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…
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…
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, you ask, deserves space on the time capsule of White Mesa’s archival drives? All six seasons of Hogan’s Heroes, apparently.
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…!
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!
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.
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, preemie babies, women in childbirth, cancer patients – sheesh – ordinary 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.)
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?)
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.
Farewell, Cushy Life!
How about you? What are you stocking up on? Is anyone out there trying to fit a lifetime’s supply of Caffeine-free Diet Coke in their basement?
Wait…I’m the only one…?
She currently lives somewhere in the American Midwest bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, hobby-farming, and writing White Mesa Chronicles, a cheerful post-apocalyptic series. Because that’s more fun than gardening.
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