Calamities are possible.
This notion, that things actually could go very badly wrong, often seems very far from our shared view of the world.
The fact that you can read this means that you are likely living in a developed Western country, with a full belly, ready access to healthcare should you need it and a warm bed to sleep in tonight. With such a preponderance of resources surrounding us, everything from food and shelter to entertainment and easy social connections, the spectre of disaster doesn’t seem very close.
Opinion may be changing
Yet a growing number of experts are warning of possible calamity. Respected science writer David Auerbach, for example, has warned that, “Mankind will wipe himself off the face of the Earth within the next century.” This sentiment is being echoed by a growing number of experts. Martin Rees, the renowned astronomer, believes that the 21st century is “humanity’s last”.
You only need to look to history to realise that, despite our relatively advanced societies, disasters are possible. Take the 1931 China floods, the two devastating world wars and, in more recent memory, the 2004 Indian tsunami.
Whether or not a world-changing scenario is likely (as opposed to simply possible) is a matter that’s open to debate. In this article we’re going to look at ten all-out disasters that humanity could face in this century. Whatever your outlook, whether you view these outcomes as genuinely possible or not, it should make for an entertaining read!
Let’s dig in!
- Global warming
No list about potential disasters would be complete without mentioning global warming. A recent report by the University of Oxford has predicted that global warming could cause a level of devastation not even expected by today’s worst-case estimates. In particular, it points to the possibility that some third-world countries could become utterly uninhabitable. The ensuing famine, societal collapse and mass migration could have far-reaching and deep impacts on society as a whole, particularly for wealthy, developed Western countries.
Whether or not you put much weight behind the man-made global warming arguments, or you believe that rising temperatures are simply part of a natural cycle, the potential for wide-ranging disaster is huge!
- Nuclear War
Again another obvious one but vital to mention. Returning to the contentions of astronomer and scientist Martin Rees, it’s not so much the existence of advanced technologies – nuclear warheads, drones, nefarious biochemical weapons – that are the issue, but rather what happens when they fall into the wrong hands. All it takes is one lunatic, one Kim Jong-Un (whose actual dangerousness is likely overblown by the media anyhow), to start a worldwide disaster.
Though the risk is generally seen as less than it was in the Cold War, one area for particular concern is the possibility of a “nuclear winter”. This could occur when a layer of smoke, caused by nuclear detonations, could engulf the earth, blocking out sunlight and destroying plant (and ultimately human) life in the process.
- Natural disease pandemic
Every year more people are becoming infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. This is one area in which natural, rather than man made, circumstances are contriving to endanger human health. Deadly diseases, such as HIV, already exist in nature but the problem isn’t so much with one particular illness, it’s when a virus or harmful bacterium emerges that brings together several key factors: incurable, fatal and easily transmitted between hosts. Some experts suggest that, if there is a world-changing disaster, a mass pandemic may be the most likely eventuality.
The trouble for survivalists is that deadly diseases can be difficult to prepare for. A bug-out spot that can be quickly reached and maintained without significant human contact may be the best option in this regard.
- Societal economic collapse
To say that the world is a complex place is a huge understatement. The vast, interconnected economic and political systems that we have created are growing increasingly unruly and out of control. The breakdown of these could easily lead to widespread lawlessness and the breakdown of key pieces of infrastructure like healthcare and food supply chains. There are many potentially catastrophic events that could occur on the world stage and lead to global disorder. With institutions like the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank growing ever more powerful, their demise may well precipitate further worldwide chaos. Also worth briefly mentioning is the possibility that governments may mismanage the complex institutions that they are given custodianship over.
Fortunately for survivalists, this is one area where preparedness can really make the difference. Moving to a sustainable, self-sufficient model of living, outside of modern societal infrastructure, can allow those people that are well-prepared to maintain a safe, resource-rich standard of living.
- Asteroid strike
This is another area where many experts are particularly pessimistic about humanity’s future chances of survival. A potential asteroid strike is one of the best-understood potential disasters and destruction to the Earth and humanity would likely be due to damage to the biosphere, as in the case of a “nuclear winter”.
Scientists are constantly discovering new asteroids that could slam into one of the Earth’s many oceans (the most likely spot for a collision) with widespread damage caused by the ensuing tsunamis. If you consider how catastrophic Hurricane Katrina was, along with the slowness of the response, you should have a pretty good idea of how bad a full-scale asteroid collision might be.
- Volcanic Eruption
There are a few potential outcomes as far a volcanoes are concerned. I know that I keep returning to dust clouds, but they comprise one of the deadliest possible threats to humanity simply because of the array of potential causes. If there is a significant eruption, global dust clouds could lead to what’s called a “volcanic winter”, with life on Earth becoming increasingly difficult as the sun’s rays are absorbed.
Alternatively, if a volcano or series of volcanoes were to erupt on the ocean’s floor, the heating effect could cause the wholesale exodus of entire marine populations. The net impact of this on the global food chain could result in global famine and species extinction.
So there you have it! Our choice of the six likeliest disaster scenarios that could occur in the 21st century. What are your thoughts? Have we hit the nail on the head or missed the mark completely? Let us know in the comments section below!