Could You Rebuild Civilization?
By: Tom Chatham
Most people would agree that when disaster strikes, what you know is one of the most important things you will have to work with. Your knowledge base is the one thing you can carry with you wherever you go. It will allow you to create items from locally available materials and improve your situation, whatever it may be. It is this mindset that many preppers use to improve their chances if the unthinkable should happen.
But lets take this mindset a step further. What would you be capable of doing if a global catastrophe happened? One such as a pole shift that destroys much of the infrastructure, knowledge and people that know how to build things and how they work. Would you be able to recreate some of the things you would need to rebuild society if you had to start from scratch with only your knowledge to guide you?
I like to play a mental game sometimes to help me understand just how much I actually know so I can identify what I need to learn. One scenario I use is to imagine that I am suddenly left in a destroyed world. What complex system could I recreate that would help me utilize many of the technologies I have lost? One system I use is the aircraft carrier. That may sound strange but just think of all of the various systems that comprise of that one ship.
While you may not be able to recreate all of the systems in their current form you can retain the knowledge to build primitive versions of those systems. You may not have the ability to build microprocessors but you can build vacuum tubes. You may not be able to recreate the telephone but you can build a telegraph set. You may not be able to build a nuclear reactor but you can build a wood fired steam engine. You may not be able to build a GPS unit but you can build a sextant and compass.
All of the technology we have today was built on the foundation of previous technologies we once used. Even if you do not understand current technologies, knowing how antiquated equipment worked gives you a base of knowledge you can build on. The following are some of the technologies it is helpful to know if you ever need to recreate them from scratch.
How to identify iron ore in rocks and refine it into cast iron and steel
How to weld or rivet steel plates together
How to build a boat or large ship
How to build a simple steam engine fueled by wood
How to build a propeller for a ship
How to make oil lamps and fuel for them
How to make a basic light bulb
How to make copper wires
How to make a simple telegraph set
How to make a basic battery
How to make a basic radio set or crystal radio
How to make vacuum tubes for radios
How to build a simple airplane or glider
How to build a simple generator
How to build a crossbow
How to build a flintlock rifle
How to make gunpowder
How to make glass
How to make paper
How to build a water wheel for power
How to build basic machining tools such as a lathe or milling machine
How to build a water pump
How to build a saw blade to cut lumber
How to make lead pencils or ink
How to make cloth
How to build a still
How to build a compass
How to build a mechanical clock
How to navigate by the stars or sun
How to make a camera or tin type
How to make camera film
How to make a telescope or binoculars
If this list seems overwhelming, that is the idea, and this is a small list. Most people do not realize how much technology we use on a daily basis and most have no clue how any of it works. If they were suddenly cast out into the wilderness, they would likely revert to caveman living if they survived at all.
Learning about how things work does not have to be boring. Many people would find sitting around reading about making stuff enough to say forget it. If you want to learn about building boats you don’t need to build a ship, just build a canoe or row boat in your spare time. If you want to know about radios get a crystal radio kit or build a basic tube radio from scratch. If you want to learn about the basic structure of airplanes buy a balsa wood airplane kit and build a model from scratch. If you think a clock is too difficult to build try a paper clock kit that works. If you have kids these projects can be even more fun and educational if you do it with them.
In the event of a world cataclysm, if the few survivors could even recreate the technology of the early 20th century, they would have a good start on rebuilding our technology base. When knowledge is lost, it takes centuries to rediscover it. Just look at the achievements of the Romans and how much knowledge was lost when the Roman empire collapsed. Many of the areas reverted to more basic technologies until centuries later when the knowledge was rediscovered. Roman concrete was much harder than modern cement because they added volcanic ash to it to make it harder. How many people today know that?
When disaster strikes humanity at any level, the more MacGyver’s there are in society, the more likely we will recover from it with much less pain. Knowledge allows humans to be creative and constructive following a crisis while lack of knowledge turns people into animals doing anything they can to survive. Modern society has very little real knowledge and that does not bode well for the survival of humanity if the fateful day ever comes.
While very few people today may be able to recreate all of the things on this list, the more each person knows, the better off society as a whole will be in the future. You should endeavor to learn something new as often as possible until the day you die because you never know when that little bit of knowledge will be a lifesaver. It would be a shame for something to happen to this planet and the survivors be forced to revert to medieval living and the hardships it would entail for lack of knowledge of our most basic technologies.