1. JadeX
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    JadeX Active Member

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    Post-post-nuclear war recovery: trees?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by JadeX, Jul 23, 2015.

    My current book is a sci-fi/alternate history which takes place circa 2014, 50 years after the Cuban Missile Crisis of '62 turns the Cold War hot.
    In 1957, after the USSR launched Sputnik 1, the satellite's radio signals were detected by an extraterrestrial race - a humanoid species known as Avarins - they sent a diplomatic team to Earth. Several nations, including the US & USSR, accept a trade agreement with the Avarin Empire,
    which has been suffering from a plague which has been killing hundreds of millions of Avarin citizens across four planets (out of six) - and they have depleted the only very rare resource that is known to treat it. Upon arriving to Earth, their scans discover a mineral which can be synthesised, not just into a treatment, but an effective vaccine
    >(this part is not initially known; it is discovered by the characters later)
    although it is kept secret by the human leaders. In 1962, when the Cuban Missile Crisis goes nuclear, a conventional total war erupts simultaneously with global thermonuclear war. Nuclear strikes ravage the Northern hemisphere, and large-scale military engagements spark across the whole world. As the population dwindles, so does the flow of resources to the Avarin Empire. The Avarin Empire demands that the two superpowers cease the hostilities. But when the humans refuse, the Avarins decide to take the planet by force. Cue Avarin occupation of Earth.
    My story begins in New York City. During the war, a 42 kiloton weapon destroyed Lower Manhattan up to 16th Street, but left the rest of the city more or less intact. Automobiles are typically not used anymore, as the war consumed and destroyed most of the world's oil supplies, and the radiation from the long-term fallout degraded the engines of most vehicles anyway. What little oil and few vehicles are left have since been commandeered by a global totalitarian government. Therefore, most people in cities get around either by foot, bicycle, or by newly-popular quadracycles and velomobiles. Thus, the wide streets that New York City is known for are not needed. One day, I stumbled across this picture online:

    [​IMG]

    I really like this idea, and I wonder if a concept similar to this could be implemented near recovering nuked cities, such as NYC. Since trees, grass, and plants give off oxygen, might it be helpful to plant high concentrations of them anywhere you could to try to improve the air quality? The plants, being living organisms, would offer an alternative for radioactive particles to absorb into instead of humans (who, especially in a "concrete jungle" like NYC, humans are otherwise almost the only living organisms there are, save for maybe a few parks).

    . . . in theory.

    I think it could be interesting to have the streets split by three strips of grass and trees, with plots of grass growing on the roofs of the buildings. But would it actually help?

    OR, perhaps if it doesn't actually help, do you think this totalitarian government might do it to convince people it helps, just for the propaganda value? "Look at all the effort we put into helping you! Look at all these trees! What do you mean you want proof? You can breathe, can't you?" Heh.

    Now, I've spent some deal of time researching nuclear fallout effects, radiation, etc., and this sounds logical based on my understanding of the subject, but I wouldn't be confident to trust "my understanding", as I'm no expert by any means. Does anyone else have any opinion on this idea? If there is anyone who may know a little more about it, I'd like to hear from you. (But I'll take opinions from anyone. I suppose I could at least use the idea under "artistic licence" as long as it sounds good enough to a general reader, right?)
     
  2. stormjinx
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    stormjinx New Member

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    I personally love the idea. And the thing about the totalitarian government using the planted green majorly for brownie points is believable and great.
    If the protagonist caught on, it'd add an extra layer to the story.
     
  3. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Have you checked out any articles on Chernobyl? I have seen at least one person return to check regrowth out, as well as the radiation levels.

    Keeping in mind a bomb is far more dirty than a reactor meltdown. I also think most of the windows in the buildings you have in that picture will be blown out.

    Broken windows tends to lead to delinquent behaviour.
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If the war was that devastating and widespread, such that it would use up or destroy virtually all of the world's oil reserves, there would be far fewer people. If so, why would they choose to live in NYC, which is probably still very hot in radioactive terms? There may be reasons based on your novel, but as a reader, it'd be one thing that I was wondering and have to be convinced of.

    Also, buildings that are not maintained largely over 40+ years are going to be in major decay. Who would live atop a skyscraper if they have to walk 50 stories to reach their living abode--given a choice? Plus, as was said, the heat and blast of a nuclear detonation .042 megatons, would destroy more local buildings, with a steep drop off in blast and heat effects. .42 is not very large in nuclear detonation terms. Still, thermal radiation radius (3rd degree burns) extending about 2 miles. Even so, it would take a lot of them to destroy all the oil reserves and such with blast effects, or make them so radioactive, nobody would want to be near them--or could be near them.

    If travel is far diminished, even except for a few with access (I would guess mainly rail and ship for mass transit), a world totalitarian government would be somewhat fractured. Think back to the 1960s. Black & White TV and radio were the main means of entertainment, information and communication, with newspapers also being a part of that network. That logically would've been knocked back by the war along with the infrastructure for that framework, and further by deteriorated during and after the war. Even if rebuilt, how many places in the world would be not under the direct observation, thumb, control of the world wide totalitarian government? There'd be a situation from local government controls to increasing regional overseeing...think of today in the USA.

    There are local villages and towns and cities within a county, and dozens of counties within a state, and 50 states within just the USA, now multiply that out by all the nations (land masses) in the world. That's a lot for a totalitarian government to control...leaving cracks for various regional governors to put their own spin and personal control on things, with ample opportunities for great storylines do develop.

    Just a few thoughts that came to mind to me as a reader, looking at your premise.
     
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  5. JadeX
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    JadeX Active Member

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    Most of the long-term radiation would be centered around the detonation site itself, not quite as much in the surrounding area as one might think. South of 16th Street, it's still too hot and largely uninhabited. From there to 57th Street lies the "Reconstruction Zone", which is a mixture of ruins and new construction. North of 57th Street is somewhat safe, albeit with raised radiation levels, but people who were born and raised in the area would have somewhat of a resistance to it, though not without negative effects to their health. Even so, the modern post-war NYC is no longer the bustling metropolis it once was; rather, it has shrunk to a small village of about 5,000 to 10,000 at most. Such a reduced population means a much shorter NYC than the one we're familiar with. 50-story buildings would probably be the maximum, and buildings of such height would be few (pretty much only government buildings). The "new Manhattan highrise" would only be about 10 stories on average, with most residential structures rarely exceeding 5.

    And about the fuel - it wasn't so much the nuclear detonations themselves that diminished the petroleum supply. This war was nuclear and conventional simultaneously, lasting over a year, with large-scale military engagements all over the world. Tanks, planes, infantry vehicles, and the like all consume copious amounts of fuel, not to mention the oil fields that were inevitably fought over and destroyed in the crossfire. Then there's after the war, where unattended fuel refineries and gas lines would likely explode due to falling into disrepair. And that's not even touching on all the fuel that was probably contaminated by radioactive fallout, flooding, or even stolen by looters or commandeered by civil militias during the war.

    After fifty years, of course there will have been quite a degree of redevelopment. Most of the buildings that are currently used are ones that have been built since the war (in the "Reconstruction Zone", at least - north of there, many buildings perhaps were maintained to some degree by those who stayed, not totally abandoned). Other buildings could have been repaired and maintained by the government, which has significantly higher capabilities - see my next response for more about that.

    I'm guessing you didn't read the spoiler section that explains the premise of my story in greater detail (not saying that in a mean way or anything, you probably just missed it, and it was a bit to read anyway so I don't blame you).
    We're talking about aliens here, not humans. Earth is only one of seven planets that they govern - given their power and reach, governing a post-apocalypse Earth is actually fairly easy. Especially considering that they can come in and help rebuild, thus scoring major points with the locals. And since the war destroyed most human forms of government and society, that too would make it easier for them to root their presence.

    Indeed, things will vary between locations, and the government will not be perfect. Part of my world's backstory is that, shortly after the government was established, a previous armed uprising did occur - and it spawned and thrived in disconnected islands like the UK, Japan, and Australia, where the government wasn't able to assert their control as well, because the islands were harder to watch.

    Hopefully this helps explain a bit better, thanks for your feedback! :3
     
  6. BurningPaws
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    Hey there,

    I too are writing a novel around nuclear fallout and I have done a bit of research on the concept which really helps when you want to understand how your society will be affected.

    Radiation does not get 'sucked up', which is what I think you are implying, by trees and plants. Radiation will remain around until the life of the radiation material depletes and the material ceases to be radioactive.
    I am not too familiar with bombs but I know with nuclear power plants, such as Chernobyl, the Uranium which they were using for their reactions will still be radioactive for 10 thousand years and no amount of trees or other organisms around it will speed up that process by 'sucking up' the radiation, however distance from the source will show reduced radiation levels. Uranium has a very slow half-life therefore it takes a very long time to decay.

    Usually the radioactive material used in bombs is a derivative of Uranium, I can't remember which element they generally use but that will be something for you to research. Look specifically on Wiki pages for the half life of the element, that will tell you how safe the detonation area will be after so many months or years.

    Keep in mind, as the material decays, it becomes less radioactive.

    One note, which I may add
    As far as I am aware from my research, people can not become resistant to radiation, it's not something that the body can fight. Gamma rays puncture our cells causing mutation of the DNA, sometimes mild or severe mutations can occur from these DNA alterations, such as cancer, or if very severe cases, acute radiation syndrome can occur.

    I hope this bit of info helps, but do more research, it is a fascinating subject.

    Kind regards,

    BurningPaws
     
  7. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    The biggest issue I have with this is the idea that New York would only be hit with one nuclear weapon. It would have been too much of a target for that to happen, I think.

    BurningPaws covered my scientific objections.
     
  8. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could Google Hiroshima and Nagasaki circa 1995, fifty years after nuclear bombs were dropped on those cities. It would give you a pretty good idea.
     
  9. JadeX
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    JadeX Active Member

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    Perhaps in a modern-day nuclear war, yes, New York City would likely be hit multiple times. In 1962, however, NATO had about 8x as many nukes as the USSR; in such a scenario, the USSR would have had to use their nukes sparingly and carefully, focusing mainly on counterforce targets (that is, targets with military importance - radar, airbases, naval ports, etc.) and not so much on countervalue targets (which is basically just a euphemism for nuking cities).
    That being said, there are actually a surprising number of cities on the US mainland that survived - Chicago was avoided in favour of hitting the nearby Joliet Arsenal; Philadelphia was made the US Capital and bolstered with air defences after WDC was lost; attacks on Portland and Las Vegas were postponed in favour of eliminating the major ports and airfields in Washington state and SoCal; Albuquerque was simply overlooked; Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cleveland, and Indianapolis were intended targets for Soviet submarines in the Great Lakes, which were successfully intercepted by the Coast Guard; and Miami wasn't nuked because the Cubans had already laid waste to it at the beginning of the war.
    Europe, on the other hand, is another matter entirely... you name it, they nuked it.
     

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