Collapse · Extinction

The Myth of the Human Cockroach Part 3

Survival Scenario: Hunkered in a Bunker Waiting for the End

By now it should be abundantly clear that humans are nowhere near as tough, adaptable or resilient as cockroaches. Virtually everyone on Earth today is utterly dependent on industrial agriculture for survival, and as civilization collapses under the weight of its own excess it will eventually take almost all of us with it. But what about those lucky(?) billionaires and political elites with the foresight and resources to build bunkers and survival shelters in remote areas of the planet? Will they survive long enough to eventually emerge and repopulate the surface? Or will they launch themselves into space to bravely colonize other worlds and ruin them, too?

Unfortunately, this is where things get really depressing. Imagine for a few minutes that it is 2050 and you are one of the rich and powerful people trying to survive long-term in a bunker, safely hidden away underground as billions of people on the surface die from conflicts over dwindling resources, toxic water supplies, air pollution, food shortages, epidemics, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, etc…

Your basic needs may be met in terms of food and water and air (at least until the life support systems begin to wear down, or the power goes out, or the bunker is attacked …) and you might have access to entertainment and distraction, but you are also trapped underground permanently with some of the most entitled, arrogant and down-right terrible people to ever walk the Earth.

Studies have shown clearly that wealth and privilege cause people to become less empathetic and more narcissistic, meaning that pretty much everyone who can afford to survive in a bunker will be absolutely intolerable to live with. Imagine trying to survive for years and years in a relatively small, enclosed space with people like the Trumps or the Koch brothers, breathing recycled air, drinking recycled water and eating the same shitty survival rations day after day after day.

Keep in mind that there is no foreseeable end to the collapse. Once it gets to the point that the billionaires are forced to retreat to their bunkers, they will not be able to come out again until most of the rest of the population has died off. Even then, depending on how chaotic the climate is and how toxic the air and water have become, they may not be able to survive outside a bunker for more than a few days at a time.

No more private jets and luxury vacations. No more mega-yachts and helicopters and lavish parties. No adoring fans and 24/7 press coverage. Just the grind of survival, day in and day out, with no end in sight and no hope that things will ever get better again.

Perhaps a few hardy survivors will manage to eke out an existence this way for a couple of decades after civilization goes dark, but it seems highly likely that most of the pampered elite will commit suicide or be killed by their own security forces within a year or two of being forced to take shelter. Those who do live on will face an increasingly hostile world, along with the huge psychological burden of watching most of the rest of life on the planet die out.

Sci-fi fantasies of building an off-planet colony on the Moon or Mars won’t save us either, as the long-term problems with bunkers and survival shelters are only magnified in those scenarios. We can’t even build functional self-contained habitats here on Earth yet (Biosphere 1 and 2, anyone?), let alone in the cold, irradiated depths of space where there is no margin for error. Efforts to create self-contained environments here or elsewhere are doomed to fail eventually, but Steve Bannon’s role in Biosphere 2 strongly suggests that the elites are aware of what’s coming and are seeking to develop this technology as fast as they can.

While video games like the Fallout series make life in a post-collapse bunker seem not only possible but exciting, the reality is that even wealthy survivors would face crushing boredom, claustrophobia and depression, even with a lifetime supply of food, water and air. There is also the problem of dealing with other people, since solitary survivors would quickly go insane, while groups of more than a few people would face constant power struggles and interpersonal conflicts.

Can you imagine sitting down for a community meeting to make decisions with a bunch of billionaires who are all used to getting their own way and being in charge? It would take a miracle for them to avoid murdering one another long enough to be murdered by their renegade security details.

Final Survival Score: Cockroaches 10, Humans -∞ (Sorry to burst your bubbles, humans, but you dumb fucks are going extinct. A few of you might make it to 2050, but you’ll really wish you hadn’t, and it looks almost certain that there won’t be a human alive on the planet or elsewhere by 2150.)

Conclusion

Industrial civilization has already triggered multiple feedback loops (loss of arctic albedo, methane release from multiple sources, ocean heating and acidification, etc, etc…) that will eventually make the planet unlivable for humans. As stunning as it is to contemplate, a rational assessment of our situation suggests that it is very likely homo sapiens will be practically extinct within a century at most.

I use the qualifier “practically extinct” because there may be a few small groups of survivors who last a few more decades in isolated areas far from the cities, but they will soon be alone in a world without breathable air, clean water, nutritious food, reliable shelter or advanced medical care. No matter how long the remnants of humanity limp along before finally succumbing to extinction, these processes are already in motion and there is fuck-all anyone can do to stop them now.

Barring alien intervention, escape to another dimension or some other Hail Mary last-minute miracle, humanity’s days are numbered and the count is winding down fast. There’s not a damn thing you can do about it, though, so try to enjoy the time you have and make the most of each day, because the future for people on this planet is looking pretty grim.

On the bright side, however, the cockroaches will probably be just fine. So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.

Photo of Bill Murray from Caddyshack with the caption, "My species is going extinct because of massive stupidity, greed and arrogance, but I got a new cell phone and some cheeseburgers, so I've got that going for me, which is nice."
Younger readers might have missed the Caddyshack reference at the end there, so I’m recycling the joke because I like Bill Murray and lazy movie references. If you still don’t get it, go watch Caddyshack while there’s still time. Trust me, it’s a better use of your time than whatever else you had planned today, anyway.