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How the sun could wipe us out A burst of plasma would set in motion a devastating cascade of failures

The solar apocalypse is imminent. Credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty

The solar apocalypse is imminent. Credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty


July 19, 2021   7 mins

The world began to end on 12th May 2024, though another 309 years would pass before our species finally went extinct. The apocalypse was not the result of one thing, unless that one thing was that we repeatedly ignored signs that industrial civilisation had become increasingly fragile, even as it grew ever more powerful. But our end very definitely had a trigger. A burst of charged plasma from the sun caused the sudden, simultaneous collapse of numerous electrical grids across the world, setting in motion a cascade of devastating failures from which humanity would never recover.

In one regard, this was perfectly predictable. In any given decade since the grid’s invention, there was a one in eight chance that such an electrical collapse could occur. In 2013, a report had warned that an extreme geomagnetic storm was almost inevitable, and would induce huge currents in Earth’s transmission lines. This vulnerability could, with a little effort, have been completely addressed for a tiny sum of money — less than a tenth of what the world invested annually in text messaging prior to the great collapse of 2024.

And it wasn’t as if the profits of some powerful industry depended on leaving the vulnerability open; the fossil fuel industry had a reason to oppose sustainable power, but the grid’s vulnerability enriched no one. In fact, every person on Earth stood to benefit from fixing the flaw. And yet it remained, never a priority, perhaps because nobody could predict when the fuse would be lit.

The burst of plasma leapt from the Sun’s surface on 9 May, 2024. It was detected by Earthbound space-weather observers, who track these dangerous Coronal Mass Ejections. They made the usual calculations and issued the standard warnings. Had the grid been promptly disconnected, the crisis might have been lessened. But as was invariably the case with geomagnetic storms, they could not say how seriously — or even if — this burst would disrupt power, so the scientists’ warnings were largely ignored by grid managers, who don’t like blacking out vast areas on the remote chance of a severe problem. Crossing fingers had worked pretty well in the past. This time it did not.

The plasma cloud had hit the Earth just so, inducing violent current fluctuations that burned up numerous electrical power transformers from the inside. The blackouts that started in May 2024 were not universal at first. The eastern third of North America was among the most extensively affected areas, with 30 massive transformers completely destroyed. In ordinary times, a single replacement transformer took three years to deliver. Suddenly the world faced an emergency need for more than 100.

Few who faced the initial blackouts had any idea what had happened, how big an area was affected, or that substantial grid repair would take years. The blackout cut them off from power, yes, but also from information. Most assumed their electricity would be back within hours or days. When night fell, the solar storm filled the sky with a spectacular display of northern lights visible as far south as Costa Rica, all the more dramatic in the places that had suddenly gone dark — a dazzling final curtain for industrial civilisation. This brilliant sky created a festive atmosphere.

By the second and third consecutive nights, the mood became increasingly panicked. People started trying to flee the blackouts by car. Most, not knowing how far it extended, made their situation worse. Without power, no gas was available, and so these first refugees were forced to abandon their vehicles haphazardly. Roads became blocked. The military tried to keep order, but their attempts to calm the population with false promises and inadequate aid caused them to be viewed with suspicion and hostility and sometimes targeted. Desertions became common as soldiers set out to protect their families.

Even where the power remained on, life was not normal. Those near the blackout border quickly faced armed raids from the dark zones. Residents fled toward the powered interior. Wave after wave of refugees arrived — drawn to anything functional, quickly overwhelming it and creating new refugees. As everyone saw chaos erupt around them, they became intensely focused on immediate needs. Everywhere, there was hoarding. The sound of gunfire became ubiquitous as armed syndicates emerged to overwhelm isolated preppers. The distinction between offensive and defensive killing was lost. Canned and freeze-dried food became inconceivably valuable. Currency became worthless as people realised society was unrecoverable.

Humans model danger based on their own experiences and those of their ancestors. Solar storms were nothing new, in 2024, but the jeopardy they posed to humanity had increased only very gradually since the last really big storm, in 1859 — the year Darwin had published The Origin of Species. That storm caught the eye of a British astronomer named Richard Christopher Carrington, who noticed unusual solar activity and linked it to the spectacular aurora that had appeared. What became known as the Carrington Event damaged telegraph systems and delivered shocks to a number of operators. Some found they could send messages even with the loss of power, because the storm had induced currents in the wires. Fascinating, but not the stuff of the nightmares, on a planet not heavily dependent on industry. And as our civilisation became overwhelmingly electrical, solar flares never produced enough harm to focus our collective attention — there was no real prelude to the event that precipitated our downfall.

In the initial weeks after the collapse, the military was tasked with a vital mission. Even dormant nuclear reactors — and their spent fuel pools — need to have cold water circulated through them constantly to prevent reactor meltdowns and devastating fuel-pool fires. Regulations required that each complex have a week’s worth of backup diesel generator fuel on hand. Many had four times that amount, but none had planned for a blackout that would last a year or more, and that is what they were facing in the best-case scenario. It fell to the Army to make sure these backup diesel generators and pumps never failed or ran dry. For six months, they accomplished that mission across all the affected reactors, with one exception.

The Army had quickly found that for most reactors, creating a defensible perimeter around the site and delivering fuel by helicopter was the most reliable approach. In the third week after the collapse, a helicopter clipped a light pole in the fog and crashed at the North Anna reactor in Virginia, spilling its fuel and sparking a devastating fire that engulfed the generators. Retardant dropped from above was sucked into the air intakes, and the combination killed the power, which remained out long enough for the reactor cores to meltdown and slump. The containment breached, forcing the site to be abandoned.

As the fuel pools boiled and ran dry, the heat from radioactive decay caused the cladding on the fuel rods to burst into flame; a plume of highly radioactive smoke rose above the site, contaminating the region and driving essential governmental functions out of Washington D.C., one of few Eastern seaboard cities that had been successfully stabilised. The danger of the radioactive fallout was kept officially quiet, but rumours spread, confirmed by those few citizens with access to battery-powered Geiger counters. This sparked a massive refugee crisis as the region’s population fled their homes, dodging precipitation, every squall now raining radioactive isotopes onto the earth below. Ultimately, the spreading collapse of civilisation would cause every nuclear reactor complex on Earth to be abandoned, guaranteeing that all of its radioactive material would escape into the environment and begin to circulate.

Meanwhile, the population was nearly helpless as the skills they had acquired for the pre-collapse world were rendered useless. Many thought that, with modern weapons, they could hunt their way through lean times — the result being that populations of every terrestrial animal one might think to eat crashed all at once. Hundreds of thousands of humans fled into the wilderness, many with no idea how to function there. The result that first summer was unprecedented wildfires — some started carelessly, some set deliberately by people hoping to flush out animals. In North America, 100 years of foolish forest management centred on fire suppression had left a giant tinderbox. Post collapse, there was no firefighting effort to contain these blazes. They burned, hot, until they went out, desertifying vast landscapes, killing many, and creating ever more refugees with nowhere to go.

The fires had another consequence. They filled the atmosphere with smoke, noticeably cooling the Earth for several years, delaying and masking a much bigger and more devastating effect. Vast quantities of carbon were transferred during the fires from living plants into heat-trapping gasses. At the same time, the sudden collapse of the world economy had brought industrial activity to a standstill — along with the pollutants it incessantly expelled into the atmosphere, which had had a cooling effect. The globe began to warm precipitously, hitting a tipping point in the fourth year after collapse, when the Arctic thawed sufficiently to set off the “clathrate gun”, where enough frozen methane was liberated to trigger positive feedback, with each newly thawed ton elevating the temperature enough to liberate yet more methane. The temperature of Earth jumped 7 degrees Celsius in 20 years, throwing every ecological process that endured the initial collapse into chaos.

The radical warming of the climate delivered a terrible blow to traditional agricultural systems, which were becoming the only source of food. Suddenly, every farmer lived in an altered habitat, and the crops they were expert in producing were no longer at home. Large-scale agriculture had already failed, utterly, in the first year of collapse. The really big crops had all been engineered to maximise profit under stable circumstances, and they didn’t grow at all without the fertilisers and machines around which they were designed. Most livestock had been killed by desperate people with no experience preserving meat and most of their bulk putrefied where they fell.

The southern hemisphere fared better and held out longer because most of industrial civilisation was in the north, and the atmosphere and oceans are very slow to mix across the equator. But ultimately, they did mix, and the devastating rise in the Earth’s temperature spared no one. When the last human died on the shores of Comoros, it was for lack of food. Her family had learned to survive on gathered shellfish but ultimately even they, protected for so long by their isolation from the chaos, gave out, when the macroscopic ecology of the southern oceans gave way.

If there is a lesson to be gleaned from the cascading failures that ended our species and destroyed our planet, it is this: it didn’t need to happen. The vulnerability of the transformers was a solvable issue (as was the vulnerability of our nuclear reactors, our agriculture, our information infrastructure and our populations.) The fact that solar flares could precipitate a catastrophic power outage had been well understood, but minimising this hazard never became a global priority. All it would have taken is money and time. Once the transformers were destroyed, money became meaningless and time had run out.

Back in 2021, the sun was predicted to reach its next solar maximum in 2025. Humanity crossed its fingers one last time.


Bret Weinstein is an evolutionary biologist, host of the DarkHorse Podcast, and co-author of the best-selling book A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century. He lives with his family in Portland, Oregon.

BretWeinstein

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Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
2 years ago

Won’t people be ok if they wear masks ?

Scott Powell
Scott Powell
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Shaw

Someone really needs to make a black comedy movie about this, with a scene showing Fauci telling people to put their three masks on, as the world burns down.

Magdalena Algarin
Magdalena Algarin
2 years ago
Reply to  Scott Powell

Hilarious….

Magdalena Algarin
Magdalena Algarin
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Shaw

Funny…. Thanks for the chuckle

Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
2 years ago

Interesting. However, throughout my working life (and domestic IT) the one thing to be avoided at all costs was a single point of failure. Our “grid” is a single point of failure but also a centralised point of control favoured by big gov. We can see this centralised vs de-centralised in many aspects of life nowadays. EVERYTHING needs to be de-centralised, government, business, food production, power, internet, transport BUT with a high degree of cooperation that uses the blockchain for security (IMHO). With a de-centralised power grid i.e. home generation then not everyone will be wiped out, even accidentally. With forward planning and warning many homes would simply disconnect their turbines for a day. Even then a domestic environment could have two or more sources. A really safe system would have multiple circuits with half always open circuit for PM’s and safety.
It is entirely possible for society to de-centralise itself and yet remain totally connected in a cooperative manner. This is the stuff of nightmares for big tech, big pharma, multinationals, WEF, Davos, etc etc……not a bad thing I suspect.
We don’t need a Great Reset we need a Great Re-structure.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

Very insightful comment.

Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

We need managed Degrowth and we need it urgently. We need to recognise that all our economic wealth has been accumulated at the cost of our ecological health. COVID is a symptom of ecological collapse unravelling. Society is right on track for a global collapse, new study of infamous 1970s report finds | Live Science

Nathan Sapio
Nathan Sapio
1 month ago

You show us how, lead the way. What are you first steps of personal degrowth?

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
2 years ago

Wow. That was some pretty powerful dystopian sci-fi. Glad to see Bret is writing here now.
If you want to get the other side of the story, this article by the National Grid is quite good. It provides more information about solar storms and describes the work being done, e.g. upgrading transformers to be more resistant to them. Interestingly the playbook for preparing for a solar storm involves switching everything on, not off, because the more HV equipment is on the more equipment there is to sink excess currents to ground.
The big question is how long it would take to do a Black Start, if the worst were to happen and the grid tripped offline completely. The UK has never done a Black Start so all such estimates are theoretical, especially in the presence of unknown levels of damage. However, National Grid and the power plants do have detailed plans and rehearse for the possibility of one day needing to do it.

Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
2 years ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

Excuse me, apocalypse has already started, we shan’t be here in 309 years, not if this author is representative of public awareness. Society is right on track for a global collapse, new study of infamous 1970s report finds | Live Science

John OGrady
John OGrady
2 years ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

That’s what they said about Pandemic preparedness, they had plans and had rehearsed.
Look how that turned out.

Still we should get plenty of opportunities for rehearsals as we will be guaranteed to experience regular grid blackouts with our pursuit of a NetZero (and Nuclear free) policies.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
2 years ago
Reply to  John OGrady

The plans were pretty good – they said border controls, masks and lockdowns didn’t work and shouldn’t be used. COVID madness occurred because public health is a corrupt profession with hardly any firm connections to reality, in which political ideologies and BS appears to win out over all other concerns.
My hope would be that grid engineers are made of sturdier stuff: if they don’t stick to their plans and panic, they tend to end up dead. Gives good incentives to double check your maths.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

Wow! Much as I admire Bret Weinstein’s podcasts and youtube appearances on the subject of wokeism and cancel culture I often find him to be a bit gloomy. Turns out that was him in jocular mood!
This article will inspire the end-timers to dust off their placards and take to the streets proclaiming ‘The End is Nigh!’
Sadly, although the article reads like a summary of a disaster movie, it’s actually quite credible. I’m sure we could take steps to protect the power grids from a massive solar flare although I’m not sure how we’d protect our system of agriculture.
And given that we’ve long suspected a dangerous new virus (likely a new strain of flu) could strike humanity at any time yet made almost no preparations for what happened in 2020, I’m not optimistic Mr. Weinstein’s article will galvanize government action regarding the possibility of a dangerous solar flare.
My conclusion is clear if (or when) a giant solar flare strikes: time to take my Glock 19 from its locked case, chamber a round, place the barrel to my head and avoid the dystopia to come. Thank you, Bret. 🙂

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

This danger is well known, as even I have heard of it, though the lethal threat to nuclear power stations is a new one on me. I have often been struck by our increasing fragility, as each generation is markedly less capable than that which preceded it. My father for example would have survived longer than I could, and so on. I fondly imagined that if disaster struck, tribes in the depths of Papua New Guinea would be resourceful enough to keep things going and repopulate the earth in due course. After all, what is a few thousand years here or there. The cycle could presumably repeat itself indefinitely. Perhaps the Papua New Guineans have a myth about that.

Gunner Myrtle
Gunner Myrtle
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

I have often thought that the urban homeless are far likelier to survive the next apocalypse than the rest of us. They are essentially already living the apocalypse. But you are right that the less advanced the society the more resilient it will be.

Allie McBeth
Allie McBeth
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

I agree, each successive generation seems less capable, unless it’s self-promotion and/or make-up design. I doubt either of my adult children know how to change a plug, much less organise some sort of future in a post-apocalyptic world.

Last edited 2 years ago by Allie McBeth
Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I don’t know much about this, but we do protect the power systems from faults, however, I think we cannot protect against these events.

Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Apocalypse has already started, we shan’t be here in 309 years, especially not if this author is representative of public awareness. Society is right on track for a global collapse, new study of infamous 1970s report finds | Live Science

Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I prefer Churchill on giving up. Short version: against it.

Friedrich Tellberg
Friedrich Tellberg
2 years ago

Our almost total dependency on electricity (or rather the power grid) is real, as the floods earlier this month in Germany showed: to many people’s surprise, together with the electricity grid, mobile phone networks, the internet and drinking water supplies collapsed (even in cases where they were left untouched by the flood). Having solar panels of your own did not help you to provide you with power (unless you had your own battery too, which is much more expensive and as a result rare). Which proved our independency from the bothersome, vulnerable, dusty real (non digital) world to be entirely illusionary.
Total collapse of society was only prevented because the disaster was more or less local and people and supplies from fully operational areas nearby rushed in. If this is not available (so much can be said for sure), every disaster can wipe us out.
I am not qualified to assess the likeliness of the events (though knowing the author from other texts and pod casts, I suppose the thought experiment is well researched and credible).
But just one question: is the article a call for just fixing the vulnerability of our power grids to geomagnetic storms from the sun (as I suppose it should say, in stead of “geometric storm”)? Or does it want to demonstrate that our industrial civilisation conceals ever more fragilities, of which awareness is waning?

Gunner Myrtle
Gunner Myrtle
2 years ago

The novel One Second After by John Matherson explores what happens after an EMP strike on the US. EMP weapons essentially destroy modern electronics but don’t harm people or buildings etc. The book is based on the findings of a US study that found 85% of the population would die of starvation within one year if one occurred. It is not great literature – think Tom Clancy – but a good thought experiment. We are incredibly reliant on technology to keep us fed. If COVID had a 10% death rate most of us we would be dead now – not from COVID but from starvation and the violence that would cause. I haven’t seen anything in Canada about hardening our society – so my guess is we will keep whistling past the graveyard.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago

The grid vulnerability has been a topic for years related to the man-made Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). So,me progress has been made to stockpile transformers but long line protection means along with verification schemes are not yet in place. The investment is needed but the fragmented power responsibilities allow joint activities to have no owner.
Once the power goes out and transport ceases, we return to 1840 where few of us can survive. It will be quite dramatic as Bert describes. Polarized governments debating pronouns aren’t helpful.

Alan T
Alan T
2 years ago

Put it on a risk register.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan T

Come on Bret, why the death and disaster porn? But if they do take heed from your story it will not help, see, according to my astrology charts the 11th of May 2024 is when the mega volcano at Yellowstone blows (Google it).

The Earth is covered in such ash cloud the sun light is mere shadows, so that 90% of all the plants die. That is the beginning…. Then….

Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan T
Zirrus VanDevere
Zirrus VanDevere
2 years ago

I find it interestingly synchronistic that I was telling a group of people in a Dark Horse discord chat just last week that I’ve had this weird experience my whole adult life involving canned meat and dystopian thoughts. I’m generally a (mostly rational) optimist, but nearly every time I indulge in tuna or anchovies or any kind of protein in a can, I get strange flashes of a dark landscape with destruction everywhere, and an intense thankfulness for having the can of whatever it is. Perhaps during the chat I was somehow tapping in to this intense article that he had just written? The funny thing is that most of the people in the discord are very data-centered, yet I risked telling such a story on myself anyway. In any case, I am super thankful for sensemakers like Bret and his wife Heather Heying, and for the lively discourse surrounding them. Especially during these seemingly upside-down and self-fractioned times.

Last edited 2 years ago by Zirrus VanDevere
Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
2 years ago
Chris Eaton
Chris Eaton
2 years ago

Just stop.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago

Grief! This is getting more gloomy than the Daily Mail

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Bret Weinstein has been a voice of sanity for me during these lockdowns. I’ll even forgive him the doom and gloom of this essay…. there is always something worse out there – a timely reminder as I live in South Africa.
I am increasingly using this ploy to divert my attentions from local problems. Rioting and looting and general decay in Dem cities and the dire state of US politics has in general has been very helpful. Also the realization that at my age I’m probably not suited to a ninny or nanny country, has also been instructive.

Last edited 2 years ago by Lesley van Reenen
Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
2 years ago

But you are missing out on the real-time apocalypse. Wake up we are on our way out. Society is right on track for a global collapse, new study of infamous 1970s report finds | Live Science

andrew harrison
andrew harrison
2 years ago

Our past is our future.
It does seem that we are clinging on to our developing way of life with no thoughts of a backwards step. At the end of the day we have very basic needs, food, water, shelter. I can’t help thinking that the skills we have lost will be desperately needed some day.

Scott Powell
Scott Powell
2 years ago

It really isn’t going to take much to tip the globe into sheer panic. If something like Covid, the weakling of the class, can cause so many people to completely lose their marbles, then imagine what a real, global disaster would do? It would be sheer bedlam.
And, maybe quite a lot of people already know this? People with an enormous amount of power and wealth. Wouldn’t this all be a lot less, hmm, ‘messy’ if the herd were thinned out beforehand? Gently euthanised. But, how could this be achieved? How could we get billions of people to cooperate… for the good of the species?

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
2 years ago

The collapse of our complex society has already begun as globalisation gently unwinds. I think the end point of a collapse triggered by Carrington style events would just be somethiing much simpler like the medieval world with many fewer people, not extinction
Joseph Tainter wrote a book about the process in 1988

Antony Hirst
Antony Hirst
2 years ago

I think we need a proper apocalypse tbh. I think I would quite enjoy the challenge, even if I only last a couple of weeks. Better than this meaningless Ellioteque slow death.

Last edited 2 years ago by Antony Hirst
Azat Mingalimov
Azat Mingalimov
1 year ago

I am fascinated by this story, much because I feel that most people are missing the point of an example like that: cascade failure can quite easily happen to human society and destroy it, human society is immensely fragile.
Here’s a comment of mine from Reddit about this:
I noticed that the fact that culture is knowledge, and the main store of knowledge is people, and loss of knowledge would mean end of civilization, this fragility of current civilization is rarely shown correctly in games, films, etc. I loved that in the film The Book of Eli the disappearance of culture was actually very precisely represented – just in a span of a generation people forgot the world that was before. Also it’s focus on the value of knowledge and it’s significance.
Another smart representation is Fallout 1 and Fallout 2 – the degradation of society into tribal more primitive culture. Although I haven’t played the second game, from what I know about it – it was pretty on the nose.
Life After People is beautiful in it’s scientific way of showing how quickly what humans have built would crumble. This is also very wrongly shown in so many sci-fi works. Fallout 3, New Vegas and 4 show structures and machinery and stuff surviving for centuries, which would in fact be dust in a few decades.
Another aspect of this I would love to see explored is loss and degradation of language. In previous times, when there was no single standard of learning, languages changed drastically and constantly. This is also rarely shown correctly in Fallout games – people use the same expressions centuries later, when all context for them would be lost, or have pure old accents, that would be diluted for sure.
Anyhow, I had this fascination for a long time. I really recommend The Book Of Eli, as a rare correct representation of an Apocalyptic event and it’s repercussions.
Those who see this short story being about only one scenario of collapse – are missing the point, in my view. There are SO many ways our immature human society can collapse – this is what should be at the forefront of our minds, I think. The realization of our extreme vulnerability and caution in how we live our lives. Right now the attitude of humanity reminds me of a madman thinking that he’s invulnerable – and this attitude is leading us to our self-destruction. With no sign that we will reverse this course anytime soon.

Azat Mingalimov
Azat Mingalimov
1 year ago

I am fascinated by this story, much because I feel that most people are missing the point of an example like that: cascade failure can quite easily happen to human society and destroy it, human society is immensely fragile.
Here’s a comment of mine from Reddit about this:
I noticed that the fact that culture is knowledge, and the main store of knowledge is people, and loss of knowledge would mean end of civilization, this fragility of current civilization is rarely shown correctly in games, films, etc. I loved that in the film The Book of Eli the disappearance of culture was actually very precisely represented – just in a span of a generation people forgot the world that was before. Also it’s focus on the value of knowledge and it’s significance.
Another smart representation is Fallout 1 and Fallout 2 – the degradation of society into tribal more primitive culture. Although I haven’t played the second game, from what I know about it – it was pretty on the nose.
Life After People is beautiful in it’s scientific way of showing how quickly what humans have built would crumble. This is also very wrongly shown in so many sci-fi works. Fallout 3, New Vegas and 4 show structures and machinery and stuff surviving for centuries, which would in fact be dust in a few decades.
Another aspect of this I would love to see explored is loss and degradation of language. In previous times, when there was no single standard of learning, languages changed drastically and constantly. This is also rarely shown correctly in Fallout games – people use the same expressions centuries later, when all context for them would be lost, or have pure old accents, that would be diluted for sure.
Anyhow, I had this fascination for a long time. I really recommend The Book Of Eli, as a rare correct representation of an Apocalyptic event and it’s repercussions.
Those who see this short story being about only one scenario of collapse – are missing the point, in my view. There are SO many ways our immature human society can collapse – this is what should be at the forefront of our minds, I think. The realization of our extreme vulnerability and caution in how we live our lives. Right now the attitude of humanity reminds me of a madman thinking that he’s invulnerable – and this attitude is leading us to our self-destruction. With no sign that we will reverse this course anytime soon.

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
2 years ago

However don’t dwell on the negative. Just think how equal we will all be.

Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
2 years ago

So I should probably stock up with loo paper again then?

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago

Cheery.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
2 years ago

Has a burst of plasma occurred in the last 309 years? Say, oh, I don’t know, 308 years ago?

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

Carrington 1859 was in the article. Minor flares occur often and satellite operators are warned to shut down.

Kristof K
Kristof K
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

My understanding is that two things have to coincide: 1) there has to be an unusually strong flare and 2) it has to be “directed” fairly precisely towards earth. That may be why such events are not (in human terms) very frequent?

Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

No, but a more imminent apocalypse is unravelling as we continue to destroy the global ecological balance with our pursuit of economic wealth, which sadly relies on ecological health. Society is right on track for a global collapse, new study of infamous 1970s report finds | Live Science

Last edited 2 years ago by Barbara Williams
Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
2 years ago

The world will end tomorrow! Somebody get Bret a sandwich board.

Last edited 2 years ago by Dennis Boylon
Chris Eaton
Chris Eaton
2 years ago

Interesting view of TEOTWAWKI, however, you’re about 12 years late to the party.

Lillian Fry
Lillian Fry
2 years ago

Also Ted Koppel’s LIGHTS OUT – a man made apocalypse in the same vein

ml holton
ml holton
2 years ago

… Meanwhile, power outages in Middle East are creating chaos as well as disruption of the supply chains > Middle East power crisis: Electricity shortages strike Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria – The Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/middle-east-electricity-crisis/2021/07/23/d4dfd9f4-de74-11eb-a27f-8b294930e95b_story.html

Pyra Intihar
Pyra Intihar
2 months ago

And now…here were are on May 10,2024, and facing a huge geomagnetic storm:
Strong geomagnetic storm reaches Earth, continues through weekend | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (noaa.gov)
Good job on getting the date right in 2021, Bret!

Amelia Melkinthorpe
Amelia Melkinthorpe
1 month ago

Try Paul Kingsnorth’s Substack as a counterbalance to the utter despair here …

Nathan Sapio
Nathan Sapio
1 month ago

Editors…. Web managers… Do your self a favor and point out that you are re posting this piece due to it’s (quite surprising) timeliness. Brett, what a lucky sob to write this 3 years ago and have it fit the bill this may.

Re: topic, I remember reading a novel (“solar flare”?) early 2000s on this that immediately made the seriousness of this clear. Doesn’t seem like any one has done anything on this in the last 20 or 3 years. Big benefit to the work from a perspective of the future looking back, no benefit to do it right now because no one would give credit or care.

Re: similar literature, checkout “Dies The Fire”. Much more likely post-change scenario.

Florin Home
Florin Home
2 years ago

Great, thank you Bret. Just the right topic for the British public already scared witless by 18 months of unrelenting psychological war inflicted on them by the Government, the BBC and the rest of MSM.
Tomorrow I’ll check the ONS published daily suicidal numbers, and let you know if a pick corresponding with your piece could be identify.

Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
2 years ago

Oh dear, oh dear. Yet another Unherd author is blissfully unaware that ecological apocalypse is already unravelling. The chances of us surviving another 309 years is minimal, especially with the awareness level that is displayed within the Unherd selection of authors. Come on Unherd it is time to get real, we have the gulf stream failing, ice caps melting and you are writing about an imaginary apocalypse!!! Society is right on track for a global collapse, new study of infamous 1970s report finds | Live Science

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago

It is caused by climate change so when we have carbon under control this problem will not exist.