Human beings are intelligent, aren't we? Just look at the technological advances that have been increasing at an exponential rate over the years, decades and centuries. Flight, space travel, medical advances, computers, the internet, mobile communications just to name a few. No other species on this planet have the capability to achieve what humans have.
Yet, I believe we can also be incredibly stupid. Is there any other species on the planet that is capable of not only wiping itself out, but everything else with it? And at times we seem hell bent upon achieving this - because we are so clever.
Let's take a look at climate change. Now I'm no climate change evangelist, and nor am I a naysayer. Simple logic would suggest to me that we have had, and continue to have, an impact on climate. Perhaps it is a part of a larger cycle, perhaps not. Still it makes perfect sense to me that with the real possibility of global warming, we would be best to proactively do something about it - right now. Yet our energy goes into arguing about whether it exists or not, rather than putting our very intelligent brains to use to look after the planet.
Then take a look at world events over the last couple of weeks. Chemical weapon attacks by Assad on his own people. Trump retaliated by attacking Syria. Putin started his own sabre rattling and comments were made that the USA and Russia are closer to combat than ever. North Korea looks set to initiate another nuclear weapons test, and so Trump has sent an 'armada' of warships to the Korean Peninsula for potential preemptive strikes. It seems that if we are not clever enough to let the climate slowly destroy the planet, we'll take matters into our own hands and use very intelligent weapons to do it for us.
Since 1947, the members of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board have maintained the Doomsday Clock, which hangs on the wall of The Bulletin's office at the University of Chicago. The clock originally represented an analogy for the threat of nuclear war, and since 2007 has come to include climate change. Midnight represents the hypothetical human-caused global catastrophe, with The Bulletin's opinion on how close the world is to catastrophe represented by the number of minutes to midnight. In 1947, it was set at 7 minutes to midnight and has moved 22 times since then. The largest setting was 17 minutes to midnight in 1991, and the closest was just 2 minutes to midnight in 1953 as both the USA and USSR tested nuclear weapons.
With the Trump Administration taking power, the threat of a new arms race between Russia and America, North Korea openly seeking a nuclear arsenal, and the disbelief in scientific opinion on climate change, the clock was set at two and a half minutes to midnight in January 2017.
In days gone by, this would have been quite alarming. Perhaps in an era where terrorism is becoming the norm, we are becoming desensitised. Or perhaps we just believe it won't happen. And yet as very intelligent human beings, it did happen in 1945 when the very first nuclear weapon was dropped on Hiroshima, predominantly on civilians, in what can only be described as the most horrifying thing human beings have unleashed on other human beings. It is a familiar story. Locked in an arms race with Russia to develop the bomb, Hiroshima had been spared fire bombing by the Americans to be groomed as a demonstration site for the power of the weapon, in a show of force aimed at Stalin as much as bringing the war in the Pacific to an end.
I visited Hiroshima in 2015 and I defy anyone to visit and not be deeply impacted by the A-Bomb dome, the Peace Memorial Park, Sadako's Cranes and the Children's Memorial. And that's without seeing the horrifying exhibits in the museum - a pocket watch stopped at 8:16am when the bomb exploded, shadows burned into stone steps created by the blinding flash. It is beyond my comprehension that we could ever do this again, yet as intelligent human beings we do not seem to have learned. Perhaps the current crop of world leaders would do well to visit Hiroshima, a city now devoted to peace, to understand the power sitting beneath the touch of the nuclear button.
So for now, I fear the flame at the Peace Memorial Park will continue to burn for years yet as it waits to be snuffed out by a world free of nuclear weapons. Though if I believe that if you can dream it, you can do it, then it is possible to envisage a day when the Doomsday Clock is wound backwards, both by fixing climate change and ridding the world of nuclear weapons. For that to happen, we have to stop believing we can't do anything about it, stop ignoring what is going on around us, and start becoming more proactive in our own destiny and that of our kids.
Sadako Sasaki attempted to fold 1000 paper cranes before she died in 1955, aged 12, raising the plight of the hibakusha, the bomb affected children.
Don't become immune to the world around you. We must consider what we can do to achieve a better future for generations to come.