2 january 2015, disaster of the year

2014 was, sadly, another year with many contenders. Close to home, fellow-city glasgow seemed specially cursed, suffering three tragic incidents, of a bin-van and helicopter killing several and its treasured art school, which I never saw, burning down. Of a bigger order, perhaps three thousand would-be immigrants drowned in the mediterranean trying to get to europe. Further afield, dozens of students were abducted and murdered in mexico and hundreds of girls in nigeria were kidnapped from school, still months later missing. Trouble is rising from lawless belts across the world, the middle east probably the worst, with isis crossing several lines of barbarity in syria and iraq, a vicious crackdown in egypt, itself provoking a backlash and libya descending into warlordism. That pretty much describes parts of pakistan too, which had its own even more horrific school murder incident in peshawar. Ebola of course deserves special mention, although the death toll of around 8000 pales beside the 300000 killed by malaria, and double that by tuberculosis. Runner-up for me is the summer's gaza conflict (see 12 july 2014, so many wrongs) and the needless lives lost through the inability to sit down and make something function, in which we the rest of the world have a vital role to play. This particular war may yet come to be seen as the moment the wax set and a two-state solution finally became impossible. Another war though took not just more lives, perhaps 5000, but had more global significance in its slow pace shattering of the post-war world order, which once broken cannot easily be reassembled. Russia invaded crimea with impunity, and the world accepted it. Its military and political succour to manufactured rebels in eastern ukraine destroyed both the ukrainian economy and any chance of a modern, peaceful state growing from a young population wanting to build, and stay in, its own country. For europe, it was a startling break from the post-war norm of diplomacy and international systems settling territorial disputes rather than violent military action - an utter disaster that will have consequences for years to come.