The clock on the barn said six
A hen joined the group
When they charged through the coop
And frightened her new little chicks.
from The Clock Struck One: A Time-telling Tale
written by Trudy Harris
illustrated by Carrie Hartman
Millbrook Press, 2009
I know time only moves in one direction…forward, but it’s hard for me to understand how the same event can happen simultaneously at different times in different places. But no matter.
The Doomsday Clock just moved ahead. It’s a clock that can move in more than one direction. Backward is much, much better.
But, last Thursday, January 23, 2020, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock forward. It is now set at 100 seconds before midnight.
The Doomsday Clock was devised in 1947 by scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project, the people who developed the science and technology to create an atomic bomb. The Board of Sponsors, which includes 13 Nobel laureates from all over the world, consults with each other and announces each January whether to move the clock, or keep it in place. They chose a minute hand as their graphic description to show how much danger the world is in, how close we are to annihilation, self-inflicted or otherwise. And now they’re marking the second-hand, too.
But the clock is a metaphor, not a predictor.
When it began in 1947, the clock was set at 7 minutes to midnight, taking nuclear technology into account along with the end of WWII and the gradual warming of the Cold War.
After a relatively long spate of stability, nuclear disarmament, and an unawareness of the general warming leading to the current Climate Crisis, 1991 saw the clock set at 19 minutes to midnight, the safest we’ve been. The clock has been ticking forward ever since.
In 2007, when the climate was factored in by the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, they moved the Clock to 5 minutes before midnight. They considered global failures to solve the problems posed by nuclear weapons and the climate crisis in that January 17th announcement.
Now we are counting in seconds, not minutes. The amount of instability in the world, the numbers of countries capable of creating nuclear arms, and the deteriorating status of our climate have given cause to the clock-markers to move the time ahead 20 seconds to its current position, less than a minute and a half before midnight.
“In so doing, board members are explicitly warning leaders and citizens around the world that the international security situation is now more dangerous than it has ever been, even at the height of the Cold War.” https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock/current-time/
According to a USA Today article, it is the twin existential dangers, nuclear war and climate change, combined with “a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond.” (January 24, 2020. Pg 14A)
The prevention of a nuclear war is far beyond my control. I don’t even understand enough about cyber-enabled information warfare to comment. So all I have left is whatever positive impact I can make on the climate.
We are not living in a world where “stress-free” is an option. But to minimize the harmful effects on my little life here on my speck in the universe, I’ll live as cleanly and simply as I can. Minimize my use of consumables, reuse, refuse plastic whenever possible, you know the routine.
Plant a tree, or a dozen.
Every little bit helps, even if it only helps my own sanity so I am able to help others.
-—stay curious! (and positive)