Students tackle grim future scenarios in "Are We Doomed?" class

Originally published at:


Interesting Times - Calvin and Hobbes


That was from 30 years ago… :exploding_head:


One ray of hope, based on their assigned materials:

The prospect of nuclear armageddon taking down our species at any given moment doesn’t seem nearly as likely or immediate as it did when Doctor Strangelove was released. It doesn’t even seem as big an existential threat as it was when I was a kid growing up in the 80s. If you’d declared in late 1949 that no one would use a nuclear weapon in war for at least the next 75 years most people would have probably think you naive. Somehow our species walked riiight up to the edge of total annihilation… and then took at least half a step back.

What lessons could we take away from that existential threat as we work out ways to buy some time on our other looming problems?


I wonder if they keep climate change for the end of the class, because if it were first, everything else would seem pretty minor in comparison (and also it would be weird to start the class with, “yeah, we’re doomed.”)


e3 2015 GIF

Yeah, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t one… I mean, we have Putin nuclear saber rattling quite a bit recently, NK testing nukes, Iran maybe close to a nuke, and some Israeli cabinet members (and others) advocating for nuking Gaza (and Iran… and probably Egypt, too)… :woman_shrugging: We’re actually closer to midnight then we’ve ever been…

And yes, I know that they take over things into account, but this was always primarily about nukes.


I also grew up in the 80’s. We were all absolutely convinced that civilisation was going to end in our lifetime and a lot of us were actively working on developing skills that would serve us when it all came to an end.

This is part of why us Gen X-ers are so hard to freak out. We’re still here when we thought we wouldn’t be


I grew up in Watsonia, near what was then Watsonia Army Camp, now Simpson Barracks. On that site there was a large dome, which everyone knew full well contained a military satellite uplink dish.

We also knew that the state of the art missile technology had a number of warheads per missile, and that the missile aimed at Melbourne would primarily aim at the St Kilda Road Barracks, but they could spare a warhead for Watsonia.

I grew up knowing that if WWIII kicked off, at least I’d probably be in the vapourisation zone, and wouldn’t have to suffer like someone would in, say, Broadmeadows or Frankston.


No, “we” were not.
Despite spending the better part of 1986 guarding tactical nukes and training for their deployment.


Dr. Strangelove is excellent material for anthing that deals with how humans communicate with each other. Or more to the point, fail to communicate with each other.


I quite obviously don’t speak for everyone alive at the time.

I was talking about the people I grew up with. Referencing @catsidhe above, I grew near-ish to Garden island which, being at the time a submarine base, was a primary nuclear target for the Soviet Union. I lived far enough away that I wouldn’t be in the vapourisation zone, but would have been in the “probably die from cancer in the first five years” zone.

For the group I went to high school with, this knowledge had a serious impact on our psyche!


Another timely comic today from SaturdayMorningBreakfastCereal:


I teach at a Cal State university and I include similar material. I think it’s important to give students the benefit of the doubt and not just force-feed them hopium.

Just FYI, here is a link to the syllabus for the class mentioned int he article. Seems pretty legit.

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Despite political shenanigans and some amount of baked-in disaster at this point, climate change is much more solvable, and is getting much more time/money/effort put into solving it, than the others on that list of five. I’m mostly worried about the last two. Actually, for me, I’d say that list is in order of increasing danger.

While I agree about not ignoring problems, I don’t think we should ignore how people (common, ordinary, everyday people) can make positive change in the world (and how they have, historically). That’s not really “hopium” but is a legitimate point to illustrate, as much as being concerned about where the future is headed.


Speaking specifically about climate change, the climatologists I speak with are not particularly hopeful about adopting the changes necessary to avoid permanent catastrophic effects. This Mother Jones article expresses similar concerns.

By my lights, the problem is bigger than anything a single individual can really grapple with. Namely, that industrial capitalism is a system based on unlimited growth and the planet has limited resources and ability to regenerate. Without some meaningful alternative that is universally adopted in a hurry, I’m not seeing any realistic prospect of preventing us from zooming past the tipping point.

I’m not saying that conservation efforts should be abandoned, but I do think that we should think seriously about a more palliative preparation and begin speculatively designing for what might be realistically possible in the Post-Anthropocene.


well, I never said otherwise. By focusing on actions, I mean individuals working with others to make change happen. Civil rights was not just MLK asking nicely for change, but thousands of people getting out into the street (mostly Black, but others, too). It was not “hopeless”, even if it was difficult and obviously, there are still unaddressed problems. But people working together is what makes change.

Sure, and I get the larger feeling of doom, but we can still make changes, and do something about it, even if we’re still going to see detrimental impacts. We should strike a line between what is possible with large scale action and what is not, of course, but too much doomerism will only lead to no changes and the maximum negative impacts on all of us.

I agree, I just don’t think just focusing on the negatives is entirely helpful, if even we temper our hopes with a dose of reality. but too much of that and we’re really fucked.


I’ve posted on other topics, but will repeat here. I run into this problem with anxious, depressed, stressed-out kids, mostly teenagers, but some even younger. My advice?

You cannot change the world, it’s too big. This is true. But! You can change the little corner of it that you do affect, to make it more loving, more accepting, more forward looking, more sustainable. This you can do. It doesn’t seem like much, but this you can do. Now, imagine what happens if thousands, millions of folks start doing that exact thing. Pretty soon it adds up. Is it enough? I don’t know. But I do know that if we don’t start somewhere, it will never happen. So start where you are with what you have to do what you can. And see where it goes.

Cribbed shamelessly from Dr. Seuss:



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