What is the Smell of the Climate Change Apocalypse?

Walking around the Singapore Botanic Gardens, I come across the Evolution Garden, which simulates the evolutionary story of plants on earth before mankind ever came to be. It’s hard not to think of the apocalypse here. Half an hour before, I just squeezed through the MRT crowds. It feels odd to be suddenly alone. I was struck by how different it smells compared to the city and the rest of the gardens. It smells of rain and moss. There is a dampness in the air, but it does not feel heavy. It feels like an island washed after a heavy storm, like a tiny planet that went through a car wash.


The Evolution Garden in the Singapore Botanic Gardens

I wonder about how the end of the world will smell like, once human activity has pushed it too much. Does it smell like something just washed, or something burning? Is it a “unpleasant” smell? Perhaps there is more than one smell—an olfactory palette that signifies a climate change apocalypse? Can a man with a cold smell it, or just the most sensitive of trained dogs? Will there be a range of scent—are we dead, or almost dead? Will we have an apocalyptic nose?

Strange questions, but among the many I’m asking here on this side of the world.


  1. I’m pretty sure the end of the world will smell like poop. Which we for some reason dislike, but nature really prefers it.

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