An experimental super flu escapes a military installation and wipes out 99% of human kind. Four scourges ride and bring about global calamity and strife. Reports of the inevitability of a large meteor strike and the resulting apocalypse.
The fictional, the prophetic and the scientific; there’s a myriad of literature and media out there that delve into the dark subject of civilization’s destruction. Even as we humans share the in the Darwinian will to survive we maintain a unique, intellectual fascination with our own collective demise. A recent article in New Scientist indulges in this fascination and discusses yet another end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it end game.
One thing that makes this pending cataclysm different from other hell on earth scenario’s is that it doesn’t share the pan-global vision of the popular apocalyptic dramas, predictions or assertions stated above.
In this scenario (or inevitability) the most modern, affluent and successful societies will suffer the most.
IT IS midnight on 22 September 2012 and the skies above Manhattan are filled with a flickering curtain of colourful light. Few New Yorkers have seen the aurora this far south but their fascination is short-lived. Within a few seconds, electric bulbs dim and flicker, then become unusually bright for a fleeting moment. Then all the lights in the state go out. Within 90 seconds, the entire eastern half of the US is without power.
A year later and millions of Americans are dead and the nation’s infrastructure lies in tatters. The World Bank declares America a developing nation. Europe, Scandinavia, China and Japan are also struggling to recover from the same fateful event – a violent storm, 150 million kilometres away on the surface of the sun.
It sounds ridiculous. Surely the sun couldn’t create so profound a disaster on Earth. Yet an extraordinary report funded by NASA and issued by the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in January this year claims it could do just that.
Over the last few decades, western civilisations have busily sown the seeds of their own destruction. Our modern way of life, with its reliance on technology, has unwittingly exposed us to an extraordinary danger: plasma balls spewed from the surface of the sun could wipe out our power grids, with catastrophic consequences.
The projections of just how catastrophic make chilling reading. “We’re moving closer and closer to the edge of a possible disaster,” says Daniel Baker, a space weather expert based at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and chair of the NAS committee responsible for the report.
Photo via NASA.