The Castle Bravo nuclear blast from 1954.
Credit: The United States Department of Energy.
How close are you to an existential crisis? In the case of humanity, we might just reach a tipping point this week. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists will make their yearly ‘Doomsday Clock’ announcement this coming Thursday live at 10:00 AM EST/15:00 Universal Time (UT). ‘The clock’ has sat at 3 minutes to midnight since 2015. In light of the rise of fervent nationalism worldwide, coupled with science denialism and the advent of alternative facts being the order of the day for modern politicians, it seems highly likely that the hands of the clock will indeed move forward. ‘If’ we move one minute up to (cue Iron Maiden) to 2 minutes to midnight, we’re tied with the closest we’ve ever been since the Bulletin started tracking the impeding extinction of humanity in 1947. The last time we were this close was in 1953, when the United States tested and moved ahead with the development of the first hydrogen bomb. Scientists at the Bulletin have, on occasion, moved the clock forward multiple minutes (such as last occurred in 2015 and 2007), and if this comes to pass, we’ll be the closest to doom. Ever.
We’ll drop in a live embed to Thursday’s news conference here if one turns up, or you can watch it here. With the current United States president on record as eager to start a new Cold War and believing that anthropocentric climate change is a Chinese conspiracy, the next four years look grim, indeed. There is no fail-safe when it comes to the Commander in Chief and America’s nuclear arsenal, and it’s frightening to think that we could wake up to a 4 AM tweet announcing nuclear Armageddon… all it would take is a few religious fundamentalist generals in the right positions, eager to facilitate the end of the world.
I was a child of the Cold War, and we were told by school teachers when Reagan entered office that we shouldn’t bother to expect growing up. Perhaps we were spared then by the very awareness of what such a disaster would mean. Now, we seem to largely ignore the possibility of a nuclear confrontation… but the bombs and missiles are still there, waiting. Couple this with a thin-skinned Trump, and we may have the recipe for disaster on a global scale. North Korea, for example, says it will “defeat the imperialist American dogs,” just about every Tuesday… how will a President unable to ignore insult react to that?
One thing’s for sure; we’re going to live in a very different world one decade from now. It could be a world of fear and the return of the ‘Iron rule,’ where ideological wars are fought over scarce resources, or a brilliant future, one where humanity uses science and reason to move forward and solve the problems of the day. Which would you prefer?
Be sure to watch Thursday’s announcement from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and let’s hope we make it past many Thursdays to come.