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was, perhaps, somewhat plausible. (We can’t discount the fact that governments did spend over 100 bil- lion dollars to secure computers against failure, which may have been partially responsible for averting the expected breakdown.) And finally we have the Mayan Apocalypse which even spawned a silly movie. (With awesome special effects though). These are only a few of the failed predictions of which I am aware that have occurred in my

lifetime and that of many readers of this article. There have been countless dozens of other such failed predic- tions stretching back through the centuries.

I think we could say that the batting average of those prognosticators of world destruction has so far been about zero. All of which, however, raises an interest- ing question. Why are so many people so fearful of and ready to believe in an impending doomsday? I think the answer to that question brings us to the unstated moral of Aesops fable. In spite of all the false alarms the wolf turned out to be very real.

And eventually the wolf showed up.

If instead of trying to foresee the future of planet Earth we look to its past, we are confronted with a rather disquieting mass of evidence about the actual his- tory of global change. While the prevailing paradigm for most of the 20th century was one of slow, gradu- alistic change, that interpretation has given way to a new model which recognizes that profoundly dynamic changes have occurred on a scale unprecedented in recent times. Every month now brings new scientific revelations about Earths cataclysmic history. Over the last 3 or 4 decades scientists from multiple disciplines have steadily documented the reality of great catastro- phes in the history of the Earth. We now know that Earth has been subject to devastating asteroid and comet impacts too numerous to count. We know that gigantic volcanic eruptions have occurred sufficient to cause the sky to go dark for months at a time. We know that great tsunamis have repeatedly occurred that would make the Japanese and Indonesian disasters look trivial. We know that vast ice ages have gripped the planet over and over again. We know that mega scale floods that can only be described as biblical in scale have devastated large regions of the Earth’s surface. And we suspect that the majority of Earth’s extinct animal species succumbed to global disasters. And finally, we now know that numer- ous cataclysmic episodes have occurred during the several hundred millennia that we humans have been present on Earth.

Is it possible that racial memories of past tribulations suffered by the human species fuels the fear of future doomsdays? And given what we know about the fre- quency of past global disasters would it not be prudent to assume that at some future date we will again be faced with apocalyptic events? Recognition of Earth’s catastrophic history does not imply a fatalistic view of life. Rather it provides a dose of reality and a higher

Oracle 20/20 March 2013

perspective on the human condition than is generally acknowledged by the occupants of the institutions of social power.

Professor of zoology and human ecology Kenneth E. F. Watt, wrote in his 1974 book The Titanic Effect that “The magnitude of disasters decreases to the extent that people believe that they are possible, and plan to prevent them, and to minimize their effects.” Thanks to early warning systems in place in the Pacific Ocean, which were lacking in the Indian Ocean, the great Japanese tsunami of 2011 caused about 20,000 deaths whereas the death toll of the Indonesian tsunami of 2004 was on the order of 300,000.

As if to underscore the point of this article, on February 15 came a close brush with disaster. Asteroid 2012 DA14 whizzed by the Earth at a distance of only 17,000 miles, inside the orbits of many satellites. It is about the same size as the object which exploded over Siberia in 1908. Had it collided with Earth the resulting detona- tion would have been equivalent to that of the largest hydrogen bombs, enough to completely obliterate a metropolitan area the size of Atlanta.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 is a cosmic reminder that catastro- phes, in spite of all the over-hyped, pseudo-scientific predictions, are indeed real.

Editor’s note: Only hours before the asteroid’s closest approach to Earth, a meteor exploded in the air over Russia, injur- ing nearly 1,000 people, according to media reports. Although asteroids are known to sometimes have their own moons, or travel in swarms, NASA later said the meteorite was not associated with asteroid 2012 DA14.

After studying infrasound data from stations around the world, NASA released an estimate revising their first guess upward by a thousand-fold: The meteorite actually weighed close to 10,000 tons, scientists said sian-meteorite-1000-times-bigger-than-originally- thought/#ixzz2Lq6x4E31

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