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A simple proposal...

September 16, 2008 11:09 AM 9/16/08

Yesterday’s comments by siliconshaman made me think a little on what’s needed to preserve society during a dark age period and I think I’ve come up with a simple plan that should help preserve some of what we have learned up to now. And maybe give people a little edge on climbing back into the light.

The first problem is preserving the knowledge we have currently. Despite my technical nature to me that means preserving old fashioned books. They require only light to read and learn from and properly cared for they last a long time.

I would separate the books into categories:

Self sufficiency and survival. (Food growing, water usage, conservation, home building, cooking, medical care, etc.)

Repair of technology. (Everything from welding to circuit repair.)

Art. (Painting, sculpture, writing, music, etc.)

Fiction. (No separations.)


This is important: Do NOT limit yourself to books you “agree” should be in there or exclude books you don’t think “deserve” to survive. Even a bad book is good as an example of what not to do.

Next I would take each book and wrap it in butcher’s paper with carefully tied butcher’s twine around it. Store the wrapped books in boxes made of oak or maple (pine has too much tar and oil in it) in a dry place sorted by the above categories.

Store the boxes somewhere so that they are protected and out of sight. Because if it all goes to hell in a handbasket they _will_ be valuable and they _will_ be hunted. Possibly by the governments in their last grasps in the crumbling halls of power.

The next part is re-distributing that knowledge among people so they can work their way up out of the darkness.

Tell no one you have these books. But use their knowledge to help those around you. Use their knowledge to survive. In time you’ll probably notice others that are helping people in the same way you are - they probably have books as well. In time you can learn their knowledge and they can learn yours.

Teach people using the knowledge in those books. Teach them to think and teach them to learn. You might not be a good teacher but at least you can pass on what you already know how to do.

If only a handful of people do this then at least there’s a chance of coming out of this. The more knowledge stored and the more knowledge shared the less knowledge is lost.

If this sound eerily familiar then you must be an Asimov fan. His Foundation series proposed similar things but since we don’t have “psychohistory” to guide us we must just do the basics and hope for the best.

I’ve read a lot of different novels of different futures and the one thing that most of them have in common is the same thing we’re dealing with now. It’s too late to stop the slide into darkness but if we’re really really careful we can shorten the amount of time in the darkness itself before we come out the other side.

I want my family to have the basics of self-sufficiency in two years at most. I may not have that much time and if I can do it faster I will but that is my drop-dead date for having good rain collection, a greenhouse around the garden, and solar power.

As a closing note I would call on all musicians to start composing teaching songs. Other than basic children’s songs I know of very few current teaching songs. We need those by the TON. Anything you know about and can teach using music even if it’s just music related itself is a good thing! (For once I wish I could compose music from scratch - I have no knowledge on how to do so.)

Compose them, record them if you can, give them to people, sing them where you can. They won’t be popular with people in general but those that have a mind and are thirsty to learn will remember them and learn. And they in turn will pass them on and spread the knowledge we have and protect it.

And that’s what this whole proposal is about. Not letting what we’ve learned be lost by our current mistakes.

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( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 16th, 2008 05:45 pm (UTC)
Niven and Pournelle, in Lucifer's Hammer, had a brilliant, geeky engineer (with access to money, I forget how) collecting books that would be useful after the "nuclear winter" following the meteorite impacts. He sprayed each book with insecticide, put it inside a ziplock bag, inside another ziplock bag, and then stored them in a disused bank vault that could probably survive anything short of a direct hit. Then he did something to make sure that the right kind of people would get the combination to the vault. (And the character died, slowly, after the collapse of technology; he was diabetic, and after he ran out of the insulin he'd stashed, his metabolism gradually failed on him. But not before he'd been a guru to enough people to pass on some learning.)

Leslie Fish wrote a number of teaching songs, in the expectation of just such a need. The ones I can think of off-hand are "Black Powder and Alcohol" and "Blue Bread Mold", but I'm pretty sure there are others.
Sep. 16th, 2008 05:50 pm (UTC)
I actually am embarrassed to admit I've never read Lucifer's Hammer but it's definitely on my list. (I might already have it even.)

As for Leslie Fish I already knew she has some but we need tons more. And we need them to spread.

*sigh* This all sounds so "wacky survivalist" in my head but I can't see any other way to put it out there. We need to prepare for this because barring a very sharp U-turn it _will_ happen. :-(
Sep. 17th, 2008 01:35 am (UTC)
I read Lucifer's Hammer a very long time ago. But the bit about storing the books stuck in my mind, and it re-surfaces every time my friends start talking about how to survive the collapse of Civilization As We Know It. I'm still not convinced that's going to happen... but "better to have something and not need it, than to need it and not have it".
Sep. 16th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC)
There was Spiral Dance, which is pretty good teaching song about genetics!
Sep. 17th, 2008 12:27 am (UTC)
I wonder how hard it would be to compile a book of teaching songs done by the filk community...

Maybe I'll ask hms42 about it.
Sep. 17th, 2008 12:40 am (UTC)
Might not be a bad idea to mention it to filkertom as well, if you know him.
Sep. 17th, 2008 01:48 am (UTC)
I don't "know" him but we've corresponded via e-mail a couple of times and I post in his LJ now and then. But yeah he would have a good inkling as well.

Edited at 2008-09-17 01:49 am (UTC)
Sep. 17th, 2008 01:35 am (UTC)
Not sure I've ever heard that one... *goes digging*...
Sep. 17th, 2008 01:47 am (UTC)
There's a copy of it up at the Filk Archive:


Among a great many other cool songs. :-)

(Edited both posts because I can't seem to spell worth a damn tonight.)

Edited at 2008-09-17 01:50 am (UTC)
Sep. 17th, 2008 02:46 am (UTC)
Somehow the Filk Archive has lost my login - I know I'm entering it correctly, but it keeps telling me I'm not in their database. (I've left them sitemail about that.) So I can't listen to the song... but it does give me the information that it was written by Ann Prather, and performed by Kathy Mar, Kristoph Klover, and Kathleen Sloan.
Sep. 17th, 2008 03:10 am (UTC)
I had to re-create my login as well and my badly battered brain bits recall that they had a database crash quite some time ago that might explain this.
Sep. 17th, 2008 03:51 am (UTC)
Entertaining enough song... but not a teaching song, because there's no real information in it about DNA - not even the term DNA!

Edited at 2008-09-17 03:52 am (UTC)
Sep. 17th, 2008 01:30 pm (UTC)
Preserving and hiding books sounds very much like "A Canticle for Leibowitz".
Sep. 17th, 2008 01:33 pm (UTC)
Yet another book I own but have not gotten to.

Frankly I don't know how the anime characters of Read or Die do it! I'm just as bad a bibliomaniac but I can't find the time to read all my books! ;-D
Sep. 17th, 2008 01:43 pm (UTC)
You ain't the only one - I'm about three cubic yards behind on my reading, and about one cubic yard behind on putting them all onto shelves. I've actually caught up a little bit this year. I resolved to read and review one book a week. So far I'm [counts Mondays on calendar] bang on target. It helps that I have to travel for just under two hours each day, so can read on the train/bus.
Sep. 18th, 2008 01:00 am (UTC)
I'm trying like hell to get everything in the garage and basement taken care of before winter hits because that will leave the library open as well as, hopefully, a working fireplace.

Nothing like a good book in a comfy chair in either place. ^_^
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )



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