Gather 'round the campfire, kiddos. Not too close, though. Be careful of the crackles and sparks from the flames. No need to be scared of the pitch black beyond, anyway. Those rustles and rattles out in the darkness, that's just the wind. Pretty sure it is, at least.
In any case, what we're going to be talking about around our circle of amber is much more frightening than anything the might be out there. The tales we're passing around the campfire tonight reside in the realm of global destruction.
At some point in the future -- perhaps near, perhaps not -- we're all going to die. That is to say, the human species is going to be done existing. Maybe it'll happen because of a meteor, a super-volcano, or a man-made nuclear winter. More likely, one of the four necessities for survival (food, water, shelter, clothing) will go kaput.
Being the food section and all, we're going to focus on that first one.
Marine Food Chain Collapse
When we think about rising carbon dioxide levels, we generally focus on rising temperatures caused by greenhouse gases. That's bad enough. But another effect of rising CO2 levels is its reaction with sea water creating carbonic acid, making the oceans more acidic. When you change an entire habitat like that, there's a greater likelihood, as this report puts it, of a "global marine food chain collapse."
How will this manifest? Picture miles of coastlines littered with beached whales, dried coral reefs scattered across the ocean floor, and entire schools of fish floating on the surface of the seas like ghost ships rocking and swaying in pale moonlight of the night sky. So enjoy Fish Fridays while you can.
This is what industrial farming hath wrought. Factory farms, the solution to feeding the world's booming population growth, is turning the world into a barren husk. Manure from factory farms spill into our drinking water. Antibiotic abuse allows the proliferation of superbugs. On top of that, the lack of rainfall and overtaxed lands allow for more a extended, more devastating Dust Bowl to wreck havoc on our once abundant lands. This is the scenario that leads to a future out of the Mad Max movies.
Worldwide Agricultural Disease
This scenario's been made popular by films like Outbreak or Contagion. (Or, if you want to get more Halloween-themed, zombie thrillers like 28 Days Later and World War Z.) In this scenario, rather than infection being spread from human-to-human, the disease attacks plant-life. What kind of disease? Say something like Ug99, a strand of wheat steam rust that's currently spreading throughout Africa and the Middle East, leaving 50-80% crop losses in its wake.
If that's too removed a threat for you to properly envision, go ahead and picture a worldwide plague of super-locusts that'd even make the towering, bearded figures of the Bible shudder in terror.
The Butterfly-Effect of FrankenCreatures
All it takes is one. One tiny, little, perhaps even cute genetically-modified creature -- say, a fish engineered to be bigger, badder, stronger, and tougher than the rest -- to escape from its enclosure. If it finds its way into the ocean, or deep into the wilderness, or out into our open skies, it will begin to feed. And feed. And feed. And then, eventually mate.
Now, the production and introduction of this new species into our food chain may have no effect on the way we live. Or it may end up eating the species that are keeping the world in its current state of balance.
While the above scenarios take some dominos to fall in order to get us to global collapse, this one doesn't need much provocation. It'll just happen with us doing things we normally do. Earlier this year, the Global Sustainability Institute released the results of a computer model that calculated when our current mode of living would prove to be officially and irreversibly unsustainable. Their answer? 2040.
As the report says:
The results show that based on plausible climate trends, and a total failure to change course, the global food supply system would face catastrophic losses, and an unprecedented epidemic of food riots. In this scenario, global society essentially collapses as food production falls permanently short of consumption.
So, campers, if you just hold on for another quarter-century, you may see an event unfold that no previous human could claim witness to: the end of the world.
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