12 reflections to take you into next year…
- Will everything cost us more?
“After this year’s turbulence people may be hoping for calmer times in the New Year, but the British government intends to invoke Article 50 for Brexit in 2017. This is likely to lead to slowing growth and a rising cost of living from the falling pound. Crucially we are promised the shape of the Brexit plan — can Britain retain much of its current access to EU markets through compromise or will we fall into a ‘hard Brexit’?”
2. Any potential breakthroughs in treating genetic diseases?
“Mitochondrial are small structures inside cells which make energy. Unfortunately, around 1 in 250 births is a baby born with mitochondria that don’t work properly. This leads to disease, and often death. Mitochondrial disease often runs in families and currently there is no cure. However, UK scientists have developed a technique using IVF technology, which can replace the faulty mitochondria in the egg or early embryo. The UK Parliament has now passed a law to allow this technique to be practised and the first licences that allow it to be carried out may be issued in 2017.”
3. Can journalists stop the spread of ‘fake news’?
“2016 was the year ‘fake news’ outperformed real news on social media, most notably during the US Presidential Election. Companies such as Facebook were accused of not doing enough to prevent the spread of falsehoods. Yet, many citizens contribute to this ‘post-truth’ politics. It was no coincidence that many of the fake news stories that went viral during the US Election were those that appealed to pre-existing prejudices of social media users. The challenge for professional journalists in 2017 is how to counter the spread of disinformation amongst citizens who increasingly distrust traditional news media.”
4. Will Trump fuel the flames of global inequality?
“We shortly bid farewell to the most impressive world leader of the contemporary era, who leaves a formidable legacy. His replacement is a follower of public resentment who threatens to demolish it. Obama, like others before him did not sufficiently reform global capitalism. But this requires a commitment to international cooperation and the building of bridges, not walls. The intensification of capitalist inequity that Trump personifies will only fuel — rather than douse — the flames of anger burning amongst the disenfranchised.”
5. Can 2017 accept anymore unchecked consumption?
“2016 saw the USA elect an anti-sustainability president, a man unwilling to face up to environmental degradation. In the past, economic growth has relied on natural resources. Those resources — or at least those resources we could use remotely sustainably — are now all but exhausted. Whether the planet has the capacity to support a new round of unsustainable consumption is highly in doubt. The future for our planet depends on us choosing a path to a more equitable and sustainable future.
“The uncomfortable question that needs to be asked is this: can we protect the Earth’s natural resources for future generations if free market economies across the world continue to grow unlimited, or do we need to find another way? In a post-Brexit UK, where free trade is a prized outcome, this will not be an easy conversation to have, but future generations may depend on it.”
Professor Colin Osborne, Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures
6. Will politics become more feminised?
“From Britain’s second woman Prime Minister, to the specter of the ascendancy of Marine Le Pen in France, to the highly-charged and strikingly, painfully, gendered American presidential campaign, at face value politics appeared to be in the process of becoming feminised. There is a fundamental difference between feminisation and the fulfillment of feminist aspirations, however. Alas, what happened on 8–9 November in the USA was not the much anticipated shattering of the glass ceiling but the shattering of hope”.
7. Can we digitise our health care?
“Precision medicine means the right treatment at the right time for the right person. Genomics gives us genes or markers that can point out if we will respond well or not to things such as a blood anti-clotting agent for instance. To get there we need big changes. We need other technologies to change — health records — social networks — the way we interact with doctors and our health data.”
8. Might we finally get serious about saving energy?
2017 will likely see new policies to encourage further action on smart energy and energy storage; on alternative fuels for aviation; a new strategy on carbon capture, use and storage; and the much anticipated Emissions Reduction Plan, setting out how the UK will meet the fifth carbon budget — and thereby cutting emissions by 57% by 2032.
9. And what next for Europe’s migrant crisis?
“2017 will see intensified debate about migration because the drivers of migration and drivers of migration politics push in opposite directions. Poverty, the quest for new economic opportunities and the effects of conflict cause people to move. Migration politics in Europe is driven by a disconnect between the people and their political leaders. Brexit demonstrates that many people feel let down, left behind and not listened to. Electors in France, Germany and the Netherlands will get a chance to express their discontent with the political establishment. Migrants are likely to pay the price.”
10. We need to make more time to ‘be nice’ next year…
The world of work has been increasingly fast-paced in 2016. This speed perception is created by more interactions online and via social media. People at work are so busy that we may believe we have ‘no time to be nice’. However, against a back-drop of Brexit and global political upheaval, to thrive — and not merely survive — in work in 2017 we need to exercise civility and be much more socially supportive to each other.
11. Surely we’ll sleep better next year?
In 2016, poor sleep cost the UK 200,000 working days or £40bn, equating to 1.86 per cent of GDP. In our hectic world, a good night’s sleep is worth its weight in gold when it comes to improving physical and mental wellbeing. Research has shown listening to music of your choice can help people reach the restorative cycle of sleep more quickly. In 2017, my hope is for sweeter dreams and that the music for better sleep revolution will begin!
12. Any chance I’ll stick to a New Year resolution?
At this time of year, our thoughts and stomachs are full of festive joy; that extra mince pie or two. “It’s okay”, we say, “I’ll diet in the New Year”.
But will you? Such compensatory reasoning is noted by psychologists to be a problem for the pursuit of our longer term health goals but to what extent do we apply similar reasoning to our environmental indiscretions? “It’s okay; I’ll recycle more next year”.