What Is The Doomsday Clock And Why Does It Matter?

Have you ever sat staring at your watch with 2 minutes left until your working day ends? Those two minutes can often be the longest of the day. Imagine now that those two minutes were a countdown to Armageddon. They are probably going to go slightly quicker.

Of course, if you are familiar with the Doomsday clock you will know that the 2 minutes we have “left” are theoretical and don’t represent actual minutes. If you have no idea what the Doomsday clock is then by the end of this article you will!

What it does

The function of the clock is fairly straight forward. It is meant to be a visual representation of how close the world is to a global disaster. How many “minutes to midnight” the clock reads represents how close we are to “the end”.

Why does it exist?

In the wake of the dropping of the nuclear bomb, some of the scientists who worked on the project coined the idea. As part of an organisation, they developed the concept to track the events of mankind and it’s potential effect on society.

How often does it change?

The simple answer is when it needs to change. The clock has been moved twenty-three times since its inception in 1947 where it was set at 7 minutes to midnight. The great thing about the clock is that it can be moved backwards. So when peace deals are brokered or when nuclear disarmament happens the clock can change to reflect a more globally stable environment.

When were we at our safest?

The furthest the clock has ever been from midnight occurred in 1991. At that point, the clock read 17 minutes to midnight. The change came on the back of three years of positive changes following on from global events like the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union dissolving. It would continue at this time for 4 years.

So what about our lowest ebb?

The clock has been at 2 minutes to midnight on 2 separate occasions. The first just a few years after its inception in 1953 on the back of Russians and the US developing and testing thermonuclear weapons. It was at this point that the threat of a potential nuclear war became prominent. The clock would remain that way for some six years. It changed due to global  scientists from Russia and the US cooperating.

The only other time the clock has been that close to midnight is now. I know, take a big gulp! The two biggest threats to civilisation are climate change and the continuing threat of nuclear war. Following on from president Trumps views on climate change and his comments regarding nuclear war it was decided the clock should be changed to close to its current time.


How do we make changes?

As an individual, it is hard to really have a massive effect. It will take a collective effort to get the clock back to a more favourable position. As an individual, the best things you can do is the little things that help the environment like recycling. You can also use your vote wisely. Ultimately superpowers such as Russia and the USA have a massive effect on the clock due to their large nuclear arsenals. However, we all have a say on how our nations operate (assuming you live in a democratic nation). The way to do your bit is to support a political party that deals with issues such as nuclear disbarment and caring for the environment. If everybody did this then as a united world we may be able to push the clock back to half past. Who knows?

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