The World of Nomads’ Land

The World of Nomads’ Land is our world, after our civilization has declined.

The world itself comes from my imagination, but my ideas were heavily inspired by two real-world concepts; Dark Ages and Peak Oil. A bit more about both, below.

Dark Ages

In casual talk, the phrase ‘The Dark Ages’ generally refers to the time in Europe following the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. But when I did a bit more reading of history, I found that this is far from the only dark age humanity has experienced. There was a Greek Dark Age, following the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization, an Ethiopian Dark Age, etc. This is a repeated pattern in history: civilizations rise, spread, and then decline. Dark ages are periods following the fall of a civilization, generally characterized by a lack of central authority. Historians often focus on great achievements: architecture, art, international trade, huge battles. For these historians, a dark age doesn’t give much worthy of study.

But what about the people living in a dark age? Life in a great empire can be wonderful, especially for those near the centre of power. There is wealth and luxury, and often a great sense of security. But civilizations can also be oppressive, especially for those geographically or economically removed from power. Ask a Roman slave whether he’d rather live under the Roman Empire or live back in his own small village, with no glory but plenty of freedom. Ask Caylen, the main character of the Nomads’ Land series, whether she’d rather live free in her forest or fettered in one of the cities.

Peak Oil

There are a lot of opinions about Peak Oil, and I’m neither a geologist nor an economist. I can’t give quantities or probabilities. But there are some facts that pretty much everyone agrees on.

One, our society is dependent on petroleum. We use it for transportation, sure. And we use it to heat our homes. We make asphalt out of it, and plastic. And maybe most importantly, our food supply is dependent on it. It fuels the tractors that plow our fields, it allows us to ship food all over the world, and it’s a component of a lot of fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals. Oil is probably second only to water in terms of its necessity for current western civilization.

The second fact that everyone agrees on is that oil is a finite resource. It takes about a hundred million years to make oil, so we’re not going to be getting any more of it, and we’re burning through what we’ve got fairly quickly.

How alarmed should we be about this? That’s where the controversy begins. Some people say we shouldn’t worry much at all. As oil becomes more rare, it will become more costly, and we will have greater financial incentives to find alternatives. Sure, petroleum’s great, and right now, it’s super-cheap (I know it doesn’t feel that way when you fill up your car’s tank, but think about the price of gasoline: a finite resource extracted from far beneath the earth’s surface, shipped across the world, heavily processed, shipped again to your gas station, and then pumped into your car at about the same unit price as a bottle of water from the station’s convenience store). So we’re using a lot of oil because it’s there. But if it becomes less convenient and efficient, we’ll just start using solar power, or wind power, or harness the tides, or something… humans are inventive!

Others disagree. Some say we’ve already reached Peak Oil, the point at which we’re extracting the maximum amount of petroleum, and from here on, we’re looking at dramatically decreased supply. And we are nowhere near ready. Our alternate energies are still in their infancy, and there doesn’t seem to be the political will to dramatically increase research spending. As oil gets more expensive, our oil-dependent economy will decline, and we’ll have even less money to spend on developing alternatives. Trade will fall off because it’ll be too expensive to ship things. Resource wars will flare up as each country struggles to find the oil it needs to feed its citizens. And central authority will break down under the pressure of a starving, terrified population. According to some Peak Oil theorists, we are looking at the absolute collapse of western civilization, and the decline has already started.

Nomads’ Land

What’s the truth? I have no idea. What do I believe? No real idea on that, either, although I certainly have some concerns. But for the purposes of the Nomads’ Land books, I took the worst-case scenario. Western civilization declined quickly and catastrophically. Most people weren’t ready for it, and they died either in violence, through starvation, or maybe because of a simple injury that went bad without any sort of medical knowledge. For the vast majority of the population, it was the end of the world.

But some people survived. Nobody knows how, really. But they made it. And eventually, they started to rebuild. Some of them built new towns, others returned to the old cities and rebuilt them to suit their current needs. They started to trade again, albeit on a much smaller scale, and they even returned to some of the science of the time before, what little they could use without long-distance trade. Like the manors of the feudal system, they were self-sufficient, islands of civilization in the vast, dark wilderness.

Most people found homes in the cities or the surrounding farmland. Life was safe there, and easier.

But a few of them resisted. They’d grown accustomed to the freedom of the dark age, and weren’t eager to become dependent on centralized authority. They chose to stay in the wilderness, living off the land, accepting the loss of security in return for the increase in liberty. These nomads visited the cities when they wanted to, took work or trade as it suited them, and became experts on the land that supported them.

Caylen was born a nomad, and she can’t imagine living any other way.