THE LONG-PROPHESIZED END of the world is upon us—if you buy into the mania surrounding the end of the Mayan calendar, that is. Though we’ve known for a long time Dec. 21, 2012 will mark the end of humanity, the exact means of our destruction has yet to be decided. Making the case for nuclear war, mass illiteracy, and more, Fulcrum volunteers hash out their favourite end-of-the-world plots.
Canfield Oceans can kill us all
It’s not as flashy as Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow or as well attested as the phenomenon of global warming, but there is a scenario of a climate change-driven apocalypse that could one day destroy most of the life on our planet.
Hidden in the very depths of our oceans are sulfur bacteria. Through their metabolism, they produce hydrogen sulfide, a gas deadly to most living organisms. The only thing keeping them below the sediment are descending currents of water like the Gulf Stream, which replenish the supply of oxygen at these depths.
If, however, global warming were to disrupt these flows, we could slowly see the emergence of acidic bodies called Canfield Oceans taken over by sulfur bacteria and devoid of oxygen. From there, the hydrogen sulfide would emerge into the atmosphere and choke off the vast majority of life on earth.
There’s no certainty that humanity will reach the conditions that have given rise to Canfield Oceans in the past, but there are troubling signs. The last time it occurred, there were 800 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a concentration we are on course to reach by the end of this century.
To paraphrase T. S. Eliot, this could be how the world ends: Not with a bang, but with the smell of rotten eggs.
Y U no like memes?
There were no floods, earthquakes, or other major natural disasters signalling the end to our beloved planet Earth. Nuclear warfare or any other type of warfare, surprisingly, wasn’t to blame for the rise and fall of our civilizations.
It was March 8, 2012 and our love for Internet memes had created destruction, desolation, and devastation. I remember I was sitting at Café Alt when all of sudden some communications student started sputtering and screaming.
“Simba! Don’t go into the dark; that’s Carleton!” and “I can haz… cheeseburger!”
He wasn’t the only student who went off the deep end. It seemed everyone in a five-mile radius from me was clutching their heads and yelling out what sounded like their favourite memes.
While I hadn’t gone crazy—yet—I sprinted to the nearest bathroom, clutching my MacBook and sandwich, praying for safety. I quickly typed Perezhilton.com into my browser to get breaking news on what was happening.
Apparently everyone was going crazy because of memes! On the streets people were uncontrollably shouting their favourite memes, like singing “Never Gonna Give You Up” or reciting Shit [insert a group of people] Say verbatim. It was a scary world—everyone was speaking in memes. I knew we should’ve kept calm and never fucking remixed that poster!
University students have the tastiest brains
Many people believe zombies are creatures that belong solely in the realm of fiction, and that those who believe in a coming zombie apocalypse are all paranoid shut-ins who have an extensive horror movie collection.
What these naysayers don’t realize is much of what we see in the movies, TV, and video games can be found in real life. Remember the disgusting, mind-controlling parasites from the later Resident Evil games? Well, they are frighteningly real and have been known to infect small mammals and sometimes even humans.
The rage virus from 28 Days Later isn’t much of a stretch either. People who have eaten meat laced with mad cow disease have been known to mimic zombie-like behaviour (muscle twitching, changes in gait, etc.), with the disease itself having the potential to switch off the chemical in your brain that separates the civilized you from a mindless, primitive killing machine.
There are also all the advancements in stem cell research, which can literally re-generate dead cells and brain tissue. And don’t forget about nanorobotics, a field that specializes in designing microscopic robots that could easily enter your brain and take over your entire being.
Throw a couple centuries’ worth of evolution into the mix—and some scientists with very loose morals—and suddenly a zombie apocalypse is only an undercooked hamburger or a dropped vial away. Isn’t science fun?
Taking insanity leave
The year is 2062, and it’s a typical Monday morning for Klayton Kiltershanks. The 70-year-old paper-pusher wakes up, downs a few energy drinks and heads off to work in his hovercraft.
While stuck in yet another traffic jam, Klayton accidentally turns the dial to Justin Beiber’s “Grandma” (“Grandma Grandma Grandma Ohhhhh / like Grandma Grandma Grandma Noooooo”) and decides he’s had enough. Stepping out, Klayton snatches a nearby piece of road kill and heads off into what’s left of the bush, searching for a pack of wolves he can call his own.
Klayton lives in a world where pension cuts require people to work into their ‘80s, mental disease is the number one cause of death, and musicians are barred from using more than three chords per song for fear of “confusing their audience.” For him, time with a pack of wolves is a much-needed vacation.
Exposed to the music from his open doors, fellow hovercraftees soon follow his example. Reporters swarm to cover the story, spreading the contagion to their captive audiences around the world.
Soon everyone’s bat-shit crazy, with nobody left to monitor nuclear arsenals, prevent the spread of disease, or turn off the music. So comes the end of humanity—and there’s no one to blame but the Biebs.
Nuclear war will clear the earth
There are currently seven countries confirmed to be in possession of nuclear weapons, and Israel has long been suspected to have developed a nuclear weapons program in secret. Perhaps most alarming, Iran is well on its way to being the newest member of the nuclear club.
Considering many of the current nuclear powers are consistently posturing over going to war with each other, the possibility of seeing nuclear warfare in our lifetime is extremely likely.
Since the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, there have been over 2,000 recorded nuclear detonations. These have been mostly tests in remote locations, with little impact on human life. Still, there have even been situations where the threat of the nuclear apocalypse seemed imminent.
We are currently living in an age where we have the ruler of Iran, a soon to be nuclear country, saying he wants to wipe a neighbouring country off the map, who is thought to be in possession of nuclear weapons. We have the United States saying that they will back Israel in the case of any war with Iran. If a war breaks out, someone would be running for the nuclear football.
Just pray we don’t fumble this play.
A dull demise
For the sake of humanity’s story, I certainly hope we go out with a bang. Make it at least worth their while. Unfortunately, it won’t be some wonderfully poetic destruction because we’re already setting ourselves up to fail in the dullest of ways—we’re becoming illiterate.
In 2008, a report by the Canadian Council on Learning predicted that by 2031, more than 15 million adult Canadians will have low literacy levels. To add insult to injury, Ottawa is the city said to be affected the most, with an estimated 80 per cent increase in illiteracy, meaning 500,000 adults will have a low level of literacy in the capital.
We will become a terrible joke if, in the age of mass communication, the general population struggles with reading. Perhaps that’s the punch line. Develop things that take something as important as language and completely strip it of its value.
An illiterate population is an unintelligent population. Stupidity breeds bad ideas. History has shown that bad ideas spread like wildfire and from there it won’t take too long before one destroys us.
To paraphrase John Waters, we need to make reading cool again. If you go home with someone and they don’t have any books, don’t sleep with them—and besure to clarify that’s why.
Germaphobia pays off
Our population is denser than ever at an average of 122 people per square mile of land, with major cities like Mumbai, Mexico City, and London having people literally living on top of one another. Every day the average person will come into contact with hundreds of people and touch thousands of surfaces, unwittingly spreading millions of germs.
In the 14th century the Bubonic Plague swept through Europe, wiping out an estimated 25 million people, in an age when travelling between cities could take days and between countries could take months.
Today a flight from New York City to Hong Kong can take as little as 17 hours. Disease spreads.
As our medicine has advanced, so too has disease, while phrases like “rapidly spreading,” “highly transmissible,” and “incurable” define newly discovered illnesses.
Recently, researchers in the U.S. and Netherlands genetically engineered a super strain of the highly contagious and currently incurable H5N1 “bird flu” virus. The World Health Organization intends to publish the study, including the procedure used to create the virus. A “how-to” guide for super-virus creation. What could possibly go wrong?
When this, or something like it, gets out—and it always gets out—Contagion will look like a documentary to the race that stumbles on what’s left of us.
It will be a virus that ends us. In the meantime, someone pass the hand sanitizer.