Part 4: The First Winter

Opening Excerpt

The population of the Earth had stabilized at about seventy thousand by early August 2015. SDC had claimed its last victims in isolated communities, in September. The virus that had changed the world so radically survived for only two more months. After that, SDC disappeared without a trace, ensuring the survival of the human race.

The surviving population began their new lives. It was inevitable that they began to find each other. In many cases, they formed very small communities to share their workload and to find companionship.
The survivors were spread across the populated areas, split quite evenly by sex. It was inevitable that the majority of the children who had initially survived the contagion would not survive for long without adult support. Old aged survivors of SDC were almost as vulnerable as the children. They died either because of illness or because of malnutrition, or they just lacked the will to continue living by themselves. As a result, most of the longer-term survivors were in the twenty to sixty age ranges.

It was inevitable the survivors would form couples as they found each other over the next year. The survival of the species depended on the capability of the survivors not only to continue living, but also to begin having children. Many of the couples that formed were unusual as compared to the pre-contagion era. There were often big age gaps, young men with older women and vice-versa. The random nature and rarity of the genes that had ensured survival also resulted in some very odd couples as far as mixed race, religion, social background and physical characteristics.

Very few women who were pregnant when SDC struck actually survived both the contagion and its aftermath. Most lost their babies because of the fetus being infected and dying in the womb. As a result, it was not until almost a year later that the first babies were born. By this time, all traces of the SDC virus had disappeared. This was crucial because only a small proportion of the new babies had the rare genetic makeup necessary to protect them from SDC’s fatal effects. Otherwise the extinction of the human race would have been inevitable.

For at least the first year, there would be an abundance of stored food available in all of the old towns, cities and villages. This supply would decrease gradually. Over time, it would spoil or, without human protection, be eaten by birds, animals and insects. However, many of the survivors, by choice, quickly switched from dependence on stored food to harvesting their own fresh food from gardens and small farms, supplemented by hunting and fishing.

The capability and experience of survivors in food production and preservation functions varied enormously. However, no one need die from starvation.

The small number of survivors also ensured that availability of adequate shelter would not be a problem for many years. In many cases, if they chose to do so, the survivors were able to find suitable places to live much more luxurious than what they had before the contagion.

The failure of electric power and other modern sources of energy presented an immediate challenge for survivors everywhere, except for in the most undeveloped and remote areas.
The response to these challenges varied considerably. The more sophisticated survivors were able to use electricity generators of various kinds to retain much of the convenience and comfort of their previous lives. Others learned to live without these conveniences.

In the more heavily populated northern hemisphere, SDC struck in the middle of summer, so heating was not an immediate problem. However, in the more northerly latitudes, the survivors were immediately well aware of the coming challenges of surviving through the winter season. They had to worry about keeping warm and ensuring an adequate food supply. In the areas that experience a large winter snowfall, they also had to worry about getting around without the roads being cleared by public services.

In some cases, the obvious response to worries about winter was to move south to find a warmer climate. However, this decision brought its own challenges. The worries of leaving a familiar place for the unknown and the troubling questions of where to go, how to get there and what to bring with them were major issues of concern.

The approaches taken by the survivors were as varied as their background and experiences. The odds for survival were generally in their favor in the short and medium term because of the very small proportion of survivors and the immense resources of the pre-contagion population. These resources were now generally available to a much smaller number of people.

In one area, SDC brought a quick solution to a complex and serious problem that had been getting increasing attention in the last few years. All issues relating to human pollution of the Earth were solved in less than three months. The rivers, streams and oceans became clear and clean and the fish populations began a rapid recovery. The forests and grasslands, almost completely rid of their human exploiters, began to regenerate themselves naturally. The populations of wild birds and animals that had been threatened by human expansion started to recover rapidly. Air pollution of anything larger than a campfire suddenly became a thing of the past.

The concerns about greenhouse gas levels produced by humans disappeared almost overnight. In 2015, the Kyoto Accord targets were met and exceeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. However, there was nobody left who knew or cared.

If Global Warming was to become an important issue in the future, no one could continue to lay the blame on the human race.