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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

2020 – Worst Year Ever?

Here we come to the end of 2020. To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” I’ve seen many people posting Facebook memes or tweets saying that this was the worst year ever and that they can’t wait to kiss it goodbye.

While this has not been the best year on record, I feel guilty for wishing it out the door. See, because I am still alive, and every day on earth is a gift.

So, was 2020 really the worst year ever? Not by a long shot.

Have you ever heard of the 4.2 kiloyear event? I hadn’t. There is a great YouTube channel called UsefulCharts.com, and by way of easy-to-understand graphics, it explains history. A while back I came across their chart “Timeline of World History | Major Time Periods & Ages,” which illustrates the concurrent historic events of the world across time periods.

Approximately 4.2 thousand years ago an event happened that experts aren’t exactly sure what caused it, but nevertheless, it resulted in 100 years of extremely dry conditions that wiped out fledgling civilizations around the world. It really was a reset.


Jump ahead a few thousand years, and we come to the year 536 A.D., which many historians site as the worst year ever.  Europe, The Middle East and Asia were plunged into darkness. According to the Byzantine historian Procopius, the sky was dark for 18 months, writing: "For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year." Without the sun, temperature on earth fell, ushering in the coldest decade in 2,300 years, resulting in crop failures and mass starvation. The Chronicles of Ireland recorded "a failure of bread from the years 536–539."

Evidence found in tree rings and the polar ice caps point to a cataclysmic volcanic eruption in Iceland that spewed ash around the world, blotting out the sun and changing the course of civilization. To make things even worse, shortly after that, the Justinian plague broke out and rampaged the world, wiping out one-quarter of the world’s population and hastening the fall of the Roman Empire. 


Skip ahead to the lovely year 1346 when the Black Death swept Europe, wiping out 60% of Europe’s population. A little over a hundred years ago in 1918, we had the tragic trio of World War I, the Spanish Flu epidemic and the Russian Revolution. The year 1968 was no picnic either as assassinations, civil unrest as well as the Vietnam war raged.

So yeah, 2020 wasn’t the worst, and no, it certainly wasn’t the best year ever, but as we turn the page on a new calendar, let’s acknowledges our losses, be grateful for what we brought out of the year and stake our hopes on a better 2021. 

Happy New Year!


 This article originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of Northern Connection magazine.