The End of the World is Upon Us

by Darwin on November 3, 2011

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 DollarHow Important Is It to Start Early?

Consumerism Commentary – 10 Ways to Avoid Hotel Fees

Len PenzoHow Prices Ending in 9 Affect Your Buying Habits (Or Not.)

Carnivals that Featured my Articles

Carnival of Personal Finance

Best of Money

Festival of Frugality

Totally Money

Carnival of Personal finance

Canadian Finance Carnival

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Financial Samurai November 3, 2011 at 10:49 pm

I’m so happy to sell into this rally. I’m afraid of the congressional super committee crap rancor!


Darwin November 4, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Yes, November’s going to be interesting. Now if I were only allowed to short Groupon today for it’s absurd debut.


Ash @ Sterling Effort November 4, 2011 at 6:45 am

Haha see this is the kind of thing I want to read on a Friday. Humans are a a parasite. We will keep crapping all over the place until the only place left is our own face. Don’t worry though; human civilization will be trimmed down to a more manageable size after all the smart rich kids move to Mars. Have a great weekend everyone!


Darwin November 4, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Glad some doom before the weekend gave you a smile :>


Paula @ Afford Anything November 4, 2011 at 11:35 am

Aw, but how can you compare Ricin to the Kardashian breakup! I mean, the Kardashian breakup drastically impacts my daily life!


Darwin November 4, 2011 at 8:50 pm

I’d say maybe the press is trying to be patriotic and downplay how easy it would have been to pull off a terrorist attack with ricin. But that would be giving them too much credit. Americans don’t tune in.


Maggie@SquarePennies November 4, 2011 at 1:12 pm

It seems we’ve been brought up on doomsday scenarios. After a while it becomes background noise. Meh.


Darwin November 4, 2011 at 8:51 pm

You never feel like we’re “livin’ on the edge” we technology to destroy each other continues to evolve so efficiently?


ParatrooperJJ November 4, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Ricin is alot hader to make then you think. It’s also very heat sensitive – it’s a protein.


Darwin November 4, 2011 at 8:47 pm

per wikipedia:
Ricin is easily purified from castor oil manufacturing waste. The aqueous phase left over from the oil extraction process is called waste mash. It contains about 5-10% ricin by weight. Separation requires only simple chromatographic techniques.


101 Centavos November 4, 2011 at 9:39 pm

… and on top of everything else, my Mac blows up. Now I can’t keep up with the latest Kardashian news. What’s a fellow to do?

Curiosly enough, we’ve got popular shows on Cable TV about alien invasions (Falling Skies) *and* a zombie apocalypse (Walking Dead). “Survivors” was remade and aired by the BBC. That one was about a pandemic. Maybe it is a sign of the times…


Financial Uproar November 6, 2011 at 12:55 pm

I always know where to come when I want to be bummed out. It’s the end of the world as we know it… and I feel fine.

Oh, and thanks for the link!


Invest It Wisely November 12, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Life is precarious, but also resilient. I’m surprised we’ve made it nearly 100 years with nuclear weapons in the hands of major players. In my view, the more we decentralize, the better, and once we spread out beyond the Earth I think we have a pretty good shot at long-term survival. Maybe in another 100 years or so, technology will be good and cheap enough to make large-scale space colonization possible.

Crazy how fast things change compared to geological timescales, or even cultural ones! It’s been 12,000 years since the glaciers retreated and modern civilization started with the spread of agriculture, but it’s only been in the past 150 years or so that we’ve seen such profound technological changes taking place. It’s pretty incredible to be alive and to be able to witness it all.


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