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Old 06-03-2016, 11:04 AM   #11
ericthered
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Default Re: [ATE/IW] Ecological Collapse

I suppose that a more aggressive hole in the ozone layer that wasn't stopped (its no longer expanding) could have some nasty effects. I don't know what it'd take to get that to happen before 1990 though.
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Old 06-03-2016, 12:31 PM   #12
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Default Re: [ATE/IW] Ecological Collapse

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Originally Posted by David Johnston2 View Post
All right let's list options:

Air Pollution: The problem is the atmosphere is big. While it's relatively easy to turn the air in the vicinity of an actual city semi-toxic, (Billings, Montana was unbelievably horrific in the 80s), the air space of cities comprises such a small proportion of the whole that really that we'd have to work at it for millennia to create true global catastrophe. However cities under clouds of smog can be added as an element to other sources of catastrophes.
This is a slow-motion train-wreck, really, and while I think it would take/is taking centuries, rather than millenia, it still gives people a fair amount of time to adjust.

Moreover, it would disproportionately affect the poorest coastal/island nations. Wealthy nations would scream and whine about having to pay for mitigation and relocation of populations within their borders, but they could do it if the coastal dwellers or those in expanding deserts have any place to move to, at all.

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Red Tide: Toxic algae reproducing out of control can mess with the fishing industry and make the oceans look really disgusting. I'm sure we can find some reason to blame humans for it.
This is a fun problem but, again, it mostly affects coastal areas and poorer countries would suffer the most. Combine it with global climate change for double the fun!

[Possible SPOILER for the book Zodiac, by Neal Stephenson]










There is a more fun option. In the his book, Zodiac, Neal Stephenson postulated that a large chemical firm located in the northeast (he specifically did not use the name, "DuPont"...) researched a bacteria that could consume PCBs and break them down into more benign elements.

Pretty cool, right?

Of course, since they could do it one direction, they could also easily do it the other way. They produced bacteria that took harmless lipids and other elements, and transformed them into PCBs.

Guess which of the two accidentally got released in Boston Harbor, when a chemical tanker ran aground?

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Weather Control: One of the conspiracy theories suggested that the Russians and or the Americans were using secret weather manipulation technology to mess with the weather. What if they actually had such things and misuse of it causes world wide devastation, with hurricanes, tornados, floods and drought everywhere?
We're definitely drifting into silliness, here.


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The Big One: OK, the Big One is only supposed to affect the west coast of North America. Still, it's a respectable catastrophe, and we have been experimenting with triggering earthquakes. That could go wrong.
Already addressed by SAFisher, but really, the Yellowstone Caldera, by itself would be enough to wipe out most of life in North America, and trigger a global winter that could devastate the world. It would be worse in the northern hemisphere than in the south, but nobody would be having any fun if the winter lasted two growing seasons.

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(SNIP)

Biological Warfare: Widespread distribution of say, anthrax would be devastating to mammalian life.
Or, you could go with something a little more esoteric and fun. The Spanish movie, The Last Days, postulates the spread of a virus that affects the human brain in such away that going outside produces an anxiety attack so profound that it triggers heart attacks or strokes. Basically, it's lethal agoraphobia.

The disease spreads easily and has a long incubation time during which the hosts are contagious. When symptoms manifest, people are trapped in whatever building they find themselves, unless they can figure out how to travel around using tunnels and such. Getting into a car is not enough to prevent symptoms -- victims (and that's everybody) must remain in a substantial structure.

Those stuck in single homes in rural areas are basically screwed. They starve to death or die of thirst, because they can't leave the house.

In the cities, isolated patches of people survive. Those able to access an underground transportation network, or punch through to storm drains, can move around and scavenge. They can hang rain-catchers for cisterns out the windows, and make hydroponics farms or box gardens in buildings with large south-facing (or north-facing, in the southern hemisphere) windows -- or even glass walls, if the GM wanted to be a little lenient.

It turns out, though, that children who catch the virus treat it as a childhood disease. Those who survive it are immune to the effects, and they can move around outside, freely.

The campaign, I'd think, would consist of teenagers in the first generation after the pandemic. They've survived and realize they can go outside, and proceed to leave the small communities of agoraphobic elders, to explore what's become of the world.

What interests me the most, about this, is that it reverses a lot of AtE tropes. The vast majority of those who survive don't live in rural areas, but rather in communities scattered through the cities and towns. Those in the cities have the best chances, because they can use subterranean infrastructure for transportation routes to scavenge and trade (or raid).

While the rural areas may have a few isolated pockets of incredibly lucky people, for the most parts the farming areas are rapidly reverting to empty wilderness. Almost everybody died of thirst or starvation, because they couldn't leave their homes.
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Old 06-03-2016, 01:05 PM   #13
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Default Re: [ATE/IW] Ecological Collapse

Since Yellowstone keeps getting mentioned, I'll note that a zombie apocalypse* campaign I made a while back had as part of its backstory a mostly-failed nuclear strike by North Korea. Of the few ICBM's that reached the US, none actually hit what they were aimed at. Unfortunately, one of these was a nuclear "bunker buster" aimed at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, and it drifted to the northwest, hitting the Caldera and causing a partial eruption thereof. A similar event, but perhaps with a (launched by mistake) Russian nuke, could occur pre-1990.

*The backstory basically had things start falling apart on 12/21/12, starting with the North Korean nuclear strike. Things were actually starting to improve a few decades later, when the campaign was to be set, but it turned out Reich-5 had taken advantage of the chaos to start a research center to research things they'd rather not have reach their homeline. The zombie apocalypse was due to containment failing on one of these projects.
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Old 06-03-2016, 01:06 PM   #14
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Default Re: [ATE/IW] Ecological Collapse

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Originally Posted by tshiggins View Post
This is a slow-motion train-wreck, really, and while I think it would take/is taking centuries, rather than millenia, it still gives people a fair amount of time to adjust.

Moreover, it would disproportionately affect the poorest coastal/island nations. Wealth nations would scream and whine about having to pay for mitigation and relocation of populations within their borders, but they could do it if the coastal dwellers or those in expanding deserts have any place to move to, at all.
Wasn't actually talking about global warming as such but the kind of particulate air pollution that actually worried us first worlders in that halcyon environmentally unregulated era between the 50s and the 70s and was very much a problem in the richest nations of the time. Mind you, eliminating the ozone layer if we really set our minds to it would probably take less time to do more damage.
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Old 06-03-2016, 01:30 PM   #15
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Default Re: [ATE/IW] Ecological Collapse

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Wasn't actually talking about global warming as such but the kind of particulate air pollution that actually worried us first worlders in that halcyon environmentally unregulated era between the 50s and the 70s and was very much a problem in the richest nations of the time. Mind you, eliminating the ozone layer if we really set our minds to it would probably take less time to do more damage.
I do recall the bad particulate pollution. It lasted until the 1980s, in Colorado, and some days downtown Denver had a thick, brown fog that burned my eyes, nose and throat. It was a mess.

Spread that over the globe, and you could have a real problem for a bunch of different lynchpin species (including bees and other pollinators). However, you're correct in that it would be tough to get particulates to spread outside of dense urban areas. (Gases are a lot easier.)

Destruction of the ozone layer would be worse, I think, and easily accomplished (pump out those CFCs!).

However, I really like the notion of a huge coronal mass ejection that cooks any and all unshielded electronics -- including power lines. Supposedly, there's some (limited) evidence that such an event took place during Charlemagne's era, that was at least twice as bad as the one that made telegraphs go crazy, in the 19th Century.
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Old 06-03-2016, 01:37 PM   #16
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Default Re: [ATE/IW] Ecological Collapse

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Already addressed by SAFisher, but really, the Yellowstone Caldera, by itself would be enough to wipe out most of life in North America, and trigger a global winter that could devastate the world. It would be worse in the northern hemisphere than in the south, but nobody would be having any fun if the winter lasted two growing seasons.
Harry Turtledove's Supervolcano trilogy did a pretty good job with this. And it was good to seem him break out of the AH cage for once.
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Old 06-03-2016, 02:11 PM   #17
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Default Re: [ATE/IW] Ecological Collapse

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Originally Posted by tshiggins View Post
Supposedly, there's some (limited) evidence that such an event took place during Charlemagne's era, that was at least twice as bad as the one that made telegraphs go crazy, in the 19th Century.
Well, something happened that leaves a trace in the isotope ratios, mostly Carbon-14, plus some others. Thanks for mentioning this, I'd not heard of it.
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Old 06-03-2016, 03:45 PM   #18
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Default Re: [ATE/IW] Ecological Collapse

Quote:
Originally Posted by tshiggins View Post
Or, you could go with something a little more esoteric and fun. The Spanish movie, The Last Days, postulates the spread of a virus that affects the human brain in such away that going outside produces an anxiety attack so profound that it triggers heart attacks or strokes. Basically, it's lethal agoraphobia.

The disease spreads easily and has a long incubation time during which the hosts are contagious. When symptoms manifest, people are trapped in whatever building they find themselves, unless they can figure out how to travel around using tunnels and such. Getting into a car is not enough to prevent symptoms -- victims (and that's everybody) must remain in a substantial structure.

Those stuck in single homes in rural areas are basically screwed. They starve to death or die of thirst, because they can't leave the house.

In the cities, isolated patches of people survive. Those able to access an underground transportation network, or punch through to storm drains, can move around and scavenge. They can hang rain-catchers for cisterns out the windows, and make hydroponics farms or box gardens in buildings with large south-facing (or north-facing, in the southern hemisphere) windows -- or even glass walls, if the GM wanted to be a little lenient.

It turns out, though, that children who catch the virus treat it as a childhood disease. Those who survive it are immune to the effects, and they can move around outside, freely.

The campaign, I'd think, would consist of teenagers in the first generation after the pandemic. They've survived and realize they can go outside, and proceed to leave the small communities of agoraphobic elders, to explore what's become of the world.

What interests me the most, about this, is that it reverses a lot of AtE tropes. The vast majority of those who survive don't live in rural areas, but rather in communities scattered through the cities and towns. Those in the cities have the best chances, because they can use subterranean infrastructure for transportation routes to scavenge and trade (or raid).

While the rural areas may have a few isolated pockets of incredibly lucky people, for the most parts the farming areas are rapidly reverting to empty wilderness. Almost everybody died of thirst or starvation, because they couldn't leave their homes.
Now that is interesting. I'll have to look up the movie...
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Old 06-03-2016, 09:11 PM   #19
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Default Re: [ATE/IW] Ecological Collapse

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Wow. I didn't realize there were so many such places. Based on what I'm seeing, here, flooding them might actually result in some pretty significant climate changes, at least locally -- and maybe even for the better, in a lot of cases.
I have a copy of Engineer's Dreams by Willy Ley from 1955. Lots of 40-50s style megaprojects many of them hydropower. Chapters are below. 3-6 have major ecological changes implied.

Channel Tunnel (built).

Mid ocean floating airports to refuel (not needed).

Large scale geothermal from volcanos (maybe trigger a supercaldera?).

Running a pipeline from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea to provide hydropower.

Damming the Congo to create a massive Congo lake (looks to be 10-15 times the size of lake Victoria) which then overflows north to refill the Chad Sea and then drains to the Med. Lots of hydro power and opens up central Africa to largish ships. Massive ecological change.

The Gibraltar Dam. Let the Med evaporate over the course of a century to drop 330 feet. This adds 90,000 square miles of land to Europe and North Africa. Then you clode the small gap left between Sicily and Libya and let the western part drop another 330 feet adding even more land. Massive amount of hydro power also to power a big chunk of Europe. The ecological change is boggling.

Solar thermal power (bypassed mainly for solar electric).

Wave, tide and ocean temperature difference power (still minor).

Wind power (in use).
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Old 06-03-2016, 09:52 PM   #20
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Default Re: [ATE/IW] Ecological Collapse

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Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
I suppose that a more aggressive hole in the ozone layer that wasn't stopped (its no longer expanding) could have some nasty effects. I don't know what it'd take to get that to happen before 1990 though.
An unforeseen side effect of the HAARP project, perhaps.

EDIT: Whoops, HAARP didn't start until 1993. Must have been its top secret predecessor, or the earlier Soviet proof of concept. :)
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