June 13, 2024

Weekend Essay: My plan for the end of the world

In my spare time, I sometimes (read: often) like to contemplate the end of the world. During the Covid pandemic, I became interested in apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction.

As I believe I’ve written about before, my favourite genre is zombie horror.

During many of our editorial meetings, our editor Tom has had to reel my colleague Kim and me back in because we’ve gone down a zombie rabbit hole. She insists she wouldn’t want to live in a post-apocalyptic world. I, on the other hand, would survive at all costs.

And I know I’m not the only one who enjoys mulling end-of-world scenarios. There are people who go much further than me and actually prepare for them.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles online about all the terrible things that might happen. Humans have a morbid fascination with their own extinction.

Earlier this year a headline in The Guardian caught my eye because it talked about “zombie viruses”. Disappointingly, on a closer read, I discovered that a zombie virus is not actually one that causes zombification. It’s just a virus that has been trapped in the Arctic ice for thousands of years and is still infectious.

The article said that, as global warming continues to melt the polar ice caps, these viruses have the potential to unleash a major outbreak of diseases we are unable to fight off, and this could cause the next pandemic.

These sorts of articles crop up every now and again. They are, obviously, slightly sensationalised and designed for clicks. But there have been numerous scientific studies into ancient viruses and bacteria. Scientists are keeping an eye on them in case they have the potential to cause an apocalyptic event.

Another genre of film and TV drama I really enjoy is sci-fi that involves natural disasters, especially if the disaster is such that it ends the world, or alien invasions, especially if the aliens want to end the world (can you see a pattern developing here?)

There are so many ways in which the world could end.

Psychoanalysing myself, I guess the reason I like thinking about these scenarios is that they are so far removed from my current reality. In the same way as I like to imagine myself living and working in New York – it’s unlikely to happen.

Much as I know logically that I would not have a fun time if the world ended, I can’t help but get drawn into shows like The Walking Dead and films such as Train to Busan.

I have a pretty rigorous plan for what I would do in a disaster scenario, especially in a zombie outbreak scenario. I like to think I’d be a good survivor. I’m not going to reveal my entire plan in this article, but it involves leaning heavily on my powers of persuasion, my cousin’s country house and a baseball bat with nails sticking out of it.

And if you want to join my survival team, be prepared to be left behind if you don’t add value (I would be fully prepared to be left behind myself if I wasn’t adding value).

Of course, if society did collapse, money would become useless, and banknotes no more than a useful firelighter. In fact, the new plastic may not even prove useful for that.

And as soon as money has no value, it is those who are physically strong or canny who have the upper hand, as well as those who are quick to stockpile items that are essential to everyday survival.

There are a surprising number of articles out there predicting which things are most likely to have value post-apocalypse.

There are obvious items such as bottled water, fuel, ammunition, medicine and tinned foods, which would immediately become invaluable. But cars would become unusable in a matter of years, and ready-made things such as antibiotics and tinned foods would run out too – the amount of time this would take would depend on the survival rate of the human race.

Some articles suggest sugar would be a good product to use for trading, and some even suggest that metal coins would still have some value, as they could be melted down to make tools and weapons. Seeds would become a vital product to trade.

Skills could also be traded, so it would be worth carving out a niche. For example, if you can fix cars you would be an asset until cars cease to be valuable. If you’re a great marksman, you could offer to be a protector of a group. If you know how to grow crops, you would be useful to a community looking to become self-sufficient. These are just a few of the hundreds of skills that could be used as bargaining chips.

There are no lessons for financial advisers here aside from, I suppose, be prepared for every scenario.

I know it’s unlikely that the world will end, but it also seemed unlikely that we would all be put into lockdowns for the best part of two years. So I don’t see any harm in stocking up on sugar and tins of beans. Just in case.

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