If the end of the world came, would you be ready to face an apocalypse?
We’ve all wondered at one point in our lives: what would I do if the world were coming to an end? Popular books like Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, The Stand by Stephen King and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins each present the reader with an end-of-the-world scenario and some surprising plot twists. Let’s take a look at the plausibility of surviving an apocalypse by taking a look at past predictions and then examining some real-life options that exist. Whether or not you believe in any of the numerous end-of-the-world conspiracies, knowing what is available in terms of shelter, food and water storage, and other basic necessities is an interesting thought experiment if nothing else!
Early Records of Apocalyptic Predictions
Predicting an apocalypse has been a sign of power and influence for centuries. Many leading religious and philosophical figures have used these “special insights” to control masses of people and convince them to behave in ways that furthered the religion, cult, or ideology of the leader. One of the earliest known apocalyptic predictions was in 1284. It is said that Pope Innocent II had a reputation of pushing teachings of the end of the world in order to instigate political and social change. In 1213 he claimed that the antichrist would come in 1284, ending the world as it was known if the people didn’t rise up and reclaim Jerusalem. The year came and went without incident.
Not all dire predictions came from a religious source, however. Astrologer and mathematician Johannes Stoffler was deeply convinced that, based on his academic calculations, a flood would come on February 25th, 1524 due to a unique alignment of planets under the astrology sign of Pisces. He made this prediction in 1499. The people of Germany were struck with fear and scurried to build or buy boats, the most elaborate of which was a three-story ark. The day of the flood came during a time of drought. No flood magically appeared, and the day passed without danger.
The next great apocalyptic proclamation garnered a following of over 10,000 believers. In 1831 evangelist William Miller told his flock of believers that he had received a sign from God that the end of the world would take place in 1843 when Jesus would return. His followers scrambled to clean up their lives, dedicate themselves to the church, and spread the message far and wide to help others prepare. When the year passed without the return of the saint, Miller quickly recalculated the special “message” he had received and proclaimed the year was in fact 1844. When the following year passed without incident the whole prediction was labeled “The Great Disappointment”, and his following dwindled.
The Halley’s Comet prediction also failed when in 1910 many believed the comet would emit dangerous gases into the atmosphere of the earth. This conspiracy had a polarizing effect with believers buying gas masks, and skeptics hosting viewing parties on rooftops and other high places to watch the comet pass by without disaster.
Fans of the written word will appreciate this next failed apocalyptic prediction. Two astrophysicists from Cambridge wrote a book called The Jupiter Effect in 1974 that claimed massive earthquakes would destroy Los Angeles in March, 1982. Their science and data to support this hypothesis was compelling enough to stimulate mass panic. When the prediction proved false, their follow-up book, The Jupiter Effect Reconsidered was small consolation to the people who moved from the area to avoid death and doom.
We won’t dwell too much on the next two predictions as they occurred within the last twenty or so years. The Y2K prediction of technology being our downfall as a global society came and went without a bleep on our computers. The 2012 Mayan calendar misinterpretation stated the world would end with the close of the ancient calendar. The response to this was muted in comparison to other predictions from the past, and of course nothing catastrophic happened.
The final prediction worth noting is yet to come. In 1704 Sir Isaac Newton used a combination of biblical prophecy and occultic influences to predict the world was destined to end in 2060. He stated the biblical Christ would return at that time and reign on earth.
Preparing for an Apocalypse Today
Now that we understand the prevalence of end-of-the-world theories, let’s see how easy it would be to prepare for doom, on the off chance that Sir Isaac Newton or any future self-proclaimed prophets are correct. Not surprisingly, many companies globally offer bomb-resistant, self-sustaining bunkers the average citizen can purchase to install either underground or overground on their own property. With so many ways that disaster can erupt, a good shelter will have the ability to withstand heat from fires, flooding, and powerful weaponry from warfare.
Structural integrity is a primary consideration when assembling the bunker. Both under and overground shelters will ideally have a few layers to provide the most comprehensive protection. Layers of steel, concrete and soil help shield the inhabitants from the more commonly known potential disasters. The shelter should, as much as possible, be bomb-proof and ideally be capable of withstanding a temporary or long-term water submersion. While most shelters will be small, there must be enough space to both store freeze-dried and canned foods as well as allow the inhabitants enough space to live comfortably for several weeks.
Choosing the best location is vital when constructing your shelter. Ideally, you will avoid valleys, land next to or near oceans or large lakes, and separate yourself from thick forests or other flammable objects. On the flip side, you don’t want your bunker to be an easy target from the air in the event of a war of nations. A top layer of natural-looking rocks or earth can help disguise your overground bunker or the entrance to your underground bunker. Steering clear of all known military bases and other high-value targets that a potential enemy might bomb is also a consideration.
Organization within your bunker will help you feel safe in the event of a disaster. Installing shelving with sealed plastic bins that are clearly labeled will give you more space and also allow you to more quickly develop a routine while you are waiting out the disaster. Freeze-dried foods will likely be the best option when stocking up on foods. Rehydrating the foods is usually easy and not labor-intensive.
Now, for the fun part: sanitation. Removing human waste from the bunker is going to be a daily necessity, and one you won’t want to waste water or energy on. Some of the more upscale bunker makers offer an underground toilet system that runs off of your generator or other power supplies you may have. For the less-costly bunker owners, the old “dig a hole in the ground and cover it up” method works in the short term. Stand-alone macerator toilets also provide a longer-term option when there is a power source. Another popular option is the composting toilet. Peat moss in this type of machine helps to break down waste. Whatever methods your research reveals as the best option for you, a way to dispose of human waste is as necessary to have in your bunker as food, water, and proper air ventilation.
A Tenuous Future
While for many the future may look bright and chipper, there is a massive subset of people around the world who are quietly going about building protective, safe shelters that can be passed down in their families on the off chance that a global or regional disaster should occur. The general rule of thought is, just because it hasn’t happened yet, does not mean it won’t. And since bunkers take years to plan, build, and stock with supplies, the sooner one starts, the better. That is if you believe in the possibility of an apocalyptic event occurring within your lifetime.