The Apocalypse and You
Forget the flaming chariots of the gods, the seven plagues, the zombies. Let’s get real and talk about actual apocalyptic scenarios. I’m talking the stuff that could really happen. A viral plague that wipes out 75% of the world, leaving only those with immunity behind. An all-out nuclear war that kills almost everyone, thanks to radioactive contamination lingering for decades. Or perhaps just a meteor strike that kills hundreds of millions of people and wipes out the power and communication capabilities.
Now, flash forward a few months or a year. What really happens?
TV, movies, and even most books don’t give us accurate depictions of how life really would be for the survivors. Because if it did, there’d be no room for the story, every aspect of the peoples’ lives would be focused on just staying alive. Let’s look at some key factors:
- Health and Medicine. With most of the population gone, there’d be no electricity and no hot water. That means no air conditioning or heat, so in the summer all the food and medicines in stores and houses would quickly spoil from heat and humidity. Are you diabetic? One year after the apocalypse, odds are you won’t have insulin anymore. And since you will have to survive on whatever food you find, your blood sugars will soon have you falling victim to gangrene, heart attacks, and kidney failure.
Speaking of hearts, how are all those cardiac patients doing? No meds, no surgical centers. Old folks and people with preexisting conditions are going to be dropping like flies.
And let’s not forget cancer patients. No more treatments for them. So long.
Did you cut yourself? Hope you or your buddy knows how to disinfect it and stitch it up, and then pray you don’t get tetanus or an infection. Alcohol and peroxide will last a lot longer than antibiotics in the extremes of hot and cold, but their supplies won’t be around forever because smart people will horde them. A 99-cent bottle of rubbing alcohol might be worth more than food in the new world.
- Food. Yes, there will be grocery stores and big box stores aplenty, all stocked with consumables, from fresh fruit to canned and boxed goods. Remember, though, without electricity the fruit, veggies, and meats will last two weeks at best. Canned foods? Consider this: “According to the USDA fact sheet, canned foods are safe for long periods if not exposed to temperatures below freezing or above 90̊F. High-acid canned food like tomatoes and some fruit will keep their best quality for 12 to 18 months; low-acid canned food like meat and vegetables will for two to five years.”
Boxed foods fare better in the heat and cold: five to ten years for grains, cookies, pasta, and cereal. One to two years for freeze-dried tuna or meat or veggies. But boxes are susceptible to humidity, so it’s possible that after only a few years a lot of that stuff will be moldy or falling apart.
Likely as not, within a year or two of the beginning of post-apocalyptic life, people will be subsisting mostly on carbohydrates and fats—more good news for those diabetics and high cholesterol sufferers!
Oh, and don’t forget that after a nuclear war, most of the food will be contaminated anyhow!
- Training. How good a survivalist are you? Can you light a fire without matches? Can you build a shelter in the woods? Do you know how to purify water without a chem kit? Heck, have you ever gone camping? If you got into the local WalMart, would you know which supplies and equipment were essential for survival? Could you pick out, load, and shoot a gun? Catch and gut a fish? Or a deer? Do you know which wild plants are poisonous or edible? You won’t have Google to tell you, and outside of a library or the occasional remaining bookstore, there won’t be manuals or field guides, either.
Other skills you’ll likely need: how to trap a squirrel or rabbit. How to bind a sprained or broken limb. How to dress to avoid dying of exposure. How to simply carry or drag everything you need from place to place: food, clothing, shelter, medical supplies, and water. How to navigate through the woods without getting lost. How to defend yourself against a wild animal, human attacker, or possible mutant combination of both!
If somehow you manage to survive the first year, beating all the odds in a world that’s inherently deadly, you’re still going to face other challenges. What happens when the food in your area runs out? Can you pick up and move somewhere else, somewhere that hasn’t already been ransacked barren? Can you avoid hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and droughts? Can you cross a desert or the swamps of Florida? Will you avoid the flu, pneumonia, Lyme disease, food poisoning? Or spider or snake bites?
When you think about all of the dangers in a post-apocalyptic world, zombies or mutant cannibals suddenly don’t seem so scary!
Maybe it’s time you start preparing.
Until next time …