automobile.

My main point, which I’ll admit to being overly fuzzy about is that I am absolutely of the opinion that all the choices we have made thus far have not been good ones. Will anyone disagree with me on this point? And some of them have been out and out failures. I stand by my example of fossil fuels as a bad choice. Certainly good at the time and even continues to be useful in many ways. But given what we now know about emissions, non-point source pollution, and basically tossing all our eggs in one finite basket, wouldn’t we do well to explore other more sustainable sources of energy. Similarly I recognize that as we PRESENTLY conceive of alternative sources of energy they appear to be some backwards step in progress. I disavow this as well.

First, I dispute the fact that progress as we often define it in terms of economy and development is always a good thing. In fact, defining our “success” as a people based on GNP and skyscrapers is a poor proxy for a good life.

Also, thanks for the suggestion that I go out to a real working farm and see what it’s really like. Oh, actually I’ve done that. And I don’t presume to present such an endeavor as a posy picking party. Yes, it is hard work. But recognizing the hard work involved in putting one’s food on the table is something few people have experience with today and this I do believe is a shame. Simple cash transactions for food allows an important link to be lost in understanding that we are all intimately tied to the health of our surroundings.

Finally, boutique environmentalism, huh? Well, I’d love to respond to that one (if I actually knew what it was), but I have to go dance naked in the meadow now and spread peace and love to other corners of the world.