The Q&A Hole: How Is Humanity Most Likely to Destroy Itself?
The Earth will abide, but not necessarily old Homo Sap.
By Wayne Alan Brenner, 11:59AM, Mon. Feb. 25, 2013
"We're destroying the planet!" shriek the more histrionic environmentalists among us.
But that's not true, exactly, because the planet itself will keep on keeping on, regardless of what our so-called civilization throws at it. The planet will, at most, stir just long enough to mumble a sort of crust-level "WHUT?" before returning to its rotating and revolving same-ol' same-ol'.
What we might be doing is a little different – and certainly catastrophic for us and many other living creatures, if not for this spinning ball of mud itself: We might be on our way to making the planet uninhabitable. Gung-ho visionaries speak of terraforming Mars someday; your humble journo suggests that we may well be slowly marsforming Terra right now.
Ah, but how will we accomplish this dire feat of global suicide, d'you think? Which particular hellbound path seems to be the one we're most likely to take?
That's what I asked the respondents of this latest in our weekly Q&A Hole series:
Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal: You want a serious answer or a silly answer? Because, maybe Skynet. With things like Siri and U.S. drone strikes and all that kind of thing, maybe the machines will rise up against us. Then again, we think "Oh, the robots are gonna get us in twenty or thirty years!" But, c'mon, a fucking robot can't spell the CAPTCHA on a website, how's it ever gonna come and get you? I think the way to defeat Skynet is to just cover every soldier in little CAPTCHA images … As far as a serious answer, I'd just tell you what everybody else will tell you: Climate change, nuclear proliferation from Iran and North Korea, all that kind of stuff.
Joshua Jay, magician: I think a general abuse of our resources and our environment, the total neglect we've displayed for the last hundred years. And the unwillingness to change – or even concede – that we're affecting the environment in immeasurable ways. I think that will come to a point of critical mass and we'll start experiencing much bigger effects than we're seeing now.
Catherine Berry of Music Together: Lack of face-to-face contact. We all become so submerged in our electronic relationships we forget to go on dates, interviews, visit our mother. Until we realize there's an app for that.
Malcolm Bucknall, artist: I suppose it would be like what I was saying about animals being natural and us being unnatural. What is "unnatural" but a removal from nature? And nature is basically the earth, the sky, the sea and the rivers, and so on. And I think we've become so unnatural – with the machines, the technology – that eventually it's going to, ah, kind of make us impotent.
Jessica Hedrick, actor & writer: I think we get wiped out by a combination of water-shortage wars and infertility brought about from hormone-altering plastics. Nothing we haven't heard before!
Skipper Chong Warson, graphic designer: Water shortage. The last bit of clean water in the world is a mass of beer and water bottles buried underground in Boston, Massachusetts. Free of any traces of over-the-counter medicine (acetaminophen, etc.) and prescription drugs (birth control, asthma medications – because no one can breathe in the polluted air), the mass has been there since the early 1890s and buried in the concrete that was poured for the Big Dig project. The government keeps the general public unaware of the level of water contamination because of fear of a massive panic – all the while hunting for alternate water sources on other planets, desalinating sea water, trying to create artificial water in secret labs, etc. Then, the White House Press Secretary – Mr. Justin Bieber – lets the information slip during a press conference, which results in a global panic where every bottle of water flies off the shelf and filtering facilities around the world become fiefdoms. Wars break out, lands dry up, billions of people die; in short, life as we know it grinds to a halt. One last satellite search of the earth's surface turns up the ancient underground cache of water – 10,000 bottles large – and this is how The Great War of Boston begins in 2051.