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Daily Journal
     February 11, 2022      #87-42 KDJ

An examination of the Doomsday Clock 

By Dennis Marek

I had heard of this term, “The Doomsday Clock,” before but did not really understand the purpose for which it was created. So, I did some research since I recently read that we are today closer to midnight on that clock than ever before.

When you think about all our world has been through just since we were born, why is there any more serious peril now than, say, in the middle of the Cold War? Let’s look at that without political blinders and see if we are in graver danger today as a civilization. Having recently started Ken Follett’s newest novel, “Never” (started, because it is 802 pages) and having read another novel, “The Last Second,” about America after an EMP (Electro-magnetic Pulse) attack totally disabled our country, it was time to get smarter about a doomsday.

The Doomsday Clock is actually a theoretical clock that is set annually to assess the dangers to our world. It has been maintained by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists since 1947. The group was founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer and a group of University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first nuclear weapons as part of the Manhattan Project. Perhaps they were aware of their invention being a world-ending discovery.

While the Cold War is decades behind us, nuclear risks remain a serious threat, as is illustrated by the testing of missiles by North Korea and Iran adding to the signs of a new arms race with its developments in nuclear power.

The clock has a midnight which would be the apocalypse event and nuclear explosions ending our world. The imagined time before that catastrophe is the number of hours, minutes or seconds the clock shows before midnight. Each year, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a nonprofit group that sets the clock annually, decides whether events of the prior year pushed our world closer to or further from destruction. It graphically displays how close we are to our own destruction not counting potential threats to our world by out-of-our-world calamities, such as a collision with a giant meteor or asteroid.

My wife and I recently watched a movie entitled “Don’t Look Up,” in which the scientists determine that a huge asteroid would collide with Earth in a matter of months. It is of a magnitude that would destroy the entire world. The president is charged with coming up with a solution. How do you destroy or divert this monster mass of rock from hitting our planet? Don’t see that movie if you are already in a period of depression as it is rough.

I am not sure such astronomical issues affect the decision as to where to set this clock annually. Ongoing nuclear risks, climate change, new technologies that could disrupt nature, ongoing pandemics and aggressive behaviors of countries with nuclear capabilities are factors in the clock setting as each year begins.

Setting the clock this time, the scientists placed the hands 100 seconds away from the dreaded midnight. This is the exact same setting as 2021, and both settings remain closer to midnight than any other year since the clock’s creation in 1947.

What does all that mean? Well, that means that some of the smartest minds in our country believe that the security situation has not stabilized 1 second from last year. And we all know that 2021 sucked from the pandemic, the attack on a national capitol, further missile launches by Kim in North Korea and the amassing of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border. The clock hasn’t moved because the world stays stuck in an extremely dangerous time.

What these scientists are saying quite clearly is that the events of the previous year have pushed humanity closer to total destruction. But who is to blame?

Obviously, Russia wants its satellite countries back in the USSR. One of those is Ukraine. Does that mean that if allies do nothing, that Poland will be next and then Hungary and the Czech Republic? What a scary thought for those residents who have enjoyed freedom from oppression and communism since the early 1990s. Should we fight to make Ukraine a member of NATO? Over my dead body, says Putin. We shall see what happens in the next few weeks on that matter. That could knock off a few of the remaining 100 seconds still. The farthest the clock has been from midnight was 17 minutes in 1991, at the end of the original Cold War.

What about these rogue nations who continue to experiment with rocketry and nuclear capabilities? Do we use the old idea that if each side is similarly armed, then there will be peace? While I might have some faith in the Russians, what do the North Koreans have to lose?

Then we have the pandemic. Will we merely trim the glut of humanity back to a workable number, as sort of Mother Nature’s cure for overpopulation? Or will it take another form that wipes out all life?

Finally, we have climate change. We are one of the worst-offending nations. Certainly, we cannot accomplish the reversal of the world pollution that we have created at least in part, but we can start. Electric cars, solar energy, harnessing our water, finding different ways to heat our homes and make steel without so much coal can only help. But we need to help twist those hands on the clock farther away from midnight. This is a goal that we can all share regardless of our political differences, but we have to start to believe the scientists that these things that are happening are in large part caused by our behaviors over the last 200 years. Back off, clock.

Dennis Marek can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com or through his personal email at dmarek@ambltd.com.

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