I don’t know when this feeling started but I believe it must have been around 2-3 years ago. There is no one trigger event, but rather an amortization of reported news that gave me that latent feeling of impending doom.
To name but a few that come to mind:
- war in Syria,
- refugee crisis,
- political shift to the extremes and resurgence of nationalist, right-wing parties all over Europe,
- Trump (domestically),
- climate change,
- global warming,
- air-, land-, water-pollution,
- insect shortage in Europe and bees dying,
- growing income disparity in many Western countries,
- Trump (internationally),
- Russian fighter jets on Europe’s Eastern borders, Putin rhetoric,
- Russian meddling in Western democracies‘ elections,
- China’s ambitions and military spending,
- North Korea.
Some of these are interconnected and fuel each other. There are links between the refugee crisis and climate change for example (Syria experienced an extreme drought from 2007 to 2010 that may have displaced farmers and contributed to social unrest / some studies suggest climate refugee numbers will increase significantly), and the fact that Europe seems to be imploding while Trump is questioning whether NATO still makes sense in his „America first“ agenda is unfortunate in its simultaneous occurrence.
I realize I write this sitting in – alleged – paradise, but when you look beyond the great weather and beautiful palm beaches thinks appear differently.
When you do look closer, you see a country that is not managing its garbage: on rainy days you don’t want to surf in Weligama bay or anywhere else where a river is closeby. Sri Lanka is one of the worst offenders regarding mismanaged plastic waste (Source: Economist) „On current trends, by 2050 there could be more plastic in the world’s waters than fish, measured by weight“ writes the Economist. So this is an issue (albeit not the #1 environmental issue the article continues to argue)
In the US a man that seems to be unable to formulate one coherent sentence has been elected president, having had the scales tipped in his favor by Russian intervention on social media (the evidence seems pretty clear). The speed in which his administration is messing up international trade and affairs as well as removing environmental and other domestic protections that make life easier for corporations and the richest of the richest only is breathtaking. In Germany, my impression was there was a palpable yet maybe somewhat irrational feeling that nuclear armageddon is now around the corner when he was elected. If you listen to Colbert or John Oliver, we weren’t the only ones thinking that way.
So in summary, it seems that we are driving our planet against the wall at full speed, and it makes you wonder whether we will have access to unpolluted food sources and space to live in, in a couple of decades. Or whether some maniac will just hit the nuclear red button and cause complete annihilation.
Now I do realize that part of the reason I (anyone else?) feel overwhelmed by all the negative news is that we live in a world where negative news can and will be reported. That was not always the case. Ignorance was and is bliss.
So how to cope with the news onslaught that is focused on the negative? Not read news anymore? Me personally, that makes me feel bad for being a completely uninformed member of society (although I do disengage quite often). But how can you cope with all the depressing news, feel compassion with the lot of people in warzones – every day and remain positive and sane? Burying your face in the sand seems like a really viable tactic that I can totally relate to.
Any light at the end of the tunnel here?
Apparently, there is a book out by a guy named Stephen Pinker („Enlightenment now“). He argues that overall, humanity has made incredible progress in the last century or so. I am quoting the book review on Economist here:
The world is about 100 times wealthier than 200 years ago and, contrary to popular belief, its wealth is more evenly distributed. The share of people killed annually in wars is less than a quarter of that in the 1980s and half a percent of the toll in the second world war. During the 20th century Americans became 96% less likely to die in a car crash, 92% less likely to perish in a fire and 95% less likely to expire on the job.
Additionally, people are becoming more intelligent, and prices for many things that used to be luxuries in past times have fallen so that low-income families can afford them (electricity, color tvs, refrigerators, vacations to Mallorca).
I think his argument is that on an overall scale humanity is better off than previously, and that we can tackle many of the problems we created and solve them (we have done so in the past with many illnesses for example).
Let’s hope that we will be able to do so for all of the above as well.
In any case, it seems like a worthwhile read, if only to lift ones spirits.