It’s the End of the World…and We Love It!

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Let’s face it: the world is going to end…and we’re obsessed with it. It’s all over our news, our movies, our television shows, even–especially–our belief systems. Whether it’s eschatology (a theology concerned with the final events of human history, or the “end times”), millenarianism (a belief in a coming transformation), the end of certain ancient civilizations’ calendars (as was predicted in English-language news media for December 21, 2012), Ragnarok (as was predicted in English-language news media outlets for February 22, 2014), Timewave Zero (having to do with calculating Novelty Time and reading the I Ching–I don’t understand it, but I sound smart mentioning it), mega-disasters, mass extinctions, global climate change, pandemics…you name it, we love it.

Well, we love to speculate on it. I’m sure once these come to pass, it will be quite unpleasant for all of us. And yet, we dwell on these unpleasantries to the point of predicting that they will come to pass within our own lifetimes.  It’s difficult to contemplate the billions of years the planet has been around (and the billions of years scientists predict the planet will continue to be around). Facing stretches of time so vast is facing our own individual meaninglessness within those stretches, and that’s deeply threatening to the core of our being. Human society creates frameworks of meaning that allows us to reject that meaninglessness and to constrict time to our own comfortable understanding. This is not a new thing. Nor is it restricted to religious thought. In fact, the following list of titles are all secular end-of-the-world scenarios that can be found on our second floor display, “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It.”

So, just for a minute, indulge in your own morbid ends:

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(in which, whether by nature or by human engineering, a super-strain of a disease rapidly spreads and we all die)

Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus by David Quammen

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen

The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus by Richard Preston

Processed with VSCOcam with n1 presetMass Extinctions and Man-Made Disasters

(in which we orchestrate massive deaths on the ecological structure that supports us and we all die)

Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record by Errol Fuller

Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? by Alan Weisman

Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System by Rajeev Chalres Patel

Ten Billion by Stephen Emmott

The End of Plenty: The Race to Feed a Crowded World by Joel K. Bourne

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

Confronting Collapse: The Crisis of Energy and Money in a Post Peak Oil World: A 25-Point Program for Action by Michael C. Ruppert

Natural Disasters and Global Climate Change

(in which we fail to take into account our effect on the global climate and we all die)

Earthquake Storms: The Fascinating History and Volatile Future of the San Andreas Fault by John Dvorak

Storm Surge: Hurricane Sandy, Our Climate, and Extreme Weather of the Past and Future by Adam Sobel

Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change by Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump

Betting the Farm on a Drought:Stories from the Front Lines of Climate Change by Seamus McGraw

Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Collapse of Western Civilization by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway

What We Think about When We Try Not to Think about Global Warming: Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action by Per Espen Stoknes

The Global Warming Reader: A Century of Writing about Climate Change by Bill McKibben

Post Apocalypse Solutions

(okay, so maybe not all of us die)

Dreaming the Future: Reimagining Civilization in the Age of Nature by Kenny Ausubel

When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency by Matthew Stein

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

100 Skills You’ll Need for the End of the World (as We Know It) by Ana Maria Spagna

Apocalyptic Fiction

(more examples about how we all die)

California by Edan Lepucki

Find Me by Laura van den Berg

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman

The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey

For my money, I bet the world doesn’t have a specific end time, but having seen several hundred toddlers stomping and singing in unison to “Wheels on the Bus”, I’m sure it will take place during storytime. All hail our tiny overlords!


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