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“Four minutes to midnight on a sunny day/Maybe if we smile the clock’ll fade away/Maybe we can force the hands to just reverse/”maybe” is a word, maybe “maybe’s’ a curse…We simply believe that we’d remain intact/But history is asking why did you fall for that.”

— “Why Did I Fall For That,” by The Who

The Who’s lyrics refer to the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic clockface maintained since 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

It uses an analogy of the human race being at a time that is “minutes to midnight,” where midnight represents “catastrophic destruction.” The calculation includes primarily nuclear weapons plus new developments in the life sciences that could inflict irrevocable harm.

The clock is currently set at six minutes before midnight.

One vital human activity that could reverse the clock is the success of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT has been described by a proponent as the “most ambitious attempt to extend the civilizing reach of the rule of law over humankind’s destructive capacity.” Many citizens and leaders over the world perceive the NPT as indispensable for international security and world order.

A five year review of the NPT begins on May 3 at the United Nations and continues for the month of May. The treaty came into force on March 5, 1970, to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

There are 189 nation-states that are party to the treaty, five of which are recognized as nuclear weapon states: the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France and China.

There are four non-signatories to the treaty which are known or believed to possess nuclear weapons: India, Pakistan and North Korea and Israel, which has never been open or transparent about its nuclear weapons.

The treaty primarily involves steps to curb nuclear proliferation; to a somewhat lesser extent, the NPT involves disarmament and peaceful use of nuclear technology. It is reviewed every five years to evaluate the progress and the strength of the treaty as a document that is actively and openly adhered to.

Leaders from all over the world and non-governmental activists from all over the world will gather for a month to examine the status of the NPT, to learn from each other and to plan ahead for an eventual world without nuclear weapons — which is inevitable. It’s either that or annihilation.

Remaining locked within a world of nations poised to actually use their weapons and residing among the thousands of tons of radioactive waste oozing one way or another into the environment worldwide is an impossibility.

If you understand this, you have the responsibility to help reverse the Doomsday Clock.

Judith Mohling is a member of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center.

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