Thursday, December 15, 2011

Humanity's Eight Closest Calls With Extinction

Counting Down Our Species' Greatest Brushes with Complete Eradication

 

I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, but apparently, there are a lot of people out there that think the world is going to come to an end in about a year’s time.

And then, even if Herman Cain doesn’t get elected, there’s still that whole Mayan calendar thingy to worry about.   

No matter what 2012 throws at us, whatever's supposed to eradicate humanity better be something fierce, because the species has damn near survived just about every calamity possible since homo got erectus. In fact, when you look at the catastrophic events that human beings have waltzed through - in addition to the near-apocalypses that we managed to avoid by the skin of the skin of our collective teeth - it appears that nothing short of the planet getting McGangBanged by the Sun and Jupiter is going to keep human life from trucking along on spaceship Earth.

So, just how close has humanity gotten to complete obliteration, you may be asking yourself? Well, homo sapiens have played evolutionary Houdini more than a time or two in the 200,000 or so years we’ve been on the planet, and the only thing more surprising than how many times we’ve escaped certain annihilation is just how close we’ve been to guaranteed extinction not just once, but several times throughout history.

It seems as if humanity has played the Rocky Balboa to cosmological fate’s Ivan Drago ever since we diverged from our orangutan ancestors. Ice ages, mega-famines, super-diseases, ultra-volcanoes - and during those rare off years when mother nature wasn’t trying to wipe us off the planet - we we’re busy dwelling whether or not we should just use our nuclear uber-weapons to do ourselves in.

The story of humanity, up to this point, has really been the most remarkable survival story ever told, this perpetual, you’ve-got-to-be-shitting-me roll call of near terminal calamity after near terminal calamity, an almost endless parade of would-be apocalypse scenarios that, in a direct bitch slap to probability, we’ve somehow managed to surmount or circumvent time and time again.

So what exactly have we overcome, you may be pondering? Well, I’ve narrowed my list down to eight doomsday scenarios that, through some miraculous, inexplicable fortune, our species has been able to avoid.

Now, who’s ready to get all paranoid up in this mother?

HUMANITY’S EIGHT CLOSEST CALLS WITH EXTINCTION!





NEAR EXTINCTION EVENT #08
The Year Without A Summer

Pictured: The thing that probably killed half of your ancestors two hundred years ago.

In 1815, the Tambora volcano, which is situated off the coast of Indonesia, erupted. Well, erupt is sort of an ill-fitting term here, as the nomenclature “The earth pretty much exploding from the inside out” is more or less what actually happened.

There’s this thing called the “Volcanic Explosivity Index” which measures eruptions much in the same way the Richter Scale measures the magnitude of earthquakes. The Tambora eruption was the absolute largest since humans had recorded history, scoring a 7 on the VEI scale (the equivalent of a 10 on the Richter) and making Krakatau and Pompeii  look like squished zits by comparison. In addition to killing just about everybody in a 200 mile radius, the eruption had the added benefit of spewing so much ash into the ozone layer that it pretty much blacked out the sun for a good year afterward, turning the entire planet into a souvenir snow globe for just about all of 1816...hence, why many historians often refer to it as “the year without a summer.”

If you’re wondering just how much of an impact one volcanic eruption in southeast Asia can have, chew on this: the eruption not only royally effed up the Pacific rim, but plunged Europe and the Americas into months of aberrant frigid weather. The highlights include a doubled mortality rate throughout Europe (complete with a Typhus outbreak that killed a good 100,000 Irishmen), a massive rice famine in China, a worldwide cholera outbreak, a Hungarian mega-blizzard (in which, reportedly, turd-colored snow blanketed the entire country for a better part of the year) and crop failures in New England and Canada so vast that it ultimately led to entire agricultural industries relocating halfway across the countries.

For all of you folks wondering just how fast climate change takes, 1816 proves that it's an incredibly short turnaround. In Connecticut and New York, the city streets were iced over in June, and in Montreal that summer, the city was covered in about a foot of snow. To make matters worse, Mother Nature apparently developed bipolarity that year, too, as temperatures in the mid-Atlantic frequently fluctuated from normal seasonal temperatures to below freezing levels in the same day. Oh, and did I mention that for most of the year, half the Eastern seaboard was shrouded in an enigmatic red mist of volcanic fog?

The breakdown in Europe was especially severe, as it almost led to the complete downfall of civilization within the continent. Arson, looting, pillaging and sundry other forms of chaos reigned as starved and diseased villagers ransacked one another like they were in "State of Emergency" or something - in Sweden, the proverbial shit hit the fan so hard that people had to resort to eating grass to stay alive.

As bad as it was, 1816 - often given such whimsical nicknames as "eighteen hundred and froze to death" - could have been WAY worse. Had the weather freakiness and accompanying famines continued for a few more years, it's pretty much a guarantee that there would have been some MAJOR political revolutions going on throughout Europe, and the likelihood of a super pandemic emerging would have been way, way higher than any of us would like to imagine. And speaking of global disease outbreaks...


NEAR EXTINCTION EVENT #07
The Bubonic Plague

I wonder why you never see this at Ren-Faires?

Yeah, yeah, everybody knows how bad the Bubonic Plague was. By the time most of us are in the fifth grade, we’ve probably had to do at least one project about the Black Death in class, so we consider ourselves bona fide experts on the subject at hand. The thing is, we really don’t have a proper grasp of a.) just how ghastly the plague was, and b.) just how many people died as a result of it. . .primarily because so many Europeans kicked the bucket that there was hardly anybody around long enough to scribble down accurate statistics.

The Plague, for all intents and purposes, wasn’t the first time the Bubonic Plague that threatened all of civilization. Nor, technically, was it the absolute deadliest such pandemic in human history. However, in hindsight, it probably came closer to wiping out the species than most analysts observe. . .or would care to consider, for that matter.

Depending on who you ask, the Bubonic Plague managed to off somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of the entire European population from the 13th to 17th centuries. According to some analysts, once you factor in worldwide deaths stemming from the disease, you could be looking at a death toll about twice as costly as World War II.

The Bubonic Plague is one of those cruel, bitter in-jokes that makes you wonder why the universe hates the English so much. You see, the Bubonic Plague began right around the same time the Dark Ages came to a close; which meant that as soon as Western civilization was ready to make that great technological leap forward, it had to do so with feet covered in gangrenous boils. Needless to say, the Plague not only came dangerously close to wiping out Western progress, in a lot of ways, it pretty much succeeded - had the pandemic not occurred, it’s quite likely we would have encountered the Renaissance about three hundred years later. . .which, if you believe in the literal definition of history, would have resulted in an alternate reality where George Washington had a Facebook account.

Although it sounds sort of douchey to look back on an event that murdered half a continent as “a stroke of good luck,” that’s precisely what the Bubonic Plague was. You see, back in the Medieval days, people really didn’t do much traveling - in fact, the average European probably traveled no further than 20 miles away from his or her place of birth throughout his or her entire lifetime. Since people were so isolated, disjointed and virtually quarantined as communities already, the highly infectious disease was pretty much relegated to specific towns, which meant as long as you carried an oversized bird beak filled with crushed up flowers and  knew where not to go, you had a pretty high likelihood of avoiding the Plague like. . .well, the Plague.

A lot of people tend to think that the Plague was an epidemic that only affected the white folk, but in reality, the disease was pretty common in Asia, the Mideast and Saharan Africa. Once again, the fact that transportation was so gloriously primitive was sort of our unintended saving grace here, so even if a traveler contracted the disease in one part of the world, odds are, he or she would most likely be as dead as a doornail before they even got halfway home. This, of course, results in one of the most ironic ironies in the history of irony: the Bubonic Plague was a direct result of primitive technologies, and our humanity was inadvertently spared BECAUSE of our primitive technologies. Had the Plague flared up about three hundred years later - when global transportation was fairly commonplace - we would probably be looking at a much, much higher worldwide death toll, with at least half of the planet succumbing to the pandemic. Pending the disease spread to more remote places on the map - the Americas, Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa - we’re definitely looking at the virtual eradication of entire races of indigenous peoples here.

Even after the Plague suddenly disappeared around the 1600s, the after effects on humanity were being felt all the way up until the mid 20th century, as the post-plague population numbers of Europe didn’t fully recover until the early 1900s. . .just in time, of course, to whittle those pesky figures away once again with back-to-back World Wars.

And, thankfully, the Bubonic Plague has been officially “cured” by modern science, which really isn’t shocking, since health care 600 years ago consisted primarily of stabbing people and getting them to hock loogies in buckets until they bought the farm.

Well, except for this one guy in Africa, who has apparently developed a case of a treatment resistant strain of the disease. But hey, it’s not like we’re at any risk of another pandemic of the like, right? RIGHT?

NEAR EXTINCTION EVENT #06
World War III NARROWLY Averted (Part One)

A man who knew that there was only one pathway to prosperity and peace: one paved with lots and lots of dead Soviets.

Following the Allied Victory on May 8, 1945, many Europeans wondered just how long until World War III would break out. Well, had Winston Churchill had his way, it would’ve kicked off right then and there.

It’s no surprise that Churchill wasn’t really a fan of Joseph Stalin. In fact, Churchill was so damned certain that eventually, those godless Communists would try to succeed where Hitler failed that he engineered plans for a counter-strike to a potential Soviet invasion before Berlin had even fallen.

Before the war in the Pacific theater was even finished, Churchill drew up plans for combating the Soviet Union, pending they staged an invasion of Europe. Churchill’s blueprint, the not-at-all-ominously titled “Operation: Unthinkable”, involved pretty much every planet on the earth attacking the U.S.S.R. in case they made any indications of eastern movement - so, yeah, as much as Churchill went on and on about this being retaliatory plan, all signs point to this thing being a preemptive strike designed to cripple the Soviet Union pronto.

The thing that kept Churchill’s plan from occurring was, primarily, the fact that the U.S. was still sort of fighting World War II at the time. Churchill sent several cables to Truman, who I can only expect replied with “BRB, FIGHTN JPNSE, NO THX KBYE.” Without U.S. backing, Churchill knew that his plan was quite unlikely to be implemented, since he pretty much credited the U.S. with winning the last war by itself. Even so, Churchill was so CERTAIN of the Soviet Threat that he continued to push for the preemptive strike all the way up into the early 1950s, getting shot down by pretty much everybody he talked to as “some batshit insanery right there.”

Had Churchill decided to follow through on his plan sans United States involvement, it’s pretty much a given that Europe would’ve been annexed into the Soviet Union shortly thereafter. With a ten million man army, Stalin’s forces outnumbered almost the entire remaining armies of Europe combined; the Russians would’ve most likely steamrolled over a war-ravaged Europe on a B-line to the U.K., and that’s where things would’ve gotten really interesting.

The only reason the U.K. didn’t get demolished a la France during WWII was because it had a natural barrier keeping the Germans from having an easy access point into the country. That, and Russia hasn’t had much historical success with its navy, getting its ass kicked by both Japan and…if you can believe it, Finland... in battles early in the 20th century. Now, there is a likelihood that the Brits could have staved off an all out Soviet attack as long as they were well buttressed by Scandinavian flanks and a secured waterway, but that would only delay an inevitable beat down from Russians, not prevent one. That means that, eventually, the Russians would either invade the island or the Brits would have to enter Soviet territory. And when this thing would’ve gotten to a ground battle, it’s all but certain that Stalin’s armies would’ve kicked so much limey ass their boots would’ve been permanently stained citrus green.

For those of you keeping score at home, a non-U.S. backed European attack against the U.S.S.R. would’ve been a suicidal plan that gave Stalin complete control over every continent on the planet except the Americas. . .which, obviously, would’ve led to an impending World War IV, probably no sooner than the early 1980s.

Of course, that’s not to say that the U.S. DIDN’T have its own plans for instigating World War III in place at the same time frame…

NEAR EXTINCTION EVENT #05
World War III NARROWLY Averted (Part Two)

One of America's greatest wartime leaders, seen here probably envisioning the death of millions upon millions of Asian people.

During World War II, the U.S. had the good fortune of enlisting two of the most brilliant military strategists in history in BOTH theaters of warfare. While Eisenhower led the Allied Troops to victory of Nazism, General Douglas MacArthur waited breathlessly for his opportunity to pounce on the carcass of what used to be Japan…a country, by the way, that was ready to do battle without a navy, an air force, land vehicles, or ammunition. Of course, Truman made an executive call that quickly brought that prospect to an end, and MacArthur was soon reassigned the not at all ironic duty of rebuilding the nation he was sort of responsible for turning into a rock quarry.

Fast forward about five years later, when America’s next major military ordeal flares up in Korea. MacArthur, now appointed general of the Korean operation by Harry S. Truman, says that he has a brilliant plan to end the skirmish in a hurry. Truman, no doubt intrigued by the World War II hero’s plans, is somewhat shocked by MacArthur’s idea. . .namely, the fact that he wanted to drop nearly two dozen atomic bombs on Korea and just call it a day.

The shocking part, if you dare imagine it, isn’t actually the fact that MacArthur wanted to dole out ten times as much atomic death to the Koreans as we did to Japan, but the fact that MacArthur was ready to stage a military coup to make it a reality. The Joint Chief of Staffs - perhaps realizing that turning a nuclear arsenal into weapons of conventional warfare wasn’t the wisest idea - went to Truman, whom subsequently fired MacArthur’s ass on the spot for even campaigning for a nuclear attack, let alone threatening a goddamn overthrow of the executive branch to get it in action.

The ramifications had a.) MacArthur promulgated an official coup attempt or b.) Truman actually authorized MacArthur’s plan would have been absolutely momentous. In the first scenario, we’re looking at the probable dissolution of the entire U.S. military, and most certainly, a long, long moratorium on international militarization for the United States. Although it seems pretty unbelievable, there have been a number of coups staged against the standing U.S. government throughout the last two hundred and fifty years, from a pissed off moonshine distillers revolt in the late 1700s to DuPont’s failed bid to overthrow FDR in the 1930s. The thing is, we’ve never actually had an internal military overthrow happen here, so had MacArthur commandeered a one-man, non-state-sanctioned onslaught against Korea, there’s no real precedent in place for us to guesstimate what would’ve happened. The only parallel I can think of is Marlon Brando in “Apocalypse Now” - only with freaking nuclear weapons at his disposal.

If the atomic bombs indeed got dropped on Korea (whether by Truman’s authorization or decree of a shirtless, bandana sporting MacArthur), we’re pretty much looking at World War III occurring just five years after WWII ended. China would’ve gotten pissy about us turning its backyard into a radioactive garden, and that probably would’ve given the U.S.S.R. a lot of incentives to retaliate. From there, we’re most likely looking at an all out, pro-wrestling style donnybrook between the capitalists and communists, with central Asia as our three-ringed, steel-caged enclosed Pay-Per-View venue for mayhem.

With European troop numbers extremely depleted following WWII, the communistic nations would have had a staggering man advantage over the ex-Allied Forces. To compensate for a lack of ground forces, this probably means that the U.S. would have gotten even more bomb happy, probably launching a couple of extra atomic bombs at China, Russia, India or anybody else that got too sassy for our liking.

The only thing keeping humanity from evaporating here is that, at the time, the U.S. was the only nation on the planet with a known, sustainable and viable nuclear arsenal (the Ruskies, contemporaneously, were still working the kinks out in their program, mind you). While there would have been untold nuclear-spawned fatalities, I suppose we can take some succor in knowing that those bombs were only headed unidirectionally. . .because the murder of two billion people and turning half the planet into a toxic waste dump is really the best case scenario we can vouch for here.

NEAR EXTINCTION EVENT #04
The Ebola Virus Outbreak of 1976

Yeah, you're going to be having nightmares about this one later...

A lot of times, it’s sort of difficult to gauge just how close humanity has gotten to almost certain doom. In the case of the Ebola Virus Outbreak of 1976, we actually know the precise mileage: only 20 freaking miles.

That year, a mysterious trader waltzed into a Maridi hospital, complaining about a headache, the chills, and the fact that blood was profusely seeping out of every hole in his body. The under-trained, understaffed and under-equipped physicians really didn’t know what to do, and in just a matter of days, half the hospital population had dropped dead.

Now, if you know anything about politics in the Congo, you pretty much know that they don’t give much of a shit about anything. This incident, however, was so pants-pissing horrifying that officials had no option but to call the World Health Organization for back-up, who promptly sent surveyors to Zaire to assess the outbreak. And yeah, just about all of them, died too.

The WHO, realizing that this is one of those scenarios where it’s probably for the best if they interfered, sent more personnel to the area, and in a matter of weeks, the enigmatic Ebola Fever had all but vanished - mostly due to the fact that well over half of the people that contracted it died within hours of catching it.

Since the WHO had their shit together and the outbreak occurred in an extremely remote part of the planet, humanity didn’t just dodge a bullet with the Ebola Outbreak, we dodged the biological equivalent of an all out nuclear blitzkrieg. Had the wayfaring stranger with a bloody bunghole managed to crawl his way into a more densely populated area of Zaire - or god forbid, he managed to make it to a social gathering place, like a market or a roadway - we’re looking at the single greatest pandemic in human history, bar none.

You ever see that movie “Pay It Forward?” Well, back in ‘76, we were this friggin’ close to using that precise model, only the “It” in question was “unstoppable, untreatable grisly death” for millions - and quite possibly billions - of human beings across the globe.

And to think: the ONLY thing that prevented an unparalleled biological catastrophe from decimating civilization 40 years ago was a pair of good running shoes.

NEAR EXTINCTION EVENT #03
All Out Nuclear War NARROWLY Averted (Part 1)

You sunk my battleship...and oh yeah, came this close to instigating global thermonuclear omnicide, too.

There’s this thing you’ve probably heard of called “The Doomsday Clock.”Although the eggheads at the University of Chicago claim that the closest we've ever gotten to being nuclear annihilated was in 1953, we actually came THIS close all-out atomic war in 1962...and had it not been for the bravery of one Russian submarine second-in-command, there's pretty much a 110 percent chance that our grandparents would've been turned into radioactive clay about fifty years ago.

Pending you didn't snooze through your high school U.S. history course, you'd know that in 1962, there was this thing called the Cuban Missile Crisis. Long story short, the Americans and Soviets were ready to blow the living hell out of each other, and each side was waiting for the other to make just the wrong move so we could ka-blooey the dog shit out of the corresponding half a hemisphere. 

Well, on Oct. 27, a goddamn armada of American ships trapped a Soviet sub off the coast of Cuba - a sub that, wouldn't you know, just happened to be equipped with a nuclear arsenal. In other words, the very fate of the species hedged on a game of nuclear chicken between nautical forces - and ever ones to keep hostile events from getting suicidally tense, the U.S. fleet did what any reasonable organization would do to a cornered enemy force that had atomic weaponry: they started dropping depth charges on them to scare them into resurfacing.

The captain aboard the Soviet sub, understandably, started freaking out, thinking that a nuclear war had already started. His political officer likewise panicked, and since they had authorization from Moscow to launch one of their nuclear torpedoes, both of them were WELL beyond ready to send the missiles a flying.

The lone dissenting voice amongst the officers came from the second-in-command, a guy named Vasili Arkhipov. Arkhipov - who already survived a near nuclear mega-disaster a year earlier when the K-19 sub he was on almost melted down - stood his ground and fought against the torpedo launch, ultimately getting his captain to surface. . .thus saving the entire planet from atomic omnicide.

Although Arkhipov's adventures inspired several movies - including "Crimson Tide" and a Harrison Ford movie nobody went to see - he died a relatively unknown soul, receiving very little acclaim upon his death in 1999 - even though he's single-handedly responsible for preventing the absolute closest call we've had to nuclear Armageddon as a species.


NEAR EXTINCTION EVENT #02
All out Nuclear War NARROWLY Averted (Part 2)

What we almost woke up to a good 27 years ago...
…that is, until 1983, when we somehow got even closer than we did in 1962.

For those of you that weren't around in the early '80s, let me put it to you like this: it was a scary, scary time to be alive. As bad as U.S./Soviet relations were in the '60s, things were immeasurably more intensified by the 1980s, thanks to the two nuclear powers collecting a stockpile of weapons large enough to kill everybody on the planet a couple of times over. The fact that we had a probable mental retard serving as U.S. President most certainly did not help matters, either.

Looking back on the chain of events that led to the absolute closest we've ever gotten to realizing World War III thus far is sort of like looking at the craziest ass "Metal Gear" scenario Hideo Kojima could ever dream up.

In 1981, the Soviets began Operation RYAN, the largest intelligence gathering initiative in USSR history, to find out just how likely a nuclear strike by the U.S. would be. In riposte, the U.S. began a series of PSYOP maneuvers, which were basically moving ships and personnel around the Arctic Circle...you know, because making a bunch of trigger happy Reds even more paranoid is the best approach anybody could've taken at the time.

From there, shit got all sorts of real when on March 23, 1983, Ronald Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative, a plan to use outer-space satellites and drones to laser-cannon the shit out of Russia if they ever thought about sending some warheads our way. In response, the Russians shot down a Korean flight that hoovered over their airspace - taking out a crazy ass U.S. congressman from Georgia in the process. Clearly, the stage was being set for some tremendously intense times...but little did anybody know just how unbelievably close we would get to complete nuclear annihilation shortly thereafter.

On Sept. 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov, a duty officer at the the Soviet Union's nuclear early warning command center, received a system report that the United States had launched five ballistic missiles their way. Petrov, who had been rather skeptical of the program's accuracy for some time, decided that the message was erroneous, and decided to not report the detection to his superiors. Oh, and by the way - the Soviet Union's official policy was that if ANY incoming missiles were reported on the Oko System, that meant the entire Soviet arsenal was to be utilized in retaliation. 

Of course, Petrov was in the right - as it turns out, the system accidentally mistook the refraction of the sun through some low-lying clouds as an atomic attack - but had Petrov followed procedure...yeah, none of us would be here right now.

And if you're wondering how the man that literally saved the planet was rewarded, he's currently living as a pensioner in the outskirts of Russia, having received a monetary gift of just $1,000 USD by the Association of World Citizens in 2004 for saving the collective asses of the entire human race...while Madonna reportedly spends that much on body lotion every night of the week.


NEAR EXTINCTION EVENT #01
The Lake Toba Eruption 

Such a lovely view...of the thing that almost wiped us off the planet.

Although humanity has been faced with certain doom several time throughout history, one incident stands head and shoulders above them all as the absolute CLOSEST the species has gotten to extinction. Just how close, you ask?

How about this, amigo: it dropped the worldwide population down to just TWO THOUSAND PEOPLE.

Remember when we were talking about the Tambora Volcano a little earlier? Well, that wasn’t the first time Indonesia came close to killing us all…and nor was it the island’s most proficient attempt at omnicide, either.

The thing about Indonesia is that, for all intents and purposes, the entire nation is basically a volcano. Actually, the entire nation is like some sort of super-duper-mega-volcano, as it rests on this thing called a caldera, which is to the common volcano what a SCUD missile is to a water balloon.

When calderas as MASSIVE as the one at Lake Toba erupt, the result isn’t so much an eruption as it is the earth’s freaking core getting puked into the atmosphere. Keep in mind that calderas are the things that are pretty much responsible for forming most of the land mass in southeast Asia - so every time one of these things go off, it’s like the planet is cranking up a steamroller and preparing to pave over whatever’s in a 500 mile radius. . .and just for good measure, the things typically trigger earthquakes, tidal waves and send enough ash in the atmosphere to trigger overnight ice ages. So in other words, it’s like playing SimCity and hitting the tabs for all of the natural disasters at the same time.

Now, the Lake Toba incident is pretty controversial, because we don’t have too much physical proof that it transpired. This, primarily, is because the eruption killed damn near every living thing on the planet, not to mention that it occurred approximately 70,000 years ago…which was about 64,000 years before we had written accounts of history. Even so, a lot of scientists are pretty sure that it transpired, based on mitochondrial DNA, fossilized remains, and some rather telling geological data that says that something unfathomably massive happened pretty damn close to where Lake Toba is situated today.

At the time of the eruption, human beings were barely recognizable as we know them today, probably looking more like the genetic cross-pollination of hobbits and Monchhichis than Tom Brady and Roseanne Barr. As such, they were probably ill-prepared for a sudden, onset case of doomsday, and an overwhelming majority of the human population was killed off. And by majority, I don’t mean “half plus one”, I mean a good 99.99998 percent of the species.

You know how the Tambora eruption turned the planet into a refrigerator for a year? Well, the Lake Toba eruption disrupted the global climate not for a year, but for about a thousand, ushering in an ice millennium that sent many a species into extinction. . .and humanity survived, by just about the tiniest margin we can dare imagine.

According to the most popular version of the theory, the eruption dwindled the global human population to just 10,000 people - of which only about one fifth were capable of reproduction. That means that no matter who you are or where you’re reading this, your ancestry can be traced back to one of just one thousand pairs of great-to-the-21,000th-power grandparents. So yeah. . .there’s a pretty high likelihood that we’re all humping our genetic cousins at this point in time.

For all of our doom saying and prophesizing about geopolitical events bringing about the end of humanity, historically, our greatest threat comes not from the earth itself, but the unlit powder keg underneath it. You can broker armistice deals and engineer antibodies to fight viruses, but there really isn’t shit you can do to stop a caldera from erupting - nor is there really anything you can do to safeguard civilization from a mega-eruption, either. And although caldera activity of the sort hasn’t transpired on such a massive scale in recorded human history, there’s plenty of geological data out there that proves that ultra-eruptions really aren’t that uncommon of an event throughout pre-history. And then, there’s the data that says there’s increased geological activity going on throughout the Pacific Rim, which may or may not indicate that these dormant mega-volcanoes aren’t all that dead yet.

And the absolute most horrifying thing? The Lake Toba caldera is actually one of the smaller calderas on the planet. The largest super-volcano on the planet isn’t just active, it’s actually one of the most active calderas on Earth, with a history of mini-eruptions that have caused instantaneous climate shifts, not to mention the insta-death of untold indigenous people in the surrounding area. And the geological consensus is that, one of these days, it’s going to not only produce a 7 on the VEI scale, it’s likely to produce an eruption on par - if not even more destructive - than what Lake Toba did 70,000 years back. 

Oh, and one last thing: it isn’t in southeast Asia, but right here in the middle of the freaking United Statesas the most visited national park in the entire country.

But hey, what a great locale for a viewing party on 12-21-12, huh?

1 comment:

  1. they say that the big volcano in yellowrock or what it's called, is not IF it will explode (not erupt, EXPLODE!) but WHEN! they don't know WHEN it will explode, but they know that it WILL!

    ReplyDelete