The 8 Worst Things That Could Happen

Global warming.


At first, global warming seemed like just a long-term challenge, a problem for future generations to solve with their magical future technology. Then, it became clear that it was our problem—not just the cause, but the effects. We’re having a balmy high-70s autumn in Minnesota, while just one state over they’re getting 30 inches of snow. That ain’t right. Bear in mind that global warming can accelerate geometrically: it gets warmer, so ice melts, which means that less heat bounces back into space and it starts getting warmer even more quickly, then the methane fields are all melted and we have even more heat which will require us to burn more fossil fuels to tolerate and…starvation, war, chaos. This could happen in our lifetimes. It is happening in our lifetimes. Good thing we have the political leadership to respond to it. Oh, wait…

Political gridlock.

Right now, the U.S. federal government is shut down because all the checks and balances built into our system to prevent tyranny of the majority can enable tyranny of the minority, when the minority plays its cards right. Increasingly, no one in Washington is going to do a thing that might make any of their political opponents happy for any reason whatsoever—and they don’t need to worry about being voted out, because their gerrymandered districts are totally safe. This is all on top of the skewed system that allows one party (in this case, the Republicans) to control a chamber of Congress (in this case, the House of Representatives) even though they actually earned fewer votes, totaled across the country, than the other party did. Changing this system, of course, would require the political system to work, so the system isn’t going to change, and the problems we already have will continue to get worse. For example…

Economic inequality.


The rich are always rich and the poor are always poor, but in the U.S., the rich have been getting richer and the poor have been getting poorer for the past 40 years, a trend that shows no sign of abating. This isn’t just a shitty situation for the poor, it’s dangerous for all of us. The economy is like the ecosystem: it’s an enormously complex system that needs diversity to function properly. If all the money is concentrated in a few hands, that means consumers don’t have any money to buy products. That means that companies go out of business, which means that consumers have even less money, and the cycle continues. Karl Marx saw in the 19th century that this was a danger of capitalism, but most of the 20th century seemed to prove Marx’s fears unfounded, because gains in productivity were shared with a growing middle class. That no longer seems to be the case, and if Marx does turn out to be right, we’re going to be looking at a bloody revolution. Speaking of ecosystems, has anyone noticed…

The bees are dying.

There was a really freaky moment back there when no one knew why all the bees were dying. Now we understand that it’s largely due to pesticides, opening the possibility that if we successfully curtail the use of those pesticides, the bees will make it and plants will continue to be fertilized and we can continue to survive on this earth. What’s really scary about the bee situation, though, is that our technology has reached the point where we can just kind of accidentally imperil the whole ecosystem. Whoops! Oh, and there are other accidents we need to worry about too, like…

Nuclear war.


The end of the Cold War was definitely a huge relief, because it meant that we were no longer living in a world where two superpowers had Doomsday Machines pointed at each other with itchy fingers on hair-triggers. (The Cuban Missile Crisis, for example, was really scary. Like, really, really scary.) That said, there are still plenty of nukes out there, some of them handily built to fit intercontinental missiles. Vladimir Putin could basically take out all of Manhattan right now if he happened to feel like it. He just could. God willing he won’t, but someone could, and that possibility is unlikely to ever go away. Then there are possibilities of disasters that are entirely out of human control. For example…

Giant asteroids.

It would’t even have to be giant, as anyone who’s seen Armageddon knows. What happened to the dinosaurs could happen to us, and unfortunately Bruce Willis isn’t actually in a position to do anything about it. Many scientists think the possibility of an extinction-event impact happening during our lifetimes is disappearingly small, but a lot of scientists are kind of nervous about the possibility and think we should reactivate the federal government so that NASA can do something about that. Even NASA, though, couldn’t protect us from…

The supervolcano.

There’s a giant volcano underneath Yellowstone; it erupted 640,000 years ago, and that is not something we want to happen again. It was bad—like, asteroid-strike bad. Scientists are keeping a close eye on tremors and crust movement on and around the Yellowstone Caldera, and while they think it won’t blow in the near future, they acknowledge that you just never know. Of course, even in the best case scenario, we’re still all going to have to deal with…



We’re all going to die. All of us. Just think about that. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

This post originally appeared on The Tangential.

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