A Conflict of Ways
Charles Darwin’s historic scientific study, “The Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection,” changed the way man perceived the world around him. The cosmos, instead of being the glorious creation of a living God, became a collection of randomly evolving energies and particles. As Darwinism grew in popularity, the miracle of life became little more than an evolutionary curiosity, and God’s proudest achievement, human intelligence, the mysterious happenstance of nature.
The conflict between the forces of God and those of evolution resembled the great biblical battles between good and evil. Those who believed in a living God saw a plan, a design and an order to the universe. Those who took the purely evolutionary view claimed that scientific concepts like the “big bang” theory and measurements of the age of the universe explained everything, including molecules, molecular machines and all life.
The abuses of Darwinism were demonstrated in the 20th century. To many elite progressives, lesser humans were a curse to the earth and should be eliminated to improve the species. The resulting ideology of Social Darwinism led to Hitler’s “master race” and the genocidal slaughters of German Jews and “undesirables” in WW II concentration camps.
To those who believed in both God and Science, evolution did not inherently conflict with intelligent design. As a matter of religious philosophy, evolution, with its naturalist perspective, gave greater glory to the wisdom of God. Who but God would have chosen the conditions of the world to continuously change and advance the course of life?
Adaptation and Rejection
People are adaptable creatures. They apply their intelligence and physical skills to every problem regardless of its magnitude. But to Joe, nothing seemed quite right about the new normal. Yes, the country and much of the world was shattered and in ruins. Yes, man was working in many ways to recover. But who or what was triumphing – man or nature?
Could a new equilibrium be reached that would allow stability and then progress toward civilization? Centralized authority had all but disappeared. New social groups coalesced for a while but then suddenly collapsed.
If there was any certainty, it lay in a belief in God. Yet man in his arrogance continued to abandon God. Would God return the insult?
Punishment from the Sea
One of the early post disaster questions was, “Could the damage in the Gulf event be confined to the Gulf?” Those who initially thought this possible were quickly disappointed. Oily debris saturated the Gulf loop current flowed into the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.
As predicted, the loop current showed signs of slowing, once again raising the question of global climate change. Ominously, what happened near Iceland was not comforting. The sea ice was expanding at a rate that threatened to close off all sea passages in the Northern Atlantic.
What was a surprise, however, was the disappearance of key edible fish. No one knew why but schools of tuna and salmon runs in Alaska gradually stopped. This astounded the scientific community and was considered impossible by those who followed the sea and earned a living from it. The fish had to be somewhere!
Crabs, shrimp, and other creatures that hugged the shore, likewise began to disappear. This was more understandable as the oil washed ashore for decades.
Early in his adult life Joe had been curious about the biblical Book of Revelations, an apocalyptic writing that delivered its message in a coded form of numbers, symbols, and images. He remembered that Revelations spoke about a beast that rose out of the sea. It had seven heads and ten horns, each with crowns. The beast was given the stealth of a leopard, the strength of a bear, the majesty of a lion and the power of a dragon. This beast condemned the goodness of the Earth and warred against all that was of God. Was this the explanation of why the sea turned against man?
Punishment from the Land
After the Gulf disaster, working the land was an absolute necessity. Gone was the previously abundant food supply. Shortages were compounded by the unpredictability of nature. Years of cold summers shortened growing season. Because it was nearly impossible to grow crops in large quantities, herds of beef and milk cows, flocks of chicken, and similar animal food stocks could not be bred or kept.
Joe remembered the science fiction movie “Soylent Green”. Mankind had consumed all the farm animals and all the fish in the oceans, seas, lakes and rivers. What was left to consume was too horrific to contemplate yet too necessary to be ignored. As with the Stalinist Holodomor in Ukraine or the stranded Donner Party on the way to California, cannibalism became an unfortunate necessity.
But the land was not finished delivering its blows. Every earthquake created panic, and every major earthquake disrupted and dispersed social groups intent on recapturing the smallest opportunities to farm or ranch.
To add to the misery, the Anak Krakatau volcano exploded, spewing its own debris into the atmosphere. Volcanic destruction was piled on existing devastation.
Joe knew that the book of Revelations also spoke about another beast. This time from the earth. The second beast had the horns of an innocent lamb and the voice of the dragon. It brought fire from above and deceived those who witnessed its “miracles”. Significantly, those who listened to the false prophets and charlatans of disaster were led to their doom.
Punishment from the Air
Because of the massive size of the American grassland and forest fires, the winds carried large and still burning embers across the Atlantic Ocean and eventually the entire globe. No one could predict in advance where new fires would start. Decimated military and police personnel were put on highest alert and given orders to assist in firefighting. They were also given shoot to kill orders if some crazed idiot decided it would be fun to play with matches in the middle of Armageddon.
The atmosphere changed. Concentrations of ash particles, methane and carbon dioxide increased to the point at which older people and those with asthma were slowly asphyxiated. The healthiest of adults found it difficult to work the long days needed to restore some semblance of civilization. Real rest was nonexistent, and play a luxury reserved only for the very healthiest of young children.
A priority was placed on creating oxygen enhancement zones. What was left of the biotechnology community worked darkened days and starless nights to develop an artificial human lung that could increase the oxygen content of the “new” air. Work began to create a genetically altered human being that could live with a lower oxygen concentration and higher methane levels.
Joe had been an expert in the area of carbon monoxide intoxication and the affect of reduced oxygen levels. The normal atmospheric oxygen content is 21% of the air with the rest being mostly nitrogen. The new atmospheric concentration was the equivalent of being at 12,500 feet above sea level. Under these conditions, the efficiency of the human brain, organs and body is considerably impaired. Mental confusion, short-term memory loss, and tiredness can lead to increased errors in judgment or work performance. Headaches are common and persist indefinitely. People working in such an environment must have access to oxygen on a regular basis either through a portable system or oxygen room, both of which increase the dangers of fire and explosion.
Shelter from ice, snow, fog, and rainstorms became absolutely necessary. Moisture of unknown acidity regularly fell from the skies. Tests were developed to determine if the rain could be directly used for drinking, and therefore captured in large cisterns. If the rain proved to be too acidic, then agricultural crops were at risk along with any animals that were not sheltered. Upon the cessation of a severe acid rain event, people were sent out to forage for any dead or injured animals before the meat could rot.
In the new normal, snow occasionally reached the equatorial ground where before it had only resided on the tops of the mountains. Temperatures around the world continued to drop, and frigid conditions were the norm in places that had previously been considered moderate.
Joe knew that Revelations had no third beast. However, the satanic trinity consisted of the devil himself, the son of perdition, and the false prophet. And it was obvious that much had been done to damage God’s creation.
Beyond Mad Max
The “Mad Max” series of movies presented a dystopian nightmare world in which little was produced and scarce fuel the prize. To a great extent, scavenging was a major factor in both the “Mad Max” world and the new normal.
As in the movie, the post disaster countryside was bleak and desolate. Oases, supposed places of refuge, were few and far between. Many contained sources of water so contaminated as to be instantly toxic. Those survivors who were experienced knew that when the birds were not chirping, danger lay in the waters and in the shade of the trees.
The most obvious physical signs of a centralized civilization were rapidly dilapidating. Government buildings, formerly the central features of many towns, lay in various states of ruin. The “safest” were used as overnight shelters for people on the move.
Large plants and utility facilities, although incapable of fulfilling their primary function without power or fuel, could be fortressed. Many were fenced, and many were easily adapted for defense in depth, having both high ground for sentries and small or hidden entrances to limit mass assault.
Roads were not maintained, yet they showed the way from what was to what might be. However, caution was dictated as evildoers and crazies regularly patrolled most roads. No one traveled alone, and if a group was forced to travel any distance, it was necessary for every individual, even a young child, to be armed and trained to kill.
The relentless forces of change drove mankind. Earth’s remaining people concentrated in the increasingly scarce benign areas of the planet. And, when necessary, individual groups fought to the death for their chosen ground and for scraps of life.
Small and Necessary
It was not only the biggest of things that were important. In the “new” normal, many things previously taken for granted were items of great value.
A common box of wooden matches was easily carried – and an internationally recognized substitute for hard currency such as gold, silver, or jewelry. Lighting a match meant warmth, ignition, and light. However, lighting a match was also a challenge to be undertaken only in times of greatest need as the methane levels in the surroundings might be high enough to trigger a sudden explosion.
A simple test for methane concentrations involved keeping the equivalent of the proverbial “canary in the mine.” A dead bird signaled a methane emergency and potential for massive explosions in the immediate vicinity.
The Road to Oblivion
Often forgotten in the Darwinist view of cosmos was that evolution was not just a step-by-step transition to the future. The passage of time was punctuated by massive random extinctions. Species at the pinnacle of life could be crushed by but one event, and their place taken by something new and quite alien.
Science catalogued the largest of the prior extinctions. All but one was related to massive climatic shifts and even that one, an asteroid impact, led to such a shift.
Joe mused, “Who would have thought that something as simple as an oil mishap might have led to this?” The mass extinction records show that a large heavy meteor could threaten mankind, but just an oil spill and earthquake? God does have a sense of humor – and a sense of wrath.”
The Fears of Man
The American President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when confronted with the obvious fears of a nation at war, issued the following challenge:
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Joe mused, “If only it were that easy.” Fear affects every part of the body, and prepares an individual for fight or flight. Fear causes the heart to beat faster, the skin to sweat, the muscles to contract, and adrenalin to flow. Even those rigorously prepared to think and act routinely in the face of fear cannot completely escape its onslaught. And each person’s fear is unique and each person’s response specific.
Joe’s greatest fear was of being lonely. Unfortunately, life involved living it, and change was part of the ebb and flow of the world. His wife had died a few years earlier, mercifully before the Gulf disaster. He knew that her love and concern for her children would have created great personal anxieties. He would have hated to see her happy and open personality frustrated by the unkindness of a turbulent world. Unfortunately, his children were scattered around the nation and one son was in Europe. With communications silenced at the local level, Joe was left only with the daily interactions of those he happened to meet.
He did not need to be told about Kor. It was obvious that he had disappeared in the maelstrom of the tsunami. He also knew that Newman’s death had come at the hands of the Plague when it invaded the cities of California. Pierre was destined to die a fiery death while fighting to rebuild a food preservation plant. The methane had been concentrated because the land upon which the plant had been built was situated in a bowl shaped depression in the earth.
The only one left of the four was Sister Savannah. She traveled constantly to minister to those in need and to spread the word and hope of God.
The tangible evidence of Joe’s childhood and previous adult life had been uprooted, scattered or destroyed. There was nothing to replace these things in a world devoid of what he had known.
Joe remembered the meaning of the words of Winston Churchill.
“Value courage as a human quality. It supports sympathy and empathy for others, strengthens morality and trust, and fosters a sense of humility and forgiveness. Never give in to force or overwhelming might of circumstances, but only to honor and decency. Prize integrity even if it leads to pain and death.”
Mankind’s extinction was still unrecognized except by a few thoughtful souls. It was obvious that nature was winning in exorable fashion, grinding mankind’s future into the dust. It did not matter that people would not or could not fathom their destiny in such nightmarish terms. Joe knew complex situations brought with them a form of cognitive chaos with them, in the midst of what should have been normalcy were uncontrollable mysteries.
The facts should not have been ignored for such a long period. No one had seen a bright sky filled with stars for years. Starvation and disease, along with climatic extremes, ruled the planet. Mankind, considered the most adaptable of creatures, was forced to conclude that adaptability in and of itself might just not be enough to insure the survivability of the species.
The Book of Revelations spoke once again. The apocalypse was upon the Earth.