What makes our lives on this tiny planet valuable is the all-too-present awareness that it can all come to an end very quickly. Fear of the end of life as we know it fascinates our culture. Virtually every sphere of society such as philosophy, art, politics, economics and science has examined this phenomenon in some way. A meteorite hitting the Earth, our planet being engulfed by a black hole or some other event of a cataclysmic nature may very well spell doom for human life.
Until an event of such magnitude occurs, the nations of our world will keep us entertained. What is their goal? Well, the world stage doesn’t seem short of ways to surprise us. From the 2016 presidential election to Brexit, recent years have been quite the rollercoaster.
Some misguided optimists proclaimed “the end of history” around the time the first McDonald’s opened in Moscow and, while Western civilization and its ways seem to be prevailing over others in a relentless march fuelled by very human desire of wanting more, this may not go on forever.
In this article, we’ll examine 15 ways Western civilization may come to an end.
15. Energy sources become depleted
There’s no denying our society lives and thrives off consumption. Every year we push our economies to grow further on the back of people earning and spending more money. What may have been obvious to all of our predecessors, but may be muddled in our perspective, is the cost of this behaviour.
It may not seem like it but our planet has limited resources, which every nation will ultimately want for themselves. Right now there’s enough for everyone but what if there isn’t? Some studies have pointed to the fact we’re experiencing diminishing returns we get from fossil fuels. If we don’t move towards renewable sources of energy, we’ll always be vulnerable to scarcity. Nations will go to war if there isn’t enough to go around.
14. Food Shortage
On the same note as the previous entry, if depleting energy sources have the potential to send countries to war with each other, then imagine what food shortages would do. If it were to happen across Western countries then it would be the end of capitalism and society as we know them.
Ironically, this is precisely what happened to communism as an ideology for civilization. The inefficiencies which it invariably creates lead to widespread famine, with the resulting revolution being repressed with violence. What’s happening in Venezuela right now provides a good blueprint of what would happen worldwide if food stocks were used up.
13. Demographic Decline
There seems to be a negative correlation between wealth and number of children per couple in the human population. Usually, the wealthier the parents, the fewer the kids. Over a couple of generations, educated people realized it’s better to provide the best level of care possible for each kid even if it involves having just one kid.
As life expectancy has sky-rocketed in Western countries, this resulted in people having fewer kids and living longer. As we’re well aware, this places a huge burden on the social security programmes of pretty much every Western country. What would happen if there wasn’t enough money to pay pensions to people who worked their whole lives?
12. People decide to stop reproducing
The 2006 film Children of Men showed us a society where the entire human population had become infertile and illustrated well what effects that would have on our civilisation. Children are the future and when there’s no future in sight, we turn to war and destruction as our species joins the dodos and woolly mammoths.
We’ve already seen that, as populations become more developed, people decide to have fewer children (or none at all). Who wants to bring children into a world with so much misery, war, and poverty? When faced with the meaning of existence, nihilistic hero Rust Cohle in True Detective suggested humanity should willingly abandon its reproductive ability.
While we’re far away from abandoning all hope, the truth is we don’t know how bad things can get. What if climate change makes our planet next to uninhabitable? What if the artificial superintelligence enslaves our species?
11. Artificial Intelligence rules over us
Several intellectual authorities in the world of technology have recently warned us about the dangers of developed artificial intelligence. The discussion has recently moved into artificial superintelligence. There’s simply no predicting what would happen if machines learn past the point they become more advanced than us.
Before scientists, Hollywood had some of its best minds give us the Matrix, I, Robot and Ex Machina. The only aspect that seems to gather some consensus at this point is that, if machines were to become superior to us, they would crush our civilisation. We would be to them what primates are to us.
10. The West is crushed under a Mountain of Debt
Can our civilisation succumb to debt? At first glance, the answer will probably lean towards no. Western countries owe money to each other, other countries and private creditors so it’s not in their interest to topple the whole debt system. But, what if they don’t have a choice? When you borrow money, you’re essentially using tomorrow’s money to pay for today’s costs.
As our economies slow down, our leaders have decided to borrow from tomorrow to fund today’s mediocre growth. The problem is you don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Goldman Sachs helped Greece’s government defraud the European Union for years but still got their money when Greece’s finances collapsed. Pensions were taken away from people, schools and hospitals were shut down so investment banks didn’t fall in the red. Let that sink in.
9. Economic Decline takes away Western supremacy
Excluding one or two success cases here and there, virtually no Western countries are outperforming fledging emerging economies on a consistent basis. It could very well be that Western countries lose their dominance to China and India with the very rules they created.
As the Chinese and Indian economies become the new benchmark for development, Western countries witness their civilisation being replaced by the Eastern take on the Western obsession with economic growth and the capital accumulation. Western civilisation would survive, but only as a poor imitation of its former self.
8. Clash of cultures
With the fall of communism, a belief that globalisation would cure the world of its issues emerged. If enough wealth was generated, poverty, famine and social injustice would disappear. Unfortunately, this strategy didn’t work as the powerful found a way to ensure this system would perpetuate wealth generation for themselves in the long run, as more wealth is generated but also retained at the top.
The recent United States presidential election and Brexit have exposed a public outrage at issues surrounding mass immigration and multiculturalism. While some may be too busy labelling Trump or Brexit voters as racist xenophobes, it might be more effective to identify and address the problems which have resulted in these two results. The ultimate goal is to avoid our society’s implosion to internal discord.
7. Viral epidemic
Recent Ebola and H1N1 crisis combined with zombie outbreak films and TV shows have given us a taste of exactly our civilization would collapse if a viral epidemic were to run rampant across the human population. It’s a well-documented fact that viruses and bacteria are becoming stronger.
Much like what the black plague did to the prevailing order in medieval times, a new viral epidemic resistant to our medicine would destroy Western civilization as we know it. Out of the destruction, chaos and death, a new order would emerge as the Western civilization would be no more. Nature can be brutal like that.
6. Natural disaster
Some may not remember how the whole mess in Syria started but those more aware of the subtle nuances of the region will remember the current state of affairs can be traced back to a whim of the natural order. The ensuing civil war broke out when a severe drought brought on widespread famine to the country.
Several armed forces seized the opportunity created by the civil dissatisfaction to attempt to overthrow the oppressive Assad regime. After years of civil war, hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of dislocated refugees the war is still going. An equally severe event happening across the world would certainly have similar repercussions. Sometimes we just need a little push to destroy ourselves.
5. Tyranny forces our destruction
At the penultimate turn of the century, European empires ruled the world. Then the first World War happened. The Treaty of Versailles humiliated the losing side and out of that humiliation, a tyrannical leader was born in Adolf Hitler. The crimes he perpetrated as head of the Nazi killing machine will forever haunt humanity.
Out of the second World War which this tyrant provoked, a new order emerged. This new order was built on the balance between the United States and the Soviet Union. When communism failed, the United States hegemony seemed eternal but it has since been eroded. It’s not unfair to assume a similar tyrant either ahead of either the United States or one of their enemies could launch a war that would result in a similar level of destruction.
4. A Revolution can bring down our society
Food shortages are usually the best way to spark a revolution but the balance we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in our society may be disturbed by less. Revolutions can arise from the smallest, most seemingly insignificant events. Ultimately, there’s no way of knowing exactly how a revolution starts.
However, revolutions stem from discontent with the ruling elites and, in the age of information, a lot of their indiscretions are being made public. It’s no secret to informed people everywhere that our leaders are only in it for themselves and their own. If they truly cared about everyone else, the hungry would be fed, the homeless would have a roof over their heads and the poor would be looked after.
3. New World Order eradicates freedom as we know it
One of the most famous conspiracy theories is the presumed existence of a secret organization advancing an agenda for a totalitarian global government through strategically placed individuals in global decision-making centres. Regardless of whether or not the New World Order conspiracy theory is true, there’s no denying our collective and individual freedoms would be seriously eroded if not eradicated.
Western civilization was based and has survived due to its emphasis on the value of freedom above everything else. If every human being is under the rule of one government, then freedom no longer exists and this would be the true end of Western civilization.
2. Climate Change
While some people deny the possibility of man-made climate change (or global warming), others affirm it may very well be how our civilization ends. Man-made or not, the truth is our climate subsists on the back of a fragile balance of natural cycles, which we should protect.
With the rise of sea levels, this balance would be gone, resulting in a string of cataclysmic events which would bring our civilization to its knees. It would certainly constitute poetical justice if our civilization is wiped out by the same environment we’ve used up over the last couple of centuries when we’ve been engaged in heavy industry and fossil fuel consumption. Humanity would survive to find a new balance.
1. A Nuclear Winter
When so many of today’s world leaders seem to be dangerously similar to power-hungry, warmongering dictators, and you remember some of the worst actually have nuclear weapons, you could be forgiven for thinking of the worse. All out nuclear war would most likely destroy our planet in the long run by making it uninhabitable.
The balance we live in is extremely fragile. For better or worse, all it takes is one crazy move to disrupt the equilibrium. What if North Korea actually launches a nuclear attack on Japan, South Korea or even the United States? Retaliation would be brutal and civilian casualties certain. Can we really trust our gut when it comes to predicting what a mad dictator like Kim Jong-Un will do to hold onto power?
A third World War with nuclear weapons on both sides would destroy civilization as we know it. How can we be certain a nuclear winter won’t happen?
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