Basically it’s all to blame on one man; three guesses who
by Caroline Bojarski
This past Thursday, the group of scientists in charge of the Doomsday Clock urged the public not to panic as they edged the ominous clock closer to midnight. As of January 26th, the world has two-and-a-half minutes to put its sordid affairs in order before inevitable destruction.
Before you start hugging your loyal friends and calling your exes, the Clock is an instrument controlled by the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Its units of time are arbitrary and simply stand as a symbolic alert to the public of the world’s current predicament relative to other points in history. According to the New York Times, the Clock has not been so close to midnight since the Soviet Union and the United States each tested the hydrogen bomb in 1953. The Clock was instituted in 1947, at which point it stood at seven minutes to midnight.
Members of the Bulletin base the Clock’s position on large-scale factors such as global climate change, nuclear threats, biosecurity, and, as of last week, the copious commentary of President Donald J. Trump. Climate scientist Lawrence Kraus and meteorologist David Titley explained to the Times that Mr. Trump’s plans to halt and reverse progress in climate control and rational nuclear policy have resulted in the first movement of the hands of the Doomsday Clock as a result of a single individual. When asked what advice she had for Titley and Kraus, a local mother of toddlers said, “Stop encouraging him.”
Rachel Bronson, executive director and publisher of the bulletin, stated in a conference that the scientists who calculate the Clock’s position are not trying to induce a mad rush to the hardware store in preparation for The End but are instead “hoping this [moving the Clock] drives action”. There is something un-ignorable about the symbol of a cosmic timepiece controlled by highly rational scientists saying with concrete certainty that we have this many fewer days of love, laughter, and memes allotted to us.
While the Clock indicates a dire situation, having only been closer to the hour of doom once (in response to imminent nuclear annihilation), hope remains as the Clock’s hands can be moved backward as well. The Bulletin meets twice a year to decide which way to wind the Clock. The ‘safest’ time in the Clock’s history was in 1991 when it showed a benign 17 minutes to midnight in response to gradually declining tensions following the Cold War’s resolution. Constructive activities such as international cooperation between scientists, the nearly worldwide signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the destruction of the Berlin Wall have historically resulted in positive changes to the Doomsday Clock.
The public may now be wondering: why foster cooperation among world leaders when you can just sneak into the Bulletin’s office in the University of Chicago where the Clock is kept and turn the hands back like you are tricking a substitute algebra teacher? Not only would the paper would like to formally state that it does not endorse such childish behavior, but also, the paper would like to reiterate that the Clock is a metaphor for the world’s dire situation and that turning the hands will not actually solve global climate change or halt a nuclear arms race.
If the words of one man can bring the planet thirty theoretical seconds closer to extinction, an entire nation of voters should be able to remedy this man’s ignorance. The Science and Security Board issued a universal call to action as part of their statement, warning that if public officials lack the sense to fight for progress, then, “wise citizens must step forward and lead the way”.