Is 2020 the worst year ever?
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Few people alive can recall any single year of lived history that rivals 2020. Not even the trauma of 9/11 can rival 2020 in terms of sheer numbers. At present, every few days we lose the same number of people as we lost on that terrible day. So, is 2020 the worst year ever?
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2020 is in the running for worst year ever, but can it win the dubious title?
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - It's an understandable question. Is 2020 the worst year ever? In January Australia burned so much that Koalas are likely to go extinct due to the loss of the breeding population. In February, Kobe Bryant tragically passed away, rocking the sports world. By March, COVID-19 was spreading unabated across the country and millions went into lockdown. Since then, the economy (at least on Main Street) collapsed. Half of all Americans cannot make their mortgage or rent. Unemployment is at Great Depression levels. Wall Street, which shrugged off the worst of the recession so far, is likely to have a season of reckoning. In the Western USA, epic fires are making even the ferocious fires of previous years seem tame. And amid all this, people can't even attend church.
Yes, 2020 is bad. Really bad, in fact. But it isn't the worst year ever.
Every year of World War II and World War I was equally as bad, if not worse. In fact, 1918 was the last year of World War I, and the first year of the Spanish Flu pandemic which killed more people in twelve months than four years of constant warfare around the world. At least two-to-three times as many people. That was a bad year, with mask ordinances and lockdowns too.
Going further back, most bad years are associated with wars and the consequences of conflict.
Between 1347-1354 the Black Death ravaged Europe, wiping out a third of the population across the continent. Famines followed, and after those, periods of intense political upheaval in many places.
The Roman Empire fell in 476 AD, but that was the culmination of a long process that followed two centuries of decline. Around the year 1200 BC, most major civilizations collapsed for reasons that remain poorly understood today. That period is known as the Bronze Age collapse, but it also spans centuries.
Perhaps the worst year on record is said to be 536 AD.
Why is the worst year a year that most people have never heard about? Well, that may have to do with the state of education, and the fact that few people could write and few documents survive from the writings of the time. But we know it was a pretty bad year. The few written records coincide with scientific data to affirm the conclusion.
In 536, a massive volcanic eruption took place, likely in Iceland. The eruption was so massive it filled the air with ash and dust that circled the globe and lingered for a long time. About 18 months to be precise. And during that time, days were as dark as nights, especially in Europe.
Many places in Europe were shrouded in fog, and those were the good days. On many days, the sun was entirely blotted out so the people lived for months in perpetual darkness. The result was a widespread crop failure. The temperature dropped by several degrees. It snowed in places where snow hasn't fell since. And in the wake of the darkness and famine, a plague spread known as the Plague of Justinian. The plague, thought to be the bubonic plague, killed between a third to half of the people in the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. It permanently weakened the Empire.
The cause of this crisis has been confirmed by climate records from around the world, include core samples. There is a global layer of ash in core samples from the Northern Hemisphere. Worse, in the years that followed additional eruptions in 540 and 547 caused the darkness to return for shorter periods. This was devastating.
Eventually, core samples show evidence of lead, a byproduct of silver mining which marks the return of medieval economic activity.
What we know is 2020 isn't the worst year. Nature tends to upset the world every few centuries or so. Indeed, that's the present circumstance, but without the volcanic eruption. Of course, 2020 isn't finished yet.
There are good times and bad times, but we must remember to have faith. Fear is faith in the wrong things. It is faith that something bad will happen or that evil will win. It is a kind of pride to act as if we know what will happen next that that it will be worse than before. Instead, we should look for happiness in the promises of faith, which are always kept.
As bad as this year is, better times are ahead. Let us focus on God instead of the momentary vagaries of nature. The present crisis is limited, but our God is not.
- Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Hail, Holy Queen
- Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony
- The Apostles' Creed
- The Angelus
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