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1 January 2021updated 28 Jul 2021 6:12am

New Year’s resolutions, but for the world

The New Statesman's US editor sets out five priorities for governments and citizens in 2021.

By Emily Tamkin

I love New Year’s resolutions. I make them every year. I try to check in with them, and with myself, throughout the year to hold myself accountable, and then again at the end of the year to see how I did. This year, for example, I resolved to get back into yoga, try to find a staff job, and be more charitable, all of which I did. I also resolved to say “no” to social events I didn’t feel like going to, which was a real monkey’s paw of a resolution.

This year, in addition to making resolutions for myself, I am also making them for the rest of the world. 

Stay safe for the duration of the pandemic. This is actually one of my resolutions for 2021, so I thought that I would start out by sharing it with the world, too. The end of the coronavirus pandemic is, we think, in sight. But that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel means we are still in the tunnel. In my own country, travel was at its highest point since March as people returned home for Christmas. We know by now what we need to do to keep each other healthy. We need to do it.

Forget the debt. Many people make “be smarter with money” as a resolution. I have also done this before, and so I understand the temptation. But, as Adam Tooze said when he came on the World Review podcast with Jeremy and me, that way a paralysed economy lies. If governments give into the siren song of austerity in the wake of this pandemic, it will cause more socioeconomic hurt, making it harder, not easier, for us to recover.

Take — and build — more mass transit. An individual might have “drive less” or “use the metro more” as a resolution. It’s a good one, both fiscally and environmentally conscious. But inspired by this piece by my City Monitor colleague Jake Blumgart on the “death spiral” facing mass transit in the US, I ask the world to resolve not only to take, but also invest in, mass transit.

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Get the climate crisis under control. People vow to take back ownership of their lives with new year’s resolutions. Some people do “Dry January,” in which they swear off booze after imbibing heavily in December. Some people join gyms or try to start mindful eating practices. All of these are meant to exert control over both our day to day experiences and also our bodies. What we, collectively, need to take control of is the climate crisis. President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, but as his one-time opponent Senator Cory Booker put it, that is the floor. The world’s leaders need to resolve to deal with this like the most pressing moment of our times, because it is.

Fight disinformation. If this were for an individual, I might say, “lie less,” but as it’s for the world: we have a real problem, and it’s not one that governments have figured out how to combat. Indeed, it’s one that some governments have been very much complicit in propagating. It’s going to be a challenge in dealing with vaccine hesitancy, questions around various countries’ democratic legitimacy and electoral security, and, one imagines, in our slow pandemic recovery. It is on us to be responsible consumers and sharers of news, and on our governments to create the conditions that make responsible consumption and sharing possible.

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