Return to Discussions homepage

The wheel of time turns and as the last day of the last year of the last century of the second millennium of the common era comes to an end, the time comes once more to review the year past.

Mankind puts so much store on symbols, and what greater symbol could there be than the passing of a millennium? As most people considered the year 2000 to mark this occasion, let us look at the year past in that light.

This year has been a depressing one for me. As any regular readers of this site (if such a person exists!) will know, I have a particular preoccupation with conflict and the persuit of peace. This year, this so-called dawning of a new era, has seen hopes for peace in the Middle East dashed time and again and the stagnation of the peace process in my home province of Northern Ireland. Perhaps I'm just becoming cynical, but so much for symbols. My faith in politicians was always minimal at best, but over the past year or so I've become completely disenchanted with the entire political process.

In Britain, several things come to mind when thinking about the year 2000. Firstly, the Millennium Dome – another grand symbol that came to nothing. And now, it's to be sold off. Whatever else it may be, the Dome is a wonderful building and a magnificent piece of architecture; I can only hope that it falls into better hands in years to come.

This year has seen oil prices rise dramatically, leading to extremely inflated petrol and diesel prices in the UK. This event finally caused several groups of people (prominently lorry drivers and farmers) to snap and begin a protest that would bring Britain to her knees. They blockaded the major oil refineries leading to fuel shortages all accross the country. Cars, lorries and buses accross the country ground to a halt while the protesters demanded lower fuel prices. Ultimately, after the blockade ended the protesters failed in their objectives and in his pre-budget statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer paid only lip service to the cost of fuel.

However, while everybody was wringing their hands and saying what a terrible (or, indeed, brilliant) thing that the protest was, nobody seemed to mention the first thing that I thought off, once the extent of the disruption became clear – just how reliant that our society has become on oil and oil-based products. This situation seems absurd to me, especially since we know that our oil supplies will run out within the next century. This is yet another example of short-term, profit-driven thinking. At the moment, we don't have any fuel that is as versatile and useful as oil – something that can power the National Grid, drive vehicles and send Man into space – so when it eventually runs out, I can see our civilisation collapsing! Now is the time that we should be researching the replacement for oil, not when it's on the verge of being exhausted. There is some research currently going into renewable resources such as solar and wind power, but not only is it not enough, but I don't believe that these sources can, alone, cope with our energy requirements. I believe that we need something like sustainable nuclear fusion to match, and even exceed, the energy output of oil.
Deary me, that turned into an environmentalist outburst, didn't it?Smiley Well, I believe in what I said in the preceeding paragraphs and maybe this year will see the breakthrough that we need, but not without an injection of money into research projects.

Before I leave the world stage, how could I not mention the farce that was the United States presidential election. I found the initial stages of this quite amusing when Gore conceeded the election and then rescinded the concession when it became clear that he still had a chance of winning. But as it dragged on and on, it just became dull. It does still amuse me, however, that something like that could happen in a country that considers itself the greatest democracy in the world.

On a personal level, the year 2000 saw me, for the first time, I'm slightly embarrased to say, take summer employment. Between the end of my third and the start of my final year at uni, I worked for the IT Education Unit of the University of Glasgow, which was a really good experience for me – and it gave me a taste for having a disposable incomeSmiley.
I'm still on course to get a good degree and on the social side of my life, I have acquired a taste for Shakespeare. Seeing Hamlet performed live has really given me a taste for the theatre in general and Shakespeare in particular. The city of Glasgow is a wonderful place to live if you're into any kind of culture; with so many theatres and concert halls, it's shown me something that I've never seen before, and I hope to continue enjoying it for many years to come.

Despite what I said at the start of this article, let us end it with a symbol. The year 2000 has been a disappointing one in world matters and the beginning of a period of transition in my own life, as my seventeen year affair with full-time education finally comes to an end. 2001 sees the beginning of not only the new year, but also the new millennium. So let us cast all the failures and pains of this year into the past and step into the future shorn of this baggage and make a new future for ourselves.

– 1 January 2001