- Solar Flare: A large solar event has the potential to knock out electrical systems across the world. This threat is so serious that the United Kingdom’s Cabinet Office has added it to the list of National Civil Emergencies, alongside terrorism and pandemics. Imagine for a second that all or most civilian electrical systems world-wide turn off at the same time. You are sitting in your office or home, waiting for it to come back on. Your phone doesn’t work, so you don’t know what’s going on. Your car won’t start, unless it’s pretty old. How long before people realize they can start looting? How long will it take to get power back up? The entire grid has just gone down, and you don’t even know it.
All economic activity stops, all transportation systems stop (no red lights even), all communication stops and we are left, literally, in the dark. Pretty soon you start hearing gunshots, and you start to panic when all the food in your refrigerator spoils. The police are overwhelmed, there are military jets flying overhead and you have no idea what is going on. So, you load your gun (if you have one) and get ready for the worst. One of the scariest parts of this scenario is that there is a strong possibility of major solar flares in 2012-2013. We’ll see.
- EMP Bomb: Just like a solar flare, only this one has intent. A nuclear warhead detonated highly above the earth’s surface would cause an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that would destroy almost all electronics, from power plants, to computers, to cars. All microchips are fried. Planes start dropping from the sky, their electronics destroyed.
The U.S. Government has contingencies for this event. It will most likely triggered by a foreign nation, as a first act of war. But while the Military is engaged trying to defend our homeland, civilians will be left in chaos. As all modes of production cease, people will run out of food and water. Anarchy ensues.
- Computer Virus: How much of society is controlled by computers? Both the U.S. and China have entire military organizations dedicated to cyber warfare. In 2010, a cyber-attack took down a nuclear plant in Iran. These programs already exist. When computers are manufactured, it is possible for a virus (or any program) to be implanted into the hardware. All it takes is the right command and then: self-destruct.
This is not a simple matter of our iPads not working anymore. The result would be similar to an EMP blast or solar flare; the entire grid will go down. Just like that, society crumbles.
- Global Pandemic: The Black Death killed nearly one third of the total population, and that was before you could travel from China to New York City in less than a day. While there is no current disease with the required capabilities, all it takes is one. One strain of untreatable influenza; one infectious disease with a high death rate; Mother Nature getting one step ahead of us and bam.
These ultra-deadly viruses don’t exactly appear every day. There are many contingencies for more normal pandemic threats, such as swine flu for example. Still, the danger is how fast all of this could occur. Vaccinations would quickly run out (if they exist) and people would be left alone under quarantine.
- Global Nuclear War: With the push of a button, death unlike anything ever seen by mankind takes to the sky and falls back down upon us like the wrath of God. In the event of an attack on American population centers with 100 bombs, an estimated 20% of the population would be immediately killed by heat, shocks and instant radiation effects. Increase the amount of weapons to 1,000, and the number climbs to half the population. There are 4,200 strategic operational nuclear weapons globally as of 2012. The total inventory amounts to around 19,000. One U.S. Trident sub carries around 120 independently targetable strategic nuclear warheads.
Then the nuclear fallout starts. Millions are dying from radiation poisoning, and the global climate entering a nuclear winter. At this point, society is gone. What’s left of the government is hiding in a bunker several miles below ground. You are on your own.
- Economic Collapse: Take one look at the Euro and you realize that a total global economic collapse is possible. In April, MIT researchers concluded that on the current path, a global economic collapse would occur as early as 2030. Currently, the trouble in Europe with Greece and the debt crisis has held the DJIA to around no gain compared with one year ago, during a “recovery.” So let’s think about this. Government spending in Greece, not exactly one of the world’s largest players, is keeping the United States economy from growing. Of course there are many other factors and this is an oversimplification, but still, it shows how fragile the economy really is right now. The Federal Reserve is printing like the dickens to keep interest rates low. But what happens when inflation spikes? What happens when a dollar can’t buy anything?
We’ll be left with what we have on us. Those of us with stockpiles of food and goods will become proverbial millionaires overnight. Farmers will be the new elite. But then again, when someone has and someone has not, the second tries to take it by force. People start looting. The National Guard and Military are deployed, but the Government doesn’t have any money to pay them. Many defect and become marauders themselves.
If any country weathers the storm better, they invade the others. China marches in, taking the U.S. military completely out of the picture of civil unrest. Think about the Occupy Wall Street protests. Then remove the police, and remove all of the privileges and resources these “99%ers” do have. Starting to get the picture?
- Natural Disaster: How long did it take for looting to start after Katrina? Less than a day. Maybe it’s more common in America than other places; take the tsunami Japan for example. But for the people involved in even a small scale natural disaster, they are on their own until help comes. Hurricane preparedness gives us a small taste of what a large catastrophe will look like.
There are so many ways the earth can shake us out of existence. Asteroids, super-storms, massive flooding, the list goes on. People will be left with what they have on them or in the home to eat, drink, and protect themselves.
- Lack of Resources: When a population exceeds its environment’s ability to support it, a natural snapback occurs. In the case of humans, war usually ensues. If there is not enough food, people starve. Although, this doesn’t happen all at once.
Imagine a scenario where there is an extreme global drought. Crop yields are down for years, and high density population centers are the first to suffer. The price of commodities soar, and people can’t buy food. Emergency measures are taken by governments, but there simply isn’t enough to go around, even with rationing. Early in this process we start seeing protests in the streets. “Don’t take my dinner!” “Where’s the beef?” Protests turn to riots. The National Guard is called in. Nations struggle to control their populations, if they haven’t already rallied them into invading other countries a-la Germany 1938. The rule of law collapses, first in small pockets in third world countries. This continues to spread until population equilibrium is reached… in the most Darwinian sense.
- Terrorists/Anarchists: There are plenty of people who just want to watch the world burn. If you’ve ever seen Live Free or Die Hard, you have a Hollywood taste of what this might look like. The possibility of nuclear terrorism also exists. Dirty bombs detonated in highly populated areas would not cause much death, but would create panic and flood hospitals.
The main danger of individuals would be in the form of a computer virus. Nuclear weapons capable of an Armageddon level event are not available to most nations, let alone individuals. But anyone with a computer and some savvy could create a program that could disrupt infrastructure and financial software. Some call it a Fire Sale: everything must go. Remember the flash crash? Imagine a sudden wholesale dumping of stocks based on a glitch in the system. Suddenly the technology that we rely on turns on us, and we are left trying to pick up the pieces.
- Zombies: Not to make light of the event, but when a man in Miami eats the face off another man, it’s time to pack up your zombie gear. Zombies are everywhere in culture. Books like “The Zombie Survival Guide” provide practical tips on how to survive the incoming hoard. Grab a gun, barricade the doors and turn off the lights. “They’re coming to get you Barbara” (George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead).
In all seriousness, there currently are drugs in existence that lobotomize the frontal lobe. This is only a few steps away from the traditional Voodoo Zombies. It is no stretch of the imagination to say that a virus can mutate, or be created, to infect the higher faculties of humans. This would leave the animal “hind-brain” which is only concerned with survival. Bloodthirsty half humans would roam the streets, murdering and infecting those in the way. Although we wouldn’t see corpses literally rising from the grave, brain eating isn’t out of the question.
The Guardian Solar Explosion Threat: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/mar/18/solar-storm-flare-disruption-technology
Solar Storm Warnings: http://solarstormwarning.com/
National Geographic: Electronic Armageddon: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/national-geographic-channel/full-episodes/ends-of-the-earth-1/ngc-electronic-armageddon-1/
Middleages.org The Black Death: http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/black-death.htm
Fox News U.S. Pandemic Plan: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,518203,00.html
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/nukes/nuclearweapons/nukestatus.html
Nuclear Darkness Global Nuclear Arsenal: http://www.nucleardarkness.org/globalnucleararsenal/globalarsenalgraphic/
Smithsonian Magazine Looking Back on the Limits of Growth: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Looking-Back-on-the-Limits-of-Growth.html
The New York Times Dirty Bomb Threat: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/09/nyregion/09dirty.html
JPLabs.com Dirty Bomb: http://www.jplabs.com/html/dirty_bomb.HTM
IMDb Live Free or Die Hard: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0337978/
Natural News Zombie Apocalypse: http://www.naturalnews.com/035990_zombie_apocalypse_Miami_police.html