How To Survive at the End of the World


I have been reading a lot of immediate post apocalyptic novels of late, for reviewing, for comparative reasons and because, well, that’s what I do. I’m not saying that these books make me particularly hungry, but they do remind me of two things. First, how much junk we make that we don’t need and how littered our (Western) lifestyle is. Second, how much we depend on that junk to survive, even in these post-apocalyptic times. Whether the weather breaks, nuclear war sets in, all the adults are erased off the face of the planet and slowly things stop running (or the children are as with Children of Men), all the electronics and computers stop working  and society grinds to a halt, space garbage has blocked out the sun and has started falling to earth etc… the world and life on it have changed. But, generally the people don’t, or it takes a while. So, the story should be about characters struggling to survive after everything changes, but actually, the story revolves around the melodrama of trying to save the ones you love and self-sacrifice etc… I think, perhaps McCarthy’s The Road is the best immediate post-apocalyptic novel that I have read in a long time because it cuts through that drama and gets right down to Maslow’s basic needs. Food, water, shelter.

Now, let’s get to the fun stuff.

What to do at the end of the world:

Scenario – something catastrophic has happened and you have survived what do you do?

1. Find a mode of transportation. Many of us don’t drive, but you gotta be able to get from point A to point B and you need something for cargo (and all the melodramatic baggage of course).

2. Lock your door. At this point people won’t be looting apartments or houses, they’ll be hitting either grocery stores or places that sell valuables.

3. You will grab cash, all the cash you can, and disposable valuables and hit your nearest, biggest grocery store IMMEDIATELY – I’m talking Costco, No Frills, Safeway – not Choices or little kitchy places, they won’t have enough stock. Go for something with a lot of bulk, with a lot of preserved foods, and preferably with a pharmacy (and if you live in the states, the booze as well)

Do not wait around for little Timmy or Tina, leave a note.

– Get help if it is available, but be careful when you recruit assistance, you will need to live out the apocalypse with these people, it is like marriage. Do you want to be stuck in a close space with this person? Do you want to travel with this person?

– If yes, be prepared to have that help walk or find a different way home because you are stuffing your car/truck/jeep/hummer with as much food and water and spices and gas and chemicals and booze as you can. Be prepared to make multiple trips and for the traffic to be horrendous, be prepared to break traffic laws, cops’ll be busy stopping looters.

– Be prepared to split up – only now in these early post-apocalypse times. It’s frantic, it’s busy, if you are on your own with a mission you will do much better, especially if you each have some sort of transportation – even a big backpack and a bicycle would suffice for the little stuff like pharmaceuticals and liquor (not for drinking! ;). Set a meeting point. Do what is farthest from you first and work your way home. For instance, BC liquor is around the corner from me, I would bike there and get all the white liquors I could carry, and I’d make multiple trips.

The Shopping List

Food Stuffs:

– canned foods, all and any – that could mean cat and dog food, whatever is available (and while you are at it get a couple can openers.)

– Mr. Noodles, crackers, cereals, pasta, white rice.

– bottled water and juices – in a pinch just grab water, if there is none grab the sparkling sodas and tonic waters, if none then get the juices.

– hit the baking needs aisle, get the flour, sugar (antiseptic), baking soda, vinegar, spices (those little bottles of liquid flavour last forever), dried fruits and nuts.

– anything dried – from jerkys to mangos

– stuff that can last in cold storage, salamis and hard cheeses, some breads.

– stuff that lasts forever. Yup. Twinkies, chips, munchies, popcorn (a really good idea because it’s also a dried food, it’ll keep you full), chocolate bars etc… – all of this stuff is good and maybe even better than a Mr. Noodles. ^_^

– wine and liquor for medical reasons and potentially for Molotov cocktails.

– soaps, antibacterial stuff.

– pharmaceuticals – get everything you can but don’t forget Vaseline, aspirin and, uh, family planning supplies (it’s going to happen *cue melodrama* so be prepared… and safe).

– gas and/or diesel – I think you’d be better off getting a diesel fueled auto, but we are working with what we have so get what you need right now.

– batteries

– plastics – tarps, plastic sheeting, sealable bags and containers

– tools and weapons – this is premeditative, but necessary. You don’t necessarily have to get a gun, especially if you don’t know how to maintain or use one, and they aren’t necessarily the best anyway because you’d need ammo (same goes for bows, unless you also know how to make arrows…). Axes are the best because they have many uses, they often have an edge that can be used as a hammer, you can cut firewood and break into doors and well, the weapon half might be handy too (A. and B. are the most useful, while C. is the melodramatic one). Knives are a close second. Hammers, screwdrivers etc… lets just hope it doesn’t come to that.


– shoes

– backpacks

– anything else you can think of on the spot – but don’t forget what you already have a home. Most people already have enough blankets and towels and clothes. But if you don’t have camping gear you might consider picking up some sleeping bags and small tents.

4. Organize and store everything logically and safely. I recommend labels.

5.  Now that we have taken care of food and water, you must assess your shelter. Whether you are living in an apartment or a home you might have to consider moving depending on the apocalyptic situation. If it will be cold, for instance, you need to find a place with a fireplace and with water that does not rely on power or pipes. If it will be hot you should probably find a basement that can be used for cold storage. If you don’t know what will happen, be prepared to move, don’t settle in. I think the most important thing about surviving in a post-apocalyptic situation is to make the difficult decision between whether or not it is safe to stay or move. Likely, it won’t be safe either way, but make your best judgement call and stick to your decisions.

6. After that you’ll just have to survive the best you can. If you have a doctor, paramedic or anyone with survival training (search and rescue, fireman, police officer, army) in the family or as a friend make your way to them and see if you can live out the apocalypse with, or near to them.

7. While you can’t lose hope, you must also be prepared for the eventuality that things are not going to get better. Set up a perimeter, guard it, make frequent trips to stores, houses, people you know, stay in contact. Don’t forget about the goldmine that apartment buildings will be in terms of foodstuffs etc… and be prepared to survive once everything has run out.

Good luck!

** You might be wondering at the lack of zombie commentary and that’s because Zombies change everything. Tune in next week for The Need to Feed: The Walking Dead and Others Zombie Tales