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Five Cheers for 2021

After a year of death, despair, and deep uncertainty, there are glimmers of light on the horizon. Not only is responsible leadership returning to the United States, but there is new momentum behind efforts to address some of the biggest and most urgent challenges of our time.

LONDON – A lot of chickens came home to roost this year. The COVID-19 pandemic was not some random thunderbolt from out of the blue, but rather a man-made “natural” disaster, holding up a mirror to so many of our bad habits and dangerous – indeed, lethal – practices.

After all, the coronavirus’s transmission from bats to humans was a product of mass urbanization and destructive encroachment on natural habitats, and its rapid spread was a result of over-industrialization, frenetic trade, and contemporary travel habits. Likewise, the world’s inability to come together to contain the crisis reflects the extent to which governance capacity lags behind hyper-globalization.

Many of these failings were evident before the virus hit, with people in many countries embracing nationalist and populist leaders who promised decisive action in a world that seemed out of control. But though this has been a difficult year, there are at least five reasons to be cheerful about 2021.