Preparing for Armageddon: How We Can Survive Mega-Disasters

By Mulhall, Douglas | The Futurist, May 2001 | Go to article overview

Preparing for Armageddon: How We Can Survive Mega-Disasters


Mulhall, Douglas, The Futurist


Disaster-prevention should include contingency plans for surviving large-scale natural disasters, including tsunamis, mega-quakes, volcanic eruptions, and asteroids hitting the Earth.

Once we strip doomsday fears from the emerging spate of disaster-threat discoveries, a deep environmental challenge emerges: Nature's cycle includes periodic disruptions that could toss humanity backwards.

The good news is that for the first time in history we might be gaining the tools to adapt to massive natural changes. Our technological renaissance is giving us the power to stare Armageddon in the face and win.

Catastrophe stories are so pervasive that screenwriters have nicknamed them "disaster porn." News of the end of the world is broadcast daily. The threats of asteroids, volcanoes, earthquakes, and climate change are saturating the media to such an extent that calamity fatigue is setting in.

Now let's consider a vision of the future never presented by the doomsayers: Armageddon survived. In this scenario, humanity barely pauses to catch its breath after the shock of a large-scale natural disaster. Instead, we move on unhindered to reoccupy devastated areas, replace crops, and avert famine.

We are developing the means to make this recovery scenario possible. We may be entering a great race between our emergence as super-species and an unpredictable ecohazard that throws us back centuries. To survive in the future we might have to mold ourselves and parts of our ecology into new forms.

From an environmentalist perspective, the idea of ecological alteration poses a horrific dilemma. While many ecologists try to stuff the technological genie back in the bottle, as with biotechnology, for example, new evidence suggests that this outlook may have to be reevaluated to protect our species.

Most environmental colleagues I discuss this with either discount the odds of big natural changes as too remote or dismiss them as a ruse to take attention away from what they see as the more-dangerous cauldron of man-made trouble. Yet a nagging question remains: What if the small band of scientists and historians who theorize about the greater frequency of severe natural changes are right?

Detection technology is redefining the gray zone between occasional bad weather on the one hand and the once-in-a-billion-year supernova threat on the other. Somewhere in that band are phenomena powerful enough to disable civilization without annihilating it. Although we cannot yet definitively describe, detect, or defend against severe natural phenomena, it is becoming clear that ecologists need to take them seriously.

Besides planet-killing asteroids and human-induced catastrophes, other natural events may be serious threats in the future. These include large volcanic eruptions, chain reaction earthquakes, unexplained flooding, major solar or polar shifting, and recurrent meteor showers. Each is survivable but may trigger loss of infrastructure, disruption of agriculture, or contamination from industrial debris.

News from the Past

Links are emerging between the technological renaissance we now enjoy and the power we may soon have to defy Armageddon. Space telescopes, DNA analysis, enhanced dating methods, sedimentary analysis, and application of engineering to archaeology are improving our ability to understand past and future planetary threats. Scientists are beginning to interpret old evidence in a new light.

For example, reexamination of sediment samples by geomorphologists (such as the Smithsonian Institution's Mary Bourke) suggests that temporary flooding of coastal and inland regions was not confined to the last ice age, but may have occurred within the past 5,000 years. When Hurricane Floyd inundated New Jersey in September 1999, Bourke told The Wall Street Journal that her research shows "these events can be bigger and more frequent than we have ever known in the earth's current climate. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Preparing for Armageddon: How We Can Survive Mega-Disasters
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.