We Can’t Just Keep Hitting the Doomsday Clock’s Snooze Button


We are trying to extinguish the many fires burning around us one bucket of water at a time. This strategy is doomed to fail. (istock)

It is happening again. That feeling of doom has returned. To be honest, it never really left. In late April 2020, as the coronavirus ripped through a defenseless world, I went off script, at least when it comes to what ecoRI News reports.

With 605 words, I vented my frustration with our never-ending cruelty, hate and selfishness. I wrote in disbelief about our inability to learn from history and our unwillingness to unite in the face of a public-health threat that was — and still is — killing us.

My banging on the keyboard that Wednesday morning made me feel better, if only briefly.

Sixteen months later, I don’t believe these words will bring any respite.

The layers of dysfunction dragging us through Dante’s Inferno are too much for us to overcome. I don’t type these words lightly. I want to be wrong. I want my two wonderful nieces, ages 4 and 8, living in a burning and smoke-filled California to live less afraid, but we have given them little choice. We have limited their options. We are destroying their future — for profit, for spite, to show political allegiance to a mass of nothingness.

The climate deniers, the anti-science hordes screaming at school board meetings, the rabble burning masks, and the grifters, liars, hypocrites and frauds they worship don’t give a damn.

These puppets and their masters want my nieces to be afraid of masks, vaccines and a theory taught in law school, when the real terror is their racism, ignorance and fearmongering. Those who want to control the narrative believe freedom is defined by their right to suppress others, to spread a specific disease, to change election outcomes, to restrict voting, to set up a gallows outside the Capitol. It is their god-given right to bear false witness. Their unofficial motto: Don’t tread on me as I trample thee.

My nieces are not scared of masks, but they are terrified by smoke-filled skies that routinely force them inside. They understand, especially the older one, the importance of physical distancing during a public-health crisis, but don’t comprehend our collective indifference to suffering — of animals, of each other.

Look at the problems we have created and stacked like a wobbly Jenga: a fast-evolving climate crisis; a pandemic weaponized for political gain; an overburdened health-care system; a widening inequality gap that is making more of us sicker and poorer; the normalization of White rage and corruption; the persistent drum of misinformation; the loss of biodiversity; ecosystem collapse; plastic pollution; an economy based on death and destruction; our mindless devouring of finite resources; billionaires; and a two-party political system in which one giddily chases authoritarianism and the other talks a good game but does little to address the precarious situation we have put ourselves in.

This human-made mess is going to come crashing down around my nieces and millions of others who had no hand in creating it. It pisses me off.

But instead of addressing these mounting problems, which, taken together, present a grave challenge, the puppets convulse, their masters plot another insurrection and the media gushes over rich men hurling themselves into space.

Like that Wednesday morning 485 days ago, I don’t know how we cure what ails us (electing better people would seem to be a good way to start; a bit more compassion and empathy would help). Our predicament has seemingly worsened. Instead of eradicating COVID-19 together, we have turned up our attacks on voting rights. Instead of addressing our fossil-fuel addiction, we attempt to whitewash history. Like much of the planet, we have set fact and truth on fire.

If we haven’t already run of time to make things right for future generations, we soon will. The Doomsday Clock goes ticktock.

Frank Carini is the ecoRI News editor.


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  1. Exactly the same sentiments I have, and anger/frustration I feel, Frank. I keep wondering what will be the tipping point where the pockets of non-violent direct action (e.g., Line 3, Extinction Rebellion, etc.) expand exponentially to a critical mass that is the final straw to break the proverbial back of the systems and actors holding back all the progress that is needed to mitigate (even slightly) the worst of what’s to come.

  2. well said Frank, but also discouraging is how many even well informed decent people, in politics or not, reason that there is no use doing much about these problems (other than relatively easy things like putting out recyclables) since anything they do individually will make little difference so why bother doing anything that has costs or inconvenience. I don’t know how this can be overcome.
    Nevertheless, its worth keeping ecori going, and your opinion columns too!

  3. I’m about as optimistic as you are, Frank, and currently reading "Deep Adaptation". I joined the Deep Adaptation Facebook group also. Not because I’m giving up but because I want a place to connect with others who are grieving what is already happening. For those of us not in denial, it’s profoundly painful. We need to acknowledge that and support each other while still doing what we can to slow the destruction.

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