I sometimes wonder how long the human race will continue to inhabit the earth. If you look at the amount of time that humans have walked upright and were, well, human-like, and draw a timeline equivalent to a day, the amount of time that we’ve been “industrialized” (last couple hundred years) would only comprise the last few seconds of that day. During those few seconds of that day, the population on earth has jumped from 5 Billion to 6 Billion and now we’re at 7 Billion, hitting each Billion at an ever-accelerating pace. There are a few forces working toward and against the Malthus prediction. On one hand, we’re multiplying like rabbits and there are finite resources on this earth. On the other hand, birth RATES continue to decline globally as the world becomes more developed, and things like GMO, fertilizers and technology, all of which are maligned by purists, continue to prevent famine and starvation. So, will too many people here in the coming decades cause the end of the world? I dunno, if not, there are plenty of other opportunities:
- Ricin – This week, a pretty serious risk to human life, and a potential world-ender made back-page news, you know because the Kardasian breakup was news. Basically, a couple hicks in a fringe militia decided they were going to take it upon themselves to create plenty of the most poisonous material known to man and disburse it throughout the country. Here was a particularly scary detail. They were seeking to “obtain ricin for use as a weapon by spreading it on roads and having it dispersed by vehicles traveling along selected routes”. Not only did they have access to the material, but it’s not terribly difficult to produce with some instructions off the web. Can you imagine? This stuff is so toxic, once you’ve made contact, you’re done. That’s it. Out. If it’s this easy to produce, this easy to disburse with the wind, travel routes, and such, could you imagine if the entire country (or world for that matter) were scattered with this stuff? The end.
- Nuclear War/WW3 – If you want to talk about stirring up the beehive, news broke this week that Israel was planning on bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities and this plan was revealed by top officials within Israel’s leadership because of how dangerous it would be source. Iran is no slouch and their nuclear ambitions are unstoppable while the world pretty much dithers. Overt bombing of their nuke sites would be like cutting the balls off a bull and saying, “Now what are you gonna do?”. The entire Middle East would erupt in violence, the likes of which would make the Arab Spring look like Disneyland. Ultimately, Russia, China, India, Europe, and of course, the US would be drawn in (all the major nuclear powers on earth, not a good mix). That’s World War 3.
- Black Swan – Then, there’s the unknown. Something we don’t even reasonably foresee or predict. Alien invasion (joking, I’m totally skeptical that this has ever or will ever happen during our short time here on earth), asteroid (plausible, but again, unlikely any time while humans exist – look at that timeline again), virulent and contagious disease (plausible), or something none of us have ever even imagined.
The bottom line is, sometimes I feel like we’re on the brink.….And then the stock market’s up 2% again on Thursday. So maybe not. I dunno, it just seems like an insanely crazy world on the precipice of disaster and somehow we always seem to emerge relatively unscathed.
With that, some favorite reads from the week:
The Burning Platform – Where’s my Deflation? (visit if only for the comments; love this crew)
Invest It Wisely – Comparative Advantage
Retire By 40 – Economic Inequality Is Bad For Your Health
Financial Samurai – Are The Top 1% Getting Screwed The Most?
Oblivious Investor – Bond Duration: What It Is and Why It Matters
Money Mamba – Educate Me: What is Middle Class?
101 Centavos – Recycling old CDs
Financial Uproar – What Moneyball Can Teach You About Investing
The Simple Dollar – How Important Is It to Start Early?
Consumerism Commentary – 10 Ways to Avoid Hotel Fees