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updated 11/23/2003 4:38:00 PM by Jarno M.
Report: Predictions for the end of the world

There seems to be a consensus that the global economy and population growth cannot continue indefinitely. Below is a scenario for the future which generally assumes the worst about the possibilities for the future. A diversity of forces are involved in the breakdown of society, so much so that it resembles death by a thousand cuts. If only one of these problem had to be overcome, I am confident that the world would get past it. But, since there are so many forces pressuring humanity and the total sum of them is, I believe, greater than what our society's foundations will withstand.

Here are the forces that are moving us towards the end of the world:

  • Financial crisis:

    The governments of the world have not managed their budgets well and now the lenders of the world are starting to balk at giving them any more money. This reality restrains governments from reacting with sufficient aggression to deal with the other ongoing problems and disasters. The US dollar crashes because of the debt incurred by successive administrations who for one reason or another never balanced the budget.

  • Global climate change:

    Global warming is the culprit here. The effects are very slow moving and subtle. However, where an effect takes place, it impacts agriculture most which changes the livability of a particular region. The viability of agriculture in areas shifts. Some regions gain and some lose. The net of this is probably pretty close to zero, but where agriculture is established, it is net negative. It will take some time to take advantage of the net positive areas. Storms are stronger and greater in frequency. Sea level rises as glaciers and polar ice caps recede.

  • Population pressures:

    Although the calculations of the carrying capacity of the Earth vary, the consensus is that the present population, estimated in excess of 6 billion people, is definitely greater than it. At some point, the deficit we are running by consuming the capital of natural resources instead of the interest catches up to us. Starvation occurs in locales. Social cohesion is destroyed in areas by the fight for leftovers. Refugees flood neighboring areas but are often pushed back. Xenophobia flourishes.

  • Reduced capacity of oil output:

    Less oil puts pressure on agricultural productivity because the dwindling supplies deprive modern mechanized farms of fertilizers and the fuel to run the machinery. Less oil also results in reduced economic activity. Markets becomes local again instead of global. Transport costs increase and anything that has to travel far becomes expensive in a short distance.

  • Water scarcity:

    Water scarcity already affects the middle east. Later, when the plumbing of modern civilization starts to leak, it affects the cities the most.

  • Pollution:

    Some ecological disasters happen. These affect the resiliency of food production in the surrounding area. Essentially, North American society starts to run out of places to put our garbage and we have to start living with it. It finally starts to get people to think how much and what kind of garbage rampant consumerism created, although this is too little too late to be able to hold on to pristine rivers and forests.

  • Disease

    AIDS and emerging infectious diseases will act as a wild card. The timing and severity of disease outbreaks will have effects dependent on the remaining stability. The spread of infectious diseases from local outbreaks that would have once been contained easily sap the resources and reduce the population substantially later when order and world co-operation has broken down. For example, outbreaks of Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever occur in Africa occur regularly and in each case, WHO and various NGO's intervene to ensure that it is contained as quickly as possible. In a chaotic world, the reporting of an outbreak would be significantly delayed and the ability to act severely curtailed.

Predicted chronology:

2004 2010

After natural disasters, the response time to get everything back to normal is taking longer and longer. Areas, once back to normal, are also taking more time to get back to the pre-disaster economic activity. The price of oil starts to significantly rise in 2007 which hammers the US dollar even further than voluntary devaluation started in 2003. This puts a lot of people out of work. The government, in order to avoid bankruptcy, curtails unemployment benefits, social security and reduces the armed forces significantly. The state and local governments are unable to get financing and they, too, have to reduce services. By the end of the decade, in Canada, about the only way to get your children educated is to send them to private school or teach them yourself. The schools become supervised play centers because the budgets are not there for supplies and teachers. The Canadian health system effectively is a for profit one since you cannot get service at the public hospitals or clinics. New doctors, in order to pay student loans, set up fee for service clinics, charging twice what the government would have paid them for the same services. China and India start to see significant unemployment as exports to the USA fall. Exports to Europe rise a little but no where near enough to make up for the loss of the American market. Several small famines occur in central and southern Africa, and one in Mongolia, but they are not covered in the mainstream media because of the remoteness of the locations. Everywhere that masses of people are thrown out of work, violence and lawlessness increase. Eventually, even in the US, the police and civil authorities abandon swaths of the inner cities to the local warlords. Hostilities are ever increasing in the middle east. The focus is now clearly on water and oil resources and the need to secure them for the each nation's population. The weaker countries end up having to do without. America, bitten badly by the Iraqi adventure, intervenes only rarely and then only to make surgical strikes withdrawing almost immediately. In 2009, commercial GM crops are introduced that are drought resistant specifically for middle eastern agriculture. They were originally developed for farming in California and other southwestern states but genetically modified foods are still considered taboo in North America. World population peaks in 2009 at 7.5 billion people.

2004: The Democrats oust George W. Bush. Federal Budget Deficit hits record $500 billion. Dollar hits new lows.

2005: America announces that it will withdraw from Iraq over two years. The UN wants to enter to stabilize the situation but the member countries will not commit troops. Health and Human resources budget is significantly cut causing an outcry in the general population. Dollar hits new lows against other currencies.

2007: The American troop withdrawals from Iraq are complete. The regime left in power in Iraq is weak and has no effective power in certain areas such as Kurdistan. Foreign troops from neighboring states are in Iraq although denied as much as possible by the offending states.

2008: Republicans win presidency on a "Make America Strong again" theme. The US dollar finally stabilizes. The progress made on controlling the AIDS epidemic in Africa stops and infection rates start to rise again. The AIDS infection rate in China is starting to be significant: 0.5% of the adult population.

2009: The Russian republic re-institutes the iron curtain. Travel is restricted inside the republic. Travel across the border is difficult. One of the focuses of the stringent policy on exit visas is to keep the wealth inside Russia. Capital flight has been a problem since the institution of market reforms under Yeltsin. As soon as anyone got rich enough, people left for better climes.

2010: China marks Aids case #10,000,000.

2011 2015:

Global warming is now noticeable. There is significant movement of people inland in 1st world countries. In 3rd world countries, it creates refugee camps and worse. In 2013, a flu type bug with relatively high mortality emerges again. This time, it cannot be contained in time because of the lack of control in lawless areas. People stop traveling the world for a while although travel had been falling due to the high cost because of the lack of oil. This bug attacks the elderly and very young with no mercy. The aging population in North America and Europe is devastated, except for the very rich. Afterwards, the retiring and retired baby boomers are much less of a strain on social security on both continents. People are starting to "return to the land", where there is land. More local famines are starting to appear each winter, when the food supplies are lowest and they are reported, but there is barely enough resources to go around as is, so no one cares. Many deaths occur because of lack of clean water. Cholera becomes endemic in the south eastern American states as well as the Mediterranean countries in Europe. Food production, oil production and population are starting to fall in tandem each feeding on the others. We have reached a tipping point where, if an area is ravaged by a natural disaster or riot, the restorative process never completes anymore. Not everyone gets their power back. Not all the debris is cleaned up. Not all the business re-open even if they were only slightly damaged. People start moving because, they figure, anywhere is better than here. Refugees from economic hardship, war, or disaster all start to mass into the last well functioning areas, overloading them and consuming them until there is nothing left. Towards the end of this period, the cities noticeably stink because of rotting garbage. Garbage is everywhere. Pickup is spotty and the landfills are full. Incineration is an option but it is frowned upon because of the stench and air pollution that it creates.

2011: The population of Africa falls this year because of lack of food, war, and disease (AIDS and unhygienic water supplies).

2012: Republicans win the presidency again. A shooting war between India and Pakistan erupts over Kashmir. Thankfully, they manage to keep it conventional. Internal conditions in both countries are grim. War creates many millions of refugees who end up being driven on an internal merry-go-round in India until the refugees settle into the shanty towns and ghettos of Bombay, Delhi and other large cities.

2013: Spurred on by the crisis in the US dollar, the countries of South America take a page from the EEC and create the Amazone, a currency to be shared by all the countries in South America and including central America too except Mexico. The only notable non-participant is Chile. This move is not viewed favorably in Washington since a significant amount of the world's commerce gets done in US dollars. Once the Amazone is in place, there will be one less sink for all the currency the federal mint is spewing out in response to the continuing federal budget deficits. The Republican administration decides that the three strikes you're out rules for jail sentences make no sense since the jails are brimming with inmates and costing bundles of money even with the for profit jail house operating companies. Essentially anyone who has been in jail for 5 years and did not kill, rape or stab someone is let out. In 6 months, there is a noticeable bump in the crime rate in urban areas.

2014: Hurricane George makes land fall in Florida and although the storm kills only a few thousand people, the ensuing lack of water or supplies causes a riot and these causes combined kill almost 100,000 before troops are able to restore order and get water and food distribution systems working again.

2016 2020:

Society starts to breakdown and fragment. Some "cults" have now been self sufficient for a few years and not bothered by central authority. The food distribution network breaks and most in the cities do not survive the winter. It happens first on the eastern seaboard, then, the west coast. The following year Europe. But these are the last places for it to happen as over the last 15 years, small unreported famines (and later, larger reported ones) have been playing out just like that. The masses in the cities are cut off from the food production and distribution, or it is made difficult for anyone without connections. This is the center of a Malthusian die-off. Winter kill. However, the powers that manage to govern try to contain the die-off into pockets, puddles, ponds to keep as much order as possible. Media reporting does not function very well anymore so this helps keeps the pockets isolated. The world financial system collapses. Although the telephone and internet network was nationalized in the USA in 2018 because of the bankruptcy of several telephone companies, it is difficult to place a NY-LA phone call.

2016: Elections canceled in the USA because of "Security concerns."

2017: China implodes because of the AIDS crisis. Because of the less sophisticated health system and the inability to pay for retro viral treatments for such a large population, the average lifespan of a seropositive patient is about 5 years. The infection rate in the adult population has risen to 8%. The implosion is a result of the strain on the available resources spent on trying to care for 120 million sick people. The central authorities are not able to get people to tend to the crops effectively and a minor famine results in the death of about 100 million people this year.

2018: The food supply to the east coast of North America is found to be significantly below the demand of the population in the spring. Prices rise astronomically. The gangs of drug dealers in the inner cities turn into gangs of food hoarders. The little distribution that goes on is done by risk taking entrepreneurs. This episode, although not particularly deadly, engraves the population of the world's last superpower with a new appreciation of the situation. The fall's harvest, it is decided, will partly be preserved in case of future shortages, much like what is done with the strategic reserves of oil held in the salt mines. Oddly, most of the crop to be preserved is taken from the west coast's main production and distribution system. The winter of 2018-19 nearly results in a civil war over food. US occupation of Canada for control over the prairie wheat fields is considered. The Canadian Prime Minister grovels sufficiently to allay American fears.

2019: The weather is poor over Europe this year. Transport has become quite difficult. Piracy on the high seas has returned. There is not enough food. There is no where to go. Riots occur in most population centers in Europe. Martial law is decreed in the EU. The famine that follows the panic claims 1 in 5 continentals and a higher proportion in Britain.


In 2024, the electrical grid in North America is disconnected for good. However, in one nuclear plant in Idaho, the staff mess up shutting it down, combined with some equipment failures because of the age of the plant, and it goes up in a mushroom cloud. The resulting radiation, fallout and explosion kill some people but there are not that many people left to kill. The effect of the radiation for this one event is not significant when one looks at the big picture. Central authority in North America collapses soon after this. Most people in the country are reduced to subsistence level farming. People in the cities survive mostly on scavenging. No one has a lawn or a backyard anymore. All cultivatable areas are seeded and some kind of crop is grown. In some areas, land is cleared of buildings and roads in order to plant crops, but they grow poorly. The continents are effectively cutoff from each other. The world population in 2025: Less than 1 billion. Some areas still work well when blessed with appropriate resources within 60 miles. Most economies are local. Some trade occurs to send luxury goods across the continent and this only by traveling merchants and traders. Small planes do fly although airplane fuel is expensive and you are not always sure of the state of the destination airport. A few governments still maintain air forces.


There starts a recovery of sorts. However, there has been fragmentation of the world's society in that since the world's economies tend to be local rather than global, many parts of the world don't care about the rest. Also, because of the heightened prevalence of various infectious diseases, travel is discouraged. The question as to whether man will manage to colonize the stars is still open. Unfortunately, for at least another 10 years, no country will have the resources to undertake such a massive endeavor as the space programs of the late 20th century.

Additional comments

The question about why the fall will be so rapid. When people start to see deprivation, they tend to react selfishly. Although the moral and the good will fight to have the limited resources shared and directed to the greatest benefit of the group, I believe that the demagogues and thugs will quickly dispose of such people and civil society will quickly devolve into a dog eat dog chaos of unimaginable proportions. Also we must remember the maxim that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In the atmosphere where central authority has collapsed or is of questionable force, new powers will emerge but have little in place to check their progress. Those who cannot fight must flee. These refugees will flood into neighboring areas an overflow the resources causing another crisis. Like a chain of dominoes, it is only a matter of time before the entire globe is ravaged.

Is this the end of humanity? No. I believe humanity is destined for the stars. Like the world of Miller's Canticle for Liebowitz, we will emerge from this new dark age. Unfortunately, I cannot say whether it will be quick or slow.

This scenario, while somewhat extreme, has realistic elements. Clearly modern society is on the verge of change, and only if natural resources are managed much more effectively as a consequence of enlightened leadership can those changes possibly be positive.

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