Lately I've become fascinated with the end of the world. I suppose I always have been, to a certain extent, as a movie concept that's been gestating in my head for years now deals with that very subject.
But with a big slew of movies that have been released recently that deal with the subject of where we're going (and when we're going to get there), my interest has been rekindled. I've been doing a lot of viewing, reading, researching, bla bla, and I thought I might share some of the information I've come across. Hopefully, you'll find all this as humbling and point-of-view altering as I have. But chances are you'll just find it terrifying.
It's generally agreed that the most serious threat to humanity is humanity itself. I think everybody already knows this, but I had no clue as to how many seperate threats we pose.
Nevermind all the nuclear weapons possessed by terrorist groups and middle eastern countries. The biggest threat comes from right here in the good ol' USA, as well as Russia. Each country has enough nuclear weapons to destroy all humans several times over, and the planet itself. And every expert agrees that they will most likely be set off by accident. Dr. Strangelove is not that far fetched of a concept. All it takes is for one single person to snap, freak out about his precious bodily fluids, and kaboom. No more American Idol.
Speaking of one single person, that's all it'd take to easily wipe out humanity with a man-made, genetically engineered supervirus. Biotechnology has already found a way to "engineer" smallpox so that it kills 100% of all it contacts, rather than the 3% it kills on it's own. If a biologist wanted to, all he would need is a lab and the internet, where the "recipes" for killer bugs are readily available. Technology has made the process faster, and easier. Simply whip up your very own killer virus, open up your test tube in an airport, and sit back, relax, and watch civilization crumble in a matter of days, followed up by humanity itself. If somebody really wanted to, they could make it happen. And ya know, there's kinda a lot of crazies out there.
However, even if man doesn't create a virus to wipe us all out, nature will do it for us. Plagues are as inevitable as earthquakes. They are a certainty. There have been 10 pandemics in the past 300 years, and we are long overdue for another one. The last one was less than 90 years ago, a bug that killed 40 million people worldwide, less than 3% of the people who caught it. Another plague is unavoidable, and depending on it's nature, a vaccine could come too late or not at all, thusly ending all human life.
And then there's the climate change, which is the biggest threat of all, which is happening right now, in our own backyards. I'm not going to get too preachy about this subject, but I am going to paraphrase it. We've already passed the threshold; it is now irreversable. In as early as fifty or 100 years, the poles will melt, the sea level will rise. The coast will shrink all over the world. Cities like New York, London, Japan, will be completely underwater. Mass migrations inland. Overpopulation. Culture wars. Droughts. Famine. Civilization inevitably collapses, and the human race follows suit therafter. Just so we could drive our air conditioned SUVs to the Nascar track.
Okay. Let's say that the human race manages to get it's act together. We outlaw nuclear bombs, guns, and pointy sticks. We go green and eat tofu. Frankly, I don't see much of a point.
In about thirty years or so, an asteroid will come so close to the Earth that it will dip under our sattelites. Then it'll swing back around a few years later, possibly striking Earth. It won't wipe us out, but it will still be devastating. Hopefully it hits Los Angeles. But scientists agree that it is a mathematical certainty that the Earth will one day be in the path of a giant, humanity-ending asteroid, and chances are, there's nothing we'll be able to do about it. Just count down the decades the planet has left to live. And it won't come back to life again for hundreds of thousands of years.
Of course, that's assuming that the sun doesn't burn out first (which it is, slowly) or that the other galaxy which is on a crash course with ours doesn't hit us first.
These are all the obvious things that could wipe out humankind. So much so that there have been several major motion pictures about each subject. But what most people don't realize (which included me), is that there are literally dozens more things that can go wrong, and there will be dozens more as science and technology advance.
For example, there is a a phenomenon that might foreshadow the imminent extinction of the Western Honey Bee. The bee plays a vital role in pollination, and its extinction would severaly disrupt the food chain. Albert Einstein once said, "If the bees should die, humankind would have but four more years to live." Anyway, there are countless other "mini-scenarios" like this. Infertility. Super volcanoes. A black hole. Over-population. Dysgenics (look it up).
So, is everything the human race does, has done, and wants to do completely in vain? I dunno. I kinda find the whole thing amusing. The human race is more flawed than most folks take the time to realize. And as a result, everything man-made, from cell phones to traffic lights, to laws and money, even to broad concepts like "time" and "success," is all inherantly flawed in some way. All this, to me, just seems like part of the big picture. Maybe even inevitable.
While all these cold hard facts are utterly fascinating to me, I'm just as intrigued by the human response to it. None of this information is hidden from us; it's in books, on the net, even up on movie screens. Yet the utter indifference seems to be growing more as things get worse and our chances decrease. Ignorance is, in no way, bliss. Yet people make the concious decision to dismiss the facts, turn the other cheek, crank the A/C, and settle in for a nice reality TV enema. I don't get it. Which is why it utterly fascinates me.
Since I've assaulted my own brain with all this information, the world seems like a very different place to me. Watching TV is a whole new experience. The mall is like a whole other world. And everything's a lot funnier than it used to be. And I mean everything. So, I don't really mind it.
Can you see why I'm so fascinated by this stuff?