Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska (for a size comparison think of Denton, Texas) and just like the rest of Alaska is in a winter wasteland, and depends on the rest of America for its agriculture. And for my story I have my main character in a post (nuclear) apocalyptic North America travel there slowly over the course of the story seeking a paradise from the war torn and uninhabitable other states. But for the journey to complete Anchorage needs to be at least close to the modern first world that we enjoy today (in quality not necessarily culturally).


So how could Anchorage accomplish this feat of staying first world with their agriculture (assuming the rest of the first world stuff will fall into place with it) while the rest of the world is in chaos?

First World

First world is a vague term so I will list the requirements here:

  • Functioning Sewer
  • Heated homes
  • Library
  • Police Force
  • Hospital and fast ambulances for emergencies
  • Functioning capitalist economy
  • Communication access (phones, televisions, etc...)
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    $\begingroup$ First question for small-community-surviving-an-apocalypse: Where does your food and water come from? Since you say food is mostly imported, where do your Alaskans plan to import all that food from? And without a petroleum-based infrastructure, who does all that importing, from where, and how? And in exchange for what exports? $\endgroup$ – user535733 May 22 '18 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ You need to stick to, "how can they feed themselves" and assume the rest falls into place because they can, otherwise this question becomes too broad (and without it my answer is no longer sufficient, and I don't have the time to update it. :-{ ). $\endgroup$ – JBH May 22 '18 at 21:40
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    $\begingroup$ Alaska isn't entirely a winter wasteland. Particularly the Anchorage area HAS some agriculture... don't discount what already exists. $\endgroup$ – OhkaBaka May 22 '18 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ I answered this question with the assumption that you were looking specifically to justify a self-sustaining agriculture in Anchorage that would be the basis for a continued first-world standard of living. As written, your Q is far too broad (and has arrived in the VTC queue). A dissertation explaining how all those aspects of first-world living can be preserved if NOT limited to the necessity of agriculture is beyond the scope of WB:SE. Therefore, though very unusual, I am voting to close the question until sufficiently narrowed. If narrowing the question obsoletes my A, I'll delete it. $\endgroup$ – JBH May 23 '18 at 0:45
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH Okay hope that narrows it that down a bit, thanks for pointing that out. $\endgroup$ – Amoeba May 23 '18 at 2:05


I'm going to assume your apocalypse is far enough in the future that Anchorage could enjoy a booming hydroculture. All you need is appropriate indoor lighting and heat (the benefit of Anchorage having access to geothermal energy) plus abundant fertilizer (aka, fish guts) and boom, self-sufficiency. Combined with a mature aquaculture industry and Anchorage suddenly finds itself in need of walls and armed guards to keep the refugees from overwhelming their resources.

Oceanic Agriculture

Or, Anchorage could become (before the apocalypse) the pre-eminent science center for oceanic agriculture: the development of ocean-born ships capable of being floating farms. You can float the boats into warmer waters, grow the food, and float them back. (This is a very real idea that's in development today.)

Vertical oceanic farming

Another solution comes from Ben Smith, the executive director of Greenwave. After economic tragedy struck, he found himself developing vertical under-ocean farming, "growing a mix of seaweeds and shellfish for food, fuel, fertilizer, and feed." His 3D vertical farming concept is gaining substantial popularity, and Anchorage wants in!

Underground greenhouses

Finally, though the scale of the issue might bring this into question, there's always the possibility of underground greenhouses.

At most latitudes, the temperature six to eight feet below the surface stays between 50 and 60°F. An underground greenhouse uses calm below-ground weather to keep plants growing whether it’s snowing or sweltering.

Combined with the geothermal energy available in Anchorage, you have the ability to feed, frankly, a lot of people. Especially if underground greenhouses become the norm for the population — growing most of their food themselves, family-by-family.

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  • $\begingroup$ They convert their "grow rooms" to actually grow food. That's the only thing they can do when they get the munchies.... $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat May 22 '18 at 21:52

Depending on the timeframe of your apocalypse you, as the author, have certain liberties in explaining how anchorage became a major world player leading up to the incident.

JBH made a lot of good points about how to feed and power things so I'm just adding optional supplement to the notions.

Why anchorage? Because those who still had anything after the apocalypse went somewhere they thought they would be safe, and they brought what they could with them. Greedy pigs being greedy pigs, they began to restore what they once had using their greatest assets - that which others don't have. Opportunity tends to lend itself to those who have something to invest in the first place and the cheapest labor are people who can't otherwise feed themselves. So to rapidly rebuild, you become the provider for many.

Now, just because the world has been blown to hell doesn't mean humans dropped back to the dark ages. It's up to your own writing decisions to decide what tech survived. Communications and security are much easier when you're talking small scale, and a city like Anchorage is small compared to the rest of the world. So your communications grid is considered short range for the populace, and long range could fall back on the good ol fashioned radio waves.

Where does the food come from? At first, from anywhere you can manage. Assuming the nuclear insanity didn't happen on 100% of the surface of the earth all at the same time, those with the means moved their livestock and equipment with them in their great journey north. Livestock is a tough asset since generally speaking farms large enough to provide meat for a populace can't necessarily be underground residences without a lot more provisions that even the richest have to dispose of when there are cheaper and easier ways. Not to bring religion into this, but many people don't realize the major churches like the mormons keep massive seed repositories in undisclosed locations. No doubt when the feces hit the fan those in the know spread the word as carefully as they knew how that the great pilgrimage to the underground was under way. Any large group of people moving to one location is bound to attract attention and not everyone is willing to die to keep a secret. So, for the convenience of the story, someone got a hold of someone who had access to the right storage location and through badness a plenty you now have a generation's worth of seed deposits moving their way to anchorage where they use JBH's hydroculture to rapidly develop some remarkably pure organic vegetation from the now massacred mormon stockpile. It could be a year or so before such hydroponics facilities become viable and produce enough food to distribute. But you can always say those who had, or scavenged brought much with them. Plus, there's always those tubs of costco sized emergency rations that could be worked into the situation.

Much of your list is not a problem if you figure that not everyone who survives a nuclear apocalypse just defaults to mad max mode and goes rogue nomad with murder in their eyes. Police, hospitals, and all that are not foreign to anchorage and probably wouldn't even be disrupted if you chose to not allow it to be. Most of alaska knows more than everyone the concept of a septic line if sewage was an individual responsibility. Water can be cleaned from the gulf of alaska, desalinated, or whatever. Where there's a need and someone who can profit from it, there will be a way.

What's left on your list is little more than architecture of a society based on their means. Functional is then defined by how happy your population is, how safe, how determined, etc. Those who had the means came in, swindled their way into the high seats in the new world, and rule with the power of necessities with the blanket of impunity. That story is practically age old.

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What's the nature of this apocalypse? If you don't have any in mind, Anchorage seems like a good place to hole up during a zombie apocalypse or some other human-borne pathogen scenario

A quick visit to the Wikipedia page says it's surrounded by mud flats. It's generally inaccessible thanks to few developed points of entry (a couple of land routes through mountain passes and a port) and its climate would discourage any off-road entry. A couple of guard outposts at these natural choke points, as well as its distance from other large cities, make it defensible against land-based incursion with minimal effort.

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  • $\begingroup$ sorry I edited the question to state the type of apocalypse, its a nuclear one $\endgroup$ – Amoeba May 22 '18 at 21:26

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