StephenVance 270The holiday season has come to an end and a new year is underway, and if you were hoping for a peaceful, tranquil start to 2020, you have no doubt been disappointed, at least on the international front.

We've all seen the devastating news footage of the wildfires in Australia in the early days of this new year. Thousands of fires burning across the country, ravaging the landscape and killing millions of animals. The photos and video we've all witnessed is crushing, and we can only hope that the fires are brought under control sooner rather than later.

The new year has also brought new wars, or at least potential wars, after the American president opted to dispatch a high-ranking Iranian, setting off a firestorm of backlash and international condemnation, while the Iranians vow revenge.

If the start of the new year news wasn't depressing enough for you, this week we learned of earthquakes hitting the already (and still) hurricane-battered Puerto Rico.

So bad news is everywhere to kick off this new year, and the optimist in me says that it is likely to get worse, while the realist in me is bracing for things to get much, much worse.

A more positive perspective might be that at least here in Meaford, our little corner of this crazy world, life is much more stable. We have no fear of bombs being dropped on us, we aren't choking on wildfire smoke, and though there was a small earthquake over Wiarton way prior to the holiday season, we are quite unlikely to see strong earthquakes in our region.

At this moment in time, given what's going on elsewhere in the world, Meaford truly is a little slice of paradise. And while the early days of the new year have been much less dramatic, and much less scary than in many other parts of the world, we do have our challenges in the year to come.

Top of mind for many Meaford residents in the coming year will be shoreline erosion and damage. With the high water levels expected to increase by another 11 inches by summertime, we in Meaford are bound to see more damage to our shoreline whenever we experience strong winds. We've currently got one park closed for the winter as a result of this mix of high water and strong winds, and we are likely to lose the playground equipment in that park for the foreseeable future, thanks to those strong winds. But Fred Raper's Park could very likely be the least of our worries should the shoreline erosion issue continue to worsen, and the issue will no doubt be a major issue in this community as long as the water continues to rise.

While our shoreline issues are a real problem, thankfully it is a less life-threatening issue than what many are currently facing around the globe.

On a more positive note, our shoreline issues aside and barring any currently unforeseen catastrophe, 2020 is looking to be a good year in Meaford. Construction on our new library and new school will continue throughout the year, and we will also see work done on the Trowbridge Street bridge, so if nothing else this community will be hopping with construction activity in 2020. I would much rather be building schools, libraries, and bridges than repairing or replacing bomb-damaged structures or fire-ravaged communities.

As anywhere else we have our challenges and our sources of frustration. In the coming year concern about the proposed pumped storage facility on the tank range will no doubt grow, many will continue to express worry that this community is not being adequately policed, and as always we will see people asking why council is funding this and not that. These sorts of concerns and sources of friction are typical of any democratically run community, and as we have always done in the past we will work through them, and there will be winners and losers, and those who feel cheated or ignored, and all of that is perfectly okay in my books, considering the many alternatives we could be living with if not for our good fortune and geographic location.

Whatever our challenges in the year to come, let's embrace them, and let's be thankful that the things that top our list of local issues that cause us frustration are almost luxuries given the bombs, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, or any number of catastrophes that our fellow humans are facing in real time around the globe.

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