By Tim Binnall
This year's update to the Doomsday Clock, an annual assessment of how close humanity may be to destroying itself, saw the ominous barometer go unchanged for 2021, leaving civilization at a worrisome 100 seconds to midnight. Developed by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists back in 1947, the measurement is revised each January with an overview of how the planet is handling the challenges facing it and what can be done to ensure that we are not wiped out by our own hand. And, as one might imagine, the coronavirus was a key factor in this year's assessment.
In a press release announcing their 2021 update, the organization declared that the mishandling of the pandemic constitutes "a 'wake-up call' that governments, institutions, and a misled public remain unprepared to handle the even greater threats posed by nuclear war and climate change." Additionally, they noted that 2020 saw no significant progress towards tackling those two looming issues. These three elements taken together led the organization to keep the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight, which remains the closest to the theoretical annihilation of humanity that the measurement has ever reached.
"COVID-19 is a terrible warning against complacency in the face of global threats to all human life," declared former president of Liberia and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who serves on the BAS board which oversees the Doomsday Clock, "it is only through collective action and responsible leadership that we can secure a peaceful and habitable planet for future generations." Considering just how devastating the coronavirus has been and the potential for considerable upheaval due to the economic impact of the pandemic, it's actually somewhat surprising that the group did not move the clock even closer to midnight.
As for how humanity can combat these threats facing the planet, the group offered a number of "key recommendations" which they believe would help. However, these proverbial 'calls to action' are generally the same as they have issued repeatedly in recent years, such as the end of nuclear proliferation and a serious effort to combat climate change. In light of how the clock keeps ticking closer to midnight, it would appear that their exhortations continue to fall on deaf ears, leaving one to wonder whether or not the pandemic will truly serve as a 'wake-up call' or if it is a proverbial signpost on the way to 'the end.'