Civilization and the Great Cataclysm

22 Jan

There are some who believe that this isn’t the first time human civilization has climbed the trail of technology and science.  There are the stories of Atlantis and their superior culture, their advanced sciences, and immensely useful technology, all coming to one giant end as some great natural disaster struck, flooding their homeland and scattering their survivors to the four winds.

Is it possible?  Could such a thing really happen?

Here is where we let our imaginations run wild with speculation, unbridled and unfettered.  We’re going straight to the worst case scenario.  We obviously  have enough potential for these worst case scenarios.  Every component for a world-wide breakdown of civilization and technology exists, without any influence from extraterrestrials, dieties, or other otherworldly pressures.

A few earthquakes hitting critical areas, Asia, western North America, and South America would be a good start, especially if it tossed in a few tsunamis as well.  Tsunamis striking the west coast of the United States would contribute greatly to the chaos.  Toss in a civil war situation in the United States, something that more than one person has suggested is a potential result of recent federal actions, and the United States is not going to be in condition to respond to a natural disaster, effectively leaving the stricken regions on their own, even within their own borders.

All of that seismic activity is surely a precursor to volcanic activity, and we have our share here too.  The volcanoes of the West Coast would surely begin erupting, and it just could be Yellowstone’s time too.  Toss in a few in Iceland, maybe one or two in the Polynesian regions, and we’ve got plenty of ash and gasses entering the atmosphere.

Of course all of that would affect the weather, and rapidly.  Strong hurricanes strike the eastern seaboard of the United States, destroying entire cities.  Winter brings severe storms, crippling the entire northern hemisphere and with widespread fuel shortages inspiring riots as well as food shortages and deaths due to the cold.  By spring, the deep snow causes flooding, devastating riverside communities as the flooding waters burst out of river banks.  Communications are breaking down, travel is impossible, shipping goods is impossible, and people are dependent on local resources.  Other utilities, such as natural gas supplies and electricity, are also failing to be reliable, and are down in many regions.  Military units cannot maintain control of local populations, as everyone is suffering from hunger, cold, and many are displaced and homeless.  Soldiers are abandoning their units, making their way home to find out about their families.

Disease outbreaks as desperate and starving people take desperate measures to escape impossible situations begin spreading, with the soldiers bringing home more than they expected to.  People are dying, medical facilities lack supplies when they do still exist.  The federal government, in the USA as well as abroad, is incapable of keeping up with the disease issues and cannot keep their armies together.  Riots rage and lawless gangs rob and murder.

Battered by diseases, earthquakes, wars, riots, volcanoes, storms, and shortages, the population dwindles rapidly.  Children are abandoned as their parents seek any way to survive in the aftermath.  Few people are prepared to cope with such a devastating change in civilization as it begins to break down.  Deaths take out critical people in communities that have no way of communicating with the outside world.  Supplies stop moving, little news makes its way across the continent and information ceases to flow across the oceans.  In some areas, as few as 5 or 10% of the population survives the first two years.  In other areas, the survival rate is so small that it almost doesn’t exist.

For the next few years, there is little happening in terms of technology or civilization.  Survival in the ruins has become the primary motivator.  People band together for mutual protection and the security of a group, recreating the tribes of our distant past.  After twenty years, little remains of technological advances of our last couple of hundred years.  After fifty, there is even less.

By the time a century has past, the history of what was has degenerated to a series of legends and fables, as the literacy rate drops to almost nothing.  Language shifts are beginning to occur, making communication more difficult as a person travels across the terrain.  Will anyone remember at all?

It’s very conceivable that just such a thing could occur.  Does that mean that it has happened in our past?  It may well have.  Remember our dragons?  Why couldn’t they have been dinosaurs?  I wonder what our legacy would be to the treasure trove of legends…the Twinkie?  That could be an interesting legend…

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