We’ve always been told that the sun would continue to burn properly for another five billion years before it swells to a red giant, so Earth wouldn’t turn to a cinder for almost that long. Yesterday afternoon’s news, announcing that Mercury’s and Mars’ orbits have shifted radically and the chances are eight in ten the planets will collide with Earth within the next three years, changed all that. The news, predictably, caused global panic. I find it more than a little amusing that there’s been a run on milk and bread in almost every city worldwide in the last eighteen hours, as if milk and bread will somehow soften the blow of the end of the world as we know it. I’ve wondered how humankind might react to news of its impending annihilation. Now I know. We stock up on staples.
Stock markets hate uncertainty and, even with eight in ten odds, the stock market considered the news uncertain. So, naturally, stocks tanked. That’s an understatement. A drop of eighteen thousand points from the Dow’s high of just over nineteen thousand is more than tanking. Some big corporations reacted yesterday and today as if the astrophysicists had said the odds are one hundred percent. The CEO of General Motors, for example, responded “What’s the point?” when asked why he announced his decision this morning to shut all manufacturing plants and, then, with little fanfare, just walked off the job. But others see opportunity in the likely destruction of our planet. Diego Macintosh, the founder of SpaceMantra, offered an escape; the first seventy people who each can deliver 250 million dollars to his door are assured a seat on his space exploration craft, set to take off next March. I guess he figures with seventeen billion, five hundred million dollars in hand, he can enjoy his remaining time on Earth. These reactions demonstrate just how fast news travels. But not everyone got the news so quickly.
This morning, I called a friend who lives in a small town in far north British Columbia. She’s not much of a fan of television news and newspapers and she rarely goes online. Her initial reaction was that I was just pulling her leg. Only after I convinced her to turn on the television did she begin to comprehend the gravity of what I’d been telling her. And then she said, “Well, if there’s nothing to be done, there’s nothing to be done. I’ve always said it’s a waste of time to worry about things over which you have no control. So, who do you think will win the World Series next year? Any predictions?”