Last year, I wrote a post illustrating the good points of 2015, and tried to think positively about 2016. I have to say most of the things I had hoped for in that post did happen. 2016 turned out to be a much better experience than 2014 and 2015.
2016: the year that was
A lot happened in my life in 2016. I few back to Canada in February and saw my family and friends in Manitoba. I saw the sakura blossoms, something I had hoped to see. I climbed up Mount Kaemondake in Kagoshima, which was an amazing vista. I lived through several large earthquakes that devastated parts of Kumamoto. I moved to Germany for a new job, working on ice sheet modelling. I went to Sweden for a weekend to clear up some loose ends. I went to Japan in July, with a highlight of going to Yoron Island. I made many Japanese friends, and expanded my love of the drink of choice in western Japan, shochu. I went to England to go to friends’ wedding, and saw many friends I made in Australia. I started going to the gym on a very regular basis, and have started to lose some weight that I gained in 2015 and early 2016. I worked very hard on my hobby, SNES Central, and added more content than I had in many years combined. I have started to make headway into learning Japanese, currently on a path to learning all the kanji. I had many great experiences with my fiancee, and had a lot of fun thinking about what the future holds.
2016: the year that wasn’t
I didn’t make a whole lot of posts on this blog this year. When I started this blog a year and a half ago, I had big intentions to make this blog an outlet to communicate things of interest to me. Many years ago, I would have been totally absorbed into making posts about the state of world politics and how the effects of anthropogenic climate change are really starting to become very obvious. I did make a couple of posts to that effect, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It was just too difficult, psychologically. I think the path that most major countries are going on right now is the wrong one, and I sit here pretty much powerless to do much about it. I live in Germany, and I can’t even vote here, or speak the local language in order to become politically active. It is also disheartening that even if you do write something, some denialist will just wave a bunch of fake news stories and blogs to ‘counter’ whatever you write, and so many people will just accept that we “don’t know anything”.
The thing is, though, despite all the complaints about how “2016 is the worst year ever”, it actually wasn’t that bad. I think a lot of it is that the collective memory of humanity right now has forgotten about the pain of the past. There are tons of Syrian refugees flooding Europe right now, for instance, and it has got people on edge. Do people not read history and see how the flow of people was in the opposite direction just 75 years ago? Perhaps we have lived far too comfortably since the 1980s collapse of the communist bloc to see that it isn’t so bad right now.
2017: What lies ahead
For 2017, I am not making any big new years resolutions. Rather, I intend to continue what I have been practicing over the past 4 months. That is, going to the gym, studying Japanese and continuing work on my hobby of SNES Central. I am going to try to wake up earlier in the morning, so that when I get to work I will not be sleepy. This will hopefully improve my efficiency at work.
I currently have a year and four months left on my contract, and this year I will have to ponder my future. With the election of Trump and the Brexit situation in the UK, I think tough times lie ahead in my profession as a climate scientist. I love my work, as it allows me to explore the history of the past, and see how quickly things can change with even small changes in the climate system.
I truly believe that global warming is the biggest threat facing human civilization, but what can a lowly scientist do about that? There are powerful interests that are conspiring to prevent action, and they have had many political victories in 2016. With elections coming up this year in Germany, I expect that those same interests will make gains here as well. Even if I were to stay here long term, how likely is it that there is going to be funding for a job? My experience in Canada during the Harper years is that Earth sciences will be the first thing to get the axe when they gain power.
I think more likely I will be making an exit from the realm of academic Earth science research. There are too many people scraping for dwindling sources of money. Even if you get some, it is not necessarily possible to live in the place you want to me. My fiancee wants me to move to Kumamoto, and quite frankly, I am sick of criss-crossing the globe. Humans are a social animal, and are biologically wired to seek out regularity in life and relationships. The life I have been living the past 4 years is just not psychologically sustainable. I do hope that whatever I do, it will foster my love of history and the world. I have a long year to ponder.