Well, just two weeks into the new decade, and things are becoming really interesting. We could have had a major war in the Gulf, but managed to avoid it (so far). We’ve had the continuing disaster of Australia in flames, an area bigger than Japan destroyed in the conflagration and people all over the world, including in our own neighbourhood, raising money to help the stricken animals caught in the path of the fires. With temperatures regularly reaching 40 degrees, it is hard to imagine the terror of residents, losing everything, or the incredible bravery of the firefighters working in such hellish conditions.
Then we had the dreadful destruction of the Ukrainian airliner over Iran, with the loss of so many, including fifty-seven Canadians. One Revolutionary Guard, it appears, jumped to the conclusion that the plane was an American missile or fighter about to respond to the Iranian rocket attacks on two bases in Iraq. This, in turn, was a response to the American assassination of Iraq’s top general, Qasem Soleimani.
What’s the odds that Canada may become the home of Harry Windsor and his wife? Now that they’ve decided to try and live like real people (whatever that means for millionaires and celebrities), perhaps we can have our own local royal as Governor General? That’s what they did to avoid having the Duke of Windsor, aka King Edward VIII, hanging around the U.K. and causing embarrassment and controversy. Are we seeing the beginning of the end of the British monarchy, or is it just another blip in the long reign of Elizabeth, as she holds on to the throne repeating to herself the words of another monarch (albeit a French one): “Après moi, le déluge”.
Yes, what with one and another, this decade has not started off promisingly. Fires, floods, the looming loss of glaciers and forests, the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, the increasing pollution of the oceans through plastic contamination, all of this, and so much more, might give the impression that we should all just go to bed and hide under the covers.
But, and this is, I believe, the way we need to see things, when was it ever any different? Wars and rumours of wars? Let’s remember that the Twentieth Century was possibly the bloodiest in history, and earlier centuries each had their own slaughters and torments. The world in danger of destruction? Well, we survived the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the various nasty rampages of many empires, Roman, British, French, Russian, and others.
Is the human race in danger of extinction? Remember the Black Death? Possible not, as it was likely before your time. But in the mid-1300’s, this bubonic plague swept through Asia and Europe killing anywhere between 70 and 200 million people. You can say it was an environmental disaster, as the plague was carried by rats and almost destroyed agricultural development across continents. In recent studies, the death rate from the Black Death has been revised upwards, and it now appears that up to half of the population of Europe died in just a decade.
Now this might seem a little negative, just a tad depressing, given that many today believe their children could be the last generation of humans to live on the planet. But I make allusion to these things, both past and present, to make a simple point. We humans have survived before. Climate change has happened before, although this time we may seem to have added fuel to the fire, as it were, and we are still arguing about cause and effect instead of looking at solutions and methods. But we shouldn’t underestimate the planet’s ability to deal with what’s being thrown at it. People, also, have a talent for adapting and pushing through. That is what History teaches us time after time. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we should just sit back and see what happens next, hoping for the best. That would be irresponsible, to say the least. But we can at least look at how we have faced up to disaster and looming threats in the past and work at overcoming the divisions and conflicts to which we seem inordinately fond.
After all, we’re all in this together, and sooner or later we have to realise that and work together to change our habits as individuals and nations. Sadly, I think things have to become really dangerous before we will do that, but, as the Fab Four said: We Can Work It Out. “Life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting.”
Or, as the Hitchhikers’s Guide to the Galaxy so eloquently put it: Don’t Panic!