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The Doomsday Book
Scenarios for the End of the World
US$ 16.99 (+ tax)
Looking at the threats to civilisation, this book explains the story and the science behind each one, and provides an assessment of how serious they are and what can and is likely to be done about them. Examining the fate of ancient civilsations and explaining the lessons they teach us, it explores the likelihood of survival when disaster hits.
Vision Paperbacks; October 2006
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Hardly a day goes by without an article or news item about the latest catastrophe to threaten civilisation. Climate change is at the top of the agenda, but even a casual acquaintance with the media over the last year will have exposed you to alarming reports about pollution, declining soil fertility, looming flu pandemics, disappearing fish, species threatened with extinction, planet-killing asteroids and nuclear proliferation, among others. In particular, the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami brought home the deadly power of nature and the threat from geophysical disasters, sparking a flurry of interest in related hazards such as super-volcanoes or island collapses leading to mega-tsunami. With headlines such as ‘Space rock threatens Earth’ or ‘Where will the next Big One strike?’ on offer, it is hardly surprising that newspapers struggle to restrain the sensationalist doom-mongering. But they are not making this stuff up. Scientists and, increasingly, the public are coming to realise that disasters do strike, and in particular that civilisation has been remarkably fortunate for millennia in avoiding catastrophe on a global, extinction-threatening level. The history of civilisation has been characterised by a remarkably long period of comparative climate stability (dubbed ‘The Long Summer’, by the historian Brian Fagan), and no civilisation has ever had to deal with a global-scale disaster. In fact the last time such an event affected our species was 73,500 years ago, when a super-volcano erupted in Indonesia. That cataclysm nearly wiped out mankind, and concerned scientists are keen for policy-makers to realise that similar threats – both natural and man-made – are not confined to the prehistoric past or the distant future, but pose a clear and present danger.