The End?

Okay, here’s the obligatory 2014 recap.

All in all, it was a pretty disturbing year that furnished plenty of story ideas for thriller writers but didn’t offer many happy endings. Russia restarted the Cold War. A murderous militia took over half of Iraq, then started beheading Americans and Britons. An equally scary band of terrorists in Nigeria kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, most of whom are still missing. Elsewhere in Africa, the Ebola virus killed seven thousand people.

A Malaysia Airlines jet vanished over the Indian Ocean, and no one knows why. The murky circumstances are unlikely to be cleared up anytime soon, because the plane’s remains are lost amid the seabed. Unbelievably, a second jet from the same airline was shot down over Ukraine just four months later, killing almost 300 people. They’re victims of the war Russia instigated, most likely murdered by a surface-to-air missile smuggled to the Ukrainian separatists.

There were lots of disturbing incidents right here in the U.S. too. The police killed an unarmed black man in Staten Island for the crime of selling loose cigarettes. An emotionally unstable Cleveland cop shot a 12-year-old boy wielding a pellet gun. That victim was also black. Just a few days ago, after the Staten Island grand jury declined to indict the police officer who put Eric Garner in a chokehold, I heard a crowd marching past our apartment building. I ran downstairs with my daughter and we joined the procession (see photo above). My daughter was amazed when the protesters started chanting, “Black lives matter.” She couldn’t believe that this needed to be said. That we have to be reminded of one another’s humanity.

But here’s the most frightening quote of the year, from a recent story in the New York Times about the efforts to slow global warming: “Even with a deal to stop the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, scientists warn, the world will become increasingly unpleasant. Without a deal, they say, the world could eventually become uninhabitable for humans.”

Yikes. We’re in deep trouble. And what am I doing about it? I’m writing fanciful tales of imagined apocalypses, stories aimed at entertaining readers for a few hours and distracting them from the real apocalypse that’s bearing down on us all.

Okay, okay. Let me try to think of something positive. The U.S. struck a deal with China to curb carbon emissions. The experts say it’s too little, too late, but it’s a start. Now we just have to get India and Brazil on board. And about two hundred other assorted countries.

Oh, who am I kidding? The future looks bleak.

I’ve flown over North Dakota at night. You can see the boundaries of the national parks from 30,000 feet, because they’re the only places where the gas fires aren’t burning.

But there’s always hope, right? This is the season of hope, so I should say something hopeful. I sincerely hope that our species finds the collective wisdom and will to avert this impending extinction event. And what gives me the most hope is humanity’s resourcefulness. Consider this: we just landed a spacecraft on a freakin’ comet! Compared with that feat, switching from fossil fuels to sustainable energy should be a cinch.

People become especially resourceful when they realize they’re in danger. That’s one of the reasons why I read and write thrillers: I like to see people rise above their limitations and overcome fearsome challenges. And we need to do the same thing in real life. We need to wake up and see the danger.


8 thoughts on “The End?

  1. I’m not too learned on the subject, but have read how in the Middle East and in some European countries, history is taught/explained in a cyclical, seasonal if you will, fashion. Not linear as taught in the U.S. Civilizations, nations and societies have their own spring, summer, fall and winter. A re-birth to a cold end followed by another season of renewed growth.

    Point being, not the end, but the preface of a new beginning. A creative destruction of failed ideologies and belief systems. To quote the RHCP’s, ‘destruction leads to a very rough road, but it also breeds creation …’

  2. Mark–
    Thanks for your “year in review” post. I love the part about it’s being too late to prevent global-warming disaster, but that what’s been agreed to “is a start.”
    What I conclude is that I will go right on writing suspense novels about private disasters, instead of joining the throng who write about “Jack, an ex-Marine who is all that stands between order being restored and global annihilation!!!” I just have to work faster, before the flood reaches my power cord.

  3. Well, that was a downer. I’m with Barry. I’ll do what I can, and write what I can, while I can, and if I let myself brood on the subject of the end of the species, hope that humans are more resourceful and resilient that they usually show themselves to be.

  4. As a long term environmentalist, I tend to try and integrate some of the wake up message into my writing – but without preaching. Even got some post-apocalypse shorts with individual subtle messages. So your post is a wake up call for me to get them out there… off my computer.

    • I’m active in trying to preserve the Monarchs, have donated, planted milkweed, etc. In a fit of despair, I recently considered considered dressing up as a Monarch and chaining myself to the gates of the latest construction project that ate up their feeding grounds. But then I pondered the image of myself as a pudgy butterfly, and…reconsidered. But we do what we can.

  5. I really appreciate this post. It’s refreshing.

    To prevent ourselves from becoming self-absorbed, uncaring and hardhearted, we should learned to acknowledge the bad that goes on in the WORLD, just as much as we acknowledge the good that goes on in our lives.

    We SHOULD care about the missing plane and the grieving families with no closure. We SHOULD care about the Ebola virus taking thousands of lives in Africa. We SHOULD care that cops are thoughtlessly killing unharmed black men and then not paying the consequences. We SHOULD care that the world is, slowly but surely, taking a spin for the worst.

    We should care.

    This is one of the few, VERY few, posts that isn’t recapping how many of their books have made the USA Today and New York Times this year, new house, new car blah blah blah.

    Don’t get me wrong, nothing is wrong with being grateful, but care a little about the horrific stuff that has happened throughout the year, too. Say a quick prayer for all the aching loved ones.

    One author blogged about her overcoming breast cancer and I was almost brought to tears, bursting with joy for her. These are REAL stories. Stories that matter. Not your many titles and sales.

    Sorry if I’m rambling, but I am very sensitive and passionate about life, and it’s nice seeing that someone else out there cares.

    Thanks again for this post!

  6. When I was in college, highly-respected scientists were predicting that we would be in the grip of a new Ice Age by now. Or that we would be out of food because of overpopulation. Or that we would all be so much dust because of nuclear war. None of that happened, did it?

  7. Hello Mark !!! I agree with all the explanation of this post … And I take to say I finished reading this morning for the second time, the Final Theory (or “The last Einstein’s theory” here in Brazil) … and the first observation I make is the talent and true mastery in the union of scientific and historical contexts of this book … Genial !!! Congratulations !!! Do you have a vision and a rare ability in the world … In a fabulously engaging storyline and current … Use this quote to claim that our kind of brothers agree !!! I am passionate about science, especially quantum physics and despite never having studied academically, all concepts are absolutely familiar to me … The first time I read his book was in 2010 … But now had a different flavor, more alive, with a much greater understanding … Since I saw the movie 2012, neutrinos no more left of my head … I remember right out of the movie went straight to the computer search on the particle … And reading the final theory again they were much more glued to me … lol (curious metaphor, 60 trillion cross our body per second) … Anyway, analyzing the possibilities of the book see how much we still need to evolve morally to gain access to technologies these proportions … the “einheitliche Feldtheorie” is not for us … it is ridiculous live on a planet ruled by electricity without knowing what it basically means … it is in the hope that we should support us … I live in a relatively peaceful country and a view of the Middle East … But here we have also our great deal of violence … Meanwhile we contribute our part for a better world … Well, here’s a hug from a large Brazilian fan !!! I have not found any of his other books published in Portuguese. Are there any plans ??? Have you seen the movie Interestellar directed by Christopher Nolan ??? Fantastic not ??? If you can add me to Facebook ( – Big hug and see you soon … Fernando

Comments are closed.