Although nearly three years after the pandemic wreaked havoc around the globe, the virus and its ramifications are still with us. Add to that seemingly endless violence, climate crises, and war in Ukraine, and the year has felt a bit bleak. Uncertainty about the future still reigns, as the average citizen just wants to hold on for brighter days.

The Ever-Changing Virus

Two sub variants of Omicron have been running rampant since the start of 2022: BA.4 and BA.5. A new booster called the bivalent booster has been developed to protect against these variants and the original COVID strain, and is recommended for everyone over 6 months old. However, this vaccine seemingly doesn’t protect against the most widely spread variant at the moment: BQ.1.1. Unfortunately, cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been skyrocketing in the U.S. this year.

Defending Their Honor: Ukraine Fights for Freedom

Though Russia has been threatening to invade and annex Ukraine for many years, war officially broke out this year on February 24th. Putin was determined to take over Ukraine in less than a week, and though he did not prevail, Ukraine has still suffered tremendously from the continued violence that the Russians have inflicted on them.

When the U.S. learned of the crisis, President Biden responded immediately with strict sanctions on Russia and assurance that America would support Ukraine because it is our obligation to do so as their ally while they are in need. After 6 months, Biden delivered a speech to the United Nations and stated that “We will stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression, period.”

Women Have Had Enough With Rules

The Morality Police, or Guidance Patrol, has been in power in Iran since the early 1990s after the Iran-Iraq war. This task force requires Iranian women to wear their Hijabs in specific ways and resorts to violence if the rules are not followed. The biggest example of this violence during 2022 was the death of Mahsa Amini, who was beaten to death for not wearing her hijab properly. As of December 4th, Chief Officer Montazeri stated that the Morality Police have been suspended, but this comment only scratches the surface of their impact and most likely will not put a complete stop to Iran’s oppressive policies.

Violence Continues to Rise

This year has been a hotbed of violence, with the second highest rate of mass shootings ever recorded in the United States, and the year is not over yet. In November alone, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado was shot up, along with a college field trip bus at the University of Virginia, as well as a Virginia Walmart break room. Not to mention the countless school shootings and street violence, which makes it feel like there is no end in sight to the violence.

According to CNN, “There have been more mass shootings than days so far in 2022 – a trend that’s continued each year since 2019 – underscoring the growing prevalence of gun violence in American life.”

The World is Burning

The climate story has continued to go downhill this year, as Europe sizzled through the summer, famines upended Somalia and Ethiopia, Sudan flooded, China experienced a heatwave, and wildfires spread throughout the world. The most dramatic evidence of climate change was the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, which left a third of the country’s land under water. “Nearly 2,000 died and 20 million needed humanitarian aid.

The United Nations has taken steps to right the ship, inking a loss and damage agreement at the COP27. Although many countries don’t think it went far enough, it is a step in the right direction. US president Biden, for his part, passed the landmark Inflation Reduction Act, to offer millions of dollars in subsidies for low-carbon technologies like electric vehicles and wind power.

Gone Too Soon

Queen Elizabeth ll, the longest reigning monarch in history, passed away in early September, after dutifully serving England since she was 27 years old. She was a dedicated and strong-willed monarch as well as a respectable and kind woman. The Queen led England through some of the country’s most treacherous moments including the Cold War, the entry and removal from the European Union, and the troubles in Ireland.

Olivia Newton John, the beloved Australian singer and star of Grease died in early August after battling cancer for 30 years. She was a renowned singer and actress who received 4 grammys and was an activist who fought to improve cancer research.

Stephen “tWitch” Boss was a famous dancer and TV persona who died by suicide on December 13th. He was best known for being the DJ on The Ellen Show, but was also a star on So You Think You Can Dance.

The year has seemed dismal, with many around the country waiting for the other shoe to drop. Inflation, climate change, and violence have all left their mark. Here’s hoping for better, more peaceful days in 2023.