The single most issue of our deeply troubled world today is that it is already in the middle of a very serious survival crisis. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has been drawing attention repeatedly to this, and the most powerful symbol it has been using is that of The Doomsday Clock, a symbolic clock that shows how far humanity is from some terrible world destroying events.
As someone who has written extensively on this issue and has been striving for a worldwide declaration of the next decade as the Decade for Saving Earth, this writer has been very close to the concerns raised by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and in his books and articles he has repeatedly referred to these and the creative use of the concept of Doomsday Clock with approval and appreciation. Unfortunately this approval and appreciation cannot be extended to this year’s Doomsday Clock statement. There are mainly two reasons for this.
Firstly, while this statement has moved the symbolic clock even closer to doomsday this year from 100 seconds (as mentioned in its previous statement) to 90 seconds, this 10% reduction does not quite capture the very serious deterioration that took place during 2022, most prominently due to the Ukraine war. Several learned scholars have already pointed out that the world has come closer this year than perhaps ever before to (1) a direct confrontation between Russia on the one side and the USA/NATO on the other side, (2) a nuclear war and (3) the Third World War, the three situations overlapping with each other. The fact that there is no end in sight yet in the case of this already too prolonged proxy way and if anything, there are only signs of further , highly unfortunate and frightening, escalation, adds further to the dangers of the existing situation. What is more, other critical situations have worsened too, for example relations between the USA and China, while the environmental situation has been quite pessimistic too. The number of people stated to be suffering from extreme stage 4 and 5 of hunger has increased at a very fast pace. Famine deaths are taking place in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere. Catastrophic extreme weather and disaster events are being reported from simply too many places. Hence to capture the existing situation properly, it would have been much more appropriate to move the clock from 100 seconds to doomsday to around 50 to 60 seconds to doomsday.
Secondly, the analysis of the situation and the Ukraine conflict in particular appears to be highly biased in favor of the USA/west/NATO and highly biased against Russia. It is as clear as a sunny day to anyone who chooses not to ignore the basic facts that this conflict was planned from at least about a decade back as a proxy war to bleed Russia by the USA, its closest allies and NATO, the first step being to remove a democratically elected government in Ukraine, then to influence the new regimes to be always anti-Russia, then to promote far right and racist groups and to incite attacks by them and Ukrainian forces on ethnic Russians within Ukraine, leading to nearly 14,000 of them being killed over a period of 7 years or so, to provoking a Russian attack in other ways too. The Doomsday Clock statement appears to be ignoring all this, and hence turning world attention away from the real causes of the fast deterioration in world peace situation. Whether it was the going back on the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty or the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, or the failure relating to the extension of the New Strategic Arms talks, the main blame has been with the USA. Clearly the biggest threats in recent years leading to the worsening of the survival crisis have come from the USA more than any other country.
The task of monitoring the survival crisis, the single most important issue and challenge before our badly endangered world, is a very big responsibility and only those who are courageous and honest enough to be completely truthful and unbiased, who can rise above all narrow considerations, can live up to this great responsibility. Unfortunately, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has failed to live up to this high standard in its latest Doomsday Clock statement, and one hopes that they will soon make amends.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, Earth without Borders and A Day in 2071.