Can we turn back the doomsday clock?
"Sixteen years after the end of the Cold War...we stand at the brink of a second nuclear age and unprecedented climate change", stated the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists earlier this year. The scientists urged immediate action to address climate change, resetting the Doomsday Clock at five minutes to midnight.
“Sixteen years after the end of the Cold War…we stand at the brink of a second nuclear age and unprecedented climate change,” stated the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists earlier this year. The scientists urged immediate action to address climate change, resetting the Doomsday Clock at five minutes to midnight.
The last time the Bulletin positioned the clock this close to midnight was during the arms race of the 1980s, when US-Soviet relations reached their iciest point in decades.
It was also during the 1980s that individuals began to march in increasing numbers to end the arms race. For several years during this period, marches numbering nearly 100,000 citizens took place in cities across Canada. Inspired by the National Film Board of Canada documentary, If You Love This Planet, and Dr. Helen Caldicott’s passionate appeal to reject nuclear power, people not only in Canada but around the world responded by taking individual action.
Helen Caldicott inspired Donna Morton to get involved with Students Against Nuclear Extinction while she was still in high school. “I spent years protesting, involved in direct action, and fighting to make change,” says Morton. “But my life today is focused on harnessing that energy, and through policy moves and economic literacy, redirecting the force of the market itself so that it lines up with the best of human values.”
Today Morton is founder and executive director of the Centre for Integral Economics in Victoria, for whom she negotiates tax-shift policies with various levels of government. Tax-shift policies, designed to tax the bad to support the good, encourage individuals to reduce their environmental impact. During the late 1990s, for example, Morton convinced the BC government to tax wood waste that sawmills incinerated in beehive burners. Tax revenue would help sawmills develop cogeneration projects that use wasted energy for heating or for generating electricity.
Morton’s early peace activism has evolved into environmental activism that motivates because it hits the pocketbook.
Respected Canadian peace monger and author Joy Kogawa, who, like Morton, marched against nuclear arms in the mid 1980s, today motivates from the heart.
“I would like to think that individual action to end global warming–by living simply and consuming less–could make a serious difference,” says Kogawa. This time inspired by Al Gore and his Academy Award-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Kogawa sees people today taking personal steps to reduce our misuse of the planet.
“The Titanic has hit the iceberg. Huge disasters of climate change have already arrived and more are inevitable,” says Kogawa. “Given this news, many of us on the deck of the Titanic continue to dance and feast our lives away while the waves quietly rise. Others are attempting to create life rafts, breaking the deck chairs apart with bare hands, looking for ropes to tie them together. Still others are looking about bewildered and in despair, neither waltzing nor working. It is these people not in denial that I wish to address.”
Kogawa believes that the difference we are each able to make begins with the tiniest decision. “It can be as life-changing as an effort to befriend an enemy or as small as choosing to waste less water in the bath, turning off the light, recycling more carefully, using no pesticides or bleach, travelling by public transit, using community currency, and living simply,” she says. “One small deliberate act empowers us and propels us to further steps.”
Morton concurs. “I believe that it will be the people, the largest ‘we’ in human history, that turns the tide on reducing the harms to the environment and the people who are forced to bear those harms,” she says.
The call to action that mobilized a mass call for nuclear disarmament during the 1980s is sounding again as the Doomsday Clock ticks closer to midnight. Steps taken individually or with others–as in the peace marches of the 1980s–are needed now to reduce carbon emissions, slow global warming, and turn back the Clock.
Every Individual Action Counts