The clock at the end of the world and how to escape its curse
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At the beginning of 2022, when we did not yet have the misfortune of living in these crazy and accelerated times, where a potentially nuclear escalating war like the one in Ukraine is setting the pace of life and death, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists decided to keep the hands of the so-called "End of the World Clock" at barely 100 seconds to midnight. The closest it has ever been to the limit intended to alert the public, politicians and the rest of the scientific community of the growing risk of self-destruction.
This symbolic clock has been "running" since 1947, and midnight represents "total destruction". midnight represents the "total and catastrophic destruction" of mankind. Initially it only warned of the threat of global nuclear war, but as the risks have diversified and increased, the clock has also included the risks arising from climate chaos or the development of technologies such as artificial intelligence or nanotechnology.
May you live in interesting times. So says a supposed Chinese curse that ironically advocates the peace and tranquility of less turbulent times. Robert Kennedy, in 1966, three years before his assassination, declared in a speech: "Whether we like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty, but they are also the most creative in all of human history." It seems that such a curse does not exist in Chinese literature, however, his message is accurate.
The phrase of the little boy of the most cursed American politician saga in history could not be more in line with the historical moment we live in. Its validity is absolute. We live in interesting times, for the good and for the not so good. the not so good. Times of crossroads, of crossroads, with no possible way back. A bifurcation moment in which a civilization defines what it is. A moment that can be the awakening of humanity towards a more respectful and slower way of living, fairer with all people, animals and the rest of life, to prosper assuming the limits of the planet that are becoming more and more visible, or on the contrary, a moment that if we do not take the right path quickly, will lead us by the acquired inertia of the system itself, towards positions increasingly dangerous and close to disaster. The time we have to react is short and the clock is ticking.
Fortunately, however, this clock is a bit magical. It allows us to go backwards in time. And it is not at all complicated to understand how such a thing would be possible. It has happened before, in fact:
Source: De Fastfission 14 April 2008 (UTC) - Own work, Public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1575536
To defy the time progression of this clock and go backwards you simply have to slow down. It is possible to slow down the hands because the time measured by this device is not linear. It has a spiral shape. We can go backwards if we neutralize the risks, as was achieved in the times of the Cold War. We can go backwards, even in these times of crisis of the whole civilization, if we strongly activate the emergency brake.
But what is the emergency brake? And more importantly, what would it take to apply it?
Perhaps one of the most visionary thinkers of the last century, the German cultural critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin wrote the following more than 80 years ago: "Marx says that revolutions are the locomotive of universal history. But perhaps it is something completely different. Perhaps revolutions are the gesture by which the human race that travels on that train throws on the emergency brake."
Hidden in these words is the essence of a recipe for a future that does not slip through our fingers like sand. To succeed in the challenge ahead, we have to stop economic growth, and soon. Because it has been amply demonstrated that it cannot be decoupled from the growing use of energy and materials. Another reason to assume the end of the era based on supposedly perpetual growth is that with increasingly limited resources, either the urge to expand is stopped, or it will be increasingly common for countries and blocs to clash over the remaining resources. When the pond dries up, the fish get nervous.
We need to rationalize the use of resources so that they can cover and guarantee the essential sectors: food, health, education. Whatever happens. We have to overcome our addiction to fossil fuels, which are going to abandon us anyway, and which, as of today, continue to be the source of 90% of the primary energy consumption that drives this locomotive of history at a devilish pace, which is approaching the end of the track on which it is traveling.
That is why it is essential to apply the emergency brake. And gently. So that it is not at the last minute and forced by circumstances when we have to do it, and then we find that the shock, the unexpected and sudden braking, makes many passengers jump out of the window.
Assuming that the situation is an emergency is necessary to be able to apply the emergency brake. If we continue as if nothing serious is happening, how are we going to react?
Revolution means "action and effect of bringing about a radical change or turning from one side to the other". Its lexical components are "Re" (backwards) volveré (to turn around) plus the suffix -ción (action and effect). So we can conclude the following: that a revolution etymologically means the action of turning backwards.. When it is very obvious that we have missed some part of the way - there is no doubt if one analyzes the situation of growing inequality, climate, energy, food, health crisis - the only solution is to turn back on some wrong ideas that have determined our course. We still have time to escape the destiny to which inertia is dragging us, but it will take a lot of will, courage and coordinated strength to do so.