Challenges facing the world in the 2020’s


From one year to the next for the last two decades, the world has been getting progressively more turbulent militarily, economically, politically, socially and environmentally. As we begin the 2020’s it looks no different and – in some respects with bush fires ravaging Australia and the United States threatening war against Iran if it retaliates for the assassination of Qasem Soleimani – potentially going to get much worse. With that in mind, I examine the challenges facing the world in the 2020’s.

ENVIRONMENT: This – even if climate change did not exist – is quite possibly going to be a decade defining challenge to the world irrespective of where one lives. The challenges range from the hell fire in Australia to the plastic flood that is continuing, despite some nations starting to – FINALLY – get serious about it; from fresh water quality to the massive destruction of the global ecosystem, which if not contained soon may be human kind’s undoing climate change or not.

Whilst the world is good at organizing environmental talk fests that spout out communiques, they are not at all good getting nations to take their supposed commitments. Until this changes, the very simple and painfully obvious fact of the matter is the global ecosystem will deteriorate and with it humanity’s long term prospects for survival.

WAR: “We want war! We want war!” – I am pretty sure that is the chant I am hearing in the newsrooms of Fox as it salivates over the prospect of a war not even America’s closest allies seem to be keen on. And it is this loudly beating drum that is trying to drown out the growing chorus of concern about the Middle East being plunged into another war. War is apparently good for the economy; good for morale.

And the Grim Reaper. Especially the Grim Reaper.

30 years after the Berlin Wall fell we are as close to World War 3 as we were during Exercise Able Archer, a N.A.T.O. paper exercise that the U.S.S.R. thought was the prelude to an actual nuclear attack – to the point that Soviet missile forces were put on high alert. This might not be Able Archer and Iran might not be the U.S.S.R., but it does not change the fact that any war in the Middle East is going to put back decades of peace efforts by all sides.

Meanwhile North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is promising something spectacular, in response to the break down of talks with the United States.

NATIONALISM: I used to identify with a soft version of nationalism in New Zealand and in some respects still do, but the way nationalism is being promoted around the world is truly toxic. It cannot possibly be a good thing to promote something that makes refugees who have fled disaster and wars look like security threats; to see military power as a force for the good and international law as a failed experiment in a new world order.

But here it is. And whilst not so obvious in New Zealand, it is certainly poisoning the politics of America, Britain and other European nations as well as China. And whilst that is happening I find it very hard to like any more.

REFUGEES: Often viewed as pariahs, because they arrive from other countries without documentation that they most probably were never able to obtain in the first place, refugees are one group in society that we need to learn to have a lot more tolerance of. Imagine being made to leave your country because it is at war with itself or another country and your community has been bombed into the ground; atrocities are being committed against your _________ (insert religion/other domination here)and you think you are next.

The vast majority are likely to be entirely genuine people, hugely grateful to their host nation for another chance at life and wanting to show their gratitude. It plays out in the stories you hear from those who have been given that chance – the children become great students in their schools; their parents learn a new language and become valued employees or business owners.

CHINA: Too big to ignore, too powerful to entirely to rest oneself free of, China is clearly the major player trying to fill the developing vacuum left by the disintegration of American prestige. It’s economy and military spending have been growing at near double digit figures for the last 25 years. Its policy of buying up strategic economic assets in other countries is giving them an immovable foothold in countries around the world and its plans to dominate southeast Asia are spelt out in no uncertain terms in President Xi Jinping’s policies.

But with China’s insatiable appetite for resources is coming a truly dreadful price in the environment and human rights. Its point blank denial of having concentration camps in Xinjiang is a major concern, as is the lack of a comprehensive western condemnation of them. But perhaps the most alarming thing, certainly in New Zealand, is China’s attempts to infiltrate individual nations political systems.

I hope 2020 improves, but if the last year – especially in Australia, the Middle East and U.S., India and Europe – is anything to go by this is going to be one turbulent decade. Strap in and hang on!