Recent panic-buying of land in New Zealand has been sparked by worries of a Trumpocalypse. Concerned billionaires, headed up by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, are apparently preparing for a catastrophic Apocalypse. Which catastrophe? Well, depends who you speak to – an earthquake, societal collapse, pandemic, World War III. One thing’s for certain, they want to be prepared.
Billionaire Boltholes in New Zealand
New Zealand is the location of choice for these panicked moguls. Why? A developed nation, capable of being self-sufficient and conveniently located as far from potential human made catastrophes as possible. Plus, New Zealand is a pretty politically safe country – it’s not exactly on anyone’s nuclear hit list! It seems to be these reasons that lead to Peter Thiel forking out over $10 million for a 477 acre lakeside estate.
But what about us non-billionaires? The ordinary folk who can’t afford boltholes in New Zealand? What does the common man need to know to survive and ultimately rebuild society?
In his book, “The Knowledge”, Lewis Dartnell lays out the key things you need to know for rebuilding society from scratch. Essentially a quick guide on how to reboot human civilisation. Here, are some of the key messages from the book, from short term survival to long term society building.
Purifying your drinking water is very important so as not to contract disease from lurking bacteria. Disease such as cholera could well become prevalent in more developed countries once more in a post-apocalyptic world if drinking dirty water. Boiling may seem like the obvious go to option but this uses a lot of fuel, which will become very valuable.
The method recommended by the World Health Organization for those living in developing countries is solar disinfection. UV waves and other forms of the suns radiation cause DNA damage and photo-oxidative destruction to bacteria and other disease causing organisms. The method is simple: fill plastic bottles with water (of a low turbidity, this method won’t work with very turbid water) and leave them outside for a period of time. The length of time is dependent on the weather conditions: sunny conditions only needs six hours, compared to cloudy conditions which would require up to 2 days.
The benefits of this method are that it is cheap, easy AND it works. Using this method there is a significantly lower instance of diarrhea related disease compared to drinking untreated water. However, if water is very turbid then it will need to be filtered prior to treatment. Also only a limited volume of water can be treated at one time (i.e. the amount the bottles will hold) and a long period of time is required for treatment.
Things we take for granted like keeping clean help us to prevent infection. It is important to carry this forward in a post-apocalyptic earth – once again to ensure your survival. Something incredibly simple, like soap helps to protect against gastrointestinal and respiratory infection. There are many links online about how to make your own soap, like this one. Ethanol is also good for disinfection when you have a wound. This can be made from fermented food or grain.
Power Generation after Apocalypse
Coming from pre-apocalypse earth where we have a great reliance on power for practically everything, power generation will be very important post-apocalypse. Initially, scavenging diesel generators may provide enough power short term. But longer term power generation will be an important consideration. Renewables would be the way to go post apocalypse, generating electricity from water wheels and similar contraptions, using an alternator from abandoned cars. Excess energy could then be stored in batteries. Car batteries aren’t the best battery for energy storage, but they would be a starting point and would no doubt be in quite good supply! Check out this article for more information on the best batteries.
Food, the human energy source, is obviously a very important consideration. Sure to begin with you can scavenge from supermarkets and corner shops, but what about longer term? The store of food from pre-apocalypse earth won’t power the rebuilding of society. Luckily, there is a “back-up plan” in place for rebuilding agriculture and the variety of food as we know it today.
The Svalbard Seed Vault is a stockpile of over 880,000 samples of seed from seed vaults across 233 countries. The bank holds the staples of food security such as wheat, maize and rice. Despite being in a remote location surrounded by beautiful landscape, the Svalbard Seed Bank is anything but Bond villain-esque. It is essentially a hole in a mountain side, culminating in three chambers behind a set of five locked doors. It is built to last 1,000 years, with the permafrost and thick ice ensuring the precious seeds remain frozen without requiring any power. This mountainside storage facility essentially holds a starter pack of viable seeds to help rebuild agriculture and food security.
Power Cars – with trees
We have grown very accustomed to easy travel and the need for getting cars and other vehicles working will no doubt be an important factor in survival. But with a lack of fuel for diesel and petrol cars post-apocalypse, thinking back in time may help. During the Second World War millions of cars in Europe were run on fuel from wood. Modifying a car’s internal combustion engine to run on flammable gases produced by incomplete combustion of wood has been done before – it can be done again. Check out this article to find out more on gasifier engines.
Learning to Relearn
So we have the beginnings of initially being able to survive in post-apocalyptic earth, but surviving and rebuilding society are different things. How can we rebuild human society? Dartnell points out that “society has an immense collective capability” but alone, we are ignorant. Therefore, the preservation of the scientific method is the key to rebuild and reboot civilisation. We need society to develop and progress through generations and we do this through relearning what we know. “Science built the modern world and science will build the world from scratch again.”
To watch Lewis Dartnell explain the basics of surviving in a post-apocalyptic earth, view this TED conference video.