It’s still three minutes to midnight.

You may have seen The Doomsday Clock ticking down online, but this isn’t a countdown to the end of the world as you might think. Instead, it is a representation of just how close the planet is to becoming uninhabitable for humans. On the stroke of midnight, the apocalypse will happen.

Scientists at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board analyse the current climate of the world to decide what the time is. The decision to change the hands of the clock, or keep them the same place, is taken every year.

Doomsday Clock

This year, they decided to keep the hands at three minutes to midnight, the same as 2015. Nuclear arms, climate change, and biotechnology are all considered when deciding how close to the end of the world the human race really is. The image that we’re three minutes away from the apocalypse is a frightening one and, though we’re not literally three minutes away, ideally you should be just as concerned as if we were. Something needs to be done.

What exactly needs to be done is a tough one: it’s so easy to get lost in the figures. Climate deals in Paris? Nuclear agreements with the Middle East? Everybody’s crying about how climate change is killing the planet and we’re all going to kill ourselves with a nuclear missile, but when that’s constantly happening, and we don’t really see much change, the importance and desperation of the situation is kind of lost.

That’s why the Doomsday Clock is so effective. What does three minutes to midnight mean in the real world? Look at it this way: the last time the clock was this close to midnight was in 1984…at the lowest point of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union and the West’s relations completely deteriorated. The only time we have been closer to the end of the world was back when the United States decided they wanted to make a hydrogen bomb!

Doomsday Clock

This is how serious things are at the moment. The worst part is, even with all the pushing in 2015 towards saving the environment, we’re just as close to the end as we were this time last year.

When nobody does anything to stop it, and things get worse, it’s worrying. When people try to stop it, and things don’t change, you know you have a problem. Recycling your milk bottles isn’t going to be enough to turn back the hands on that clock.

So what can we do?

The Doomsday Clock is really a message to the leaders of the world and it might seem like there’s not much everyday people can do, but the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists does offer some advice:

First, get smart about the problems… second, share what you’ve learned with others… third, tell your government representatives that you don’t want even more of your money spent on nuclear weapons or on subsidizing carbon dioxide-producing fossil fuel technology.

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