Post Post-Apocalyptic brainstorming

So, I’m sitting here at work, and I’m watching the BBC show “Survivors”. Series 1.

Excellent show, and it’s available on Netflix streaming, if you are so inclined. The idea is that a plague has wiped out like 99% of the UK population (and presumably close to that in the rest of the world.

I love this stuff.

So, something that has always been in the back of my mind is this question:

In this scenario, or something like Stephen Kings “The Stand”, what would life be like 20 years later?

I’m not real sure what the end game is going to be with “Survivors”, but in “The Stand”, there is a city, with a decent density of population with a Hydro power plant running.

20 years after the event, what would things be like?

Any ideas? Any books that portray this (other than Earth Abides, which is good)?

Mods: I put it in cafe society because the premise is based on books/novels referenced here, but if it should be moved, feel free to do so.

A rather definitive source on power plant survival.

There are lots of books/movies/video games that portray this. Any particulars that are important?

I always love reading A Canticle For Leibowitz and I’m pretty sure it falls under your post post idea. IIRC it is set a few hundred years after an apocalyptic event.

The problem is that even a large city does not operate as a self contained entity. Food, medicine and other supplies are shipped from elsewhere. Even the hydroelectric plant needs replacement parts that are manufactured somewhere else and the technology and knowledge might not exist locally to make more.

After 20 years, the survivors would have most likely salvaged everything salvageable. Any available food, medicine and other perishables will have long since spoiled. Any petroleum would have evaporated. Even firearms might be in short supply as they require cleaning and maintenance and no new ammunition would be manufactured.

I would imagine a sort of bizarre anachronistic world as what becomes a mostly agrarian society tries to salvage as much technology and manufacturing processes as possible before they becomes lost.

A lot of it is going to depend upon mobility.

1% of the population is still going to leave you with 70, 000, 000 human beings. That’s more than the population of the entire Earth during the dark ages.

Until the late 1960s, Australia was an entirely self-sufficient nation with world standard technology and a population of about 7 million. So if you can get even 10% of those people together in one place you can quite easily maintain 1960s level society and technology. Given the various advances that have been achieved since then, I imagine that maintaining 1980s technology wouldn’t even be difficult.

It’s impossible to say whether this would happen or even be possible.

Initially the world would be fairly chaotic. However people will concentrate on any areas that has food and medical services. If it was just a plague that caused the population collapse then the use of radios and aircraft would rapidly bring together survivors acrosslarge regions. A group of survivors would broadcast to others, and aircraft would rapidly allow any people without radios to be contacted. Within a couple of years we could reasonably expect that 90% of survivors in the developed world will be living in the same region and functioning as a society.

So In North America for example, we would expect that most of the 5 million or so survivors would all be settled in some productive region, likely Florida and surrounds. Assuming the survivors were random individuals there would be sufficient doctors, engineers and so forth to easily maintain post-war technology levels. Raw materials would be no problem at all for the first few generations because everything needed is simply lying around for the taking.

The biggest unknown would be how people actually react. 20th century technology requires stable government, functioning economic systems and so forth. Those things don’t just spring out of the ground fully formed, and with a total societal collapse it is not a given that people will immediately adopt the societal conditions needed to maintain the technology base.

My personal belief is that people would flock together, then some group would attempt to become the new leadership. This is very likely to be the military. We would then see a military dictatorship arise, with a sizable portion of people choosing to flee into the wilderness in response, but the vast majority staying because of the better services offered by the larger community. While such a dictatorship could maintain technology levels for the first generation, I am skeptical of the ability to implement the economic and educational systems need to prevent regression

So 20 years after the event I would predict the vast majority of Americans, Canadians and Mexicans living in Florida. There would be a military dictatorship with working 20th century technology. Generally things would be very similar to what was experienced under European Communism or wartime Fascism, with a moderate standard of living but few luxuries, considerable rationing and obligatory work details. There would be pockets of dissenters living outside the controlled areas, but likely nearby enough to maintain trade. Most of these groups would probably be tolerated, though treated as foreign nationals, provided they didn’t provoke the government of the day.

I think that survivors would tend to seek each other out for help, assistance and support - Human being are social animals and that’s just the way we’re wired. After a while groups of survivors would band together to form a stable-ish society, so barring die-hard individualists or the just plain bloody-minded, most humans would be living in small cities 20 years after a major apocalypse. That’s not to say that they would be anything like cities as we know them today - I agree that most preserved food, medicine and ammo would have been spoiled or used up by then, so we’re likely talking about an agricultural society but with basic electricity and services. I’m guessing most communication would be by radio, and if the citizens are smart, they’ll be sending out regular search parties to either make contact with distant cities or recover and protect as much technology and knowledge as possible. Instructional, “how-to” books would be worth their weight in gold.

Life would be hard and more dangerous than we’re currently used to and people would be more subject to accident, injury, disease and even aggression from bandits or raiders, but on the whole I think we’d do pretty well.

Blake the problem with Florida is it’ll take just one really big hurricane to blow that community back to the Stone age. Somewhere less prone to natural disasters that happen every year would be a better place to settle down.


I wonder how well the survivors would be able to transmit knowledge of the former world to their children who never saw it. Not just technical knowledge but the mindset and assumptions we take for granted. There would be a very, very narrow cusp between technological civilization recovering, however slowly, and the world regressing to a preindustrial order. It might make an interesting story to depict a world which was exactly on that cusp. Say, one hundred years after the cataclysm a small group of people- the grandchildren of the survivors- are trying to redevelop the capacity to actually manufacture stuff at a nineteenth century level. Mass produce steel, build a working steam engine from scratch, etc. Bear in mind though that the industrial revolution couldn’t have happened if there hadn’t been a well-developed merchantile system of trade that made mass production feasible.

Not specifically twenty years after an apocalyptical event, but Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz is about the rebuilding of civilization after a nuclear war.

The more I hear, the more I apprciate Earth Abides.

I love Earth Abides, and other than a few small flaws I see it being quite accurate, I think.

And I also love A Canticle for Leibowitz. It’s an amazing tale that spans a great amount of time. I would love to see more stories covering the “history” of that post war World, and how things came about.

Thanks all!

I think this really depends upon in part not only how many survive but also how assiduous the original survivors are about retaining knowledge. Do they burn books for warmth, or keep them for knowledge? The more books retained the better, with a critical core lower limit.

I’ve not read The Stand, but at a survival level of 1% - 600K people in the U.K. - I think that cities are going to be a bit iffy at the 20 year point. I think you’ll get some modest-sized towns but a largely agrarian economy. Modern towns and cities will be deserted or destroyed: you can’t keep a modern house warm using old-fashioned methods, nor can you cook on an electric stove when there’s no electricity.

I’m assuming that 1% survived the apocalypse and that after 20 years, the population is still 1% despite breeding due to die-off from other medical conditions, conflicts, and what-not. However, I think that at the 20 year point, things will have settled down and the population will be about to explode. Contraception will have run out long ago, and the first post-apocalypse generation will be entering adulthood. The population could easily recover within 200 years. I think modern civilisation will recover first in places like China and India - so many people to start with - and Britain - an island rich in resources with a decent climate - and Egypt - so fertile - and western America.

With specific regard to America, I see the locus as NW America rather than Florida. Florida is too vulnerable to heat, storm, and disease. Oregon and California are perfectly positioned for farms and mining.

Ammo lasts indefinitely if stored in watertight containers. I have some that works fine made in the 50’s, and know of people who use much older stuff. The main drawback with these is that it’s all corrosive, so lax cleaning will lead to damage to the gun.

Fallout uses CA/NV/OR as the locus for three of the games. The Postman uses Oregon. California is big enough and diverse enough to support sustainability if it were separated from the rest of the country (although not currently financial solvency).

Well it’s debatable. there is no such thing as a perfect climate. One thing to bear in mind is that far, far more people die on land from the cold than ever died from hurricanes. A *really bad *hurricane season kills a few thousand people. A *typical *winter kills tens of thousands.

While hurricanes look impressive, they really aren’t all that dangerous if you aren’t on a ship, especially when you have modern, hurricane rated buildings to inhabit. In contrast cold is a serious killer. Like hurricanes it is a condition that will kill people if they go outside, but whereas that is true of hurricanes for at most a few days a year over an areas of maybe a hundred square kilometres, for cold it is true for weeks on end over hundreds of thousands of square kilometres.

Storm I’ve already addressed.

Heat is a total non-issue. Humans evolved in Africa and our crops evolved in the ME and North Africa. Florida is close to being the perfect climate for humans and for most of our crops.

There are no more diseases present in Florida than New York. More importantly, the greatest risk of disease comes from confining people indoors. There is a reason why epidemics of smallpox, influenza, etc. were most common in winter and early spring. Contrary to 19th century explorer’s lurid accounts, warmer climates pose less disease risk than cooler ones.

I’m not terribly familiar with California, but I believe it has some serious water supply issues. Assuming the infrastructure is in place to provide sufficient, reliable water for 8 million people plus crops, then it’s probably as good as anywhere.

I think that’s the big one. Not just in terms of the knowledge itself, but retaining universal education, a working economic system and so forth. Even with all the books in the world, without a modern economic and political system society will regress very fast. After all, who is going to study for 4 years to become an engineer if there isn’t a some reward for doing so?

I’ll add to this. Due to the intense heat and resultant diseases Florida is not at all a pleasant place to live without modern amenities - namely air conditioning.

You didn’t even read the thread did you?

What about killers like malaria?

Malaria was eradicated in the US 40 years ago. Historically malaria was an much of a problem in New York and DC as it was in Miami.

People get this idea that malaria is a tropical disease from lurid 19th century explorers tales combined with the fact that developed nations regions drained their marshes earlier than developing. The truth is that malaria is a disease spread by mosquitoes, where you get the right mosquitoes you get malaria (or similar diseases). It was a major problem in New York City until the 20th century and was a major problem in DC until the 1920s, killing hundreds every year. Heck, it was a major problem in Edinburgh into the 20th century. If you want to know where you are at risk from malaria, look at this map. Note that it is a potential problem in California and Seattle as much as Miami.

Al things being equal, malaria is certainly more likely in warmer areas because their are more mosquitoes more of the time, but it’s not as if it isn’t a problem everywhere. More importantly the risk from malaria is far smaller than the risk from measles and similar diseases due to being in confined spaces during cold winters.

But in a PAW, with nothing to control it, malaria is going to come back very quickly.