Apocalypse 2020: This Year So Far

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Apocalypse 2020: This Year So Far

We’ve all been thinking it: 2020 is going overboard. Our attention has been fixed on the coronavirus pandemic for so long, though, that you may not have noticed some of the other apocalyptic events that have hit us this year. We’re only half way through the year and already we’ve seen enough events that prove – to this writer anyway – that 2020 is, indeed, the year of the apocalypse. Strap in, we still have six months to go.

locust plague 2020

A man attempts to fend off a swarm of desert locusts at a ranch near the town of Nanyuki, in Kenya’s Laikipia county. Photograph: Baz Ratner/Reuters

We have Biblical locust plagues

Countries across Asia, the Middle East and Africa have been experiencing titanic swarms of locusts throughout 2020. In fact, Kenya has seen the worst swarms of desert locusts in 70 years. India and Pakistan are facing more locusts than they’ve had to deal with in a quarter of a century. Echoing the language used to describe the COVID-19 pandemic, experts are calling it “an unprecedented threat to food security”.

They descend upon crops and farmlands in clouds that block out the sun. For those with an insect phobia, this must be a nightmare, more terrifying on account of the fact that it’s not fiction. While one locust alone may not seem like much, massive swarms of them can pose a grave threat to millions. They appear and disappear extremely suddenly, and farmers can do nothing but watch in dismay.

Pranar Baskar writes for NPR that “If the 2020 version of these marauders stays steady on its warpath, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation says desert locusts can pose a threat to the livelihoods of 10% of the world’s population”.

He describes the swarms as “gargantuan masses of tens of billions of flying bugs. They range anywhere from a square third of a mile to 100 square miles or more, with 40 million to 80 million locusts packed in half a square mile”. One swarm recorded in Northern Kenya was so gigantic that it would blanked the city of Paris 24 times over. Not to mention, these things can travel (and devour) hundreds of kilometres in a single day, and are impacting countries that are already vulnerable for a number of other reasons.

If that doesn’t sound horrifying, I don’t know what does. These bugs alone are enough for me to proclaim the end of the world. That’s it. I’m out.

murder hornets 2020

species of bees, hornets and wasps found in North America, compared for size.
Source: WSDA

But wait, there are also murder hornets

Ugh. Bugs again. But these ones keep coming and going – popping in and out of the apocalypse narrative like some kind of glitch in the matrix.

It should probably be stated that the nickname “murder hornet” is a little dramatic. Technically, these insects – Asian giant hornets, or Vespa mandariniaget their name from the way they kill bees, not humans. Douglas Main writes for NatGeo that “Asian giant hornets can destroy an entire bee colony in 90 minutes by decapitating the workers and feasting on the larvae”. That on its own is probably the main cause for concern.

Yeah, they’re MASSIVE (the world’s biggest species of wasp, in fact) in comparison to most other wasps and bees, but you’ll probably only get stung if you get in their way. Japan’s death toll for people stung by V. mandarinia is only about 30 to 50 people per year (and many of those were allergic to insect venom). Unlike bees, who die after stinging, they can sting their prey multiple times, so best give them a wide berth.

These murder hornets, common in parts of Asia, made their way into the news after seeming to suddenly appear in North America. They’re probably less of a threat than the locusts, but let’s keep an eye on them just in case.

Climate change is hitting us HARD

Creepy crawlies aside, we have some massive environment issues developing.

We started the year with deadly bushfires in Australia, and the Amazon looking like a furnace. In the first month of 2020 alone we saw fatal flooding and landslides in Indonesia, Earthquakes rocking just about every corner of the globe, and an avalanche in Kashmir caused by the heaviest snowfall to hit the Himalayan region in a century.

Evidence is beginning to show that due to global warming, diseases are spreading faster than they have in the past. Dengue has been burning through Latin America at a shocking– and again, unprecedented – rate. The only reason you probably haven’t seen it in the news much is because everything, including newly emerged cases of Ebola in Africa, are being overshadowed by COVID-19. But that doesn’t make them less important.

Between floods, droughts and those locusts –also, by the way, a side-effect of climate change– Kenya sounds like it’s about to disappear altogether. And if we’re talking about countries who are having a hard time, there’s one that we can’t go without mentioning.

Yemen

A home in Yemen that was hit by a missile. It used to house four families.
Credit: OCHA/ Charlotte Cans

Yemen is on the verge of collapse

The country has been embroiled in civil war for years, with the UN calling it “the world’s largest humanitarian disaster” – and people aren’t paying enough attention.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), “An estimated 80 percent of the population — 24 million people — require some form of humanitarian or protection assistance, including 14.3 million who are in acute need. Severity of needs is deepening, with the number of people in acute need a staggering 27 percent higher than last year. Two-thirds of all districts in the country are already pre-famine, and one-third face a convergence of multiple acute vulnerabilities.”

Yemenis have been bombarded by flooding that has displaced over 100,000 people. A 2019 cholera outbreak was the second-worst in global history, and it still isn’t under control. According to the Centre for Disease Philanthropy, Yemen is one of the world’s more water-poor countries, and they’re on the verge of running out all together. Only about half of the households in Yemen have access to safe drinking water.

Yemeni homes are being destroyed by relentless air raids, and UNICEF estimates that a child dies every ten minutes from preventable diseases– and that number is growing every year. Since April, like the rest of the world, they’ve also had to deal with COVID-19.

For many people who are trapped in the middle of this crisis, the world has already come to an end.

Global tensions are running high

On top of everything else we have to stress about, small conflicts are brewing all across the globe, many of which have the potential to become a lot more serious. We only narrowly missed a brawl between India and China, and thank goodness the trigger-happy Kim Jong-Un seems to have cooled off slightly of late. The relief that this brings is short-lived, though, as there are other important clashes vying for our attention.

There’s constant conflict between Nile riparian countries Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, about the latter’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). According to Al Jazeera‘s Mehari Taddele Maru, “Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have held tripartite negotiations over the Nile for the past seven years. The contention between the three countries has been over the use of the river and the GERD.  Ethiopia asserts that the GERD will not harm Egypt. Egypt disagrees”.

The problem here is that, already, multiple other countries have become involved in the dispute. and the proxy conflict doesn’t seem likely to end. Even the USA has been involved in negotiations.

Speaking of the US…

Donald Trump 2020

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Donald Trump is still possibly the most powerful man in the world

And somehow he still hasn’t stopped being ridiculous despite having four years to clean up his act.

This is possibly the scariest sign that the world as we know it has come to an end. Despite the majority of the world considering the man a laughing stock and a narcissist, he managed to become the president of the United States of America. Many, even his detractors, believe he’ll do so again later this year.

With all that’s going on across the globe, this silly man still makes it onto the front page every day. His nonsensical comments and shockingly flippant attitude towards many of these crises attracts more attention in the media than the crises themselves. Everything is politicised and turned into cheap, menial personal attacks, and therefore cannot be analysed for solutions. The fact that our media sinks to this level instead of focusing on the bigger issues at hand and engaging in conversations that educate us as consumers of that media is heart-breaking.

I could go on, but then we’ll be here all week.

To this writer, it’s clear that the world as we know it has come to an end. Much of what we were used to – the comfort of the mundane and the predictable – is gone. Instead we’re submersed in uncertainty and bad news. This is it: Apocalypse 2020.

But there is some hope. As we’ve seen all over the world, societies are standing up to governmental bullying and systemic injustice. Young people are raising their voices in protest against racial prejudices, brutality, and gender-based violence. Life as we’ve been used to it may have come to an end but, perhaps – if we keep directing our attention and our energies to the right places as individuals and media producers – we’ll navigate our way to a new world.

Let’s hope it lives up to our expectations.

 

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