Why did we miss the threat of a new pandemic, why we have we been so slow to tackle the climate crisis, and why do we still fail to face up to the dangers posed by nuclear weapons? The reasons are numerous: cold war rivalries, powerful vested interests, the determinist project shared by capitalism and socialism alike, and the innate tendency of societies and individuals to deny unpleasant truths. It is not enough to understand why we have failed: we should analyze the few occasions when there has been an effective response, and above all we must find better ways of acting ahead of time before the next disaster strikes. Published by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation in THE SPOKESMAN, No. 148, 2021, pp. 5-15.