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Five Apocalyptic Events the Human Race Managed to Survive

Looking back through history, there have been so many cataclysmic events that were responsible for killing millions of people, some of which almost brought us to extinction.


Despite having the will and desire to survive horrific disasters, preppers are often accused of being pessimistic and cynical by their friends and family. They treat it as if recognizing and preparing for a disaster is akin to wanting it to happen. Meanwhile, you’ll hear these same people saying “why bother preparing for (nuclear war, global pandemic, etc) if it’s just going to kill us all anyway?” Some will even go so far as to say they’d rather off themselves than survive a disaster.

It makes me wonder, who’s the real pessimist here?

This careless and self-defeating attitude is pretty sad, especially when you consider some of the disasters our ancestors have endured. Looking back through history, there have been so many cataclysmic events that were responsible for killing millions of people, some of which almost brought us to extinction.

And yet, we’ve always recovered. Even the twentieth century, which most of us remember as an incredibly violent period that was responsible for hundreds of millions of unnecessary deaths, had very little effect on human growth. No matter what happens to us in terms of global catastrophes, whether they be natural or man-made, we just keep coming back with better technology and in greater numbers.

And as you’re about to see, even so-called “apocalyptic” scenarios are no match for us. Here are five of the most devastating global events that our ancestors managed to survive.

The Spanish Flu

It’s widely believed that World War One was itself responsible for one of the most devastating viruses in recorded history. With millions of soldiers living in cold, damp, and crowded quarters, it proved to be the perfect breeding ground for the flu. As they returned home they took the virus with them. Modern analysis of the pathogen has suggested that it may have caused a cytokine storm in the bodies of the afflicted, which causes the immune system to flail out of control, and damage internal organs.

Its effects made World War One look like a picnic. The Spanish Flu arrived on the scene in 1918, during the closing days of the war. For the next 2 years it would infect a third of the world’s population, and kill 50-100 million people, and further batter a world that was already in shambles.

The Mongol Invasion

To people living in the 13th century, the armies of Genghis Khan were a mysterious and deadly force that no one could stand up to. Not only did they carve out the largest empire in human history, but they stood as one of the few historical examples of a nomadic culture that managed to destroy the highly advanced civilizations they neighbored. In modern terms, this would be like a shattered third world country using brute force to conquer a superpower.

But that’s exactly what they did. Over the course of 60 years they conquered and assimilated over 30 nations, some of which had stood for hundreds of years and consisted of sprawling empires. Everything that stood in their path crumbled to dust, and their brutal methods were responsible for 40-60 million deaths. At most, they may have killed as much as 11 percent of the world’s population. For anyone living in Eurasia during 13th century, the arrival of the Mongol horde was an apocalyptic event.

The Black Death

After the Mongolian Empire reached its peak, they began the process of rebuilding their captured nations. One of the results of this effort was a nearly global system of communications and trade that helped connect every corner of the known world. But this same system would also help spread a disease so devastating that it dwarfed the lethality of the Mongols themselves.

Known as the bubonic plague in modern terms, the Black Death didn’t just kill a lot of people. It utterly destroyed the social fabric of every civilization that came into contact with it. The elites fled the cities to hide in their rural estates, as millions perished, and commerce was ground to a halt. In some cities the disease eliminated anywhere between 50 and 80 percent of the population, and it took Europe over 150 years to recover. The world’s population reached its lowest point before it began to climb to the levels we see today.

After the disease had passed, the feudal system had been turned on its head. Without a large surplus of labor, the serfs could demand higher wages and more land. It basically helped create the first middle class in Europe, and changed the balance of power between the rulers and the people. But the nature of economics and politics weren’t the only fields to be affected. The plague had also left its mark on religion, art, architecture, and medicine, and completely changed the world we live in today.

Younger Dryas Impact

Among the scientific community, it’s widely believed that humans are responsible for the extinction of the megafauna species that once dominated the Earth over 12,000 years ago. But for some, the hunting practices by the smattering of small bands of humans that lived on this planet could not have been the only reason for their demise.

One theory posits that a natural cycle of climate change may have been responsible. But after investigating the soil found in dozens of ancient settlements, it’s been suggested that this shift in climate may have been caused by a comet that burst in the air before it could collide with the earth near the great lakes region of North America. The event has been compared the 1908 Tunguska blast in Siberia, but would have been many times more devastating.

As the comet disintegrated in the Earths atmosphere, it would have rained fire all over the continent, causing massive forest fires in every corner of North America. Not only would this have shifted the world’s climate into a cooling period, but it would have obliterated the natural environment of North America. While it was enough to kill off thousands of species all over the world, and destroy the Clovis culture that once dominated the continent, it wasn’t quite enough kill the rest of our hardy ancestors.

The Toba Supervolcano

Of all the disasters in human history, none can compare to the Toba Supervolcano, which almost completely wiped out the human race. In fact, it may have destroyed several similar species, leaving only homo sapiens and neanderthals intact. Well…almost intact.

After researching the genetics of people from all over the world, some scientists have concluded that there was a genetic bottleneck at some point in our history, meaning there was a time when very few humans roamed the earth. Just how few you may ask? Estimates very, but they range in the thousands. As in, probably 10,000 people or less, with only a couple hundred breeding pairs of child-bearing age. And that’s one of the higher estimates.

Simply put, we almost bit the dust.

The leading theory for this genetic bottleneck, is the Toba Catastrophe theory. It suggests that a volcano erupted in Indonesia over 70,000 years ago, which blanketed the earth in several inches of ash. Not only would it have blocked out the sun for several years, but it would have disrupted the seasonal rains our ancestors relied on. We were already living through an ice age at the time, and in some regions it caused the average temperature to drop 20 degrees.

These conditions may have lasted six years, and would have hurt every species on Earth, which in turn would have made life for hunter gatherers a living hell.

But here we are, 7 billion strong and counting. So the next time someone gives you a hard time for prepping, remind them that they are descended from some of those most hard-core survivalists this world has ever seen. At this point, not even a nuclear war could reduce our numbers to what we saw 70,000 years ago, so we can’t even completely destroy ourselves. Unless some stray planet crashes into Earth and shatters it into a million pieces, we’re not going anywhere.

This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on January 31st, 2015