Professional prophet of doom McGuire (Geophysical Hazards/University College London; Raging Planet, not reviewed) surveys the natural hazards threatening Life As We Know It and concludes that a wide assortment of cataclysmic Big Ones are on the way.
Writing of the inevitability—though not necessarily the imminence—of some natural event that could drastically alter or even terminate human life on earth, the author deals with the fragility of earth (yes, it’s fragile), global warming (yes, it’s real), ice ages (yes, another will come), volcanoes (yes, they remain a threat), and extraterrestrial dangers (no, not UFOs; yes, asteroids and comets). This is not a good book to share with a depressed friend. On our restless planet there are 1,400 earthquakes per day, a volcanic eruption per week, 40 hurricanes per year. “The picture I have painted is certainly bleak,” quips McGuire, “but the reality may be even worse.” And so it is. Ice ages are periodic and, oddly, can be triggered by the kind of global warming now in progress. “Super-eruptions” of volcanoes do occur. If, for example, Yellowstone were to go off as it did 650,000 years ago, it would not damage just Yogi Bear; the preeminence of the US would end, states McGuire, and the global economy would nose-dive. On an even grimmer note, he reproduces a scary chart that shows the orbits of planet-bashing asteroids near the earth. There is, he says, a 100% chance that a big one will hit us again. (Remember that 10-kilometer rock that did in the dinosaurs 65 million years ago?) When it does, death will be instant for those it lands near or on, slow and miserable for the rest who survive to confront “cosmic winter” as sunlight is unable to penetrate the cloud of dust kicked up by the collision.
Have a nice day, says our Cassandra, for that may be all that remains. (38 b&w illustrations)