FernWithy (fernwithy) wrote,

Repost: Hunger Games, population, infrastructure, and technology

Okay, so I was looking for something in an old post and I came across this one that I'd done as a f-locked post. And I thought, it was kind of fun. If anyone wants to toss this around.

It's the trucks in the movies that got me started thinking about this.

Why I was thinking about trucks in the HG movies, I don't know, but I was.

I've always had the trains be the main mode of transportation in my HG stories, but it wasn't because I was necessarily giving it a lot of thought. It was just an assumption.

But here's why:

While I don't doubt that there are plenty of road vehicles in the Capitol, as a major mode of moving troops, it doesn't make sense in Collins' world, and it struck a weird chord in me when the new Peacekeepers drove into D12 in the Catching Fire movie.

Sure, the technology is there. But the roads? I really don't believe the roads would be able to support any scenario where moving troops by truck is the most efficient mode of travel.

I think one place where the films falter is that they repeatedly forget how devastated the population is, to a point where even evil characters don't dare use weapons of mass destruction because that much loss of life would literally threaten the human race with extinction.

We see this mistake in the shots of the districts in CF, where they largely have a run-down urban look, instead of a run-down small-town or even rural look. District Twelve, of all places, is given a quasi-urban look. I know, I know, Katniss calls it her city, but 9000 people? That's a little smaller than Geneseo. It's not Syracuse or even Ithaca. The two possibilities are that Katniss has a really skewed sense of perspective or that, in Panem, even that small a population would be considered a city. I tend to favor Katniss's skewed perspective, because even I don't think the population is small enough that 9000 is not a serious outlier in terms of small district populations.

My point, though, is that the movies' read on the districts as, basically, one version or another of urban blight doesn't really fit the world. Some of them, sure. You pack, say, 100,000 people into the same size fence as D12 has, add a smelly industry, and you'd get something like D8. But take 300,000 and spread them out over a huge district that supports something like logging or livestock, and you're going to end up with a very sparsely populated area. For instance, Alaska has over 700,000 people, but because they're so spread out over a vast territory that it evens out to about 1.26 people per square mile.

Which brings me to roads.

Google Maps can't give road directions between Barrow and Anchorage. Why? No roads. Literally, you cannot drive to Barrow. And this makes perfect sense. It would be a waste of resources, really expensive to keep up, and generally very inefficient.

All of Panem would be like that.

Even assuming that D12 is an outlier at only 9000, the other districts plus the Capitol can't be that big, or we wouldn't be in a situation where they're worried about extinction. Let's say the Capitol is a genuinely decent sized city -- say, 2 million. That's more than I'd generally estimate, but for argument's sake, we'll go there. Be wacky generous and assume a couple of hundred thousand in the bigger districts, and a few tens of thousands in the smaller ones. D13, will go with half the Capitol population. You could probably inch the population of Panem up to about five million, being super-generous with those population counts.

They live in "North America" -- total area, 9,540,000 sq. miles. Let's say they decide to stay out of the tundra in the north of Canada. It's hard to estimate the square miles of the strip of heavily populated Canadian territory at the south, so for argument's sake, let's add the area of the U.S. and Mexico, though theoretically, there's no reason that Panem couldn't include Central America as well-- 3,881,491 sq miles. Even at the smallest possible, assuming that "North America" was Collins' euphemism for, "Everyone's in the contiguous United States," that' 3,119,885 sq. miles. The highest population density would be 1.6 people per sq mile. The lowest would be about .52 per sq. mile. (The middle is about 1.29)

In other words, we're talking about a nation which, at a generous estimation, has roughly the population density of Alaska.

Since that population is forcibly gathered in 14 population centers, that means that there's a lot of the land where the density is 0.

Does it make sense to build and maintain roads through that? No. Roads are expensive. They require a lot of work, and they're susceptible to a lot of weather damage. People have to travel them frequently to notice it. Panem has a train system, which is single tracks. Difficult to maintain, but not impossible at the level of roads. And the track is more easily controlled by the government. Same with the hovercraft system, which is, in all likelihood, solely a government enterprise.

There's no reason on earth that the Capitol would rebuild all the roads and bridges. Who would be using them most of the time?

Meanwhile, the technologies they do develop make some sense -- communications, entertainment, etc. They no longer have satellites (if jets can't fly, then it's a sure bet that no one is launching things into space), so they must have developed other modes of broadcast, because something would need to keep the districts united under the government, and this government in particular seems devoted to mental control through propaganda. Genetic engineering in the Capitol makes sense, since, with the population so drastically reduced, there most likely would have been geneticists working like demons to get rid of/repair as many fatal genetic diseases as they could, so that the population wouldn't run into some of the problems we've seen in bottleneck populations. Did they need more weapons tech? Not really. Seems there were plenty of effective weapons, and they actually wanted less effective ones. I think if I were creating it, I'd probably have invented more non-lethal weaponry to solve some of that.

But, at any rate, the notion of troops arriving in District Twelve by truck struck me as an example of the producers not giving much thought to the impact of drastic population reduction. And honestly, while the real themes interest me more, I've found that considering the effects of worldwide depopulation is one of the more interesting mental games to play, so I would think that would have been something they'd have had fun with, too.

Anyway, trucks aside...

What other impacts of depopulation would there be that we didn't see? Any other mistakes related to it?
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