2020: The Positives of a Difficult Year
From finding new ways of connecting with loved ones to reaching out to neighbours, strangers and those in need, so much of daily life in the last year was shaped by kindness, hope and compassion. Amidst the darkness of 2020, the last year had its shining lights and moments of inspiration.
A Helping Hand
In response to crisis, we learned the true meaning of community spirit. Rallying around those in need like never before, society worked together to deliver food, medicines and PPE to the most vulnerable; transporting patients to appointments, or simply offering a quick hello from the end of the drive. Love thy neighbour, as the saying goes.
“In response to unprecedented humanitarian need, we witnessed equally unprecedented humanity and kindness,” said Francesco Rocca, the president of the International Federation of Red Cross. “Though the future can seem bleak, every individual action of solidarity, of peace, of lending a hand and supporting your community counts.”
Whereas conventional vaccines often take a decade or longer to develop, two coronavirus vaccines, both effective to about 95%, took just 300 days. This astonishing breakthrough raised the hopes of billions, yet none of this would be possible without unprecedented global collaboration; a reminder that we really are all in this together.
A Record Year for Renewables
According to the International Energy Agency, almost 90% of new electricity generation in 2020 was renewable, with just 10% powered by gas and coal. In April, a month into pandemic, Britain broke records for going without coal-fired power generation for the longest stretch since the Industrial Revolution.
The IEA predict that green electricity could overtake coal to become the world’s largest power source by 2025. Long may it continue!
Female Leaders Led the Way
Results of an academic analysis of 194 countries concluded that Covid-19 outcomes were significantly more successful in countries led by women. Earlier lockdowns and more pragmatic responses to scientific advice resulted in 50% fewer hospitalisations than in countries led by men.
Academics Supriya Garikipati and Uma Kambhampati suggest the difference “may be explained by the proactive and coordinated policy responses” adopted by female leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Denmark’s Mette Frederiksen, Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen and Finland’s Sanna Marin.
One of the most notable changes in the last year has been the repurposing of urban environments. With numbers of inner-city commuters, tourists and workers dwindling, and the needs of those who remain transformed, the pandemic has forced a rethink on urban spaces. Authorities in cities around the world seized on spring lockdowns to reclaim the streets for pedestrians, walkers and cyclists. It seems now out of the question to return to pre-Covid traffic and pollution levels.
Heroes Stepped Up
Just when we needed a hero, several came forward all at once. Inspiring in more ways than one, 23-year-old Manchester United star Marcus Rashford campaigned tirelessly for free school meals for vulnerable and disadvantaged children, forcing the government to make a major U-turn to support his mission. Rashford used Twitter to inspire hundreds of businesses and food outlets across the UK to lend a hand too. And what about Captain Sir Tom Moore? The former British Army officer won the nation’s hearts as he raised over £40m for NHS Charities ahead of his 100th birthday.
Away from the headlines, ordinary people up and down the country stepped up when it mattered most. Whether selflessly helping out at food banks or inspiring community initiatives, this was a timely reminder of what’s important and how much better off we’d all be if compassion, kindness and selflessness were the norm.
Nature is healing
With planes grounded and travel all but off limits for much of 2020, cities the world over benefitted from the cleanest air in a long time. The UK saw one of the biggest drops in carbon emissions, with global emissions from fossil fuels falling by the largest margin in recorded history.
It appears that the revival of nature during the first lockdown has inspired somewhat of a green revolution, with even louder calls to address the effects of climate crisis.
Black Lives Matter
In 2020, the call for social justice and racial equality grew even louder. Crucial lessons were learnt about the ongoing impact of institutional racism, and how we all have a role to play in tackling it.
As the BLM movement spread, conversations opened up, black voices were amplified, and institutions were forced to reflect on their behaviour and biases. A new year provides a new opportunity to work towards greater representation, equality and celebration of black culture.
Pandemic served a timely reminder of how lucky we are to have the NHS. For weeks on end, people across the country gathered on their doorsteps at 8pm on a Thursday to clap and cheer in appreciation of the key workers on the frontline.
Determined to do their bit for the cause, 1,000,000 people had registered to volunteer with the NHS by April alone – less than two months after the virus reached our shores. Businesses and manufacturers also played their part by producing PPE, gloves and gowns when supplies ran low.
As the strain on the NHS worsens and resources are once again stretched, let’s hope they continue to feel our support and are at some point rewarded with the long-overdue pay rise and funding they deserve.
2020 may be remembered more for its downs than its ups, but it’s important not to forget the acts of kindness, compassion, togetherness and love. The new year would do well to follow suit.