Wednesday, July 30, 2014

God Fires a Warning Shot

This post was almost my last blog post.  And the last blog post you would have read.

It's funny, how oblivious we are as a species to our own near demise.

Individually, we take those things pretty seriously.  We're driving along the road, jabbering on our handsfree, and the truck in front of us drops a huge metal object that comes a hair's breadth from tearing into the passenger compartment.  We flee indoors, as the storm comes, and just a moment after we've moved away from the tree we were sheltering under, it's torn apart by lightning.

Those moments have existential weight.  "I could have died just there," we marvel, and that knowledge can change us.

That, in a nutshell, was what almost happened for all of us back on July 23, 2012.  A massive solar storm blasted a huge wave of charged particles directly through the earth's orbit, missing us by around a week.  Same storm, one week's difference?  Well, the world would be a very different place.

The last time a storm of that magnitude hit the earth was in the early industrial age, and beyond putting on a wild and amazing heavenly light show, it fried our primitive telegraph systems.  Now, the energies of a solar storm would blow out a substantial portion of our electrical and telecommunications grid, leaving us critically unable to play around on Facebook.  Or communicate in any way.  Or cook.  Or get food from the store.  Or use money.  It'd have been a massive and global catastrophe.

An identical solar-storm catastrophe provides the narrative ground for the novel I wrote last year for National Novel Writing Month, which--God willing and the contract shows up in the mail--will be published sometime in 2016.  From all of my research for that manuscript, I feel this particular civilization-shattering option pretty personally.

This ain't no zombie 'pocalypse.  This could really happen.

Humanity in the early twenty-first century is far more vulnerable to such an event, and as the science points to this sort of thing as being a normal part of solar activity, it's not a question of whether it will happen, but when.  Every couple of hundred years, boom.

And yet, as this news or our near demise whispers by our ears like a passing shiruken, humankind trundles on about our business as if nothing happened.  We're so busy screaming at each other, posturing, and killing one another that we don't even notice.

"Hey, everything you're fighting about could be meaningless tomorrow," says the Creator of the Universe.  "Hello?  C'mon, people.  Pay attention.  Wake up."