Build Your Bunker Now: Real Life Doomsday Scenariosposted on 4/6/13
Illustrations by Geoffrey Stanton
We beat the Mayan odds and have lived to see the year 2013. Are you celebrating? You shouldn’t. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of existential risks with the potential to drastically restrict or even destroy humanity as we know it. And let’s not forget about the inevitable burning out of the sun! It’s only a matter of time before some guy hits the streets with a megaphone and a cardboard sign that declares when the world will end. I can only hope that cardboard sign addresses some of the real threats that are looming in our future that will probably destroy us all.
Simply put: a bioterrorism attack is the intentional dissemination of a virus, bacteria, or other agent used to cause illness or death. It’s an enticing weapon because agents are fairly cheap to obtain, easy to spread, and can potentially create mass hysteria that is more damaging than the actual agent used. Think back to October 2001 when letters laced with anthrax had been delivered to some journalists and politicians. The anthrax cases killed five people, triggered increases in the government funding for biological warfare research and preparedness, and got the cool media nickname “amerithrax.” Biological terrorism isn’t a new phenom either. Ancient Roman soldiers, having zero shame, frequently threw feces at their enemies. That’s right–poop. But the poop throwing and anthrax mailings aren’t the forms of bio-terrorism that scare me the most. That honor is bestowed upon none other than the smallpox virus. It’s easily transmitted through the air and has a mortality rate of roughly 20-40%. In the 1970s, the virus was eradicated; however, cultures still exist today and could absolutely catastrophic in an event of an outbreak. If the idea of smallpox quickly spreading through a New York City airport isn’t scary enough, feel free to look into botulism, the plague, or viral hemorrhagic fevers–all of which are agents that result in high mortality rates and can create a huge public health crisis. I know I won’t look at any coughing people in an airport the same anymore.
Man-Made Global Warming
So this is a hot-button issue these days. See what I did there? Let’s start with some facts. The industrial revolution created all sorts of technology that makes being a human easier. Great! Additionally, it created societies that were–and most definitely continue to be– dependent on fossil fuel and electricity (which is generated by burning coal). I don’t think anyone would argue that we would be better off without the industrial revolution per se. However, these technological advancements are problematic now because of the greenhouse gas emissions that come with them. Greenhouse gasses basically trap heat in the atmosphere and, in turn, warm the earth. Regardless of whether you actually believe in man-made global warming, the earth is getting hotter. A warmer earth comes with a lot of consequences–drought, rising seas, extreme weather–all of which lead to more deaths and more money being spent. Many scientists believe that we are quickly approaching a point of no return and once that threshold is met, global warming will continue even if we stop putting gas into the air. But don’t worry, it’s cyclical*
Did you know about the supervolcano nestled beneath the rocks of Yellowstone National Park? Kiss your paranoia-free mentality goodbye, my friends, because once you hear the stats on this beast it’s pretty hard not to break ground on that personal bunker. Since a volcano isn’t quite terrifying enough, supervolcanoes exist and are distinct from their little brothers because they are roughly a thousand times bigger. So remember when you learned about Mount St. Helens in fifth grade science class? If the supervolcano under Yellowstone erupted today, it would explode with a force that is a thousand times more powerful. The eruption would likely take out the entire summit, the mountain around it, and the states surrounding Wyoming. If you’re a resident of these areas and you manage to survive the insane outpouring of lava (which you won’t), the eruption of thick ash would stop you from breathing quick enough. Not only would the ashfall enter the jetstream and spread all of the world, it would also kill off a ton of vegetation, threatening the entire world’s food supply. It wouldn’t even matter if us Americans have food, because unless the rest of the world came to our aid to help remove the toxic ash, most of the united states would be uninhabitable for years. Yellowstone’s supervolcano is overdue for an eruption and, lamentably, scientists haven’t yet been able to predict when the next one may come. Will it blow up tomorrow? Probably not…but it could. Think about THAT next time you visit Old Faithful
*Just kidding! It’s not.