We accept death but we avoid thinking about it which isn't difficult in a society easily distracted and addicted by so many irrelevancies.
In any case most of us dismiss the thought because death is inevitable.
But does this dismissal extend to the death of millions of people and even our entire civilisation which may not be inevitable - yet.
After Hiroshima, atomic scientists created the Doomsday Clock and set it at seven minutes to midnight, when we would destroy the world with our own technology. Concern for the future pervaded society and generated international action for nuclear disarmament.
Today the clock is set at 100 seconds to midnight, though if one counted the opinion of most atomic and many other scientists it should be set at just a few seconds.
Imagine these scientists simultaneously emerging from their studies, laboratories and computer assessments to realise changes they describe are becoming self perpetuating for pandemic viruses, world pollution and all our life support systems including biodiversity, ecological services as well as climate. These are tipping points. We have only a few seconds left.
On climate change UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said "we have a choice ... collective action or collective suicide ... it is in our hands".
Suicide is the wrong word. Though we have a fatal addiction which is more difficult to kick than heroin, our affluent consumer lifestyle.
The big-boy capitalism profits from providing our "likes" and wants and creates the media instruments to addict us and our democratic governments.
Most of us are comfortable and distracted; who wishes to consider collective calamity?
Tipping points resulting from climate change include increasing forest fires releasing carbon dioxide, so demolishing their role in storing carbon and cooling us, heat thawing the stores of carbon dioxide and methane in the Arctic tundra and rapid melting of the Antarctic ice sheet.
All may become tipping points in the current or next few decades.
Science now tells us that as humans encroach and invade the natural world more deadly pandemics like COVID will arise.
We are encountering and being infected by more viruses and bacteria carried by animals and insects; many are moving habitat because of rising temperature. We have reached a tipping point by occupying much of the land mass of the Earth; yes, too many people.
The crisis in loss of biodiversity and ecological services is upon us. To feed ourselves we have used the ingenuity of science to drive food production but this is now falling and scientists are describing regions where living soil dies and blows or washes away in the more extreme weather events.
The reasons are not only climate change but also pollution, loss of tree cover and overcropping. By using 55 per cent of the world's environment to feed ourselves we have reached a tipping point.
There are even more insurmountable problems.
Current economic dogma based on economic growth without responsibility is so addictive it denies alternative economic systems.
It plunders the environment faster than it can regenerate.
Our democratic system assuages the wants of peoples generated by a capitalist system. Individualism runs riot in a milieu of self-opinion on everything where "likes" determine the self esteem of individuals and delude to satisfy addicted organisations. Social scientists find we behave like rats pursuing food.
In Australia, we are naked for lack of a responsible media and educational services to balance our plight from social media. Currently we are only just commencing the long road to necessary climate action; effective environmental laws are absent in the face of huge loss of our biodiversity.
We have only just started discussion on a centre for disease control led by the AMA; most of all, we lack a population policy, the ultimate foolishness in planning the future.
One of our greatest thinkers, Noam Chomsky, questions why we are unlikely to find life on any of the millions of planets in the universe. The simple answer is that when a form of humanity reaches the intelligence level to design telescopes and interplanetary travel, it also has the wisdom to obliterate itself. Relatively it survives for only a few seconds.
Finally what of your mind addicted to social media, a problem depicted in one brilliant painting by Banksy of Mobile Lovers.
Each of us can see our life support systems deteriorating faster and faster from floods, storms, heatwaves and fires. After 10 years of government neglect, fossil fuels still burn bringing the clock closer to midnight. Each of us must learn more about what we can do individually and give voice and more responsibility to the scientists and anxious young people some of whom escape the harms of social media to lead the way.
Meanwhile millions continue to TikTok us to midnight.
- Dr David Shearman, AM PhD FRACP, is emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Adelaide and co-founder of Doctors for the Environment Australia.