Jim Crawford: Looking at winners and losers from 2021

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 6, 2022

The winner of 2021 was nature, and it was not even a close call.

The planet has announced that it is not pleased with the impact of humans. Giant tornados, increasing numbers of hurricanes and typhoons, flooding and torrential rains, mega-fires burning bigger and longer and hotter, combined with melting ice caps and the loss of half of the planet’s coral reefs since the 1950s, all tell their story.

All have been part of the announcement by nature that all is not well.

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We humans can no longer agree on much at all, but no thoughtful, informed human could argue against the stark reality that the planet is under siege and is responding by threatening the human species. Yet some among us still attempt to use the reductionisms that nature is constantly changing and humans have only a marginal ability to influence those changes. That argument concludes that little can be done to change the planet’s degradation and that anything we might do is costly and bad for business.

Those arguments are simply not valid. 2021 is a loss for humans because the move towards sustainable energy was not limited by knowledge limits or scientific failures but by humans destroying their only home by ignoring real solutions.

So, score one for nature announcing its reaction to the damage humans are doing to the planet, and call it one significant loss for all of us that we are not panic-driven to address this as the number one humanitarian crisis.

The planet also reminded us in 2021 of both the importance and value of human science and the danger the earth can pose to the best human efforts with the COVID-19 pandemic. 2021 gave us vaccines that can save our lives, but nature again demonstrated that it is adaptable in the dangers it can impose on the human residents of the planet with the unseen.

We remain, at best, fragile tenants of the good earth, subject to the whims and flows of a world where danger is never defeated, only managed. And yet still, some among us march to our deaths by refusing the life-saving vaccines for reasons that defy reason and logic.

2021 was a year where truth took another big hit in America when a failed president lied about his defeat and convinced millions of trusting citizens that losing was winning, and votes should not count when they mean loss.

Worse still, many elected officials retold and continue to retell a lie so big, a tale so outrageous, that is a mockery of any form of truth. But the most profound hit the truth has taken in the U.S. is the constant lying extending into recounts and re-recounts that all know will change no tangible outcomes.

They will serve their purpose by undermining trust in the most core elements of the American republic, belief in the vote. That elected Americans would work actively to undermine confidence in the franchise is, of itself, a loss for all of us. It is a treason by the drip, drip, drip destruction of the nation.

But all is not about loss in 2021. American workers returning to jobs have decided they will choose the kind of work they want to do and reject the wages they once had to accept. It is a humanistic revolution, one long overdue, and it is a powerful force for choice in the workplace.

The pandemic reminded us all of the importance of art, creativity, and, most importantly, the need for community, be it at school or lifting helping hands to others more than ever before.

The challenges of 2021 demonstrated the goodness we can give each other in times of great challenge.

Yes, we have been all too many times, a nation of rugged individualists, justifying The Other for our selfish indulgences.

But, as 2021 draws to a close, and we reflect on those who have left us, we do not elevate the extraordinary lives lived for their selfishness, but those whose contributions touched us all. The great artist, composer, caregivers, and medical professionals who gave to all of us are honored in their passing.

We are all in this together in more ways than we acknowledge. That is the message to take from 2021.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.