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Foundation Earth - seed package to reboot a technical society

  1. Dec 8, 2012 #1

    I'm planning on writing a short story, pretty short, maybe 5 - 10 pages with minimal dialogue and just a few characters. Really its a pilot project to outline the details and thoughts needed for a bigger project that may or may take place down the road.

    Generally, the idea is this.

    Capitalist societies collapse under resource strain. National militaries enter a desperate struggle for clean water, food, and gas / oil energy resources. Basic supply infrastructure mostly shuts down as energy resources are rediverted by governments for military activities, and destroy most of each others remaining infrastructure. city populations either starve or re-settle the countryside. States enter marshal law but even the state's appropriated resources dwindle and anarchy sets in. Ultimately, there are to many people for the food that can be produced without large scale mechanization of productions and distribution, and there are mass die-offs even in developed places like north america and Europe.

    There is a predatory period where law enforcement agencies either run out of resources and disband or become looters and protection rackets. Ultimately they become more predatory to the point of outright looting and killing, essentially marauding warlords and gangs that further destroy re-settled and agricultural communities which otherwise might have survived. Predator groups decimate settled populations and eventually each other - think mercenaries in Germany in 30 years war.

    The ultra rich and wealthy basically exit the scene to heavily fortified fortresses and underground bunkers. Telecommunications signals reveal the location of most of these and they are looted, raided, destroyed by aforementioned former military predator groups. The general anarchy and chaos lasts say 50 years before new population equilibria are established, but it could essentially be mostly peasant agriculture surrounded by the remains of technical civilization - think italian peasants living in thatch huts next to imperial roman remains.

    So, this is the backdrop for the real interesting part of the story, in my mind, which is this: what packages need to be set in place to establish just a few, say half a dozen, self sustaining communities in remote, inaccessible locations (Peruvian highlands, Central asian steppes, Rockies, etc) with the requisite tools to re-establish the slightest toehold of technical civilization after the period of chaos dies down and they can try to re-emerge on a larger scale.

    My thoughts are along these lines:
    - small nuclear reactor
    - several industrial 3d printers with some heavy supplies of graphite, silicon, gold, etc, for material
    - hardened hard drives storing scientific, technical, engineering and medical knowledge
    - genome sequencing bank, stem cell bank, seed bank, and if possible, frozen viable fertilized animal embryos
    - small population of perhaps 200 - 300 people across a range of specialties and disciplines. Less astrophysicists, bankers, etc, more midwives, farmers, and repairmen.
    - small supply of weapons for defense and hunting
    - potentially, very minimal satellite network for surveillance

    The inspiration for the idea comes from Asimov's Foundation series. I thought it would be neat applying that to Earth with modern tech. One thing I am considering is having the survival colonies: not use wirelessly transmitting technology for detection reasons; not being mutually aware of each other; and potentially having a period of mandatory isolation, i.e. 20 or 30 years.

    I'm looking for suggestions on what other devices, technologies, etc, would be essential for not necessarily maintaining a technical society, but to keep open the possibility of reviving it down the road. Interested to hear your comments or suggestions.

    Additionally, if you folks have some materials, resources, NASA studies, white papers etc, detailing survival options for something like nuclear holocaust, or maybe what to take for a space colony, or personal survival hideouts, I appreciate links and references to help me fill out my ideas.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 8, 2012 #2


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    Why do you need this?
    or this, for surveillance?
    In other words, who will be maintaining these systems for 20 to 30 years.

    Most of the people in the community will be foraging for food and water for survival, using their own muscle power since mechanization would be impossible. Unless of course your intent is of them having an ample supply of hydrocarbon fuel and oils which is necessary to run an internal combustion engine and machines.

    I would also add in to the list such 'necessities' as a warehouse full with toilet paper, clothing, shoes, tools, toothpaste, eyeglasses, coffee, etc. and farmland of chickens, pigs, horses, grist mill, wheat, barley, and brandy ( mecidinal of course. )
  4. Dec 8, 2012 #3
    Your missing the point, I think. The idea is that some group of farsighted well resourced individuals have the wherewithall to set up these colonies / packages before the actual chaotic disintegration of society. There is a similar theme in Asimov's Foundation series - psychohistory predicts the fall of the galactic empire and a 10,000 year period of barbarism. The foundation's purpose is to act as a store of knowledge and technical expertise to cut down the period of barbarism and be a revitalization point for civilization.

    Toilet paper, shoes, toothpaste, etc... these aren't the kinds of things you stockpile because if you don't have the capacity to manufacture your daily necessities, your screwed anyway. And again, the point isnt to maintain in any sense a 20th century consumer society with our plethora of manufactured goods, its to ensure the survival of knowledge mostly scientific which is hard to regain if lost. Same goes with barley etc. You can't possibly stash 50 years of food for 200 - 300 people, its far easier to stash the equipment / seeds for growing food.
  5. Dec 8, 2012 #4


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    That is my point.
    By the way, certain foods can be stockpiled for a year or two under ideal conditions of temperature and humidity. Grain and cereals for somewhat longer. Vegetables have a considerable less time of shelf life.

    One acre of good farm land will produce 60 bushels of wheat, if grown in a suitable soil and climate, with the use of fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides. From that, one could make 3600 pounds of whole wheat flour. One square acre is an area about 210 feet on each side, or 43560 square feet. One square mile contains 640 acres.

    To make a loaf of bread one would need approximately 8 ounces of of flour ( and some other ingredrients ). That acre of land would thus supply 7200 loaves of bread. That means with 200 people in the community, each individual has a yearly allotment of 36 loaves of whole wheat bread, or 1 loaf every 10 days, or a timid 2 slices per day.

    Add in other staple foods such as such as potatoes, corn, lettuce, and I will make a guess that 10 acres would need to be farmed for this community, although I suspect the community would be on the verge of starvation.

    If you add into the mix agricultural stock (cows etc), then the acreage required increases substantially. With the assumption that one cow can provide enough protein for 2 people per year, and 5 acres are needed to feed the cow, then a herd of 100 cows ( not counting replenishment stock ), will require 500 acres. round that up to 640 acres or one square mile.

    The size of the acre is said to have come about from the amount of land that a team of horse or oxen could plow in one day. ( One large present day tractor and implement can do the same in 3 days ). That said, 50 teams are required to plow the land in 10 days for the seeding season. You can double the required size of land to 1280 acres, since the necessary crop rotation and summerfallow is required.

    So out of the 200 individuals, by this simple analysis, a conservative 50 people, but probably more are farmers, using some type of non industrial farming techniques, just to provide food for the community.

    If you want to grow your own cash crops such as flax, soy, canola for he fibers and oil, than more agricultural land would be required and more farmers.

    You can do this for any industry that the community needs to provide for itself for survival to determine how many man-hours are required for basic necessities such as food, housing and clothing.

    Unless you stockpile certain things that the community will have need of, you just may run out of the necessary people power and collapse of your isolated community. The organizers of the community would be negligent with a failure to take this into account.

    Also to include in the list of food items -salt, sugar, spices.
  6. Dec 9, 2012 #5
    thanks 256bits! thats some great information.

    From what I've read chickens are some of the more efficient animals for acreage-per unit protein delivered to populace. Can I ask if you have a recommended article or site for some of your information? Definitely need to be thinking about these nuts and bolts issues for plausibility, and researching it half the fun, really.
  7. Dec 10, 2012 #6


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    Here is a chart from census 2002 of various crop yields

    And another
    http://www.gardensofeden.org/04 Crop Yield Verification.htm

    Thr viability of your community would be better ensured with an adequate food supply. Since a nuclear reactor could supply adequate energy, you could go hydroponic with continious food production throughout the year giving a higher yield per plot of land.
    I was attempting to have you regard some aspect (food production ) of what a community would need to consider if isolated for a lengthy period of time. Just don't get bogged down in trying to make it perfect for your project, otherwise it will never get off the ground.

    good luck
  8. Dec 10, 2012 #7


    Staff: Mentor

    I would think drone technology would be there somewhere considering the satellite tech might fall apart from disuse and from not maintaining satellite orbital corrections.
  9. Dec 10, 2012 #8
    There's a project out there called CD3WD (CDs for the 3rd world) that you may find some inspiration from. There is a lot of information in the set designed to help a 3rd world society (and by extension, a post-apocalyptic one) survive if they have little or no other information.

    Agriculture, farming and fishing, biofuels, water wheels, pumps, irrigation, uses of solar power, making bricks/tiles, sanitation, and so on.

    The full set is huge (over 200G uncompressed).
  10. Dec 11, 2012 #9
    justsomeguy - holy crap! thats a great source thank you very much!

    No way in balls I'll be able to read it all but definitely a good master source. Now if we just get some storage formats that last over a decade...
  11. Dec 11, 2012 #10


    Staff: Mentor

    there's an old science fiction novel called Earth Abides where it describes the various disasters that ensue as civilization collapses that might a good source for ideas.


    You'd probably need to update it a bit though but the naturaal progression of disaster to disaster is interesting.
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