The Apocalypse Is Not What I Expected

Alan Urban
8 min readNov 14, 2023
Watching the Apocalypse on TV

“What looks like apocalypse in prospect often feels more like grim normality when it arrives in the present.” — David Wallace Wells

When I was a kid, I watched a lot of movies about the end of the world — Mad Max, The Terminator, Day of the Dead, Deep Impact, Independence Day, stuff like that.

Watching these movies, I internalized the Hollywood view of the apocalypse: People running to the stores, stripping the shelves, and trampling one another as they flee for their lives. Oftentimes, there’s a scene where a child drops a teddy bear or something, reminding us that the end of the world is sad.

Meanwhile, the people in charge meet in dimly-lit rooms full of buttons and monitors. Scientists in white lab coats explain the situation while military generals smoke cigarettes and scowl. The President listens carefully as advisors tell him his options. The goal is always to minimize the loss of life or at least save the human race from extinction.

Of course, now I understand that these are just movies and nothing like real life. Even so, I’m still shocked at how different the apocalypse is from what I imagined.

I didn’t realize the world is ending until 2020. I had spent months reading up on climate change in order to find out how bad it was and whether humanity could avoid the worst-case scenario.

For years, I had assumed that fossil fuels would be replaced by renewables, but by the summer of 2020, I realized that was impossible. Humans were hopelessly addicted to fossil fuels. Without them, we would return to pre-industrial lifestyles, only on a planet with way more people and much worse weather.

By the fall of 2020, I fully understood that modern society will break down over the next few decades, and that my life will likely be cut short, along with the lives of my loved ones. Humanity had failed, and the end was near.

It’s hard to express how frightened and depressed this made me. Sometimes, I walked around in a daze, my stomach filled with butterflies, barely hearing what people said. Other times, I sat alone and quietly wept, thinking about my children who no longer had the future I’d envisioned for them.



Alan Urban

Preparing for the collapse of global industrial civilization.