Nau mai haere mai and welcome to this week’s newsletter.

With Omicron circulating, along with all manner of predictions about its potential impact, we can all probably be forgiven for suffering a kind of crisis fatigue. Unfortunately, we’ll have to get used to it. As Nathan Cooper outlines today, 2022 will be the year Aotearoa New Zealand grapples with a “triple planetary crisis” of COVID, climate change and biodiversity loss.

With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change set to publish two crucial reports ahead of global negotiations at the next climate summit in Egypt in November, and the UN Biodiversity Conference in China in April, the pressure is now on to make tangible commitments to genuine change. Expect to hear a lot more about these issues as the year plays out.

Meanwhile across the Tasman, it’s Australia Day – with all the heated debate we’ve come to expect between those who want to mark the supposed origin of modern Australia and those who prefer to call it Invasion Day. While a majority still appears to favour the status quo, a new national survey suggests a generational shift may be coming.

Check out our home page for more and feel free to share this newsletter. Until next week, thanks for reading and all the best, mā te wā.

Finlay Macdonald

New Zealand Senior Editor & NZ Editor: Politics, Business + Arts

COVID will dominate, but New Zealand will also have to face the ‘triple planetary crisis’ this year

Nathan Cooper, University of Waikato

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the agenda for 2022 includes key developments to tackle the connected crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

Ukraine might be far away, but a security crisis in Europe can still threaten Aotearoa New Zealand

Sascha-Dominik (Dov) Bachmann, University of Canberra

New Zealand’s geographical distance will be no defence against the consequences of a protracted crisis. So why has there been so little discussion about the threats?

Honour and masculine pride for the country: how the Bollywood sports biopic 83 furthers India’s nationalist cause

Radhika Raghav, University of Otago

Bollywood is demonstrating a renewed purpose of creating new national myths, such as 83’s retelling of India’s first win at the cricket world cup.

Laws governing undersea cables have hardly changed since 1884 – Tonga is a reminder they need modernising

Karen Scott, University of Canterbury

Given their vital role in communications, the global economy and security, the rules governing undersea cables need overhauling.

How long to midnight? The Doomsday Clock measures more than nuclear risk – and it’s about to be reset again

Jack Heinemann, University of Canterbury

The Doomsday Clock has never before been as close to midnight as it is now. There is scant hope of it winding back on its 75th anniversary.

From our foreign editions

60% of Australians want to keep Australia Day on January 26, but those under 35 disagree

David Lowe, Deakin University; Andrew Singleton, Deakin University; Joanna Cruickshank, Deakin University

A new national survey shows the majority of Australians want the day left as it is. But it also suggests a groundswell for change is in the works.

Will an Omicron-specific vaccine help control COVID? There’s one key problem

Deborah Burnett, Garvan Institute

Variant-specific vaccines would undoubtedly increase immunity. But waves of new variants would engulf the population faster than these vaccines could ever be deployed.

Q+A: What we can and cannot expect from the investigation into British prime minister Boris Johnson

Sue Roberts, University of Portsmouth

Sue Gray won’t rule on whether the prime minister has broken the law but her report could triggers a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

Codecracking, community and competition: why the word puzzle Wordle has become a new online obsession

Erin Sebo, Flinders University

Wordle has become an obsession online, with over 3 million daily players around the world. But the game has more in common with code-breaking than it does with crosswords.

Tonga eruption was so intense, it caused the atmosphere to ring like a bell

Kevin Hamilton, University of Hawaii

A phenomenon first theorized over 200 years ago is also a telltale sign of nuclear tests.

How mRNA and DNA vaccines could soon treat cancers, HIV, autoimmune disorders and genetic diseases

Deborah Fuller, University of Washington

DNA and mRNA vaccines produce a different kind of immune response than traditional vaccines, allowing researchers to tackle some previously unsolvable problems in medicine.

Ancient DNA suggests woolly mammoths roamed the Earth more recently than previously thought

Tyler J. Murchie, McMaster University

Permafrost in the Yukon is a treasure trove of ancient environmental DNA, but climate change threatens these rich historical archives.

From Algeria to Zimbabwe: how Africa’s autocratic elites cycle in and out of power

Andrea Carboni, University of Sussex; Clionadh Raleigh, University of Sussex

Leaders typically spread power among their ‘rival allies’ to keep it and co-opt enough of those elites in exchange for political support.