Chapter 16: How to survive in a nuclear wasteland–mostly, by doing the opposite of Mad Max

A nuclear war is–scarily–far more likely than an alien invasion, zombies or other apocalyptic possibilities. How would you survive?

I say this with love, as a big fan of the Mad Max movies: the smartest ways to survive involve doing the opposite of Mad Max.

1) Roaming the wastelands in a sweet muscle car is a terrible, horrible, no-good idea

If you’re like most people, you drive a car. Maybe it’s a Ford F150, or a Toyota Camry.

And maybe you change the oil yourself. I’ve done that. Changed the headlights a few times, replaced the battery, even changed an alternator and such.

HOWEVER: Working on modern cars is increasingly tough without all kinds of computer diagnostic nonsense. It’s crazy difficult today, with the lights on and a NAPA store down the street full of fresh parts.

After any sort of nuclear war, driving whatever car you can find around the radioactive wasteland is just a bad idea. Because it’ll break down, and chances are you will not be able to crawl under the car with a wrench and just fix it. 

Even if you’re a pro mechanic with your own set of tools, spare parts and gas will vanish in a hurry. Your car will eventually break down, or run out of gas, or both. And being stranded means death.

But let’s say those problems don’t exist. You have a magic Tesla 3 that that runs on solar panels and never breaks down. Great. Roaming around the countryside is still a terrible idea, because you’ll want to stop wherever there may be resources, like food and water that doesn’t glow in the dark, and there will be people there, defending those resources from raiders like you.

Those local people will have the advantage. They know the territory and will have set up defenses and traps. You’re gonna lose.

2) Loners will not last long

Mad Max is a lone wolf, right?

Only in the movies does a lone hero win real fights while being outnumbered 10 to 1, or 100 to 1.

Any serious effort to survive an apocalypse, fictional or not, means having a team or a tribe.

You need people who are good at different things: finding food and water, healing the injured, creating shelters, making fire, crafting tools and clothing.

And you need people to watch your back.

3) Staying put is smart

Sure, if you can’t find a decent supply of food and water, move until you do. But once you do, stay put.

Any sort of nuclear war will affect different areas in different ways. There’ll be places that get hit with all sorts of bombs, like major cities and military bases, and other places left untouched.

Prevailing winds and ocean currents will also bring radioactive fallout to some places while sparing others.

You don’t want to wander far and wide, because you’ll inevitably wind up in a place where the geiger counters go nuts. 

Of course you might need to do a little hunting and gathering, or go on supply runs. Even so, do that from a solid home base. Because staying put in a good place is the smartest option. Fish, farm, grow mushrooms, whatever floats your boat. Build a wall. Set up watchtowers and keep a lookout for dudes driving Interceptors with big turbos sticking out of the hood.

4) Be sustainable

Mad Max famously carries a sawed-off shotgun with maybe four shells, two of which tend to be duds.

Shotguns are also a bad idea. You need a weapon with plentiful ammo that you can make. A slingshot, a bow and arrow, spears you can throw–anything is better than a weapon that only gives you two bites of the apple.

Remember the bad guys in every Mad Max movie? They carry crossbows a lot of the time. Because that’s sustainable. You can re-use the ammo and make new crossbows a lot easier than trying to manufacture more AR-15s for your friends, since there won’t be any factories making bullets anymore, either.

Same thing with armored muscle cars and semis. It takes a tremendous amount of time and resources to keep a single car functioning and fueled up during an apocalypse. A fleet of vehicles would be insanely tough to keep going. 

Your time and resources are better spent improving quality of life and survivability: growing more food, building better walls, crafting new tools. That sort of thing.

VERDICT

Mad Max is a great character on screen. To survive a nuclear apocalypse, remember him and do the opposite.

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