The Post-Apocalyptic Famine And His Effects On The Human Body

Opportunistic and desperate people, hapless individuals shorn of values, parsimonious copers, intelligent organisms gamely struggling for survival: these are the images of famine’s victims. [Dirks 1980:31]
Famine
Food and water, the most basic of necessities for human survival, are the first to be secured and the last to be relinquished. Both are also active components of social and political process whether in times of daily plenty or in times of extreme scarcity.
Although food underwrites our basic notions of what it means to survive, it is also regularly incorporated into ritual practice, whether as material offering or meaning- laden symbol. In order to satisfy fundamental human needs, food must be uncontaminated, nutritious, and sufficient.
However, these conditions are qualified and even modified during the course of actual cultural practice in every aspect from procurement to disposal.
Redefining sustenance, among other creative solutions, can help to amplify available resources, materially and conceptually. Such moments of negotiation are sometimes the difference between life and death. When crisis strikes,food and water are resupply priorities. Whether caused by the slow accrual of minor transformations or the rapid strike of wide- spread disaster, the devastating implications of population-wide starvation are apocalyptic in their impact.
Such impacts are visible archaeologically through various methods and are interpretable through analogy. For comparative purposes, analogous situations can be drawn from studies of post- apocalyptic landscapes in modern and historic eras. When resources and lifeways are violently disrupted, routinized modes of foodways may be hard to dislodge, even in the face of starvation. However, ethnographic, ethnohistoric, and archaeological examples also attest to the resilience of individuals and communities when faced with extreme food shortage.

A couple of days ago, I viewed Tim Fehlbaum’s directorial debut Hell, which “tells the story of a group of survivors in post-apocalyptic Germany in the year 2016, when solar flares have destroyed the earth’s atmosphere and temperatures have risen by 10°C.” As my posts here on All Self Sustained would indicate, I often find my mind wandering to cheerful thoughts of post-apocalyptic times. One of my dominant obsessions in this domain–as it appears to be of the productions just named–is food, or rather, the lack of it.

Word of the day: Prepare! And do it the old fashion way, like our fore-fathers did it and succeed long before us, because what lies ahead of us will require all the help we can get. Watch this video and learn the 3 skills that ensured our ancestors survival in hard times of  famine and war.

Here is an excerpt from a post I wrote in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy:

Somehow, through this all, the most unsettling image yet was [of] a row of empty food shelves at a coffee shop; on asking the barista why their normal snack offerings were not available, I was told it was because the usual deliveries were not being made by trucks.  At that moment, again, I became aware I lived on an island, one serviced by road and train connections to the ‘rest of the world,’ that bridges and tunnels were still lifelines for it, that most connections between its points occur in relatively mundane, non-glamorous, and as Sandy showed, eminently disruptable ways. It was at that moment too, that the fragility and contingency of our existence here became just a little clearer; I was reminded again of the logistical connections, of the coordinated work of hundreds and thousands of men and women that keeps everything  ’normal’ on a day to basis: those trucks that make deliveries day and night, the gas that keeps them running (and that heats our buildings). All those supermarket shelves–normally bursting to the seams with packaged goods and produce efficiently delivered from afar–would rapidly empty, if the gas-tunnel-truck disruption continued. (For remember: we live on an island, we don’t grow our food around here.) This city is only able to play home to ten million people because a vast interdependent network of supply chains lets it do so.

The vast majority of us do not grow or produce our own food; we buy it from stores, which are supplied by a vast transportation network, in turn supplied by a vast manufacturing network (dependent on other networks of supply and manufacture and so on). When the apocalypse strikes, the first thing to go will be these two networks: those who man them will be incapacitated, production lines will break down, deliveries will cease. In response, panicky runs on the remaining food supply will begin, as will hoarding. Violent clashes for food will be inevitable; these will continue as it will become increasingly evident that no more supplies are forthcoming. And because fuel will be in short supply too, looking for food will become extremely difficult. Cities will rapidly become dying–and killing–zones.

How Hunger Hurts

Hunger is uncomfortable. If you’ve ever missed a meal because you were too busy or you woke up late, you know that hunger takes a toll on our mood, our focus, and our sense of physical well-being.

Also read: The Freedoms We Used To Have Will Be Taken Away. The U.S. Government Is Building The Terrorists They Need

You Had Plenty Of Chances To Prepare For Yourself. You Can’t Come To My Place When SHTF

The effects of hunger on the human body don’t end with a stomachache. In fact, true hunger — or, malnutrition — is a dual body-mind experience that has the same deteriorating effects on every human. Since about one in every 3 humans in the world is suffering from malnutrition and half the child deaths in developing countries are caused by malnutrition and its effects, it is essential that we acknowledge how the effects of malnutrition (aside from the immediate suffering) “jeopardizes the economy  and development of [a] country, continuing the cycle of poverty.”

Starting from the Top. 

MIND — Even though we think of hunger as a primarily physical experience, it is important to remember that acute hunger makes learning and concentration difficult at every age. Childhood malnutrition can cause reduced intelligence, anxiety, psychiatric issues and cognitive impairment in the long term.

EYES — Visual disturbances or impaired vision can be caused by deficiencies in Vitamin A.

MOUTH — Bleeding gums/decaying teeth are both symptoms of calcium deficiency.

HEART — Hunger causes a decrease in heart rate and oxygen levels, making it that much more difficult to perform any kind of physical activity, let alone labor. To function properly, the heart needs sufficient calcium, iron, protein and Vitamin B.

ORGANS — There are a number of malnutrition and deficiency disorders that threaten the intestinal tract, kidneys and livers, all of which need fiber in the form of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to operate healthily.

SKIN — Designed to protect the body as one large shielding system, the skin begins to break down, drying out and flaking without proper hydration and sufficient vitamin A.

JOINTS and MUSCLES — These important connection points will ache if not provided protein — it doesn’t matter how often a person exercises, if the person isn’t getting sufficient protein, her or his muscles will weaken and shrink. Both of these effects put the person at a greater disadvantage when her or his livelihood depends on physical labor.

BONES — Without sufficient calcium, a young person’s growth will be stunted for life, possibly forcing her or him to function with fragile bones that easily break as an adult.

EXTREMITIES — Nerves in the hands and feet will begin to break down without sufficient vitamin E. Needless to say, the loss of control and feeling in these extremities render a person worthless in a labor force defined by physical activity.

IMMUNE SYSTEM — A number of diseases that are rare here but rampant in the developing world are directly caused by deficiencies in basic vitamins, minerals and macronutrients. And, outrageously enough, most can be treated with the mere introduction of those deficient vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients. No pharmaceutical research, no vaccination, no drug regimen necessary. In most cases, just the right food in the right amount.

The resultant desperate situation is, I think, only dimly grasped; the cannibalism that is a recurrent feature of modern takes on the post-apocalypse is a grim acknowledgment of it. (The Walking Dead comics feature it; the television show has not done so yet.) The shortage of food and the ensuing mass starvation will almost certainly be the grimmest–and least ennobling–aspect of the disaster that our modern culture seems to spend so much time speculating about.

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One Reply to “The Post-Apocalyptic Famine And His Effects On The Human Body”

  1. Terminus was all about cannibalism on The Walking Dead. So, yes, cannibalism has been a part of the series with several gruesome scenes including one where they amputate a character’s leg to eat (while the character watches them do so).

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