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  • Recently I've started to notice more loose talk about environmental apocalypse and human extinction than I had been accustomed to. Discussing human extinction used to be taboo; it was like saying that just maybe the world has too many people on it for its own good. Now it comes from many places and in many premium flavors. Robots will learn to replicate themselves and then they and the computers will help us die off. Scientists will develop nanobots that get loose and turn the oceans into grey goo. An asteroid will crash into us and create a 4000-year-long winter. Habitat destruction from human-induced melting icecaps, droughts, and humongous typhoons will trigger species die-offs, and in the consequent chaos and misery only the super rich will survive in their designer missile silo suites.

    Suddenly all these topics have been promoted to meme status. Columnists pontificate pro and con. Books come out about what dominant species will supersede us. Comedians joke about the end of life as we thought we knew it. The memes miscegenate with zombies and mutants and government death camps and killer rats in a panoply of paranoid permutations. All I can say is Whassup? Isn't nuclear annihilation good enough anymore? We always knew we would eventually do ourselves in. The Bible says so.

    We've known for what seems forever that the moon is slowly falling into the earth, and that the sun will, some bright day, go supernova, followed by the heat death of the universe for an encore. That's not good enough anymore either. We want instant gratification.

    I reckon it's that folks sense more of a fateful imminence now, and have started worrying about their 401Ks. Ebola and California on fire hasn't helped either. If gun sales shot up after the Newtown massacre, think of the boom we should be seeing pretty soon in survival rations, camp stoves, and water purification units. Get some on eBay to hoard or scalp when the price is right.

    Speaking of the Bible, after the flood that God let Noah and his menagerie survive, the Lord pledged not ever to do that again. By the way, the deity added, next time it's the fire. So that's an inkling of what may be to come. Perhaps we see the beginning of that end in California, which always leads trends. There, huge forest fires rage out of control, and the Golden State may not contain enough water now to put them all out. But still, melting icecaps could submerge a lot of the left coast. They're probably taking bets in Vegas about which, the fire or the water, will motivate more residents to take the hike back to Oklahoma.

    Of course, for Californians there's always The Big One. But that's old news, and don't believe the jokers who predict that half the state will slide into the Pacific, disrupting whale migrations and countless auto repair shops. And all that earthquake preparedness wouldn't matter: bottled water—check. Freeze-dried food—check. Emergency generator—check. Inflatable lifeboat—oh jeez. Still, if the coast actually subsided or broke away, I'm sure that savvy entrepreneurs in places like Fresno and Bakersfield would scramble to establish marinas, seafood restaurants, and surf shops.

    I say the smart money is on food technology. Whatever corporation develops insectburgers (should be easy; hot dogs are already close to that), seaweed sea biscuits, hemp flour confections, or powdered water will definitely clean up. Soylent, anyone?

    @image: I regret not to be able to provide my own photo of the apocalypse, but this one, Cars Apocalypse from, pretty much does the trick.
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