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Slate Magazine: How will America end? News Team

Slate Magazine published a “choose your own apocalypse,” with 144 possible futures for the United States. Readers were asked to select the top five that they think are most likely to happen.

From Slate Magazine

The most popular scenario—”Loose Nukes,” chosen by 10.5 percent of Slate readers—combines modern and old-fashioned anxieties. “Taliban fighters wrest nuclear weapons from a destabilized Pakistan. Or al-Qaidaacquires a small arsenal of nukes from a disintegrating Russia,” the scenario description embedded in “Choose Your Own Apocalypse” reads. “The nonstate actors launch against the United States in an attack exponentially worse than 9/11.” The presence of terrorists at the top of the charts indicates that we’re still smarting from al-Qaida’s 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon—perhaps the most recent event that raised momentary doubts about the country’s continued existence. The fact that we envision those terrorists hitting us with nukes indicates that we have the same fears as the World War II generation. In the last 65 years, nothing has come along to supplant the scariness of a mushroom cloud.

While “Israel-Arab War” (picked by 7.6 percent of users) represents another worry that’s generations old, the “Peak Oil” (9.3 percent) and “China Unloads U.S. Treasurys” (8.2 percent) scenarios are new apocalyptic visions. Peak Oil—”Petroleum production reaches terminal decline. Oil becomes too expensive to extract, and alternative energies can’t maintain our fossil-fuel-dependent lifestyle”—is the hobbyhorse of widely read collapsists James Howard Kunstler and Dmitry Orlov. It’s the scenario of choice for the modern doomsayer who thinks Western civilization has industrialized its way to destruction. Fears of an economic collapse triggered by China pulling out from the American economy are a symptom of both our worries over the current economic crisis and anxiety over America’s place in the world.

The scenario I’m most surprised to see in the top five is “Antibiotic Resistance,” which was picked by 8.5 percent of apocalypticists. The bacteria-run-amok scenario—”As a result of factory farming and spiking sales of antibacterial hand soap, superstrains of bacteria develop that are resistant to medicine”—outranked anything to do withmoney (“WealthGap” came in ninth), political collapse (“Red vs. Blue” at No. 11), or globalwarming (“Rising Sea Levels” at No. 14). You could make the argument that bacterial worries reveal misdirected agita about our current swine flu worries—except that the actual “Swine Flu” scenario came in 64th out of 144. The only conclusion to draw here is that the Slate hive mind is genuinely concerned that we’ll go under on account of microbes. Take note, Centers for Disease Control and Department of Homeland Security.