Historians are looking back to the Civil War era to find an equivalent Congress so unable to perform its duties. An unknown 20-something-year-old now rules one of the darkest, nuclear building regimes in the world. Global greenhouse gas emissions have us not inching toward irreversible climate impact, but rushing toward it. Civil war is breaking out in Syria. This is how the year of 2011 ends. Throw in other looming problems like Afghanistan, the federal deficit — you get the picture — right now 2011 (fill in expletive deleted).
But (this is pretty big BUT) this is not to say that 2011 didn’t have some considerable high points. Who would have thought that the world’s No. 1 terrorist, Osama bin Laden and the world’s No. 1 despot, Muammar Kadaffi would both be gone within months of each other? The world is indeed a better place without them. Most notable for 2011 high points is the Arab Spring. Although the struggles for democratic reform are far from over, the trajectory for reform in the Muslim world is well underway and can’t be stopped. We even came to the aid of Libya with NATO leading and no American boots on the ground. Instead of engaging in another war we used “smart power” (an overarching diplomatic approach now being used by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton). These are positive developments for freedom and humanity throughout the world.
Yet 2011 will likely be remembered for the wrath of the Japan tsunami. Despite the efforts of man to detect earthquake activity, to build sea walls, to warn and train civilians in one of the world’s most technologically sophisticated countries, the unpredictable, violent side of nature ruled. And it will continue to rule. We remain subject to the whims of nature. This is a poignant reminder for all us. Some countries like Japan and Germany are now reexamining the viability of nuclear power and cutting back. Other countries from Turkey to Chile are retreating from the nuclear solution. We should be doing the same.
Instead we seem to be once again relying on our technological ability to rescue us. According to the Obama Administration, the Gulf of Mexico is 90 percent restored and we can safely pursue oil development in the Arctic. Instead of notching up oversight regulations as recommended by the Gulf Oil Spill Commission, the state of Alaska becomes the only state in the nation to abandon a program to responsibly develop and protect coastal resources. Instead of being humbled and moving cautiously forward, we find ourselves in 2011 foolishly feeling arrogant enough to pursue oil and gas wherever it lies.
Now, I’ve gone and done it again . . . got all down again about political developments here in the U.S. and in Alaska. What about Occupy Wall Street? At long last a people’s revolt over the undue influence of corporate control and the Republicans’ need to protect the wealthy at all costs. Maybe it will coalesce into a sustaining political movement for 2012. And here at home, what about the state Senate standing up to “Governor Oil First” in refusing to enhance the profitability of Alaska’s oil and gas companies to the tune of $2 billion a year without commitments in return? It was a welcome display of honesty, common sense, and putting the needs of Alaskans first.
Hooray, there are some silver linings to lead us into 2012. Here is another silver lining I recently found on Fox News which was hosting a round table on “Signs the U.S. Economy is Recovering.” According to economist Michael Norman, “In spite of everything — we had the debt ceiling debacle in the summer, all this negative news about Europe — we see sequential growth. The second quarter was faster than the first. The third quarter was faster than the second. I think the economy looks like it’s picking up momentum. We’re starting to see a positive glimmer of hope in the housing market with pending sales really shooting up. And we are creating jobs. It’s certainly not where we’d like to have it right now, but it’s impressive to see the momentum in the growth despite everything that has happened so far.” If Fox News can talk positively about the economy then perhaps it’s really happening. The economy on a slight up-swing as we enter 2012? Sounds good to me.
Another silver lining from the 2011 close-out is that we’re so frozen politically, election year politics will just mean more of the same instead of the usual down cycle into endless bickering. And of course, we can delight in not having Sarah Palin as a political player anymore — sorry Tina Fey. If these silver linings are not enough to put some hope into the prospects of 2012 you can always resort to the tried and true saying, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” And for those tuned into astrology, there is always the prospect of entering the Chinese Year of the Dragon. In fact, 2012 is the Year of the Water Dragon to be specific. The last time it was the Year of the Water Dragon was in 1952, the year of my birth. So regardless of all that has befallen me as the year closes, next year is to be my year. Bring it on 2012!
• Troll is a Douglas resident.