Why the word of the year should be ‘Sustainability’.

“What’s 2016 in a nutshell?”

I choked on my tea as I heard this question. My close friend and I holed ourselves in one corner of a quiet little cafe and decided to engage in some serious man-to-man talk when he popped this question.

“Well, 2016 was a pretty bad year to be honest. I screwed my exams up, there weren’t many good anime out there, what’s good about 2016?”

“Ah. 2016. I’m sure this would be the turning point in history.”

Yeah. It’s a turning point alright. We’ve lost many great souls to 2016, but as far as this essay goes, their deaths will be remembered but not dealt with. After all, we can only remember and pray for them – that’s the most we can do.

But as far as 2016 goes, 2017 does not mark the end of 2016. In fact, 2017 marks the start of the many nascent developments promised in 2016, but it is also the year in which 2016 materialises, for better or worse.

Many dictionaries have looked back far and deep into 2016 to decide on their word of the year. Dictionary.com’s was ‘xenophobia‘, the fear of others. By then, it was already through word searches that trends were found between word searches and world events. That is to say, the Brexit vote, the Trump candidacy and the right-wing movement sweeping across Europe bestowed 2016 this characteristic. Oxford’s was ‘post-truth‘ and Cambridge’s ‘paranoid‘. Painfully, these words come back to etch in memory the mistakes we’ve made, but while humanity is still caught up in retrospection, we should move to the next step – to deal with those very problems. Dealing with these problems goes about in 2 ways – to maintain the status quo or to alleviate conditions necessary to rectify these mistakes made. Unfortunately we don’t have the time for that. Quite literally.

Just a few days ago, scientists moved the ‘Doomsday Clock’ to 2.5 minutes before 12 following the start of a Trump Presidency. That decision was difficult yet within range of understanding. For that, we will have to understand many of his actions. His political movement was swift and well-accepted, but for all it’s worth, it’s a far cry from that of Obama. Obama gave concrete plans on “Yes We Can”, Donald Trump didn’t for “Make America Great Again”. To make matters worse, his speeches were wraught with prevarications and empty promises. Immigration? Let’s build a wall (and not care about the economy). Why do people love me? “I’m rich”, he proclaimed. Climate change? It’s a load of bullshit from China. With all that said and (going to be) done, it’s no wonder 2.5 minutes is enough for Trump to end the world.

In a more extrapolated sense, Brexit, the refugee crisis and the current geopolitical situation have played major parts in contributing to this shift in the ‘Doomsday Clock’. It must be stressed further that social issues that continue to plague the world have all concurrently resulted in a drastically declining disaster that is set to leave humanity in ruins. With our cards no longer playing favourably to our very survival, we need to at least put in effort to sustain ourselves.

Firstly, sustainable policy should be key in driving us forward through 2017. For too long has our global economy been already steered towards a head-on collision with Earth’s natural resources. Understanding that modern human lifestyle is built upon economic profit, leisure and convenience should already tell us that there should be a copacetic relationship between the economy and the global resources. While that’s the case, it is still ironic and almost laughable that world leaders constantly preach about sustainable development while nothing has been done for the sake of the sustainable development they chant ever so often. Owing to fears that an investment in sustainable development may force poorer countries to plunge deeper into poverty, countries have welcomed environmental deregulation and the like. Back in 2014, Al Jazeera analysed and released an article regarding the issue of environmental deregulation in Peru, stating the consequences of Peru’s actions. Being penny wise and pound foolish then, the Peruvian government failed to observe ramifications, instead preferring profit over their rich natural heritage. Just last July even, the president of Peru even sought to lower environmental standards further, threatening the very cornerstone of environmental conservation efforts, no matter how glorified they may be. Many parallels can be seen throughout the world. Mexico for instance continues to blast their economic development zones in full force, China, despite President Xi’s rhetoric during the World Economic Forum, continues to blast in full force their completely unsustainable usage of coal, upping their coal usage year by year. Even so, the Paris Accord does nothing if no country abides by it due to the dilemma they face between economy and resources, and sustainable policy is hence a failure for not only 2016 but since the Industrial Revolution.

Next, sustainable politics should be the main focus of 2017 now that far right separatists and politicians have stepped up their game in local politics, driving out any efforts in maintaining the status quo that is the diversity of their own home countries. Already, The Donald has signed executive orders on immigration to limit the refugees for the fear of terrorist attacks. To avoid parroting extensively, might I remind that almost every news source and analysis has suggested that it’s more likely for an American to be killed by another than for an American to be killed by a refugee. France’s Marine Le Pen and Germany’s Frauke Petry have all threatened the existence of a multicultural society in both countries. As mentioned, “penny wise and pound foolish” would be the only way for them to make France and Germany great in one moment and plunge their nations into despair the next. Their policies can also threaten the growth of the workforce and in the same vein, the entire national economy. The UK’s very own version of that happened, now it’s France and Germany. That can only mean that such politics will immediately launch people into mutual suspicion such that feudal societies might not be a thing of the past anymore. Such politics does not concern immigration only, but also other aspects of the society such as the environment. With politics already further influenced by feelings, it should no longer be a surprise that Trump’s rhetoric against climate change is anything but logical, and that when baseless assumptions and feelings are regarded as fact, sustainable politics becomes what we know as a lie, or as what Kellyanne Conway would call it, ‘alternative facts’.

Finally, sustainable societies should be the way to go. For far too long has the society been living in disrepair where men and women are objectified, races are hunted and religion becomes a reason to murder. A sustainable society promises that all members of the society can get together as one to improve their lives through love, but for all that’s worth, with the rise of the popularity of the far-right, the possibility of having an accepting society gradually thins. Furthermore, with the continued obstinate adoption of aged old traditions that limit the rights of certain groups, a sustainable society is all the more impossible. Japan’s glass ceilings for women in the workplace has always been an issue because the Japanese believe that the women should submit. The 45th President’s ruthless gimmick over Mexicans and Muslims has left them shuddering when making eye contact with the whites. What’s more to say, when an insouciant, self-centred and ignorant society is a precursor for such instability?

To put things in perspective, 2016 is screwed.

With that, I don’t have any word for the year of 2016. All I wish is to be able to put ‘sustainability’ as my word of the year for 2017.


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