Life is more or less a constant struggle for greater amounts resources. Politics, economics, and society are all built around keeping track of and managing which resources are whose, and who gets to use them. At the end of the day, survival is just about having the right things for the job at the right time. Adding to the mix the possibility that we're on our way to the end of the world, thanks to a combination of global warming, economic upheaval and depression, the growing consumption of large emerging countries like China, modern popular culture, ancient doomsday predictions, or even just the way we live, and it is likely that we're going to have to decide very soon what of all these excessive resources we take for granted everyday are really worth in terms of survival.
With all of that in mind, and with an eye towards preparing for the future, it can't hurt to figure out now which resources will be most necessary in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. Assuming we make it through doomsday, what resources will we want to go scrambling for, Hunger Games-style?
For this list, we've tried to stick more or less to real, tangible things that will actually be useful in any post-apocalyptic eventuality. Be it a zombie-overrun continent, a nuclear desert, or some ground zero from a delayed Y2K hiccup, there are certain things that will be valuable no matter the circumstance. What this means is that things like money and social status aren't included, because they're not particularly helpful in a world without society. We've gone instead with things which are basic and needed for general survival, but also those resources which will- in theory - make rebuilding possible.
7 7 – Fuel And Power
Assuming the apocalypse doesn't include any massive, fiery balls of destruction that consume our entire infrastructure, it is safe to say some machines of industry will likely survive. That being the case, those who possess the means to make them work will survive far longer than those who don't. It would mean the difference between living with candles and wagons versus flashlights and trucks. Given the choice with our final days on the planet, we'd go with the scenario that includes electricity. Finding fuel, or living near an automated, renewable power source, will help keep a fledgling society going for a while.
6 6 – Intelligence, Education, And Social Awareness
Animals without an understanding of how their habits affect themselves and their environment are ill-suited to all kinds of challenges, and an inability to change those habits as needed makes it that much more difficult to live in a world consumed by radioactive waste, cannibals, zombies, aliens - or worse, all of those together. In the struggle to survive after the end of life as we know it, human ingenuity will be invaluable.
We aren't saying tolerance and ingenuity is necessarily vital – there are plenty of intolerant, ignorant people who can make it through the day or work together through fear – but it won't hurt. A bit of book learning, too, could go a long way in helping to deal with epidemics, natural disasters, cultural change, or any number of threats. Above all, the thing that has allowed the human race to endure is our ability to adapt, and we’d need to do so in a hurry to survive the aftermath of the end of the world.
5 5 – Medicine
The most intelligent person in the world, with full medical training and a complete understanding of the human body, is still going to be unable to save people in the post-apocalyptic world if they don’t have medicine. We sometimes find it hard enough to get through a regular day at the office without popping at least an Aspirin or Advil, so it's hard to imagine what a subsistence life would be like without at least that much. Those people who can endure epidemics, or even just treat the most basic of afflictions, are much more likely to survive in the long run than those who will die off from the smallest of cuts. Antibiotics, inhalers, or even stitches are among basic medicines that could make a huge difference.
4 4 – People
Despite what almost every survival story would have us believe, it isn't a bad thing to have a community at your back. Being social is one of the greatest evolutionary advantages we have over many other animals. To opt for the solipsistic life of the hermit when the world goes to hell is an awful decision. Aside from the obvious benefits of not going Castaway-mad from loneliness, there are so many things which can be done as a group that are impossible alone.
Of course, there are the issues of feeding everyone, and the high probability that at least one person in the group will, for whatever reason, want to see that same group destroyed. But even if that's the case, agriculture, foraging, hunting, planning, fighting, building, and whatever is much easier with many people and many minds. As for the irrational psychopath, well, if we were wandering the wastes of the post-apocalypse, pursued by someone bent on our death, we'd much rather be with a group of like-minded individuals who also want to live.
3 3 - Shelter
Depending on the severity and harshness of where you wind up, without proper shelter or clothing, most people can die in less than a day, or even within a few hours, of exposure to the elements. That being the case, shelter makes it onto the list at number three.
Wind, sun, rain, cold, heat - nature is constantly trying to kill us, and it is thanks to basic shelters that even in our idyllic, non-destroyed world, most of us are still here. We haven't spent the past tens of thousands of years perfecting the human habitat of cities and homes because shelter is just kind of nice. It's no wonder most of the younger generation chooses to stay inside when it's so perfectly designed for our comfort.
2 2 –Land/Food
The average human can survive for 30-40 days without any food whatsoever. In a world without grocery stores, any food is going to be great, and we won't turn away anyone offering a canned good. Eventually, though, the pre-packaged foods will run out and the new world will be forced to till the land.
Not just any land will do. For the purposes of growing food, irrigable, preferably non-toxic, land is certainly best. Given any disaster situation, the need for self-sufficiency will eventually come about. It may not seem like it in our modern world, with responsibilities so diffuse, but we depend on the growth of our food from good old farming and husbandry every day. We may have moved into the cities and put our food in plastic bags and metal cans, but the basic fact of life is that without farming – and the land on which to do it – we wouldn't last more than maybe a couple of years in the barren wastes of nuclear fallout, or against massive hordes of the walking dead.
1 1 - Fresh Water
After three days without water, your stay in the post-apocalyptic world will be over. Even if you manage to get a large group of experts together, build a quality shelter, and acquire all the other resources and fuel necessary for survival, none of it means anything unless you have a renewable source of potable water.
It sort of goes without saying that this would be the most precious resource in any survival situation, let alone one without hope of being saved. Access to fresh, clean water is an issue that has been plaguing human societies for thousands of years. It is only in recent history, and still not even very wide-reaching, that water has not been an issue in some areas of the world. Some of the Romans' greatest constructions ever were aqueducts built over hundreds, or even thousands, of kilometres, used to provide their cities with fresh water for sanitation and consumption. Water is an issue even today, with some analysts predicting it may one day be the major resource sought out and fought over, apocalypse or no.
Given its vital role in our own lives, it's no wonder that at the first hint of water, scientists and researchers squeal for potential life on planets and moons. Even in the harshness of space, water could mean life. Given the end of the world, this is the first thing we'll be prospecting after.