Quiz: What Is The Most Important Substance To Civilization?

It is slowly disappearing. Civilization will wind down without it. Hint: It is not oil.

No Electricity

This substance is essential for the generating, transmission and storage of electricity. There are no substitutes to make and distribute electricity. Without the this material, the world will, except for fire, go dark. The computer age will be over; all stored data will be lost.

No Combustion

Internal combustion will not work. There are substitutes to hold the combustion of an engine block, but engines will not start. Again, this substance is not oil.

No Transportation

None of the modern modes of transportation will work. Vehicles and transportation lines of all kinds cannot be made. There will be no motors: gas or electric.

No Industrial Food

Food supplies to feed large-scale populations cannot be grown, stored, or distributed. Wild foods can still be grown to support smaller indigenous peoples.

No Oil

We are unable to drill, refine, store, transport fossil fuels without this substance. Peak oil[~] will be followed by peak everything.

No War

War will not completely end until the civilization mind-disease is extinct, but war will scale down. Large regional warfare will recede. The war machine will begin to rust and run out of oil. This will be a good thing.


It may be obvious by now. We do not live in the oil age, nor the computer age. None of these are possible without metals. Metals are slowly going away either by being scattered, or degradation. Ferrous metals (iron and its alloys) react with oxygen in the air. Once mined from the ground and exposed to air, iron based metals rust and degrade. Non-ferrous metals, silver and gold, tarnish and result in some degradation.[!] These metals last longer when exposed to air. Gold and silver will conduct electricity, but they are not used because of the cost and scarcity. Copper is harder than gold, is still pliable, and abundant enough to transmit electricity.[@] Only iron, nickel and cobalt are required to make magnets, which are used by electric motors and turbines.[#] Metals are required to make everything from stark plugs to start motors, to mining equipment. Without metals, fossil fuels cannot be extracted to make plastics. Ceramics are made from clay composed of aluminium silicate mixed with sand.[$] No metals, no other materials as well. Without metals, civilization stops. An investment portfolio of diverse metals producers would be probably do well long-term, but don’t take my advice.

The rate of decay of metals became apparent to me while visiting the mining ruins where I used to live in Telluride, Colorado. Once exposed to the air, wood almost lasted longer than metals. Tram cables seemed to last the longest, but today are rusted beyond use. How fast metals degrade really struck me when I found a 100 year old kitchen-table knife in the ground near my home adjacent to the valley floor. The handle was encrusted in rust and the blade was almost gone. Above is a photo of a rusted baking plate.

Time waits for now one. We are living a slow motion version of S.M. Stirling’s book Dies the Fire. Earth is working in many ways to restore the balance.

Share these ideas person-to-person. Don’t just read these essays, post links on your social media to essays that resonate with you. Our speech is not free if dissenting messages are hidden by search engines, and mainstream media. You found these ideas, now share them with others!

Chuck Burr is author of Culturequake: The Restoration Revolution. Revised Fourth Edition. 10th Anniversary.


[~] peakoilbarrel.com.

[!] Azrust.com. Does silver rust or tarnish?

[@] Quora.com. Does gold conduct electricity?

[#] DowlingMagnets.com. How Are Magnets Made and What Are They Made Of?

[$] Aplustopper.com. How ceramics are made?

[Image] WikiMedia. Photo by Roger McLassus. Rust and dirt on a baking plate.