#2. Society Has Made You Forget How to Feed Yourself
According to Hollywood ...
You know that, after the apocalypse hits, you'll be able to scrounge around for all the prepackaged food that society left behind. And you know that eventually all those Twinkies and frozen burritos are going to run out, and then you'll have to learn how to hunt squirrels and cats in between vast treks across endless landscapes of desiccated wilderness, like Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli.
And sure, you know that the reason everyone looks so healthy in these movies is that Hollywood isn't going to force the cast to starve themselves just to make it authentic, but you still figure that a resourceful person could live off the land for however long they needed, or at least until we could figure out how to take out the one alien ship that will make all of the other ships and foot soldiers spontaneously explode.
Help us, Jeff Goldblum's PowerBook, you're our only hope.
But Actually ...
Hey, ever heard of scurvy? That horrific disease old-timey sailors got because they weren't getting enough vitamin C? Where are you getting your citrus in the post-apocalyptic future, after your grocery store is no longer trucking in oranges from Florida and California? Famine is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but his skinnier, nerdier little brother Malnutrition is definitely an alternate on the team.
We're told that Denzel is able to survive by being a badass hunter, but anyone following a strict diet of woodland creatures would quickly start feeling the effects of micronutrient deficiency, which is a delightful term used to refer to the litany of diseases that stem from not getting enough vitamins and minerals. It is important to note that not a single one of those deficiencies will give you blind superpowers.
Warner Bros/Sony Pictures
Nor super strength to carry around the 20 separate books that a Braille Bible occupies.
You see, right now we've got the FDA monitoring everything we cram into our faceholes, making sure we get critical things like iron, iodine, vitamin A, folate, and zinc from our prepackaged meals. The vast majority of us don't have any idea what foods actually contain those things and how much of them we need to survive. Without those nutrients, you're in for some spectacularly terrible consequences, including anemia, skin rashes, and a decreased ability to fight infection. That lair of zombies you erased with Molotov cocktails last week might've just been a group of regular people who'd had nothing to eat but pizza rolls for the last eight months.
In other words, your problem isn't just finding food -- it's finding the right food. That means shooting things with a bow and arrow isn't going to cut it, because your body requires carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals, and at least one of those things doesn't come from the flesh of an animal, no matter how delicious its fear tastes. The apocalypse is going to have much more to do with trial-and-error farming than learning how to poach the scant remaining wildlife, and good luck working the land while you're depressed, shivering, and shitting your stomach inside-out from malnutrition.
But if you do die of rabbit starvation, there's always a chance idiots will take your pointless death and make you a folk hero!
#1. The World Is Full of Giant Ticking Bombs
According to Hollywood ...
The characters in every post-apocalyptic movie are always worried about zombies, road gangs, aliens, robots, super volcanoes, or any combination thereof. You almost never see them worried about literally everything exploding, unless it's as a direct result of a death ray or an earthquake or something. The world has already ended, right? What's left to go wrong?
"My DVD player, destroyed? No! It's not fair! There was time now!"
But Actually ...
Let's start with the nuclear power plants.
If the History Channel is to be believed (and, hey, why shouldn't it be?), you've only got about 10 motherfucking days after civilization shuts down until the radioactive fuel rods at every nuclear power plant in the world evaporate the water from their cooling pools and start belching out massive clouds of prolonged radioactive death.
Here's a map of all 62 of the nuclear power plants in the United States:
International Atomic Energy Agency
What, Western U.S.? Is splitting atoms not good enough for you?
More than half of those power plants have two or more nuclear reactors, bringing the grand total to more than 100 reactors spread across 31 states. And Europe is much, much worse -- a similar map of their power plants looks like the crotch of an angry sailor:
International Nuclear Safety Center via FYEG
And nearly as hazardous to your health.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has set up emergency planning zones (EPZs) around each nuclear power plant, defining the minimum safe distances in the event of a nuclear meltdown. They vary in size from plant to plant, but consist of two distinct zones: a plume exposure EPZ, with a radius of about 10 miles from the reactor (a distance within which about 6 million Americans live), and an ingestion pathway EPZ, which has a radius of about 50 miles and contains around 120 million Americans. Basically, unless you can make it to the Rockies within two weeks after Mothra destroys the White House, you're going to be bathed in an explosion of radioactive mist.
But the nuclear plants are just the beginning. Here's what it looks like when a natural gas line explodes ...
Reuters/Brendan McDermid via Reuters
"I'm still pretty sure I turned the stove off before we left."
... and you've got one of those running into almost every structure in the modern world.
And then you've got the industrial sites: Pipes and holding tanks rust and spring leaks, and with no crews to maintain them, every refinery and factory in the world is one spark or lightning bolt away from becoming a city-consuming ball of fire. And it's not just the ones dealing with volatile chemicals, either -- we've already talked about how everything from powdered milk to batteries can suddenly become tiny antipersonnel mines under the right conditions. Even grain silos can turn into a smoking crater at a moment's notice. The post-apocalypse, in other words, would make you feel like you'd been Inceptioned inside Michael Bay's most erotic dream.
"Eh, still beats Pearl Harbor."
Actually, why don't movies include this part?
Related Reading: The apocalypse may nearly be here right now, that giant Jesus statue in Rio just got struck by lightning. If you'd like a look at the post-apocalypse today, check out this abandoned Disney waterpark. It's probably a good idea to brush up on your apocalypse-surviving strategies. We can help.