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Advice for a climate change apocalypse (kentucky.com)
99 points by rr-geil-j 29 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments

Loved the message. Just like you can't run away from yourself (trust me), humanity can't run away from its collective self.

My favorite book about this is Lucifer's Hammer: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucifer%27s_Hammer

Not perfect but certainly echoes the article's theme that we'll still be in society, even after a catastrophe, and will have to work within it.

I wish I could remember the book, but it was targeted at preppers by someone who'd lived through a temporary collapse of government in S. America. And his advice was if you are truly a prepper, you aren't storing guns, ammo, and food, you're working to get your local government to prepare for disaster events. And his reasoning was this, as soon as the central government failed, the smaller towns created militias which went around collecting food and supplies to be rationed by everyone.

That won't work in a scenario of climate change, which is long term, slow.

The only solutions here are big systemic. It cannot even be attacked at a local level.

What does a local community do when the wells and reservoirs dry out? Where do they get the food from when there's country wide shortage?

Rationing only goes so far.

John Baez's blog has a series on how civilizations collapse, first looking at the Anasazi, and then how one might model it using agent-based modeling and also looking at general collapse through differential equations:





James Burke is a science historian and BBC documentarian, and in his first episode of "Connections" a series on the nature of innovation, he talks about how fragile our complex infrastructure can be, and, much like this article, how hopeless individualist survival skills would be once we "leave our technological womb".


In his later series, After the Warming, a 1988 documentary which imagines what it would look like in 2050 if we failed to act on climate change (in which it predicted refugee crises, wars, hurricanes, mass flooding), and looks back on thousands of years of climate shaping civilizational rise and collapse, from the Ice Age to the Nabataeans to today and beyond. It gets most things scarily right, with the notable exception of failing to see Japanese economic bubble popping in 1991.



Connections was one of my favorite shows when I was younger, and it played on cable. I think it was the Discovery channel, as hard as that is to imagine now. I really miss the Discovery channel of my youth, when it was a gateway to science and history, and not primarily a vehicle of reality TV programming. At least I assume it still is, I abandoned it long ago (not long after it abandoned me).

I think it was The Learning Channel, before it went to complete TLC shit with incipid "reality" drama all day.

Yep, that sounds about right. I think maybe Discovery isn't quite as bad as I made it sound (even if it did go down hill some), but TLC just went straight to all reality shows, and I was conflating them.

I've thought a bit about this and come to the conclusion that the best way to survive is not to have anything others would want. If you have nothing others want you will not be attacked for it and have to defend yourself. That will get you past the first wave of deaths: holding on to our old way of life thinking 'property' is important. It's best if you can actually walk to an area where there is protection from the elements, away from the masses of people fighting for the last scraps of loot remaining of the old world.

If you manage to live a year most of the original violence will have passed. You will need to start to build a life where you can make and store foodstuffs to survive through seasons where food is more scarce (I live on 66°N, winter would be harsh). Hopefully you will be in a small band of survivors that are pooling strengths to get by and can learn farming all over again.

If you do survive this period then on a timescale of decades small camps of survivors will be able to connect and start to build back up again.

> not to have anything others would want.

Like food or the tools necessary to get food? Kind of hard to survive without that.

No, I think the OP is absolutely right. Humans are social animals, and large groups of humans are more powerful than small ones. Those who survive will be those who join the best groups. And the best way to ensure you're in a good group is to use your abilities to shape your group into a good group.

This is a good strategy past the first year.

Yes, because civilization collapse hits immediately in a single year, not a tens of years to century...

One year is good for surviving something local, like a hurricane or landslide or such.

This is why "preppers" make me laugh ... they go out of their way to stockpile these resources (food, guns, survival gear, etc). I don't know about you, but anyone I've ever met with prepper tendencies isn't shy about letting you know about it ... so now they're making it known that in an emergency, they will be the place for the mob to raid

I've met some who are very quiet about it, presumably precisely for that reason. It's no surprise that you don't really hear about the ones who are highly-prepared but don't say much.

Keep in mind selection bias. The only preppers you know are the ones who let you know they are preppers.

Many mormons are "preppers" in that their religion urges them to stockpile up to a year of food.

> This is why "preppers" make me laugh ...

Well, those are the "annoying vegans" of the prepper world. That or folks using publicity to scare up interest and sell you things here and now.

Any prepper with an actual interest in long-term survival knows the importance of OPSEC.

One of my coworkers is a prepper and he almost never says a word about it. Even if you ask directly, you won't get much out of him.

I think you're experiencing selection bias.

Wouldn't the mob run away after a few people in front got shot? I'm sure there are historical examples for comparison.

The problem with security is you have to be right every time, they only have to be right once.

Your children are starving.

You can (a) run away and watch them starve or (b) rush the compound and hope to get some food.

Threats -- and demonstrations -- of violence are only reliable if the person being threatened has something to lose.

>Threats -- and demonstrations -- of violence are only reliable if the person being threatened has something to lose.

I'm not convinced that people would be rational about their prospects if they were being shot at.

If you die then you can't help them anymore.

If you die, you don't have to watch them starve to death next week.

If there's a 90% chance you die storming the compound, a 10% chance you survive storming the compound and obtain food and a 100% chance you die if you don't find food soon, why wouldn't you take the chance at survival?

Because there may be other opportunities out there. If you leave, there may only be 5% chance you'll find other resources to survive. If you die there's 100% chance your kids will die.

This is the "rugged individualist fantasy" that the author talks about.

I admit many of us have fantasies of climate-change-apocalypse working out like that, but the author is correct: we will not be facing a sudden collapse of society allowing small bands of survivors to go live on farms, at least not in the first world.

Instead, in the first world, the effects we'll feel are billions of climate refugees moving across the world in search of safety and arriving at our borders. There will be there current border arguments x1000, and we'll either have to deal with the economic impact of having refugees or the moral impact of not. But those aren't the kinds of triggers that will suddenly lead to people going and founding communes in the remains of society.

More like nightmares.

I've read articles about Syria being the first casualty in the coming migrant wars due to climate change.

I posted a comment about this a few days ago and got downvoted into oblivion. Seems like hn doesn't take the climate refugee threat seriously.

It's not that the refugees are the threat. The problem is everything will be overloaded if you accept too many, and armed conflict is likely if you don't.

Closest places will get hit first.

A farming community will only last until someone else establishes martial superiority over it.

The best business is a protection racket. Establish martial superiority before someone else does. You can even offer a nicer protection racket than the others. But you’re gonna need organized firepower if you want to keep any of the wealth you produce in the long term

A protection racket might be the best business, but it's also a very risky business.

Somehow I don't get the American obsession with doomsday events. Sure, they make for a good story backdrop, but how realistic is it really? I have my doubts that's climate change apocalypse will be quick, I suspect it to be a rather drawn out affair. And just an individual could prepare for years or even decades of such things or believe one could just doesn't make sense.

And if you study real doomsday periods in history, the plague, the fall of the roman empire and such things, in the end society somehow survived. During the plague even wars that have started before it continued. And England kept the state and government prett much going.

And the larger, long term changes and impacts most likely cannot be mitigated on the individual level. Certainly not by stockpiling on stuff.

This seems more like a movie script expectation of what doomsday would be like. Doesn't history show that in most cases of natural disaster, communities tend to come together rather than devolve into violence? We always assume it will be everyone for themselves, everybody armed to the teeth, etc. Even in America I doubt that's how it plays out.

Communities yes, but they tend to toss out outgroups hard when they come for help. And then when a community can't deal with the change at all, it is more dangerous to others around. There are limits of what banding together can do in small communities.

Suppose the global trade is hit, you don't have enough food and growing things locally becomes impossible. Will you find someone brilliant enough to solve it in a small community? It's not very likely... War is more likely.

99.9% of humanity's history has been of slavery or subservience. Why would a collapse of modern society not change things back to how they always were?

You can't enslave people who are dead, the remaining few will have too much of bargaining power.

Look into what happened after Black Death epidemics.

So basically, don't be a woman?

Actually, the opposite is true. There's no single explanation for it, but women tend to survive in much higher numbers during times of severe famine or catastrophe. It's likely a combination of several factors: Women have slower metabolisms and higher bodyfat, and they tend to form more close knit groups. Men tend to take on more physical labor, they tend to waste more energy, and are more likely to end up as social outcasts.

I think a collapse of civilization will be hard on women yes. I'm not misogynistic and am an advocate of equal rights for all sexes but there are hard realizations about the sort of behavior we would exhibit in the wrong sort of circumstances.

Alternative: misogyny is so ingrained into our worldview that we view it as the default, natural state we revert to.

Id suggest anyone not affiliated to a larger group would be in danger. I agree an outcast solo man might fare slightly better on their own, but in a dynamic enviro with other people a woman might fare slightly better.

This is how a lot of men expect things to go even within society. Sexual assault is ostensibly illegal but in practice does not always result in harsh penalties.

If you intrinsically have something people want and you're physically weak, you'd best make friends with Samuel Colt, the great equalizer.

Or a child

While I think the article is a little thin, it does scratch the surface that the hard part of civilization collapse is not about survival, but about how society will need to reorganize itself.

We take for granted at the moment how critical law and law enforcement is for the stability of our society, and the major reduction in violence, civilization has enjoyed. [1]

Evolution has favored an evolutionary stable strategy, basically a Nash equilibrium, between those who would exploit, those that are passive, and those that fight back when exploited. [2] A collapse of civilization would mean that as a society, we’ll have to recover and restore systems that allow us to cooperate and fend off those willing to exploit others for their own gain.

1. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Better_Angels_of_Our_Nat...

2. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionarily_stable_strate...

I wish the author had delved more into how his studies of past civ collapse inform his predictions of climate-related collapse. Instead he encourages "generosity, altruism, and cooperation" like this is some sort of corporate retreat.

Something else to consider, that the article doesn't really touch, is the pace of change. Even at global-disaster scale, climate change moves pretty slowly. The ocean may rise a couple of meters, but it's not rising a couple of meters later this afternoon.

Interesting thing to think about... in the past century, Earth's population has quadrupled, with most of that occurring along coastlines. That means we built enough housing in a century to accommodate four times as many people in those coastal cities. Why can't we just keep building? Population growth has mostly leveled off (we're looking at no more than 50% population increase over the next century, probably less), and we have much better tools now than we had then. If New Orleans floods, you don't necessarily need to move to Kansas to escape it - and the mouth of the Mississippi will continue to be a vital trade corridor even if the oceans rise.

The changes are generational in timespan. Think that way.

This is what I was thinking. People seem to think of climate change as something like a tornado or something. Sea level, for example, rises so slowly that you can simply abandon the land on the coast that we start to lose and keep expanding inward. The easily flooded areas from more potent storms will probably be abandoned, too, over time. It won't be fun, for sure, but I don't see civilization falling any time soon.

It's not like an event labeled "climate change" is going to hit us next Thursday and we're suddenly going to be reduced to roving bands of survivors who will be wishing they had signed up for that survival training class yesterday.

I'd worry more about getting our government officials to put more resources into disaster preparedness than I would how to start a fire or how best to lead a band of frightened survivors.

The most important bit will be food and water safety, parts ever father from equator will be overloaded in terms of food production. Water facilities are not prepared to deal with the magnitude of change and it will be a lot of work to bring them up.

The big problem here is that such preparations ahead of time are not exactly economically viable, and mostly impossible "just in time" as they require systemic changes.

Once these pressures are bad enough, we'll have a big problem.

That's assuming there are mass migrations due to lack of food. Why can't they just adjust crops? We keep imagining agriculture as some sort of on-off switch - "We have crops, and then the global warming happens, and suddenly we no longer have crops". It doesn't work that way. We'll see production declines, maybe, but not sudden elimination of entire food supplies. And production declines can be dealt with intelligently - switching crops, altering harvest cycles, etc. Again, in the past century, humanity has handled a quadrupling of the population and wound up with more food surplus and lower food costs than at any point in history. And that's without whatever future the introduction of genetic engineering, internet-of-things, and other modern technologies bring to the table.

Climate may change slow (by human standards, not by climate's standards), but civilization collapse can be pretty much flip-of-a-switch instantaneous.

Right. But climate change may not be a fast enough trigger to cause an instantaneous collapse of civilization.

And at what scale are we talking? A local community, or a nation, or the world? The instantaneous collapse of global civilization, with no instantaneous trigger, seems unlikely to me. The idea that no government will be able to stand and keep order, from the UN to the US on down to every town in the world? Nah.

Also check out this Bloomberg podcast with the author (currently it's the first one in this overview):


Why is this flagged @dang? Am I missing something?

A good strategy is probably moving to a rich country now, before the unprecedented refugee crisis starts.

Post-apocalyse could be fun. But why wait? You can move to Slab City if that's your thing.

I play a game sometimes in my head. It's a kind of speculative daydream. In this daydream, I'm sitting around a campfire with my band of fellow survivors. Things have calmed down and we've settled into a groove. The "game" has no name, but if it did it would be called "nostagia". Everyone goes around the circle and says something they miss from the old civ that they took for granted:



"Fucking morphine"

"I miss my dentist."

The breakdown of civilization will be horrifying.

I have been a self-decribed "Apocalyptic" since sometime in my early teens. I took a look at what people were up to in re; technology and the environment and decided that we could kiss our asses good-bye in maybe fifty years. That was about thirty years ago and we are right on schedule.

The first problem is going to be water. Then food. There's only about three days worth of food in a modern city at any given time. If the production and transportation system seriously breaks down for more than a week over a large enough area... Well, as the fellow from New Guinea said to the missionary, "If God didn't want us to eat people He wouldn't have made us out of meat." Check your history books if you dare, but I don't advise it unless you have a strong stomach. Heh.

Best advice to survive a serious breakdown of civilization: "Live someplace three days farther than a hungry person can walk."

The best time to prepare for this bleak future is now, before it happens. If you're not prepared to move to the middle of nowhere and set up a self-sufficient homestead then you had better get serious about fixing our global problems.

This is where "it will be empathy, generosity, and courage that we need to survive. Kindness and fairness will be more valuable than any survival skill. Then as now, social and leadership skills will be valued. We will have to work together. We will have to grow food, educate ourselves, and give people a reason to persevere. The needs will be enormous, and we cannot run away from that. Humans evolved attributes such as generosity, altruism, and cooperation because we need them to survive. Armed with those skills, we will turn towards the problem, not away from it. We will face the need, and we will have to solve it together. That is the only option. That’s what survival looks like."

It's this moment right now. You're living it. This is what the breakdown of civilization looks and feels like. Where are the insects? Where are the birds? The weather is weird. There are strange signs in the Heavens. Someone is trying to tell you something.

We have solutions.

Permaculture and other kinds of applied ecology can save our bacon: it's fun and easy to get back in touch with Nature (and she's delighted to have you back!) Things like the "Core Transformation Process" are algorithms for overcoming our problems and baggage. It's there, it works. Or just "Non-Violent Communication", etc. Or find Jesus and live up to His expectations.

Change your life, start with your diet, it's healthy to eat food grown in healthy ecosystems: foster some. We can do this, "we have the technology", it's up to us.

"Ten across, 7 letters, synonym for 'Prepper'".


"That works."

Exactly. The climate crisis is likely to look a lot more like Europe's refugee crisis.

This guy says "I" too much.

"No tragic yet convenient event will allow us to discard our complex, messy, and ever-changing social reality and live out our rugged individualistic fantasy."

"...it will be empathy, generosity, and courage that we need to survive. Kindness and fairness will be more valuable than any survival skill"

If you're interested in a concrete discussion of what a collapse may look like this is not for you. He says it won't hurt to know survival skills and that mainly you should learn to be kind (as if you missed that lesson in pre-k). One thing is for certain; he's definitely a paragon of morality. I mean.. you can't write an article like that without being totally rock solid.

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