Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It is 5 Minutes to Midnight

If the the news that warfare has metastasized to include the assassination of scientists isn't grim enough then the news that the Doomsday Clock has ticked a minute closer to midnight should raise your eyebrows.

Lawrence Krauss, co-chair, BAS Board of Sponsors, commenting on the Doomsday Clock announcement, said:
"Unfortunately, Einstein's statement in 1946 that 'everything has changed, save the way we think,' remains true. The provisional developments of 2 years ago have not been sustained, and it makes sense to move the clock closer to midnight, back to the value it had in 2007. Faced with clear and present dangers of nuclear proliferation and climate change, and the need to find sustainable and safe sources of energy, world leads are failing to change business as usual. Inaction on key issues including climate change, and rising international tensions motivate the movement of the clock. As we see it, the major challenge at the heart of humanity's survival in the 21stcentury is how to meet energy needs for economic growth in developing and industrial countries without further damaging the climate, exposing people toloss of health and community, and without risking further spread of nuclear weapons, and in fact setting the stage for global reductions."

Which goes to show that anxiety about the future isn't irrational, although the populace often seems not to be able to deal with it except in an irrational way. Witness the popularity of "zombie" fiction, which seems to reflect a consciousness about the danger of virulent pandemics but can only conceptualize that unease as a ghoulish fantasy. Or more to the point, the current hysteria over the "end" of the Mayan calender in 2012 which some fringy few claim heralds Ragnarok.

While the hype around 2012 has more to do with a residual colonial exploitation of indigenous people, with imperialist authors illicitly appropriating native culture despite the protests of the Maya themselves (who won't see a dime of those dubious profits), it also reflects a society that recognizes that disaster threatens but which is unable to directly confront the problem and instead substitutes a fantasy. Quentin Cooper, host of the BBC science show Material World, recently illuminated these illusions, and sought to find out if there was any fact to be found in the fantasies. To hear the show click this link to open a pop-up player.(30 minutes)

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