Last Wednesday, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists pushed its so-called Doomsday Clock ahead 30 seconds to just two minutes before midnight, the time that signals the end of the world. The bulletin is an organization founded after the nuclear era was born in 1945, when the United States dropped massive atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and its mission is to monitor the risks humanity faces due to this type of weapon. It is precisely the expansion of the nuclear arsenals, as well as President Donald Trump’s disastrous handling of the conflict with North Korea, that has advanced the clock hands to a level of danger that hasn’t occurred since 1953, the peak of the Cold War.
It is no less worrisome that the second factor taken into consideration when measuring the apocalypse – the third one being emerging technologies – is climate change, a challenge in which the U.S. president has used every opportunity to demonstrate his ignorance and irresponsibility since the days of his campaign. And now that he is in office, he has already taken such disastrous steps as repealing environmental regulations for the industry, and withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement. However, it should be noted that, unlike the handling of nuclear weapons, which has been appropriated by the highest levels of political power, the protection of the environment is a problem in which all of global society plays an unavoidable role and which entails pressure that can’t be minimized.
First of all, to avoid irreversible damage to the planet’s habitability, countries need to stop trying to affirm their places on the geopolitical chessboard through power plays that could get out of control at any moment. This mainly pertains to the bluster of the U.S. president against North Korea, but also to the disputes that the West has with opposition countries like Iran and Russia, as well as with respect to regional and international meddling in the sensitive issues of the Middle East.
Secondly, civil society, and particularly the citizens of rich nations that have clearly unsustainable lifestyles, must become fully aware of the impact that human activities have on climate change, so that they can act in two ways: transform their own habits and demand that those in power cease the practice of generating wealth in a way that threatens the planet’s viability in the short term.
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