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So the stories of the Hunger Games are set in Panem, a post-apocalyptic society situated in North America. Is there anything to explain what caused the Apocalypse? Whether from the main books, any extra material or interviews? (No fanfic please.)

As well as the cause, is there any indication of when the apocalypse happened? And how long after the apocalypse are the events of the Hunger Games?

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The books are (deliberately, I think) vague about the apocalypse. We get some detail about what happened in the first book, but nothing about why:

The mayor steps up to the podium and begins to read. It is the same story every year. He tells of the history of Panem, the country that rose up out of the ashes of a place that was once called North America. He lists the disasters, the droughts, the storms, the fires, the encroaching seas that swallowed up so much of the land, the brutal war for what little sustenance remained. The result was Panem, a shining Capitol ringed by thirteen districts, which brought peace and prosperity to its citizens. Then came the Dark Days, the uprising of the districts against the Capitol. Twelve were defeated, the thirteenth obliterated. The Treaty of Treason gave us the new laws to guarantee peace and, as our yearly reminder that the Dark Days must never be repeated, it gave us the Hunger Games.

It sounds like the original apocalypse was environmental in nature, possibly inspired by global warming scenarios suggested in the real world.

The Capitol keeps a tight grip on history, and it’s not clear why. Perhaps the Capitol (or the previous power structure) had something to do with the apocalypse. Whatever the reason, it means there’s little information about what actually caused it.

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    The Capitol controls information, including history, in order to control the population. And while Kat is a strong and resourceful woman she's also, like most people in Panem, under-educated, over-stressed, and much more concerned with survival than history or science. In literature terms she's an "unreliable narrator". – Joe L. Sep 29 '14 at 13:06
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    Must have been the dirty communists! – Luaan Sep 29 '14 at 14:38
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    @Luaan: I thought it was the Muslim world's turn to be the big bad wolf? – James Sheridan Sep 29 '14 at 18:06
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    @JoeL. More importantly, so is the Mayor, because it's made clear from the text that he's reciting the Offical Panem Approved History Text That Explains Why All This Is Your Fault And You Should Be Sorry... – Shadur Sep 30 '14 at 10:34
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    @James Sheridan: As Walt Kelly said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us!" – Joe L. Sep 30 '14 at 12:51

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