How imminent is the possibility of a nuclear apocalypse? A review of “Nuclear Armageddon” prompts the question, “Is that all?”
Rare it is that one gets the chance to say this, but I think I have proof that I have grown as a person. From the age of seven until I was 10, I was gripped by the fear of nuclear war. My parents had to sit up with me at night as I gibbered and cried. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get home in time if the four-minute warning went off while I was at school; my mother had to promise me that there would be enough warning signs of an impending apocalypse to enable her to keep me off for days beforehand so we could die together.
Forty years later, I am reviewing a documentary titled “Nuclear Armageddon: How Close Are We?” hosted by experienced journalist Jane Corbin, without feeling any fear. In fact, I now find myself considering a different perspective. Could a worldwide destruction be the better option? It may provide a swift resolution to the underwhelming human experience and prevent us from gradually descending into chaos through non-nuclear conflicts.
Corbin’s film centers around the yearly gathering of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ board to adjust the Doomsday Clock. As a child, the clock was a constant source of fear for me, but now I view it with detached curiosity and appreciate it as a design icon. The clock, which has been in use since 1947, two years after the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, symbolizes our proximity to self-destruction.
Originally, it was set to seven minutes before catastrophic midnight. However, in 2023, the grace period was reduced to only 90 seconds, the shortest it has ever been. This change was largely due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Putin’s threats to use nuclear missiles against anyone who supports the targeted country. On state television, the former deputy commander of Russia’s southern district warned that the British Isles could be destroyed in just three minutes if they were to assist Ukraine. With the Middle East in turmoil and the possibility of Trump’s return and other potential disasters looming, it is doubtful that the clock will show any improvement this year.
Corbin provides a thorough overview of the development of nuclear weapons, starting with the Manhattan Project and the subsequent armament of major countries during the Cold War, including the tense situation of the Cuban missile crisis. By the 1990s, China, France, and Pakistan had also joined the nuclear club. The Start treaty between George HW Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev marked a brief period of disarmament, but since then there has been a steady decline in this progress.
The meeting will address the issue of arming rogue nations, the testing of armed missiles by North Korea that can potentially reach Japan and South Korea, and the possibility of them reaching the US in the future, as confirmed by an expert. The meeting will also discuss the growing power hunger of Putin, as well as the dangers posed by the climate crisis and emerging technologies like AI, whose potential for harm is still unknown.
The issue is that for an average viewer, it may be unclear. Unless one is knowledgeable in geopolitics, there is insufficient data provided to offer a more in-depth understanding – which is likely already known by most from simply skimming through the news.
There is a lack of information on the decision-making process of the Bulletin board in regards to different concerns. It is possible that they do not consider them at all and simply browse through headlines like everyone else. Perhaps their updates primarily reflect the current mood rather than factual data. While I do not believe this to be true, I would appreciate more evidence of their thoroughness and an in-depth analysis of how 2024 differs from previous years.
The documentary raises the question of whether the nuclear deterrent is effective. After decades of being heavily armed, has the lack of catastrophic destruction shown that having equal destructive capabilities is beneficial, or is it a warning that our luck may run out soon?
If I still had the ability to feel fear, the topic of Nuclear Armageddon: How Close Are We? would have certainly frightened me. However, the conclusion did not elicit the same response. As the credits rolled, my main thought was, “Is that all?” It is strange to have such a reaction towards anything related to the end of the world. Nevertheless, my parents will be reassured.