One of the most imminent threats to the human species has been large scale nuclear war.
The doomsday clock was a metaphor created by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. The closer the clock is to midnight, the nearer it pits the human species to self-destruction. In 1953, as the US and the Soviet Union began testing hydrogen bombs, the doomsday clock was a mere 2 minutes to midnight – the closest it has been so far to the darkest hour.
More than 60 years later, the cold war has ended and the threat of nuclear war is lesser than it was in the past. Ever since, none of the wars we have fought have reached the scale of destruction that the two World Wars saw. When the nuclear threat loomed large, the nations of the world came together to diffuse the situation.
The paradox of Armageddon is that the more evident it is that we are headed for self-destruction, the less likely it is that we would follow through.
Contrast this with another threat to the human species – climate change. At this point, we have long understood the human influences on climate, the threats it poses and the corrective actions needed to prevent its wide ranging consequences. And yet, the ruling political party of the most influential nation of our times denies the very existence of climate change.
The difference between nuclear war and climate change is while the former evokes images of immediate and gruesome death, the latter works like slow poison, killing us and the earth’s ecosystem over several decades. In the case of climate change, it isn’t as apparent that we are destroying each other. Sadly, this increases our likelihood of actually following through.
In January 2018, the doomsday clock showed two minutes to midnight, just as it did in 1953. The slow poison that is hidden from plain sight has turned out to be more dangerous than the gruesome threat that once stared us in the face.