COMMENT:

As this is my last column for 2018, I thought it timely to review the big news stories that point to an even better 2019.

Except, there are none.

So, instead, here's a selection of this year's news stories that sent a shiver down my spine. I write it for those of us who aren't stupid enough to believe that the planet is doing anything other than hurtling to its doom.

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First cab off the rank must be climate change. You know, the biggest threat to the continuation of our species since Donald Trump was inaugurated. Not only is the news all bad, there's no sign of any global consensus on the way forward. The chances of reversing the situation in any meaningful way are about as high as my dog reversing my Jeep into a spare parallel park on Queen St during Christmas week.

Environmentally, the news is equally dire. Too many people living on an overheating capitalist planet means that our oceans are awash with plastic, our rivers - the ones that still flow - are awash with nitrates, our soils are awash with chemicals, and our media is awash with greenwash. Whatever pays the bills, right?

Only when our biodiversity is gone, and we reach the point of biological breakdown, will we realise what we've done. Even then, someone will find a way to spin a buck out of it. Profit is everything, and the earth will provide. Until it won't.

When we can't or don't want to go outside any more, there's always social media to take up all our time. Facebook took some major reputational hits this year. What with the revelations of selling our data and essentially spying on us, you'd think we human sheep would be cutting and running in droves. But, no. There are faraway family pics to view, and who really cares about the politics of the corporate evilness of it all?

You could even try Twitter for the fantasy of human connectedness and faux love. Or do what I do, and go there for a regular dose of hate. It's so awesome for your self-esteem!

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Politicians worldwide continued to fail to solve anything much this year. Emmanuel Macron is quickly learning about France's fine tradition of nobbling leaders who want their cake and eat it too. Theresa May is learning just how whingy her fellow Poms truly are. Trump isn't learning anything.

I'd mention New Zealand politicians if I thought they were anything more than a pimple on the ass of the rest of the world.

They aren't, so I won't. Except to say, looking back on the year of political leaks, meltdowns, and general salaciousness, do you see things getting more civil and dignified? Really?

Tell me more.

The biggest cultural shift this year is around free speech and tribalism. The never-ending stories about the no-platforming of speakers has been quite something to watch.

Universities - those last bastions of ideas and intellectual rigour - have swallowed the rat poison of the easily triggered and led the way in anti-democratic moves to "protect" their students from "emotional harm".

Who gets to decide hate speech versus alternative views? Isn't it just another version of authoritarianism for the purposes of limiting free speech? Are we now so fragile that even hearing mere words can send us into a tailspin?

My view? It's far more dangerous to suppress free speech than it is to hear what people are thinking - unpalatable as it may, or may not, be. That place of censorship is where festering political movements are born. I prefer to know roughly what's coming down the pipe.

Tribalism and intersectionality are the new black. Following the herd appears to be de rigueur once again but, to my eye, it's just another form of hell. It usually goes from healthy to unhealthy in times of societal breakdown. It's the human default position when we're feeling threatened.

By God, it's boring, annoying and ultimately stupid. Why? Because you don't have to think too much. Plus, there's the added bonus of feeling so sure of your position you can be as hateful as possible to anyone who dares to think outside the prescribed mob box.

Good times!

Anyway, that's my take on 2018. Apologies if you're left feeling I've been overly optimistic. Just you wait until my wrap-up of 2019. You'll look back and realise how good we had it.

Above all else, enjoy your hot, hot, hot summer break. Given what 2019 has in store for all of us, rest up.