How does the world end? With a bang, or as poet T.S. Eliot suggested, a whimper? Humans have been pondering the end of days since we first contemplated our mortality.
The threats to our earliest existence were mostly from phenomena beyond our control, such as massive volcanic eruptions, floods, pestilence, and ice ages, to name a few. In time, we have become the biggest menace to our survival, through conventional, biological, chemical, and nuclear warfare, as well as the despoiling of the environment.
The Global Challenges Foundation, which endeavors to reduce the problems that threaten humanity, compiles an annual report on global catastrophic risks. Besides nuclear war and global warming, the Stockholm, Sweden-based organization also addresses risk scenarios involving collisions with asteroids, supervolcanic eruptions, and the emerging field of nanotechnology.
In its most recent report published in September, the foundation said, “The extent to which we protect our natural environment and transform harmful patterns of consumption in the next 50 years will shape our far future, over the next 10,000 years and beyond.”
Scientists have determined that 99.9% of all species that ever existed are now extinct, largely because of five catastrophic events in Earth’s history. And according to a recent report from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, seven out of 10 biologists think we are in the midst of a sixth extinction wave that could eliminate 90% of all species today.
So what makes humankind unique? Nothing really and there is no reason why we will not join the 99% of species that have left Earth’s stage. Our future largely depends on our actions — present and future.
We do not know how it all will will end, but scientists, philosophers, cultural pundits and theologians have all weighed the possibilities. With their considerations in mind, 24/7 Wall St. has compiled a list of the way the world could end by reviewing sources such as Discover and Popular Mechanics magazines, Science Alert, and Live Science, and other online resources.