Tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, pandemics, cosmic radiation, gamma bursts from space, colliding comets, and asteroids—these catastrophic events have become a common part of our culture. Are natural calamities now more probable, and more frequent? Are things getting worse? Are we part of the problem? If so, what can we do about it?
Award-winning writer Marq de Villiers examines these questions at a time when there is an urgent need to understand the perils that confront us, and to prepare for—and perhaps prevent—the disasters when they come. The End is a brilliant and challenging look at what lies ahead, and at what we can do to influence our future.
“[A] scary and exciting new book . . . a clear narrative analysis that anyone without an ideological axe to grind will find beautifully presented.”—Chicago Sun-Times“De Villiers’s even tone and humor make what could’ve been the most depressing story ever told oddly inspiring, finding something like hope in life’s struggles to continue in the face of the worst of everything.”—The Onion AV Club“Readers . . . will be impressed by de Villiers presentation and prognosis of how humanity might survive the inevitable.”—Booklist"Unlike most books on natural disasters, this title, originally published in Canada as Dangerous World, focuses on disasters' human aspects. Award-winning science writer de Villiers (Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource; Sahara: The Extraordinary History of the World's Largest Desert) distinguishes between real natural disasters and those caused or worsened by humans. Human-caused deforestation worsens flooding, international travel spreads disease, and the catastrophe of overpopulation turns a small disaster into a major one. Of course, some catastrophes, like asteroid impacts, are not human-made, and de Villiers adeptly details the devastation they can cause. He also explains that just because a major calamity such as a gigantic volcanic eruption or an asteroid impact hasn't occurred in a long time does not mean one is overdue, an application of the gambler's paradox. This book effectively summarizes the latest scientific thought on disasters, and de Villiers's entrancing prose will hook even the most reluctant reader. Recommended for popular science collections."—Jeffrey Beall, Library Journal"Without discounting the very real impact of climate change, de Villiers (Windswept) steps back from global warming brinkmanship to suggest that, in fact, we've been living in a little bubble of stability in a great sea of chaotic change and that cataclysm is the universe's normal condition. He casts back billions of years to report that mass extinctions have at times wiped out 96% of all species living in the seas, the world has cycled through several monumental ice ages, collisions with comets and asteroids have altered life on Earth (in 1996 a three-quarter-mile-long asteroid passed within four hours of our planet) and land-shattering earthquakes have a transformed continents. More recently in known history, massive volcanic explosions have dramatically influenced global temperatures and human life half a dozen times, most recently Krakatoa in 1883 and Pinatobu in 1991, and notes that noxious gases, mammoth tsunamis, great floods, vile winds, tropical cyclones and tornadoes, plagues and pandemics continue to threaten human survival. De Villiers's conclusion, contrarian and more controversial than calming, is that despite the fight against global warming, the planet is always changing, and so must we."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Marq de Villiers is a journalist and the author of thirteen books including Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource, Sahara: The Life of the Great Desert, and Windswept The Story of Wind and Weather. Born in South Africa, he now lives near Port Medway, Nova Scotia.