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All About the End of the World

Why it will come before the year 2000, what it will mean to you, etc.

By John G. Short

IT'S perfectly evident that in the next twenty or thirty years were going to have the end of the world and it's going to be all over.

If one tanker full of DDT were to be broken up in a storm tomorrow, the way so many oil tankers already have been, that DDT would be enough to slow the photosynthesizing micro-plants of the oceans. These plants produce ninety percent of the oxygen in the atmosphere. In as much time as it took us to breath the remaining oxygen. It would all grind to a halt once and for all.

Such an occurrence is known in the trade as an "eco-catastrophe." in other words, a situation in which the ecology of the earth is irretrieyably disturbed. Little mini-eco-catastrophes have been happening ever since man arrived on the scene. In the South, Pacific collectors, naturalists, and trumpeters on hundreds of islands have been picking up tritons off the coral reefs and beaches to get their conch shells. The tritons cat the starfish which prey on the coral animals that build up the reefs. Because there are now so many people on the earth, they are now picking up enough tritons so that the coral reefs are crumbling. And after a while most of those islands and parts of Australia are going to be washed away.

Picking tritons is illegal, but the law can't be policed. There are other, quite legal, ways in which we are steadily bringing about the end of the world. Just for an example, there's the Greenhouse Effect gone wild. Our heavy industry, oil heat, and combustion in general are putting too much CO2 into our air. CO2 in our atmosphere absorbs ultraviolet radiation from the sun (reflected off the earth) as heat. This is called the Greenhouse Effect. It was important in the evolution of the earth into a life-supporting planet. The world is getting hotter and hotter. When it gets hot enough, the polar ice caps will start to melt. This will raise the level of the oceans 300 feet. This will cover the land on which two-thirds of the world's people live. Many people know about this problem. They also know they can't do anything about it.

The Army, at its Fort Detrick in Fredeick, Maryland, is every day refining diseases that no one will be able to stop. At the Pine Bluff (Arkansas) Arsenal they've stored up enough anthrax, tularemia. Q fever, and psittacosis to kill everyone in the world several times over, a Congressman told a reporter of this paper. And at the Dugway Proving Grounds, a million acre base in Utah, where they test this stuff, they have a "permanently contaminated area." If a bird ever flew in and out of there, he could share it with the rest of us.

The end is coming soon one way or another. But we've had a sense of this ever since we picked up on the atom bomb. A doctor recently published in Esquire his findings on a study he did on the effects of atomic radiation on people. He says that if the U. S. ever used the ABM to save itself, the radiation the ABM put in the air would make it impossible for any people born after the attack to ever have children themselves.

It should be pointed out that man tried to stop himself from building this doomsday machinery, but he failed. And this is only a clue to the true vastness of the futility in trying to avoid the end of the world. For while perhaps Esquire's doctor is wrong and maybe the winds of the uper atmosphere will keep the earth cool and the ice caps frozen, there still remains the threat of thousands of unforescen catastrophes that we are only now becoming capable of.

UPUNTIL about twenty-five years ago man couldn't have brought about the end of the world even if he wanted to. After we invented and then stockpiled enough nuclear weapons, it became possible, but not likely. Since then, spreading technology has made us liable to extinction unpredictably, suddenly, and by accident (with no evil will involved!). When we became liable to it, its occurrence became inevitable.

One of the ways we've just this summer made it possible to happen is by bringing back, from the planets and moons of outer space, viruses we can't defend against. But it will much more likely come from some little flaw we hardly notice in the intricately complex technology of our stranglingly large population. The gathering of conch shells.

And it will happen soon- before the year 2000- because what god could possibly still the hand of a Fate so powerful, a technology so globe-encompassing, for a time so long as 30 years? Not a chance.

To help you further conceptualize this reality, imagine that everyone changed their assumption and took it for granted that the world is soon to end. Now imagine that in spite of the general downhill course of events in the world, in spite of New York City, high rents, high prices, bad air, worse water, transit strike, teachers' strike, garbage strike, two hours on the freeway, in spite of the telephone company, a 2 billion dollar corporation that can't give you a dial tone and doesn't know why- in spite of all this, someone stood up before these people in Sanders Theatre and tried to defend the position that the world would find miraculous ways to survive to the year 2000. You can see that he would quite rightly be laughed off the podium.

Ordinarily we would try to fight the inevitable disaster by effecting social and political change. But you and I both know how hopeless that is. As we watch Procaccino gurgle to victory in November, we can kiss goodbye to the electorate. Then we can turn to the RYM, PL, the CP, the WSA, SDS, the P and FP, the BP, BDRG, and the Weathermen. And even if we pulled off a fantastic proletarian revolution right away and started reorganizing everything, it would be 50 years before they got around to air pollution. And the world will be long gone by then.

No political group is going to destroy technology, give all the women birth-control diaphragms, and turn us out into the woods. And we don't even want them to do that to us. Man likes to live out his destiny. There is something philosophically intriguing about seeing your own demise coincide with that of civilization. And that raises the question of whether you should vote for Procaccino to hasten the catastrophe and insure that you live to see the end. There are those who would say that being around at the end would put more meaning into your life. But they are wrong. Meaning, as far as living goes, we all know comes only in the moment and for that moment. Being there at the moment it's over has no more intrinsic value than being there when it's on.

ATTENDANT to the approaching end, you will notice, has been an expotential rise of unhappiness in the world. If you remember, things were pretty good as recently as 1959. Then, with the '60's, they began to deteriorate. Most of the misery has come predictably from the cities where all the technology and absurd population boom has been concentrated. And overall, when compared to how things were even only a few years ago, it's all much worse.

You have, for example, the fall of art. No one, not anyone, no one at all spends any time these days on what he creates. More god damned books are made out of unedited collected speeches of semi-verbal figures of the press. Painters use unmixed primary colors bought in buckets from hardware stores. Sculptors put whatever they "discover" in the street on a pedestal and we've got " art trouve. " And rock musicians break up their groups if they don't get a recording contract five months after they start playing together.

Too, you have the disappearance of the Bald Eagle, the sinking of Venice, and the disintegration of the sewers of New York. The Bald Eagle is cutting down his numbers at the same rate that man is multiplving his. There will be eight billion of man at the end and one of the Bald Eagle. The Venetians are pumping out, for their own use, the water of the underground lake that Venice floats on, so it's gradually slipping under. But they don't care. And New York's sewer system has five more years before it starts letting loose. But because it would take 17 years to be replaced, there's no point in trying now.

Part of the beauty of it all coming together at the finish is the emergence of drugs during these last few years to help us all achieve revelation before It goes. The motto of the celestial forces that slipped drugs into the experience of the now and future generations is "Let Everyone See the Clear Light Before He Sees the White Light." The "white light" being that of nuclear detonation.

And there's a certain Zen fulfillment in seeing it all go up in nuclear fission. Zen and Hinduism and most Eastern religions believe that a subatomic high level of pure energy is the highest level of consciousness- the level at which we merge with all existence and become one with it all. By losing our human values, we don't stop existing but rather change the state of our existence. Nuclear sim-

plification, as the war could be called, would return us to being the one of us that there only is.

The most depressing aspect about the end of the world is the thought of seeing several decades of science fiction go unfulfilled. For there never will be any gleaming silver spaceships gliding silently through the stars to civilizations entirely different from our own. Even travel around our own land will probably never become faster and more convenient than it is now, given the unavailability of land for needed new airports and the impossibility of speeding up traffic on expressways in and around the cities. We will never have robots that will do all man's work for him. Technology is carrying us all in the direction of Alphaville and New York City.

OF COURSE, when the world ends, it will probably be drawn out and painful. Most people assume that on the Judgment Day God will appear above the clouds shortly after sunset and announce, "Well, guys, this is about it worldwise." The end of the world is actually much more likely to see its 6 billion people choking for three weeks on the fleeting oxygen in the air, and wretching with discase from the rotting corpses. Many kooks and nuts will rise to brief power during these final weeks. The New York Times will stop publishing.

All of which raises the question of whether or not we should be doing anything to put off the end. For we don't like to see mass suffering, and the symptoms of the end, millions shortening their lives on polluted air and starving to death in overpopulated countries, are already with us. And because the binds of a complex technology make our every action a cause or effect on someone else's life, we are responsible for their agony.

What it comes down to is that we should act in a way consistent with the values of our existence in a given moment or a given situation. That is, we should try to fight the end by trying to mitigate the bad effects it has on our daily lives. We should not resist the idea that the world is going to end because that is going to happen and soon. But until it's over we should fight it- try to ban the bomb, CBW, DDT, and the SST- because the values of our existence are structured that way.

This does not mean that we should pretend that the end of the world is not coming or that we should ignore it. Rather, with the end of the world somewhere in mind, we should avoid doing absurd things just because we hope that they will be "remembered by mankind." Mankind will not be in a position to remember anything. We should not slave all our lives at dull jobs just to pile up enough cash so "our children will have everything."

People in this country have been convinced to work now for a reward they will get later. But the future never holds any value in the present. So the coming end shouldn't intimidate us now. Its threat is part of the definition of our existence. And because it exists, we should value it, too.

(If you were to tell me that you were a person, and that the end of the world was a threat to your existence as a person, then I would argue that your existence was that of a person whose life was threatened by the end of the world, and nothing threatence that existence.)

If realization of the coming end of the world has a disruptive effect on one's thinking, it is only because his values have been previously misaligned. For example, if you had been writing a book, you might think the book would be meaningless after the end of the world. However, you can't really write a book because you think people will read it and then think something of you, you have to write it because you enjoy doing it.

The moment of the end of the world should not be one of despair any more than the moment of your individual death should be. In fact, if we're all around at the time, we'll all enjoy in common the metaphysical glory of transition into another state of energy. Also the end of the world will have a great meaning. It will mean that it happened, as my meaning is that I exist.

Finally we leave ourselves open to the consideration that there might be intelligent life on other planets even though we will have finished off what there was of it here. The universe is not infinite; we know that for a number of reasons, one of which is that light can't escape it. But some astronomers have estimated that there should be one intelligent technological civilization in every 500,000 stars. This would mean that the nearest to us is less than 1000 light years away. Signals that we have been sending out with our radio astronomy equipment can reach that far. Others ought to get the message that we exist about 900 years after we stopped.

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