Apocalyptic Economies: How to Prepare For a Collapsing Society

How would you hedge against the collapse of society?

Doug Antin
Aug 30, 2020 · 6 min read
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Photo by Sandie Clarke on Unsplash

COVID-19 gave us an interesting look at the kind of panic that can take place in the face of collapsing first world systems. Looking closer at the decisions we made, it’s interesting to explore how people react in the moment. It provided an opportunity to analyze the aftermath and gain an understanding of our wants and needs in the face of societal collapse.

It brings to mind a question: what supplies would you want to have available as a hedge against an apocalypse?

The 2020 lockdown provides an interesting starting point to contrast with other modern examples of localized collapse. It showed how modern supply chain logistics fray under pressure. It highlights the inexperience and fears a shelter order can create because people don’t have a go-to list of materials they’d need.

But what do you really need to prioritize in such situations? What do we take for granted under normal times that would change if supply chains collapse? And how can you prepare now, as a hedge or insurance for an apocalyptic future?

A Perfect Storm: Increased Demand & Falling Supply

People are predictable and the 2020 Pandemic taught us what to expect from a systemic catastrophe. Pasta, flour, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and medications will fly off the shelves quickly. Meats, produce, and canned goods as well. Even the freezers used to keep food preserved will sell out. This all makes sense given the nature of modern just-in-time supply chains. In short, the system fails when an unpredictable and massive spike in demand takes place.

But in retrospect, we’ve been lucky. Although the pandemic has been harsh for many, it none-the-less could have turned out worse. The virus reproduction rate could have been more severe. Lockdowns could have lasted longer, placing more pressure on producers of goods and their supply chains.

What would happen if the demand for everyday essentials outweighs the available supply for an indefinite period of time? What would happen if the virus were worse and our modern economy collapsed? What types of basic necessities would people really need in the event of a total supply chain and societal collapse?

A Hypothetical Beginning

Whatever the reason, your preparation should assume that localized supply chains are no longer effective. Prepare for the apocalypse with the knowledge that modern famine is not caused by a lack of food but a lack of access to food. There may be plenty of corn in Nebraska but that doesn’t matter if there is no way to get it to you in Boston.

Within the first few weeks of whatever catastrophe takes place, assume that the food supply chain collapses, and access to food becomes scarce. Because food is scarce, you can expect people will start to loot. This is a further stress on food supply chains as it disrupts the ability to distribute food safely. As violence increases, you can expect workers to stay home to protect their families. The more workers that stay home, the more the supply chains are stretched.

Blackouts and power issues happen under normal circumstances. You can assume they are highly likely in any scenario involving a societal collapse.

Whether it’s a virus, some form of civil unrest, a war, or a natural catastrophe, modern supply chain disruption is likely and will have predictable consequences.

But you‘re smart and prepared for this. You’ve stocked up on shelf-stable food and supplies. Now it’s time to focus on settling in for a potential long haul. Here’s the thought process you may have gone through.

Long Term Survival Needs

Power Generators

Solar and Gas powered generators will become extremely valuable for maintaining relatively modern lifestyles. They act as a significant hedge against many challenges your likely to come up against in a total collapse of society.

In the short term, it’s unlikely that gas supplies will immediately run out. You can plan around gas-powered generators but it also makes sense to have a solar-powered generator for the long run.

If you don’t have a generator, you can have a number of large problems surviving.

Heating & Lighting

Without a generator, the failure of first world fuel sources brings up the importance of heating. I live in New England which has long cold winters. Without modern heating sources, my ability to survive the winter becomes challenging. But having lost power during the winter on more than one occasion, I do know its possible to survive.

  • Focus on minimizing heat loss, buy products that reinforce window insulation and other areas where heat may seep out of your home
  • You can get a wood stove for cooking which also doubles as a heater
  • Candle lanterns work as a good backup but you can also look for solar-powered and solar rechargeable heaters and lights

Cooking Without Modern Power: Grills & Smokers

In a total collapse, there is no electricity, and the gas that pumps to your house will eventually run out. With the degradation of 1st world fuel and cooking sources, charcoal grills and smokers will become valuable commodities.

Smokers can also be used to preserve food which becomes important as electricity eliminates both refrigerators and freezers. (Unless you have that generator)

The ability to efficiently cook food with appliances that utilize renewable fuel sources such as wood and charcoal is valuable.

Salt Becomes Important Again Like Pre-Modern Times

Salt is an important micronutrient and operates as a natural preservative. As processed food becomes scarce, society will gradually turn to locally raised meats and veggies to sustain life.

That leads to two important consequences.

Number one, no more food on demand. You can’t simply drive down the street to grab some food from the local grocery store. You‘re at the mercy of what you and your neighbors grow or have preserved. It becomes important to have lots of salt available for pickling vegetables and preserving any excess meat.

When preserving vegetables becomes important, there will be a need for canning supplies which become valuable.

But salt also becomes an important and underappreciated micronutrient in a world of unprocessed food. If you’re not eating TV dinners or fast food, you’re not getting the amount of salt your body needs to function. There are countless issues that arise from salt deficiency such as headaches, confusion, fatigue, and muscle weakness.

The bottom line: in a societal collapse, salt becomes a valuable commodity like it was throughout most of human history.

Long Term Survival Items

There are plenty of other things you’ll need that many modern homes may not have.

  • Utility Tools such as multi-tools, saws, hammers, nails, screws and equipment for general household repairs
  • Seed Stock for growing your own food & herbal remedies
  • Medicines such as antibiotics, allergy medications, cold and fever remedies
  • Water purifiers in multiple forms because you don’t know what may happen to the water supply
  • Barter items like alcohol, tobacco, educational resources, and batteries

Build a Library of Survival Resources

You will want to have a catalog of books and printed internet resources on practical skills and survival-oriented content:

  • canning and preserving
  • hunting and foraging
  • herbal medicine and medical techniques without modern medicine
  • pre-modern engineering techniques for farming, building shelters and irrigation
  • bartering techniques and best practices and histories of money and commodities
  • edible plants
  • small scale gardening
  • high output agricultural practices

Luxury Goods, Money, and Tradeable Commodities

In an apocalypse and the collapse of society, the things people value change. Modern money such as the US dollar probably holds no value in a system that isn’t backed up by the US government.

Looking back through history, you can get an idea of what to expect.

Systems of bartering will return but there will also be units of exchange like traditional money. Gold is an example of a commodity that has been deemed valuable throughout history. Jewelry and precious stones may also continue to hold some value.

But in general, it’s important to think of what luxury items might be in a time where most modern life has decayed. Things like rare spices to make bland food more enjoyable and any first-world luxuries like a working iPhone loaded with music.

The World Isn’t Ending But It’s Good to Be Prepared

The world is most certainly not ending. Modern infrastructure is well established and it seems unlikely that COVID-19 will lead to a collapse of society. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing to prepare for black swan events.

Buying supplies to prepare for an unexpected natural catastrophe is a good practice. It functions as insurance and a hedge on the collapse of society. It ensures that you maintain some quality of life and resiliency in the face of numerous unfamiliar challenges.

Emergency Preparedness Resources


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Doug Antin

Written by

Subscribe @ https://dougantin.com/ I publish original content + TL: DR news roundups to help digital age workers adapt to modern society's challenges.



where the future is written

Doug Antin

Written by

Subscribe @ https://dougantin.com/ I publish original content + TL: DR news roundups to help digital age workers adapt to modern society's challenges.



where the future is written

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