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Behind the Headlines

Chaotic Start to a New Century:
What Does It Mean?

In many ways 2000 was not a good year.
What does that tell us about where the world is headed?

by John Ross Schroeder

As 1999 wound down to its final days, observers around the world kept a close eye on air traffic, the stock markets, the Internet, in fact everything governed by electronics. Would the millennium bug strike after all and grind the world to a halt? Thankfully, it did not.

Yet as 2000 drew to a close and another year began, most of us were glad to see 2000 pass from the scene.

Good years and bad years affect the salaries of professional baseball players. Two or three bad ones in succession spell a salary cut or, worse, a trip down to the minor leagues. Someone asked Babe Ruth why he made more money than the president of the United States. "I had a better year than he did," quipped the legendary baseball star.

Britons found 2000 disappointing in more ways than one. In the United Kingdom, where I live, 2000 was a period of frustrating and expensive railway and motorway gridlock for parts of England, Scotland and Wales. Rail transport had its worst year in living memory. Serious accidents spotlighted structural problems in the nation's network of railroad tracks. Protesters staged massive demonstrations over skyrocketing fuel prices.

Elsewhere, 2000 focused us on a range of dispiriting images: the lingering uncertainty of the U.S. presidential election, the Mideast peace process in tatters, the rising presence in Austria of Joerg Haider and his Freedom Party, mayhem in Zimbabwe, even a threat to democracy in fabled Fiji. Many other cumulative problems similarly plagued the world in 2000.

A world of chaos

As a newspaper columnist put it: "World 2000 is a misshapen creation demographically, economically, culturally." Planet earth must feed more than six billion people while 800 million suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition. We probably have enough food to feed the world, but politics and greed prevent its proper distribution.

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