I was having a long discussion today about what the survivor/s of an apocalypse needs to rebuild civilization. Energy, metals, fuels all got discussed. My theory was what he/she/they needed was a stiff drink, never mind the rebuilding part. Actually, I thought it wasn’t a bad foundation for rebuilding civilization, because alcohol could help make the water safer to drink, sterilize wounds, get used as fuel, fire accelerant, and it would make a useful trading item and social lubricant. And if all that failed, you could just drink it, enough and you would stop worrying about the end of the world as you knew it. Too much and you would wish it would end. And a little more and it would.
It is an interesting question, though, for most post-apocalypse tales: our civilization is massively interlocked, and seriously, making anything from scratch – just the raw materials, is a huge challenge. If you have the debris of civilization to cannibalize – it’s a head start, rather than a final answer – because everything wears out – some things much faster than others.
With knowledge and the supply chain I can feed/supply a lot of people. With a net I can catch to feed quite a lot of people. But if I could not find or buy a net… I could – given some form of twine/line make a fishing-net from scratch. It would take me a long time, and probably be less good than a nylon one from a factory. What I can’t do is produce lots of fine, strong twine (cheap as chips in our modern world). I could make a little out of natural materials. A little. A net takes a lot. So, with a little I would be down to a fishing-line – and once I had made hooks, I could catch fish – enough to feed a few people. But we rely heavily on the existence of an entire manufacturing structure to maintain our current society. Even if we could make do with only some of the components — we’ll drop our society back in time. And that takes not only those components but the knowledge of how to do so. Without those, you need to fall back far further.
And, of course, with our reliance on the internet for knowledge – without it we are in a world of pain. In the end, I think knowledge trumps fuel, metals…. even weapons (good to have in the short term, indeed. But in the long-term they too will wear out.
But what do you think rebuilding needs – besides survival to do it, that is?