You would have to build the tools to build the tools, and that’s likely to take generations.
I would like to know rationale behind this statement. It seems to bee at odds with what is seen in game.
Let's look at it from historical point of view. For this statement to be true two conditions must be fulfilled:
1) This statement is applied to (local) civilization as whole. On personal level it does not work: inventors throughout recorded history create new tools, sometimes far ahead of their time. Example: widespread use of steam engines began in XVIII century. But the first one to create such engine was Hero of Alexandria in I century.
2) (More important) System, to which this statement is applied, must have no contact with technology more advanced than its own. Otherwise its technological progress would be greatly sped up. For example look at Japan during Meiji Restoration.
Neither of these is true for Cataclysm's survivor:
1) He is one person, which means that he is not slowed down by need to mass-implement technology for it to be usable by him.
2) He is literally surrounded by pre-Cataclysm material culture (including technology).
Some would say that it is implicit that most of the remaining technology is completely destroyed and unusable. To such statement I must answer that it is factually wrong: all that technology is unpowered and severely undersupplied, some of it suffered external damage from local XE037-influenced lifeforms; but I do not see anything indicating that there was any major damaging factors that would affect inorganic entities and inert matter.
XE037 seems to be targeting only animals; fungus-like denizens alter plant life - neither of them (nor other denizens) seems to be interested in destrution of human technology. As for external threats: as most of technology (specifically - different electronics) found even in undefended surface structures are in working order, New England could not be subjected to any kind of technology-destructive influence (like wide area EMP or some side-effect of sub-prime influence).
As it stands now, with
1) Reliable sources of power avaiable (specifically - from solar-powered vehicles),
2) Sufficient skill (which can be acquired via books and practice),
3) Knowledge (which can be acquired via books, surviving consoles, practice and field research)
4) Supplies (which can be acquired via scavenging and recycling)
much of technology can be restored to some degree on small (personal) scale.