03 January 2022

The ten most important stories of 2021

My own choices, in order of importance.  Strictly speaking, these are more ongoing processes than momentary events, but that's usually the case with things that are genuinely important.

1) The spread of covid-19 vaccination on a mass scale, saving millions of lives and beginning to bring the pandemic under control.  As of the end of 2021, 58% of the world's population (about 4.6 billion people) had received at least one vaccine dose.

2) Democracies uniting to stand up to China, mostly against its threats to Taiwan.  This included the AUKUS deal and many other steps taken by the US, India, Japan, the UK, Australia, and Taiwan itself to work together more closely and position themselves more aggressively to deter a possible Chinese invasion.  The appeasement disaster of the 1930s, which made World War II inevitable, will not be repeated.

3) The spread of the delta variant to become the globally-dominant form of covid-19.  Being both more infectious and more deadly than the original virus, this variant made the pandemic far more dangerous, killing large numbers people in all age groups where the original virus had mostly been fatal only to older people or those with other major health problems.

4) The Great Resignation.  It's a truly global phenomenon, with workers in the US, India, Europe, Vietnam, the Caribbean, and even China telling the bosses that the old ways just aren't good enough any more.  People want work-from-home, decent pay and benefits, more work-life balance, and more flexibility -- and they're willing to starve the system of their labor until it capitulates.

5) The January 6 attack on the US Capitol and ongoing efforts by Trumpist Republicans to undermine elections and possibly lay the groundwork for a seizure of power in 2024 if they lose.  This is a real threat to democracy in the world's most powerful country; in a worst-case scenario it could create a government which blue states would not accept as legitimate, leading to a state-federal power struggle or even de facto repudiation of federal control in some regions of the US.  If the US effectively drops out of the global system, other democracies will be forced to build up their own military power to take over the US role in deterring and containing the Chinese and Russian gangster-states, likely including the adoption of nuclear weapons by Japan and possibly by Taiwan and Germany.

6) The emergence and spread of the omicron variant.  Omicron was detected barely a month ago, but with its greater infectiousness it is already displacing delta world-wide as the new dominant form of covid-19 -- and its milder symptoms mean we may be getting a break thanks to natural selection.

7) The restoration of normal government in the US.  As of January 20, Trump and his pack of crooks, grifters, and bunglers were out, replaced by a normal president and cabinet focused on actually doing their jobs -- including the two Herculean tasks of dealing with the pandemic and repairing the damage done by Trump.

8) Russian threats against Ukraine.  It's hard to be sure whether Putin actually intends to attack or is just trying to intimidate NATO, but if it's the former, it would mean a major war to seize territory in Europe, something which hasn't happened in decades and would mark a return to the barbarism of pre-1945 standards of international behavior.

9) The start of the unraveling of China's economy, including but not limited to the Evergrande implosion.  China's economy has long been a house of cards, rife with corruption, godawful construction standards, Alice-in-Wonderland banking practices, and dubious official statistics.  A real collapse could mean the end of China's pretensions as a world power -- and/or the risk of the regime launching a war to distract the masses from its failures.

10)  The success of NASA's Mars Ingenuity helicopter.  Not a political, military, or economic event, but a great technological achievement portending a powerful new strategy for future exploration of Mars and perhaps some of the moons of the outer planets.


Blogger Mike said...

"launching a war to distract the masses"
This is the government version of business reorganization. I worked for the phone company and we were always reorganizing.

03 January, 2022 09:24  
Blogger SickoRicko said...

I worry about Number 5 the most.

03 January, 2022 10:33  
Anonymous Ole Phat Stu said...

Wejust got a new (coalition) government in Germany which put greens in the government. So no way will they want nuclear weapons. They don't even want nuclear power.

04 January, 2022 00:04  
Blogger Bohemian said...

Your List reminds me that some good did come out of some of the dysfunction of 2021. The Great Resignation I do Hope has a positive impact upon Workers getting decent wages and benefits without the exploitation they've endured for far too long at the hands of affluent Employers who profited off the way they mistreated their work force and took it for granted.

04 January, 2022 11:25  
Blogger NickM said...

Ingenuity was cool as Hell. I've flown R/C* but over 55 million km (that's a minimum) - is something else. You are absolutely right about the outer planets - or rather their moons. Io, Europa, Ganymede, Titan...

On Christmas Day I had ro really shorten a call from my Mum because I had One Thing for that day. That was to watch the launch of the James Webb (which I have just heard has deployed it's sun-shield). That was a lot more fun than my Mother-in-Law's sprouts.

And the mission controller was a bald Frenchman called, "Jean-Luc".

Make it so!

04 January, 2022 12:53  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Mike: I've been through one or two pointless reorganizations. At least they don't kill anyone (usually).

Ricko: I've been most worried about #3 since it posed the most immediate threat. We'll see what follows from #5 in the years to come. I tried to go by objective importance and avoid including things that affected only one country, but the US and China are such heavyweights that sometimes their internal affairs have an international impact.

Stu: Good point; if the scenario I'm talking about arises and the whole burden of western Europe's nuclear defense falls on the UK and France, their power and influence will become commensurate with that. As for Germany, though, a pressing national-security need can sometimes change leaders' thinking -- and this government may not even still be in power in 2025.

Bohemian: Getting better conditions for workers is going to be a hard struggle, but it always has been. At least the balance of power has shifted somewhat.

NickM: Titan with its low gravity and dense atmosphere would be perfect for a helicopter. It will be fascinating to see the Webb telescope's discoveries -- they may end up on a similar list for 2022.

05 January, 2022 01:07  
Blogger NickM said...

What is really exciting about Webb is - dare I say it? - the unknown unknowns. We are quite likely to find answers to questions we hadn't even thought to ask. I have a soft spot for Titan anyway because of the game Hardwar. But potentially imaging extra-solar bodies! Now that is something. Consider human anatomy studies if there was only ever one body to study in detail. We knew about billions of others but far less well.

09 January, 2022 10:04  
Blogger yellowdoggranny said...

I'm with Ricko..number 5...fuckme.

11 January, 2022 13:09  

Post a Comment

<< Home