2022 was a difficult year for the UK, with the UK often being hit more than its peers in the G7 – a club of the wealthiest democracies in the world.
Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine caused dramatic rises in energy prices.
Soaring inflation and high interest rates have caused a global crisis in the cost of living .
The striking public sector workers in the UK are hard-pressed.
The governing Conservative Party has seen unprecedented political instability, resulting in three prime ministers being elected in the same year.
Nevertheless, billions are struggling with digital technology and connectivity. Some worry that social media could make traditional representative democracy impossible and give power to unaccountable corporations and autocrats. Online communication has made us more irritable and less open to others.
This year, the world’s population surpassed eight billion. This further increases the existential threat humanity places on the planet. Global warming is causing more extreme weather events than ever before.
The COVID pandemic in the world has already claimed over six million lives. It isn’t over, however, as a million more deaths are expected in China if the Communist Party reverses their zero-COVID policy.
These problems, taken together, paint a grim picture of 2022. Yet, there are some glimmers that offer hope as we attempt to deal with them. I hope to brighten your spirits as we enter the new year.
Unity and hope emerge from the war in Ukraine
The horrors of the conflict in Ukraine are not to be minimized. It has claimed thousands of lives on both sides, and continues to suffer the deliberate destruction of an aggressor state of modern Europe. Russia’s size advantage may mean that Ukraine does not get all of its territory back.
The course of the war has still confounded every President Vladimir Putin’s calculation and broken the dreams of dictatorial governments elsewhere. Russia didn’t conquer the world in just a few days.
The West’s democracies were not weak and venal. NATO isn’t “brain-dead”, like President Emmanuel Macron mocked a few years back. With the addition of Sweden and Finland to the military alliance, it is stronger.
The US, UK, and Poland have led the West in providing billions of dollars for military aid, as well as housing refugees. As important, President Volodymyr Zilenskyy’s passionate address to the joint session US Congress reaffirmed our collective belief in the value of unity and the worth of fighting for.
Despite their flaws, the Prime Ministers Boris Johnson & Liz Truss provided solid support to Ukraine, even though this was against their post-Brexit key foreign policy of turning their back on Europe. The British government will soon understand the importance of having good relations with the UK’s largest and closest trading bloc. This is based on practical cooperation rather than ideologies.
A healthy democracy
There is no turning back from the EU. The UK can enter a new phase of its life without worrying about Europe. This has been a problem for the Tory party since at least the 1990s and continues to plague the country today.
Conservative governments are no longer allowed to get distracted from addressing more pressing questions like growth, productivity, fairness, and the environment.
These issues will not be addressed by the ruling party, as indicated by recent opinion polls and local and regional elections.
No matter what the outcome of the next election is, it is a sign that democracy has reached a healthy level. This is something that the increasingly discontented people of Russia, China, and Iran are unable to enjoy.
This year’s elections in the West showed that the tide was turning against those with Russian connections.
The midterm elections in November saw a poor showing for candidates most closely associated with Donald Trump, whom called Putin a “genius”. The Senate remained in Democratic control. France’s President Macron was reelected in April after defeating Marine Le Pen, a far-right National Rally candidate.
The world cannot and should not de-globalise in this age of modern communication. The impact of the Russian energy crisis has made it more important to produce our own green energy, and trade with stable and friendly partners.
2022 will be a record-breaking year for renewable energy programs, a trend that was already growing before the invasion of Ukraine.
This year’s scientific breakthroughs point to future technology that will change the world. The first time that atomic fusion has been achieved in the United States was by scientists. This allows them to produce more energy than the trigger.
Chinese scientists claim they have discovered a way to make hydrogen from electrolyzing salt water. This would significantly increase the availability and cost-effectiveness of a potential “green” fuel if it were used on an industrial scale.
Test case in the Amazon
This year, there were two important international meetings on the environment: COP27 in Egypt (climate change) and COP15 Canada (biodiversity).
Both were not dramatic but they reaffirmed commitments already in motion. Importantly, both summits saw richer countries agree to remove one of their biggest barriers to faster progress.
Although they agreed in principle, it was more practical than in practice to pay the poorer countries for damage and loss caused by Western industrialization and to preserve vital ecosystems. Both of these are fights against the clock and against the speed of degradation.
Brazil will be a case study. Under the leadership of Jair Bolsonaro, deforestation in Amazon has increased to a catastrophic extent. Lula da Silva, who took office in January, successfully campaigned for a zero-deforestation commitment in the rain forests and wetlands. He has reappointed an environment minister who is highly committed.
Marina Silva increased the budget to fight destruction.
We are living longer and more healthy
A total of 68.7% have received at least one COVID vaccine. 13 billion doses of the COVID vaccine have been administered. The disease’s ability to kill is decreasing.
A live anti-malaria vaccine was also possible this year. The global life expectancy increased by 0.2% to 73 years in 2022. A British woman can expect to live to 83 this year. This is 21 years more than the average female lifespan in 1926, when Queen Elizabeth II was born.
In the UK and USA, life expectancy is declining. The poorer countries see the greatest progress. Today, 9.2% of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty, as opposed to 36% in 1990. This is more than a billion people. The number of deaths among children aged five to seven years has decreased from 34,200 per day to 14,200.
Scientists believe mankind is at the edge of a major transformation in preventative and therapeutic medicine. This is due to AI technology that maps the human genome and proteins and the potential for gene editing using CRISPR.
A better tech universe
The ways that online technology is changing nearly every aspect of our lives are beyond our control. It is used by authoritarian regimes to control information and their citizens. Trolls and conspiracists spread untruths all over the globe, assisted by bots from hostile countries.
People use social media to denigrate others and “cancel” them. Just the latest example is the furore over Jeremy Clarkson’s casually cruel comments about Meghan Markle.
During this time, entrepreneurs and tech companies have become absurdly rich.
We began to react to this stupidity haltingly in 2022. The US government prohibited China from transferring strategic vital tech. The UK government considered important issues in the Online Safety Bill. The EU acted against US tech cartels.
The cryptocurrency bubble burst when FTX’s collapse into fraud was caused by FTX. The world was shocked at the ineptness of Elon Musk in managing Twitter. All this should lead to a better and more balanced tech universe, not least because it is home to rising generations.
There are many reasons to celebrate the end of the year beyond the metaverse. This is because we can look deep into the worlds politics, health, environment, and other realms.
All the same, 2023, teachers write at bottom of report cards that students MUST DO BETTER.