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5 Public Health Nightmares Facing Humanity

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5 Public Health Nightmares Facing Humanity

With 2012's end of times deadline quickly approaching and people coming up with all sorts of crazy ideas for how the world or civilization will end, we thought this would be a good time to look at the more plausible scenarios facing mankind. Because really, who needs the Mayans when the world has so many other ways to kill us off!

1. Pandemic

Steven Soderbergh's 2011 thriller "Contagion" wasn't Hollywood hyped hysteria. That is pretty much exactly how a pandemic would play out. By far the most likely scenario to occur sooner rather than later, pandemics have created public health disasters on a global scale throughout human history .

Bubonic Plague, also known as Black Death:

- The black death killed up to 60% of Europe's population between 1348 and 1350
- Global population declined from 450 million to 350 million and took 150 years to recover

1918 Spanish Flu:

- nearly 1 in 3 were infected (500 million out of 1.86 billion people)
- up to 130 million people died ( 6.9% of entire population)

2. Super volcano

If you haven't heard of a super volcano before, try this one on for size. When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, it ejected 0.3 cubic miles of debris and generated 1,600 times the explosive force of the Hiroshima bomb. And while that may sound like a lot, it pales in comparison to the handful of active super volcanoes waiting to explode around the globe. The effects of such a disaster would be felt far beyond its blast radius as ash and gas block out the sun, destroy agriculture and livestock, and create public health issues for decades.

Eruptions

- Mount St. Helens: 0.3 cubic miles
- Yellowstone Caldera 640,000 years ago: 240 cubic miles
- Lake Toba 70,000 years ago: 1,739 cubic miles

Known Active Super Volcanoes

- Yellowstone Caldera, Wyoming, USA
- Long Valley Caldera, California, USA
- Valles Caldera, New Mexico, USA
- Lake Toba, North Sumatra, Indonesia
- Taupo Volcano, North Island, New Zealand
- Aira Caldera, Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan.

3. Agricultural Collapse

This may not sound like much compared to others on this list(we can always grow more food right?), but this is one to not be taken lightly. Historically, people grew their own food, ate locally and agricultural problems were normally small, localized events that stayed within a state, province or nation. Nowadays, with the majority of the world's population getting its sustenance from factory farms and plantations that supply a global market, the threat of a global famine has never been more real.

- 40% of the world's agricultural land is seriously degraded.
- Explosive population growth will increase demand beyond supply by some estimates as early as 2020.

4. Water Shortage

You wouldn't think something that covers 70% of the planet could become a rare commodity. But as glaciers melt, and we pollute more and more of our water ways, clean, drinkable water is quickly becoming endangered in many parts of the planet. And while this is something many Third World or desert nations have faced for centuries, it is a new concept to the industrialized western world.

- The Los Angeles area , population 28 million and counting, only has enough water to support 1 million people on its own. The remainder must be transported in to the region.
- Most of the 3 billion people projected to be born worldwide by mid-century will be in countries already experiencing water shortages.

5. Electric Grid Failure

Facebook, cell phones, computers, refrigeration, air conditioning, heating ... the list of things we take for granted by the wonders of electricity are endless. And the sudden breakdown of a regional or national electrical grid could, in a moment's notice, turn life as we know it into a real version of Mad Max. Riots, looting, disease, starvation, if it's something bad, odds are it would happen during an event like this. And while you may think this isn't a likely scenario, as in "who would be stupid enough to not properly maintain their electrical grid?", one need only look at the Northeast blackout of 2003 to get a taste of what's to come if something isn't done soon.

- In the last two decades blackouts around the United States have increased 124%
- Number of people on average affected daily by U.S. power outages: at least 500,000

Sources:
- United States Geological Survey
- World Health Organization
- Centers for Disease Control
- The Guardian
- United Nations
- Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
- Department of Energy



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