The year 2022 is gradually coming to a close. Looking back, it has never been more obvious that our world is complex, teeming with the good and the bad—and everything in between. But even in the thick of the innumerable crises and world problems that plague us, I prefer to focus on the positive by celebrating acts of heroism and worthy global effort, wherever we find it. Let’s review a few developments—minor and major in scale—from the past year that can invigorate us with optimism for the future as we move toward the New Year.
We’ve come out ahead: Some reprieve from the pandemic that rocked the world
According to at least one reputable source, Covid-19 cases are declining world-wide. A few hot spots remain, but this number is a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of cases recorded daily throughout the world during the height of the pandemic. It’s a bit of a shock to recognize just how recently the entire world was in the grips of wide-spread contagion. India was still reporting 300,000 cases per day just 10 months ago in January of 2022. Today, the 7-day average in India is 324 cases per day. Of course, the relative calm of the present moment could be short-lived, and the coming winter months could bring spikes in reported cases. Some experts predict that several factors, including a warming global climate, may unleash a higher frequency of pandemics in future years. But let’s remain hopeful. International know-how in terms of developing vaccines and managing highly transmissible diseases has been put to the test; world populations are better positioned now to fight global health threats than they were ten years ago. We won’t let down our guard, but there is reason to remain optimistic going forward.
Space exploration for one and all: Another barrier bites the dust
What is one of the most physically and mentally strenuous forms of scientific research? Some would say space exploration. Last month, the United Kingdom (UK) announced that for the first time in history, a disabled astronaut would be part of the UK space agency’s 2022 astronaut class. Dr. John McFall will take part in the “Parastronaut Feasibility Project,” which will focus on developing options for the inclusion of astronauts with physical disabilities. Initiatives like this underline the fact that although exclusionary practices still dominate in many parts of the world, there are plenty of exceptions—and this is one of them. Progress towards equal access and opportunity for all—in the many forms it may take—is moving forward, albeit in fits and starts. This example from the UK should give hope to us all. May the rest of the world follow.
Global steps forward—and back—on mitigating and paying for climate change
For the first time in history—and now “officially”—the world’s largest economies acknowledged their dominant role in creating the world’s warming climate conditions. The international conference on climate change, notably COP 27, recently came to a close in Cairo, Egypt. Several of the world’s largest G20 economies—specifically the U.S. and Germany—participated in drafting the important document (aka the “Loss and Damage Fund”) and committed to making amends to the many developing countries that are presently bearing the brunt of climate change’s most destructive effects. As with many non-binding agreements of this kind, questions remain regarding the fine print and important details. One major concern relates to the extent to which compensatory funds actually will reach the countries and populations in question. Another question: what kinds of conditions will trigger a payout—and for what amount? After all, since the global community first came together at the inaugural Paris Conference in 1987, the history of global climate negotiations is riddled with unmet commitments—from unfulfilled emissions targets, to promises to fund climate adaptation for developing countries. The intent to do good is surely there—and awareness is half the battle—but follow-through is the next milestone.
A small, but important, step forward in the fight against the extinction of species
Intimately connected to the issue of global industrialization and climate change is the reality of declining species diversity world-wide. The rate of extinction is expected to reach a grim 50% by the year 2050. But research suggests that if the will to conserve is strong enough, certain trends towards extinction may be reversed. A research project in Switzerland offers the most recent glimmer of hope. Over the course of a 20-year program, Switzerland discovered that it could reverse, or at least stabilize, the decline of certain populations of tree frogs by recreating habitat that was previously destroyed. Through the efforts of various governmental and non-profit groups, 430 small ponds were built specifically for the needs of certain species of tree frogs. At the beginning of the study period, eight species of frog were endangered. This study showed that with habitat restoration, 52% of these frogs increased their populations, while 32% were stabilized—a glimmer of hope, for sure.
Fighting for democracy when your opponent is a giant
When Russian forces invaded Ukraine back in February of 2022, most of the world believed that Ukraine would quickly collapse under a Russian offense. Few predicted the fierceness with which the Ukrainian people would take up arms to protect their country’s independence and individual freedoms. Ammunition and supplies were obviously critical to Ukrainian success, but far more important was the grit and heroism that everyone from ordinary Ukrainian citizens to trained soldiers unequivocally displayed. The example set by these heroic citizens and patriots in their fight for democracy should give hope to us all. Never underestimate the power of people committed to fighting for democratic principles!
Finding inspiration here at Highlands
The team here at Highlands is also a source of inspiration. The level of cooperation, “can-do” innovation, and spirit that sets Highlands apart from similar firms makes me appreciate the quality of our workforce more than ever. As another productive year of software development comes to a close, I look forward to tackling another set of challenges. With this particular Highlands team, I know we have the pluck and determination to meet any and all challenges. Bring them on! A very Happy New Year to all!