Lewis Dartnell: How To Rebuild The World From Scratch

Authored by Adam Taggart via PeakProsperity.com,

If society collapsed overnight, how would we re-create it?

If our technological society collapsed tomorrow, what crucial knowledge would we need to survive in the immediate aftermath and to rebuild civilization as quickly as possible?

Ask yourself this: If you had to go back to absolute basics like some sort of post-cataclysmic Robinson Caruso, would you know how to recreate an internal combustion engine? Put together a microscope? Get metals out of rock? Or produce food for yourself?

This week's podcast guest is Lewis Dartnell, author, presenter, and professor of science communication at the University of Westminster. He's best known to the public as a popular science writer, especially for his book The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch. In that book and in his related TED Talk, Lewis explains how every piece of our modern technology rests on an enormous support network of other technologies, all interlinked and mutually dependent:

There's the fundamental fact that the economic system the developed world has based itself on capitalism which has this core assumption that you can forever continue generating wealth by growing your economy, by making more things, by extracting more raw materials and ingredients and environment. And in a sense, that's served us very well since even before the Industrial Revolution when, in a sense, the planet, the Earth, was very, very big compared to the demands of the human population living on it. But that assumption is no longer true anymore. With over 7 billion people on the planet all wanting to have a decent and comfortable standard of living, that puts an enormous amount of demand on the natural systems on our planet for producing those raw materials. That's everything from agriculture and the degradation of the kind of soil and the growing environment through to how many minerals and metals there might be that we're trying to dig up. So there is this limitation.


And even if there never is an apocalypse, and I certainly hope that there isn’t one, over the next couple of decades, we really are going to have to root deeply and reassess how we go about things. Not just try to grow as quickly as possible and not extract as much energy and raw materials as we possibly can. We need to act in a much, much more sustained and careful manner, otherwise we're going to degrade the environment around us to such an extent that it will no longer support us, and there could then be some kind of crash or collapse.


And what a lot of people talk about is a post-oil world in that we are rapidly sucking up all of the easily suck-up-able crude oil around the world. And it's very much a finite resource. It is going to run out. There are signs that it's already starting to run out. They’ve already passed peak oil. And so we need to be thinking very carefully about what we're going to next system. How could we fuel our cars and our transport network without using diesel or gasoline, using petrol? And how can we do a lot of industrial processes? And how can we create things like artificial pesticides and herbicides and plastics and pharmaceuticals which all come from oil as their base stock?


In writing The Knowledge, I wanted to engage in a thought experiment that asks: What's going on behind the scenes to support our everyday lives and all the stuff that we just take for granted nowadays?


In the long term, if you're not just talking about wilderness survival skills but how to go about rebooting the whole of civilization, the key issue is all that we use today is inextricably linked to everything else. There's this vast iceberg of understanding; much of it is under the surface. You don't really interact with it or are aware that it's there. Even the simplest things like how to make a toaster requires this entire infrastructure of capability and knowhow to create things, and where to go to get particular things from the natural world and the environment around you. So I try to explore all of that, as well as how to start reconstructing this network of scientific understanding and technological inventions.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Lewis Dartnell (39m:45s).


strannick Stuck on Zero Thu, 12/07/2017 - 00:36 Permalink

The Crucial Knowledge (TCK) would be to send all the academics that caused the problem -the Bernakes, the Trudeaus, the Merkels, the Obamas- to work as clerks in 7-11s. Since their Marxism keeps them from knowing how to profitably run a corner store, it stands to reason that they shouldnt be allowed to run nationsLikewise, all Universities should be closed and refurbished as Trade Schools. Then the eggheads, instead of spewing tedious rhetoric, can get gonch pulls and stuffed in lockers like in the good old days.PolPot looked at their hands and if they had no callouses, he knew they were academic shitheads and sent them to the rice fields.Even St. Paul says, you dont work, you dont eat. Being an Ivory Tower Egghead, or ``I.T.E.`` doesnt count as work

In reply to by Stuck on Zero

Dragon HAwk Wed, 12/06/2017 - 22:41 Permalink

You mean we might have to pay attention in schools and value education again? let the Lazy Starve. Build things that last. Think outside the box, and care for the Environment..

VWAndy Wed, 12/06/2017 - 22:43 Permalink

 After we got done with the hangins. It should be pretty easy. All the stupid people will be hungry enough to listen to the people that actually know what they are doing.

Peak Finance Wed, 12/06/2017 - 22:45 Permalink

LOLZIf my generation dies out before our society collapsesThe rest of ya'll are fuckedHope you like the 16th centuryX'ers are the last generation that can actually do stuff

mabuhay1 Wed, 12/06/2017 - 22:52 Permalink

I am SOOOO SCARED that we will run out of stuff really soon now... Seriously, we have enough energy for a few hundred years yet, and most metals can be recycled if needed. You want to be able to have all the metals, minerals, hydrocarbons, and water you want, then support space research and start gathering the vast quantities of raw materials available in our solar system. Research better ways of storing energy so that we can collect solar energy in space and utilize here on Earth. Create better ways to desalinate seawater, since 72% of the Earth's surface is covered in oceans that are miles deep. There is no shortage of anything we need, except brains and the will to go out and get what we want.

jmack mabuhay1 Wed, 12/06/2017 - 23:01 Permalink

   In the US alone, we produce billions of gallons of salt water in the course of producing oil and gas, which we promptly truck or pipeline to a disposal and pump back down into the earth's crust.   That brine water contains magnesium, lithium, iron, and many other things, depending on where it is.  There are companies working on getting the lithium out, pretty hard, but if you could use solar concentrators to steam off the water, boil the salt for power overnight, and collect the trace minerals and metals for  more income, you could provide all the water you needed without touching the oceans.    Like you say, the only shortage is brains.

In reply to by mabuhay1

Twee Surgeon thestarl Thu, 12/07/2017 - 02:45 Permalink

As ever ? less than 100 years really and it was Coal before that and Wind and Wood before that. 1914...WW1, thousands of Horses were available for military service and any agricultural equioment in use was Steam powered and oiled with Rape Seed oil, not the compressed Dinosaur juice they told you about in Screwel. Cars were handbuilt up until the Model T 1908 and Gasoline was the exception, not the rule until the 'early 30's' , I guess. Oil Dependancy has only been a thing for 50 or 60 years, 25 in China. Hardly the Jurrasic period in the course of human history. A mere blip, passing on the screen.

In reply to by thestarl

Cabreado Wed, 12/06/2017 - 23:20 Permalink

"If society collapsed overnight, how would we re-create it?"Guess what... it would be based on Principles and a supporting Rule of Law.Read it and weep...

rsnoble Wed, 12/06/2017 - 23:28 Permalink

Lol i live in a rural area and cant even call people that live a mile away neighbor eithout getting the evil eye and eere gona band together after catastrophe?  Yeah right.

Vageling Thu, 12/07/2017 - 00:38 Permalink

"... rebuild civilization as quickly as possible?"Looked in the Middle East lately? Yeah... they have serious disagremeents about who gets to rebuild and claim what. It's a logical fallacy to think we're above that. Look at how divided everything is. Besides... The money changers just will go away... Right? Absurd. There is no quick rebuilding. Clans will form and they will clash. You see, when you're too busy surviving nobody really thinks of rebuilding. Sure they have these vision and shit,but... Just surviving. This whole rebuilding "civilization" is something everybody has their own view about. And that will clash. Will take a long time for trust to be build and putting people at the table. To agree on basically the simplest things.These people just don't get it. 

Ms No Thu, 12/07/2017 - 01:33 Permalink

If society REALLY collapses you will be knuckle draggers in one short generation (and it will be short).  After one of these incidents when the Mayans were hanging out in massive rock structures that some precursor society built (regardless of what MSM says), they claim that white men with beards showed up by sea to show them how to farm things like corn and keep lunar calendars.  They saw them as Gods which is why later murderous explorers with beards were welcomed and trusted.  These nearly identical stories exist in other areas too.  It seems whoever they were they were busy.  It looks like after the shit seriously hit the fan with a near extinction event somebody took charge and had some big ships built and tried to prevent mankind from degenerating into apes. They tried to preseve some skills and civilization for cultures that were already in a complete state of degeneration back to knuckle dragger (they also told them to stop sacrificing people which apparently they did for a while and sometime after they left started up again).  So somewhere somebody may have had enough resources that they could still teach their children and supervise the construction of boats before the skill was lost (not just scratching for grubs 24/7).  When you spend all day trying to produce enough to survive literacy and everything else goes out the window real quick.  They also seem to have thought of the world as whole and not just themselves.  If this is what happened they were clearly more advanced than anybody in charge of our western societies, or most on earth today even.  Our leaders would jump off the ship and start trying raping little boys.  Our politicians probably go cannibal just for fun.   In one culture they called the leader the plumed serpant or feathered serpant.  One theory is they were given that name because it's something they had on the bow of their ships.  http://humansarefree.com/2014/10/the-feathered-serpent-god-of-americas.html

DaveA Thu, 12/07/2017 - 01:26 Permalink

Dmitri Orlov provides some good theory on this topic, while Ferfal offers some great stories from Argentina. "Total collapse" is utter fantasy, as is the idea that if you're prepared for a total collapse, you're also prepared for a partial collapse.

Societies are very complicated machines. They break down in unexpected ways that are obvious only in hindsight. A typical post-collapse government is too weak to protect you but strong enough to prevent you protecting yourself.

You survive by smarts and luck, correctly reading and reacting to the situation as it unfolds, while not getting shot in the back by some nigger hoping to steal your watch.

Savvy Thu, 12/07/2017 - 01:46 Permalink

It isn't rocket science. Collect the people you need to survive. You need defense. Food. Shelter. Water. Hygiene. Actually all you really have to do is eat sleep and shit, but a few comforts might be worked on.So to narrow it down, you want a rifle and ammo, a farmer, a carpenter, a source of H2O and a doctor. And some poor bastard with brass balls to keep everyone on line. That would be the sucker who invites this bunch of misfits to his property.

delmar Jackson Alananda Thu, 12/07/2017 - 07:13 Permalink

I went to Norman's site. I noticed extreme concern over many important issues and a complete absence of any mention of immigration to the USA. I could not see a single thing Livergood is concerned about that will get better over time with endless unlimited 3rd world immigration which will permanently eradicate any hope he has for the majority of his concerns to be ever solved. This is typical of so many over educated people.I did not read every article on his site, perhaps I am wrong about Livergood, but he looks clueless to the primary threat of western civilization which is the importation of a new electorate by the open border globalists that will turn us into a balkanized tribal society which is dysfunctional and ungovernable and will allow the globalist to pick our bones clean.

In reply to by Alananda

Ms No Thu, 12/07/2017 - 02:33 Permalink

If people are really that worried about survival start worrying about grand solar minimum.  It will cause crop losses.  Jesus, even your corrupt ass government is already warning you about it when they tell you that your earthquakes are going to go off the hook starting this year (actually already been happening and just covered up just like unemployment).  You don't really believe that the earth's spin is slowing due to global warming melt do you?  Sheesh!  The problem is that people heard too many doom porn stories and so now they miss the completely obvious and very real issue. This probably has a lot to do with the wars in the ME and stealing the Ukraine as well.  Actually there is really nothing happening that doesn't fit.  Coal can be brought back on line but if oil becomes more of a desperate need any alternatives would be good to have around as well.  So their solar push might fit as well.  It seems to me that if things got really damn cold that he who has the fuel wins.  Go long greenhouses and guns.Also, I told you bitchez that this would happen.  These are shitty sources but that is the whole point.  This is what people read.  They will run with this.  They are just waiting for another one to go off (preferable bigger and which will happen) and the cooling we have seen for over a decade, and which is going to increase rapidly, with be explained away by an eruption, which is BS.  One leads to the other in these cases, that's why it's predictable.  It's the cosmic radiation and the decrease in magnetic shields.  YOU HAVE A SERIES OF GRAND SOLAR MAXIMUM BEFORE YOU GO INTO GRAND MINIMUM.  We are already well into grand minimum and when you first dive down is when most of the volcanoes start popping off.  Those grand maximums are where the global warming came from and it has been gone for a while now.http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-26/how-volcanic-eruptions-can-affect-world-temperatures-mount-agung/8987770http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5130345/Bali-Mount-Agung-volcano-cause-global-temperature-drop.htmlEdit:  After fighting this type of shit ^^^  for 20 years and just getting rediculed for it and literally never seeing results, and only to see things come out decades later, this shit annoys me so bad that I think I will just sit back and watch it.  Why should I put in the effort to inform people on this when it's an advantage knowing anyway?  Seriously, they wont pay attention until it is far beyond evident anyway.  I think I will let them get away with their globull warming and volcano BS and just research shorting specific crops.   

dchang0 Thu, 12/07/2017 - 02:45 Permalink

Re: "There's the fundamental fact that the economic system the developed world has based itself on capitalism which has this core assumption that you can forever continue generating wealth by growing your economy, by making more things, by extracting more raw materials and ingredients and environment."This isn't actually capitalism's fault. Dmitry Orlov correctly points out that communism/socialism also focus on consumption.To some degree this is a problem with the monetary system based on debt (Chris Martenson correctly points out debt and compound interest require infinite growth on a finite planet). But that's not really the problem here.This is a problem with human technology. Most animals will grow until they reach the natural constraints within their environment. Rabbits will breed until they eat all the grass and can't breed more. Humans, using technology, will overcome natural constraints and go far beyond the carrying capacity of their environment.Communism and capitalism both love technology.Will we give up our technology? Nope, never. The interviewee does talk about this in the interview.

DaiRR Thu, 12/07/2017 - 03:47 Permalink

Everyone who gives a hoot needs to work through this scenario for themselves.  If they can't get grasp the implications and a realistic personal plan, they are doomed.  That means most people in the "first world" are totally screwed.  As long as the DemoRats are quarantined in the cities to eat each other, the rest of us will work it out OK.

turkey george palmer Thu, 12/07/2017 - 04:59 Permalink

It is better that humans annilate each other rather than rinse and repeat all the tragic events. We don't deserve to live being the creatures we are. There's no real good in humanity as a group although a kind of false honor seems rampant. The kind of honor the upper class uses to hold together, the honor that overlooks every dirty deed done by the elite unless there is some political or power payoff. Never does the common good enter in to the thinking. The whores of the religious leadership suck the asses of the powerful just to be included in the division of influence. Never a thought on how to benefit the faithful. Just a sellout of the vote. Our military elite ride the public trough from academy to death never taking time to anylyze Thier own worthless existence as paid concubines of the defense industry. How do they wear the uniform and strut about with head held high while rolling in Thier own feces and dishonoring themselves by accepting every perk and privilege while selling war and death as patriotic. Just mercenary hitmen for the bankers basically. The race to be the lowest SCU. On earth goes to the political parties though and Thier mouth piece journalists that can't find any depravity too low to engage in while the nation reels and falters as they continue to absorb bribe after bribe and put the country on a path to hell.But you go ahead and claim we should be worried about losing all this you stupid fucking wanker.

Infinite QE Thu, 12/07/2017 - 05:11 Permalink

Society has already collapsed. Oh sure, the mechanics of it still seem to be working but the essence is gone. Just go down the list for any major metro area:Air: pollutedWater: pollutedFood: GMO poisonedEducation: LOL.Music: LOL.Film, Literature and other forms of culture: LOLSense of can-do: See above Thankfully however, the seeds of what is needed for a civilized society are still alive and are being planted in small ways in small places throughout the world. Zio-media will never cover them as they are the kryptonite to their version of super-yiddish-man.