Ends and means

January 17, 2013

The recent "end of the world" debates might cause us to ask: what does that phrase actually mean? ("Merry Christmas (world is over)", News, 20/ December.) The ancient Greek term kosmos may help - it could mean the entire world and heavens, the physical world, the population of humankind, or, as used in the Bible, the population of unbelievers.

Today, "end of the world" may mean, in descending order of severity, the collapse of the Universe, the end of our local star, the destruction of Earth, the extinction of life on Earth, the extinction of Homo sapiens, the collapse of our technological global civilisation, or, as some "end-of-worlders" believe, the death of everybody except believers who have subscribed to the right religion (or maybe the right bunker manufacturer).

If we are talking about the end of our civilisation, there is much room for debate about the route to recovery (in the other scenarios, bunkers and bibles are irrelevant). I suspect a barter economy would rapidly emerge, followed quickly by the adoption of money. However, the Industrial Revolution may have been a one-shot game, as we have largely exhausted the shallow reserves of coal, oil and metal that kick-started it.

Would post-apocalyptic humanity be stuck in the Middle Ages? At least the music was good then.

Hillary J. Shaw, Senior lecturer, Department of food and supply chain management, Harper Adams University

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