Beyond this COVID Pandemic.

At this poignant time, it feels appropriate to look forward with hope and trust and self belief.   It seems to me that our future,  peace, happiness, prosperity, and indeed our long-term survival  are all contingent on two big challenges. Both challenges are deep rooted and will more difficult to resolve than this pandemic.

Challenge 1: Extremism, combined with misinformation.

Evidence grows every month of racists and religious extremists influencing the destabilisation of societies and democracies around the world by distorting the truth over the internet. There is increasing evidence of misinformation being used by extremists to incite social unrest and violence.  Viral misinformation, spreading via social media,  has altered the trajectory of some of the world’s most advanced democracies. This is a global problem. Two of the more significant examples have been (1) Tump gaining power following the US election in 2016, and in the same year (2) people of the United Kingdom voted for Brexit. There is a clear link between the use of misinformation and the rise in right-wing populism, as illustrated by the Trump administration and Johnson-led Conservative Government. Both are undeniably in power due to misinforming and misleading the voting populations during a mendacious campaigns and an outrageously dishonest referendum.

This situation is exacerbated when foreign powers successfully engage in the same practice, interfering and destabilising the politics and economies of other countries. It is clear there are  adversarial powers who are intent on undermining our values and disrupting our society in the UK. It is trivial for them to use social media to augment the lies and deceitful rhetoric published by some of our most powerful politicians, a group of political leaders who themselves appear to be shortsighted and morally corrupt.

If and when we manage to turn this around, the damage caused by the resent resurgence in right-wing populism  remains immense.  Since winning  US elections four years ago, Trump has been systematically wrecking  much of the domestic, geopolitical and economic progress made by the US over recent decades. In the case of the UK , thanks to Boris Johnson and his elite supporters, we are about to regress by 50 years in the maturity of our relationship with the EU.

It is imperative that we find a better way of providing free speech across the internet.  We must work out how to check and manage the content that is published on the internet to check it’s validity and authenticity, and ensure that it is not malicious and that integrity and honesty prevails.  At this juncture, I don’t think we have an agreed solution to this self destructive vulnerability.   We have some great technology to assist, we just not have the global governance or legislative powers (yet).

We are getting good at automated linguistics / pattern recognition and applying  artificial intelligence. With some level of human oversight there will be a way to manage this better.   The Social Media companies will have to answer to a higher level of authority that can regulate a safe operating model and has the power to shut them down if they don’t follow their obligations.  It’s going to be complicated, negotiations will be difficult, but we just need to get on with it and make it happen.

Peace, in our time, is fragile. It must be cherished and preserved right now, for our children and future generations.

Challenge 2: Sustainability.

I quite often blog about  the impact climate change.  A necessary outcome of the Coronavirus has been an increase in home working and reduction in frivolous retail consumption and unnecessary travel. This has resulted in a significant reduction in our carbon footprint.  The media is doing a pretty good job at keeping everyone better informed about  the effects of global warming,  sustainability and the transition to renewables and most governments are committing to ongoing reductions in carbon footprints. .

There is plenty of statistical evidence of climate change in the public domain.  However, with the current level of international effort on sustainability,  we are still inflict irreversible damage on the World’s eco-system. All we’re achieving is a reduction at the  speed at which we killing our planet.

Most people in the UK will have noticed that the seasons seem to be changing. We are aware that Spring is starting much earlier now and it has become almost ‘normal’ to experience the effects or extreme weather at various times in the year.   We are routinely breaking records for highest rainfall and hottest days and we have been subject to an unusually high incidents of flooding and massive fires around the world.

Global warming will mean less ice and snow.   The mass of ice in the Greenland ice-sheet is visibly in decline, with the summer melt exceeding the winter accumulations each year.  I’ve been reading about a huge ice burg,  twice the size of Luxembourg, which is adrift in the Antarctic. It is called A-65a  and has as a surface area of 5,800 km². It began it’s journey almost three years ago when it broke away from the main ice cap.A-65a is currently  bearing down on South Georgia. presenting a major risk to marine life in the area.  Satellite images taken last week showed a number of fissures across the surface, indicating it is fracturing into several smaller parts as it moves into the shallower waters off the continental shelf.

British Antarctic Survey, a world leading centre for polar science and operations, is preparing to set sail  for South Georgia to on the RRS James Cook survey ship.   The ship is owned by the National Oceanography Centre, and on it, BAS will be taking a couple of autonomous submarines that will glide around the iceburg for several months  to observe it’s impact on the local environment.  I plan to follow the progress of this mission during 2021.

To put it into context, A-65A is the fourth largest ice burg we have observed.  B-15 was the largest ice burg recorded with a surface area of 11,00 km² (bigger than Jamaica).  B-15 also became detached from the Antarctic sheet quite recently,  in March 2000.  B-15 fragmented in 2005 into many smaller parts, sone of which was still being observed in 2018 between the Falklands and South Georgia.

I’ve noticed that has been hardly any ground frost this winter. On checking the Met office stats, it turns out that last year (2019) was the sixth consecutive year with fewer ground frosts than each previous year.  The Met Office  website regularly published statistics that confirm we are moving through a period of accelerated climate change. On the NASA Climate Change website  they’ve published statistical evidence that nineteen of the twenty hottest years ever on record have all occurred since 2000 (i.e.  in the last 20 years)!


We are in a volatile situation at the moment, both geopolitically and within the societies of our nation states. If we can get through this fragile period of peace and order (without collapsing into anarchy, strife and a third world war) then I believe that climate change will be the biggest threat to our long term future.  This is about the survival of humanity and life on Earth.

Perhaps dealing with climate change will be the one thing that brings the inhabitants of our planet together.

References and links:

Conclusion to earlier research (October 2020). Post titled: ‘Sustainability – what can I do about it?’

Study on how to augment ‘Ultra Low Emission Vehicle’ schemes: Post titled: ‘Electric Bus: next sustainable step?’

Met Office on effects of climate change in the UK, on this link

NASA  on global temperature and average anomalies – Headline – link

National Oceanography Centre – Tracking A-68 Here is the link 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on global warming trends  on this link