There was little dancing this New Year's Eve - very different from the "Roaring Twenties" (scene from the series "Babylon Berlin")
Frédéric Batier / Sky / obs
This week the New York Times published a thoughtful text about the quiet New Year's Eve celebrations in Times Square.
Year after year, police officers ensure that the million-dollar crowd in Manhattan on December 31st is normal.
A police officer is quoted with this sentence:
"I'm looking forward to the funeral in 2020 more than I'm looking forward to 2021."
Christian Stöcker, arrow to the right
Photo: SPIEGEL ONLINE
Born 1973, is a cognitive psychologist and has been a professor at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW) since autumn 2016.
There he is responsible for the "Digital Communication" course.
Before that, he was head of the Netzwelt department at SPIEGEL ONLINE.
This feeling is undoubtedly shared by many people around the world: the pandemic is far from over, but at least this horrible, tormenting year.
These days it doesn't seem easy to look ahead.
It is still difficult to predict what will be possible again when.
How quickly will vaccination rates be achieved that allow a return to normal, non-pandemic everyday life?
But you can also see the beginning of 2021 differently.
The probability bordering on certainty can be assumed that it will come - the official end of the pandemic.
A new sense of opportunity
And then it starts: people will be able to meet again, celebrate, dance, eat and drink together.
At some point, probably in the course of this year 2021, there will be a huge party, a feeling of liberation will break out.
Dating platforms will boom, condom manufacturers will see sales explosions, clubs and bars will reopen, people will party on the streets.
Perhaps there will be a post-corona revolution in dance music, new art and literature will emerge, shaped and mature by looking back at the tortures they went through.
What now feels as heavy as lead and paralyzing will give way to a new sense of possibility.
And that is sorely needed.
There is a model for this forecast: the USA and Europe had just been through a war and an even more devastating pandemic in the 1920s.
What followed was not a phase of contemplation, reflection and retreat - instead, the "Roaring Twenties" began, the roaring twenties: Charleston and Tucholsky, "Metropolis" and jazz, bohemian and scientific breakthroughs.
"Babylon Berlin" came at just the right time.
At the end of the decade was the Great Depression and the rise of the Nazis, so one shouldn't take the parallel too far.
But there is no doubt that overcoming crises can create a spirit of optimism.
Now the 21st century is just beginning
Perhaps one day 2021 will be seen as the year the 21st century really began.
The omens are not as bad as they might look at first glance: If humanity gets it right, the optimistic mood that will create the end of the pandemic can also mark the real beginning of a real awakening.
A departure into a phase of world history in which humanity begins to correct its worst mistakes and to create a better future for itself.
The chances of this are good for several reasons.
The chances of this are good for several reasons.
The first and most obvious one begins on January 20th: With the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, respect for fellow human beings, science and truth will return to the White House.
Hopefully the pathetic end of Donald Trump's presidency will start a process of rethinking among Republicans as well.
The Chinese government and the European Union have meanwhile clearly committed to serious climate policy.
It is high time for that, because humanity has just crossed another threshold: The remaining budget of CO2 that we can still pump into the atmosphere if we do not want to exceed 1.5 degrees of man-made global heating is now only enough for less than seven years .
The technological development of mankind is still accelerating.
The tremendous pace at which the corona vaccines were developed is just one example of a much larger scientific revolution: biotechnology, materials research and many other research disciplines will enter into an extremely fruitful symbiosis with machine learning technologies in the coming years.
The first, enormous successes of this process were already visible in 2020: for example, the first new antibiotic developed with the help of a learning machine that helps against multi-resistant hospital germs.
Or the fact that a Google subsidiary can now predict the folding of proteins better than entire teams of highly qualified scientists.
The rapid pace of scientific development will also make successes possible that can help us directly in combating our climate problem - which in no way means that we can do without radical climate policy in the here and now.
Renewable energies are already generally the cheapest forms of electricity generation.
The price for photovoltaic electricity fell by 89 percent between 2009 and 2019, and that for wind electricity generated on land by 70 percent.
To operate planned and also many existing coal-fired power plants is "no longer justifiable from an environmental or economic point of view," said the General Director of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) this summer.
The Federal Environment Agency recently calculated that Germany could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 97 percent by 2050 compared to 1990 - with technologies that already exist.
An example of technological developments that will also help us to achieve climate goals that seem barely achievable today: Methods already exist to make useful substances from exhaust gases or carbon dioxide extracted from the atmosphere.
“The sun turns carbon dioxide into a raw material,” was the headline “Spectrum of Science” shortly before Christmas.
These developments are just one example of a broader trend that effective climate legislation can and must reinforce: The increasing pace of research and development, if there is appropriate incentive, produces solutions to problems that we cannot even imagine today.
But incentives mean: regulation.
Specifically, a much faster increase, if possible internationally harmonized tax on CO2 is necessary - then one day it will be extremely lucrative economically to avoid it or even to wash it out of the air and convert it into valuable substances.
Many consumers in the industrialized nations have long since begun to rethink.
One example of many: In Germany, electric cars are now booming.
Around a third of Germans now eat vegetarian or vegan alternatives to animal products, at least occasionally.
And as early as 2019, 68 percent of Germans found climate and environmental protection "very important" - the percentage continues to grow from year to year.
When we have shaken off the pandemic, mourned the dead and swept up the broken pieces, a new chapter in the history of Germany, Europe and the world can be opened.
Let the roaring twenties of the 21st century begin - with parties, photovoltaics and positive visions of the future.
Icon: The mirror