I don’t know if more people are pondering the end of the world lately, or if it’s just more popular to talk about it. I recall the “duck and cover” drills when I was in elementary school, believing that hiding under my desk would protect me from nuclear annihilation, but by doing so we were pretending that we would avoid the end of the world. Sometime during my teens I decided that I really didn’t want to survive, knowing that it would be the end of the world as I knew it. The end of civilization. If Disco was the best we could do, I was rather looking forward to an end.
Punk Rock came along and I regained my will to survive, and even though I worked on war plans to most efficiently end the world in the Air Force, I was reasonably sure that MAD, or “Mutually Assured Destruction” (That’s almost an onomatopoeia, when something sounds like what it is), would prevent anyone from actually using the arsenals at their disposal.
Then we won the cold war, and all those weapons in the Soviet Union were up for grabs. Most folks focused on the nukes, but there were loads of chemical and biological weapons that remain unaccounted for. I suspect some of them ended up in Iraq and Syria, I’m fairly sure some made their way farther south on the African continent. Some twisted cycle there in some sense, weaponized viruses returning to their land of origin.
And then…The hype began about Global Warming. Having been an early environmentalist, spurred by Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring“, I found the idea of Global Warming an odd turnaround. Rachel had warned against Global Cooling. Looking back farther, I found warming scares earier in the twentieth century, when the ice caps were melting and Manhattan was going to be flooded by 1940. Nonetheless, respected scientists confirmed that there was indeed a warming trend, traceable to millions of years before the existence of thermometers. Scientists who disagreed were no longer burdened with funding, their evolutionary path was certain.
It only took a few nasty winters, replete with snowmen wearing Al Gore masks, to change the tune to “climate change”, the phenomena previously known as “weather”. Even though this climate change was still portrayed as a global event, that would involve warming temperatures, the name change had to take place. Public Relations means never getting laughed off an airplane, even when it’s your private gulfstream. Oh yes, climate change was still due to pollution, most notably that evil building block of life, carbon. You know that your propaganda is working when people are afraid of pencils. I had a woman ask how to dispose of used toner cartridges. I told her she could simply throw them in the garbage, but she thought they would need to go to a toxic waste dump because they contained carbon. I explained that they were empty now, the carbon was on all the pages she had printed.
There are the numerous asteroid collision fears and an odd group that quite seriously believes there is a rogue planet that will collide with Earth. There are fears that the Sun will explode, or send flares so intense they cook the Earth. The Mayan calendar ended last December, throwing millions into a panic, but the Mayans had succumbed to Global Warming thirteen hundred years ago. My calender ends every December, Barnes and Nobles has a nice selection.
End of the world cults started popping up a few years ago, I never understood these people. They believe the world is going to end, so they commit suicide. Were they trying to save God the trouble? Or were they just terribly embarrassed when the world did not end at the prophesied time? (Literally embarrassed to death). I don’t mind so much the cults that kill them selves, but I’m annoyed by the ones like Aum Shinrikyo, the one in Japan that used Sarin gas in the subways, because apparently they didn’t think God could pull it off on his own. There’s bound to be a word for that level of faith, but all that comes to mind is “moronic”. My feeling on Armageddon are based in believing that if God wants to end the world, he will, with the ease with which he created it. He doesn’t require assistance, and nothing is going to stop him if that’s what he wants to do, so why worry about it?
There are people who worry about it. People who worry not about Armageddon, or the end of the world, but the end of civilization. I’m tempted to say “too late, it’s already happened”. All you have to do s spend a day in a major city riding public transportation to know that civilization is just a rumor. Nonetheless, there are people stockpiling food and weapons so that they can survive when the lights go out. I’ve met some of these people and I don’t care to have them as neighbors in a post apocalyptic world.
There are a few things that I know for certain. If the world comes to an end through some cataclysmic event, literally destroying the planet, there is nothing I or anyone else can do about it, and most of the scenarios would be over before we are aware they happened. If the planet becomes uninhabitable for humans, whether by simply a geological change or by the hand of man, it will happen no matter how much anyone pays in taxes. I believe that human beings are animals and have as much right to inhabit the Earth as the Dinosaurs did. If we run out of petroleum, and have chosen not to develop other forms of energy, it’s going to get a little quiet on the internet. We will, as we did on the way here, adapt. There may be a couple of tough generations, but as I recall, there has been no civilization based on small groups of survivalists in the history of mankind. We do best as a herd, even when that best is Donna Summer, because we know there will be another season in a few months, and it might bring Joe Strummer.