What if Civilization Were to End?

This week I watched a couple of episodes of a new series on National Geographic called Doomsday Preppers.  Yes, the people were a bit odd, but this is usually the case with anyone who is actively passionate about a subject.  The reason I watched is because I have my own mild fascination with what life would be like after a natural or manmade disaster brings down our food supply systems.  (You may have already gathered this if you read my short story “The Sweetest Gift”.)

Some of my thoughts revolve around whether or not I would have what it takes to survive.  The answer is usually yes – in my own mind and not based on reality.  But what really interests me is the fascination humans seem to have with predictions about the end of the world.  I think we secretly wish for it to happen.  Somehow it feels easier to imagine a world where we only have to focus on survival and on finding food, water and shelter.  No more worries about our credit rating, our next performance review at work, whether or not we’re going to make our mortgage payment, and certainly not about whether or not some politician is morally corrupt for having an affair while still married.  Our complex world becomes more simple and focused.

We can imagine ourselves as being the best we can be when it means saving our lives and that of our families’.  But would anything really change?  As a writer, I enjoy exploring the motivations and neuroses of human interactions.  If a character is too lazy in the real world to follow through on committments and get tasks done, won’t he have the same problem after the apocolypse?  There would be a lot of work to do in finding food, fuel and shelter.  He might be more motivated  – it would mean life or death after all – but if he can’t manage  to get to the grocery store now, what makes him think he’ll be able to hunt down a deer later?

Another reason I like to imagine post-civilization scenarios for my characters is because when the world gets down to the basics of survival, I imagine our own character traits get simplified as well.  A backstabber in the modern corporate world would most likely be the kind of survivalist who steals food from others. 

If you are at all interested in this literary subject, some titles I would recommend are The Witch of Hebron by James Howard Kunstler, Into the Forest by Jean Hegland, and Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.  Enjoy. 

P.S.  For disaster preparedness, FEMA recommends that every household have enough supplies on hand to last 3 days.  Do you have enough in your own pantry?

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