I was born on the shortest day of the year just after dark on that cold, snowy December 21st to a teenage mother, one year after the start of the darkest war in history, pitting good against evil and inflaming the entire world for the second time in the twentieth century. It was a time when we were poor, tired and hungry, and our future was so uncertain that sickness could have easily taken my twin brother or I in that first year of life. One would think that the Apocalypse was upon us. But it wasn't. We struggled, we persevered, many died and many suffered, but we won the war and rescued Europe and the South Seas, forced back the Evil Axis and ended it with the Bomb–the weapon to end all weapons. For it was not foretold that the end would come at that time. That time only showed us what inhumanity man could do to man–a lesson. And let the genie out of the bottle.
Flash forward seventy years and the prophecies are upon us. So, what is so different–now from then? We are still at war. People are still starving and suffering. Inhumanity, slavery, genocide and torture are still being committed. New diseases crop up to scare us. Fascist ideologies are on the rise, very willing to conquer all and consume the planet. The difference is much more diffuse, more esoteric, and more difficult to fathom.
After World War II, the sky, and the stars, were the limit. We reached for the Moon and got there. A monumental feat we can't repeat. Oh yes, there was the Cold War where two sides of the world with differing ideologies teetered on the brink of letting loose the genie again. But there was fear of the Devil on both sides. Neither one wanted to open that bottle and let that that genie out–that thermonuclear war that would have easily annihilated all life in the name of self-defense. What defense is that, when by merely wiping out your enemy, you wipe out yourself?
Fortunately, that didn't happen–yet. Something more insidious did. Corporations changed the world. Gradually, bit-by-bit, they took over country after country as they sought to make their products and sell them to an ever larger, international, marketplace. And the marketplace was growing. In spite of the tragic loss of life in World War II, the people of the world rebounded with a fertilization rate unheard of in any era. Improvements in medicine brought on by the war insured that human life had a much better chance of surviving birth and childhood. Large families were revered as the source of personal wealth and well being. World population grew exponentially and there was nothing that could stop it, not even the draconian measures by Communist China could stem the tide of humanity flooding the earth and consuming its resources. It was like Robert L. Heilbroner had predicted in The Worldly Philosophers, that growing population was like a train with all the poor people occupying the front cars, more like cattle cars, and the rear of the train having club cars for the rich, all heading headlong toward a cliff where the cattle cars would fall off first, pulling the rest of the train with them. It was a scene right out of the Bible or the prognosticators of the Middle Ages.
What had been predicted began in the winter of 2011, just after the winter solstice. Europe was locked in the coldest winter seen in many years. Rivers, including the Thames, froze over, something that hadn't happened in the twentieth century and hadn't been seen since the Little Ice Age in the sixteenth century. A lot of finger-pointing was done, but in the end it was global warming, the highly debated rise in CO2 that most scientists believed would be affecting the planet by raising its overall temperature, melting the ice caps and glaciers, and causing the oceans to rise by the amount of glacial ice melted on the land. They didn't count in initially the change in the ocean conveyors and the release of methane.
At the spring solstice, the vernal equinox brought the largest outbreak of tornadoes in the United States in history, not seen since the outbreaks accompanying the nuclear tests of the 1950s. In early June, Venus crossed the Sun. It was a sign of ominous proportion missed by most except for a few astronomers and astrologers that knew that it was a bad omen. The Greek goddess was quick, much faster than Mars, but the Sun was inflamed by her passage and responded with massive storms in early July not seen since solar flares were first observed by Galileo. These storms created minor problems for communication in the beginning and spectacular aurora borealis as far south as Arkansas, but that was only the beginning of the disruption to come.
The arguments over what was causing the lengthening recession, turning into a depression, missed the point. It wasn't about creating jobs for the billions of people without work and money to live on. It was about diminishing returns, already setting in in the oil and gas industry. The thread that held the burgeoning population together, the food chain, was reaching its breaking point and nobody noticed except Nostradamus, the I Ching, the Holy Bible, and the Mayan calendar, set to conclude its cycle on December 21, 2012, my 70th birthday. Could all of these prophecies be wrong? Of course they could. But the fact that they all seem to coincide on this single date was not only startling, it was statistically impossible. Unfortunately, most people thought of it as and interesting proposition, but mostly fiction and a nice story portrayed in many books and movies. A great escape from the heat of the summer was to go to a favorite air-conditioned movie house at night and watch some fantasy superhero save the world like the Dark Knight. Real heroes were everywhere, solving problems and saving other people’s lives. The real heroes got their fifteen minutes of fame, but not the kind of financial reward the actors playing fantasy heroes got. Human beings, being the way we are, were more concerned with the economics and social well being of our lifestyle and not too interested in dire predictions of what might or might not happen from some16th century seer. Nonetheless, most of us had a creepy feeling on the back of our necks whenever we encountered one of these interesting scenarios that were becoming more and more mainstream–backed by scientific facts that could not be denied.
Areas of drought worldwide had been growing for some time and reached a culmination in mid-July when it was determined that much of the United States Midwest, South, and Southwest food crops were being badly damaged by the drought. This was happening worldwide and a giant cloud of dust rose out of the Saharan desert and traveled across the Atlantic to deposit its spell on the North America continent. Whether it came from the dust or from an airplane traveler, Ebola arrived in a strain that was resistant to every known antibiotic and highly contagious. It first appeared in Miami, but was soon found in Atlanta, New York City, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, and LA. There was no stopping the virus once it arrived. The disease was spread by touch, through liquids, and in the air. Ebola spread through the body at speed, disrupting cells and causing tremendous pain as it literally ripped the body apart while blood and bodily fluids escaped. Most who were infected died within 48 hours. Hospital staffs and EMTs were some of the first to contract the disease, leaving no one left to care for the infected.
By the end of the summer, food commodities were overpriced because of the shortages from crop failure and it rippled throughout the entire economy driving up inflation to compound the depression that had already set in. Wildfires raged unchecked through much of the Western United States, Canada, and the Eastern Mountain ranges. Firefighters and fire fighting funds were exhausted leaving local people with little to fight the fires. Two hundred thousand homes were lost and many lives from people cut off from escape.
August and September brought continued highest temperatures ever recorded. Several large hurricanes ravaged the continental United States, Central America, and the Caribbean islands. In the Pacific, huge typhoons raked the Hawaiian Islands, the Philippines, Vietnam, China, and Japan. The South Sea Islands, faced with rising ocean levels, were hit the hardest, with thousands drowned in the storm surges. In Bangladesh, flooded many times before, a typhoon charged up the Bay of Bengal engulfing Dhaka in 20 feet of water drowning forty million people and killing all of the remaining tigers in the Sundarbans. Even Los Angeles had a major hurricane, coming out of Central America and surprising the city with 30 inches of rain, flooding thousands of homes and causing massive mudslides up and down the Coast, killing thousands and destroying billions in property. Portions of the Antarctic ice sheet began to break off and fall into the sea. The rapidly melting Greenland ice cap flowed to the sea in huge rivers of fresh water. The North Atlantic was filled with icebergs from the rapidly moving glaciers and for the very first time, the entire Arctic Ocean was free of ice except for icebergs from glaciers that ringed its shores.
Erosion from the rising sea levels and massive storms were eating entire shorelines and all of their development. Amsterdam, New Orleans, Venice, and even London succumbed to the rising waters along with every low-lying city or island on the seven seas, flooding countless homes and businesses and drowning millions in storms.
With disaster piling on top of disaster and so many people worldwide in need, emergency services broke down and couldn't meet the need anymore. People begin dying unnecessarily because they lacked basics like food, water, shelter and medical attention. The dominoes were all in place, and they were falling in line. No one was there to prop them up. No money, technology or manpower could stick its finger in the hole in this dike, growing bigger every day.
Fall came and the trees that had not burned or burned out from the continual heat and drought in the Northern Hemisphere obediently changed color. But the color was brown, the color of the bare dirt left by the drought. The harvest solstice brought only hunger and fear. There was no turkey on Thanksgiving tables and even sweet potatoes were expensive and hard to find. The outlook for winter looked bleak. But winter never really came. There were cold fronts that brought dirty ice and snow, that quickly melted while hurricanes and violent storms continued well past their normal seasons into December.
The worst weather year in history was rapidly coming to a close. But that wasn't the end of it. During the heat of the late summer, the permafrost in the tundra finally melted. The release of methane was tremendous. By my birthday, the unthinkable happened. The oceans warmed to a point, a tipping point, where they burped massive quantities of methane that had been trapped in their depths by the action of microorganisms both plant and animal in the sea. The world was greeted with huge flaring atmospheric explosions whenever the mix of methane and oxygen in the air was right and the lightning from thunderstorms set it off. No one on the high seas was immune from these explosions. Nor were anyone on the coasts, already beleaguered by rising ocean waters and higher and higher tides and storm surges. I spent my 70th birthday locked up in my house with the air conditioner running full blast and a Bacardi frozen margarita to cool my soul.
Finally, as Christians around the world were praying to Christ on his birthday that it would stop, the last straw came. Pakistan launched a nuclear missile to India and the war was on. It wasn't pretty. The United Nations tried to rush in and stop the genie, but it was out of the bottle and couldn't be put back in. Israel made a preemptive strike on Iran, and Russia retaliated. Israel disappeared as a country and many of the surrounding countries were badly damaged by collateral destruction and fallout. NATO responded to the Israeli call for revenge and soon the entire nuclear arsenal of the world was launched. Why have it, and not use it?
You might say that the year 2012 went out with a Bang. Actually, the combined sound of explosions, the earthquakes they set off, and the tsunamis they created resulted in many of the loudest bangs ever heard around the world. Billions died. Clouds covered the earth. In both the Pacific and the Atlantic, the ocean conveyors in the Northern Hemisphere failed. By January's end, the Apocalypse had arrived. People everywhere were going to heaven or hell, or into the dust of the ages, according to their beliefs. But they were gone, never to return to what was now a hellhole of an earth, whether it was in a new Ice Age or a new tropical age with mutant dinosaurs taking over again, made no difference. The year 2012 created an earth nobody wanted and nobody could see coming, but those that survived were saddled with–Hell on Earth. Welcome to it.
Whaa… What…? My eyes are opening and I can feel my head against the monitor. I'm eyeballing the keyboard and my nose is making thousands of “ks” across the screen. My God! I must have dozed off writing this. Drooling on my keyboard ain't good. There, just deleted twenty pages of them–whew! At least there's no damage done. Let's see, my clock says it's Monday, July 23, 1:07pm. Yet, I've written all the way to the end of the year from what I can see–strange. They say I talk in my sleep, and I must've been talking to my voice system when I nodded out. As I read this, the things I've written down seem to be entirely possible. I think I'll leave it just the way it is anyway, just in case some of it comes true, whether this year or later. Maybe I predicted something in my sleep that will make me famous… Ha ha… Fat chance.
I don't believe any of this is going to happen anyway, but it's a nice exercise don't you think? My plan is what it always has been, to be in touch with my family and friends by email and telephone on my birthday, especially wishing my twin brother, “Happy Birthday.” And then I'll have a special meal, a hot toddy in the evening after my meal, go to sleep, and wake up to a beautiful December 22 with the birds chirping outside and our fall garden winding down for the winter. I wouldn't have it any other way. Would you?
Copyright 2012 © Ronald W. Hull