Interim scorecard after one trimester of 2021
It would be tough to imagine a year worse than 2020 but then the one sure thing that last year did teach us was that just when you think things can't get any worse, you soon discover that they can.
It is tough to know where to start but between the pandemic, dysfunctional & divisive politics, the increasing impacts of climate change, an apparent all out assault on civil liberties at many levels and the stress on global financial systems have all intertwined to create a perfect storm of chaos, confusion and uncertainty.
So after 3-4 months of 2021 have 'things' gotten better or worse and are there any real reasons to be optimistic...well, in fairness, it's a bit of a mixed bag, but I tend to be a 'glass half full' kind of person so believe we are not just seeing the so-called 'green shoots of recovery; but may also be seeing some genuinely real systemic changes.
One of the biggest steps forward has been the return of sense and stability to the leadership level of arguably the most important country in the world, the USA. For all the bluster of the former president, he did inflict numerous body blows to his country’s standing in the world and to progress on any number of key fronts.
Timing is everything in politics and his couldn't have been worse as he pulled the US out of the WHO (in the middle of a global pandemic), walked away from the Paris Climate Accord (in the middle of a climate crisis) and abandoned the Iranian nuclear proliferation deal (whilst the Middle East titters on the edge of all out war).
No-one could claim that any of these instruments were perfect, far from it, but they were an awful lot better than the alternatives that were never forthcoming other than childish name-calling and brutishly primitive application of trade sanctions.
It is difficult to know where to stop here, but we haven't mentioned the wall, the 'Muslim' travel ban, Russian collusion, the Supreme Court rigging (twice), ICC, trade wars with the EU and China, North Korea, the abandonment of the Kurds, the Open Skies Agreement, little action on criminal reform or gun safety, some decidedly dodgy dealings by multiple members of his Inner Circle etc etc etc...
That has all gone (mostly) or is in the process of being rectified.
Globally, on climate change, whilst the manifestations have been increasing (fires in California, Australia, flooding all over the world, record typhoons and hurricanes, more rapidly melting polar ice caps and glaciers), action has largely taken a backseat as restrictions on travel and gathering have curtailed discussions and agreements. The upside was that the world had been able to take a 'breather'. little or less human activity or industry led to falls in pollution and a stabilization of CO2 levels...sadly, these have already started to rise following the earth's slow return from its enforced slumbers.
But it has shown what can be done and allowed some technologies to make some significant strides forward, see renewables, electric vehicles, bio-fuels and the switch to 'work from home' models forced on many by the pandemic. Likewise, the focus on food & nutrition in tough ties has led to a return to home growing and food prep, addressing waste within the entire cycle and the needs of the least wealthy everywhere.
The next stage in the global fight to address the issue in time, COP 26, is scheduled to take place in Glasgow, Scotland later this year and the early prenegotiations are already well advanced. Nothing will progress without understanding and some compromise but at least now there is the appearance at last of a realization that we are all genuinely 'in this together'.
The sad fact is that as with the pandemic we possess all the scientific solutions required to address all the issues, what we lack is the political will and leadership to make it happen. That may be changing with the emergence of a more energized, younger generation of politicians and activists who are leading the way at all levels of the battle.
And youth and a generational change may also be apparent elsewhere in the body politic, not just in the resurgent Civil Rights movement in the USA but on the street of Myanmar, Hong Kong and Belarus to name but three. People genuinely concerned and prepared to take a stand in the defense of our very basic human rights.
We used to conduct human sacrifice, persecute witches and legally enslave people...times change, thank goodness and so do laws, but attitudes take longer and many younger people are blind to many of the features of others and their lifestyles that have been problematic for the older generation. They are the future, it is their world to shape, and we should stand aside and let them.
On a personal level, the enforced isolation bought about by the lockdowns and embargo on mixing and travel have afforded me a period of introspection. I now make time to read and listen to music and podcasts and watch stuff on Netflix and Nat Geo. I make more time for other people and tend to value their thoughts and time more than maybe I did before. I see the frustration and the sorrow and I get it, we are all living it but there is so much we can and should do to be more neighborly, to be more environmentally conscious, to be less materialistic, to be better people, to be more involved, to be active physically and mentally. It's not hard but it is necessary.
So what do I see for the rest of the year? I see the climate conference, I see NASA flying a helicopter on Mars, I see more Teslas and more from Elon Musk, I see BitCoin making it to the mainstream and a plethora of blockchain backed industries and initiatives bursting through, I see Big Tech bowing to the public will, I see Apple pursing privacy, I see hope and I see a future...but then I am nothing if not an optimist! Don't let me down, World!