The apocalypse: a sudden apocalyptic event or a slow decline?

By | September 12, 2011

I generally think about the apocalypse happening in one sudden apocalyptic event that takes everyone by surprise. But what if it doesn’t happen that way? What if the apocalypse is a slow, years-long decline? After all, in some ways, the fall of the Roman Empire could be considered an apocalyptic event. And the empire’s decline took a long time, since it technically didn’t fall until Constantinople fell in 1453 (though, okay, the Western Roman Empire was in serious decline and almost completely taken over by Germanic tribes by the end of the 5th century).

Anyway. A slow decline or a sudden event—what’s better? Personally, I don’t know. They’ve each got their pros and cons. Let’s go over them quickly, so we can all secretly hope for one kind over the other.

Slow decline apocalypse

Possible causes:

An extended drought leading to famine, a serious and simultaneous global economic collapse leading to upheaval and havoc, or (dare I say it), climate change.

(You know, something that will let us panic while we see the end coming.)

Pros:

Since this kind of apocalypse takes place over months or years (or possibly tens or hundreds of years), you’re going to get a lot of notice about the end. This will give you a lot of time to stock up on necessary supplies, hoard cash and other currency-like things, and prepare go-bags. You’ll even have time to build a shelter, if you like. Theoretically, the slow apocalypse will leave you the most prepared for the post apocalypse, since you’ll have had oodles of time to get ready for it.

Also, when civilization/society/the world actually ends, you might still have quite a bit of stuff left over from the “old world” (like intact buildings, roads, and/or water supplies) that will make life easier post-apocalypse.

Cons:

Well, since it’s not going to happen for years, a lot of people are not going to believe you when you tell them the end is near. In fact, most people—including your friends and family—might want to commit you to the nearest mental hospital. But that’s okay; you’ll know the truth.

Once the end actually begins (and, you know, the rest of the world figures it out), be prepared for a lot of rioting and looting when people realize they’re ill-equipped and don’t have enough stuff to get them through the early days of the post apocalypse.

Of course, it’s hard to say if people will really realize the end is near even at this stage. I’m pretty sure many of the Ancient Romans still thought their empire would win against all those pesky start-up Germanic tribes who kept sacking Rome. And we all know how well that turned out for them.

Sudden apocalyptic event

Possible causes:

A huge nuclear explosion, an asteroid impact, or a new and deadly medicine-proof supervirus that kills 99% of the population in 48 hours.

(You know, something fun that ends in a lot of destruction—and isn’t a Michael Bay film.)

(Caveat: a nuclear explosion or a supervirus that offs the world could be the result of a long-running world war, which could be considered a slow apocalypse.)

Pros:

Well, it’d be quick, so most of us wouldn’t see it coming. Most people wouldn’t feel a thing, either. They’d just—cease to exist (or be vaporized, but that’s just getting technical). That can be a good thing, right? Less panicking and all that fun stuff?

Cons:

Whatever it is, it’s going to happen suddenly, so you’re not going to get any warning. As such, you’re not going to have much time to get your go-bag ready or your shelter prepared. And once the event has ended and you’ve come out the other side, there’s probably not going to be much of the world left to salvage. Or riot, or loot, or whatever (especially if the end comes via nuclear holocaust). So be ready to have very little of everything in those early and crucial post-apocalyptic days.

Also be ready for all sorts of bad guys to pop out of nowhere. I mean, if the world dies because of a supervirus, you might come across zombies or rabid werewolves or mad scientist space monkeys or something.

Personally, I think the apocalypse will be the result of a single sudden event. But that’s just me. I’d have to say that ultimately, whatever the cause of the apocalypse, you should be ready for anything and everything that could possibly happen. Those Scouts are onto something when they say “Be prepared.”

Which would you prefer?

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3 thoughts on “The apocalypse: a sudden apocalyptic event or a slow decline?

  1. Jamie (Mithril Wisdom)

    Honestly? I’d prefer the sudden apocalypse. The run up to the ‘slow apocalypse’ would be miserable and hard to live through. Plus, something that kills 99% of the population (provided that I’m one of the 1% that survives) means that there’s less people and more room for the rest of us. We can build anew!

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  2. Safety and Survival Council

    A slow decline, while miserable, would give up prepers a better chance of survival. Better than a dice roll with a virus. We’d slowly grow accustomed to being hungry, fighting, and not trusting.

    Restrictions on certain sciences and corporations would either be lifted of tightened causing these areas to flourish or fail. We could have a Deus Ex world with giant Sarif Industries creating augmented people or a government state with curfews and socialism and a serious black market situation.

    I think I’m for the slow decline. As long as I’m not old by the time it gets here. A speedy slow decline…

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  3. Char Post author

    Hmm. Personally, I think I’d prefer the sudden event. I mean, I think we’ll end up blowing ourselves up or killing ourselves with ebola-anthrax-smallpox (aka ebothrapox) anyway, but my overactive imagination would much prefer to just get it done and over with. Otherwise I’ll be able to come up with all sorts of terrifying apocalypse scenarios.

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