Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?

The end of the world, an essay on telling time

Tom Schueneman
May 13, 2018 · 5 min read
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I considered using the phrase “The Doomsday Clock” as the title for this piece, but thought better of it. I figured a reference to an old favorite would entice more than the suggestion of the end of the world. We’ve for that, right?

So yes, I admit, now that you’re here, let’s talk about the how to tell time with a Doomsday Clock.

The end is near! Or is it?

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I don’t suggest we need endlessly dwell on the end of the world. As we’re about to discuss, that would be for someone like me, bestowed with such unearned privilege simply through . I do contend we ponder the idea from time to time.

For the past three years, the has requested my input on their annual survey .

At the end of the survey, respondents are invited to offer thoughts and opinions based on our previous answers given in the questionnaire.

In other words, it’s our chance to ponder the end of the world. It’s only once a year.

Three points before we dive in:

  • The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is more pessimistic than I am. For them it’s nearly midnight. The weighted average of my responses says it’s more like 10:40 (22:40).
  • It is essential, for me at least, to learn to live with cognitive dissonance. Without the ability to hold in my mind two opposing ideas, each a representation of reality, then nothing is real. It’s a complex world.
  • Since I have not yet succumbed to pessimism and , I assume .

Of course there is.

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How I see it from my perch

From the perspective of a citizen of the United States, it is difficult to consider any more pressing issue for the long-term survival and flourishing of humanity than and lifestyle habits.

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I’m the short one

Born in 1958, I am on the youngish end of the generation, a “fortunate son” of the led by . At least implicitly, I expect access to a level of consumption, , and that can only be sustained by borrowing from the future. With a monetary system , our economics is a reflection of this skewed worldview.

The forest for the trees

In the book , co-authors Colin L. Soskolne and Laura Westra write:

“The dominant worldview assumes that the human economy is separate from the environment and thus free of biophysical constraints. Under what has been labeled the expansionist perspective, the environment is the source of an unlimited supply of resources and a sink for an unlimited quantity of wastes, allowing the human economy to expand without limit.

“The rise of neoclassical economics late in the 19th century launched this perspective, effectively decoupling culture and environment. Today, ‘society’ and ‘economy’ seem almost synonymous, at least in the minds of many political leaders. We make societal decisions almost exclusively on the basis of narrowly construed economic indicators unless these indicators are trumped by ideological or political goals.

“…predicting the future on the basis of faulty assumption can be both misleading and dangerous, especially if those assumptions come solely from the past few centuries of European expansion, a small subset of history that took place over a narrow timeframe.

“In reality, the Earth, a finite body, does not continue to grow, so neither can populations or the material consumption of these populations. A dynamic steady-state perspective more accurately reflects the reality of a finite Earth.”

And yet, this is the water in which I swim.

The root of the challenge for humanity is first awareness, then expanding the perception of our place in this world, as a species and in a global society of 7.8 billion individuals.

The way it used to be never was

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There is to , nor should we want a return to a life that was “.” Our evolution as a species must somehow overcome the genetic tendency of . We can no longer isolate our human responsibility to one region, country, religion, race, clan, gender or species, despite to the contrary.

Even with all its enormous benefits, we too often mistake technology as a . Our technical prowess is only a tactic. Strategic solutions to the physical depletion and constraints of a finite world will come only from a .

Until we resolve this between short-term affluence and long-term stewardship of life on the planet, including our own, we will continue on a perilous path toward an annihilation of our own making.

Clearly, this is easier said than done. I doubt I will ever see it, but I still believe it is possible.

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This article is based on an earlier version published at on May 13, 2018.

PlanetWatch

The Human Story of Planet Earth

Tom Schueneman

Written by

Environmental Writer, Online Publisher, Speaker. Founder of the PlanetWatch Group. Member, Society of Environmental Journalists and Pacific Media Workers Guild

PlanetWatch

The Human Story of Planet Earth

Tom Schueneman

Written by

Environmental Writer, Online Publisher, Speaker. Founder of the PlanetWatch Group. Member, Society of Environmental Journalists and Pacific Media Workers Guild

PlanetWatch

The Human Story of Planet Earth

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