Sunday, May 25, 2008

Why Is Everyone So Bloody Miserable?

Come on, cheer up - it can't be that bad.

So, half the planet's on fire with terrorism and war? Worse things happen at sea.

Yes, I did see that news story about how enormous cracks in the North Pole could signal the imminent onset of serious global warming, but I didn't let it worry me. I'm a happy person, and I try to spend as little time as possible fretting over possible catastrophes.

After all, what's a little global warming? Sure, it'll probably mean famine and death for a good percentage of the planet's population, but that's just a drop in the ocean compared to what could happen. So turn that frown upside down!

I mean, you can't be telling me that you're sitting on a giant rock, hurtling through space at 108,000 kilometres a second, in an orbit that's criss-crossed by millions of planet-killing asteroids and comets, and you're concerned about a bit of a rise in global temperature? You worry-wart, you!

Honestly, there's no need to get stressed. After all, the last massive impact to strike Earth hit with the force of several billion Hiroshima bombs, IIRC, causing a kind of nuclear winter and the extinction of 90% of all land-based animals.

Oh, and it rained sulphuric acid for years :)

So, let's try and turn these lemons into lemonade... A bit of warming never really hurt anyone, at least not on the species level.

And don't try to tell me that terrorism is a threat to our way of life, you big party pooper. A new strain of airborne Ebola virus - now, that's a threat to civilisation. Let me put it this way... There wouldn't be much point in drafting a will, unless you wanted to leave everything to your cat, and it'd just do whatever it liked with your stuff anyway.

That's worst-case-scenario stuff, though. It's all a bit theoretical too, like what would happen if the HIV virus ever decides to mutate into a form that can survive a short trip by mosquito, which it presently can't... But then, presumably there was a point at which malaria couldn't, either.

Not that it would have to be anything so exotic, of course. The last major flu pandemic sprang up all over the world simultaneously without warning and killed about 50 million people. Like Osama Bin Laden compares to that, silly boots, and remember: that happened back when penicillin worked properly. We've been using so much penicillin recently that viruses have been wiping the floor with it all over the planet. Nowadays, your average virulent bug laughs in the face of medical science.

What's that compared to some desert-dwelling loonies?

See, it's easy to stay positive when you know how.

And, of course, we are running out of petrol, with all the war, famine and pestilence that entails, but it's hardly a supervolcano, is it? The megacaldera at Yellowstone alone could cheerfully depopulate North America in a few days, you big grump, and there are at least three in that region alone that I can think of.

That's before we even reflect on how little we know about the Sun, which could, without any warning at all, spontaneously belch forth enough radiation to fry us all in our beds. Really, walking to work doesn't sound so bad when you consider that.

So really, what are you worrying about? Have a drink and reflect on how lucky you are, especially since we know so little about any of these events that we can't predict them with any reliability, and would likely find out about them through practical experience rather than theory. If you really grasped just how little we know about these phenomena and exactly how precarious our existence is, you'd be far too busy quaking in terror and soiling your underwear to worry about the stuff you read in the news.

Of course, this is just the cinematic, sexy stuff. It all pales in comparison when you consider the fact that 99.99% of the species that have ever existed are extinct, largely due to this kind of thing, and that most of them spent their time roaring, eating, humping each other and sleeping, rather than building nuclear warheads.

So, there - I hope that's put your mind at rest, miseryguts. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's catastrophism.

Dr. F. Rodent, PhD Bovine Faecology

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