The 10 Biggest Threats of the 21st Century

           Our world is in turmoil. Today, the human species is facing many challenges. After the end of the Communist menace, the New World order is challenged by 21st century new threats such as climate change, terrorism, tyrannical rulers, and much more. Human beings are held responsible for their own evolution, as much as for their own destruction. We are to blame and only us can make a difference. For my first in-depth article, I thought it would be interesting to take an overall perspective accompanied by some study cases on our contemporary situation. This article will deal with the 10 biggest threats of the 21st century.

 

I – Climate Change:

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           Climate Change is real and it has intensively increased in the past decades. First, what is it? Climate Change is a regional or global phenomenon characterized by a change in climate patterns. It is generally manifested by an increase or decrease in general temperature. Our planet has known notable changes throughout its evolution. Still, they were provoked by natural phenomenon. Today, it is different as mankind mainly causes climate change.

         Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, average temperatures on Earth have increased more or less regularly. Be careful not to confuse climate change and global warming, which is one of the components of climate change. As a matter of fact, global warming is affecting the entire global ecosystem and it is not only the heat that is being felt. The weather is disrupted, with an increase in extreme weather events, changes in the usual weather patterns. That means more storms, more floods, more hurricanes, more cyclones, and droughts. We have been experiencing it lately with Irma for example. Mother nature is angry with us and is reminding us that nothing is stronger than the power of nature. If global temperatures increase dramatically, ocean levels will increase, so will oceanic acidification and de-oxygenation. This can also affect forest areas and fragile ecosystems (coral reef, Amazon rainforest) as well as biodiversity. In the past 100 years, approximately two animal species have extinct each year. Climate Change is not only causing endangered species but as well invasive species.

           In order to fight Climate Change, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The first solution would be to turn to renewable energies and avoid fossil fuels. Adding tot his, we should avoid food waste and products that have a large carbon footprint. Restricting meat consumption is also a great alternative. Unfortunately, like many social and scientific problems, climate change has been controversial. Some climate-skeptics have been questioning its veracity. There is still hope. Hope that our generation will strive to fight this threat. 

II – Global Pandemic:

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         Infectious diseases are a serious threat. In Human History, many examples have shown that we should not take it easy when it comes to pandemics. This is in no way a reference to movies or TV shows such as “World War Z” or “The Walking Dead” where zombies are taking over our planet following a global pandemic. Although this could become a reality, we never know… Let us be more realistic and go back in time.

The Plague:

“The Plague” is the name given by modern historians to an epidemic in medieval time, back in the 14th. It has affected Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. It was the first major epidemic in history. It is estimated to have killed between 30 and 50% (25 million people) of the European population in five years.

AIDS:

AIDS is considered as a global pandemic, with an estimated number of 30 million HIV-positive people. If the first signs of the epidemic go back to the end of the 1970’s, it is likely that there were many other victims before that. Since 1980’s, AIDS has caused millions of deaths worldwide and despite the prevention and the efforts put in place, the numbers continue to grow.

H1N1:

The 2009 influenza A H1N1 is an acute respiratory disease. The contamination was mainly by air. The virus was able to survive for 8 to 48 hours in the open air. It caused an influenza epidemic in the months that followed its appearance. Given the scale of the epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) described it as a pandemic. 

Ebola:

More recently, we have experienced Ebola which caused severe fever. Particularly virulent, the Ebola virus is able to cause death. According to the WHO, the 2014 epidemic had a mortality rate of around 54%.  The WHO calls it « one of the most virulent diseases in the world ».

H7N9:

Influenza virus A subtype H7N9 was first detected in two people in Shanghai and one in Anhui province in March 2013. It caused 45 deaths in six months, according to WHO. Between 2013 and 2014, 375 cases were confirmed and reported, including 115 deaths.

 

III – Massive Migration:

       

           We are witnessing the most significant refugee and migrant crisis since World War II. Over 4 million refugees have been displaced from Syria, other millions are fleeing war, terrorism, oppression, and poverty in places in the Middle-East (Iraq, Afghanistan) and Africa (Somalia, Eritrea). Most refugees are being placed in neighboring countries (Lebanon, Jordan). However, many are directing towards Europe. Migrants are also becoming more common. The journey is not without risks. As a matter of fact, thousands died on their journey when crossing the sea, hoping to reach a better way of life.

         A migrant and a refugee are two distinct things. A migrant is “someone who moves from one place to another in order to live in another country for more than a year.” The International Organization for Migration estimates that 232 million people a year become international migrants. Those who move to work or seek a better life are generally termed « economic migrants ». On the other hand, a refugee is “a person who has fled armed conflict or persecution and who is recognized as needing of international protection because it is too dangerous for them to return home.”

         The UN says refugee and migrant arrivals in the EU surpassed one million in 2015. The International Organization for Migration estimates that some. The UNHCR argues that wars have forced people to leave their home more than ever. Refugees and migrants are dying each year while crossing the Mediterranean. These people are vulnerable as they do not have a sense a home. Soon, we could witness climate migrants because of our planet’s destruction. There is no certainty on how the world could end up in the near future.

 

IV – Nuclear Threat:

          The Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings proved that nuclear weapons and their effects could be devastating. The United States of America has bombed Japan in the context of World War II. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been destroyed, and civilians have been massively killed. The number of people killed in the bombings is quite hard to determine. The estimations are around 70,000 for Hiroshima and 40,000 for Nagasaki. Not to mention the consequences of these attacks on people’s health, until now.

       Today, we fear the worse. We fear the worse because we have two “immature” leaders at the head of two countries recognized as nuclear weapon states. U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong-Un are playing with nuclear weapons as much as two kids would play with Barbie and Ken. A few months ago, Donald Trump has addressed the world at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, declaring that he was ready, willing and able to totally “destroy North Korea”. North Korea has replied to attack back if American forces were willing to endanger its national security.

         As UN officials and other major world powers reacted to Trump’s declaration, it is becoming increasingly clear that the international ruling elite is a political failure. We live in a perplex state of terror and fear. Denying the risk of nuclear war is endangering the lives of million people, and maybe even entire humanity. 

 

 V – Overpopulation & Lack of Resources:

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         The increase in the overall population can be explained by several reasons: population explosion in emerging countries, longer life expectation in developed countries, better healthcare, and so on so forth. According to the latest revision of the United Nations, in its June 2017 report, we are more than 7.6 billion people on Earth. Don’t you feel like an ant in this vast world? According to the latest projections, we will be 9.5 billion by 2050. The more the population grows, the more issues we encounter. Overpopulation will surely lead to a lack of natural resources, starting with the most indispensable one: water.

           Water is the most valuable resource on Earth. Overpopulation could lead to widespread conflicts. Nowadays, clashes already exist since water is one of the main causes of tensions in the Middle East. A global conflict for water could have disastrous consequences. Currently, around 80 countries lack water and 1/5 people do not have access to drinking water.

           As for food, the most developed countries have enough resources to feed all the inhabitants of the planet. Yet food is unequally distributed. One of the consequences of overpopulation is the aggravation of these inequalities, which will undoubtedly cause more famines.

          As Mahatma Gandhi said: “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

 

 VI – Political Instability:

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          Nothing is more powerful than an angry crowd. History has shown that the power of people prevails over any authority. The French and American revolutions are great examples. People were able to satisfy their demands by ordering “a government by the people, for the people, of the people”. However, this is only the best-case scenario. In other cases, political instability led to wars or failed regimes. Let us take the example of a recent event: The Arab Spring. 

       The Arab Spring as a series of popular protests took place in many different Arab countries starting December 2010. The Arab Spring’s expression refers to the “ Spring of Nations ” of 1848, to which it was compared to. These movements with a strong social dimension were mainly caused by the lack of individual and public liberties, kleptocracy, unemployment, misery, the high cost of living and the absence of democracy. These revolutions initially used non-violent protests, however, went violent on several occasions. In early 2011, when Tunisia and Egypt were engaged in a historic revolutionary process, Morocco was also returned to a social turmoil. The domino effect that the Tunisian revolution would spread first to other Arab countries is officially considered when the Secretary-General of the Arab League, the Egyptian Amr Moussa stated: “Arab citizens are in a state of anger and frustration unprecedented.”

           In many aspects, the Arab Spring was a succession of failures. The only country that saw a real positive political change was Tunisia. It became the first « real » democracy in the Arab World. Still, many injustices remain which makes the reaction to this change as skeptical. In the cases of Libya and Syria, civil wars are the only continuity of the protests, until now. In an era where people were able to express themselves against social injustice through social media, some were less lucky. Political instability is a threat to both national and international peace. Many cases have testified the fragility of a political regime and that popular revolt could easily turn into a bloody war, leading to the destruction of an entire country and its population.

VII – Religious Wars:

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          Have you ever heard about the notion « clash of civilizations »? Well Samuel P. Huntington argued in 1997 that people’s religious and cultural identities could be the primary source of conflicts in a post-communist era. Is it possible that Samuel P. Huntington predicted the future? Or was it just an elaborated analysis of reality? 

           Following World War II, the world discovered the horrific reality behind the concentration camps. After the Holocaust, the international community got concerned and reacted. The main worry was the fact that a specific group got discriminated against because of its religion. The outbreak of War World II resulted in many Human Rights violations such as genocide, torture, and exploitation. Human beings have been denied their freedom. Well, human rights violations based on a group’s religion did not stop there, as in another region of the world, another conflict arose. 

             The upheavals of the international balance of power led to the division of Palestine. On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 181, which divided Palestine into two distinct states: Jewish (56%) and Arab (44%). On May 14, 1948, Israel’s « declaration of independence, » Jewish forces had already expelled nearly 400,000 Palestinians from the territory, occupying the majority of its Arab cities. At the end of the 1967 war, Israel occupied most of Palestine. In reality, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict started and is still ongoing as a religious conflict. At its core, two religions, two populations, two states but too many external forces involved, fueling hatred and killing civilians en masse. It is not the first and won’t be the last of a long list of religious wars at our disposal. 

 

VIII – Artificial Intelligence:

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        Recent advances in the field of artificial intelligence are such that we will soon see robots capable of doing what human beings do. Soon, millions of jobs will disappear. This is certainly not the only, nor the most dangerous consequence of artificial intelligence. Some scientists are alerting the international community about potential threats that artificial intelligence could cause. Focusing too much on this area of expertise could lead humanity to its own loss. What if robots rule the world in a near future?  

        Recently, a robot named Sophia became the first Saudi Arabian robot citizen. While some refugees, immigrants and stateless people are not even recognized by any state, a robot had access to this privilege. Technology and robotics have already revolutionized the industrial sector over the past 40 years, leading to an increase in productivity whereas a decrease in employment.

          Humans may one day lose control over artificial intelligence. It is a fear that some of the greatest scientists in the world have raised such as Stephen Hawking. He fears that humans, as being limited by a slow biological evolution, would not be able to compete with artificial intelligence. He is afraid that artificial intelligence can completely replace humans. Plus, Stephen Hawking also believes that artificial intelligence could end humanity and warns against its development. Artificial intelligence could become humanity’s future as much as humanity’s drastic end. 

IX – Contemporary Islamic Terrorism:

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       Following the 9/11 attacks, one of the most important consequences was the immediate transformation in security policies within the Western world. The “War on Terror” discourse drastically transformed interpretations, and policies were restricted. Islam’s perception was both directly and indirectly affected by Bush’s discourse. The discourse has shaped public opinion and debate within the USA but also around the world.

         These past few years have demonstrated a strong increase in terrorist acts around the world (Europe mainly: Paris, Brussels). However, terrorism is also an issue in the Middle-East and Africa with the presence of terrorist organizations such as ISIS/ISIL, Al Qaeda or Boko Haram. They are torturing, kidnapping, and killing people on a daily basis while trying to impose their extremist ideologies. The problem is that nowadays; terrorism and Islam are genuinely linked. Contemporary Islamic Terrorism became mainly identified as being the 21st century’s new threat.

         This has also led to a significant rise of Islamophobia and Islamophobic acts. A majority of states in the world have a war on terrorism and as a consequence, on the Islamic religion itself. This contemporary issue is hard to address and can lead to amalgams. The Muslim population is up to 1.7 billion people around the world. They are being the main scapegoat of “Radical Terrorism”, and the religion of “peace” is seen as oppressive. Following this logic, Islam is perceived as a threat to global peace and security. In reality, the bond between terrorism and the Islamic religion had never been emphasized more than after 9/11, without even proof that the incident was the result of Islam. The creation of Radical Islam remains to my eyes, one of the consequences of Western hegemony. The question that comes to my mind is: Until where are terrorist organizations ready to go for imposing their extremist ideologies? 

 

X – Tyrannical Rulers:

               « Women: You have to treat them like shit. » Would you believe me if I told you that one of these three leaders actually said this? Hard to guess which one, right? You will know at the end, just to stoke your curiosity…

           Today, our future is pretty bleak and uncertain. A leader is supposed to be a person with charisma, vision, intelligence; someone that will represent the people at his best while answering their demands. Today, it seems that the definition of a leader has completely switched to someone with no common sense, someone who is indecent. Today, a leader is someone able to entertain the crowd as if the job was similar to one of a TV reality celebrity. While history has witnessed ruthless leaders, the list is still growing. It is quite different today as international diplomatic relations and regulations limit gross human rights violations (even though many remain to this day). The real threat today remains in people’s hands. People are choosing to elect leaders who are misleading the crowd, leaders who have no possession of true knowledge.

            Another threat coming along is the rise of nationalism. More and more people are choosing to elect leaders who follow this ideology. The interconnected world we live in is at risk. Nationalism aims at making frontiers much more hermetic. Look at the example of Marine Le Pen in France, who discourages migration, believing that Arab people are a threat to national security because of terrorism. Kind reminder, most of the terrorist attacks were provoked in France were perpetrated by French nationals, no one came from abroad. Another example would be one of Donald Trump believing that Mexicans are either stealing U.S. citizens’ jobs or being drug dealers. A constant misinterpretation and several amalgams are leading to closing opportunities for people who really deserve them.

        The last topic I would like to address is one of the mass shootings in the U.S. While the number of victims went up to 14,000 since Sandy Hook Massacre, Trump’s genius idea is to arm teachers. Basically, allowing more fear and violence in what is supposed to be a peaceful environment for educational purposes. If this is not a threat to humanity, I don’t know what would be.  

 

Answer: Donald Trump 

 

 

 

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