A new year begins. It will be a good year, better than the year before.
Almost every year is better than the year before – not necessarily better for every individual on earth, but better for the majority of those who inhabit this remarkable planet. In 2021 there will be more food, less hunger, more education, less ignorance, more accessible health care, less suffering, higher standards of living, less poverty, easier transportation, less provincialism — and so on.
Science will provide new and unexpected discoveries. (We’re already benefitting from one of them — vaccines developed more quickly than anyone imagined possible.)
We may not reverse global climate change in the new year, but we will certainly slow it down, just as we did in 2020, despite incredible ignorance at high levels of government. We have a good chance to develop new and better ways to generate and distribute electric power. (Sources say we will need four times as much electric power to meet predictable needs.)
Instead of watching the West dry up and burn, we’ll introduce successful ways to control forest fires, as well as systems to move water from flood areas and oceans to drought-threatened territories.
We will have opportunities to benefit from lessons learned during the past year. We now have an economy totally different from economies of the past. As The Economist magazine put it, 10 years worth of economic transformation was condensed into 10 months. It’s like the transformation from an agricultural economy to a production economy that occurred a century ago.
The new economy – whatever history calls it – will bring troubling changes in the job market, but we have already begun to deal with those changes. For one thing, we must restore a vibrant middle class by closing the ridiculous gap between the struggling poor and the over-compensated rich. Labor unions handled much of that function in the 20th century, but the new economy needs different tools of change. We have already begun to use such tools.
We learned through experience during 2020 that education has powerful “new” digital learning tools to augment traditional teaching methods. Computers can’t replace the classroom experience any more than books have done over the past 500 years. But, like books, computer technologies provide additional learning dimensions. Instead of focusing so much on teaching work-related skills, we will shift to more emphasis on teaching citizenship, values and interpersonal relations.
We learned in recent years that politicians are a necessary part of democratic society. Tea party ideologues, celebrities and successful business leaders don’t know enough about governing to be good elected officials.
Politicians make things happen. They don’t gum up the works with self worship, narrow vision, stubbornness and ego-driven demands. The recent election shows that voters have begun to accept the need for open discussion and reasoned compromise.
We will improve health care services during the coming year. We learned during the past year that some medical services can be provided electronically without visits to the doctor’s office. Dramatically increasing student numbers at medical schools would solve many of out health care issues — perhaps most of them. We must also increase the number of physician surrogates such as nurses, physician assistants and others.
We don’t need the single-payer nonsense Bernie Sanders preaches. It would stifle health care innovation.
Last year brought much-needed progress in racial equality, despite the president’s efforts to stop it. This year, progress will continue. Racist groups and individuals will find their evil influence diminished as minorities grow in numbers, influence and social visibility.
Welcome the new year. Like most new years, it will bring more positive developments than negative set-backs.
Don Gale is a long-time Utah journalist and observer. He has welcomed more new years than most of those who disagree with his optimism.