5 Time Bombs Our Grandparents Planted (Are About To Go Off)

All of human history has been one gigantic, ruinous circle jerk, with Mother Nature crouching awkwardly in the center.
5 Time Bombs Our Grandparents Planted (Are About To Go Off)

All of human history has been one gigantic, ruinous circle jerk, with Mother Nature crouching awkwardly in the center. Previous generations accidentally ruined the entire planet, and it was up to us to fix their many environmental blunders. Now that we've learned from their mistakes and put them behind us, we can finally begin the long, slow process of healing. But the problem with putting something behind you is that it's the perfect position for that thing to kick you in the ass when you're not looking.

We May Have To Deal With NUCLEAR Forest Fires

5 Time Bombs Our Grandparents Planted (Are About To Go Off)
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Nuclear power is a relatively clean alternative to fossil fuels. It's more efficient, more sustainable, and doesn't release a bunch of harmful chemicals into the air -- only into glowing green barrels with cartoon skulls on them. Really, the only downside is that it causes a small-scale apocalypse whenever things go terribly wrong, like at Chernobyl. Thankfully, that particular incident didn't destroy all of society -- just some Russian parts -- and the still-crumbling reactor serves as a reminder to us all to never forget the horrible destruction of our past.

5 Time Bombs Our Grandparents Planted (Are About To Go Off)
David Holt / Wiki Commons

It's shaped like a giant dick to remind us of how fucked everything around it is.

It also conveniently serves as an omen of the horrible destruction of our future. Those Russian engineers were multitaskers! This time, the problem is with the trees ...

5 Time Bombs Our Grandparents Planted (Are About To Go Off)
Timm Suess / Flickr

Thanks, Lorax.

When Chernobyl went down, it nuked all plant life in the vicinity. And that dead forest remains standing to this day, because the meltdown also killed off all of the microscopic lifeforms that would have otherwise assisted in the decomposition of the dead material. And so these trees have stood, dead but not gone, drying out for 30 years. Primed for a fire.

Too bad that the dead wood has also been absorbing radiation like a giant sponge. One spark, and we have our first nuclear forest fire, potentially smothering huge chunks of Europe in clouds of radioactive smoke.

5 Time Bombs Our Grandparents Planted (Are About To Go Off)
Stahlman Design / Flickr

Smokey the Two-Headed, Seven-Eyed, Stumpy-Pawed Bear would be disappointed that nobody prevented this.

Ukraine is fully aware of this threat, which is why they have teams of people out there doing nothing but watching for lightning strikes and other ignition points, ready to fight the blaze the second it pops up. Hopefully, their business cards read "Nuclear Firefighter." Otherwise, what's the point?

Abandoned Mines Could Eat Your House At Any Moment

5 Time Bombs Our Grandparents Planted (Are About To Go Off)
John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The North American continent is littered with old mines. That's all well and good. Simply don't go exploring them with a group of nubile teens, and you won't be hacked apart by the ghosts of angry miners. Danger avoided.

Or is it ...?

5 Time Bombs Our Grandparents Planted (Are About To Go Off)


In April 2016, a man in Des Moines, Iowa woke in the middle of the night to discover that a 35-foot tree had completely disappeared from his front yard. Upon investigation, officials discovered a sinkhole, caused by the collapse of a 100-year-old mine shaft. Worse still, the old coal mine's tunnels run underneath some 200 acres of residential Des Moines, meaning any number of other homes or businesses are liable to up and disappear like they've angered the mole people.

COAL MINE LOCATIONS SOURCE: IOW DNR Bloomfield Coal Co. Eureka Coal Co. Proctor Coal Co. Park Ave FL Des Moines Mine S.Des Moines Coal Co. Fleur SE St
Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Everyone living there should be clenching hard enough to turn all that coal into diamonds.

Old shafts can be filled in with dirt and concrete, of course. The problem is finding them. In much the same way that Grandpa forgets your birthday and where he left his dentures (Surprise! Your belated birthday present is a set of creepy old teeth, and Pop-Pop's got a new iPhone chilling in a glass by his bedside), we've long since forgotten where all of our ancestors' death holes are located.

We're going to stop now, before we fully consider the implications of that last sentence.

Every Terrible Chemical We Ever Used Is Waiting To Come Back At Us

5 Time Bombs Our Grandparents Planted (Are About To Go Off)
Eric Rignot / NASA

At least we've learned from the past. CFCs, DDTs, POPs, and other terrifying chemical acronyms have been banned for decades. The planet barely survived their usage, but we did it! It's over! The end!

Actually, it's more like "The End?" And now we're set up for the hard-hitting sequel.

You know what's great at storing harmful chemicals? Polar ice. That was all well and good by society for a time. (Eat it, Nanook. Move to the city and get a real job!) But now, global warming is melting that ice and releasing all those chemicals at once ...

5 Time Bombs Our Grandparents Planted (Are About To Go Off)
NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio

... It's like society's literal karma, coming back to punish us for past sins.

Most worrying are the persistent organic pollutants (POPs) -- organic chemicals we stuffed into just about everything until we found out they give cancer to anything they touch. They've been showing up in plants and animals again lately, trickling out of melting glaciers and into the natural environment.

Ross Land/Getty Images

So if you see this sign or any others like it, listen.

Then there's DDT, an insecticide that was banned in the '70s due to its poisonous effect on birds. And though we haven't used it in decades, it's showing up again in Antarctic penguins, thanks to the retreating ice caps. That's right, penguins. The butlers of the snow.

Good god, what have we done?

We're Never Going To Stop Mercury Poisoning

Bionerd / Wiki Commons

We know that mercury is almost as insanely poisonous as it is shiny, so we're careful with its use. Unfortunately, we learned the latter far before the former, and we used to put the stuff in pretty much everything. No matter how careful we are today, the damage is more or less already done. Much like the Mormon guy who insists on staying "to help clean up" after the party, mercury doesn't go away. It only filtered out into our waterways, and then into fish, and then back into our bodies when we eat the fish. It is called "Piscean vengeance."

5 Time Bombs Our Grandparents Planted (Are About To Go Off)
Joey Rozier / Flickr

One fish, two fish, red fish, you're blue cause you're dead from eating fish.

Oh, sorry -- we just assumed that. In fact, it's called "bioaccumulation," and here's how it works: Tiny organisms absorb tiny amounts of mercury from their environment, though not enough to kill them. Fish then eat those tiny organisms by the thousands, acquiring huge doses of mercury. Those in turn are devoured by bigger fish, which retain all the combined amount of mercury from the whole food chain. By the time this scales up to the tin of canned tuna, forgotten in your cupboard until you get desperate, you're basically spreading the insides of a thermometer on a slice of rye.

5 Time Bombs Our Grandparents Planted (Are About To Go Off)

There's a problem when a product sells itself by bragging how it'll only poison you a little bit.

Scientists say drastic and immediate reductions are needed merely to stabilize the amount of mercury in the environment. Not to fix the problem, mind you -- to stop making it worse. So much mercury is already in circulation that it will continue to exist in the ocean and accumulate in fish for "decades to centuries," even if we stop using mercury entirely right now. Right as of this sentence. Right ...


Okay, now! No, this time for real. On three ...

Forgotten Shipwrecks Can Still Explode, Dramatically

5 Time Bombs Our Grandparents Planted (Are About To Go Off)
Thames Television

In the mouth of the Thames river, right outside London, sits a sunken U.S. warship, the SS Richard Montgomery -- the most gentlemanly of all warships. It ran aground in 1944 during the Second World War, and has since become a tourist attraction, thanks to the fact that its masts are still visible above the water.

5 Time Bombs Our Grandparents Planted (Are About To Go Off)
Clem Rutter / Wiki Commons

Like a gang of pissed-off, murderous, exploding shark fins.

The issue is that this quaint old landmark still carries 1,500 tons of explosives, which were originally intended to mess up Germany's shit back when Germany had some shit that needed messing up. They don't build 'em like they used to, and that's not only true for men and women and muscle cars -- Richard Montgomery's apocalyptic payload remains as powerful as it ever was.

On the plus side, Richard Montgomery's ghost has to be stoked that we wrote that sentence.

As nature continues to take its course and the ship deteriorates, it becomes ever more likely that the explosives will, well ... explode, and take a good hunk of London with them.

5 Time Bombs Our Grandparents Planted (Are About To Go Off)
Andy Hebden / BBC

Michael Bay just had a Little Mermaid reboot idea.

So what are we doing about it? Saving a good seat and getting ready to clap, essentially. It's still considered too dangerous to send people down there to disarm the bombs, and if they did, one tiny mistake could be big enough to drown London. Turns out The Clash was trying to warn us all along. We owe Joe Strummer an apology for so many things.

Last Halloween, the Cracked Podcast creeped you out with tales of ghost ships, mysteriously dead people, and a man from one of the most famous paintings in U.S. history who years later went all Jack Nicholson in The Shining on his family. This October, Jack and the Cracked staff are back with special guest comedians Ryan Singer, Eric Lampaert, and Anna Seregina to share more unsettling and unexplained true tales of death, disappearance, and the great beyond. Get your tickets for this LIVE podcast here!

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