World War Z and My Apocalypse Anxiety
I read World War Z a few summers ago after discovering The Walking Dead on Netflix and
developing an unhealthy obsession with zombie culture. When the movie came out last month, I thought it might be fun to go watch it, if only to see how unlike the book it really was. (In an interview, Max Brooks explained that the only similarity between his book and the movie was the title, so prepare to be disappointed in that respect.) It did get me thinking, though, about end-of-the-world situations and one of my friends brought up an interesting point that I had never thought of before. Mainly, that the very thing keeping us alive will likely be the death of us: the sun.
No, I’m not talking about the sun collapsing on itself and engulfing our solar system. That’s a painfully uncreative way to die. I’m talking about Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), or, when billions of particles from the sun’s surface launch into our atmosphere. The magnetic shockwave that comes with these particles has the potential to contort Earth’s magnetic field, and thus short-circuit nearly every electronic device on this planet. And therein lies the problem.
If you think I’m about to jump into a tirade about our technology addiction, you’d only be partially right. Imagine what would happen if every electronic device suddenly broke. That laptop you’re using to read this post just shuts off. Your phone stops working. The television flickers off. The coffee makers around the globe cease to spew that black ambrosia that keeps us all sane. What would happen? There would be no TV stations or newspapers to tell us what was going on. CMEs are so unpredictable, it’s likely that no one would have even had the chance to tell us ahead of time. Cell phones would shut off. Refrigerators would stop working. I’m sure some power plant out there running on electricity would explode and cause panic. I don’t really know. I know how to roast a marshmellow in a homemade solar oven but my science knowledge doesn’t really extend beyond that. If it did, I wouldn’t be worrying about post-grad unemployment.
What people do when they’re afraid would shock even the most inhumane human beings. If I suddenly woke up strapped into a cart at the top of a roller coaster, there’s a good chance I would throw all of the other passengers overboard if I thought it might help me survive. So you can only imagine what people would do if electricity suddenly ceased to exist. You can’t text someone to ask them what happened. You can’t turn on the TV or open your Twitter feed. Even if you asked the people around you, they would be experiencing the same level of confusion. Once people finally found out what was going on, probably from a guy on horseback screaming “The end is near!” Paul-Revere style because I can’t think of a better option, people would flock to the grocery stores with weapons and an intent to take everything they can. Don’t be fooled by that frail looking grandmother. She has grandbabies too and will have no problem pushing you over for that last can of peas.
After we finished discussing CMEs, we began talking about other likely end-of-the-world situations, like airborne viruses, which are definitely a thing, if you were wondering. In fact, I read an article a few years ago about a scientist who had discovered a way to create a deadly airborne virus. On one side, he had other scientist buddies who wanted to know his secret to satisfy their own curiosity. On the other side, he had politicos (AKA the entire US government) telling him to keep the info to himself to prevent the formula from getting into the wrong hands.
From airborne flu viruses, my mind switched to that movie, The Happening (2008), with Zooey Deschanel and Mark Wahlburg, which was all around not a very good movie but was redeemed by the one scene where Wahlburg has a conversation with a plant. (If that isn’t incentive to watch something, I don’t know what is.) In the movie, Mother Nature decides she’s had enough and suddenly, all of the world’s plants start to release a special chemical that blocks something in the brain, immediately making people lose the will to live and commit suicide.
I’m not saying this will specifically happen but Mother Nature is kind of moody, so you never really know what to expect. Statistically, whenever the human population gets too big, Mother Nature takes measures to prevent overpopulation (i.e. Plague). And this planet is overdue for a catastrophe of that magnitude. (I’d hyperlink something here to prove that I’m not making this up, because I did use the word statistically before which usually indicates that I found this information somewhere other than my brain, but I couldn’t figure out what to Google, so just pretend I’m right, okay?)
I don’t know how the world will end (hopefully not with a bang, but a whisper) but I’ve realized it could be closer and more unsuspecting than we might think. I also realized I should probably make new friends that don’t talk about Armageddon all the time.