Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The end of the world

The cover story of the latest issue of The New Republic offers Nine Scenarios for Imminent Apocalypse (And Only One is Global Warming). Some of the others include ocean acidification, extinction rates, land and water use, ozone depletion (I thought we resolved that one), and something about a disruption in the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles. The New Yorker, also this week, points to nuclear proliferation as the likeliest cause of our imminent demise. In fact, the New Yorker warns that if Wall Street were to be hit by a nuclear bomb, the worst thing you could do is escape to Long Island, something Long Islanders, even without the threat of nuclear holocaust, have been discovering to their dismay now for decades.

In any case, despite my admiration for these august periodicals, I think they both have it all wrong. To my relief, anyway, the end of the world is still a few hundred years off, but when it does come it won't be the result of climate change or nuclear war or even ocean acidification (as bad as that sounds). No, it will happen because contrary to previous forecasts, human skin is getting increasingly thinner, not thicker, and over a surprisingly short period of time, as people confront each other with more and more teasing, abuse, mockery, and sheet meanness, our skin will become so thin, so attenuated, so insubstantial that people will suffer en masse from epidermal insufficiency. Our skin will become so thin that it will no longer be able to contain us, and, worst of all, as we grope in vain for that dangling tissue and sinew that no longer have any place to go, the infinite pleasures of being comfortable in one's own skin will finally be denied us forever.

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