I've finally done it!
On the face of it, 2020 was a bit of a disaster regarding environmental issues. It was supposed to be the year of climate action, culminating with ambitious emission-cutting targets at the UN Climate Talks, COP26, in my home city of Glasgow in November. Unfortunately, our old friend SARS-CoV-2 put paid to that plan, though it has been rescheduled for November this year. While the virus reminded humanity how fragile it actually was, the planet continued to heat up, with 2020 turning out to be the joint hottest year on record. The year was marked by horrendous fires in the Amazon, and in the western United States. The Atlantic hurricane season was also the most active on record.
There were, however, one or two glimmers of hope. The European Green Deal has tackling climate change at its centre. Major economies, including China, the UK, France and Japan have made net-zero carbon pledges (although, in the UK at least, one would be cynical about any promises made by the Government).
Well, here we are in 2021! The UK has finally left the European Union, and I am really struggling to decide what to do with all the lovely sovereignty that I now have. I just feel so free! It’s enough to make me want to stride down the street clad only in my Union Jack underpants! But enough (for now) of the political disaster that is Brexit, 2020 has been a nightmare in so many other ways. The COVID-19 pandemic has already killed over 1.8 million people worldwide, and it is currently creating absolute chaos in Europe, especially the UK, partly due to the high prevalence of idiocy in our population (especially among the Government), but also due to the emergence of a new strain of SARS-CoV-2 known as UK B117, which is much more easily transmitted than the original version of the virus.
At this time of year you tend to get articles that look back over the previous year. Bearing in mind how horrendous 2020 has been for most people, a number of these this year have sought glimmers of good news among the gloom.
The current Coronavirus Pandemic has brought misery to many, and death to over 1.5 million people worldwide. A huge number of businesses are under severe financial strain, or have ceased to trade. The major exceptions are tech companies who conduct all of their business online especially, as I have mentioned earlier, Amazon. As the World has gone into lockdown of various degrees, some other tech winners in the pandemic have been the providers of videoconferencing services, especially the omnipresent Zoom. I suspect most people had never heard of Zoom before 2020, but widespread use has led the company’s revenues to leap 355% to $663.5 million for the quarter ending 31 July, exceeding analysts’ expectations of $500.5 million. In the same period profits soared to $186 million, while customer growth was up 458% compared with the same period in 2019.
I have always thought that women are wonderful creatures. It is my fervent belief that if World history had included far more women in leadership roles the planet might be not be in the mess (to put it politely) that it is. In chemical terms, I think it can be argued that testosterone has done as much global damage as carbon dioxide.
Nobel Prizes are among the most prestigious awards for achievement in various fields, and I think it is a shameful fact that as of this year only 57 women have been awarded Nobel Prizes compared to over 866 men! With all of the above in mind, I was delighted to read that the 2020 Nobel Prize for Chemistry had been awarded to Dr Jennifer Doudna from the USA and Dr Emmanuelle Charpentier from France. Doudna and Charpentier were given the prize for their development of the gene-editing tool known as CRISPR-Cas9, or often simply “CRISPR”.
I've been a pessimist from an early age. I can remember making the decision to become one. It seemed to me that if you were a pessimist you could never be disappointed: if the worst happened, it would be just as you expected; if the worst didn’t happen, it would be a pleasant (if rare) surprise! Now that I am, to coin a phrase, in my later years I find myself very fortunate in many ways, so the argument could be made that my decades of pessimism were unjustified. Pessimism is, however, a very hard habit to break.
I can still remember my feeling of elation in 1997 when Tony Blair’s Labour Party had its landslide victory over the Tories. Sadly, Blair proved a bit of a disappointment, and in the UK it currently feels as if we have always had a Tory Government. In the USA, I and many others have watched with horror the effects of 4 years of the odious Donald Trump. I had been aware of what an unpleasant creature he was long before he became President, but it was truly terrifying to see him in charge of the most powerful country on the planet! It will take many years to undo the damage that he has caused. Like numerous others around the World, I was extremely pleased when it was finally concluded that Joe Biden had defeated Trump. However, although I would have found another term of Trump almost unbearable, I didn’t feel the same elation that I felt in 1997. This is not just because (a) I am not a US citizen, and (b) the Orange Monster has not actually conceded defeat yet!
Like many other European countries, the UK is seeing a rapidly increasing number of COVID infections at present. The national lockdown earlier in the year was very effective in suppressing spread of the virus, but governments are aware of the very severe effects that the lockdown had on the economy, and on the mental health of many in the population. The Westminster Government was, by all accounts, surprised at the degree of compliance of the population with full lockdown, but there is growing evidence that a significant sector of the population is unwilling to comply with the various measures now being proposed to slow the spread of the disease.
My previous posts have dealt with the fact that, even in the midst of a catastrophic pandemic, the ultra-rich are getting richer. However, it is well known that many of these obscenely wealthy people have given millions, and in some cases billions, to “good causes”. Surely this makes up, at least to some extent, for worsening global wealth inequality? In my last entry I made the point that the ultra-wealthy are, as a group, highly competitive: even to the extent of, in some cases, competing regarding how much of their wealth they give away!
My last post dealt with the richest man in the World, and the fact that to qualify as being ultra-rich one would “only” need a net worth of $30 million: a tiny fraction of Jeff Bezos’ $200 billion fortune. We live in a World where millions of people still live in extreme poverty, without access to the very basics of existence. In the UK, one of the wealthiest countries on Earth, an increasing number of families rely on food banks. Even those who have work in this country often have no savings and, as the current pandemic has shown, are one pay cheque away from financial disaster. At the other end of the scale, globally there is an increasing number of millionaires, billionaires, and indeed centibillionaires! What must it be like to go through life never having to worry about how to put food on the table, how the bills are going to be paid, and how you are going to set aside enough money for your retirement (if you live that long)?
“Do not waste your time on Social Questions. What is the matter with the poor is Poverty what is the matter with the rich is Uselessness.”
I apologise for not writing for a while, but I was away for a short break and it is sometimes difficult to “get back in the saddle” as far as writing is concerned! Before I left, I spotted an article on Forbes.com which stated that Jeff Bezos, the World’s richest man, was now richer than ever. He had, in fact, “crossed a milestone previously unseen in the nearly four decades Forbes has been tracking net worths” by becoming the World’s first ever person to have a net worth of over $200 billion!