Keeping watch

Published 4:05 am Sunday, January 21, 2007

By Staff
The minute hand on a symbolic Doomsday Clock is two minutes closer to midnight, from 11:53 to 11:55 as, fears increase over what a group of prominent scientists describe as “a second nuclear age” brought about by atomic standoffs with Iran and North Korea.
That movement signals the world has crept closer to a nuclear apocalypse and environmental catastrophe, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. For the fourth time since the end of the Cold War, the clock’s minute hand moved forward.
The group’s warning did not end there. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, founded in 1945, said the ‘‘dangers posed by climate change are nearly as dire as those posed by nuclear weapons,’’ according to a report by The Associated Press. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which began as a newsletter distributed among nuclear physicists concerned by the possibility of nuclear war, has since grown into an organization focused more generally on manmade threats to the survival of human civilization, according to the AP report.
As amazing as it is to learn about the symbolic Doomsday Clock, it’s just as amazing to learn there is a group of scientists — just as there was in the days just before and just after the first atom was split — that keeps tabs on those manmade threats to the survival of the human race. Those scientists understand they have duties far beyond their classrooms, laboratories and research functions.
It’s a good thing these scientists are using their hearts and minds when it comes to recognizing and fighting dangers posed by nuclear proliferation.
Those are comforting words. But they are comforting words coming from someone who doesn’t have his finger on the trigger of a nuclear device.
It would be nice to hear North Korean leader Kim Jong Il say words similar to those Hawking spoke. But as long as the North Korean leader or any other person has the ability to push a button and unleash nuclear chaos, the world is more likely to watch that person’s finger than listen to what comes from their mouths when it comes to unleashing the power of the atom.
Back to the Doomsday Clock — and what it signifies.
Since being set to seven minutes before midnight in 1947, the Doomsday Clock’s minute hand has moved 18 times, including the move made Jan. 17. The clock came closest to midnight — two minutes away — in 1953 after the successful test of a hydrogen bomb by the United States. In 1991 following the fall of the former Soviet Union, the clock was 17 minutes away from midnight.
The Doomsday Clock bears watching. But what bears watching even more are events that would result in the clock moving closer to midnight. For if it reaches midnight, that would mean good-bye.
It’s five minutes until midnight. It’s past time to turn back the hands of time on the Doomsday Clock.
That’s something the entire world, not just a group of concerned scientists, should work on. It will take actions, not words.
Time is fleeting, and so is the world’s security.