The Moon People’s paranoid storyline in The Last Shade Tree springs from the last century’s jittery fears of a nuclear attack. Although those fears have been blunted in the popular imagination by the decline of the Cold War and the passage of time, the world’s strongest nations remain armed to the teeth with little progress made in cutting stockpiles. Meanwhile, many smaller nations strive to catch up. The myth still persists that surviving a nuclear war is a breeze if you have a fallout shelter; a glance at the Internet shows companies anxious to build costly custom-made underground havens just for you.
The Doomsday Clock
The Doomsday Clock is not mentioned in The Last Shade Tree. But it illustrates perfectly why the present isn’t a time for complacency. The members of the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists came up with the clock in 1947 as a metaphor to show how close the human race is to destroying the planet in a global nuclear war. They update the clock every year, and, in 2007, they added climate change as a compounding threat.
In 2018 the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board moved the Doomsday Clock’s hands half a minute closer to midnight: “In 2017, we saw reckless language in the nuclear realm heat up already dangerous situations and re-learned that minimizing evidence-based assessments regarding climate and other global challenges does not lead to better public policies…. It is urgent that, collectively, we put in the work necessary to produce a 2019 Clock statement that rewinds the Doomsday Clock. Get engaged, get involved, and help create that future. The time is now.”
In addition to public shelters in cities, the notion of private shelters to protect against radiation had its heyday in the 1960s. Commercial firms offered a variety of choices that ranged from the “$13.50 foxhole” to the “$5,000 deluxe model.”