Saturday, Jan 22, 2022 08:00 [IST]
Last Update: Saturday, Jan 22, 2022 02:22 [IST]
We are nearly at the end of January already. Yet, few things have changed for the better since 2019 and the start of the pandemic era. It is like more continuity and less change. This is the norm for any New Year, particularly if the world is stuck in a prolonged cycle of crises where years come and go but festering problems keep multiplying. Instead of 2022 marking a fresh start, the global outlook suggests an extension of negative trends that began a while ago.
We are now stuck with a pandemic that simply would not go. Top on the list of international concerns for the third straight New Year is the stubborn coronavirus pandemic and its ever-morphing forms. For a virus that originated in China in 2019 to still be on a rampage, drawing warnings of one more “tidal wave" (British Prime Minister Boris Johnson) and another “winter of severe illness and death" (US President Joe Biden), is an illustration of how the international community has failed. Throughout 2021, rich Western countries misread the fundamental nature of the pandemic, which is global and indiscriminate, and believed they could secure their respective populations through mass inoculation, hoarding of vaccines and restrictions on foreign travel. The result of this myopic vaccine nationalism was a fatal global imbalance. The fact that the Omicron variant arose in under-vaccinated Africa and then brought over-vaccinated Western healthcare systems to their knees has exposed the utter folly of the Global North.
The same can be said of the all-encompassing climate crisis. The extreme weather events that battered every corner of the globe in 2021, from forest fires and droughts to torrential rainfall and floods, were largely unprecedented. Yet, at the CoP-26 climate-change conference held in Glasgow, progress on addressing climate injustice and mitigation fund flows from the Global North to South was sluggish at best. The United Nations estimated that 2021 was among the hottest seven years in recorded history, and that the seven warmest years since 1850 were none other than the past seven years. Notwithstanding the push for a ‘green recovery’ from the pandemic-induced collapses of 2020 and 2021, fossil fuel-fired economic revivals that are battering the environment constitute an ominous sign for 2022. With little leadership coming from the world’s great powers, the only hope for the New Year lies in lower-level climate-friendly innovations and adaptations by provincial, municipal and grassroots institutions and climate-conscious citizens.
Without concern for others, cautious management of contingencies and measures to address socio-economic injustices, the world is staring at a 2022 that could be worse than 2021. The realization that we are in the midst of an era of cascading crises and that this constitutes a global long-term historical condition is a prerequisite for any reforms.