I see that the population of this community has climbed a bit since the gates of Dreamwidth opened last night.

Welcome! Feel free to have a look around, get a feel for this community, and introduce yourselves. It's still early days for 2012, but my goal- our goal, since this is a communal thing- is to make this place a go-to spot for levelheaded discourse about 2102 and related subjects. So, if you run across an interesting article- whether it's a New Age or scientific, skeptical, or hysterical, come post a link, and let's talk about it.

The current H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic scare is a great starting point- how much nonsense is there, and how much fact? Is the signal getting lost in the noise? Who do we listen to, and who do we ignore? Does social media make things like this better or worse? Let's talk and learn.

And again, welcome!
Today's Salon magazine (daypass or subscription required) has a pair of articles that address pandemics and 'killer plague movies'.

Pandemic Pandemonium

The word "pandemic" comes from the Greek "pandemos," meaning, "of all the people." It may not simply be coincidence that the word "pandemonium"-- uproar and noise -- comes right after it in the dictionary. Pandemonium was actually a literary location, chosen by Milton as the capital of hell in "Paradise Lost." Combine "of all the people" with the Greek "daemon" and you've got a chaotic situation instigated by evil spirits.

And how about the word "panic"? There's that "pan" again, although in this instance, it refers to that rambunctious Greek god Pan, whose chief talent seemed to be for creating fear and terror in lonely, isolated places. But while the word "pandemic" tends to push the panic button in most of us, it doesn't have to. At face value, a pandemic is only an epidemic over a large area. Not to be flippant with that "only," but as many medical experts have stressed in the past few weeks, a "pandemic" refers to the scope of a disease and not necessarily its severity.

If we look at what is actually happening, at this very moment, with H1N1, we have to admit not only that things are not all that bad, but also that they have, in many instances, been blown totally out of proportion. Just today, the Mexican government reported that the suspected confirmed cases of deaths in that country due to the disease are half of what the world had been led to believe and that the spread within the country has stabilized. So far, no one anywhere else has died, with the exception of the poor Houston toddler who contracted the virus in Mexico, and not everyone who is in close proximity to an infected person gets sick. And, those who do contract H1N1 tend to have mild symptoms that resolve themselves without prescription medications.

Attack of the Killer Plague Movies

The recent swine-flu headlines have done a number on many of us, playing upon our greatest fears and apprehensions. For years, scientists have been warning us that it's only a matter of time before a vaccine-resistant, untreatable virus wills itself into existence and kills -- or transforms into zombies -- almost everyone on the planet except one or ten or a hundred hardy souls. Those survivors will be forced to retreat to remote, boarded-up shacks, where they'll have to ponder the biggest moral quandaries of mankind: For example, if your mom turns into a zombie, how do you kill her?

The scientists haven't, of course, put their warnings in exactly those terms. It's their job to outline the all-too-believable possibilities, although we also have a calm president who's more interested in keeping us rational than in stirring up our worst nightmares. But there is one place to turn to for images of desolate landscapes nearly wiped clean of freethinking creatures, of feverish, suffering people who suddenly turn into something not quite human, of rational people reduced to scrabbling for survival instead of just going to Target to pick up whatever they need: the movies, capable of feeding and intensifying our worst anxieties.

We don't know if this iteration of influenza is going to do the 'zombie' thing on us or not, but we have a whole summer to stock up on supplies and movies before that happens. Of course, for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, the season is just starting. Stamp it out, will you?
How to survive flood, famine, flu, and financial catastrophe

Neil Strauss has a tough assignment ahead of him- survive the worst:

Like any good journalist he documented his journey in The Game’s successor, Emergency. Emergency works both as a gold-standard piece of gonzo journalism, with Strauss sharing the extraordinary lives and motivations of his subjects, and as a detailed manual on how to prepare yourself before the long wild party of civilisation comes to a messy end.

Longer chapters detailing his quest to transform himself from an effete, deskbound writer to a self-reliant woodsman are interpolated with short two-page comic strip ‘how to’ segments on everything from evasive driving to sawing through plastic handcuffs with a pair of shoelaces.

I’m here today, at a self-sufficient farm outside Guildford, to get a small flavour of Neil’s research. Despite the jeremiads you might see in some of the more excitable newspapers, the chance that ours will be generation that sees a colossal social collapse like the Fall of the Roman Empire or a pandemic on the scale of the Black Death is still reassuringly slim.

How Neil Strauss became Mr. Doom

10 End of the World Survival Essentials