Spaceship Earth: Two Minutes to Midnight

In 1947, artist Martyl Langsdorf designed the Doomsday Clock to demonstrate how close mankind was to global catastrophe as a result of the newly designed nuclear bomb. At its creation, it was set at seven minutes to midnight, with midnight representing catastrophe. Since then, members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board have maintained the clock, which reached its historical high — farthest from catastrophe — in 1991 at 17 minutes to midnight when the United States and the Soviet Union signed an arms reduction agreement, marking the end of the Cold War. The historical low took place in 1953 when the clock reached two minutes to midnight, after the United States tested its first thermonuclear bomb and the Soviet Union followed suit with their own.

Now the clock has been set at two minutes to midnight once again. Citing the rise of neo-nationalism, modern nuclear weapons and the failure of world leaders to respond to climate change, we are once again on the precipice of global catastrophe. In the 65 years since the last time, we came to understand far more about how humans can shape our world, and how close we are to destroying it.

This is scary news, and it can easily make an individual feel hopeless. What power do we have to fight nuclear weapons, neo-nationalism or climate change? The truth is, more than we may think, particularly when it comes to climate change.

Each of us can do things to fight climate change every day. Reducing meat consumption is the best way to reduce one’s individual impact on the environment, but beyond that one can strive to use public transportation more often or to walk and bike more. It’s easy to find new ways online to live a carbon neutral life, but it’s clear that individual actions alone are not going to fix all of the problems.

Something brilliant about humans as a species is our ability to unite and tackle all sorts of problems. Our ability to band together to achieve a collective goal is the best method we have of making lasting and meaningful change. Together we have the capacity to create the change we not only want to see in the world, but the change we desperately need. Talk to those around you about your feelings on climate change and about the impacts as mentioned in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report. Find or establish environmental groups in your community and get connected to broader movements. Look to see if there is a 350 organization that meets near you, or if your local Democratic Socialists of America chapter has an eco-socialists working group. There are many people who care about our planet and in our age of communication connecting with them is easier than ever before. Find others who care and then actually go to meetings and actions, and real change is achievable.

Together we can push the hands of the clock backwards, but the time to act is now. Two minutes is far too close for comfort, and as our government is idle, we must choose to act.