As I lay trying to fall asleep on Monday night, aware that we needed an idea for this column, I remembered a headline from earlier in the day - "April breaks global temperature record, making seven months of new highs". I thought about Fort McMurray and the swathe of Canada in flames, India and Southeast Asia gasping for water and all the other signs of impending doom we've become so adept at ignoring while our "leaders" tend to their holdings in offshore bank accounts. Assured I had the makings of a column, I began drifting off, only to be jolted awake by a crash in the living room.
I edged my way out of the bedroom, wondering groggily whether we were being burgled and still half thinking about our sizzling planet, and soon discovered the source of the commotion; the living-room clock had fallen off its hook.
As I trudged back to the bedroom, to give the all-clear, I thought of the Doomsday Clock, the symbolic timepiece that is supposed to remind us how close we are to global catastrophe. The clock, which has hung on a University of Chicago wall since 1947, originally represented the likelihood of nuclear war but, since 2007, it has also reflected climate change and other emerging threats. The most recent setting - three minutes to midnight (23:57) - was made in January last year, and came with the warning: "The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon."
Not nearly enough had been done in the intervening 12 months to change the setting when it was reappraised this January. "The clock ticks. Global danger looms."
Curious, I returned to the living room, to see what time it had been when our clock fell. The broken hands said 13 minutes past midnight (00.13): far too late!