Doomsday Clock 2019: World Still 2 Minutes From Armageddon
The Doomsday Clock is still set at two minutes to midnight due to a lack of progress on nuclear weapons and climate change, as well as growing concerns of "information warfare," the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced Thursday, describing this bleak time as "the new abnormal."
Midnight is "the symbolic point of annihilation," the non-profit Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said. Last year, the clock was also set two minutes to Armageddon, the closest it's been since 1953 in the height of the Cold War.
"The 'new abnormal' that we describe, and that the world now inhabits, is unsustainable and extremely dangerous," according to the 2019 Doomsday Clock statement.
Former California Gov. Jerry Brown, the executive chair of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and former Secretary of Defense William Perry, the chair of the organization's board of sponsors, helped unveil the Doomsday Clock in Washington, DC Thursday.
"Humanity faces two dire and simultaneous existential threats: nuclear weapons and climate change. The longer world leaders and citizens thoughtlessly inhabit this abnormal reality, the more likely it is that we will experience the unthinkable," Brown said in a press release.
Read the op-ed penned by @JerryBrownGov and @SecDef19 detailing the motivations behind the decision to keep the 201… https://t.co/PJTSIrDaTP— Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (@Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)1548347271.0
Perry added, "Brash leaders, intense diplomatic disputes, and regional instabilities combine to create an international context in which nuclear dangers are all too real."
Since its inception in 1947, the Doomsday Clock was set at seven minutes to midnight. The minute hand ticked the farthest away in 1991 when the clock was 17 minutes to midnight, due to the end of the Cold War. But in recent years, we seem to be striking much closer to doom.
In 2017, the clock ticked forward two and a half minutes to midnight mostly because of President Donald Trump. The nuclear danger of a Trump presidency, combined with his and his administration's climate denialism, heightened the risk of a global catastrophe, the group warned then.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists included a number of recommendations on how to rewind the clock.
On the climate front, the group called on U.S. citizens to demand that their government to acknowledge and act on global warming and for President Trump to revisit his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement.
Countries were also urged to "act promptly and redouble efforts" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with their Paris pledges.
"The world security situation can be improved, if leaders seek change and citizens demand it," the Bulletin's statement continues. "It is 2 minutes to midnight, but there is no reason the Doomsday Clock cannot move away from catastrophe. It has done so in the past, because wise leaders acted—under pressure from informed and engaged citizens around the world."
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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