Do you remember way, way back to December 2020? In some ways, it seems like yesterday, yet it also feels like a lifetime ago. In 2020, we were already so tired of COVID and of trying to navigate a new way of life and of uncertainty and of waiting for COVID vaccines . . . so many of us were thinking, “I can’t wait until this year is done and 2021 arrives.” What were we thinking??
2021 arrived alright and, guess what? Things got worse!
The January 6th attempted takeover of the US capital (and possibly of democracy itself) by insurrectionists should have been our harbinger of things to come for the rest of the year.
The most ever-present ‘news’ of the year, of course, was that COVID did not magically disappear on the 31st of December 2020, as we had all hoped. In fact, we had to get used to revolving lockdowns, restrictions both to our daily lives and to our larger privileges such as travelling, uncertainty about how and when to gather, the sadness and loneliness of greater isolation, the stress of non-teachers trying to home-school, the use of technology to replace in-person contact, the disruption to the consumer goods chain . . . and I would also add having to get used to polar divisions in all key spheres of life – politics, religion, social, financial, and even in our personal and platonic relationships. (Did you ever comment, in 2021, that you learned things about people you thought you knew when it came to COVID and restrictions and vaccines?)
Although COVID seemed to consume 2021 and our thoughts and our discussions, it was only one of the upsetting and chaotic events of a year to remember (or to forget).
In visualcapitalist.com, in an article entitled Where Are The World’s Ongoing Conflicts? by Avery Kopp, we are reminded that there are “territorial disputes” in Asia and eastern Europe (for example, Russia and Ukraine), there is “civil war” in some African countries (Libya and South Sudan) and in the middle East (Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan), there is “interstates” conflict between the US and Iran and between India and Pakistan and between the US and North Korea, and there is “political instability" in several African and South American countries. And then there are countries that experience "transnational terrorism”, “sectarian” conflict, and “criminal violence”. The article identifies that the most common forms of conflict today are civil wars and territorial disputes. Many of these ongoing conflicts have little direct impact on us but, like a wave, can have a ripple effect through media, politics, world finances, thinking, and emotions. I strongly recommend a wee look at this article.
We can’t forget natural disasters, either, that seemed to occur one after another this past year. The US News (usnews.com), in an article 10 of the Deadliest Natural Disasters of 2021, reminded us of the volcano in Indonesia, tornados and hurricanes in the US, cyclones in India, floods in India, Nepal, Germany, Belgium, and China, typhoons in the Philippines, and earthquakes in Haiti. Much closer to home, we can’t forget the “heat domes” (probably a new concept to most of us) and the forest fires and horrible air quality in British Columbia followed only four months later by massive flooding.
It is easy to dwell on the chaos, the sadness, and the disputes of 2021 but, as in any negative situation, there is always some brightness and glimmers of hope if we look really hard and open our thinking just a bit. The visualcapitalist.com reminded us that, despite the conflict in the world, “we currently live in one of the most peaceful eras in history . . .” and, I would add, looking at the world map contained in the article, Canada, for the most part, is devoid of such intense conflict. Also, remember from one of my previous posts, that although poverty remains a huge issue in the world, that, too, is declining. When looking for more precise ‘positives’, the article 21 Things That Made the World a Better Place in 2021 in wired.com, reminded us that some good things have occurred in 2021 – some truly life saving and some kind of ‘cheesy’. The #1, of course, is the vaccine rollout which might, quite literally, have saved the world. (Whether you are for or against vaccines, and despite some glitches, you have to agree that was a pretty impressive feat.) After that, wired.com identified many other happenings that might not affect each of us directly but, all combined, make society a better place. So, “cheese isn’t bad for you”, “Dutch bee hotels helped bee populations remain stable”, “a thought-to-be-extinct orchid was found on a London roof”, and “Argentinian capybaras reclaimed their habitat by force”. Issues that might appear somewhat more ‘important’ include “renewable energy had a record year”, strides were made through technology to crack down on child abuse, and “China eliminated malaria”. Read up on wired.com if you want to know more. And then there are the events that occurred that just brought some respite and joy - who can forget Canadian Leylah Fernandez' run up the tennis ladder with such grace and poise? That was just a pleasure. And what about the Canadian women's soccer team winning the Olympic gold medal in overtime penalty kicks? That was just exciting. Or the Canadian men's soccer team defeating Mexico in the cold and snow of Edmonton and pretending they weren't at all just a little chilly? That was simply fun.
The point is that, despite the dog’s breakfast that was 2021, some very good things happened, indeed.
So, it is really about perspective and finding that balance, isn’t it? (here we go again, the word balance). Yes, 2021 presented more challenges than we wanted or needed, and some of us struggled immensely. But, it also presented some positives. We just need to pull back the layers to find them.
As the year end approaches, if you read an article like I did this morning by Gwynne Dyer predicting the possibility of “nuclear twilight” (nuclear explosions “would dim the sun enough to drop temperatures and severely damage crop yields in the main food-producing regions of the planet”), you might want to ‘favourite’ goodnewsnetwork.org for a daily dose of good news – or just think of that lone orchid on the London rooftop or the capybaras frolicking happily in Argentina (even if they did take over a gated community!) to put a smile on your face.