Pick Your Doomsday: 9 End-of-the-World Theories that Will Haunt Your Dreams
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com / Stokkete
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Stephen Hawking once noted that Earth is a “fragile planet,” and if humanity does not find an alternative place to live — somewhere in space — we could be doomed. It is less of a rapture prediction than a reminder that resources are finite, there are greater forces than ourselves in the universe, and that we as a civilization trend on the self-destructive side of things.
Just this week specific studies about climate change, solar flares and the dinosaurs have been published. The common thread? Past, nearly missed, or future earthly destruction. Each one holds a lesson about Earth’s fragility.
The following list is not intended as a scare-tactic lecture, but rather a look at how both we and the universe could shape humanity — and its potential end.
1) Climate change
A new study published by Nature Climate Change has concluded that due to pollution, a shift to resource-intensive Western diets, and anthropogenic climate change, the Earth will need 50 percent more food by 2050 to feed the population. The problem? Our supply may not be able to meet the demand. As CBS explains, ”as our need for food rises, our ability to produce that food may be lowered by climate and air quality changes.”
The researchers found that global warming could reduce food production by 10 percent. Crop yields won’t just be affected by global warming but also by the ozone layer. MIT associate professor and the study’s author, Colette Heald, told CBS that crop production is “very sensitive to ozone pollution.” Using a model that examined four major crops and air-quality projections, the researchers found that malnutrition in developing countries could rise to 27 percent, up from the current 18 percent.
Climate change could, of course, have other dire effects on our food production, including flooding and other extreme weather, like the current drought in California. “Overall, climate change could make it more difficult to grow crops, raise animals and catch fish in the same ways and same places as we have done in the past,” the EPA explains. “The effects of climate change also need to be considered along with other evolving factors that affect agricultural production, such as changes in farming practices and technology.”
Climate change might not fully eradicate humanity, but crunch the numbers and the seriousness of the threat comes into view: Take a massive food shortage and combine that with unpredictable and violent weather patterns, mix in some geopolitical conflict (read: the possibility of all-out war) and you have an all-too-real recipe for global disaster of unprecedented proportions.
The most catastrophic pandemic on record was 1918′s Spanish influenza. The virus, which at the time could only travel by ship or land, still killed 50 million people. Since then the global population has been hit with a series of contagions that have spread faster than ever before. The most recent was the H1N1 swine flu outbreak of 2009, and while it wasn’t the pandemic to end all pandemics that some predicted, it was a wake-up call nonetheless.
How and why do diseases, particularly viruses, spread? The Guardian reported last year:
Viruses and other pathogens continually flow between species, often with no effects, sometimes mutating, once in a while causing illness. This mixing is known as ‘viral chatter’ and the more different species come into regular close contact, the higher the chances of a spillover event occurring.