Two hundred billion trillion (200 sextillion) is an incomprehensible number. No, that isn’t the Republican’s scary projection for the national debt. It’s one estimate of the stars in the universe, which are being orbited by roughly twice that many planets. Yet, there is not one planet that is reachable with foreseeable technology that would sustain life as we know it on planet earth. In fact, no such planet has even been identified. Like they say, there’s no planet B.
I don’t mean to be melodramatic but in the total scheme of the cosmos, earth is only significant to those who try to exist on it. It’s just a tiny spec that could be completely destroyed in numerous ways which we humans are powerless to control. A collision with a very large asteroid, for example, could leave cockroaches, crocodiles and sharks as the only major life forms that survive, if any.
The end of life on earth, however, is more likely to come from human-inflicted wounds. That’s why atomic scientists created the Doomsday Clock 75 years ago in 1947. Each year they reset it at somewhere between 11:45 PM and Midnight, the countdown to Doomsday. For the third year in a row, its hands are hovering at a mere 100 seconds to that fateful hour.
Over time, however, other deeply concerning issues have been added to atomic war as planet-threatening, including climate change, biological threats, artificial intelligence and even the rapid spread of disinformation. I’m not sure, but I suspect climate change has become a very significant factor in the formula that’s used to establish the clock’s setting. The good news is, humans can have some control over all of these potential catastrophes – if only they’ll do what’s necessary to exercise it.
Lately though, I’ve begun to realize that the Republican Party’s far-right ideology has had an influence on advancing the hands on the Doomsday Clock, and here’s why.
Even though the scientific community is almost unanimous in assessing that spaceship earth is warming at an alarming rate and that human activity is a substantial cause of rising temperatures, Republican politicians refuse to acknowledge climate change science. They vote against the investments necessary to mitigate or delay the inevitable damage that a much warmer planet will do to earth’s infrastructure, natural resources and humanity. At times their attempts to downplay this threat are ridiculously comical.
I don’t know if these Republicans are just catering to the large fossil fuel companies that pour money into their campaigns or if they actually believe climate change is a hoax. Sometimes I think they simply don’t want to spend the money to combat the problem. No matter, I fault these wrong-headed politicians as being grossly negligent in their duty to protect this nation and its citizens.
The coronavirus pandemic is definitely a serious biological threat. Yet, under the leadership of former president Donald Trump, Republicans started politicizing it within a few months after the virus began ravaging the U.S. population. They made mask wearing a political issue, claiming that mandates to protect public health were somehow suppressing their followers’ “freedoms.” And they touted unproven treatments like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin as effective alternatives to covid-19 vaccinations when there was no significant data to justify their claims.
Prominent GOP members of Congress, with support from right-wing media like Fox News, have been spreading disinformation about masks and vaccines continuously since all levels of government first rushed to control the pandemic in 2020. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), for example, has implied, without proof, that the vaccines have caused tens of thousands of deaths. And last month, he began spreading a totally false story about hundreds of vaccinated athletes dropping dead on the field of play.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and other Republican politicians have attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the President, so viciously that he must have round the clock security protection from those who want to kill him. Sadly, they’ve also caused many other officials to receive death threats from right-wing zealots.
Millions of Americans have rejected masks and refused the coronavirus shots due to the Republican-driven campaign against mask wearing and coronavirus vaccinations. This cynical manipulation of the GOP base is putting all Americans at risk of contracting this deadly disease. As a result, 900,000 individuals in the United States will likely have died from the virus by July and the toll for 2022 could even top one million.
It’s not just what Republicans have been doing in the past that is moving the hands forward on the Doomsday Clock, however, it’s their continuing efforts to suppress minority voters, threaten election workers and politicize elections. It’s also the way they’re empowering dangerous antigovernment militias and white nationalists and denigrating the rule of law. But what I fear most for the future of this nation is the additional horrific damage they’ll do if they take control of Congress in 2023.
Of course, the Doomsday Clock is nothing more than a visual representation of the combined threats to our planet and its population as some scientists see them. It’s their way of warning us about the catastrophes we could face if action is not taken to avert them. To me it provided a dramatic way to alert voters that Republican politicians are an existential threat, not only to mother earth but to our democratic republic and its citizens.