Doomsday 2021

Some late-night thoughts that hopefully won’t color the weekend in shades of gray and black…

I checked in on the Doomsday Clock this week.

The clock was devised by Albert Einstein and University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project. They started the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1945 and the Doomsday Clock came in 1947. They took the idea of doomsday/apocalypse and represented it on the clock as midnight. They would evaluate nuclear threats to humanity and set the clock so that it represented a countdown to midnight. They reset it every year.

I last checked the Doomsday Clock in November 2019 and it was 11:58 pm. Two minutes to Doomsday. 2020 had enough doom and gloom so I never checked.  Today the clock is 20 seconds to midnight. And seconds matter. That’s the same place that it was set in 2020. I suppose that is a glint of optimism – things haven’t gotten worse – though it is not really optimistic.

The Doomsday Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons. In 1947, nuclear war was THE threat to the planet. But climate change and disruptive technologies in other domains have been added to the calculation.

The Bulletin did not ignore the pandemic.

“Humanity continues to suffer as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the world. In 2020 alone, this novel disease killed 1.7 million people and sickened at least 70 million more. The pandemic revealed just how unprepared and unwilling countries and the international system are to handle global emergencies properly. In this time of genuine crisis, governments too often abdicated responsibility, ignored scientific advice, did not cooperate or communicate effectively, and consequently failed to protect the health and welfare of their citizens.
As a result, many hundreds of thousands of human beings died needlessly”

The clock is reset in January each year. Things have been better, but never worse. It is the closest to Doomsday it has been in the history of the Doomsday Clock.

Doomsday clock
Image: Janet Loehrke, USA TODAY

 

I think I will take a look again in January 2022. But maybe I will only report back to you if there is some improvement. After all, Paradelle is supposed to be where I escape. But I know that there is no escape from Doomsday.

There Will Come Soft Rains

As a follow-up to my earlier post  on the disappearance of humans from the Earth, I offer “There Will Come Soft Rains,” a 1918 poem by Sara Teasdale. The poem imagines nature reclaiming Earth after a war that has led to human extinction. It is interesting that she wrote this poem 25 years before the invention of nuclear weapons.

 

There Will Come Soft Rains

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

 

Ray Bradbury wrote a story in 1950 that used Teasdale’s title as its title. The story shows us a world in which the human race has been destroyed by a nuclear war. Bradbury was writing during the “Cold War” era when the devastating effects of nuclear force was frequently in the news.