Nuclear War Survival Skills
March 31, 2003 5:14 PM   Subscribe

Nuclear War Survival Skills: Journey back sixteen years to a simpler time, when the impending apocalypse was a much less complicated affair. [more inside]
posted by Johnny Assay (9 comments total)
(I hope this thing hasn't been posted before; I searched, but apparently this thing is available at a dozen different pages.)

When I read stuff like this, I'm glad I wasn't quite old enough to understand the threat of nuclear apocalypse (I was nine when the Berlin Wall fell.) The author's tone is somewhat miltaristic (not surprising, given the no-nonsense approach he's advocating), but it's still a fascinating and at times horrifying piece of reading.

A question for those who might remember such things better than I, though: was "nuclear winter" as discredited as he implies towards the end of this page?
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:21 PM on March 31, 2003

The air in properly designed fallout shelters, even those without air filters, is free of radioactive particles and safe to breathe except in a few' rare environments as will be explained later.

I've never understood this, who would want to live indefinately in a hole in the ground?

"Nuclear War Survival" is an oxymoron.
posted by Juicylicious at 5:35 PM on March 31, 2003

Johnny Assay, it really depends on the severity of the war. There are measurable differences in the climate when large events such as volcanos happen. An isolated nuclear explosion probably wouldn't do much, a sustained exchange might.
posted by substrate at 5:51 PM on March 31, 2003

What Substrate said. Basically the nuclear winter scenario involved massive firestorms in a LOT of cities, tossing up sufficient stuff that global cooling resulted. A lot of folks were for it, a lot against. But as anyone studying this stuff will tell you, theory is one thing and the actuality is another.

Personally, I'm damn glad we never tested the theory to see if it was accurate or not.

And believe me, you didn't miss much at all by being 9 when the Berlin Wall fell. I lived on or near a lot of main targets for quite a while, and am glad I live where I do now when I look at weather patterns and likely fallout drift.

As far as that goes, if you're near one, the GPO used to carry an interesting book called "The Effects Of Nuclear Weapons". Great reading, from a technical point of view.... and there's times I wonder just why such material was readily available for purchase by anyone who walked in off the street (in my case, literally) with about $20. Wish I could find my copy - I got a new desk and 'organized' things about three months ago and I can't find a thing.

posted by JB71 at 7:19 PM on March 31, 2003

Huh? You have to buy this?

I tell you what. I have photos of a similar old manual from somewhat further back that I'll put post for you all for _nothing_ tomorrow. And they ain't an april fools joke.

Aren't I nice?
posted by shepd at 8:04 PM on March 31, 2003

Here ya go. Enjoy!
posted by shepd at 8:48 PM on March 31, 2003

Shepd: Cool. What's the year on that thing, anyways?
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:12 PM on March 31, 2003

JA, WYSIWYG. There is no date on the booket, unfortunately, but my Grandmother suggested it's from the 70's. However, the staples haven't rusted, so I'm not so sure about that. ;-)
posted by shepd at 9:46 PM on March 31, 2003

Johnny, as someone who was on the front lines of the movement1, let me put it this way: Nuclear Winter was never as widely credited as its supporters claimed. In fact, it was shrill, didactic promulgation of such ideas to the detriment of rational discussion that turned me away from the movement. Clearly folks like Helen Caldicott and Carl Sagan knew better, but the apocalyptic Nuclear Winter imagery suited their political purposes -- because obviously the direct devastation of a nuclear war was not itself sufficient political motivation to disarm. The last major study of Nuclear Winter was published in 1990; by then, scientific consensus centered around a milder scenario, dubbed nuclear autumn, in which the effects could still be global and devastating, but not catastrophic.

Today, Duck and Cover is often mocked, especially after its use in the documentary Atomic Cafe -- but clearly only those in the direct blast zone will be immediately incinerated; and if you're not in that group, duck and cover makes a great deal of sense -- and is seen in a modern formulation known as the triangle of life. (It's not entirely true that Duck and Cover was sold as protection from a building collapse, but from the direct effects of a blast, which could blow out windows and send superheated air and blinding light into a building.)

1 I have a T-shirt from a disarmament "die-in", and I also coincidentally was at Riverside Church in NYC the day that Rev. William Sloane Coffin unexpectedly resigned to head up SANE-Freeze.
posted by dhartung at 10:14 PM on March 31, 2003

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