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Last year, the astrophysicist Adam Frank implored an audience at Google that we see climate change – and the newly baptised geological age of the Anthropocene – against this cosmological backdrop. The Anthropocene refers to the effects of humanity’s energy-intensive activities upon Earth. Could it be that we do not see evidence of space-faring galactic civilisations because, due to resource exhaustion and subsequent climate collapse, none of them ever get that far? If so, why should we be any different?

A few months after Frank’s talk, in October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s update on global warming caused a stir. It predicted a sombre future if we do not decarbonise. And in May, amid Extinction Rebellion’s protests, a new climate report upped the ante, warning: “Human life on earth may be on the way to extinction.”


… apocalyptic prophecies are designed to reveal the ultimate moral meaning of things. It’s in the name: apocalypse means revelation. Extinction, by direct contrast, reveals precisely nothing and this is because it instead predicts the end of meaning and morality itself – if there are no humans, there is nothing humanly meaningful left.

The end of the world: a history of how a silent cosmos led humans to fear the worst










Our Visions of the Future Determine Our Society Today

“The future may not look like satanic mills in space, after all.”

1179 – The Atomic Cafe (1982)

timespace coordinates: 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s United States, the Marshall Islands

The Atomic Cafe is a 1982 American documentary film produced and directed by Jayne LoaderKevin Rafferty and Pierce RaffertyIn 2016, the film was selected for preservation in the United States’ National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

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The film covers the beginnings of the era of nuclear warfare, created from a broad range of archival material from the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s including newsreel clips, television news footage, U.S. government-produced films (including military training films), advertisements, television and radio programs. News footage reflected the prevailing understanding of the media and public.

Though the topic of atomic holocaust is a grave matter, The Atomic Cafe approaches it with black humor. Much of the humor derives from the modern audience’s reaction to the old training films, such as the Duck and Cover film shown in schools.

The Atomic Cafe was released at the height of nostalgia and cynicism in America. By 1982, Americans lost much of their faith in their government following the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, and the seemingly never-ending arms race with the Soviet UnionThe Atomic Cafe reflects and reinforces this idea as it exposes how the atomic bomb’s dangers were downplayed and how the government used films to shape public opinion.

the-atomic-cafe-cartaz-original-cinema-D_NQ_NP_790329-MLB26502423408_122017-FBob Mielke, in “Rhetoric and Ideology in the Nuclear Test Documentary” (Film Quarterly) discusses the release of The Atomic Cafe: “This satire feature was released at the height of the nuclear freeze movement (which was in turn responding to the Reagan administration’s surreal handling of the arms race.)”

lfPatricia Aufderheide, in Documentary Film: A Very Short Introduction touches on the significance of The Atomic Cafe as a window into the past of government propaganda and disinformation during the years following the advent of the Atomic Bomb. “Propaganda, also known as disinformation, public diplomacy, and strategic communication, continues to be an important tool for governments. But stand-alone documentary is no longer an important part of public relations campaigns aimed at the general public.” (wiki)

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Bikini Atoll

Because the site bears direct tangible evidence of the nuclear tests conducted there amid the paradoxical tropical location, UNESCO determined that the atoll symbolizes the dawn of the nuclear age and named it a World Heritage Site on 3 August 2010.

Bikini Atoll has conserved direct tangible evidence … conveying the power of … nuclear tests, i.e. the sunken ships sent to the bottom of the lagoon by the tests in 1946 and the gigantic Bravo crater. Equivalent to 7,000 times the force of the Hiroshima bomb, the tests had major consequences on the geology and natural environment of Bikini Atoll and on the health of those who were exposed to radiation. Through its history, the atoll symbolises the dawn of the nuclear age, despite its paradoxical image of peace and of earthly paradise.

1160 – Miracle Mile (1988)

timespace coordinates: 1980’s LA (Johnie’s Coffee ShopLa Brea Tar PitsMiracle Mile DistrictPan-Pacific Auditorium in the Fairfax District)

Miracle Mile is a 1988 American apocalyptic thriller film written and directed by Steve De Jarnatt, and starring Anthony Edwards and Mare Winningham. The film takes place mostly in real time. It is named after the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, where most of the action takes place. (wiki)

(trivia) The real life Johnie’s Coffee Shop, actually located on the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, ceased functioning as a real restaurant in the late 1990s. However, the building was never demolished, continued to be used from many other films and was designated a historical landmark in 2013. It is now rented primarily for film and television productions as well as for pop-up shops and similar temporary functions. The building again gained notoriety in 2016 as a campaign headquarter for US presidential candiante Bernie Sanders.

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