Before looking ahead to 2022, let’s take a moment to reflect on 2021, the rebound year to 2020.(They blur at some point, don’t they?)
At least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine was distributed to more than 4 billion people worldwide, but the highly contagious Delta variant
caused infection rates to swell, casting doubt on the feasibility of large, in-person gatherings. Undeterred, global events got creative.
When Britain added Turkey to its “red list” of high-risk travel destinations three weeks before the Champions League soccer final in
Istanbul, the league’s governing body, UEFA, moved the match to Porto, Portugal. Despite a spike in coronavirus cases in Iraq, Pope
Francis made the first-ever papal visit to the country, which included stops in former Islamic State strongholds in northern Iraq
ravaged by militants. In Tokyo, as Covid-19 cases surged in the run-up to the Summer Olympics, spectators were largely barred
from attending events, which led to some of the best organized — yet oddest — Games in history.
Meanwhile, the internet was at full capacity. According to a Pew Research Center survey in April, 81 percent of Americans joined video
calls after the pandemic’s onset, and 43 percent of them employed those calls in new ways: for weddings, funerals, church meetings,
dates and doctor appointments. The great Facebook outage of Oct. 4 — when the company’s family of apps, including Instagram,
WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook itself, went offline for more than five hours — caused a good chunk of Facebook’s 3.5 billion
users to flock to other social media like Twitter. The incident exposed our fierce dependence on social media, particularly in a
post-Covid world, and the potential fragility of the very platforms through which we communicate.
Mark Zuckerberg isn’t worried about it, though. In fact, he’s busy preparing for next year, when Facebook will plunge into the “metaverse,”
a digitally simulated reality that he says users can be “inside of rather than just looking at.” For more on this, and all the other events set to
shake, or gently rattle, our physical and digital worlds in 2022, read on.
Cured bacon, anyone? California improves the treatment of breeding animals by banning the sale of pork
from sows kept in gestation crates smaller than 24 square feet during their pregnancy. The Farm Animal Confinement Proposition, or
Proposition 12, could spur one of two outcomes. It could drastically drain the state’s supply of bacon, since only about 4 percent of U.S.
pork producers currently adhere to the new law’s standards. Or, more optimistically, it could leverage the state’s consumption of 15
percent of pork nationwide to compel factory farms across the country to reconfigure their gestation crates.
From before dawn until after dusk, meticulously prepared kites take to the Ahmedabad sky for Uttarayan, India’s
International Kite Festival. During the festival’s “kite fights,” competitors attempt to cut down each other’s kites, a feat met with the
triumphant cry of “kai po che!” or “I have cut!” But the strings that maneuver these spectacles, called manja, have a sinister past.
Coated with metal or powdered glass to facilitate the slashing of other kites, manja have become known as the “strings of death” for
entangling and fatally slashing the necks of those in its path. Ahead of the festival, the Ahmedabad police seize thousands of reels of
the banned string from sellers in markets around the city.
The beginning of the Chinese Year of the Tiger marks the deadline for Tx2, a commitment by 13 countries to double the global tiger
population by 2022 and the most ambitious recovery effort ever undertaken for a single species. The project launched in 2010, when
there were about 3,200 known wild tigers worldwide. Since then, India, home to 60 percent of the world’s tigers, approved 14 new
tiger conservation sites, and Russia tripled the tiger population in its Land of the Leopard National Park.
Beijing becomes the first city in the world to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics after having hosted
the Summer Games in 2008. The People’s Bank of China also plans to test out its cash-like digital currency called “e-CNY” with
visitors and athletes. The only question is: Will anyone come? Hundreds of human rights advocacy groups are calling for a boycott
of the “Genocide Games,” so named after China’s persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
Argentina performs a financial tango with multiple creditors. First up is the Paris Club, an informal
group of 22 creditor nations, which is due $2.4 billion after it allowed Argentina to narrowly skirt a default last year. Next is the
International Monetary Fund, which gave the country the biggest loan in the organization’s history — $57 billion, the repayment
of which continues to be renegotiated.
France heads to the presidential polls, but don’t expect the old pas de deux between the incumbent Emmanuel
Macron and the far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Paris’s socialist mayor, Anne Hidalgo, and the Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier have
also thrown their hats in the ring. Whoever wins inherits a country steadfastly embracing “le wokisme,” France’s answer to the
American woke movement of identity politics and racial equality.
Miami Gardens, Fla., becomes the first predominantly African American city to host a Formula 1 auto
race. While the race, the Miami Grand Prix, is expected to boost the city’s economy by $400 million annually in a 10-year deal, some
residents have gathered in protest. They cite potential deafening noise and major traffic disruptions, saying that the location was
chosen after a mainly white community in downtown Miami successfully opposed the Formula 1 race there in 2018.
Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 70th anniversary as monarch at the Platinum Jubilee, the first such
celebration in the history of Britain. Since ascending the throne at 25 years old, the queen has seen England decolonize Africa
and members of the royal family start paying British income taxes. She has visited more than 100 countries and was the first
British monarch to visit Saudi Arabia, in 1979; China, in 1986; Moscow’s Red Square, in 1994; and the Republic of Ireland,
in 2011. Meanwhile, across the pond in Montecito, Calif., her grandson Prince Harry is preparing to celebrate the release
of his tell-all memoir later in the year.
New citywide containment laws in Canberra mandate that all pet cats be kept indoors or contained in outdoor
enclosures for their own safety and the protection of local wildlife, starting in July. Residents’ cats prey on an estimated 61,000 native
birds; 2,000 native mammals; 30,000 native reptiles; and 6,000 native frogs each year, officials said. Fines for breaking the law run
as high as $1,600. Exceptions, you ask? Your cat may leave the house if on a leash.
Every August, the small town of Guca plays host to the largest brass band festival in the world. In 2001, a local
organizer described the scene to The New York Times as “pure insanity.” While some bands perform onstage, others wander through
the crowds playing songs up close as they vie for revelers’ attention and bills, which are slapped onto the musicians’ sweaty foreheads
or stuffed into their horns.
At the annual Golden Eagle Festival, nomadic eagle hunters, called burkitshi and clad in traditional
fur attire, gather on horseback for two days of hunting competitions. Traditionally a male-dominated sport, eagle hunting has attracted
several hunters who are women over the past decade. Keep your eyes peeled for Aisholpan Nurgaiv, the first woman to compete in the
festival, which she won in 2014.
Wayne Enterprises — er, SpaceX begins a five-year collaboration with the U.S. Air Force. It will allow
the military to use SpaceX’s Starship rocket to deliver weapons anywhere in the world in less than an hour, according to estimates. No
Batman in sight here, but the chief executive of SpaceX , Elon Musk, will no doubt keep a close eye on the partnership, which will enable
the Air Force to transition from the Russian RD-180 engines it currently uses for its rockets to SpaceX’s Raptor engine, one of the most
efficient rocket engines in the world.
The world’s largest single-site solar farm becomes operational in Al Dhafra to generate electricity for approximately
160,000 homes. The plant is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1.6 million metric tons per year, the equivalent
of removing around 470,000 cars from the road.
Nintendo and the film studio Illumination sparked a social media uproar by casting the American actor
Chris Pratt as the voice of the beloved Italian plumber Mario in a new animated movie based on the video game “Super Mario Bros.”
It is set for release in December 2022. Previous incarnations of the character have been played by Charles Martinet, who is American
and has voiced Mario in the video games since 1995, and Bob Hoskins, who is British and played Mario in a 1993 live-action film.
Mr. Pratt will be joined by a stacked cast: Charlie Day as Luigi, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Jack Black as Bowser, Seth
Rogen as Donkey Kong, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad and Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong.
SOMETIME IN 2022
What is our place in the universe? The Vera C. Rubin Observatory, home to the world’s largest digital camera,
hopes to snap that into focus. An unprecedented digital mapping project using a 3,200-megapixel camera on the Simonyi Survey
Telescope seeks to produce the deepest and widest image of the universe to date.
Telescope is expected to provide the widest view of the universe ever.
It’s a tale as old as time. Neptune grass Posidonia oceanica absorbs carbon dioxide, emits oxygen, protects coasts from
erosion and provides habitat for fish. Then a mega-yacht anchor drops and drags across the seabed, forever damaging the seagrass
meadows. In 2022, the fabulous Pampelonne beach near St.-Tropez rewrites the narrative by creating ecological mooring areas.
Comprising floating chests attached to a concrete bellow, these areas will allow boats of up to 60 meters to safely moor without
dropping their anchors.
China completes its space station, Tiangong, in 2022. In 2024, Tiangong will become the only permanent space station
in orbit when the International Space Station (from which China was banned in 2011) gets decommissioned.
A Chinese citizen is watching news reports of Chinese astronauts carrying
out extravehicular activities outside the space station.
Who isn’t launching a metaverse next year? Meta Platforms Inc. (née Facebook) planned to invest
around $10 billion into Reality Labs in 2021 — the company’s new augmented and virtual reality projects division — to build
a metaverse in which you can have experiences as intimate as visiting your parents as a hologram or as fantastical as fencing
with an Olympic athlete. Microsoft will launch Mesh for Teams, a gateway to its metaverse where employees can video
conference as avatars or go to digital twins of their real-world offices. In Seoul’s $3.3 million municipal metaverse, tentatively
named “Metaverse Seoul,” citizens can visit reproductions of landmarks or meet with avatar officials. And if you’ve given up
on finding love in the real world, Match Group, which owns Tinder, Match.com and OkCupid, has outlined some plans to
leverage its acquisition of Hyperconnect, the platform behind “Single Town,” a metaverse dating experience still in testing
that lets avatar singles mingle in various virtual locations.