You hear it. You read it. You stream it. You can taste it. You can smell it. You feel it. It’s palpable. Nobody can escape it. The challenges that inhabit the beginning of 2022, shall serve to define the remainder of the year. What are these challenges? How might they shape the form, texture, and experience of the year ahead? As in nature, the existence and dominance of Alpha challenges serve to influence the trajectory and nature of the human experience.
Woof, warp and the weave
So, we will use the alphabet in this piece to illuminate the predominant challenges that will continue to shape the fabric of life on Earth in 2022. Keep in mind that the woof and warp of 2022, like any other segment of time, will be shaped by the unexpected. Like any snapshot in time, the fabric of 2022 will be defined by the warp — the threads that run the length of the fabric — and the woof — the threads that run across the pattern to create the design we will look at back on in 2023.
Yet, if we identify the current colors, textures and types of yarn we possess at the beginning of the year, it is possible to envision the interaction of these challenges and how they might weave together to form the tapestry of our reality in 2022.
The Alpha Bet for 2022
A. Afghanistan and advocacy
Afghanistan is ravaged by an absence of resources and international support. Thousands are dying from starvation and lack of adequate medical care. Afghanistan needs immediate help.
Expect new forms of advocacy to emerge from people, causes, and organizations globally. The challenge to be heard as advocates for meaningful change is complicated and fraught with frustration. Expect 2022 to contain new forms of advocacy to bring attention to issues that require resolution. Unfortunately, the exasperation experienced by advocates for social change will also include the emergence of new forms of violence; from both individuals and collectively.
B. Beyond beliefs
When contemplating 2022, the necessity for action is apparent. Yet, the essential components of this action will be grounded in the human capacity for compassion, communication, collaboration, and cooperation. The progress on the climate challenge in 2021 does not bode well for the essential actions required for tangible progress.
C. Covid, China, climate change
Worldwide, Covid has taken the lives of more than 5.6 million human beings. It will be with us throughout 2022. China is rattling sabers over their claims to the South China Sea, Taiwan and plans for enhancing their power globally. Let’s be honest, progress toward a coordinated, collaborative global approach to implementing actual solutions to the climate challenge has regressed. In 2021, Earth experienced a surge in greenhouse gas emissions and demonstrated our seemingly intractable reliance upon fossil fuels as the primary source for the existing economic engines that require the same. 2021 was a massive disappointment for climate change advocacy. The clock is ticking.
Democracy is under siege across the globe. This is particularly apparent in the United States. Ongoing efforts by the Republican Party to implement the new restrictive right to vote legislation, and how and who may count votes on a state and local level, is undermining the fundamental principles upon which U.S. democracy was founded.
E. Energy and economy
The transition from fossil fuels to sustainable sources of energy is imperiled. For governments, maintaining economic prowess relies upon the currently available sources of energy. The absence of an array of available fiscal incentives to make this transition successful is exasperating, yet all too real.
In 2021, the CATO Institute published a study entitled the American Fear Index. The implications of the study are apparent for all of us, wherever we might reside:
- “fear, risk, threat, and danger is up sharply over the past few years;”
- the experience of living amidst rising fear and anxiety levels “is simply a response to an increasingly dangerous world;”
- the ongoing, elevated levels of the fear index “represent not a healthy marketplace of ideas but instead one held captive to propaganda.”
Gallup released a recent poll that indicates American voter’s confidence in their elected officials is at 20%. Translation: Government bodies remain captives within a crisis of confidence. How might this fact contribute to more turmoil in 2022?
H. Hunger, homelessness, healthcare
Need I say anything about these subjects?
I. Iran, Internet, innovation
There exists a palpable inertia today whereby governments are spending untold resources responding to crises rather than innovating and creating practical solutions to people’s problems. Crises have a tendency to mute innovation. In 2022, expect the instability and insecurity of the internet to come to the forefront. Furthermore, I fully expect Iran’s ongoing pursuit of nuclear capabilities will result in some form of foreign military intervention in 2022.
The right to free speech and a free press remains under siege. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 8 out of 10 murderers of journalists are never brought to justice. CPJ suggests we pay attention to a stark trend: “a growing intolerance of independent reporting.”
Yes, expect the crazies to be out in force in 2022. Terrorism and violence by individuals and groups will continue to be a part of our life experience this year.
Labor shortages continue to challenge economies around the globe. This condition will persist in 2022, gathering momentum from the persistent pandemic and baby boomers retiring from the workforce (especially in the U.S.).
M. Migration and money
The crypto craze will continue in 2022; yet, not without some spectacular frauds and failures. Migration will continue to escalate in 2022 as people seek shelter, safety, and sustenance in new countries. How might compassion be injected into the recipe for those displaced in this gathering storm?
N. Nuclear proliferation
With North Korea, Iran, and Saudi Arabia now in various stages of developing this capability, expect 2022 to contain plenty of anxiety surrounding these ever-increasing threats to global stability and security.
O. Outer Space
From space junk to spaced-based weaponry, expect new and different challenges to emerge in this arena.
P. Paralysis politics
Particularly in the U.S., nothing of any substance is being accomplished in the U.S. Congress for the voters who placed their trust in them. Expect ongoing polarization to continue to divide nations and cause ongoing angst. The victims will remain those whose hopes will continue to be dashed.
From fake Covid tests to purported miracle cures for an array of diseases – expect quackery to escalate in 2022 in both frequency, form, and breadth.
I was in Los Angeles, CA on April 29, 1992, when the Rodney King verdict was announced. I was literally locked behind the chained doors of the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard when the rioting erupted…the first of five days of rioting, arson, looting, and mayhem. King’s utterance of “Can’t we just all get along together?” remains an intractable, elusive question.
S. Science and sacrifice
If Covid has taught us anything, science-based public health recommendations that require humans to sacrifice and/or change can create an atmosphere of a compliance conundrum – particularly in democracies. Expect even more, and different challenges to arise that, once again, require human cooperation with the counsel of the scientific community. It won’t be pretty.
What has become of “the truth?” As evidenced by the ongoing exploits of Donald Trump, the truth has become more vulnerable than ever to its’ antithesis - propaganda. Propaganda has its foundation in fear and falsehoods. Expect propaganda to continue to infect truth-seeking and provoke even more polarization and outbreaks of conflict.
The unknown will become vastly more valuable in 2022, as the tipping points of the climate crisis begin to reveal the necessity for the humility we require.
Although violence appears to be an ever-present, enduring enemy of human societies, expect 2022 to include numerous instances of violence and terrorism that shock your already maligned sense of conscience.
W. Water and weather
Both will continue to wreak havoc around the planet. Accelerated by fear, scarcity and unpredictability – both water and weather are fundamental to human existence. However, when changes impair the availability of water and extreme weather patterns prove destructive, a threat to human life, agriculture, etc., humans respond accordingly.
The unexpected is as real as yesterday – and will shape our collective tomorrows. Our relentless pursuit of certainty will illuminate the intrinsic value of questions – the ones we failed to imagine and anticipate in 2022.
This enduring dimension of human cognitive capacity will be uniquely challenged in 2022. As the nature of complex problems become more apparent, we humans will receive a new appreciation for the notion of why.
Zealots need not be crazies. Common synonyms for the term zealot include fiend, fanatic, and devotee. Expect zealotry to continue to grow and metastasize in 2022 fueled primarily by fear, insecurity, government dysfunction, and the ongoing, evolving threats to human survival.
The challenges we currently face, along with those that shall emerge, are formidable. What will we weave out of this basket of threads? The tapestry of 2022 will be formed by how effectively we knit together enduring solutions to persistent problems.
Think about it.