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NewKidOldKid
11-08-2011, 03:41 PM
Let's say a virus (or zombies, or whatever) kills most of the Earth's population. How long until the survivors go back to living a very primitive life?

For example, how long until all the medications on shelves expire and we no longer have antibiotics?

How long until we ran out of gas (or gas evaporates or becomes too weak to work) and we cannot drive anymore?

How long until all the food in shops is gone and we have to choice but to live off the land?

I understand many of the answers depend on how many people are still alive, so let's say 10 % percent of the population survived.

Would you say we'd run out of anything modern (food, medications, etc.) within five years? 10?

And what happens after? Can I walk into a library and find a book to teach me how to make antibiotics? Or would that be impossible for the lay person without a proper lab setup?

Charles Farley
11-08-2011, 04:27 PM
If you are going to make society collapse then why bring the old ideas back?

Create a new one ..

NewKidOldKid
11-08-2011, 04:29 PM
If you are going to make society collapse then why bring the old ideas back?

Create a new one ..

What old ideas? Antibiotics? I'm pretty sure survivors would like to hold on to that.

Purple Rose
11-08-2011, 04:30 PM
Greek society will collapse any minute now. Might get some answers there.

Charles Farley
11-08-2011, 05:26 PM
What old ideas? Antibiotics? I'm pretty sure survivors would like to hold on to that.

First of all . .you want them to live a primitive life? There were no antibioctics to help these people. So your timeline is already fucked.

No gas . .no help . .

Doi some research .. or ask better questions . .

NewKidOldKid
11-08-2011, 05:34 PM
First of all . .you want them to live a primitive life? There were no antibioctics to help these people. So your timeline is already fucked.

No gas . .no help . .

Doi some research .. or ask better questions . .

No, I don't want them to live a primitive life. It's 2011, then puff, 90% of the world is dead. Now what? How long until we lose all those things (antibiotics, the use of gas, etc.)? How is my timeline fucked? I said "they have antibiotics, then virus kills most people (so factories no longer working, etc.), now what"? How is that not in the proper order?

And what's with the hostility?

I know what it was like 100, 200, 300 years ago. I want to know how long it will take for us to lose access to things like antibiotics and start reverting to a more primitive way of life, where a simple infection might kill you because you no longer have access to the proper medication.

Captcha
11-08-2011, 05:41 PM
First of all . .you want them to live a primitive life? There were no antibioctics to help these people. So your timeline is already fucked.

No gas . .no help . .

Doi some research .. or ask better questions . .

I don't understand this. The OP isn't asking to build a time machine and be transported back to a time where the modern world never happened. The OP is asking about living without the modern infrastructure that we take for granted. There's no timeline issue, and I have no idea what your second paragraph is meant to convey.

OP, there's a pretty cool book called The World Without Us that looks at what would happen if humans all just disappeared. I don't think it gets into specifics, like how long antibiotics would last, because it's assuming that ALL humans are gone. But it has some interesting points about the physical artifacts that would, or would not, survive.

Maybe there's some sort of Survivalist manual you could find for the more specific questions? I bought a First Aid manual that was geared to remote situations, but it was written with the (obvious) assumption that the medics would be providing, well, FIRST aid, with the priority being getting the patient to modern medical facilities as soon as possible. And the medics were also, as I recall, expected to have at least basic modern first aid kits with them.

It's an interesting question - I'll be watching the thread!

NewKidOldKid
11-08-2011, 05:53 PM
I don't understand this. The OP isn't asking to build a time machine and be transported back to a time where the modern world never happened. The OP is asking about living without the modern infrastructure that we take for granted. There's no timeline issue, and I have no idea what your second paragraph is meant to convey.

OP, there's a pretty cool book called The World Without Us that looks at what would happen if humans all just disappeared. I don't think it gets into specifics, like how long antibiotics would last, because it's assuming that ALL humans are gone. But it has some interesting points about the physical artifacts that would, or would not, survive.

Maybe there's some sort of Survivalist manual you could find for the more specific questions? I bought a First Aid manual that was geared to remote situations, but it was written with the (obvious) assumption that the medics would be providing, well, FIRST aid, with the priority being getting the patient to modern medical facilities as soon as possible. And the medics were also, as I recall, expected to have at least basic modern first aid kits with them.

It's an interesting question - I'll be watching the thread!

Thanks for the answer. I saw the documentary Life After People, which I'm assuming is similar to the book (?). It doesn't touch on things like medicine and all that because... well, there are no people left to use it.

I guess what I'm hoping is that it would be possible to hold on to some things, like modern medicine. Maybe not advanced surgery, unless a surgeon actually survived, but at least medication and basic skills (which is why I was asking if I could learn it from a book) and maybe gas (at least for as long as possible and I don't know how long that is).

I think my biggest question is "how long can we hold on to the way of life we're used to"? Once all medication expires (in five years? ten?), then we're in big trouble. And once we cannot longer drive, then we'll be stuck living close to home, without the ability to go check distant lands and see if somebody's alive over there. Unless horses survived too, then you have a few more options.

GeorgeK
11-08-2011, 06:05 PM
where a simple infection might kill you because you no longer have access to the proper medication.

Sort of by definition simple infections don't kill healthy people. They do cause morbidity, but mortality is the realm of complicated infections.

Your scenario will hinge upon who are the people who survive. If you have people with a mind for science and they manage to salvage a decent library, society will bounce back much quicker. If the new leaders blame science and burn the books and crucify the scientists then they should embrace the new dark ages with welcoming arms. There've been many books with this as a scenario and the two factions meet up three generations later.

NewKidOldKid
11-08-2011, 06:18 PM
Sort of by definition simple infections don't kill healthy people. They do cause morbidity, but mortality is the realm of complicated infections.

Your scenario will hinge upon who are the people who survive. If you have people with a mind for science and they manage to salvage a decent library, society will bounce back much quicker. If the new leaders blame science and burn the books and crucify the scientists then they should embrace the new dark ages with welcoming arms. There've been many books with this as a scenario and the two factions meet up three generations later.

The infection thing was just an example. What I meant is that we no longer have antibiotics and we obviously need them.

As for survivors... you know, regular people. If you have a town of 100 residents and a virus kills 90 at random (let's suppose the virus is random for the sake of the argument), the 10 that are left will be a mix: the guy who delivered pizzas, a teacher, a cop... whoever happens to survive.

There will no book burning or anything like that. No organized groups either and nobody in charge (or maybe somebody is, but phones don't work, so the survivors have no idea). The 10 people who survived will band together and try to survive. Same with groups of survivors in other areas. Who you have in your group is a matter of luck.

And yes, everybody wants to keep "modern life" alive as much as possible. I would too. I would want a big bag of drugs, a gun and a car before I take a single step. I'm going to go on the assumption that my characters will want the same (because they're my characters and they'll do what I tell them!).

I know society will probably bounce back over decades/centuries/ whatever. I'm more interested in the worst period. Right after the virus kills 90 % of people, it's pretty bad, but at least there's still bottled water, food, medicine. 50 years from that, maybe things will start coming back. What happens in between? When does it get REALLY bad? A year after the virus? 5? 10? How long can people survive on what's available before things expire, stop working, etc.?

Charles Farley
11-08-2011, 06:22 PM
Thanks for the answer. I saw the documentary Life After People, which I'm assuming is similar to the book (?). It doesn't touch on things like medicine and all that because... well, there are no people left to use it.

I guess what I'm hoping is that it would be possible to hold on to some things, like modern medicine. Maybe not advanced surgery, unless a surgeon actually survived, but at least medication and basic skills (which is why I was asking if I could learn it from a book) and maybe gas (at least for as long as possible and I don't know how long that is).

I guessing the suvivors have no back medical knowalge . . they would have to learn from a book unless they are just will to be surgeons . . . have you read the Stand .. i'm just aking .. no hostillity . . ?

GeorgeK
11-08-2011, 06:23 PM
When does it get REALLY bad? .?

2 months into the first winter

DrZoidberg
11-08-2011, 06:31 PM
Oh, look, a serious book on it.

http://www.amazon.com/Collapse-Societies-Choose-Succeed-Revised/dp/0143117009/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320760735&sr=8-1

There's loads of examples from history. There's also been miles of books written on the subject.

NewKidOldKid
11-08-2011, 06:34 PM
2 months into the first winter

That soon? Why?

have you read the Stand

Yes. Seen the movie too. There's a scene where they're attempting to perform surgery using instructions from a book. Of course the person dies. That's an extreme case, though. Smaller things they'll still be able to treat by going to the pharmacy and taking drugs as needed. So life will still work based on modern principles ("let's use this pill to get rid of pain or infection") for a while. It will eventually get much worse.

You know, this seemed like such a simple question when I first asked it.

Williebee
11-08-2011, 06:43 PM
Two months into the first winter, unless they've managed to round up livestock and store some veggies, they are going to start starving. The hungrier they get, the weaker they get.

This also is impacted by location. Forex: if they are up north, the water is frozen, they'll have to break through or thaw just to get a drink.

If ten percent of humanity survived, does that mean that ten percent of the rest of animal life survived? If so, they're gonna be hungry, too. These folks might start looking worth the risk.


Also? If ten percent of humanity survived, what traits allowed for that? The strongest, the fair skinned, shortest, thinnest, tallest, their location?

NewKidOldKid
11-08-2011, 06:46 PM
Oh, look, a serious book on it.

http://www.amazon.com/Collapse-Societies-Choose-Succeed-Revised/dp/0143117009/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320760735&sr=8-1

There's loads of examples from history. There's also been miles of books written on the subject.

Thanks, but this doesn't really help. First of all, we don't exactly know how long it took for these societies to completely collapse. Was it one year? Two? 10? It was too long ago, so time is measured on a different scale (in terms of centuries, rather than years).

Also, ancient societies were a lot more connected to basic things. They knew how to grow crops, they knew how to make fire, they knew how to use herbs to treat health problems. We are a lot more dependent on things that have already been made for us. I guess at some point we're going to have to go out and look for willow bark to treat a headache, but most people will keep using Tylenol for as long as possible.

My question is still about us. Not any society, not ancient civilizations.

Let me give an example from a current TV series, The Walking Dead. Let's say the basic premise is the same: group of people survives, they're alone, they start to move. The show is about the here and now, so it won't explore my question, but if the same people kept going and going for years, at some point they would lose their RV, their guns and the bunch of antibiotics that help one of the characters survive an injury.

Now, when will that be? Because at that point is when things will get really bad.

NewKidOldKid
11-08-2011, 06:53 PM
Two months into the first winter, unless they've managed to round up livestock and store some veggies, they are going to start starving. The hungrier they get, the weaker they get.

This also is impacted by location. Forex: if they are up north, the water is frozen, they'll have to break through or thaw just to get a drink.

If ten percent of humanity survived, does that mean that ten percent of the rest of animal life survived? If so, they're gonna be hungry, too. These folks might start looking worth the risk.

Also? If ten percent of humanity survived, what traits allowed for that? The strongest, the fair skinned, shortest, thinnest, tallest, their location?

Thanks, this makes a lot more sense. I still wasn't expecting huge trouble so soon. If only 10 percent of people are left, they should be able to find enough canned/dry food to survive for a while, right? Wouldn't there be warehouses with tons of food somewhere? Ok, so the lucky ones near the warehouses will survive and the ones up north will not. Let's say my group is in an ok situation (not the best, but also not the worst).

I'm not 100 % sure who survived and why. I will eventually figure this out but I don't want to give the answer in the book. The characters don't know. They survived and others didn't and that's all they know. It certainly wasn't just the strongest or youngest.

Animal life, not sure yet either. Either they all survived (the virus only affected humans) or only a 10 % survived. There are no big animals (lions, etc) where my characters are, so the worst thing would be hungry dogs.

ETA: Actually, I have a question. Let's say they don't manage to store any veggies and livestock by the time winter comes. They could choose to keep moving. If they have a bus or a few RVs, they can just keep driving to the next town (they might find some leftover food there), sleep in whatever house they find, then move on again. When they cannot longer drive to the next town is when things will get really bad.

aadams73
11-08-2011, 07:17 PM
I killed off most of the planet with a virus, too, and the answer to your question is: not too long.

People, for the most part, aren't going to be all civilized about this. They're going to grab and horde what they can (food, medicine, supplies), as soon as they can. The have-nots will then move in and try and take from the haves.

Aside from the natural side effect of utilities, businesses, etc. collapsing because there aren't enough workers, things are going to break down quickly as we set aside our civilized ways and become the animals we still are. We'll do whatever is necessary to survive, and much of the time it won't be pretty.

We've become a flabby species, really, and I think a lot of people would fold and die. It's become the human way to sit around and wait to be rescued. Folks are going to do a lot of sitting around and waiting before they even think about picking up a shovel or finding a cow to milk. By then it'll be too late; they'll die, cozied up to that plasma TV they looted from Wal-Mart.

Expiring medication is the least of it. It won't have time to expire. Plus who would care about the use-by date if that's all the medication they've got, anyway? I sure wouldn't be sitting around going, "Gee whizz, this Tylenol expired last month!"

Sure, there will be those of us who have the wits and will to form mutually beneficial communities, but for a long time that'll be the exception rather than the rule. Forty years ago, I might have said otherwise.

NewKidOldKid
11-08-2011, 07:24 PM
I killed off most of the planet with a virus, too, and the answer to your question is: not too long.

People, for the most part, aren't going to be all civilized about this. They're going to grab and horde what they can (food, medicine, supplies), as soon as they can. The have-nots will then move in and try and take from the haves.

Aside from the natural side effect of utilities, businesses, etc. collapsing because there aren't enough workers, things are going to break down quickly as we set aside our civilized ways and become the animals we still are. We'll do whatever is necessary to survive, and much of the time it won't be pretty.

We've become a flabby species, really, and I think a lot of people would fold and die. It's become the human way to sit around and wait to be rescued. Folks are going to do a lot of sitting around and waiting before they even think about picking up a shovel or finding a cow to milk. By then it'll be too late; they'll die, cozied up to that plasma TV they looted from Wal-Mart.

Expiring medication is the least of it. It won't have time to expire. Plus who would care about the use-by date if that's all the medication they've got, anyway? I sure wouldn't be sitting around going, "Gee whizz, this Tylenol expired last month!"

Sure, there will be those of us who have the wits and will to form mutually beneficial communities, but for a long time that'll be the exception rather than the rule. Forty years ago, I might have said otherwise.

Thanks. This is very, very helpful.

The image of a survivor reading the expiration date on a label made me laugh :) I wasn't thinking so much of the date on the label but of the date in which the medication no longer works (I understand they lose potency gradually; at some point they will no longer do what they're supposed to do).

ETA: Just went to your website and your book sounds great. It's going on my to-buy list!

Becky Black
11-08-2011, 08:24 PM
I sort of wondered, while I was reading The Stand actually, what happens to the nuclear reactors when there are no longer people to tend them? I think if I was a survivor I'd be getting bery nervous about those. But could I get anywhere away from them? There are parts of the world without any nearby of course, but am I going to be able to get there before the first meltdown.

Fire is another problem of course, when there's nobody to put it out it will just spread and spread. The movie 28 Days Later depicts the entire city of Manchester burning down.

Tinned and dried foods would last for a long time - not only in the sense they'd keep, but as there's only a tenth of the number of people eating them. But perishables would be gone in days and frozen shortly after when the electricity went off. You could probably survive okay on tinned and dried foods - humans are like dogs, we can live on any old rubbish. Not very healthily of course.

There's presumably still crops in the fields, so if they can harvest some before they rot, they've got a supply of fresh food for a while. And things like potatoes or apples will keep for months in the right conditions even without refrigeration. Grain will keep for a while, and that's kept in large stores. Could take a while to work their way through that! So it could be weeks and months before they run out of fresh foods and grain entirely, though the variety will be limited. By that time they could have organsied themsleves to either start farming or hunting and gathering.

I do love these kinds of stories. The Stand, The Day of the Triffids, I love them. Good luck with it. :)

Snick
11-08-2011, 08:50 PM
Let's say a virus (or zombies, or whatever) kills most of the Earth's population. How long until the survivors go back to living a very primitive life?

For example, how long until all the medications on shelves expire and we no longer have antibiotics?

[quote]How long until we ran out of gas (or gas evaporates or becomes too weak to work) and we cannot drive anymore?

How long until all the food in shops is gone and we have to choice but to live off the land?

I understand many of the answers depend on how many people are still alive, so let's say 10 % percent of the population survived.

That probably wouldn't happen, unless the population got below 10 million. If a pandemic hit, then it is unlikely that more than 75% of the population would die. With 10% of the population still alive, then most things would continue to operate somewhat normally.

Would you say we'd run out of anything modern (food, medications, etc.) within five years? 10?

And what happens after? Can I walk into a library and find a book to teach me how to make antibiotics? Or would that be impossible for the lay person without a proper lab setup?

Production of many goods would stop, but there probably wouldn't be any significant stortages, except for imported goods, Tenpercent of 7 billion is 700,000,000, and that's about what the total population was in 1750.

mirandashell
11-08-2011, 08:58 PM
Hmmmm but as pointed by aadams, a lot of that 700,000,000 live in cities. And city dwellers have no idea how to look after themselves with no infrastructure. A lot would die out of sheer apathy. And you've got all the people who are ill and need care. All those in comas. Immobile in hospital.

And how would people get to the stuff they need? How would they provide for themselves? By fighting for it. So there's a lot more dead. I mean, have you been to a January sale lately? Or to the launch of a new game? People fight for that stuff. Imagine what it would like to get the last bottle of aspirin in the chemist.

Losing 90 percent of the population is a big deal. It's not so meh as you make it sound.

Dani
11-08-2011, 09:08 PM
I killed off most of the planet with a virus, too, and the answer to your question is: not too long.

People, for the most part, aren't going to be all civilized about this. They're going to grab and horde what they can (food, medicine, supplies), as soon as they can. The have-nots will then move in and try and take from the haves.

Aside from the natural side effect of utilities, businesses, etc. collapsing because there aren't enough workers, things are going to break down quickly as we set aside our civilized ways and become the animals we still are. We'll do whatever is necessary to survive, and much of the time it won't be pretty.

We've become a flabby species, really, and I think a lot of people would fold and die. It's become the human way to sit around and wait to be rescued. Folks are going to do a lot of sitting around and waiting before they even think about picking up a shovel or finding a cow to milk. By then it'll be too late; they'll die, cozied up to that plasma TV they looted from Wal-Mart.

Expiring medication is the least of it. It won't have time to expire. Plus who would care about the use-by date if that's all the medication they've got, anyway? I sure wouldn't be sitting around going, "Gee whizz, this Tylenol expired last month!"

Sure, there will be those of us who have the wits and will to form mutually beneficial communities, but for a long time that'll be the exception rather than the rule. Forty years ago, I might have said otherwise.

I don't even like these stories, but your insight into society is making me want to buy your book just because it seems more authentic. Srsly. I wouldn't have thought of half of what you did.

stray
11-08-2011, 09:13 PM
Location is key. Where is the book set? Rural people will survive a lot longer than urban folks obviously. Where I used to live in upcountry Thailand people live for long periods of time from fruit, grains such as rice, fish in the rivers. Frogs and insects are a great source of protine.The weather is the same all year around and many people have never ate food from a can nor taken modern medicine. Is there contmination? Are animals effected? That's a massive factor. If the land and animals are contaminated then its a matter of days.

A great book I read as a kid was the SAS survival handbook by a guy called John Wiseman. Simple tricks for collecting water and making water pure are paramount. A spoonful of bleech in a gallon of contaiminated water should make it fine after boiling. Water is the first obsticle. You will die within three days without a source of pure water, so the first obvious thing for any suvivors to do is travel find a supply of water and move to and camp near a supply of drinkable water. Find a means of making fire and tools. If there are fish in that water and they build shelter they could survive for a long time, and possibly increase their numbers. To hang around in the cities raiding deminshing supplies would be foolish. Violence with other gangs of suvivors as we see in the films. Grab what you need, travel and find a place to rebuild a new, primitive way of living.

I guess the answer to the question you ask is; I don't know how long it would take for the stuff you think you need to run out. The compeling question is how much of the stuff that you think that you need do you really need to survive?

Great idea for a story, by the way.

debirlfan
11-08-2011, 09:38 PM
When the gas runs out, I'd suggest building a still and brewing alcohol. Be warned though that it will screw up an engine that's not built to run on it.

Snick
11-08-2011, 10:20 PM
There are manufacturing and storage facilities that are adequate for the present population. It would not be difficult to run some of the facilities at a slower rate. It wouldn't be easy to get everything to everyone, but there would be no reason for everyone to have everything.

If some people think that it would be a problem, then let's run an experiment. We can start a pandemic that will kill 90% of the population. When it ends we will learn the answer. If you don't want to run the experiment, then we should look at past dramatic drops in population. Although the Great Plague of the 14th century only did in about a third of Europe it was no problem to the remainder, who were wealthier and happier afterward.

Orianna2000
11-08-2011, 10:32 PM
There was a very interesting TV show last year (unfortunately, I've forgotten what it was called) where they took a half dozen people of all skills and walks of life and dropped them off down in one of the abandoned areas of New Orleans, with the idea that they were survivors of a pandemic. If other people showed up, they had to quarantine them and wear face masks, or risk getting the virus. They had a small town to explore and cannibalize stuff from, and they did a very decent job of surviving. They built a windmill on the roof of their home, so they had limited amounts of power. They also did something with the fat off a truckload of maggoty dead pigs they found and created biofuel to run tractors and a boat, so they could drag larger items back to their camp, and explore further out. Every so often, their camp was attacked by outsiders and they proved that they were absolutely pathetic when it came to self-defense, no matter how clever they got with turning pig fat into fuel. I found the show fascinating, because I'm obsessed with post-apocalyptic survival stories.

Part of how well your group is going to do depends on what skills they have. If you have a group consisting of a former ice-skating champion, a housewife, a used car salesman, and some high-school kids, you're probably screwed. But if that housewife happens to be an avid camper and wilderness expert, she might be able to help the others find water and food and shelter. If you have a veterinarian, they could help with medical issues. A mechanic would be able to help build useful things, like windmills and engines. Use this to your advantage and make sure you include people with useful skills in your group of survivors---unless you want them all to suffer miserably, which is always an option. ;)

Buffysquirrel
11-08-2011, 10:35 PM
This will vary according to where your story's set. Massive depopulation is more survivable in less developed countries because there's less infrastructure to fail.

If 90% of the population is dead, there's going to be a lot of tinned, dried, etc food left around for the survivors. But you have to find it, collect it, and store it safe from vermin, thieves, and weather. Most of that food will spoil long before you run out of it.

With so many dead, populations of flies, rats, and other carrion eaters are going to explode, and they'll carry disease. It's not going to be feasible to bury that many bodies, especially in the cities. Smart folks will get out of the cities but quarry them for supplies.

For antibiotics you can probably take the shelf life and add about a year, give or take, depending on how well they've been stored.

I think the cars will fail before the gas runs out. They rely on a huge infrastructure. With no industry making parts and tyres and no transportation links to ship them to you, they're soon useless. Plus, modern cars are far too complicated for the average person to maintain.

However, your survivors have an invaluable resource: books. They can learn how to grow and preserve food, how to forge steel, how to raise animals. But if they want to maintain a level of what we call civilisation, they will need to get together in groups large enough to allow some group members leisure from basic food production.

movieman
11-08-2011, 11:09 PM
It's worth remembering that many of the basic technologies we use today were originally developed in the 19th century or earlier using hand tools. So while most electronics is toast -- you won't be building a new chip fab or hard drive factory for a long time -- you should be able to build a basic automobile or ultralight aircraft and produce fuel to run them on with relatively limited technology.

As mentioned above, knowledge and books are the key. At least until your e-reader battery goes flat :).

GeorgeK
11-08-2011, 11:32 PM
so the worst thing would be hungry dogs.


Only about 5% of dogs can survive their first winter making the transition from pet to wild and rotting corpses won't last that long.



ETA: Actually, I have a question. Let's say they don't manage to store any veggies and livestock by the time winter comes. They could choose to keep moving. If they have a bus or a few RVs, they can just keep driving to the next town (they might find some leftover food there), sleep in whatever house they find, then move on again. When they cannot longer drive to the next town is when things will get really bad.

Urban nomads. That might last a year or two. They need to head for Amish country. It takes time, effort and know how to plant and harvest and store food. Depending upon the time of year, there might not even be seeds in stores. If they save seeds from food from the grocery store, it's a 99% likelihood that those will either be hybrid seeds and provide very poor crops, or zombie or radiated seeds that won't germinate.

GeorgeK
11-08-2011, 11:36 PM
When the gas runs out, I'd suggest building a still and brewing alcohol. Be warned though that it will screw up an engine that's not built to run on it.

The problem with that is that you need excess grain or fruit to brew anything.

. Although the Great Plague of the 14th century only did in about a third of Europe it was no problem to the remainder, who were wealthier and happier afterward.

But they were prepared for such an event by everyone knowing how to farm and make things by hand. Few in America know how and would not be prepared.

stray
11-09-2011, 12:02 AM
It's a question of geographics and demographics. Are the cast up in Washington state or down south? Are they in America? Saying that all dogs will die from the winter is a bit silly. It's hot all year down south right? Or the novel could be outside of the known world. These dogs may die from lack of food or they may provide a good food source for the human survivors.

Some areas will have a surplus of grain and fruit - because nobody is there to exploit it. Take that harvest store it and rebuild on a smaller scale. Slash and burn.

GeorgeK
11-09-2011, 12:23 AM
Saying that all dogs will die from the winter is a bit silly..

Where I come from 95% is not ALL of anything.

ironmikezero
11-09-2011, 01:28 AM
The best armed groups who routinely train as a group will have the best overall survival rate. They can act cohesively, defend territory and resources, seek out future resources, establish and defend trade, and most importantly protect others within the group whose contributions may be more diversified than just militia-oriented defense. A pragmatic infrastructure and a strategic plan to enhance the health and prosperity of the group would be keys to survival.

frimble3
11-09-2011, 01:34 AM
And, while you're re-inventing fuel sources, save a little gas for your generators. With so few people, who's running the power plants? Solar or wind farms might run themselves, I have no idea, but it seems unlikely. Look what happens in any big power shortage.
In general, your best bet would be to cling to the coat-tails of rural people, or immigrants from less-modernized countries.

moth
11-09-2011, 01:36 AM
Agree with the posters who have said the antibiotics won't have enough time to expire. It was my impression that medicines take decades to expire completely -- they may be less effective as time wears on, but not inert for a good long while. I could be wrong though, and I am not a doctor (but I am a mom, so I consider health things carefully, for whatever that's worth).

Anyway. As to the OP, for interpretations of collapse of society, these books may be of interest (first is YA, second mainstream adult, both fic):

Life As We Knew It (http://www.amazon.com/Life-Knew-Susan-Beth-Pfeffer/dp/0152061541/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320781883&sr=1-1) -- gentle interpretation (it apparently has 2 sequels, which I didn't know about until now {though should have} but am definitely going to go get and read).

One Second After (http://www.amazon.com/One-Second-After-William-Forstchen/dp/0765356864/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320781898&sr=1-1) -- harsher interpretation. Full disclaimer: I've only read the first 50-75 pages, no more just yet, but someone I trust has read the whole thing and apparently it is bleak.

Food for thought. Take or leave whatever suits you. :)

Snick
11-09-2011, 01:41 AM
But they were prepared for such an event by everyone knowing how to farm and make things by hand. Few in America know how and would not be prepared.

While there are many people who know nothing about how to make anything, there are also many people who know how to make and do many things. The knowledge has not been lost, but it isn't in regular use. I know several people who could build an automobile form scrap metal, if they had to; but it is easier to buy one. Some of those people are also able to farm quite nicely, and I could go on.

debirlfan
11-09-2011, 01:48 AM
A few months ago, I would have said people would band together and "make it work."

However, in the last two months, much of my state has been without power twice, for a week each time. (First time a tropical storm, the second time a freak 12 inch plus fall snow storm while the trees were still covered with leaves.)

You'd think it was the end of the world. Schools closed, gas lines over an hour long at stations in the affected area, people dying because they're running generators and using grills indoors.

I hate to think what would happen in a real disaster.

Snick
11-09-2011, 01:49 AM
Why does it seem that everyone assumes that civil society would dissolve if the population dropped? There was civilization before 1750, when the population was about 10% of what it is now. There were the same reasons for forming governments, engaging in commerce, etc. People were essentially the same then as they are now.

Snick
11-09-2011, 01:54 AM
A few months ago, I would have said people would band together and "make it work."

However, in the last two months, much of my state has been without power twice, for a week each time. (First time a tropical storm, the second time a freak 12 inch plus fall snow storm while the trees were still covered with leaves.)

You'd think it was the end of the world. Schools closed, gas lines over an hour long at stations in the affected area, people dying because they're running generators and using grills indoors.

I hate to think what would happen in a real disaster.

I live in the same part of the country, and I barely noticed the tropical storm. I went to work on Monday after that snow storm. Yes, power was out in many places, but life continued with little change. There are people dying from stupid mistakes all of the time. Those only get reported when it seems like it is related to something that might interest other.

People did help others, and the civil authorities were available to help when possible. I suspect that electric companies will have more regulations in the near future.

GeorgeK
11-09-2011, 01:57 AM
While there are many people who know nothing about how to make anything, there are also many people who know how to make and do many things. The knowledge has not been lost, but it isn't in regular use. I know several people who could build an automobile form scrap metal, if they had to; but it is easier to buy one. Some of those people are also able to farm quite nicely, and I could go on.

The key would be making sure that they are part of the 10%. In an average distribution, they probably would not be.

GeorgeK
11-09-2011, 01:58 AM
Why does it seem that everyone assumes that civil society would dissolve if the population dropped? There was civilization before 1750, when the population was about 10% of what it is now. There were the same reasons for forming governments, engaging in commerce, etc. People were essentially the same then as they are now.

panic

Canotila
11-09-2011, 02:05 AM
Why does it seem that everyone assumes that civil society would dissolve if the population dropped? There was civilization before 1750, when the population was about 10% of what it is now. There were the same reasons for forming governments, engaging in commerce, etc. People were essentially the same then as they are now.

It would be very difficult for the population to drop that much without disturbing the infrastructure that produces and supplies basic necessities to everyone. Also, disturbing the infrastructure is something that could cause a huge population drop all by itself. Yes, we'd eventually return to some form of order but it wouldn't necessarily be the same. For one thing, it'd probably be a lot more localized instead of a giant federal organization overseeing a huge amount of land with very few people in it.

Have you ever been in a natural disaster like a hurricane, earthquake or flood? The first thing people do is rush the grocery store and buy out everything they didn't have stocked up to begin with. I've seen grocery stores with shelves go barren about 8 hours after the initial rush. Once the semi trucks and trains running food out from the distributors stop going, those stores are going to empty out very quickly.

If you want livestock, you must have a way of concealing them. Raiders are going to come kill all your cows, sheep, horses, etc. You might be able to hide chickens if you can muffle the sound. If you house roosters in a cage where the roof touches their combs, they can't crow (crowing requires them to rear their heads back, if they start rearing and donk their heads, that stops most from making noise). Coturnix quail might work if someone had them before the disaster. They're little, lay eggs, sandwich sized, and silent. You can keep them indoors too. Rabbits are another thing you could keep hidden and don't eat the same food humans eat.

Also, you don't need to grow crops to brew alcohol. You can ferment any organic material with enough sugar in it, including grass and wood chips. Producing alcohol would be pretty handy beyond fuel needs, as you could use it to sterilize water and things as well.

Dogs probably won't starve, as most of them will get eaten by surviving humans and coyotes. The dogs who live will either go feral and the ones who make themselves useful enough to people might be kept around.

thothguard51
11-09-2011, 02:10 AM
Read the book, Lucifer's Hammer by Jerry Pournelle to get an idea how long/short it takes for society to regress.

There is also Pat Franks book, Alas Babylon...

The situtations in those books may not fit your story, but what happens and how things are dealt with are pretty spot on for any end of life as we know it story...

Snick
11-09-2011, 02:37 AM
The key would be making sure that they are part of the 10%. In an average distribution, they probably would not be.

There would be a largely random distribution of the surviving population by skill levels. That assumes that it would be a disease that would eliminate 90%. That mens that the distribution of skills would be roughly what they are now, and that is and will be adequate. Ten percent of the veternarians would survive; ten percent of the physicians; ten percent of the machinists; etc. If we were lucky, then maybe eleven percent of those and other silled persons would survive and the completely unskilled would not.

Snick
11-09-2011, 02:42 AM
panic

No problem, people who panic do not survive.

mirandashell
11-09-2011, 02:46 AM
There would be a largely random distribution of the surviving population by skill levels. That assumes that it would be a disease that would eliminate 90%. That mens that the distribution of skills would be roughly what they are now, and that is and will be adequate. Ten percent of the veternarians would survive; ten percent of the physicians; ten percent of the machinists; etc. If we were lucky, then maybe eleven percent of those and other silled persons would survive and the completely unskilled would not.


I'm not so sure. Viruses tend not to be picky about who they kill. So doesn't it depend on how and where the virus starts and spreads? And wouldn't a lot of medical staff die from the virus? Seeing as most people head for a doctor or hospital when they're ill? So I guess the survival rate for medics would be less than 10%. As for vets.... yeah, they can do injections and meds and stuff but for anything else? Better than nothing, I know but....

I reckon it will depend on how the virus spreads but there is no way you can say 10% of all skilled people will survive.

Snick
11-09-2011, 02:49 AM
Read the book, Lucifer's Hammer by Jerry Pournelle to get an idea how long/short it takes for society to regress.

There is also Pat Franks book, Alas Babylon...

The situtations in those books may not fit your story, but what happens and how things are dealt with are pretty spot on for any end of life as we know it story...

Lucifer's Hammer shows society working with reduced population, resources, and technology. While it is a novel about characters, characters are what holds society together.

Snick
11-09-2011, 03:08 AM
I'm not so sure. Viruses tend not to be picky about who they kill. So doesn't it depend on how and where the virus starts and spreads? And wouldn't a lot of medical staff die from the virus? Seeing as most people head for a doctor or hospital when they're ill? So I guess the survival rate for medics would be less than 10%. As for vets.... yeah, they can do injections and meds and stuff but for anything else? Better than nothing, I know but....

I reckon it will depend on how the virus spreads but there is no way you can say 10% of all skilled people will survive.



Viruses are less of a danger than bacteria, but one might do in great numbers. it is unlikely that people with skills would die at greater rates than the unskilled, except for people in the medical field who might expose themselves to danger; but after the initial disaster there wouldn't be much need for medical people, because the weak and diseased would have dies. Similarly, people who didn't understand how diseases spread would also have been more likely to die. We misanthropes would have avoided humans like the plague that they are, and we would have survived in greater numbers. There are a variety of types who would have been more likely to survive.

Actually, vets are vastly better at diagnosis and treatment than are MD's. They have to be, because their patients can't describe the symptoms well, and need simple treatments.

Lyra Jean
11-09-2011, 03:11 AM
There is the "Dies the Fire" series by S.M. Stirling

I think two important things you need to consider whether or not you include them in the story and whether or not your characters ever figure it out.

1. What causes the population die off? Is it just people? Or does it effect every living thing?

2. Where are your characters located? How they respond survival wise will be different depending on whether they are located in Alaska, Brazil, or the middle of the Outback.

mirandashell
11-09-2011, 03:16 AM
but after the initial disaster there wouldn't be much need for medical people, because the weak and diseased would have dies.

Really, so you think the killer virus will be the last disease on the planet? That people won't hurt themselves? Won't break a leg?

NewKidOldKid
11-09-2011, 05:31 AM
Thank you for all the great answers! I went to bed and found all this in the morning. Great stuff!


Have you ever been in a natural disaster like a hurricane, earthquake or flood? The first thing people do is rush the grocery store and buy out everything they didn't have stocked up to begin with. I've seen grocery stores with shelves go barren about 8 hours after the initial rush. Once the semi trucks and trains running food out from the distributors stop going, those stores are going to empty out very quickly.


I'm in Thailand at the moment, and the stores in Bangkok are running out of food because there's flooding in the north and the trucks can't deliver enough food to the stores. There should be enough food, but everybody panicked and rushed to the stores, cleaning out the shelves.

As to the OP, for interpretations of collapse of society, these books may be of interest (first is YA, second mainstream adult, both fic):

Life As We Knew It (http://www.amazon.com/Life-Knew-Susan-Beth-Pfeffer/dp/0152061541/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320781883&sr=1-1) -- gentle interpretation (it apparently has 2 sequels, which I didn't know about until now {though should have} but am definitely going to go get and read).

One Second After (http://www.amazon.com/One-Second-After-William-Forstchen/dp/0765356864/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320781898&sr=1-1) -- harsher interpretation. Full disclaimer: I've only read the first 50-75 pages, no more just yet, but someone I trust has read the whole thing and apparently it is bleak.


Thank you for the book suggestions! Will take a look.

There was a very interesting TV show last year (unfortunately, I've forgotten what it was called) where they took a half dozen people of all skills and walks of life and dropped them off down in one of the abandoned areas of New Orleans, with the idea that they were survivors of a pandemic.

I have to look for this online! Any idea what the show was called?

Richard White
11-09-2011, 05:39 AM
A Canticle for Leibowitz (http://www.amazon.com/Canticle-Leibowitz-Walter-Miller-Jr/dp/0060892994/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320800901&sr=8-1[/URL) deals with a lot of this. You might check it out.

frimble3
11-09-2011, 06:05 AM
panic
And shock. A population that's one million and growing, bigger and better every day, is much different from one that's been pruned back to one million from 10 times that size.
Especially considering that the 'Founding Fathers' were, in effect dealing with a fraction of the size and population of the contemporary US.
Losing almost everyone you know is going to affect people. Sure, the solitary misanthropes will probably come out fine, but they probably aren't going to want to join up with ragged bands of losers (sorry) survivors.
For everyone else, it would be loss after loss, and some people just aren't going to bother going on, even if they survive the disease. You can add in those who don't want to spend their remaining time rooting through the rubble, and there's another drop in the population.

Snick
11-09-2011, 06:09 AM
Really, so you think the killer virus will be the last disease on the planet? That people won't hurt themselves? Won't break a leg?

That wouldn't be the last disease, but it would have eliminated the people with weak immune systems and most of those with chronic diseases, so the physicians would only have t treat broken bones and common diseases. Fewer physicians would be needed, because there would be fewer sick people. Remember "survival of the fittest?"

Canotila
11-09-2011, 09:22 AM
That wouldn't be the last disease, but it would have eliminated the people with weak immune systems and most of those with chronic diseases, so the physicians would only have t treat broken bones and common diseases. Fewer physicians would be needed, because there would be fewer sick people. Remember "survival of the fittest?"

A midwife or ob/gyn would be extremely valuable though, since people probably won't have regular access to birth control any more.

BDSEmpire
11-09-2011, 11:41 AM
I sort of wondered, while I was reading The Stand actually, what happens to the nuclear reactors when there are no longer people to tend them?
I've read a little about the current designs and most likely they would shut down in a graceful way, cool off and stop producing power if they weren't tended regularly. What's a little frustrating about this is that with the image of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island in people's minds, the newer reactor designs aren't getting built. Instead, older plants are being tinkered with and upgraded and are running until their license expires. According to one site on nuclear power, there are several new plants being talked about with one in Tenesee due to come online in a couple years. Older plants will still tend to fail gracefully though the possibility of contamination in an untended plant is much higher with those types.

Gasoline can be stabilized with fuel additives and give you months of viable storage. I think the little bottle I have says you can store it for up to a year. Beyond that, it's going to break down and be unusable.

Antibiotic pills are going to be weaker and eventually useless or unpredictable in their effects but I remember reading a little bit about this and you're looking at a couple years of viability.

As others have said - a couple months into the first winter is when you'll see a huge die-off in non-temperate zones. As easy foodstuffs go away and the weather changes, anyone who wasn't already preparing for the coming winter months is going to die of exposure and starvation, assuming they haven't died of thirst or animal attack or any number of awful things before that.

With a steady supply of water, there is literally tons of food available that will store for years at a time and maintain reasonable health. In the area I'm from (North Idaho) I see palettes of dried emergency food for sale in the grocery store all the time. You may not be happy about its taste, but you can survive off of it just fine. Over time, I imagine there are dietary problems that will crop up if that's all you have to eat. Canned goods last for years as well and if you have a good stock of that you can easily avoid starvation.

Heating yourself is a big problem but folks used to country life probably already have their pellet stoves locked and loaded for the winter. That stuff isn't going to stop working just because no one is around to make more. Same with Bic lighters and solar-powered flashlights and all the debris of a modern technological life. That stuff will last for years with a little care and given that there *are* survivors, people are going to make "turning things back to the way they were" a top priority once basic needs are met.

All this is from the American/European modern industrialized perspective. It would be a horror to end all horrors if our modern life were suddenly uprooted. Losing access to cable television, the internet and Big Macs would drive most of us batty. Seeing everyone you know and love wiped out by a plague would ruin your worldview. Why did you survive? What was different about you?

Folks living a totally different lifestyle halfway around the world might not even notice that those loud Americans were gone. They may notice a few less visits from National Geographic photographers since the last rains, but other than that, life continues on as normal. Africa, South America, and Asia are HUGE places. A plague that wipes out most of humanity will likely be spreading through city centers and anywhere with modern infrastructure. The plague is likely airborne and carried by people traveling home where it rises up after a dormancy period and starts whipping through a population and spreading to travelers around the world.

Places without access to air travel are going to be insulated against this initially.

Imagine the puzzlement of a nomadic tribesman coming into town and seeing no one moving around. No noise but the buzzing of flies and baying of feral dogs. Curiosity is universal, so they move closer until they realize the town is accursed and all it contains is death. Time to run like hell back to the rest of the tribe and warn them from getting any closer.

Heh, I just thought of one spot of relative isolation that would be crapping their pants over this nightmare scenario - McMurdo Station in Antartica. They can hear all of this horror going on and see news stations dropping off around the globe but can't do anything about it. Supplies will run out in a few months and any resupply vessels have the very real chance of being plague ships that have to be turned away - by force.



In the end, the only things that are truly unkillable are bugs and bacteria. They're going to have an epic party on all the sweet sweet protein that just fell into their laps.



Dogs probably won't starve, as most of them will get eaten by surviving humans and coyotes. The dogs who live will either go feral and the ones who make themselves useful enough to people might be kept around.
Dogs in swings will be revered as our new overlords.

DrZoidberg
11-09-2011, 02:49 PM
Thanks, but this doesn't really help. First of all, we don't exactly know how long it took for these societies to completely collapse. Was it one year? Two? 10? It was too long ago, so time is measured on a different scale (in terms of centuries, rather than years).

Also, ancient societies were a lot more connected to basic things. They knew how to grow crops, they knew how to make fire, they knew how to use herbs to treat health problems. We are a lot more dependent on things that have already been made for us. I guess at some point we're going to have to go out and look for willow bark to treat a headache, but most people will keep using Tylenol for as long as possible.

My question is still about us. Not any society, not ancient civilizations.

Let me give an example from a current TV series, The Walking Dead. Let's say the basic premise is the same: group of people survives, they're alone, they start to move. The show is about the here and now, so it won't explore my question, but if the same people kept going and going for years, at some point they would lose their RV, their guns and the bunch of antibiotics that help one of the characters survive an injury.

Now, when will that be? Because at that point is when things will get really bad.

Ancient politics will still be interesting. Societies aren't likely to collapse in one big bang. They go little at a time, reverting to earlier and earlier forms of government, step by step. The memory of how it used to work will be fresh in people's minds. That will allow the society to function.

I think a great example for what you're looking for is Native American culture after the Europeans came. They had a fairly advanced culture with a form of primitive banking system all over the east coast. Diplomatic systems of mutual cooperation between tribes. By the time Europeans started penetrating in-land that was all gone.

Snick
11-09-2011, 03:48 PM
A midwife or ob/gyn would be extremely valuable though, since people probably won't have regular access to birth control any more.

It would take quite a while for existing contraceptives to run out, but women would become pregnant; although that would be much less common than it is now.

Becky Black
11-09-2011, 03:52 PM
I've read a little about the current designs and most likely they would shut down in a graceful way, cool off and stop producing power if they weren't tended regularly. What's a little frustrating about this is that with the image of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island in people's minds, the newer reactor designs aren't getting built. Instead, older plants are being tinkered with and upgraded and are running until their license expires. According to one site on nuclear power, there are several new plants being talked about with one in Tenesee due to come online in a couple years. Older plants will still tend to fail gracefully though the possibility of contamination in an untended plant is much higher with those types.

So the nuclear plants have a kind of dead man's switch arrangement? I hope you're right that they'd close down in an orderly manner, but if it comes to it I'm heading to the most isolated bit of Scotland I can find. ;) (Since once the planes and boats stop I'm stuck on this little island called Britain until I figure out how to boat across to Europe without getting lost/sinking.) The Fukishima stuff wasn't very reassuring, but then of course that had earthquake and tsunami damage, not just shutting down because nobody was managing them.

Heh, I just thought of one spot of relative isolation that would be crapping their pants over this nightmare scenario - McMurdo Station in Antartica. They can hear all of this horror going on and see news stations dropping off around the globe but can't do anything about it. Supplies will run out in a few months and any resupply vessels have the very real chance of being plague ships that have to be turned away - by force.

Please don't give me plot bunnies right in the middle of NaNoWriMo. :tongue

Dogs in swings will be revered as our new overlords.

I for one welcome our new canine overlords.

GeorgeK
11-09-2011, 08:32 PM
No problem, people who panic do not survive.

But, they have a tendency to take others with them.

GeorgeK
11-09-2011, 08:37 PM
So the nuclear plants have a kind of dead man's switch arrangement? I hope you're right that they'd close down in an orderly manner, but if it comes to it I'm heading to the most isolated bit of Scotland I can find. ;) .

Obviously Fukushima did not.

Snick
11-09-2011, 09:24 PM
But, they have a tendency to take others with them.

That's why I avoid the excitable type.

Canotila
11-10-2011, 02:05 AM
It would take quite a while for existing contraceptives to run out, but women would become pregnant; although that would be much less common than it is now.

Considering I've got two kids instead of one because Planned Parenthood gave me pills that were 7 months expired, I'm going to guess that at least that brand of pills becomes substantially less effective when expired. Latex breaks down over time, and condoms and spermicide are one use items.

Why would it be less common than now? People aren't going to stop having sex. If anything, they might be having more without all that pesky TV and internet (ever heard of blackout baby booms?).

Buffysquirrel
11-10-2011, 02:14 AM
Why does it seem that everyone assumes that civil society would dissolve if the population dropped? There was civilization before 1750, when the population was about 10% of what it is now. There were the same reasons for forming governments, engaging in commerce, etc. People were essentially the same then as they are now.

You're not comparing like with like. There's a huge difference between a society that has gradually grown to, say, one million people and a society that used to have 10 million but now suddenly only has one million people of random ages with random skills. It's a bit like saying that the Pony Express managed with one horse and one rider so why can't this Boeing 747 manage with only one crew member? It's not designed that way.

Further, people are much more specialised in their skills now, and more interdependent. Many modern skills have little-to-no value outside of a niche industry.

There would be huge shock after a disaster of this scale. Modern disasters involve people getting together and helping each other and themselves, yes, but they also involve lots of people from outside the disaster area, who bring food and shelter and clean water and drugs. In this scenario, that's not going to happen.

A lot of survivors are going to be orphan children. Many will be too young to look after themselves.

Plus, of course, there would probably be lots of idiots running around with guns trying to secure the remaining resources to themselves. The population would quickly drop below even the 10% that remained.

Buffysquirrel
11-10-2011, 02:15 AM
That wouldn't be the last disease, but it would have eliminated the people with weak immune systems and most of those with chronic diseases, so the physicians would only have t treat broken bones and common diseases. Fewer physicians would be needed, because there would be fewer sick people. Remember "survival of the fittest?"

You do realise that misanthropes are prone to have weak immune systems?

Snick
11-10-2011, 02:48 AM
Why would it be less common than now? People aren't going to stop having sex. If anything, they might be having more without all that pesky TV and internet (ever heard of blackout baby booms?).

If there were 700,000,000 people instead of the 7,000,000,000 tere presently are, and one assumes that the fertility rtes will be similar, then there will be one tenth as many children born. If the fertility rate will be twice as much, then there will be 20% as many children born.

Snick
11-10-2011, 02:51 AM
You do realise that misanthropes are prone to have weak immune systems?

You are mistaken on that. I have an excelent immune system, and I avoid people, so I tend not to get sick much. Then there's the garlic to discourage others from getting close to me.

Buffysquirrel
11-10-2011, 03:16 AM
You are mistaken on that. I have an excelent immune system, and I avoid people, so I tend not to get sick much. Then there's the garlic to discourage others from getting close to me.

The more contact people have with other people--garlic or not! lol--the stronger their immune system. The stronger the immune system, the sicker you get when you are sick. This is one of the theories for why the 1918/20 flu killed so many young healthy people. Their immune systems were so active that their lungs filled with fluid and they drowned.

Chrissy
11-10-2011, 03:30 AM
You got me thinking about medication. The majority of prescriptions have a expiration date of 1 year. Assuming that's legit because the stuff stops working, then within a year (or so) you'd be screwed no matter how much was on hand, since it wouldn't work anymore.

And it's not just antibotics. Many people need meds to live, but wouldn't necessarily die immediately from killer virus - like diabetics who need insulin, for example. Asthma sufferers need inhalers. But I don't think their immune systems are weak.

Lyra Jean
11-10-2011, 03:38 AM
You got me thinking about medication. The majority of prescriptions have a expiration date of 1 year. Assuming that's legit because the stuff stops working, then within a year (or so) you'd be screwed no matter how much was on hand, since it wouldn't work anymore.

And it's not just antibotics. Many people need meds to live, but wouldn't necessarily die immediately from killer virus - like diabetics who need insulin, for example. Asthma sufferers need inhalers. But I don't think their immune systems are weak.

I work in a Pharmacy as a cashier. Some medications after a year become weaker. Some actually become stronger. Either way the dose is no longer the same and taking it depending on what the medication is for could kill you.

NewKidOldKid
11-10-2011, 04:49 AM
I just want to give everybody a huge THANKS! for all the great info and ideas. I'm getting tons of ideas for the book this way.

I'll come back with more questions, but please continue. This is fascinating!

I didn't even think about diabetics, people with heart disease, those with schizophrenia... you know, people who are fine now because they take their medication. A lot of people are going to be dying from things we can easily control right now.

Williebee
11-10-2011, 04:59 AM
One of the things to consider, when talking about survivors scavenging stores and warehouses for food stuffs (at least here in the US) --

Retail, particularly grocery stores, operate these days on a "just in time" inventory system. They track what arrives, what gets sold, and order in just enough to cover what they anticipate selling, having it arrive "just in time" to restock shelves.

So, 1 in 10 people in town survive. The non-perishables will last longer than, say, Superbowl weekend supplies did.

But then there's that other question --- how many of them will know how to cook beyond canned beans, soup and prefab mac n cheese? Especially without the microwave?

Canotila
11-10-2011, 05:32 AM
If there were 700,000,000 people instead of the 7,000,000,000 tere presently are, and one assumes that the fertility rtes will be similar, then there will be one tenth as many children born. If the fertility rate will be twice as much, then there will be 20% as many children born.

Obviously the total births will be down with such a huge difference in population. I'm talking about the birth rate. An increased birth rate will increase the demand for specialized medical folks who deal with pregnancy and any complications that arise (of which there are many).

GeorgeK
11-10-2011, 06:10 AM
If there were 700,000,000 people instead of the 7,000,000,000 tere presently are, and one assumes that the fertility rtes will be similar, then there will be one tenth as many children born. If the fertility rate will be twice as much, then there will be 20% as many children born.

The fertility rates aren't going to be so much the issue as how infant mortality will sharply rise and women will start dying in childbirth again. 80% of the time things go fine. 20% of the time you need special skills and equipment to get both mom and baby through it. That 20% will run the gamut from breach presentation to amniotic embolus. Don't forget Rh incompatibilities.

You do realise that misanthropes are prone to have weak immune systems?
Nah, they're too mean to get sick ;)

DrZoidberg
11-10-2011, 11:56 AM
Obviously Fukushima did not.

It actually did. It's a bit complicated to explain. But Fukushima had a number of "fail safe" devices. But because of the extent of the initial damage of the tsunami and earthquake enough of the fail safe devices broke at once to screw it up. But plenty of the fail safe devices did kick in. It could have been many times worse.

If a nuclear plant would just be abandoned suddenly and there's no natural disasters chances are pretty good they'll shut off in an orderly fashion. I imagine nuclear fuel just sitting around could over time cause trouble. Don't know exactly how that'd pan out though.

Snick
11-10-2011, 03:25 PM
You're not comparing like with like. There's a huge difference between a society that has gradually grown to, say, one million people and a society that used to have 10 million but now suddenly only has one million people of random ages with random skills. It's a bit like saying that the Pony Express managed with one horse and one rider so why can't this Boeing 747 manage with only one crew member? It's not designed that way.

While you can't run a 747 with a crew of one, you can run one tenth as many 747's as are now flying with frull crews.


There would be huge shock after a disaster of this scale. Modern disasters involve people getting together and helping each other and themselves, yes, but they also involve lots of people from outside the disaster area, who bring food and shelter and clean water and drugs. In this scenario, that's not going to happen.

A lot of survivors are going to be orphan children. Many will be too young to look after themselves.

Plus, of course, there would probably be lots of idiots running around with guns trying to secure the remaining resources to themselves. The population would quickly drop below even the 10% that remained.

The profile of survivors would be different from the general population as it is. Infants, the chronically ill, the age, and other people who would be likely to need special care would be more likely to die. There wouldn't be many young children, but there might be lots of teens. Or the disease might attack some age groups more than others. There certainly would be an initial shock, but things would start shaking out pretty quickly, but that swould vary atound the world.

I expect that we will be able to stop guessing about this in the near future.

GeorgeK
11-10-2011, 05:01 PM
It actually did. It's a bit complicated to explain. But Fukushima had a number of "fail safe" devices. But because of the extent of the initial damage of the tsunami and earthquake enough of the fail safe devices broke at once to screw it up. But plenty of the fail safe devices did kick in. It could have been many times worse.



Having something that you call a failsafe, doesn't mean that they took into account the necessary variables.

It could have been much better had their failsafes not required electricity. The default for a failsafe is that everything else has failed. Many many years ago a friend of mine who was a physics grad student showed me a concept for a "better nuclear plant" that he saw in class. He mocked me because of my lack of higher physics when I pointed out that the failsafe would fail in the event of an electrical outage. I said, "All that stuff should be below ground level so the default is to flood it using only gravity."

He replied, "You're a retard! It's a Nuclear Power Plant! It can't run out of electricity!"

I replied, "Then what's your problem with using some of that electricity to keep it from flooding? Have the default to flood not to run dry."

He insisted, "It's a waste to spend all that money on pumping equipment and maintenence. If an asteroid hits the thing we'd have bigger things to worry about!"




If a nuclear plant would just be abandoned suddenly and there's no natural disasters chances are pretty good they'll shut off in an orderly fashion. I imagine nuclear fuel just sitting around could over time cause trouble. Don't know exactly how that'd pan out though.

So if like Fukushima, their plant is above the water table and due to lack of maintenence a pipe bursts and stops pumping water into the chamber where the fuel rods are, you think that the nuclear fuel will just turn off?

Brutal Mustang
11-10-2011, 05:12 PM
Unless horses survived too, then you have a few more options.

I've often pondered on how those of us who can break in horses would suddenly become a hot commodity, in such a societal downfall. Especially those of us who participate in endurance riding. I mean, we horse people get teased at work for our never-ending hay bills, and our horse-related injuries. Would we suddenly be revered?

GeorgeK
11-10-2011, 05:21 PM
I've often pondered on how those of us who can break in horses would suddenly become a hot commodity, in such a societal downfall. Especially those of us who participate in endurance riding. I mean, we horse people get teased at work for our never-ending hay bills, and our horse-related injuries. Would we suddenly be revered?

Yep, except for the general lack of horses now days. It would take years to breed up to a useable horse population. However, the familiarity of working with horses would probably help you in terms of being able to figure out how to rig up cattle to pull a wagon or a plow too, so you might have to branch out a bit in the first decade. That will be far easier for you than say any typical urbanite.

Brutal Mustang
11-10-2011, 06:13 PM
For one, GeorgeK, those of us who train horses typically already have a horse in our backyard. Or two, or three, or ... you get the picture, right? :)

But secondly, horses run a little rampant in my area (northern Colorado). There's a horse sitting in just about every yard, just outside town, on the other side of the river. Actually, there are lot of horses to find outside any American city. We Americans are still a 'horsy' society. However, seems like few people know how to break them in these days. So many horses sitting in people's yards as pasture pets, because most the people who have them are middle aged folks who finally tried fulfilling their their childhood fantasies of owning a horse, who then learned the hard way that the damn things aren't like driving a car. Horses need skilled training to start, and then a consistent job throughout their lives to stay well-broke.

To be able to take just about any horse, break it in in a matter of weeks, and turn it into a solid trail horse within a couple of months (like I can) ... now that would become a valuable, and rare skill in such a end-of-the-Earth scenario. People would be wanting broke horses. But even more, they'd be wanting to learn how to do what people like me can do.

And boy, those of us who do endurance riding (read, those of us whose idea of a fun Saturday is riding a horse 50 miles in less than eight hours over rough national park terrain), man we'd be the only ones really moving about the country, during that first year, me thinks.

Hah. A tiny niche of insane hobbyists. Suddenly moved to the forefront of society. Damn, now I'm getting book ideas.

Oh, and my ol' reliable black mustang mare? Everyone and their brother would be trying to steal her. I probably wouldn't be able to hang on to her for long. She'd get stolen. Then I'd have to break in more horses.

Buffysquirrel
11-10-2011, 06:14 PM
While you can't run a 747 with a crew of one, you can run one tenth as many 747's as are now flying with frull crews.

First of all, you have to get all those people into the same place. Secondly, have you any idea of the huge infrastructure that supports the 747? It's not just the pilots. It's the ground crew, the mechanics, the support systems, ATC, and so on and so on. Each aspect of the aircraft is a different specialty--power plant, avionics, the physical structure of it, even the tyres. Are the 10% of people left in South America and Asia going to be interested in sending you rubber to make aircraft tyres, or are they more likely to be working on their own survival? How are you going to feed all these people who do nothing but make your aircraft work?

The profile of survivors would be different from the general population as it is. Infants, the chronically ill, the age, and other people who would be likely to need special care would be more likely to die. There wouldn't be many young children, but there might be lots of teens. Or the disease might attack some age groups more than others. There certainly would be an initial shock, but things would start shaking out pretty quickly, but that swould vary atound the world.

So you have teenagers and you have the new babies born to the survivors. Okay. What happens when those teenagers are forty or dead? Who's going to fill their shoes? You're missing a whole generation. You're screwed.

GeorgeK
11-10-2011, 07:30 PM
For one, GeorgeK, those of us who train horses typically already have a horse in our backyard. Or two, or three, or ... you get the picture, right? :)



Agreed, and you would be in demand for both the horses and the skills.

But secondly, horses run a little rampant in my area (northern Colorado). There's a horse sitting in just about every yard, just outside town, on the other side of the river. Actually, there are lot of horses to find outside any American city.

No. Maybe any city in Colorado, but not in America in general. Ky used to be a bigtime horse place. Now they are rare. 10 years ago on the road into town you'd see horses in probably every 3rd farm. Now there's only one farm with any and they don't have the numbers that they used to. Lexington Ky is in panic and trying to pass ordinances to refuse to let farmers sell to developers or they'll lose their "horse farm heritage," but the farmers can't afford to keep them. Thanks to federal laws passed during the W administration, horse farms and therefore horse skills are rapidly dieing out. Also horses give birth in singles. It would take a long time to get a significant number from breeding and you in Colorado could make a mint in the post apocalypse setting if you could bring horses out east.

We Americans are still a 'horsy' society. However, seems like few people know how to break them in these days. So many horses sitting in people's yards as pasture pets, because most the people who have them are middle aged folks who finally tried fulfilling their their childhood fantasies of owning a horse, who then learned the hard way that the damn things aren't like driving a car. Horses need skilled training to start, and then a consistent job throughout their lives to stay well-broke.


yep

To be able to take just about any horse, break it in in a matter of weeks, and turn it into a solid trail horse within a couple of months (like I can) ... now that would become a valuable, and rare skill in such a end-of-the-Earth scenario. People would be wanting broke horses. But even more, they'd be wanting to learn how to do what people like me can do.



Or they'd just shoot you and take the few trained horses that you have...or try to take them. It depends on the horse if they could succeed.


And boy, those of us who do endurance riding (read, those of us whose idea of a fun Saturday is riding a horse 50 miles in less than eight hours over rough national park terrain), man we'd be the only ones really moving about the country, during that first year, me thinks.


Oh yeah

Hah. A tiny niche of insane hobbyists. Suddenly moved to the forefront of society. Damn, now I'm getting book ideas.

Oh, and my ol' reliable black mustang mare? Everyone and their brother would be trying to steal her. I probably wouldn't be able to hang on to her for long. She'd get stolen. Then I'd have to break in more horses.

Another thing to add is that people in a post apocalyptic setting with no farming acumen or horse skills likely when they encounter a horse will consider it food.

Snick
11-10-2011, 10:42 PM
First of all, you have to get all those people into the same place. Secondly, have you any idea of the huge infrastructure that supports the 747? It's not just the pilots. It's the ground crew, the mechanics, the support systems, ATC, and so on and so on. Each aspect of the aircraft is a different specialty--power plant, avionics, the physical structure of it, even the tyres. Are the 10% of people left in South America and Asia going to be interested in sending you rubber to make aircraft tyres, or are they more likely to be working on their own survival? How are you going to feed all these people who do nothing but make your aircraft work?

People who work for airlines usually get in touch with their employer from time to time. so getting them together would not be a problem. Some people would have to move, but that happens in that business. There would still be people alive from allaspects of transportation; there just wouldn't be as many of them, but they wouldn't need to move as much anyway. It would be a minor logistics problem to get the right people in the right places.

So you have teenagers and you have the new babies born to the survivors. Okay. What happens when those teenagers are forty or dead? Who's going to fill their shoes? You're missing a whole generation. You're screwed.

There would be ages that would be low in number, but that wouldn't be a major problem.

jaksen
11-11-2011, 12:17 AM
Ask the Amish (those who do without electricity) or any other self-sustaining rural community and there are a few about. I think they'd probably fare the best even though they, too, will use modern medicine when they must. Just the same, farming communities will probably be the hardiest and most secure in that they already live in a fairly self-sustainable manner. They can and put up food. They grow a lot of their own food or exchange with neighbors. They probably have cold cellars for drying food or keeping harvested root crops through the winter. If they've guns, they can hunt wild game and when the ammo runs out they can trap it.

My father lived that way, too, as a boy in rural southeastern MA. So did my grandparents. Gardens and canning and cold cellars. Chickens and a cow or goats for your own milk. Killing a deer or two and putting up the venison for winter. Wood stoves for heat; lanterns for light, though of course you need a supply of oil for the lanterns. My grandmother was able to make candles from animal fat, though she once said: "Why would I?"

The more dependent you are on others for your food and welfare, the more vulnerable you'd be in a national disaster, plague, what-have-you. I'm dependent on modern medicine so I'd be gone in a flash.

But there'd be pockets of self-sufficient humans here and there.

frimble3
11-11-2011, 01:43 AM
So, it's the rebirth of the Western. A reduced population of simple folk, living rural, farming lives, big drives to get cattle (and horses) from the West, to the East. Give up on big, high-tech airplanes, in favour of rail. (There are people around who still run steam engines, hobbyists, like the trail riders.) Cool.

Buffysquirrel
11-11-2011, 04:12 AM
People who work for airlines usually get in touch with their employer from time to time. so getting them together would not be a problem.

Only 10% of them may survive. Only 10% of their employer's organisation may survive. The person with whom they usually communicate may well be dead. They may well think everyone at the airline is dead.

Only 10% of the people keeping the communications systems working survive. There's no guarantee any of those systems will even continue to work.

And all of these people may have more important things to do than keeping your aircraft in the sky. Like trying to find surviving family members. Like fighting off people with guns. Like securing a supply of food and clean water. Like wandering around wondering what the heck hit them and what are they going to do?

Some people would have to move, but that happens in that business. There would still be people alive from allaspects of transportation; there just wouldn't be as many of them, but they wouldn't need to move as much anyway. It would be a minor logistics problem to get the right people in the right places.

You're still thinking in terms of our society as it currently functions. This isn't going to be our society. People may very well be extremely reluctant to move once transportation becomes difficult and unreliable, when they don't know what sources of food and clean water will be available during their journey or at its end, what dangers they may face, and when they regard their own immediate concerns as more immediately pressing than a flight to Bilbao.

There would be ages that would be low in number, but that wouldn't be a major problem.

You're obviously very sure of that, but I don't understand why you don't see it as a major problem. Those ages will always be low in number and so will the generations they beget--disproportionately to the others. Look at all the whining there is in the West atm because the baby boomer generation is ageing and the later generations are substantially smaller. How can those small generations keep the big baby boomer generation in the standard of living to which it's become accustomed? boo hoo hoo. It's exaggerated of course but there's some truth in it.

However your society is constituted, it has work that needs to be done. Feeding people is always going to be a large part of that work. If you simply don't have the workers you need, but your population (and therefore the demand for food) is nonetheless growing, you've got a big problem. You can take the children from the generation below and set them to growing or gathering food as soon as they can walk, but then you can't educate them for other work. Or you can make the generation above continue to do the work, but then they can't be doing anything else, like passing on education.

Snick
11-11-2011, 08:25 AM
Only 10% of them may survive. Only 10% of their employer's organisation may survive. The person with whom they usually communicate may well be dead. They may well think everyone at the airline is dead. Only 10% of the people keeping the communications systems working survive. There's no guarantee any of those systems will even continue to work. Znd all those people would have one tenth as much to do Communications networks might be a minor problem, but keeping up the smaller networks that would be requred would be easier than expanding them And all of these people may have more important things to do than keeping your aircraft in the sky. Like trying to find surviving family members. Like fighting off people with guns. Like securing a supply of food and clean water. Like wandering around wondering what the heck hit them and what are they going to do? WHy would they want to run around trying to save the world, if they could make a good living by continuing to air traffic controllers or airplane machanis, or whatever? You're still thinking in terms of our society as it currently functions. This isn't going to be our society. People may very well be extremely reluctant to move once transportation becomes difficult and unreliable, when they don't know what sources of food and clean water will be available during their journey or at its end, what dangers they may face, and when they regard their own immediate concerns as more immediately pressing than a flight to Bilbao. No, I am thinking about how humans act, and as a groupt they are lazy. they want o take an easy way to a comfortable life, and civilization is easy for most people. You're obviously very sure of that, but I don't understand why you don't see it as a major problem. Those ages will always be low in number and so will the generations they beget--disproportionately to the others. Look at all the whining there is in the West atm because the baby boomer generation is ageing and the later generations are substantially smaller. How can those small generations keep the big baby boomer generation in the standard of living to which it's become accustomed? boo hoo hoo. It's exaggerated of course but there's some truth in it. Have you studied history? I suggest that you do so. However your society is constituted, it has work that needs to be done. Feeding people is always going to be a large part of that work. If you simply don't have the workers you need, but your population (and therefore the demand for food) is nonetheless growing, you've got a big problem. You can take the children from the generation below and set them to growing or gathering food as soon as they can walk, but then you can't educate them for other work. Or you can make the generation above continue to do the work, but then they can't be doing anything else, like passing on education. Yes, and he people available do the work. If there are fewer people, then there is less to be done, but there are fewer workers, so it balances. If we were talking about there being fewer than a million all of the sudden, then there would be major problems keeping anything going, but we aren't. We are talking about population going down to levels of 350 years ago, when there was civilization, and all that entails.

BDSEmpire
11-11-2011, 09:06 AM
I said, "All that stuff should be below ground level so the default is to flood it using only gravity."
...
So if like Fukushima, their plant is above the water table and due to lack of maintenence a pipe bursts and stops pumping water into the chamber where the fuel rods are, you think that the nuclear fuel will just turn off?

Ugh, there you go, bringing common sense into an *engineering* problem. Your idea is actually quite right - gravity fed pumping solutions and other trickery is part of new reactor design. The old ones were giant steam-driven contraptions. Some of the newer models are incredibly elegant in how they work. A breakdown in piping like you suggest would lead to the fuel not being "fed" and the reaction cooling off. This type of reactor has to be pushed a bit before it will maintain its critical reaction. If you take away the "push" then the reaction halts.

What we do know for a certainty is that a disastrous nuclear accident can lead to a huge increase in cancers, a wicked cool change in coloration in the landscape and the area becoming unfit for human habitation for decades. Animals will move back in rapidly. We learned a lot from Chernobyl, though it would have been much nicer for all concerned if it could have been left as an academic exercise.


I've often pondered on how those of us who can break in horses would suddenly become a hot commodity, in such a societal downfall. Especially those of us who participate in endurance riding. I mean, we horse people get teased at work for our never-ending hay bills, and our horse-related injuries. Would we suddenly be revered?
NO!

Get back to the pens crazy horseperson, you have fifteen more colts to break to saddle before you get your daily ration of gruel! <crack of whip>

Revered? Not in my world, you'd be rounded up and put to immediate brutal labor so I could totally rock around the countryside on my sweet horse-drawn musclecarriage.

Richard White
11-11-2011, 09:42 AM
Oh, another novel that deals with the collapse of civilization - Wolf and Iron by Gordon Dickson. Very interesting take on the situation.

http://www.amazon.com/Wolf-Iron-Gordon-R-Dickson/dp/0812533348/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1320988301&sr=8-14

Lyra Jean
11-11-2011, 06:14 PM
If the world came to end especially through a virus going to work would be the last thing I want to do. The only people I see still going to work in a time like that would be military and doctors and probably scientist type people.

No way would I want to be at an airport where you know you are not infected but you don't know who will be. Scientists believe that is how a superbug will spread is through the major modes of transportation. It's like asking to die.

Brutal Mustang
11-12-2011, 05:26 AM
Revered? Not in my world, you'd be rounded up and put to immediate brutal labor so I could totally rock around the countryside on my sweet horse-drawn musclecarriage.

Hah. I'd sneak out in the middle of the night with a bunch of the horses. I'm good at ponying several from on top of one. Plus, I'm an endurance rider--so my nature skills are better than average. You'd never catch me. I'd roam the land until I found a colony that treated me well. Then, the next year, I'd come back for you and your resources, with well-mounted friends. :D

See, a unique scenario would be created here, because now, so few people have decent horsemanship skills (which takes years of horse experience to get). It would not be like the cowboy days, when everyone had them ... at least not for many years.

Yep. Endurance riders. We'd rule the world. We can ride far through any weather, we can survive in the wild. Plus many of us can hunt. We'd have access to a much broader range of resources than all you two footers.

NewKidOldKid
11-12-2011, 01:56 PM
I found one more fascinating documentary:

Aftermath: Population Zero
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJmRzzldq6w

Although the documentary is about the whole human race disappearing, it gives a good idea of what to expect. I would imagine that if 90 % of the population died, many of the things you see in the video will happen. The part about nuclear plants was especially frightening (and now has me wondering what to do with my characters if they live near a plant), and I found the info about pets and zoos very interesting (disturbing, but interesting).