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Saturday, May 18, 2024

The third millennium’s first two decades

"Numerous bad things have already happened."

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Having endured a thousand-year period that was visited by the Black Death and other pestilences, experienced the excesses of nation-state nationalism and ended with two world wars and the threat of a nuclear Armageddon, mankind hoped that the incoming third millennium would be a time of stability, peace and prosperity.

The world’s people prayed that the incoming century would see an end to the wars, tensions, famines and pandemics of the preceding ten centuries.

Mankind’s hopes and prayers were soon to be dashed and its prayers went unanswered.

Y2K – the numerical representation of year 2000 – would see three years later, by the outbreak of SARS, the first of the series of coronaviruses that invade the world’s countries. SARS would be followed, of short intervals, by the Ebola, MERS, and ASF (Asian Swine Flu) viruses.

These viruses wreaked havoc on the economies of the countries where they were most prevalent – the developing countries, unfortunately – and strained the resources of WHO (World Health Organization) and the affected countries’ health systems.

The failure of the major players in the world economic drama – the U.S., China, Japan and the European countries – to decisively counter the all-too-obvious effects of climate change made natural disasters a major feature of the new millennium’s first two decades. 

Melting glaciers, sea-level rise, drought, hurricanes, vast forest fires and other manifestations of increasingly worsening weather have wrought enormous damage to numerous countries – tropical and temperate countries alike, in the process diminishing growth, impoverishing people and diverting to rehabilitation and reconstruction resources that could have been used to improve the foundations for future economic development.

As though the lessons of the Great Depression and other world economic downturns had not been learned, the world economy was led, in 2008, into a Great Recession triggered by the excess of the U.S. financial market. The recession was to last until 2016.

The new millennium saw a continuation of the contentious trade wars of the past, the protagonists this time were the U.S., China, the U.K. and the European Union (EU). The world’s two largest economies unleashed tariffs against one another, and the U.K., seeking control over its economic destiny, decided, in 2016, to leave the E.U.

But by far the most important event of the third millennium’s first two decades has been the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). Breaking out of China in December 2019, COVID-19 has been the Great Equalizer, sparing no country and ravaging countries regardless of location and economic status. 

To date more than 2 million people have lost their lives around and 25 million people have been infected. The pandemic continues to spread, putting extreme pressure on health systems everywhere. 

On the positive side, a number of vaccines have been invented and are in the process of being rolled out. 

The new millennium is only into its second decade, but numerous bad things have already happened.

Would that rest of its first century – especially the current decade – were to be attended by less pain and more happiness for the world’s peoples.

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