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The End Is Nigh: is survival all we can hope for?

hould natural disasters such as the 2011 Tokyo earthquake and tsunami remind us that even the most modern societies are still surviving at nature’s mercy, or suggest instead that humanity should do much more to shape its own destiny?


The prediction by a small-town American preacher that the Rapture was due to begin on 21 May 2011 caused much amusement in the international media and blogosphere – heightened when the date was amended to 21 October after Judgement Day yet again failed to arrive. Yet Harold Camping is only the most high profile, and by far the most mocked, prophet of the apocalypse this century. From the millennium bug paranoia which kickstarted the Noughties, through to the increasingly doom-laden predictions of runaway climate change, the menace of global jihad or the numerous warnings of flu pandemics, the 21st century citizen no longer needs a man with a sandwich board to be informed that ‘the end is nigh.’

While some blame rolling news coverage and a credulous public for the prevalence of this pessimistic outlook, there can be no doubting the modern world faces some very particular uncertainties, and if nothing else, the reaction to them is all too real. Intrusive security checks at airports and civil liberty clampdowns are a routine feature of the post 9/11 world; stockpiling of expensive flu vaccines by the WHO and governments are a constant source of controversy when pandemics do not arise; while the Fukushima meltdown reignited the debate over nuclear safety. At the same time, comparatively minor incidents such as 2010’s Icelandic volcano eruption lead to kneejerk closing down of European airspace, and scientists across the West are often the most ardent advocates of taking a ‘safety first’ attitude towards experimentation under the precautionary principle.

Is the obsession with ‘end times’ a sober assessment of the numerous risks we face, or symptomatic of a broader cultural unease with the ‘problems’ of modernity? Are we in need of a dash of Matt Ridley’s ‘rational optimism’ in looking forward to an ever-improving future, or is there a risk of Panglossian complacency in assuming we’re as safe and advanced as we could be? Should natural disasters such as the 2011 Tokyo earthquake and tsunami remind us that even the most modern societies are still surviving at nature’s mercy, or suggest instead that humanity should do much more to shape its own destiny?


Speaker(s):

Dr Ken McLaughlin | talks
Professor Anthony O'Hear | talks
Mr James Woudhuysen | talks | www
Vanessa Pupavac | talks

 

Date and Time:

11 October 2011 at 6:30 pm

Duration:

2 hours

 

Venue:

Hallmark Hotel
Midland Road
Derby
DE1 2SQ


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Organised by:

Institute of Ideas
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Tickets:

£7.50 (£5 concessions and East Midlands Salon Members) per person.

Available from:

Tickets are available from the Institute of Ideas website.
www.instituteofideas.com/tickets/battlesatellites2011.html

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