2016 is almost upon us. 2015 buzzed by. Many people like to plan the new year by compiling a list of resolutions for certain self-improvement goals they wish to work on by the end of the year. My problems with this idea is that my resolutions would likely be forgotten the day after I write them, and they would probably take the form of a wishlist regardless. What I think may be a more worthy exercise is to give a rundown of some of the upcoming trends and events that will define 2016, based on my own (albeit limited) assessment.
1. The Beginning of a Resolution to the Syrian conflict
Slowly, inch by inch, the international community seems to be moving towards a diplomatic settlement of the Syria question. The world powers seem to be slowly getting on board to the idea that ISIS remains a preeminent threat to global security, while immediately removing Bashar Al Assad, tyrannical dictator though he may be, would cause the disintegration of what is left of the country. Russia is trying to woo the Gulf countries to support a political deal between the government and the rebel fighters against the regime. The UN Security Council also recently passed a resolution calling for the different sides to come to the negotiating table. A final deal would likely see an intensification of the global fight against ISIS, while allowing for peaceful transition for Assad out of power at a later time (though the rebels still hold to the view that removing Assad is a necessary condition for any democratic transition).
2. Muslim Positive PR Offensive
2015 wasn’t a particularly good year when it came to positive press in the international media for Muslims. With ISIS atrocities and the wave of refugees coming from war-ravaged Muslim lands, Muslims have been tarred with an image of radicalism and violence. In 2016, look for a more assertive push back against these trends with international coverage of Muslims engaged in productive, socially impactful work. Much of this will be a reaction to extreme rightwing tendencies rising throughout the Western world, with anti-Muslim mainstream discourse becoming more visible and acceptable. Some of it will be encouraged by Western government as a way to allow for easier integration of refugees in their communities and the need to portray an image of diversity and multiculturalism. Some of it will be initiated by a more media savvy and image-conscious generation of Muslims hoping to debunk the many prevailing myths on Islam.
3. Renewable Energy gets a major push
The global oil supply is believed to have reached a state of peak oil in the last few years, meaning that is now necessary for countries to make a transition to alternative sources of energy to compete in the 21st century. Major global demand, primarily from the US and China, will likely see a great market for renewable energy products such as solar power and wind power in 2016. China in particular is looking forward with a new energy policy to become the largest harvester of wind power in the world, overtaking the US, and is also introducing a huge quota for solar energy products. While this is still far off from making these countries no more reliant on fossil fuels, it will mean that on an individual and family level, prices for renewable energy products such as portable solar power units will get more affordable.
4. Financial Crisis
Unfortunately, the big Bank Crash of 2008 is not the last global financial crisis we are expected to see. The underlying factors behind the crisis (deregulation of Wall Street, risky use of derivatives and other financial bets, insolvency of the major banks) have not changed. In 2008, the Federal Reserve printed trillions of dollars of loans to shore up the failing banks and stop a complete system meltdown. Since then, we have been experiencing an anemic recovery. For the big banks though, their bubble has merely been re-inflated, and their reckless speculative deals with depositor money continue undisturbed. So at some point, there will be a reckoning. Though it is impossible to say when it can happen, history shows that recessions tend to hit for some reason towards the end of a US presidential term (Obama’s term is ending in November 2016).
5. Climate Change and Natural Disasters continue
Though the global community made an important step in signing the recent accord at the Paris Climate Change Conference, there is still a question of whether it is too little, too late. In 2016, don’t expect a halt in the number of extreme weather phenomenon that has resulted from climate change over the last several decades. Droughts in California and Ivory Coasts, and hurricanes across the Pacific Rim are now becoming the new norm.
Of course, these are not ironclad predictions since nobody truly knows what the future holds. We can only make our best estimates on the information we have today. Regardless, in rain and sunshine, here’s wishing all a Happy New Year!