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

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

opinion illustration

Eliminating cheating services, even if it were possible, would do nothing to address students’ and universities’ lack of interest in learning, says Stuart Macdonald

Female professor

New data show proportion of professors who are women has declined at some institutions

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

Reflection of man in cracked mirror

To defend the values of reason from political attack we need to be more discriminating about the claims made in its name, says John Hendry