As much as I love eBooks, I know they will be a little difficult to access if civilization collapses and we lose electricity and the Internet. Therefore, when I heard about the book The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch, I decided to order it in hardcover.
Lewis Dartnell, the author, sets out a scenario in which most people have perished but all of our things are undamaged. Although food supplies would rot and buildings eventually collapse, there would be a few decades during which survivors could scavenge supplies before they become unusable. During this time, people would have to learn new skills, such as how to grow crops, raise domestic animals, spin fibers and weave cloth, make soap, work with metal, prepare simple chemicals, and much more. Dartnell obviously can't fit detailed instructions for all of these activities into a single book, but he provides a general overview of the principles involved in, for example, turning wood into charcoal or extracting other useful items from it. (There is an associated website at theknowledge.org, but it didn't load when I checked it. I therefore don't know if it has more detailed instructions.) Along the way, he discusses how the survivors could progress much faster than civilization did the first time around and come up with greener technologies. The book concludes with discussing the most important invention of all: the scientific method.
I personally don't share Dartnell's view of what would happen to our society; I think once climate change ramps up in a couple of decades and the effects become permanent, society will limp on for a while before the whole situation becomes unsustainable. (It's very scary to think I will probably live to see this start to happen--and that my son and any of his children will have to live through even worse developments.) Although Dartnell says domestic farm animals such as horses and cows will be vital for the survivors, he doesn't talk about how to care for them or use them. I also thought it odd that he didn't have a chapter on building shelters. Still, this book could be useful for anyone interested in writing or learning about post-apoclypatic society.
Finally, if you want to survive in this new world, here are a few tips I gleamed from the book:
--Stock up on heirloom seeds (both vegetables and cereals), so you can start growing food right away.
--Move out of the cities and into the country. However, feel free to recycle what you can from the city.
--If you are stuck in a city, a typical supermarket would have enough food to feed a single person for about 50 years if the inventory is managed carefully.
--Plastic water bottles can be used to purify water; you put them against a dark background and put them in the sun for several hours to kill germs.
--Stay fit; you'll be providing a lot of the muscle in a world without power.
--Keep clean; when modern medicines are lost, simple cuts can lead to lethal infections.
--Keep track of the calendar so you can plant and harvest at the right time.
--When possible, raid libraries for books and knowledge. Also take spinning wheels, looms, and other old technology from museums when possible.