January 19, 2013

Tick-Tock: The Doomsday Clock Moves Again

In 1945, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists formed. Many of the members were the same atomic experts who participated in the creation of weapons of the Manhattan project. Yeah, that Manhattan project…the one where the first nuclear weapons came about. Then two years later, in 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock.

As explained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists website, “The Doomsday Clock conveys how close humanity is to catastrophic destruction–the figurative midnight–and monitors the means humankind could use to obliterate itself.” What are the main methods of catastrophic destruction, you ask? Well, let me answer you: nuclear weapons, climate change, and terrorism according to the letter written to President Obama from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists just this month. reports that in an effort to highlight the dangers of the world, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has set the Doomsday Clock according to their estimate of destruction. Midnight is the metaphoric destruction of the world thus the scientists set the clock accordingly. In 2010, they actually moved the Doomsday Clock from five minutes to midnight to six minutes to midnight to indicate that they felt the world was moving—albeit slowly—in the right direction in terms of nuclear meltdowns, climate change, and terrorism.

Today, though, the Bulletin moved it forward to five minutes to midnight in an effort to show the world’s potential for disaster. In the letter to President Obama, they cited the facts that 2012 was the hottest on record (see my blog here about this), the Fukushima nuclear station emergency, and the “unrealized opportunity to reduce nuclear stockpiles” as the primary reasons that they moved the Doomsday Clock forward a minute.

What did they focus on as the main fault failing to bring these global issues to public recognition and understanding? The answer was in plain sight; the presidential election’s obsession with the economy. Instead of discussing other very real issues (like climate change, nuclear explosions, and nuclear armament), the election discussions focused almost primarily on the economy. Yes, the economy is a very big issue, but it is not the sole problem facing this country and this world. In light of that, the Bulletin felt the need to draw attention back on other issues of major concern and potential devastation.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists stated the following to give us hope:

“Mr. President, we see 2013 as a year for vision and engagement. We know that decisive action can make the world safer. Humanity awaits the US leadership that can secure a future free of nuclear weapons. US action can induce the world’s nations to negotiate international agreements to avert the worst calamities of climate change. We turn to you, Mr. President, to lead us toward a safer world and to help us turn back the hands of the Doomsday Clock.”

The Doomsday Clock was set closest to midnight with only two minutes to spare in 1953 during the time when the Soviets and the United States both were pursuing highly dangerous nuclear devices. It was set furthest from midnight at seventeen minutes to midnight in 1991 at the end of the Cold War. Seems to me, we should all want to move toward that time again for all the reasons listed by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and so many more.

Image Credit: Taily / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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