Accessing the media nowadays risks plunging into a sea of grime and gloom. At this stage in human history there appears to be so much to go wrong. But this is true of any age. The feeling has been personified with imagery transmitting angst. Thus, for instance, the four horsemen of the apocalypse as imagined by the writer of Revelation two millennia ago – Disease, Famine, War and Death – there are certainly more in the meme now.
It only takes a moment to draw up a modernised list of threats to our well-being – to that of all of us – to arrive at a dozen horsemen now. Some of these risks are old, familiar ones; others are rebadged or new; all are baleful. These are my candidates.
- Pandemics: epidemics writ large over millions
- Climate change: the base and driver for so many adverse circumstances now
- Diminishing resources: oil, living space, water
- Environmental degradation: desertification, ice sheets, plastic,
- Geophysical catastrophes: earthquakes, eruptions, flooding
- Nuclear accidents: Chernobyl, Fukushima
- War: including war crimes, cyberattacks
- Globalisation: cross-border depredations, banks v states
- Maximum surveillance: in the air, on the street, in your home
- Artificial intelligence: job-killers
- Despotisms: the encrustation of populism, sick societies
- Religious fanaticisms: the perversion of misunderstood ideals
The truly frightening thing about this list is how little governments seem to be doing to counter such threats (and refrain from exploiting them), and protect us from them. If so, perhaps it should be regarded, on a larger scale, as an illustration of where and how, at this stage in human history, we are wilfully blinding ourselves in the face of uncomfortable and damaging realities.