2023: New Year, Old Lessons


Abdul Samad Khan

The end of December opens up two folds. On one hand, it tells us about the previous twelve months and all about what happened there, and on the other hand, it tries to unveil the possible picture of the coming year-the New Year. The anecdotes of such debates show that mostly the nature of the previous year continues, though in an altered or replicated form. Notwithstanding this, the end of December helps open up a window of prediction for the New Year based on the last twelve months or more of experience. The world today, in general, and Pakistan in particular, have a slew of issues left over from the previous year and even previous years. Now that they have stepped into a new year, they need to address their issues and learn from the mistakes of the past so they don’t repeat them.
The contemporary world has got stuck in a perpetual scuffle between the developing and developed worlds, the global north and south debate, and the haves and have-nots, among others. It is struggling with malaises like climate change, food insecurity, an energy crisis, poor social infrastructure (poverty, health, and education), and the deleterious geopolitical-induced great power rivalry.
Though some consider climate change a myth, it has shaken the whole world to its core. Several extreme weather events can demonstrate its perilous nature. What the world has done so far. Nothing. It has yet to come out of the pointing fingers and blaming game. Practical work has become a daydream. From the proper and full implementation of the Paris Agreement to the provision of climate justice, all are just words. The world has not yet come out of its personal and selfish sphere, where it exploits even serious issues for personal interests. The prevailing climate politics between the developing and developed worlds over greenhouse gas emissions must be driven only for the sake of setting the climate dilemma aside. It must not be used as a propaganda tool, and even Trumpian-style politics must be stopped. This new year will loudly repeat this old lesson in hopes of learning something from it.
Though it may appear utopian, today’s world, mired in geopolitical wrangling, should put an end to it and return to a responsible and cooperative international order. However, this is a must-remember lesson from previous years. This has been the core reason behind the introverted and exclusive world of this moment, which has left many issues unaddressed and pushed the great powers to be at loggerheads with one another for personal petty causes at the cost of global ones. From the American continent and Western Asia to the Middle East and Europe downward to Eurasian and Caucuses region and from Africa to East Asia via South Asia, the whole world is presenting a thrilling scene of geopolitical wrestling among world key players, e.g, US-China in the whole Indo Pacific region, Iran- GCC in the Middle East among others. This has exacerbated the prevailing global issues like the energy crisis, inflation, climate crisis, and food insecurity, among others. Thus, this has been one of the key lessons that need to be learnt properly how to address it.
The prevailing energy crisis also needs some serious attention since it has the power to shake the whole world once in a while. It is the origin of multiple crises and, in fact, a “holy crisis” phenomenon. The energy crisis is triggered by several factors: the perpetual and mismanaged use of nonrenewable or traditional energy sources and a minimum reliance on renewable energy sources.
The prevailing geopolitical menace is constantly disturbing the smooth flow of hydrocarbons to the international market, as in the case of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine standoff from a global perspective. The Western sanctions on Russia blocked the flow of Russian gas to the international market and, thus, gave birth to a new energy world order where the Western world took a shift to the Middle Eastern world and some other Latin American countries to cater to its energy needs and Russia turned towards the East to provide gas and oil to China, India and other nations in the region. Saudi Arabia, an OPEC member, refused to fill the void left by the Ukraine war by extracting significant amounts of oil and gas. The minimum amount of available gas and oil in the international market has turned into a curse and triggered several serious issues.
The soaring inflation has been engendered by many issues, like climate change, lack of proper market management, and pandemics, among others. The leaping energy crisis has added fuel to the fire of inflation. Thus, this new year needs a 2.0 energy order based on cooperation to pave the way for climate-friendly energy availability.
Food insecurity is somehow related to the prevailing global issues. Climate change-related effects have significantly contributed to global food insecurity. The changing pattern of rainfall, long absence of rainfall, the faster depleting and melting glacier and havoc caused by storms and cyclones and floods have badly affected the agricultural sector. Moreover, the COVID-19-induced global lockdown disrupted the global supply chain, which in turn exacerbated the agricultural field. Moreover, the prevailing global division between South and North has widened the gap between the haves and have-nots, thereby increasing the food insecurity risk of the third world. The year 2023, has to do away with this issue too.
While diving deep, one may find out the core reason behind the contemporary tumultuous world. Today’s world is completely introverted and exclusive, and it takes everything up for its own interests. Therefore, such a chaotic world needs not to work in the same and must leave a place for an inclusive global society. The only solution to all the above is to think out of the box in the best favour of humanity and this is a daunting task for the year 2023 and the years to come.