This year’s update for the Doomsday Clock, an annual assessment of how close humanity can be to self-destruct, saw the sinister marker remain unchanged for 2021, leaving our civilization a worrying 100 seconds to midnight.
Developed by Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947, the measurement is reviewed every January with an overview of how the planet is dealing with the challenges facing it and what can be done to ensure that we are not eliminated by our own hands. And, as you can imagine, the coronavirus was a key factor in this year’s assessment.
In a press release announcing its 2021 update, the organization declared that the mismanagement of the pandemic constitutes a “’warning’ that governments, institutions and a deceived public remain unprepared to deal with the even greater threats posed by nuclear war and climate change”. In addition, they noted that 2020 saw no significant progress in addressing these two impending issues. These three elements together led the organization to maintain the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight, which remains the closest to the theoretical annihilation of humanity that measurement has already achieved.
“COVID-19 is a terrible warning against complacency in the face of global threats to all human lives,” said former Liberian President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who serves on the BAS council that oversees the Doomsday Clock, “It is only through collective action and responsible leadership that we can ensure a peaceful and habitable planet for future generations”.
Considering how devastating the coronavirus has been and the potential for considerable unrest due to the economic impact of the pandemic, it is really surprising that the group has not moved the clock any closer to midnight.
As for how humanity can combat these threats that the planet faces, the group offered a series of “key recommendations” that they believe can help. However, these proverbial “calls to action” are usually the same ones that have been issued repeatedly in recent years, such as an end to nuclear proliferation and a serious effort to combat climate change.
In light of how the clock keeps ticking around midnight, it seems that his exhortations continue to fall on deaf ears, leaving the question of whether the pandemic will really serve as an “alert” or whether it is a proverbial signpost on the way to “ the end”.