Saturday, April 05, 2008

Living inside a giant invisible dome, part 3

I suspect that drinking is a popular pastime in the Giant Invisible Dome Thing. But not for long; it's not reasonable for anyone to have stockpiled even a few weeks of beer for themselves and their friends. If you and your best buddy each drink eight cans of beer per day, you'll go through ten cases of beer in just over two weeks; most people don't really have more than a case or two around the house. Even the hardcore alcoholics restock their supply every few days. Beer drinkers will get smacked with sobriety pretty darn quickly. In better shape will be the wine drinkers. Many buy by the case, and a wine drinker is more likely than a beer drinker to have a stockpile of wine somewhere in the house. At the top of the intoxication ladder are the liquor drinkers. Hard liquor gives you a better chance for staying on the sauce longer; most liquor drinkers tend to have a liquor cabinet stocked with a variety of alcohols. Sure, you'll eventually be down to the creme de menthe and kirschwasser, but it's about the alcohol, not the taste. Ideally, the guy you want to be is the guy with a wine cellar. Even if he eventually works his way down (up?) to the expensive stuff he bought as an investment, there's no down side. You get to keep drinking, and you actually have an excuse to drink the good stuff instead of saving it.

Eventually the alcohol will run dry. Can you make more? Probably. Unless you've got a beer-making kit and supplies handy, beer isn't an option. Ditto with wine; even if you've got supplies and grapes, it takes a huge quantity of grapes to make a bottle. You'll have better luck with distilled liquor. Alcohol is produced via fermentation, and almost any plant matter will ferment given the correct conditions. If you've got juniper berries you can make a passable gin, but your options don't stop there. You can make grass-clippings vodka or maple-leaf bourbon about as easily. It's not hard to set up a still, either. The process would be labor intensive, but it'll give all the on-sabbatical people something to do with their time. Down side: grass-flavored vodka.

Food might be more of a problem, both short-term and long-term. If you've got a few avid gardeners with supplies and seeds, you can plant fast-growing, high-yield vegetable crops as soon as the dome forms, and you'll have food by the time the pre-packaged and frozen food runs out. Of course, everyone will get sick of zucchini soup, stir-fried zucchini, and zucchini pate on zucchini slices. But it's got calories, and it'll keep you alive until other vegetable crops start sprouting and producing. You'll be able to produce year-round; you won't ever have a real winter under the dome. Still, you'll have to turn almost every bit of plantable land into garden space, and again -- labor intensive. But it's not like people have anything better to do with their time. And grains are more problematic than vegetables. In any subdivision, you've probably got a gardener with everything they need to plant tomatoes and zucchini and beans and corn. But it's doubtful anyone will be able to plant rice or wheat. It's harder to eat a long-term balanced diet without grains.

One of the big questions is, do you eat your dead? It's not necessary for nutrition, if you've got an appropriate supply of vegetables and a little grain. But it's not a bad idea, in a practical sense. You really can't afford to waste anything in the dome. You won't need to serve the corpse as steaks and meatloaf; more palatable will be to add the deceased to the food chain by hot-composting the body for use as fertilizer. Very circle-of-life, and not as morally creepy as cannibalism.

Cannibalism, by the way, isn't a good food source. In a dietary sense, animals are essentially a complicated way to get calories from plants that people can't eat. If you're a Blackfeet Indian living on the Northern plains, there's not a lot of local greenery you can digest. But buffalo can eat the grass, and you can eat the buffalo. Humans as meat animals don't serve this function. Further, humans don't provide any essential nutrients you couldn't also get by eating your broccoli and beans. If you're growing enough edible plants to survive, eating people won't help. And if you're not producing enough food, eating people will only provide short-term calories without solving any longer-term problems. Better would be to figure out how much food you can produce and how many people this could support, and then start killing the less-useful people until you're down to a sustainable population level. Again, you'll get the eventual nutrition by composting the bodies, rather than eating them. And much more ethical, once you're done with the murdering.

Next: a bonus Dome Thought on semi-permeable domes and mass transit!

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