I favor this kind of speculation. Not that I want the world to go down the toilet. But it’s not reasonable to assume that a severe disaster will never happen. And we need to be ready, as much as possible.
Examples from the past are easy to find. The Spanish flu epidemic killed 50 to 100 million persons. And that was when the world population was much smaller. Today, it would kill many times that number.
The great depression devastated the economy and cast a vast number of persons into sudden poverty, which was followed by a world war. I can’t imagine living through all those events.
Much more recently, the 2004 Indian Ocean tidal wave killed about a quarter of a million persons, in 14 nations, in a single day. We don’t think too much about that event, because it was so distant from our shores. But what would happen to the U.S. if a tidal wave struck either coast? The number of dead would be greater. We have major cities right along our coastlines.
Which one is most likely? Or which will be first, I should say. We can’t assume that this level of disaster will happen only once.
Some disasters are difficult to predict, such as a comet or asteroid strike. It does happen, though the larger the impact, the rarer the event. We can’t predict how soon the next impact will occur.
On the other hand, some disasters are a result of human stupidity, and we can see that coming from a mile away. We are in fact headed for an agricultural disaster. We are growing ever more food on ever less land. The higher the crop yields, the more precarious the situation. Eventually, a small disruption in agriculture will cause a collapse of the yields. Then we just won’t have enough land for the food we need.
Of course, a major world war would be a severe disaster. And it might not be a World War I situation, where the U.S. participates but is not directly attacked. The next world war could be worse than the last. And it could reach to the U.S. Hard to imagine, but entirely possible.
The next big economic disaster will be far worse than the great depression. That is because the economy is now one worldwide tapestry. The U.S. is not as self-sufficient as we used to be. An economic disaster in one nation affects the other nations. I’m not sure what will trigger the next depression, but it will be very bad. Probably, the government will make some foolish decision, on economics, that will cause a collapse. Either that, or problems in Europe will cause our economy to tank.
Disease epidemic is the other big possibility. Bacteria have developed resistance to most or all of the current antibiotics. There are some cases where doctors do not have any options left. A patient will have a bacterial infection, and no antibiotic works. If the situation becomes more widespread, we could have an epidemic of bacterial infections that are untreatable. And then there is the possibility of a viral infection, such as bird flu or swine flu. We still have few options against viruses, and the yearly flu vaccine sometimes misses the mark; it has very little effect. So a repeat of the Spanish flu epidemic is possible.
Did I cover all the possibilities? No, there is one big possible disaster that is sometimes overlooked in this type of discussion: the combination disaster. For example: a war causes an economic downturn, which adversely affects agriculture. People are malnourished and don’t have enough money for healthcare, so a disease epidemic takes hold. Each part of the combination disaster makes all the other parts worse. With many people falling ill, there are fewer persons to work. A set of disasters merges into one big SHTF scenario.
The thing about the combination disaster is that it has many entry points. War could lead to economic disaster. But economic disaster could cause civil unrest, which would lead to war. A food shortage could lead to economic disaster and then to war. It works every which way. There are a dozen different entry points; it’s a domino effect of one societal building block after another falling away.
That’s the one that I’m afraid of. And it could happen. It is not a random unlikely disaster, like an asteroid strike. It depends on human beings acting foolishly, which is the only constant in the universe.