Former Portugal prime minister, now United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, came out with another of his extraordinary dire statements last week.
Referring to the war in Ukraine and Western tensions with China, Korea and Iran, he said that humanity was “just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.”
Here are some of his other most notable remarks this year.
“The only certainty is more uncertainty.”
“Mistrust among world powers is reaching fever pitch.”
“The information superhighway is clogged with hatred and lies, giving oxygen to the worst impulses of humanity.”
“From global health to digital technology are outdated and no longer fit for purpose.”
“Unless governments everywhere reassess their energy policies the world will be uninhabitable.”
Guterres obviously doesn’t mince his words, but the reaction from many people is merely a weary shrug of the shoulders. Others take such grim warnings so seriously that it causes mental health problems.
During the Covid-19 pandemic and the social isolation than came with it, a great Increase in the number of individuals in Portugal and elsewhere were experiencing feelings of loneliness, stress, anxiety and depression. Several psychological studies concluded that this led to a profound short-term and also long-term damage to societies.
A survey conducted by the Ricardo Jorge National Foundation showed that in every ten Portuguese citizens quarantined during the pandemic, seven were revealed to have psychological distress. The majority were young adults or women. They showed symptoms of moderate to severe depression.
Concerns about the present and future consequences of global warming were foremost among the young before the worst of the pandemic. They still are in 2022, which has been designated by the EU as the ‘European Year of Youth.’
The young and plenty of oldies too, find the goings on in the world today simply preposterous. For example, United States senior politician Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, apparently unaware it would immediately infuriate the mainland Chinese, who promptly launched a massive military exercise involving cruise missiles over Taiwan, that heightened the chances of another war between nuclear superpowers.
Only after months of infantile bickering has the export of 50 million tons of cereals been allowed to proceed to impoverished parts of Africa where every day so many people are dying of starvation.
“The height of irresponsibility” was one polite way of describing Russia’s launching of missiles from around a captured Ukrainian nuclear plant.
In the words of a Bloomberg report, “burning fossil fuels can power the world 24 hours a day, sending electricity almost anywhere near instantaneously. Unfortunately, this very effective source of power is pushing ecosystems, animal species and human civilisation closer to catastrophe.”
It’s serious stuff, but on the pretext that we don’t laugh enough, lots of people are said to be asking why the end of humanity should be so depressing when there is always a funny side to life?
Can we laugh about something as dire as climate change? Yes, if you agree that humor is a way to reach people who haven’t thought much about climate change. Research shows that comedy is a great way to break down defences; a great way to have people listen to truths that they might otherwise have missed. Comedy is said to be good for your mind.
There are already quite a number of silly jokes online, but now a group of nine comedians from around the United States are learning from climate experts and collaborating to pitch jokes for future performances and videos starting in October. They hope audiences will be learning, laughing and leaving feeling inspired.
We’ll probably all be able to watch on YouTube. Whether António Guterres finds it amusing remains one of life’s less serious uncertainties.
Len Port is a journalist and author. Born in Ireland, his first written pieces were published while he was working in the Natural History Museum, London. Since then he has worked as a news reporter, mainly in Hong Kong, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Portugal.
In addition to reporting hard news for some of the world’s leading news organizations, he has produced countless feature articles on all sorts of subjects for a range of publications. Now living in southern Portugal, his books include travel guides and children’s stories. His ebooks – People in a Place Apart and The Fátima Phenomenon – Divine Grace, Delusion or Pious Fraud? are available from Amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. His blog posts can be viewed at algarvenewswatch.blogspot.com