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How would the modern world cope with 90% population loss?

Discussion in 'History & Military Discussion' started by Fair Letters, Jan 10, 2017 at 3:28 AM.

  1. Fair Letters

    Fair Letters

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    I recently read that the pre-columbian americans suffered a 90% population drop in the 100 years after his arrival.
    How well would the modern world cope with such a drastic decline?
    Assume it all happened within a few days (a disease perhaps) rather than a hundred years and was fairly evenly spread across the world.
     
  2. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
    Badly. 90% of the survivors die in the aftermath due to the collapse of the networks of civilisation, with the remainder of humanity being subsistence farmers and such who managed to avoid the other survivors before they died.
     
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  3. Aerhyce

    Aerhyce (ʘ‿ʘ✿)

    Location:
    France
    IMO, the consequences would be way worse, if only because natives were hunting/gathering/farming their own food, whereas the common urban human being rely on a logistic chain to bring food to them; if it ceases to exist, they'll have very limited supplies, unless they move to a farm/cultivable lands.

    Additionally, pretty much every man-made infrastructure that didn't even exist for Natives (electricity, running water, sewer system, electronic communications, Internet...) but are core to nowadays' societies would quickly start failing, some perhaps catastrophically (because of severe lack of maintenance/monitoring). Also, big risks of heavy pollution caused by polluting things running overtime (because no one shut them down), a chemical plant catching on fire, etc.
     
  4. Additionally, 90% loss in days means no one is available to bury the dead.
     
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  5. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
    Yup, you've got six and a half billion unburied corpses to create a hugely lethal disease environment for the survivors.
     
  6. EarthScorpion

    EarthScorpion CR of the Thrown

    So, the simple answer is:

    "It wouldn't."
     
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  7. The plague of Justinin in the killed perhaps 40 percent of the population in europe and allowed the Arab invasions to overrun much of the previously resurgent roman empire as well as aided tribal invasions such as the vandals and Anglo-Saxons in Europe.

    The plague of Antoine killed a estimated 10 percent of the roman population in the second century severely weakening the roman empire which was followed by the Plague of Cyprian in the third century which crippled the roman empire's manpower and population for centuries as well as leading to a collapse of roman agriculture as people fled their fields.

    Something like what struck the Americas which killed 80 to 90 percent of the population or worse would led the collapse of civilization as we know it. Worse as people noted this magic plague left no one to bury the bodies so many water sources are likely contaminated and diseases associated with death bodies would be everywhere, nuclear power plants are left without people to run them and infrastructure crumbles as nobody is able to maintain them.

    What ever societies and civilization that would arise after that would look nothing like anything we have now.
     
  8. Fair Letters

    Fair Letters

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    I don't quite understad why everyone's predicting civilizational collapse.

    Moving bodies to mass graves dug by bulldozers wouldn't seem to be too hard. A work gang of 5 people could probably take a truck around, pile up the bodies and take them to landfil, taking care of hundreds in a single day, well before rot becomes an issue.

    Power requirements would now be small enough that fuel isn't too much of an issue on the year timescale and there's a fair bit of low maintainance/skill power available. Hydroelectic and solar in particular should be easy to keep up for a few years until replacement knowledge is found for fossil fuel plants. There's lots of small scale generators around too.

    Re-establishing international trade is going to be a royal pain in the ass, but with far lower consumption people can mostly canabilize and use existing stockpiles until the necessarily people can be pulled together to take care of the essentials. e.g. Ship A has a captain, Ship B has an engine engineer, Ship C has a navigator, so they all get together on one ship.
     
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  9. Do you have people that can work a bulldozer? What about getting all of the food these people need? Where are you burying them?

    Nevermind that moving bodies isn't going to be easy, especially since they're going to be spread out over a huge area. Which is a bit problem for all of your ideas: sure, some people with the needed knowledge might survive, but are they close enough to other populations that they can share that knowledge and ensure those population's survival? Can they ensure their own survival?

    The reason people are suggesting that it would be difficult is that they're thinking about the problem, rather than ignoring it.
     
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  10. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
    Where do you, personally, get your food? If the answer resembles the format "from the supermarket" in any way - you're dead.
     
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  11. Fair Letters

    Fair Letters

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    1. This may surprise you, but in a lot of cases you can figure out how to operate lots of machinary with a bit of trial and error if you're willing to take a few safety risks and possibly damage your machine (but hey, got replacements!). Bulldozers in particular though, would be reasonably easy to figure out:


    2. While supermarkets themselves have only a couple of days of food supplies, the wider city with all it's distribution centers have a lot more. What you need to keep in mind is that this isn't a standard disaster scenario of a city suddenly having it's transportation disrupted, it's a city that's suddenly got only a tenth of the people to feed.
    I personally have enough non-perishables in the cupboard for about 10 days. I wouldn't assume everyone else does, but I would assume that when you combine supermarkets, warehouses, distribution centers and houses the average amount would be around that level, giving a few months food. Enough to reestablish a local supply line from farms and bigger warehouses out of cities.

    3. In the short term? Just dump them in standard rubbish landfills.

    Gather five men and a truck, then go door to door. You won't get everything, but you'll get the majority in the initial scourge and can then go more detailed.

    This is rather insulting and uncalled for.
     
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  12. I mean if you live on the east coast of the US there are water sources, farms and even urban farms as well as ground suitable for gardening and hunting but with most of the population die who is going to harvest the crops or know where the US keeps its food stockpiles? How to slaughter livestock or hunt?
     
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  13. Fair Letters

    Fair Letters

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    The remaining 10% of farmers and food distribution workers.
    They can also tell/teach others the basics so they can help.
     
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  14. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
    You have appendicitis - the only surgeon who can do the necessary operation is 500 miles away.
     
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  15. I'm not simply talking about moving a bulldozer. I'm talking about digging the necessary large holes where you could manage to put a lot of bodies. Because you're going to have millions of them in many cities or metropolitan areas. And you need to deal with them quickly, before follow on plauges from the rotting spread, which means you really don't have a lot of time to learn.

    And what you need consider is that there's not going to be any supply lines. You don't have new gas or coal coming in, which means transportation is utterly fucked. You don't have new parts coming in to fix things. Moreover, while the population is smaller most food in a supermarket is very perishable, and the power isn't going to last. Which means that even with the reduced number, the cities aren't going to be able to survive.

    And the small areas that people would need to depend on are going to be screwed as well given the death rates. They need supply lines to, for the most part. And even the places that are relatively self sufficient don't have everything(medicine, experts, etc). So even where people are able to survive for the most part, things are going to fall apart.
    You realize that landfills are generally some distance from population centers, right? So you're going to have some time transferring the bodies there.

    Five men from where? Remember, the city now has 1/10 of the population, so finding these guys is actually non-trivial, as is organizing them. And, even if you do manage to move hundreds a day, you're not going to manage to get the majority of bodies out. There's just too many of them, they're too spread out, and you have to take them far enough away that it's not viable. You'd need hundreds of thousands of people all working on getting the bodies out to deal with something like New York, and while on paper you have the population, you don't have the actual numbers to do it given that not everyone can or will contribute to something like that.
     
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  16. Also pointedly any survives in high density cities like new York and others elsewhere are pointedly are going to be wanting to get out of it and try to hook up with survivors elsewhere as barring places like central park your not going to find many places to grow or raise the food they are going to need and said people living in such a place are going to be unlikely to know how given the lack of places to even garden.

    Any resulting societies are going likely going to be rather rural with small settlements of survivors trying to elk out a life in areas better suited to living or becoming nomadic if they live in areas not suited to agriculture with the great cities falling to ruin.
     
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  17. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
    That's leaving aside nearly every road being impassable due to vast numbers of vehicles filled with corpses.
     
  18. Fair Letters

    Fair Letters

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    I fail to see how this is statistically meaningful.

    Why would so many die in their cars?

    Cities produce massive amounts of waste every day. A body per person isn't going to fill up the existing landfill sites.

    I have already mentioned or addressed pretty much all of this:
    Yes, there are no supply lines initially. At about a week or two you'll start getting some local movement via cars/trucks at the personal level. I'm expecting a few months before you get national level transportation back up.
    Gas and coal transportation are still viable as these are large industries with many many employees. Enough that they can get a crude supply line back up in a few weeks.
    Parts can be canibalized due to having to use only a tenth of the equipment. For all mass produced machinary you can probably canabilize parts for decades from the 9 replacements. Non-mass produced machinary is of course going to become unusable fairly soon of course, but most of it is not immediately vital given the reduced needs.
    I specifically was only talking about non-perishables.


    There is one thing I think could actually result in the mass death and destruction of civilization and that's if water supplies can't be maintained. I do not know how much attention water treatment plants require, nor do I know how many operators they have and how much specialized knowledge is required to keep them going.


    Many things will fall apart, but there are only a much smaller number that are actually vital for the life of the majority.

    An hour or two drive? I might be generalizing from my local experience here.

    Some rough guestimates:
    10% still alive, 50% healthy and strong enough to help, 20% willing to do so.
    So on most streets you should be able to find your five men to move your street's bodies. How long would it take this group to move 500 bodies? I think a couple of days does look a bit optimistic in hindsight... How long do you think it would take?
     
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  19. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
    Yes, you do...

    You seem to fail to appreciate just what an intricate web of interconnected specialisations a modern society is, and how many people each person relies upon, unseen and unnoticed, for their life to function. In your OP, 90% of these people are now dead, ripping that fragile web apart.
    "Simple" food production for example - isn't. It relies on chemical fertilisers produced by massive concerns and transported across thousands of miles, irrigation water that is based on vast infrastructure projects that require maintenance, delivery and distribution networks that employ thousands.
     
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  20. An hour drive or so. Now you have to unpack the truck, then drive back for an hour or so. That's not a recipe to move several million bodies quickly.


    And I'm not even sure what you're saying in the first sentence there: it doesn't seem to link to what I said, or what your quote said.
    You address it by ignoring all the problems with your statement. I said this before, you just got huffy about it. Point by point:
    • Supply lines to where, exactly? And how are you moving? Remember, the thing that allows the national infrastructure is a variety of transportation methods which this plague is going to shut down.
      • And where are the supplies coming from? Farmers aren't immune to the plague, and modern farming requires a host of inputs from the outside that are shut down by this.
    • Where are these employees sending the coal, gas, and oil? And how are you making sure that you have a full staff of trained people at one of these locations? You mention before you can combine crews, which can work, but that requires that the crews know where to combine too. And that they can get there. How are the plants that use and refine this stuff going to be run? The industry as a whole can be huge, but in this case it also needs to be centralized, but that explicitly cannot happen here.
    • How much non-mass produced machinery is in these vital industries? And how easy is it to salvage the materials? How easy is it to repair, especially with extremely limited knowledge and people.
    • I think you overestimate how long non-perishables will last/how long they need to last.

    You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. There are so many things vital to most people's lives right now that are predicated on modern technology. And modern technology will not be able to survive something like this: it's too spread out, and requires too much knowledge and infrastructure to survive when you destroy all of that.

    10% still alive, 40% health and strong enough to help, 5% willing. Oh look, I can make up random numbers as well, and mine imply that you wouldn't be able to find help on any random street.

    As for timing, I'd say you'd be looking at weeks to do it, assuming you had several thousand motivated volunteers with an established organization. Humans being humans, I don't think you're going to get those volunteers, and you're going to have to spend time setting up organization, especially if you want to canvas the entire city rather than just clearing small locals around the city. Not to mention some setup time: you probably don't want to be stuffing the bodies into a station wagon.
     
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  21. This sort of thing would not be a matter of modern civilization surviving but what sort of new civilizations and cultures would arise from the ruin of the old world in time because frankly with that sort massive lost of modern civilization would collapse leaving the survivors across the world to start anew.
     
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  22. So half of your family just died and you are going back to the hole to mine some coal because...?

    Even if you had your robot employees how does that work? The HR department just lost 90 percent of the employees and now they wil need to try contacting everyone to ascertain their status and the phones are down. All communication left is in person or ham radio.
     
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  23. DocHawkeye

    DocHawkeye

    Location:
    New York
    It's fascinating how people react to the realization that modern civilization is a highly complex machine in and of itself, that basically achieved its current level of sophistication through a multi-thousand year process not unlike that of evolution or natural selection. Just like any animal species, it can adapt to circumstances of gradual change, but cannot be expected to handle a radical disruption of its environment in too short a span of time.

    Most of us are results of this network. Many of us, back to several generations of our families, simply would not exist today without civilization as it is.
     
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  24. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
    Indeed, about half the current global population can, in a very real sense, be said to be a product of the Haber process.
     
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  25. It's not just transport and disposal. The corpses won't be neatly lined up awaiting pick up. They need to be found. Break down locked doors to get at people who died at home.

    Before you make any appreciable progress, rot will have set in. Most people aren't trained to move decomposing human remains, and most who are are dead.

    Plus unless they are also infected, pets and vermin will go hungry and get at corpses and recovery workers.
    Fired will break out. Flooding. Power outtages...
     
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