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The year 2023 begins with a promise of better things and new beginnings for me, you and the rest of life. When I read that promise it gave a glimmer in my eye and then faded away again as quickly as it began to appear. It was good. It was promising. But I knew that there were many factors that could bring about those promises. One of those factors was that 2020 had brought out two very big challenges - Covid-19 and climate change. In both cases we had seen first hand how these crises had impacted us all. We saw them up close and personal. And they made a hell of an impact on the world and our lives. That’s not enough to scare anyone about the future! So let's start fresh and focus on what has been going well for everyone.

What have we done? Well we’ve got through the pandemic. People are still dying. There are millions in need of help around the globe. The global economy is in turmoil. There's inflation everywhere which makes everything more difficult. As we move forward into this new year, one thing stands out though.

We've taken control of climate change. You may have heard this before but climate change and ecological problems won’t go away. If anything they will get worse over time due to humans' continued habit of using fossil fuels more than necessary. This means if we try to tackle these issues without drastic actions now, their effects can be irreversible. All we can hope for is some small progress but even that requires us to start taking serious action now. With each passing day now, we're getting closer to meeting the goals set out by COP. Now, to make the change, we need everyone to step up, join hands and make positive changes.

I don't often share this because I feel as though speaking out would not only mean bringing down the barriers of oppression that keep too many people from making positive changes, but also put additional strain on the already strained systems that keep individuals and communities stuck. However, for now, please consider doing so. Let me know what you think if you or someone you know would like to speak up. For now, I'll be focusing on the positives. What do we have going on now that hasn't changed to give us reason to celebrate? Here are three major ways the past two years have changed what this year has all the potential to look like.

First off, technology. Yes, that's right. Technology hasn't changed but technology has become a game changer and continues to improve every day. Before the virus hit and lockdowns took hold across the nation, people were able to stay connected to friends and loved ones from anywhere. They were able to work remotely when needed. From home. Those are just examples of how technology has made life easier. By connecting to loved ones and friends we found we were able to live outside the walls of the house that once served us as being trapped within its confines. We were no longer confined to homes alone. Once we gained access to the internet, video calls became a way of keeping friends and family in touch when distance separated them. Zoom is becoming more and more popular as people use it more and work it into their daily schedules. To see their loved ones when it was all shut down and face-to-face communication that helped reduce stress. Video chats have allowed people to continue to practice social distancing while interacting as well. On top of that, video and audio calls have become much safer. More and more companies have started putting measures in place to protect employees and customers while at their desks or working remotely from home. Businesses are trying to find solutions to keep their customers safe in places where they work and in other spaces where they spend their time indoors. Social distancing and mask wearing are still not ideal but something we are making efforts to eliminate.

The second key factor is social interaction. It's sad to say but in today's society, interactions between families and the community are limited. Whether it is via physical proximity or a phone call. Families need to build relationships outside those shared spaces they interact in most days. They need to connect with others that aren't related to them personally. This creates conflict in the form of fights or arguments. Sometimes the fights can turn into wars whether it's happening on video chat sessions or social media. A war can never be won when the person involved cannot communicate effectively and without distractions. Family gatherings are often reduced with social distance and masks are put in place. Without the proper equipment a conversation can suddenly descend into chaos. Many of today's conversations are virtual and that can lead to a sense of loneliness and isolation that impacts our mental health. These days, our social connections can be based entirely online. Facebook isn't even called social anymore. TikTok is it. Even Skype went dark. No one else can talk to those folks because they can't be in the same space with them. In fact, it's been suggested that the last couple decades of contact between the "real" world and the digital world may have contributed to anxiety disorders in children during development. Children today spend more time on their phones that they do with real people. Kids that are raised in isolated houses, unable to connect socially with those that they are familiar with, develop anxiety disorders that could be transferred to adulthood. Anxiety is something that needs to be addressed as soon as possible and we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that it could affect many adults who are currently struggling with symptoms like depression and grief and loss. Especially those who are not experiencing trauma such as PTSD. Because if we don't take care of the basic human rights of our children, how can we expect them to make decisions which are best for themselves and their peers. How can we expect them to understand social norms and rules or learn responsibility? Parents have to raise kids because of fear. Fear is one reason why young persons are acting out and behaving inappropriately. Some parents blame their child for breaking rules, regulations or boundaries even after they've expressed that behavior in a healthy, loving way. Others put blame on someone else (kids) for having a behavioral issue. Either way there are still so many causes of behavior disorders that can cause people to act inappropriately towards certain people and situations. Again, without addressing this issue in society, we risk leaving our own children exposed to these behaviors when they are younger and unable to make rational choices for themselves when presented with similar situation. Addressing this doesn't solve every problem but it does fix some of them. Hopefully with continued attention towards safety and guidance we can solve many causes of behavioral disorders and stop placing limits to the children who we are raising. Although it does seem strange, I believe this can help our youth grow up being responsible and respectful members of society.

The third important aspect of 2021 and 2022 has been climate change. Climate change is one of the main reasons why many countries and areas throughout the world are suffering from droughts and floods. Droughts and floods can happen to any area or in any season but mostly they occur when temperatures exceed normal levels in nature. Scientists have said it takes several decades to restore natural patterns and recover from harm caused by humans. While there are steps in the right direction and progress being made in some places, climate change is still causing the earth to warm up and experience extreme weather. Humans have increased greenhouse gas emissions and because of that heat is rising which will further damage ecosystems and contribute to climate change. Heatwaves have already killed thousands of Canadians and Europe has been affected from wildfires. Wildfires typically spread as fast as wildfire can burn trees or grasses. Hot air moves faster and warmer air rises higher above land surfaces. During this summer, temperatures are expected to rise to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Experts predict the summers of 2050, 2100 and 2500 will likely feature hot and wild weather events. Extremely high temperatures are thought to amplify existing climate effects from drought, low rainfall during winter, water shortages, and increase heat stress for plants and animals. The resulting change in temperature, flooding, and forest fires will greatly impact food security and clean water. These are only a few of the detrimental outcomes associated with extreme climatic change. These types of extreme events can lead to property damage, power outages, deaths, environmental disasters, poor health, economic hardship, lost livelihood, etc. Governments and private industries must come together and devise plans to adapt and survive in a changing environment. At one point we have to acknowledge the role humanity plays in worsening climate change. Without the cooperation of the individual, government, industries, and the public at large we cannot meet our goals from setting targets, funding projects, and enacting legislation. If everyone works together, nothing will change until we reach collective consciousness. Without unity, change cannot be implemented. Without understanding of the root causes of climate change, we are doomed to repeat history. Humanity can begin to see the light through the clouds that we have created, realize that change is coming, but only if we do the work that needs to be done!