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All End of the World Predictions Proved Wrong, So Far

If Water Dries Up, Drought Follows - Tomas Castelazo

Major religions, sects or Hollywood prophesying Armageddon – the fact is that while no doomsday scenarios have been fulfilled yet, they could be in the end.

In the history of mankind, there have been thousands of predictions about the end of the world. Christians are not alone in believing that prophesied events (in Christianity’s case, the second coming of Jesus, the war of Armageddon, the birth of the antichrist, the Tribulation, the Rapture and horrific natural disasters will trigger TEOTWAWKI (‘The End of the World As We Know It’). However, to take just 2006 to demonstrate the point, according to Religious Tolerance, Ontario, there were 15 significant predictions; obviously none materialised.

They ranged from a major earthquake-storm in January, centred on Los Angeles; in May a comet remnant would cause a massive tsunami in the Atlantic; the wiping of Israel off the map on 22 August (a significant date in the Islamic calendar) and nuclear war beginning in September. There was also a feeling in some quarters that the date 06-06-06 would prove to be deeply significant. It didn’t.

Prediction Failure Can Still Mean Success

Often even basic weather forecasts are spectacularly wrong. In October 1987, Michael Fish, a forecaster employed by the UK’s Meteorological Office, presented the weather report on BBC TV, saying: ‘Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way… well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t. Within hours the worst storm to hit England since 1703 caused damage estimated at £1 billion and killed 18 people.

Fish was lambasted, and the “Michael Fish Effect” is now the unofficial description of forecasts which always take the worst possible outcome to avoid being caught out by events later. In fact, technically, he was right, according to the BBC later, he was referring to a cyclone in the west Atlantic. The controversy enabled him to earn a decent living in retirement in appearances.

Hollywood has been no slouch at cashing in on apocalyptic stories and ideas, some from real life events, some from the wilder reaches of science-fiction. Disasters, man-made and natural, have made the perfect movie template: ‘a small band of dysfunctional, culturally-diverse, incompatible people including an unlikely hero/heroine who saves the day, survives the initial shock, so they can re-establish life in a new world order’. They also give real scope for experimenting in particularly exciting technology and special effects.

Reality Is More Real Than Hollywood

Disasters that could happen are many, and often one is linked to another in a chain reaction. Drought is a real fear, even without global warming. Famine brought on by drought kills millions in the world already.

Sea level rises, changing weather or tidal flows cause floods with the resultant loss of life, food supplies now and future, power and shelter, which in turn lead to famine, diseases and pressures on non-flooded land and possibly hordes of refugees.

Tsunamis are potentially devastating wave trains caused in water by earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, explosions, and even the impact of cosmic bodies, such as meteorites. Hurricanes and tornadoes regularly unleash terrifying power and create further dangers like fire, flooding, accidents and loss of food/water.

Volcanoes and/or earthquakes, besides triggering tsunamis and seismic earth shifts, are themselves direct bringers of death (and famine; fire; explosions; pollution; illnesses; pressure/conflict on food, water, medicines, shelter; and floods of seas and rivers, again perhaps leading to tsunamis), in a vicious circle.

Global fire and/or increased desertification could follow weather changes, lack of water, agricultural practices, careless human behaviour. Man’s mishaps or even somebody’s crazy attempt to control others, could cause any number of disasters. Chemicals could escape, spreading pollution on a truly catastrophic scale. Bugs and insects, germs and parasites and new diseases could evolve beyond man’s capacity to control them.

It’s possible to imagine disastrous combinations, each compounding the next. Nanobots injected to cure cancers, go crazy. Food experiments, harvesting body parts, technology breaks down to the point of total, absolute gridlock. Cloning gets beyond sensibility; viruses escape; forgotten earth organisms and creatures fight back (rats, ants, termites), food scares/poisoning wipe out millions; wars over food and water break out in a spiral that leads to a nuclear, viral, scorched winter.

Water, Water Everywhere

Most doomsday scenarios are fit for Hollywood, as defined above. However, one truth is that they all can be exacerbated by insufficient drinking water. Water is the essence of life; people can survive longer without food than without water. The notion that it’s more valuable than anything else is well understood.

If people in water-rich lands are asked: ‘For Christmas, would you rather have free tickets to a game/concert by your favourite team/group, or a bottle of clean drinking water?’ they should find it shocking that so many people have no fresh drinking water, literally on tap. So, the lack of potable water across swathes of the globe may be the single biggest danger facing mankind.

Unless it’s terrorism as a threat to global structures, pollution on a scale that defies what is currently predicted, or simply that earth temperature does rise by six degrees and either the earth is submerged in ice-cap annihilation, or methane released from the seabed is ignited by lightning or man-made spark to unleash explosions greater than all the bombs on earth.

All this, without considering possible destruction from beyond earth: asteroids/metereorites or human debris from space, viruses, radiation, alien life forms/other intelligences or the supernatural. Whatever the threat that effectively ends the world, if it comes about, there will be a small band of dysfunctional, culturally-diverse, incompatible people including an unlikely hero/heroine who saves the day, survives the initial shock, so they can re-establish life in a new world order. Or is that just Hollywood?

Is it sensible to make any predictions at all?

First published on Suite 101, 5 September 2010.

Photo: If Water Dries Up, Drought Follows – Tomas Castelazo

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