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Column: We’re in a world of trouble, but the golden rule might see us through

Wishes for the world in 2023.
James Yu snow day near Minoru Park 2
Richmond blanketed in snow.

Although it’s hard to believe, it’s now 2023. A new year, a time of new beginnings, fresh starts and second chances. To all of you, I wish happiness, good health and prosperity. If you’re anything like me, you might be entering this new year with a bit of trepidation – do we really want to see what’s lurking behind this doorway? But at the same time, I also have a lot of hope and optimism for the future. With that duality in mind, here are my wishes for the world in 2023.

My first hope is for a year without climate disasters – let there be no heat domes, devastating atmospheric rivers, record-breaking wildfire seasons or one-in-1,000-year floods, thank you very much. One year of weather stability would be something to savour. However, I would also wish world leaders the courage and ability to act, despite the apparent stability. The necessary changes need to be bold and significant and they need to be implemented now, not in 10 or 20 years, if we are to preserve our world.

I always hope for world peace, my second wish for 2023. The end of the war in Ukraine would be a fantastic way to start. I’ve never understood why humans resort to violence over anything and everyone deserves a safe and stable homeland. But the world is not a utopia and in reality, there are conflicts and human rights violations happening everywhere. Although I know they won’t all end this year, some improvement would be nice. Let’s try to use the golden rule – treat others as you would like to be treated – both at home with our close companions and globally with people around the world.

Wish number three is for COVID to fade even more into the background. Between the new variant, XBB 1.5, an Omicron strain that’s causing a new surge in cases, and the explosion of cases in China, things aren’t looking very positive on the COVID front. It feels like, as a society, we are all near the end of our collective ropes. If hate crimes are any indication, most people are not behaving as their best selves at the moment. The number of hate crimes rose by 37 per cent and the number of crimes motivated by hatred of a race or ethnicity rose 80 per cent in Canada between 2019 and 2020, Statistics Canada reported. Those increases cannot all be side effects of the pandemic, but surely some of them are. Again, the golden rule works well, try to follow it.

Wish number four is for a stable economy. No one wants seven-per-cent inflation or sky-high housing prices. We don’t want rapidly rising interest rates or sharply falling stock markets either. Since the pandemic began, the economy has been on a wild roller-coaster ride, mostly going up, up, up. What goes up, must come down. But please, let it make a gentle landing, followed by a long, long time of stability.

Sticking closer to home for these next two wishes, I hope for progress to be made on both the opioid crisis and the housing crisis. At least 10,505 people have died from illicit drugs since the public-health emergency was declared in B.C. in April 2016, including 1,644 in the first nine months of last year, the most ever recorded in a nine-month span. The poisoned drug supply is the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C. and is second only to cancer in terms of years of life lost, the BC Coroner’s Service reported.

I don’t know the answer to the opioid crisis, but I do know that providing safe supply and not treating people with addiction as criminals would be a start. Vancouver’s extreme housing shortage, for people of all incomes, does not help. The cost of housing is holding B.C. back in many ways – consider expensive housing as the root cause of the doctor shortage, for instance – and getting more housing built and available must be done today and in a big, big way. As our climate changes, the lack of housing becomes increasingly pressing and amplifies inequality. Imagine living in a tent on Hastings Street during the recent ice storm, or, equally as alarming, during the June 2021 heat dome that killed 619 people.

Our leaders have their work cut out for them. The best most of us can do is follow that golden rule – treat others as you would like to be treated – and take whatever actions we can to mitigate damage to the Earth and the atmosphere.

Tracy Sherlock is a freelance journalist who writes about education and social issues. Read her blog or email her [email protected]