There’s an interesting book just published, “The Knowledge” with the subtitle “How to rebuild our world from scratch”. Here’s its author in The Guardian, offering some guidelines:
Lewis Dartnell wrote:How to survive the apocalypse
If you were to wake up after a global catastrophe, would you have the knowledge and skills to stay alive? How would you begin to rebuild civilisation?
For me, it’s a useful corrective for my general view that scientists and engineers are the people most worth listening to, because although what he writes about technical things which interest me – just how do you grow food? – in his section “3. Reinstate agriculture”, and finishes with a hymn of praise “The Greatest Invention” to
the scientific method. It is only by thinking rationally, closely observing the world around you, and asking carefully constrained questions of nature – running experiments – that you will be able to decide which explanatory story (or hypothesis) is more likely to be correct. This knowledge-generating machinery of science is phenomenally successful and will enable the post-apocalyptic society to reconstitute all that is known today. It is science that built our modern world, and it is science that you will need to rebuild again
it doesn’t seem as if he has given any thought to how societies work.
It’s possible I’m being unfair, reacting against his second bit of advice, “2. Leave the cities”, where he writes:
modern urbanised areas simply won't be habitable once the technological bubble that supports them bursts with the apocalypse. With the failure of the power grid and gas supplies, modern apartment blocks would be nigh-on impossible to heat and cook in. And where would you go for fresh water?
because, with the phrase “the technological bubble that supports them”, he’s slipping in an assertion that modern cities are inherently unsustainable, which seems to me to contradict his hope that science will enable us to rebuild our modern world”.
I think he’s just assuming that the current world’s population is inherently unsustainable – which is a fairly common view – but it needs some justification. The fact is that large numbers of people can live together most sustainably in cities, and so far have depended on economic systems which allow food to be produced using high technology by relatively few who don’t choose to live in cities. How does that happen? Well, perhaps there’s also something to be said for understanding social sciences such as economics and politics.
It’s possible the current world population is unsustainable, but if the world’s post Apocalypse population is to recover at all, and ‘our modern world’ means offering the benefits of civic life, then some awareness of the laws of social science would help.