Doomsday is something which has fascinated many through the sands of time. Ever since the beginning of time – from ancient cultures to religions and even science-fiction authors of today – the idea of the end of the world has strangely attracted many people. Specific theories are biblical, while others are not just recent but so scientifically sound that we can be sure this may happen.
With that being said, let us look at some of the most famous doomsday scenarios and critique how far it is justified. We would start with the ones prevailing for ages to the most recent ones.
1. Judgement Day
Let’s face it. Most people believe in Judgment Day as a part of their religion. However, no religion claims a specific end day but an extinction event. Respecting different sentiments while taking care of the possibility of human extinction, we can label this possibility a 50-50 and move on to other things which are newer and more specific about their means.
2. Plagues and Virus
The Black Death, or the bubonic plague in Europe, killed 75 to 200 million people across Europe and some parts of Africa and Asia. From 1346 to 1353, there were no vaccines, antibiotics or other medicines to combat the plague, and it is next to impossible to have a mass extinction caused by a deadly virus.
At least, that’s what we believed. The coronavirus emerged from nowhere in 2019. With coronavirus, there were claims that the disease was mass-produced or leaked from laboratories in Wuhan. While the entire scenario appears dubious, creating a virus for full-scale bio-engineered warfare is not beyond our capabilities. Indeed, with the growth of technology, bio-weapons are a distinct possibility.
A doomsday by a virus created by ourselves might set back the evolutionary process of our entire earth by several million years. However, the question is: who would create such a virus? And if such a virus starts taking lives, will vaccines not be invented?
The need for survival is a desperate one, and an apocalypse from a virus is something humans would resist at all costs. It may cost one million deaths, two or even ten – but humans wouldn’t go down without a fight.
For a doomsday like a bio-engineered virus to take place, one must be Machiavellian enough to let even their citizens suffer. The fingers are pointed at most authoritarian nations around the world, which know how to keep their citizens under control, but we cannot be sure that they would be the only ones to do it. Classified documents also show things like tapping phones which were most common worldwide in the 1970s and 1980s.
As the rule of law, however, authoritarianism is one of the most significant markers of a nation being a warmongering one. The question is: Will authoritarianism end the world? Again, the answer is mostly no. The Mongols of medieval times were said to be the most brutal; they ruled from Asia to Europe over vast stretches of land and reduced the global population by 5%.
It caused a cooling down of the temperature of the earth significantly. Manually. Sure, we can kill more, but we can do it much more quickly. Through the touch of a nuclear button, we can never be as vicious as doing it the hard way.
Although the fad of authoritarianism may arise, we as a society have become more humane as time goes by. Hence, rising to absolute authoritarianism – to the point of one culture or tribe or race having complete world domination is a no-brainer. Why is it impossible? More so in the following points!
4. Nuclear Holocaust
Mad man with a red button turning the world into a fiery mushroom? We have heard this repeatedly when we see two nations at loggerheads, one of them being a nuclear power. A nuclear annihilation of the human race is not out of the options, looking at the ambitions of politicians worldwide. However, the chances are pretty slim.
The necessity for nuclear weapons is at an all-time low and will only go lower with time. However, the nuclear arsenal remains large for other uses, such as generating energy. One of the better examples is thorium. Nuclear weapons are more likely to inflict small-scale destruction and immediate reactions from people worldwide to bring the war to an end as quickly as feasible.
We have been through World Wars 1 and 2, and nuclear destruction was one of the reasons behind its halt in the second world war. A nuclear blast wreaks havoc in such proportions that having command over one commands power. It is like a weapon for peace, unlike other arms and ammunition.
Thirdly, a dead-end with nuclear weapons would only be an accident and has minimal chances. It is because no nation or empire would seek to eliminate “its people”.
Food production today has increased by five times. India produced 50.82 million tonnes in 1950-51, while 2015-16 stands at 252.22 million. Despite the diminishing agricultural interest and mass-scale migration to cities, this has been possible due to a large number of reasons: one of them being the green revolution.
Ever since the green revolution came the white revolution, which proved to be a bonus for farmers across the nation. Different farm implements like transplanter, brush cutter, baler, shredder, thresher, rotavator etc., have also grown common over the years.
To die in a famine is a long stretch from what happened in the past. So much that it sends shivers down our spine when we learn that a particular person or populace has lost their life due to lack of food; it is the reason famines are primarily considered a probable reason for the doomsday for nations which are either developed or developing.
The Bengal Famine of 1943 killed somewhere between 300,000 to three million people. The fact that there was no accountability and the numbers differ by ten times makes it much more horrific than what we consider famines are.
Is it possible, though? Not likely.
You see, no natural famines cause super-mass scale deaths. It must be engineered, and to engineer a famine, a specific section of the population to which the oppressor nation belongs – would try to play safe with its citizens while assuring everything around the globe is alright. Global destruction of the economy? Possible! Absolute doomsday? No!
6. Meteor Showers
It has been a long time since a meteor, like the Chixulub Crater in Mexico, didn’t strike the earth’s surface. Sixty-five million years to be precise but would such a vast meteor hit earth at once? For the uninitiated, the meteors were 10 kilometres wide and created caused a crater which was 25,000 square kilometres in its area, wiping out the dinosaurs from the face of the earth.
The possibility of Chixulub-style-crater hitting earth is extremely low and happens after some 100 to 200 million years. While it’s rare, it is not an impossibility. Besides, minor but significant sized asteroids approach the earth very soon.
More than 1,000 asteroids may theoretically hit earth in the next 1,000 years. Details about them are publicly available, making meteor showers a scary possibility! After the ozone depletes, thinning the earth’s protective atmosphere, meteors entering the atmosphere might not effectively burn out.
7. Zombie Apocalypse
This one is straight out fictional and impossible. Yes, it is. I wouldn’t try to spin around something as apparent as this one. Zombie Apocalypse is one of the wildest of our fantasies. However, the reality is what we see – or probably, what we think. A person with schizophrenia hears and has pretty accurate flashes all around. That doesn’t mean such a thing exists. It all exists – but in the person’s head.
It is usual for people to vouch for the fact that they listen to the sounds of their deceased beloved – especially if the beloved passes away as soon as possible. It is possible they even see their deceased! During the war, a lot of PTSD would take place. People might believe that the war continues or that their beloved is somewhere around. Several mental health patients would go unchecked immediately after the war, which may cause catastrophe. Hallucination too!
If we twist around this possibility, we can make any possible ways of Zombie apocalypse situation. Not just the way we have seen in movies. It is a fascinating, childish fantasy but not sure how it would turn out.
8. Large Volcanic Activities
Remember reading about Mount Vesuvius, the legendary volcano which levelled the entire Rome? When measured in volcanic explosivity index (VEI), or the scale used to measure the intensity of volcanoes, Vesuvius has a score of 5. The VEI increases tenfold for everyone number on the scale.
Take the following, for example. Imagine there are two volcanoes which explode with the VEI of three and four. The mountain which exploded with VEI 4 has 10 times the energy of VEI 5.
In December 1815, Mount Tambora in Sumbawa, Indonesia (the then Dutch East Indies) exploded with a volcanic explosivity index of 7. The smoke from the volcano spread all across the world and caused altered sunsets. If this were a proper volcano, Vesuvius would be a candle in front of Mount Tambora. The smoke the volcano ejected engulfed the entire world and blocked the sun’s rays from reaching the surface, thereby blocking out an entire season!
Chennai – a metro city in southern India and 12000 kilometres away from the volcano, reached a minimum of -3 degrees Celcius on April 28th, 1816. The following year 1816, was popularly known as the “Year Without Summer”. It was also why 1816 came to be known as a “Year Without Summer” and can probably give you a picture of how intense volcanoes can be.
A super-colossal volcano like the Tambora can cause crop failures and mass deaths due to cholera and undrinkable water. Still, will it be enough to destroy humanity? Probably not.
In all seriousness, the strongest volcanoes are in the Pacific Ring of Fire territory, most of which are situated either in Island nations or in coastal places. Hence, the volcano’s impact would be neutralised by the surrounding water bodies, and the event would largely be restricted to a short-lived epidemic.
9. Solar Flares Doomsday
Such an incident has never happened and will never happen. Solar flares are one of the most overestimated things by laypeople who search over the internet about apocalyptic things. Only Mercury’s surface gets hit by solar flares! Yes, you read that right. Not even Venus! It does cause tremendous geomagnetic storms on both planets, but our planet?
It’s only good enough to cause problems in various forms of communications, but that too for a short while. There is a reason we have thrived and evolved for millions of years. Even the dinosaurs roamed the earth for longer than we did and never encountered any incident of solar flares reaching the earth’s surface.
While scientific knowledge and the knowledge of solar flares are commendable, we must also see such things from an objective angle. The Hollywood sci-fi movie from 2009, Knowing, is based on a solar flare doomsday scenario, yet that concept remains fictional due to earth’s optimal position in the solar system.
10. Rise of Robots and AI
This one possibility has been propounded by apocalypse enthusiasts forever, and none of it is happening so far. We have not gone beyond Sophia or robots joking that they would take over the world, which is again – programmed by humans. To assert that the best scientists would try and achieve something as stupid as this is naïve.
Plus, androids taking over us is so dull that this whole theme brought the downfall of the Star Trek franchise through the first season of Picard. On top of that, there have been no such incidents in history to take cues from.
Didn’t understand? Let me try the easy way. To go from 1 to 1000 is easy; going from 1,000 to 1,000,000 would take the same effort, but the distance is more significant. We have created robots and sci-fi stories about AI or robots taking over. Having it in the real world is so far-fetched that we cannot even imagine it.
You see, none of the robots has ever killed a human! All the factors above have killed humans apart from this apart from Zombie apocalypse. Hence, having thought of humans overpowered by robotic overlords is fantasy at its best!
11. Climate Change
AKA the slow death. It has been one of the most legitimate fears, given our icebergs’ slow and inevitable march to a liquid state and down into the ocean. Not only that, but we also have the temperatures rising by 0.5 to 1-degree-Celcius every decade, an inevitable consequence of us harnessing more and more energy as time goes by.
Global catastrophe by climate change is very much a possibility. However, there is still – a lot of hope, given the climate change rate. The alarmist tendency about climate change peaked around the 2000s, while the various movements undertaken to combat such changes have also peaked recently. Nations like India and China have also reported an increase in forest cover.
Among all the mentioned points, climate change is the worst scenario of doomsday for humankind till now. That is the only most unpredictable destruction that nature can inevitably cause.
In my next article, let’s talk about all the human activities which can lead to earth’s doomsday situation through climate change and other factors.