Doomsday Clock and the Countdown to Apocalypse Now

Social Commentary

Doomsday Clock and the Countdown to Apocalypse Now

Illustration: Akshita Monga

This week, the doomsday clock delivered the kind of news that made us want to just build that damn wall around all of America already. Clearly, a clock whose sole reason to exist is to count down to a worldwide nuclear holocaust will have nothing pleasant to say. Still, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in America made some extremely depressing headlines when they pushed the doomsday clock 30 seconds closer to midnight. This move signified that we had a figurative two minutes 30 seconds until the human race self-combusts in a mushroom cloud.

The doomsday clock is usually updated when there is heightened fear of a nuclear apocalypse or climate-related disaster. The last time the clock was really close to midnight (two minutes), was 1953, when the US and USSR had been testing Hydrogen bombs during the peak of the Cold War. This time, in 2017, the council carried out this largely symbolic move because a half-orangutan, half-man literally memed his way into the White House. Since then, he has set into motion attempts to pass a series of meme-worthy laws against Muslim people, Mexican people, and basically any people who happen to love nature.

The clock was brought closer to midnight also keeping in mind the rise of narrow-minded nationalism across the world. This is extremely depressing because it’s a warning that this is the final stretch for humanity. So does this mean that we are closer now to doomsday than ever before?

No, because apparently, the clock is not very accurate.

The Bulletin of Atomic scientists that consists of a few Nobel prize-winners,pushed the clock back at 17 minutes to midnight – the furthest it’s ever been – back in 1991 to mark the official end of the Cold War. So did the people of 1991 feel safe? No, because, surprise, surprise, the same country that was handling the clock, also continued to test nuclear weapons all the way into 1992. In fact, the US conducted the most nuclear tests in the Cold War period than any other country: a whopping 1032 tests between 1945 and 1992. And while the US and Russia may have agreed on halting nuclear testing in 1991, Afghanistan was going through a civil war, triggered by the USSR withdrawal. The clock remained at 17 minutes to midnight.

Now that Donald Trump has the nuke codes – he finds them to be “very scary”, but also the best – the council has pushed it even closer to midnight.

Since the end of the Cold War, the clock has served very little purpose. It was set up by scientists of the Manhattan Project after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed in 1945, as America’s way of saying, “Look at what we did there, you should really not do that, and also be very scared of it.” Since then it has moved backwards and forwards in time as if to signal that people should be getting into their bunkers already, but has made no actual progress in saving the planet from climate disasters, or putting pressure on governments to disarm themselves.

The clock showed a mere seven minutes to midnight during the peak of the Cuban missile crisis, when the US and Russia had nuclear warheads ready for deployment. But it was adjusted to three minutes to midnight during Barack Obama’s tenure, despite that being the year of the Iran nuclear agreement and Paris climate accord, because terrorists in the Middle East supposedly got closer to obtaining nuclear weapons. Now that Donald Trump has the nuke codes – he finds them to be “very scary”, but also the best – the council has pushed it even closer to midnight. It also made a mention of India’s, China’s, and Pakistan’s rising nuclear stockpiles to drive home its point.

But what is the point? Is the arbitrary movement of a clock’s hands by a handful of Nobel scientists really supposed to help the world figure shit out? Because it honestly seems at this point like this doomsday clock is actually just a giant fear campaign to try and convince Americans that voting in Trump was a disgustingly bad idea. We get it America, you don’t like Trump, we don’t like him much either, but how is a bunch of old men calling a press conference where they move the hands of an imaginary clock supposed to scare us? At least try and add an ancient tribal prophecy into the mix; bring up an ancient scroll from the Indus Valley Civilisation or something. Throw in some Nostradamus and the Oracle at Delphi. Maybe draw parallels with the decline of the Incas or dinosaurs. Remember all that 2012 hype? Now that was actually exciting.

Also, I’d suggest introducing some austerity measures so far as the consumption of time is concerned. You don’t want to eat up all the minutes you have left, folks. Right now, I don’t think it seems like even ordinary Americans take the doomsday clock seriously. The country is already on the path to electing Kanye West as president in 2020. What will the doomsday clock folks do then?