i am trying desperately not to do what i've seen so many people approaching old age and death do: say the world is going to hell and can't survive without them. of course, my impulse is to do the same, despite my very lucky life. so, i'll give human beings 50 years, long enough for today's children to see their grandchildren. alas, it does mean they'll hand those kids a self-destroying world. well, not exactly self-destroying. their folks will have a lot to do with it.
for example, 16,000 nuclear weapons circle the globe, 40 pointed at New York City alone. and at any time india and pakistan with 100 each could decide to blow each other off the face of the earth, creating a nuclear winter, an ice age for the rest of us. freud jumps in to help us here. if you don't believe me read civilization and it's discontents and beyond the pleasure principle. culture is supposed to be our erotic/libido defense against the death drive.
unfortunately, as he very astutely states, every morning many of us wake to re-experience our early or late traumas, not remembering them, as most of us don't, i think, actually know why we dive into a depression. no, we simply suffer all over again the slings and arrows of our past. we go through them all over again, every day, and this cuts into our love of life, turning flowers grey.
as stated, i've had three apocalyptic presidents, each getting elected throwing around images of Armageddon. the first, in the 80's, unbalanced democracy completely. when he went into office, income in the U.S. the most even and equal it had ever been, meaning a strong middle class, the place where the democratic impulse comes from. at the end of his eight year reign income in the U.S. was the most unbalanced it ever had been. and as aristotle said, a gulf between rich and poor destroys democracy.
then, there was apocalyptic president #2. he invaded Iraq, spreading terrorism all over the world, as he too used the language of armagedden. and why would would this appeal to such a large part of the electorate? i cite sigmund again: that huge population wishes to die. yes, yes, it's outrageous to say this. however, what makes them wish to do so is the anger fomented by talk radio and a certain television chain. they're disgusted with humanity itself, turning their anger at themselves.
as for apocalyptic president #3, he keeps asking over and over again: "why can't we use nuclear weapons?" i suppose the simple answer would be: it would destroy us all. but if enough in the world governed by the death instinct, this would make perfect sense. rather than be dethroned #3 would obviously rather push a couple of buttons. that said, i've hopefully, in a moment of unbelievable optimism, given us 50 years.
that leaves plenty of other possible catastrophes: ten huge volcanoes. astroids larger than than the one decommissioning the dinosaurs, a solar flare blowing all the electric circuits on earth, and so on. this leaves global warming as most likely, the temperature rising to 500 degrees as it is on venus. evidently, the green house effect could reach a tipping point and suddenly thrust all of us in an oven. conceivably, we as a species could ramp up our erotic/libido in time. this very unlikely as we begin watching whole towns burning in california and greece.