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It's the end of the World as we know it...
March 9, 2005 6:03 AM   Subscribe

How will civilization end? With a bang, a crunch(last link is PDF), a splash? Are we no longer more likely to kill ourselves than being killed by "Mother Nature"? (more inside)
posted by Chunder (29 comments total)

 
So what are your thoughts? It wasn’t all that long ago (in the grand scheme of things) that the world was petrified that we’d all be killed off by noocyoolar war.
Granted, this could still happen, what with the nuclear programmes in Korea, Iran, etc. but in my opinion, it now seems more likely that the Earth is going to burp, and in doing so get rid of most of us pesky humans…
I’ve never really thought about all this before – just how fragile our ecosystem is, even without us doing stupid things to it. Pretty scary.

Of course, it may be even more likely that we’ll all die off from some killer hybrid/mutant virus or baccilus – or failing that, from overpopulation and starvation. Or overwork. Or information overload. Or ennui.

Oh dear. Doomed.
posted by Chunder at 6:03 AM on March 9, 2005


Exit Mundi has a lot to say about all this.

Personally I think that the verneshot will take care of us.
posted by cmonkey at 6:30 AM on March 9, 2005


Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice.
posted by rafter at 6:36 AM on March 9, 2005


Oh, what difference does it make? Nothing lasts forever.
posted by disgruntled at 6:55 AM on March 9, 2005


disgruntled : "Nothing lasts forever."

What about the truth of that sentiment?
posted by Gyan at 7:14 AM on March 9, 2005


It's funny (not), but the human race has never been able to get it's priorities right. Too concerned with our individual wellbeing we always fail to see the forest for the tress

We're Fucked but won't admit it.

Personally I would love to see something wipe us out or at least knock us back to sustainable levels, because, lets face it - we have wrecked everything around us.

Then again though... It's against the odds that we exist at all so whose to say we won't survive what this aul planet has to throw at us!
posted by twistedonion at 7:16 AM on March 9, 2005


crap... must remember.... spell check

should be trees not tress
posted by twistedonion at 7:17 AM on March 9, 2005


The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire At the end of 6,000 years is true as I have heard from hell - WB, 1790
posted by jmccw at 7:23 AM on March 9, 2005


Since I am a firm believer in The Rapture, I look forward to this destruction...I'm ok...sorry though for you, sinners
posted by Postroad at 7:43 AM on March 9, 2005


Call me crazy. Call me a paranoid wacko. But I'm preparing for the end of civilization by learning about what it takes to live outside of it. It's a lost art and an awesome hobby.

Cause it's true. The earth is going to burp and most of us will die. But, hopefully, if my progeny survive the initial event, they will be able to survive by hunting, growing food, making shelter and such. All because their crazy old grandad taught them how to do it.

I'm not delusional enough to be preparing every day for the end or that my progeny have a good chance of surviving a huge disastrous event. I just think it's a good idea to learn about the real world outside the cities and how to live in it without our support structures. Because some people are going to survive.
posted by recurve at 7:47 AM on March 9, 2005


Oil-based agriculture requires 10 calories of input for every calorie output. To feed 6.5 billion people requires cultivation far beyond the point of diminishing returns. That kind of deficit was once paid with animal labor (animals can graze lands too rocky or infertile to cultivate); now, the shortfall is made up with oil.

Of course, we're either just past or just before the Hubbard Peak, and not all the animals on earth could make up that much energy.

6.5 billion people is simply unsustainable, and cannot continue much longer. The good news is that "civilization" has nothing to do with technology, philosophy, music or art; all of those things are human universals, at least five times older than agriculture, much less civilization. Civilization--the thing that can't last much longer--is about hierarchy and control. But humanity will go on, with all of our art and culture, but in egalitarian bands and tribes.

This is a big subject for me; in fact, most of my blog is dedicated to it, so if my arguments here seem unsupported, it's because I don't want to flood the thread with a 500+ page thesis.

On preview: recurve's sounding as primitivist as myself!
posted by jefgodesky at 8:12 AM on March 9, 2005


Does all this make you wonder why all the other planets in our solar system are (or appear to be) so barren of the remnants of some sort of sentient life? I comfort myself by taking the continuum view: we exist on this planet merely as a moment in its development...at some point, we will become moot and will disappear from the scene. When the environmental expense of our existance exceeds our ability to "contribute and control," we're toast. I'm hopeful that this event is hundreds of thousands of years away, a mere "blink" to the planet as a whole. But, just in case, I did recently purchase this book.
posted by Griffins_posse at 8:19 AM on March 9, 2005


Nick Bostrom, philosopher at Oxford, is all about analyzing existential risks from nuclear holocaust on down to "we're living in the matrix" and rating their relative probability of occurance.
posted by natedogg at 9:24 AM on March 9, 2005


Is there a name for the sort who idly long for an apocalypse, believing they would live through it, and that the other side of that event would be kind of cool? Not only in the Burgess Meredith "now I have all the time in the world" way, but also in the Road Warrior, tooling around the desert in a V-8 way, too.

I mean, besides crazy. Is there an explanation for this phenomenon? It's not uncommon.

Since I am a firm believer in The Rapture, I look forward to this destruction...I'm ok...sorry though for you, sinners

[laughs at you]
posted by Hildago at 9:32 AM on March 9, 2005


No problem, just wait for the Oankali to rescue us.
posted by Jim Jones at 10:15 AM on March 9, 2005


Hildago: Is there a name for the sort who idly long for an apocalypse, believing they would live through it.... tooling around the desert in a V-8 way

Yeah, I sometimes daydream about scenarios like that, don't know if there's a term for it, though.

Hey, I can discover and produce antibiotics from scratch - if anything goes wrong, I'll share if someone(s) is/are willing to protect me from roving motorcycle gangs and such...

/just saying
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:46 AM on March 9, 2005


How will civilization end?

Obvious answer:

With a whimper.
posted by nofundy at 10:56 AM on March 9, 2005


Beat me to it, nofundy. Damned!
posted by bitpart at 11:05 AM on March 9, 2005


Has anyone read Collapse? I'm curious as to how that might pertain to the above-mentioned theories...
posted by Specklet at 11:09 AM on March 9, 2005


Collapse is more about determinative factors; the original post is about probabilistic possibilities. I generally don't think too much about the probabilistic ones--they might happen, or they might not. Especially when civilization is so inherently unsustainable. [PDF]
posted by jefgodesky at 11:18 AM on March 9, 2005


No post on this could be complete without someone mentioning the Rapture of the Nerds!
posted by Sparx at 12:27 PM on March 9, 2005


Does all this make you wonder why all the other planets in our solar system are (or appear to be) so barren of the remnants of some sort of sentient life?
No, because the conditions on most of those planets are entirely inimical to life as we know it. Or are you arguing for the existence of long-lost radiation-hardened wushu masters on Ganymede?
posted by darukaru at 1:50 PM on March 9, 2005


Is this question about the end of civilization or the end of human life? It seems like there's a big difference there. That is, one is certainly preferable to the other.

In fact, I think you could easily argue that, the sooner civilization ends, the more likely that humanity itself will survive.

posted by koeselitz at 5:40 PM on March 9, 2005


Humanity IS civilization.

No doubt the earth's human population is in for a major contraction soon. But can we survive without civilization?

I don't think anybody will be able to prepare for it like they think. Not like some kind of Road Warrior or Red Dawn scenario taking off into the woods and living off the land. Survivalists are in for a shock. You NEED other people to survive.

Even with some environmental catastrophe that triggers massive economic collapse it will be a slow burn at first - populations won't just vanish. EVERYBODY will think they can leave the cities and head out to the woods. Well. There just ain't that much woods left to go to. So you will be competing for less food with just as many people as you would in the cities.

Cities are where they are for practical reasons so leaving them is often a bad idea - infrastructure like harbors, water ways and other natural and manmade infrastructure that you won't be able to utilize in other places.

Anyway. Civilization will have to change. Or humanity will die.
posted by tkchrist at 6:32 PM on March 9, 2005


EVERYBODY will think they can leave the cities and head out to the woods.

This is true, but most don't realize how hard it is to survive out there. Myself included. I've only learned enough to realize how hard it is to learn primitive skills. Most people would die out there.

And as for wishing that it would happen--that's delusional. That's like speeding down the road and wishing your car away.
posted by recurve at 7:08 PM on March 9, 2005


If you look at ancient texts from Babylonia Berek wagers that you would find some guy prophesizing the near end of the world due to societal collapse and kids not standing for the Babylonian National Anthem and wimmen wearing their togas too short and the second coming of Babakeesh.

In other words chances are civilization will continue stumbling on the way it has for ten thousand years. Yeah, there's problems, but there's a lot that's right too.

{Just in case Berek stocks up on ammo, c-rats, and tin foil beanies.}

posted by berek at 8:16 PM on March 9, 2005


Personally I would love to see something wipe us out or at least knock us back to sustainable levels, because, lets face it - we have wrecked everything around us.

Wow, twistedonion, you must have been pumped when the tsunami hit, then later disappointed when it only killed about 150,000 of us. Better luck next time.
posted by notmydesk at 11:43 PM on March 9, 2005


I have no time to click on every letter of every word in that post... But here's what I figure is sorta near topic so far:

My worst fear is, as a species, we actually survive on Earth, just long enough to keep all our eggs in one basket, never colonize any other planets, and then suddenly join the dinosaurs in extinction, with a little help from a meteor/comet/thingy...
posted by hypersloth at 2:58 AM on March 10, 2005


Civilization is not society, and past famines suggest that very few people will head for the hills. They'll just sit by and starve because there's no food, just a bunch of wild animals running about. No food at all.
posted by jefgodesky at 12:41 PM on March 25, 2005


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