Tick tocking close to midnight

May 3, 2017

    2017 marks the 70th anniversary of the Doomsday Clock. Throughout the years, the minute hand has hovered dangerously close to midnight then set back a few minutes again, indicating that humanity has pulled themselves out of a potential global catastrophe.

 

   But this year, the clock read two and half minutes to midnight. According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in 2016, “the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, which are nuclear weapons and climate change. The bulletin also noted that “the United States and Russia — which together possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons — remained at odds in a variety of theaters.”

 

    Noted social critic and professor Noam Chomsky spoke at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on “The Prospects for Survival,” said that the Doomsday Clock was established in 1947, at the beginning of the nuclear age.

 

    At that point, he said it was set at 7 minutes to midnight.  In 1953, the US and Russia detonated a hydrogen bomb and the minute hand moved to two minutes to midnight. It has oscillated ever since, according to Chomsky.

 

    Back in 1991, the minute hand went farthest at 17 minutes to midnight. During the prior year it was positioned at 10 minutes. The Cold War just ended in 1991 and during that year, the two rivals — Russia and the U.S.— signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty which decreased the number of nuclear arsenals under their deployment. There was optimism with the signing of the START, but more than two decades later, here we are now.

 

     Chomsky, in his talk, said the media hardly pays any attention on nuclear issues. This is true for Guam. Despite being in a region of nuclear sensitivity, there have been few coverage and forums for community discussion on these two threats. I was so glad to have sat down in one forum in February at the University of Guam. As I expected, there were only a few people in the audience. There should be more people participating in these types of discussions.

 

    Michael Lujan Bevacqua, in his presentation, noted Guam’s status as a buffer zone after WWII, where the U.S. can project force into Asia. “Hence when President Harry Truman was president he authorized the first storage of nuclear weapons and components to Guam in 1951, Guam was already hosting those parts. In time it would be host to the nuclear aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, nuclear-powered battleships and destroyers and all…,” he said.

 

    Bevacqua said that during the Cold War, Guam was host to hundreds of nuclear weapons that at one point, he believes there were as many as 300 being stored on Guam. He said that it is important that the community is keenly aware of these threats.

 

    With a lot of uncertainty in the region and with the escalating tensions between the U.S. and other entities in the area, he said ” it is also important to examine those other threats that nuclear weapons or nuclear power represent.” He added, “That is why it is important to have forums like this.”

 

    So here we are now.

 

    The Bulletin's Science and Security Board, upon the announcement of the latest Doomsday Clock countdown warned: “The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon.”

 

   “It is two and a half minutes to midnight, the Clock is ticking, global danger looms. Wise public officials should act immediately, guiding humanity away from the brink. If they do not, wise citizens must step forward and lead the way,” the board noted.

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