Just like every culture has its creation myths, every culture has its myths of destruction. And why wouldn't they?by Ella Risbridger / January 26, 2018 / Leave a comment
“It is now two minutes to midnight,” reads the latest annual bulletin from the Doomsday Clock. The clock, which maps how close we are to mass destruction, has come forward by thirty seconds this year; the closest it has ever come to midnight.
It’s a terrifying little thing. We are—so they say—closer to the end of the world than ever.
The news, it’s true, gives me a sense of impending disaster quite regularly. But I can’t help but wonder: who is this clock for? Who is this helping?
It’s not for the people who can do anything about it; for if they wanted to they’d have done it already. They already know what they are doing (and please, don’t let’s try and pretend they don’t). All the well-informed thinkpieces in the world are unlikely to change nuclear policy.
Is it for us, then, the people who can’t do anything about it? So at least we know that a group of scientists think we’re a little bit more likely to die than we were last year?
Well, we’re all going to die. That—as someone else once observed—is what people do.
“The risk to global civilisation,” pronounced the Guardian, solemnly, “is as high today as it has ever been”.
Well—perhaps. I’m not saying we aren’t in terrible danger; I think we probably are, if everyone says so. But here’s the thing: that little word “ever” is working awfully hard. The Doomsday clock has been running for seventy-one years, since 1947.
If we borrow the metaphor and map the history of the Earth onto a twenty-four hour clock, with the formation of the globe at one minute past midnight, humans haven’t even been around for two minutes.
If we then imagine that period mapped onto a 24-hour clock, everything from the Year 0 AD—the entire Common Era, the whole time since Jesus, all 2018 years of it—has apparently only been around for fourteen minutes.
Seventy-one years is a long time, for a human. For humanity, it’s almost nothing. For the Earth itself, it’s a hair past a freckle.
“The most danger we’ve been in for seventy-one years” is different to “ever”. Put in context, the Doomsday Clock the kind of historical did-they-see-it-coming puzzle that…