Why you should care about the Doomsday Clock

    The end is near. Or nearer, at least, if the scientists behind the Doomsday Clock are to be believed. They recently moved their symbolic clock forward two minutes, putting us at five minutes to midnight (a.k.a. Armageddon).

    The Clock was developed in 1947 by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists as a way to express the nuclear climate of the world. The closer the hands are to midnight, the closer the world is to destruction. This latest change puts us pretty darn close to the end of all existence as we know it, especially considering this is the closest it’s been since 1984, when talks between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. broke down and Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars plan was the hot new thing in missile defense.

    Now we’re less than the length of “Bohemian Rhapsody” away from death. The board behind the clock cited Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and climate change as pushing civilization closer to the edge. These are pretty heady topics, especially for college students with no bearing on foreign policy, but it’s still important to care about them.

    Iran has been dogging most of the Western world with its nuclear program, continuing to enrich materials even when the U.N. has imposed sanctions on nuclear research. While Iran continues to insist that their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, the U.S. has repeatedly stated their belief that Iran is developing weapons. The situation has essentially boiled down to a pissing contest between Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the rest of the world, as Iran rejects U.N. inspectors and makes not-so-veiled threats.

    Meanwhile, North Korea’s been acting out like a middle child- it’s got the nuclear capability, but no one seems to pay them much mind unless they do something drastic. Like test a nuclear device. Their underground test in October really got people’s attention, prompting sanctions and a stern warning from the U.N. Still, it would seem that the world is back to worrying about Iran, while North Korea remains attention-deprived and very dangerous.

    And as if those two weren’t enough to push us towards doomsday, the Bulletin also factored in global warming. As Al Gore taught all of us, carbon dioxide has been building up in the atmosphere, artificially raising the Earth’s temperature. Oh, and it’s pretty much our fault. The major concern is that this will melt the ice caps, raising the level of the oceans and drowning coasts, and thus major cities, across the world. Even though Chicago would be safe for now (cue dramatic chords), the loss of such staples as New York, San Francisco and Boston would put a damper on America’s chances of survival.

    However, unlike the situations in North Korea and Iran, we can actually do something about global warning. By cutting down on fossil fuels and moving towards renewable energy with fewer emissions, we can reverse some of the damage done.

    So, it’s pretty obvious that the Doomsday Clock is an important thing to care about. It can be a little dramatic (why be just minutes away from midnight when they could have chosen a more innocuous time period, like hours or even weeks?), but it still has valid reasoning. Of course, we haven’t yet been able to see just how accurate it is. Let’s hope we never get to.


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