Sunday, April 26, 2009

Instructions for a Post-Apocalyptic World


In 1979, an anonymous group erected a massive stone structure in Elbert County, Georgia. This modern-day stonehenge is more than twenty feet tall and arranged to serve as a calendar and a clock. Its slabs have instructions in eight languages for reconstructing society after the collapse of civilization. The instructions are more philosophical than technological, but perhaps nonetheless prudent:


PROTECT PEOPLE AND NATIONS WITH FAIR LAWS AND JUST COURTS. LET ALL NATIONS RULE INTERNALLY RESOLVING EXTERNAL DISPUTES IN A WORLD COURT. AVOID PETTY LAWS AND USELESS OFFICIALS. BALANCE PERSONAL RIGHTS WITH SOCIAL DUTIES. PRIZE TRUTH—BEAUTY—LOVE—SEEKING HARMONY WITH THE INFINITE. BE NOT A CANCER ON THE EARTH—LEAVE ROOM FOR NATURE—LEAVE ROOM FOR NATURE.

If you were composing brief instructions for survivors of the collapse of civilization, what would you write?

HT: Instapundit

7 comments:

Dan Trabue said...

Wow, what a cool concept.

I don't know that I could improve upon the original (sounds like a bunch a Lefty Hippies, to me...) but if I were to try...

Live life in small circles, conduct nearly all your business and pleasure within walking distance.

Enjoy what is on hand and don't try to acquire what isn't readily available.

Beware the temptation to get Big. Big business, big government, big laws, big rules, big stuff... it's all near impossible to maintain justly.

Let women make all the big decisions, especially about matters of defense. They're more reasonable, that way.

Let your minorities make most of the big decisions about justice. They know what it's like to be outnumbered and impotent.

What rules you make, make slowly and with an awareness that they may - WILL - need to be adapted or dropped altogether eventually.

I don't know....

I like their's better.

RevAnne said...

I read an article about the Guidestones on Wired.com yesterday...seems we wander some of the same webspaces.
Reading made me think, honestly, of Heinlein's list of survival skills that you published earlier. Like Dan's though.
And one of my friends (also an Anne) has a husband whoser personal rule is that people named Anne are always right. I like that one.

James R. Rummel said...

"If you were composing brief instructions for survivors of the collapse of civilization, what would you write?"Boil your water, wash your hands, don't crap where you eat or drink.

(That is 90% of modern medicine right there.)

Here is how you rotate crops, here are the basics about animal husbandry, here are the three simplest ways to preserve food for lean times.

(That will stave off over 90% of famines.)

Here is how you find iron ore, here is how you smelt the ore to get the iron out, here is how you make nails with simple blacksmith's tools, here is how you make a saw and a knife with those same tools.

(Now the survivors can put up shelters, barns, homes. If they know how to make a knife, saw and nails, they have the basic techniques to make any tools they need up to an early 19th Century tech level.)

That hippy-drippy stuff, "love the infinite, be not a cancer on the Earth", goes right out the window when your kids are starving and freezing to death the first winter after civilization collapses.

Anyone who doesn't pay very close attention to nitty gritty reality will die fast, probably hunted down by the cannibal bands that will explode from every city three days after the food deliveries to the local supermarket stop.

James

John said...

The concept of zero, the concept of pi, and the Pythagorean Theorem. If there's still room after that, basic properties of formal logic. Although the importance of separating sewage from drinking water, as James suggests, is very important.

But before they smelt iron, they need tools that can work iron to some degree. So smelting bronze should come first. Unless you're figuring that we'll have enough old steel around that we can use it to make new iron.

James R. Rummel said...

"But before they smelt iron, they need tools that can work iron to some degree. So smelting bronze should come first. Unless you're figuring that we'll have enough old steel around that we can use it to make new iron."

Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. It is, in fact, one of the more hard and durable alloys available, but iron is harder still.

Copper and tin both have a lower melting temp than iron, as well as being more malleable. One of the reasons why there was a Bronze Age before an Iron Age is because it is possible to smelt both tin and copper using normal fires. (Iron=2800 degrees F, copper=1980 degrees, tin=450 degrees) To melt iron, you need to artificially raise the temp of your fire in some way.

The point I'm trying to make in my long winded way is that bronze isn't all that difficult if you can work iron.

It is like my suggestion to include instructions on how to make a saw, a knife, and nails because every other hand tool is pretty much just a modification of those three. If you can make iron tools, then you can make them out of softer metals with a lower melting point.

James

Tom Jackson said...

If you're going to leave instructions on melting metal, some basic techniques of sand casting would be very useful. If you can pour your iron into approximately the right shape to start with, there's much less pounding and cutting necessary to make the items you want.

the reverend mommy said...

You know, I've had lunch at the Standing Stones of Elbert County -- I pass by them quite regularly when we go to lunch in Elberton.

They had to be cleaned recently and a little fence was put around them b/c the cows would crap all around them and rub their backs onto the stones.

What that says about the philosophy, I do not know. Except they do stand deep in cow poo.