Is it Possible to Survive the Apocalypse (TEOTWAWKI, End of the World, Collapse of Society, Malthusian Catastrophe)?
REM's "It's TEOTWAWKI and I feel fine!"
Surviving TEOTWAWKI - Is It Even Possible?
I've read a great deal of post-apocalyptic / dystopian fiction, and a number of non-fiction books about the collapse of society (such as James Howard Kunstler's The Long Emergency, where Kunstler tackles the coming Peak Oil crisis and society's "techno-grandiosity" in great detail). It is a genre and non-fiction topic that I've been obsessed with for over two decades, ever since I read Stephen King's The Stand, cover-to-cover, when I was only 13 years old (I started reading it about a month before the movie mini-series was aired and struggled mightily, albeit ultimately successfully, to stay ahead in the novel as compared to the part of the story being told in the episodes as they were aired).
No, I don't want the Apocalypse to happen (as some of my friends have suggested). After all, I have kids and, ever since my twin boys were born a little more than 4 years ago, my fascination with the genre and topic turned into a dreadful slog, thinking of the perils of the world that I brought them into. I've become less of a reader and more of a "prepper lite" since they were born, meaning that I'm a person who would love to have all the fancy survival gear, 40 acres and a mule, a great big generator, etc., but whose economic circumstances dictate that - aside from a low-end Mauser 12-gauge pump-action shot-gun, about a month's worth of MRE's for the family, a few tubs of dried milk, a cheesy "seed vault," etc. - my most valuable asset at this time is knowledge.
In recent years, in addition to all the novels that suddenly became available to me a few years ago when I received a Barnes & Noble Nook from my father on my birthday, I also began reading more non-fiction (both in the form of non-fiction books and on the internet on websites such as www.survivalblog.com). It is hard to explain to others why the subject fascinates me, but - aside from the self-preservation / "I want to be the man to repopulate the planet in my image" angles - for me, there has always been something that just seems so cool about imagining myself among the scattered remains of humanity, trying to pick up the pieces of a shattered world after a near-extinction level event.
One of the hundreds of novels that became available to me when I finally left the Stone Age and started reading e-books is Redaction by Linda Andrews (Amazon link below). A very general summary of the plot is that - after the mysterious Redaction virus nearly wiped mankind off the face of the planet - a tiny fragment of the US Government that remained intact struggles to help the infinitesimal percentage of citizens who survived against the threats posed by their fellow man, a resurgence of The Plague, the emergence of the Hantavirus spread by an out-of-control rat population, and - most notably for the purposes of this article - the melt-downs at nuclear power plants that are inevitable across the country and, moreover, the whole world.
The question of whether it is even possible for anyone to survive a true TEOTWAWKI scenario was once again raised in Summer of the Apocalypse by James Van Pelt (Amazon link below). Both Redaction (and more specifically, the subsequent novels in Linda Andrews' series) and Summer of the Apocalypse raise a very interesting (and dark) question; to wit: Is it possible for even a tiny, infinitesimal number of human beings to survive any true TEOTWAWKI scenario? In both Andrews' series and Van Pelt's novel, among the countless other challenges the remnants of mankind are faced with is the reality that - with everyone else dead - there will be no one left to safely shut down (if this is possible at all) or to otherwise stabilize the world's nuclear power plants.
According to Wikipedia, there are 435 nuclear power plants in 35 countries world-wide. To put things into context, there was (and remains) quite a bit of speculation that, if things went wrong in the mad scramble to put together something remotely resembling a "containment" of the disastrous melt-downs at Fukushima Prefecture in Japan, the uncontrolled release of radiation from the disaster area could pose an extinction-level threat to humanity. Whatever the merits of that theory may be (and I am far from sufficiently sophisticated in any matters relating to radioactive isotopes, their respective "half-lives" or nuclear power generation generally and the related hazards appurtenant thereto), surely it is without question that all of the world's nuclear power plants melting down at or around the same time would wipe mankind completely off the map, no?
I'd like to hear others' thoughts on this issue. As much of a bummer as this is for me now that these two novels have raised this issue in my own mind, I'm now skeptical as to whether it is even theoretically possible for there to be a "post-apocalyptic world" in light of the inevitable melting down of all of the world's nuclear power plants following any total collapse of society. I appreciate the point raised in Andrews' and Van Pelt's novels to the extent that the failure to address this issue nags at me when reading any other TEOTWAWKI books, fiction and non-fiction alike.
Goodbye, Blue Sky Indeed!
Van Pelt's Summer of the Apocalypse
Goodbye Cruel World!
War, Rioting, Disease, Pandemic, Pestilence, Cannibalism, et al, Weren't Enough?!
Oh well. I'm pretty bummed about this as you can tell. That having been said, ** SEMI-SPOILER ALERT! ** Andrews' final novel in the series does offer a bit of hope.