Be it by solar flares, a nuclear holocaust, the ‘big one’ (storm, earthquake… what have you), or an incurable plague that we never saw coming, the end of the world as we know it is a point of interest in our culture. I cannot say that I share this morbid fascination although I do enjoy Hollywood’s attempts to play out the hypothetical theories.
We are obsessed with death, life’s singular certainty. The death of all we know horrifies and awes us in equal measure. A recurring theme of the apocalypse sub-genre is that of the survivor. Humanity’s last must learn to live again and rebuild.
There are those in real life who are aptly prepared for the end and what comes after. These are not the doomsday sects and cults though I sometimes have difficulty seeing a difference. They are doomsday preppers. As I see it, the people who dedicate their time and sizable portion of their income to preparing for a cataclysmic event that will destroy the globe or at least their part of it are misguided or misinformed or both.
Who would want to survive a nuclear holocaust or a deadly virus? Life would be miserable and hard, then it would end anyway and much sooner. If most of the population has been wiped out, then so have most of the doctors, the engineers, the artists, the story tellers, and the teachers. Sure one or two would survive but without electricity or medicine or the internet. The people left behind would likely not have the skills to rebuild and if they do not destroy each other, nature will take them out anyway.
Also, and this is a big one for me, those who survive will have been prepared for the end and I’m not sure I want to be around these people. Preppers today are paranoid nutjobs who have fully furnished underground bunkers and guns, lots and lots of guns. I am not a hunter, I cannot make the decisions required to survive in a world that has been stripped down to Darwinian principles. If they were right about the ‘big one’ we will never hear the end of it and they will throw it in our faces every time we try to decide that guns should be kept out of common areas.
And if the other survivors wind up being tolerable, there is one thing no one ever seems to consider. Can anyone’s heart take the death of humanity? Insanity would be the only reaction to the decimation of all peoples everywhere. The loneliness and unimaginable scope of the loss would render me incapable of moving on. Perhaps that makes me weak and in times such as we imagine these will be, the weak will die.
Let’s imagine what we know will likely come if all our political and economic systems are not abandoned and better ones (preferable ones that are not based on imperialism and exploitation) are built. I am talking about global warming and climate change. Granted, the effects of global warming on people present themselves as a long game as opposed to the quick devastation brought on by powerful solar flares.
The first great numbers of casualties will be seen in places affected by drought and famine, tsunamis, flooding, and outbreaks of tropical diseases in areas that previously were largely unnafected by them.
The second wave of losses of human lives will be seen in the inevitable conflicts, displaced people and refugees fleeing disaster areas will run to better pastures and there they will find walls and baricades. The human imperative to survive will mean war. The governments of powerful nations with waning resources and a faltering populous will turn to the fertile and productive former colonies, the scramble and partition 2.0. Rebel groups will rise by the thousands and revolutions will be the order of the day. Drones will take to the air and sprinkle the globe with smoke and ash.
War has always been a wonderful time for human invention, so maybe we will find a way to power the world without choking it. Maybe it will be just in time to stop the bleeding. But I think we will invent new ways to take and destroy, to find the edges of morality and cross them.
The destruction will go on until a handful remain, surviving in parts of the world safe from the radioactivity. Who would want to be one of them? To have survived the last great war, seen humanity tear itself apart, seen all other life die by the millions because of us. Staying alive after the end means seeing the last of everything and that would be agony.