Given the events of the past two years, I was almost too afraid to check in with Nostradamus's predictions after Russia decided now was a great time to invade Ukraine. Again. But I'm a sucker for punishment.
I rather wish I hadn't bothered.
In 2020, writer Rae Alexandra connected Nostradumus's prophecies to the coronavirus pandemic with startling specificity, even to this cynic's sense of logic. Nostradamus specialist Bobby Shailer believes the predictions also forecast a protracted great war of 25 to 29 years, starting this year, followed by an "age of Saturn" which will supposedly be a time of peace for 1000 years. Ever the optimist, Nostradamus also seemingly predicted (albeit annoyingly vaguely) that Earth would be hit by an asteroid, floods and droughts would decimate entire countries, and mass hunger would spread in 2022. Great. Just great.
I studied war history in high school, and I remember learning about propaganda and trenches and air strikes and battlefronts. The visuals the textbooks created felt like they came from another world. From "history", perhaps - a place somewhat removed from the reality of our existence, where the world was painted sepia. But, in truth, the human race has rarely enjoyed peace. In fact, over the past 3400 years, we have known just 268 years of peace, collectively. I'm not sure Nostradamus could really go wrong with predicting war in our future, given that it had defined our past so thoroughly as far back as oral history could persevere. It seems we should be used to it.
Warfare in the 21st century offers civilians - even thousands of kilometres away - little protection from the realities of war. Social media brings it startlingly into focus in real time around the world. We see livestreams, images and videos of fathers saying goodbye to loved ones, air strikes lighting up the sky, and journalists standing in front of cameras reporting on troop movements and casualties. Seeing people - everyday people - making Molotov cocktails on the side of the road, arming themselves, and getting about in full combat gear is confronting imagery. But, perhaps the most harrowing visual to date is the video of the Russian armored vehicle swerving to steamroll a civilian vehicle driven by an elderly man on a deserted Ukrainian street, with the videographer crying and screaming in the background. There is very little that brings the reality of war home as well as this. I can not only imagine the horror - I can witness it, and my heart goes out to all who are affected.
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You could be forgiven for thinking that the only war going on at the moment is between Russia and the Ukraine. But in actual fact, there are 21 other countries currently at war. Afghanistan, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Colombia, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Tunisia and Yemen are all experiencing civil war, terrorist insurgencies, political unrest, ethnic violence or a drug war that has taken thousands of lives. And yet, by historical standards, we are living in a period of relative peace. I'm sure that's (not) a comfort to those living on the battlegrounds.
Still, war: check.
Back home in Australia, it feels like we are fighting nature. Just two years ago our country was on fire. Now it's submerging. Over 100 millimetres of rainfall hit south-east Queensland over the weekend, leaving tens of thousands of residents without power, and thousands of homes and businesses under water with flood levels rising. At the time of writing, six people's lives had been taken by this disaster.
I don't mean to alarm you (any more than you probably already are alarmed, I mean), but the SPEI Global Drought Monitor tells us that every continent (except for Antarctica) is facing unprecedented levels of drought. While drought isn't a new phenomenon, rising global temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns are increasing the frequency of droughts, with no relief in sight.
No doubt Nostradamus was a hoot at parties, given that his pessimism continues to haunt us hundreds of years after his death.
I just hope the 1000 years of "peace" we're owed isn't because the asteroid wiped us out.
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