Tim Belford: Short Takes On Life
Tim Belford
Tim Belford
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Tim Belford is host of Quebec A.M. -- CBC Radio's popular English- language morning show (91.7 FM, 6-9, Mon.-Fri). He also is said to know a thing or three about wine.

Posted 06.23.01
Quebec City


So much doom & gloom, so much life to live

How does that old 60s song go?

"Tell me over and over again, my friend, that you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction."

That little ditty out of the Vietnam period came to mind recently when I was reading about Sir Martin Rees.

He's Britain's honorary Astronomer Royal. As far as I can figure out, that's sort of a poet laureate for the stars.

He's also a world-renowned scientist. And not someone we can easily pooh pooh.

This is why I was a little taken aback when I read that he thinks there's about a fifty-fifty chance that millions of us have only seventeen years to live.

Now for me, that's probably about right anyway.

But, for anyone in their twenties or thirties out there, it must come as a bit of a shock.

After all, when Chicken Little says the sky is falling that's one thing, but when the Astronomer Royal says it, I guess we'd better pay attention.

He even lists all the things that might go wrong.

First is "great big weapons."

What if the September Eleven bunch had used a nuclear device?

And he goes from that to "little teeny weapons." He actually sees nano technology making little machines that eventually replicate and take over the world.

So much for that other song, "Short people have no reason to live."

And mankind aside, he says there's a good chance climate change will turn the world into a desert. Or maybe an asteroid will do for us what one did for the dinosaurs.

And when I say dinosaurs I'm not just talking here about Pat Buchanan or George Dubya.

He even thinks a super volcano might do the trick by spewing out enough dust that it blots out the sun.

And he points to Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park as a potential earth ender.

Won't that surprise a whole lot of tourists.

Then there's bioterroism. And anyone following the Sars story can't help but think he may be on to something here.

He even throws in the worry that a black hole will eventually swallow up our entire universe, sucking in everything in its path until there's nothing left.

Anyone who invested in Nortel already understands that syndrome.

But after reading all of Sir Martin's doomsday scenarios, it seems the point is that life is a risk.

If you can imagine a black hole swallowing up everything, why not invaders from Mars?

You might get tetanus from an inappropriate use of a tooth pick.

Or you may end up with a mad cow on your barbecue, a friend who picked up his cough in Toronto, or a hickey from a member of the genus culex, anopheles, or aedes.

That's a mosquito bite by the way.

Hey. No offense to Sir Martin, but life goes on.