Woo hoo! When gloom abounds and all is grim foreboding, nothing lifts the spirits like a dose of Catabingo, the end-of-everything game that the whole family can play. All you have to do is predict the next global catastrophe. The winner gets to inherit an Earth that isn't worth inheriting.
To get your catastrophic juices flowing like the terminally polluted Ganges, I offer four scenarios below. Then it's over to you to come up with your own unique apocalypse. It shouldn't be hard because there has never been so much material to work with. So let's get creative and ruinous.
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1. Trump pulls out of the Iranian nuclear deal because it was signed by his predecessor whom Trump cannot abide because he is a) black, b) decent, c) cleverer than Trump, d) more popular than Trump and because he made jokes about Trump to Trump's face in front of people who were also cleverer than Trump and who laughed at Trump.
Days after Trump announces his decision Israeli bombers swoop down out of the middle-eastern sun and launch Kentucky-made bunker-busters into Tehran's uranium enrichment facilities. This long-anticipated raid triggers a battery of Vladivostok-made cruise missiles to head instantaneously out of the Iranian mountains in the direction of Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu, grinning like a chimp as his plans bear fruit, launches his Missouri-made anti-missile missiles, and then, without even pausing to comb his comb-over over, appeals to the US for more support. Congress votes overwhelmingly for a proportionate and measured regional military response under the code name WWIII.
2. An ice shelf the size of Brazil snaps off Antarctica. The consequent tsunami runs up the west African coast at the speed of a Formula 1 racing car. In lowland areas the sea advances up to 130km inland. Millions die. Hundreds of millions are rendered destitute. Cities are flattened, crops destroyed, soils salted.
Aid organisations are impotent against the scale of disaster, but the starving are supplied by China with food, vehicles, boats and, covertly, arms and encouraged to head north towards the Mediterranean coast. Algeria, Tunisia, Libya cannot cope with the numbers and appeal to the European authorities. The European authorities respond by rushing all available troops to the southern coasts of Spain, France and Italy. While the west is thus distracted China quietly launches a military drone bearing a small but persuasive thermo-nuclear device and hovers it in plain sight over Taipei, whereupon Taiwan volunteers to reintegrate into the ancestral Middle Kingdom.
3. Special Counsel Mueller issues his report revealing precisely how the Trump Corporation has been dependent for the past dozen years on laundered Russian money. Everyone in the Trump orbit has been in on it, with the principal enablers and conduits being Manafort and Cohen.
The Republican congress rejects the report and refuses to impeach Trump. Millions of civilians descend on Washington in protest and threaten to storm the White House where Trump is cooped up with his family. Trump orders troops on to the streets but the Pentagon defies the order. Trump appeals to his base by Twitter. The NRA recruits and arms a volunteer army and sends it north to restore order under the Confederate flag. At which moment Putin marches into the Ukraine then over the border into Estonia. A spokesman for Nato, visibly shaking before the TV cameras, says despite the absence of American troops, the alliance has no choice but to - but is unable to finish his sentence due to the Brussels air raid siren.
4. Just as the swelling Chinese middle class is developing a taste for red wine, rampant global warming means the traditional wine-growing regions of Australia can no longer support the syrah grape. Prices for shiraz quadruple. The Australian Government converts the whole of Tasmania to viticulture but is unable to satisfy demand.
Land prices in and around Invercargill soar. Every American entertainer wants a vineyard in Winton. Undercover celebrity TV screens a Lumsden special. Auckland house prices plummet as the population chases the weather and the money south.
And on the same day as the Overseas Investment Office in Wellington receives an invitation for the entire South Island to reintegrate into the ancestral Middle Kingdom, local Riverton residents, B Pitt, S Twain and K West report seeing a strange light hovering in the night sky over Invercargill.
So there you go, see. It's easy.
Just turn to the world pages of the paper for inspiration and get those visions of the future rolling in. Closing date for entries is the day before the first one kicks in. Happy gaming.