10 Things I’ll Miss Post-Apocalypse

I’m facing the imminent collapse of my nation. “Imminent” might mean (hopefully means) fifty or seventy years from now, but the full end of the United States is inevitable. It happened to Rome, to the U.S.S.R., to the Ming dynasty, to Babel…

Image credit : christinprophecy.org

But I’m not here to talk about cultural suicide or political theory. I’m here to offer a eulogy of sorts to ten things I will miss when civilization as I know it takes a turn for the worst. It’s how I cope, okay? 😛

1. Toilet paper.

Don’t judge me. I live a 21st-century first-world lifestyle, and I’ll bid a tearful farewell when modern hygiene commodities go the way of the chamber pot…and when the chamber pot goes the way of the iPhone, as it were…

2. Youtube

I could just say “the internet,” but I’m going to break this down into several points because it’s such an integrated part of my life.

What I mean in this point is any digital media: Vimeo, Netflix, Amazon Pro streaming, the stockpiled entertainment and knowledge of countless 20th century and modern TV shows, movies, documentaries – gone!

Gone except for what we’ve preserved on our private back-up systems. Just what deserves space on the time capsule of White Mesa’s archival drives? All six seasons of Hogan’s Heroes, apparently.

Internet connectivity; Image credit: BusinessInsider.com

3. The Cloud

My dad’s a computer technician by trade and by nature. The vast network of interconnected services, technologies, and information that involves something as simple as pulling out my phone to check the weather forecast is mind-blowing.

The sheer complexity of the tasks we ask our gadgets to do each day is staggering, as explored in this post by Jean-Baptiste Quéru. It won’t take much to make the whole house of dominoes crumble.

We’re starting to see this in the game industry where companies (like Sony and Microsoft) are requiring players to “phone home” with authentication software and the like before we’re even allowed to play the game we bought. If the parent company’s server is down? We’re out of luck – go read a book.

If our book is locked with DRM and the publisher is down?! Out of luck – go kill the zombies in your backyard or something…!

4. Wikipedia

Again, I mean the whole cornucopia of online information. How did people do story research before the internet? The obscurest details, the most fascinating news tidbits, eHow articles, puppy chow recipes, hair styles, murder techniques (for fictional people, of course!) – all at the press of a button!

No longer.

Worldwide Airline Traffic; Image credit: Jpatokal on Wikimedia Commons

5. Intercontinental travel

My dad has been in Africa three times in the past six to ten months. While private vehicles like cars could conceivably be kept running on scavenged fuel for several years, the amount of energy, cooperation, and organization involved in moving an airplane from North America to South Africa is incredible.

The loss of trade, communication, and who knows what else will affect us in ways we can’t fully grasp.

6. Cross-country travel

We’ve been spoiled in this age of consumer cars and airplane tickets. But once getting to Grandma’s house isn’t six hours by car but a entire week by horse wagon, annual Christmas at Grandma’s will become a thing of the past.

Without a stable economy and communication infrastructure to help the oil extraction, refining, and shipping industries get gasoline to my car, travel is going to be a whole lot more localized.

Admit it or not, we should all be grateful for our petroleum industries!

7. Baking Soda

This might seem like a curious addition, but if you’ve ever made cookies from scratch (or brownies, bread, volcanoes, etc.) you’ll know you need baking soda. Apparently, most of the baking soda in the U.S. comes from Green River Wyoming – which is not where I live. We can find the chemical recipes for producing bicarbonate of soda on Wikipedia (which we must cache on our archive server – see #4), but I don’t see a lot of rocks in my yard with little labels Na2CO3 or NaOH.

In short, post-apocalypse Kimia will have to be a lot more scientifically savvy than cushy-first-world-technology Kimia.

8. Ibuprofen

We (American society at large) pop a whole lot of pills, and it will be a dark day when we (me personally) have a headache and no drug to fix it with. I’ll have to resort back to herbal tea, hot compresses, and loving family members to do massages.

More seriously: diabetics, premie babies, women in childbirth, cancer patients – sheesh – straight up influenza victims will have a lot harder time of it when the modern medical establishment we all take for granted has lost power, been looted a couple times, no longer has trained staff or expensive chemical supplies, and shuts down for good.

(Before you dash off to rant about the American medical system in the comments — remember that third world counties’ hospitals are a far cry from ours here, even with the infusion of Western aid capital they enjoy.)

Image from Pixabay

9. Chocolate

Add in vanilla, mangoes, cinnamon, oranges in the Midwest, and all other foods that used to be luxuries because they had to be imported from the places they grew naturally (hence spices from China, New World exotics, etc.) and will one day be luxuries again unless I get my greenhouse system working.

Those of you who drink coffee, guess which climate zone coffee inhabits? 😉

(Incidentally, did I mention like 90% of our food is sweetened with corn syrup, which will take a big hit along with mass-cultivation and inter-state trade?)

10. Gunpowder

Most tales of the apocalypse are full of guns, guns, guns… I’m just wondering how they’ll still be firing after ten or twenty years.

Yes, Pa Ingles melted his own bullets in Little House, but I betcha he bought the explosive from the trading post.

And, sure, Captain Kirk made a bomb that one time, but I’d like to see you make gunpowder out of rocks in your backyard.

Zombie- and bandit-slaying are going to need an upgrade.


Kimia writes to give the people living in her head a chance at life. She currently lives somewhere in the American Midwest bracing for the collapse of society by writing White Mesa Chronicles, a cheerful post-apocalyptic series. Because that’s more fun than gardening.

2 thoughts on “10 Things I’ll Miss Post-Apocalypse

  1. Kimia,

    In discussing his dystopian apocalyptic sci-fi saga Escape from New York, director John Carpenter once described it as “both our fears… and what we would like to have happen.”

    For every reason you’ve outlined here, apocalyptic fiction in general represents both our fears and what we would like to have happen. We’ve reached a point in our evolution in which we know we’ve become (too?) dependent on our modern-day conveniences and technologies, and we fear the day we won’t have access to toilet paper, to medicines, to Google. We know we’re not prepared to cope with that reality.

    And yet we also long for it. Says media theorist Douglas Rushkoff: “If you’re in a world without cause and effect, without origins and goals, you start to go, ‘When is this going to end? Where is there gonna be peace? When am I gonna get to just unplug and relax? And if you can’t imagine that anymore, you tend to imagine almost apocalyptic scenarios. It sounds bad on the surface, but, I mean, in the zombie apocalypse, there’s no Twitter, there’s no cell phone, there’s no boss, there’s no IRS — there’s just you and your family on a hilltop with a shotgun and slow-moving zombies on the horizon. It’s relaxing on a certain level.”

    That’s the appeal of this kind of fiction: It envisions a world we fear… but also sort of welcome — a back-to-basics reality. And I think the immense popularity of it in recent years is very much a reflection of the anxiety you identified at the top of this post: a collective cultural feeling that the way things are going isn’t sustainable — that The End is on its way.

    Whether it is or it isn’t, I can’t say. But there’s no question that we are channeling our pervasive unease into fictions that let us see what an unplugged world might look like, and that even assure us, in their way, it might not be so bad.

    Great, thought-provoking post, Kimia. I will be curious to see how you envision the collapse of civilized society in the White Mesa Chronicles!

    Sean

    • Thank you so much for your thoughts! As you said: there’s no IRS in the apocalypse!
      Part of my vision is trying to predict the logical progression of the cultural hatred and instability we see in our modern society, but I admit some of it is also what you discuss: imaging that the “simpler” challenges of eating, sheltering, and killing zombies would be more manageable than the issues we face now.
      Of course, when I’m writing the story myself, I can magically grant my characters whatever modern tech I want them to have, and give it all a happy ending : )
      Thanks again for stopping by!

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