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Civilization Ending Scenarios Most People Aren't Aware Of

Reddit user AlgorithmOmega asked: 'What’s a civilization ending scenario that most people aren’t aware of?'

Smoke emissions from factory piping

When we think about the end of the world, most people think of science fiction and imagine robots taking over the planet, or they think of a horror movie and imagine zombies rising from the dead.

Not enough people think about the more realistic possibilities for an end-of-world scenario, like running out of fresh water or increasingly unlivable landscapes.

Redditor AlgorithmOmega asked:

"What's a civilization ending scenario that most people aren't aware of?"

The Cherry on Top

"A slow-burn collapse is much more likely than a single major event to cause something major."

- FatRascal_

"You’re absolutely right, It’s not going to be a single event. It’ll be multiple systems failing at once, several minor crises converging like a Rogue Wave."

"Crop failure leads to political unrest while there happens to be a particularly incompetent leader in charge, which leads to war, which leads to a limited nuclear strike, meanwhile an earthquake strikes, and then there’s a fuel shortage, after that a minor solar flare knocks out electrical systems for only a few days but it’s at a really inopportune time."

"It won’t look like a world-ending event. It will be a gradual decline in living standards over years or generations."

"The Romans experienced a near civilization-ending crisis in the third Century, due to multiple destabilizing events hitting around the same time: war, plague, inflation, political breakdown, famine. But it didn’t happen overnight. It was slow, it took years for the system to collapse. It also took years and multiple leaders to diagnose and remedy the problems, but they did get there."

- AngryHippo2910

A Sneaky Gamma Ray Burst

"As a kid, I learned that if a gamma-ray burst is coming right at us, we really can’t do anything about it. We’d just get fried."

"That kept me up for a few nights."

- JackC1126

Corn Virus

"Corn virus. There goes twenty percent of Human Civilization's calories, right there."

- VoraciousTrees

"Twenty percent of human calories, but likely makes up 100% of livestock diets. So would also collapse the livestock industry which would further effect human diets."

- Rosieforthewin

Peak Phosphorus, Peak Hunger

"Peak phosphorus."

"It’s an important resource for the production of fertilizer, and dwindling supplies could have a significant impact on global food security."

"It may be an exaggeration to say that it would end civilization, but it could be a contributing factor to a cascade of problems that have a devastating impact on modern civilization."

- ThatPancreatitisGuy

The Big Rip

"The Big Rip is one of the most interesting possible ways for the universe to die because it happens on scales a human could meaningfully experience. You'd go from a perfectly functional solar system (in an endless void) to the End of All Matter in the span of a couple of months."

"First, the planets drift away from the star, but you could survive if you have a way of producing heat."

"Then the planets and the sun explode as gravity can no longer hold them together."

"If you're in a spaceship, you can survive for a few more minutes before your atoms are ripped apart by space itself."

- IndigoFenix

"How very comforting before bed, lol (laughing out loud)."

- K_Xanthe

The Need for Water

"I rarely see the media being concerned about water."

- TalkingToTalk

"Water scarcity and droughts have the potential to severely f**k up entire stretches of land, triggering climate refugee waves. So there is SOME danger in the foreseeable future regarding global political stability, if for example California, or parts of the Middle East, or Africa become partially uninhabitable,"

"But Desalination technology powered by renewable energy is catching up massively and water itself is extremely abundant here on earth."

"I'm confident this is a problem technology can fix to some degree over time. Mid-term, this IS a global problem. As people have correctly pointed out, there are still some technical hurdles to overcome. But prices will drop and systems will get much more efficient. It's about WATER, the most important thing for all of us to survive, so this will always be a global research priority."

- fleranon

Replenishing the Soil

"I'm an archaeologist. Civilization isn't really used in the field anymore, but that's a different topic."

"Most cultures and societies don't really have a traumatic end date. They mostly just change or have new things that alter their cultural constructs or socio-political constructs. New ideas, inventions, innovations, attitudes, languages, external stuff going on, internal stuff going on, religious beliefs, etc. These can alter a culture pretty quickly without it being traumatic or even noteworthy."

"But for something huge that most people aren't aware of? Agricultural destruction of arable land. Often from irrigation in the past, but often it's just the soil 'wearing out' (so to speak)."

"It's something that happened a number of times in newly formed agricultural lands."

- Vio_

Solar Flares

"Solar flare knocking out electric grids. Not only restarting them from a black start is highly complicated, but if the transformers are fried, there aren't enough replacements, and to manufacture more we need, you guessed it, electricity."

"The estimations are that a solar flare on the level of Carrington event, which happened not two centuries ago, would cause trillions in damages and set back civilization for decades."

- Clear-Gas

A Declining Shield

"There’s a fear that the trend of human body temp decreasing over time will expose us to more rates of fatal fungal infections. Most people are now less than 98.6 degrees."

- adawnfire

"Do they know what’s causing our temps to decline? I anecdotally knew they were but hadn’t thought about the risks around it."

- HuckleberryLou

"One hypothesis I saw was that we're simply less inflamed due to better sanitation. Like, we're just not being bombarded with as many infections as in the past."

"Never thought about fungal infections though, that's a little worrying."

- Moojoo0

Hello, Atlantic Gulf Stream

"The possible breakdown of the Atlantic Gulf Stream."

- Necessary-Peace9672

"Americans don't typically realize that Ibiza Spain and the French Riviera are at about the same latitude as New York. Half of France and Germany and all of Britain are above the latitude of Maine."

"The Gulf of Mexico (plus the Caribbean Sea) is the space heater that makes Northern Europe habitable."

"Conversely, Northern Europe (plus the Arctic) is the air conditioner that keeps the sea life of the Caribbean from dying of heat and low oxygen."

"The LAST thing we really want on this side of the world is identical temperatures in Algeria and North Carolina, France and Maine, England and Quebec."

- CrudelyAnimated

One Word: Prions

"Prion diseases are one of my biggest fears."

"First thing you know you're having yourself a nice steak dinner, and decades later, you undergo rapid dementia and never know what kills you (a variant of Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease)."

"Either that or you're fu**king unlucky and you die from it being genetically dispositioned for you (the genetic form of Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease)."

"Not only that, the prions are insanely difficult to destroy and can stay for a long time."

"Luckily they're really rare."

- throwaway1626363h

The World Vs. The Volcano

"Big volcanic eruption. Winter for a couple of years. So very cold in winter and still snowing in summer. No food. Energy shortages. Massive refugee streams to less effected areas. Etc."

"Not killing all humans but certainly this civilization."

"Small but realistic chance."

- thrownkitchensink

Okay, Maybe a Few Zombie Possibilities

"I’m not sure how many people realize it, but if rabies evolved to be airborne, we would have an actual zombie apocalypse scenario on our hands."

- Xseraph8899

"Hypothetically as the virus evolves transmissibility, it will lose lethality. Viruses have a very limited amount of DNA that they can utilize due to how small and simple they are."

"It's not a guarantee, but it's likely that if the rabies virus had evolved to a point of aerosol transmission, it would likely be losing some other things that make it so deadly. There's also a rabies vaccine, but we know how forcing people to take vaccines goes..."

- iApolloDusk

Holy Gray Goo, Batman

"'Gray Goo,' a successfully created self-replicating nanobot that can consume biomass could trigger a chain reaction in which most of the planet is quickly consumed."

- rabidkillercow

"Essentially 'Horizon: Zero Dawn,' but less animal robots and more mass extinction."

- -BreakingPoint0


"The disappearance of bees."

- Ok-Cauliflower-1798

"I just started a new colony last week if that makes you feel any better."

- danngree

"You go, queen!"

- RandomMandarin

Whether or not these are all possible or likely, some of these are certain to keep some of us up at night and send others down their latest research rabbit hole.

Fortunately, some of these seem to be within our control, and correctable, so if we all do our part, we can make the changes that previous generations didn't know to make.