It’s fair to say that 2020 hasn’t been a great year so far. In fact, it’s fair to say that 2020 is not only below average, it is probably the worst year that I’ve experienced in my lifetime. With the coronavirus pandemic, government-ordered shutdowns, massive shocks to the economy and resulting unemployment, and widespread civil unrest, it’s safe to say that, when the clock nears midnight on December 31, no one is going to be looking back fondly on the year limping to a close. To the contrary, I would expect that people will be drinking heavily to forget the year gone by and to toast the arrival of a new year that is bound to be far better — that is, assuming we make it to December 31.
And that’s really the significant, underlying problem with 2020: it has forever altered our perception of what could actually happen. Before 2020, anyone predicting the arrival of a strange new virus, sweeping closures and stay-at-home edicts, and the other elements that make this year such a bummer would have been laughed out of town. But now — well, it seems like just about anything is possible, doesn’t it? That’s why gun sales, survival gear sales, and, relatedly, liquor sales are through the roof. So far, 2020 has been like Edvard Munch’s The Scream brought to life.
So when I read that scientists have measured significant “earthquake swarms” underneath Yellowstone National Park that could presage the eruption of a catastrophic “supervolcano” in one of Earth’s hottest hot spots — something I would have scoffed at until recently — I now think: “well, it’s 2020 — why not?”
The strikingly counterfactual element of 2020 opens the doors to many possibilities that seemed absurd only a few months ago. Remember those stories we see from time to time about asteroids and meteors coming uncomfortably close to Earth? Well, it’s 2020, so . . . better get that survival gear handy. And for everyone who’s wondered about when we’re actually going to make contact with intelligent alien life, well, it seems like 2020 is the ideal year for that to happen, doesn’t it? And it’s not going to be cuddly, adorable E.T. aliens, either. Because it’s 2020, after all, think Independence Day or Predator or Aliens, and you’re probably going to be closer to the mark.
To prepare myself mentally for the rest of this year, I’ve tried to identify every worst case, disastrous scenario that we’ve been warned could happen — locust invasions, massive solar flares, global warming and cooling, zombie apocalypses, Ragnarok, the reunion of ABBA — and am bracing myself that they all might happen this year. And if we make it through without finding ourselves on a denuded, brutalized planet that has to endure a remake of Waterloo, I’ll raise my glass to 2020 come December 31.