Well, what a year its been.
Even as hope begins to dawn with the speedy development and approval of COVID~19 vaccinations, 2020 continues to throw up obstacles in the form of newer and nastier strains of the virus leading to further restrictions and disappointingly distanced festivities.
But we’re so nearly there. Tomorrow we begin the new year, and I for one, am pretty happy to wave goodbye hello!
Nevertheless, 2020 has taught us a lot, and among the struggles there’s been a range of positive developments, changes and events spanning environmental, social and political boundaries.
So, rather than let the year go to waste, I’ve taken the rare decision to throw my normal commitment to balance out of the window in my final blog post of the year.
Instead, I’ve gone for an entirely optimistic round up of the good news to take from 2020 ~ I hope you’ll find something that makes you smile!
Environmental Wins To Take From 2020
Much as the global pandemic has wreaked havoc on our lives and caused great misery and suffering, there are a few positives that have arisen as direct impact of various measures to prevent its spread.
Global CO2 emissions have fallen by approximately 7% this year, the most significant annual decline since World War 2.
Nations which endured lengthy periods of strict confinement saw even greater decline, with France and the UK leading the way at 15 and 13% respectively.
The emissions of these countries generally come more from transport than industry, implying that this success may be attributed to restrictions on travel and a broad shift towards working from home.
Though researchers predict a rebound in emissions, and remind us of the insignificance of short term decline, what 2020 has shown us is that we are capable of changing our way of living and working in order to reduce our disastrous impact on the planet.
Along similar lines, periods of confinement have helped to clean up water sources from Venetian canals to rivers in India. As factories have closed, less polluting runoff has been produced while a decline in tourism has allowed canals to enjoy a welcome decrease in traffic.
Air pollution, a major cause of health problems such as asthma attacks, strokes, cancers and, of course, increased vulnerability to COVID~19, has also significantly declined in 2020.
Findings by NASA suggest a whopping 20% decline in Nitrogen Dioxide emissions specifically associated with lockdowns.
Again, while none of us hope for these circumstances to continue in the new year, what we’ve learned is that changing our actions can contribute substantially to the health of our environment and its communities.
2020 has also brought some good news related to biodiversity, with a number of rare species starting to bounce back from the brink of extinction, including Antarctic Blue Whales, Kakapo Parrots, Beavers and Great Fox Spiders.
Though the COP15 nature conference was postponed, focus has been brought to biodiversity through new awareness of its urgency in preventing disasters, including future pandemics.
Attention~grabbing studies such as the Living Planet Report and the recently updated Red List of endangered species have encouraged world leaders in pledging to better protect and regenerate nature.
France have outlawed certain methods of hunting birds, the UK have successfully reintroduced the Manchester Argus butterfly to Astley Moss Peatlands, and suburbs in Costa Rica have granted bees, plants and trees rights of citizenship.
Indigenous communities around the world are increasingly being consulted and given rights to the responsible management of nature within their traditional territories. Practices of regenerative agriculture, rewilding and sustainable grazing are finally being recognised and respected.
Less traditional, but with similarly encouraging commitment, technological innovation has also stepped up in the fight against biodiversity loss, with DNA barcoding, beehive monitoring and aerial mapping of coral reefs serving as promising examples.
Innovation in 2020 has gone beyond specific wildlife conservation efforts.
The food waste crises is being tackled creatively through apps, colour changing food labels, solar powered fridges and even bins filled with larvae.
The fashion industry is addressing its sustainability issues with compostable textiles, made~to~order business models, recycled or upcycled materials and experimentation with hosting events and providing samples digitally.
Australian scientists have even discovered a method of growing coloured cotton, reducing the need for harmful chemical dyes.
With positive stories like these, we can find hope that we are beginning to see commitment to a more circular, regenerative way of living which promises a truly sustainable future.
Innovation has been enabled and encouraged by broader trends in 2020, with increased financial support such as the $24mn stimulus package facilitating circular economies in Europe and the increasing interest in sustainability reporting and measurement in investment transactions.
New tools and metrics are aligning to encourage organisations to capably and transparently report on their impact.
Banks and asset managers responsible for allocating capital are increasingly blocking certain clients and activities which come alongside environmental risks.
This boom in sustainable finance is highlighted by 2020’s statistics on renewable energy, with $35bn being invested in new offshore wind projects within the first 6 months of the year alone. Meanwhile, the UK government has finally agreed to stop financing overseas fossil fuel development.
This significant financial shift is drastically impacting the corporate sector, in combination with increasing consumer expectations.
More and more citizens are committed to interacting only with companies that are both ethical and sustainable.
Corporations have been forced to change their ways, with several major organisations making significant pledges towards improving their sustainability.
Apple have committed to full carbon neutrality by 2030, while Dell plan to reduce their emissions by 50% in the same period. Dell have also promised to increase recycling programmes and their use of renewable energy.
Even Amazon have launched a $2bn Climate Pledge Fund to invest in companies committed to ‘decarbonising’ the Earth.
Though their success is yet to be seen, these commitments can hardly be bad news.
Perhaps more exciting is the support shown for innovative start up businesses and social enterprises committed to sustainability from the start.
The political commitments in this area will be discussed further on in this post, but its certainly refreshing to see renewed consumer interest in purchasing from local, small businesses which add real value to their community.
2020 Progress Towards
Social Justice and Wellbeing
2020 has been an extraordinary year in terms of activism and collective social movement.
Momentous human rights achievements of 2020 have included an end to child detention in Greece, the Pope’s support for legal protection of same~sex Civil Union, and historic global commitment to ending the worst forms of child labour.
Undoubtedly the most prominent social justice issue of the year was the resurgence of the global Black Lives Matter movement.
In May, the video of George Floyd’s murder went viral, and protests ensued across the world.
The police officers responsible for George’s death were arrested and charged, and the City of Minneapolis, followed by others across the US, have elected to dissolve their police force in favour of community~led services.
In the UK, the BLM movement gained widespread support, raising well over £1m in contributions and taking the forefront in media.
Social restrictions meant the majority of BLM demonstrations were grassroots protests taking place in localised contexts, allowing specific policies, curriculums and public spaces to be critiqued.
Examples of the success of these localised protests are seen in the destruction of Bristol’s slave trader statue, and the FINAL agreement to remove Cecil Rhodes’ stature from Oxford University.
These moments of victory indicate the start of a refreshing shift from a longstanding, institutionalised culture of British tradition which has failed to acknowledge and repent for racist, colonial history.
Corporations around the world were also held accountable for lack of inclusion and diversity. 2020 has seen major increase in consumer demand for accountability and transparency, with younger generations increasingly committed to conscious consumption.
As shops have closed and budgets tightened, brands have been pressured to live up to customer expectations of social responsibility.
Employees have spoken out against discriminating employers, apologetic statements have been given, and, in line with organised campaigns such as the Fifteen Percent pledge, commitments to diversity in hiring and leadership have been made.
Social media has encouraged consumers to purchase from BIPOC businesses, promoting inclusivity within an overall positive trend towards supporting small, independent enterprise.
COVID~19 and the following lockdowns led to the cancellation of many retail orders and refusal to pay contracts or take responsibility for inventory.
This caused extreme suffering to workers, particularly in vulnerable communities, who faced unpaid wages or unfair dismissal.
Since launching their Pay Up petition at the end of March, Remake have successfully unlocked $22bn in unpaid contracts and gained the signatures of over 270,000 supportive citizens.
Although these positive steps in social justice have not fully resolved the initial bad that sparked their necessity, they can still be considered good news as they have saved and changed lives, raised awareness, strengthened vulnerable voices and encouraged participation.
Perhaps most importantly, they have proven the perseverance, power and potential of collaborative action even in such dark times.
This can act as inspiration for future social change, which is further enabled by technology and social media. The digital world continues to develop at high speed, allowing us to find new ways of coming together in solidarity, sharing global issues and taking responsibility for revolutionary action.
In addition to the more specific events exemplifying good news for social justice this year, 2020 has brought broader changes in the way we live our lives.
Some of these shifts bring definite benefit and are likely to continue as we enter the new year.
For example, despite lockdown and social distancing measures, some people report feeling more connected than they did previously. This is attributed to multiple factors, such as spending more time with family (due to dwindling need to commute) and online communication platforms gaining familiarity, accessibility and creativity.
Self~isolation has brought out our social nature, with communities coming together across the world, clapping for carers, forming cross~balcony orchestras and even attending socially distanced street parties. Social media has been utilised, with local Facebook groups encouraging favours to be swapped and volunteering to be organised.
A break in routine has given many of us the opportunity to stop, think and restructure our lives. We’ve formed new habits, learned new skills, started new businesses.
Flexible working has saved people time and money on travel to, from and between work places. For some individuals, such as lone~parents or those with chronic illness, its made work more accessible.
Adaptation to travel restrictions has further broken down previous accessibility constraints.
We can now tour museums and galleries, attend concerts and see plays in the theatre without leaving our homes. While some may view this as poor substitute, for those who have previously been limited in such real~life experiences, it comes as a welcome opportunity.
2020’s innovation has gone beyond visits to the art gallery.
National lockdowns have encouraged creativity in a number of social contexts. For example, the shift to online education has seen teachers generating new ideas for digitally engaging their pupils with games, tasks and self~led learning.
Market disruption has led businesses to reinvent themselves, from cafes adopting takeaway revenue streams and fitness instructors moving online to gin distilleries making hand sanitisers.
2020 has provided unprecedented opportunity for markets and business models to form and adapt, while giving them time to assess their true purpose and respond to stakeholder priorities, resulting in a substantial increase in corporate initiatives involving financial aid, customer/employee support, ecological commitment, technological/infrastructural development and diverse representation.
Industries successful throughout the pandemic have included online education, gardening and exercise equipment ~ indicating a trend towards self investment and personal care.
Many would argue this has long been neglected, so perhaps some good news to take from 2020 is that we have learned to be kinder to ourselves.
We may also be growing kinder to others. Classy’s annual Why America Gives report found that 20% of survey respondents planned to give more generously this year than in 2019. 24% claimed that the global pandemic has encouraged them to be more generous in 2020; citing strengthened passion for social issues, concern for the increased needs of non~profit organisations and the emergence of new organisations as reasons for increased giving.
In the same report, 58% of participants said they had donated to social justice causes for the first time this year, with 43% doing so in addition to their normal annual giving.
Its refreshingly optimistic to find that inclination to give has increased in alignment with perception of increased need. While 2020 has seen great hardship, the level of humane response must undoubtedly come as good news.
Finally, this past year has revitalised our sense of gratitude. We’ve developed a fresh perspective of appreciation for things once taken from granted. We’ve had our eyes opened to the fragility of the World around us.
Political Good News to Take From 2020
Though late in the year and a transition not yet complete, 2020 has brought a sigh of relief as we wave goodbye to President Trump. I’m afraid I can’t pretend to be unbiased here, I was positively ecstatic when Joe Biden won the US election.
Biden immediately committed to rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, promising more ambitious goals and the aim of supporting and encouraging global sustainability efforts.
His $1.7tn climate plan detailed targets relating to clean energy, green jobs, carbon free electricity by 2035, net~zero emissions by 2050, the banning of new oil/gas drilling on federal lands, and methane emission limits established for new operations.
Furthermore, under Biden’s presidency, Kamala Harris became the first black woman and first Asian American vice President, which we can hope will encourage the representation of vulnerable communities who have previously been marginalised within US policy.
Kamala Harris was not the only diverse representative to appear in the political good news of 2020.
Cori Bush became the first black woman to hold a Congress position in Missouri, joining re-elected BIPOC Congresswomen in New York, Minnesota, Michigan and Massachusetts.
Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones became the first openly gay black and latino members of congress, while Mauree Turner of Oklahoma took their place as the first non~binary and first Muslim State House Representative.
As a major State power, the increased diversity of US politics is certainly good news to take from 2020, encouraging inclusive representation in a nation looked up to across the globe.
Closer to home, the UK has reported some positive political moves this past year.
The inspiring efforts of Marcus Rashford, a star of english football, and the social movement he encouraged have convinced UK governments to provide free school meals to children both during term~time and over holidays.
Furthermore, the government have pledged an extra £16m for food banks; ‘Healthy Start’ payments to low income pregnant women and mothers of young children; and continued holiday activity and food programmes in 2021.
Despite its many hiccups and the fear of what may happen when it ends, the UK’s furlough scheme (and alternatives for the self~employed) has been continuously extended, protecting jobs and providing some level of income to millions of British citizens.
Workers in many sectors have gained recognition, including discounts, specified shopping hours and increased mental health support for NHS staff; PPE, improved conditions and increased pay for outsourced cleaners; improved rights for sex workers; and employment rights for foster care workers.
Though initially marginalised by promised support to businesses, dedicated lobbying has encouraged the Government to acknowledge the contributions of social enterprises, securing access to £310m in grants for civil society and £150m in funding from dormant accounts.
Furthermore, the Government have revealed their £200m package to help innovative business committed to social and environmental sustainability, funding energy efficient technology, AI traffic management systems, and sustainable packaging alternatives.
This comprises part of the broader £750m promised in grants and loans for innovative firms, in addition to a £500m fund matching private impact investors.
These measures have ensured the survival of businesses committed to social and environmental causes, allowing them to develop innovative approaches to the struggles posed by COVID-19.
The struggles of UK businesses throughout 2020 have been compounded with anxiety over the prospect of Brexit.
Though I remain wholeheartedly against the whole idea, the last~minute agreement of a deal allowed some relief to those fearing expensive new tariffs and quotas.
Across the globe, a difficult and disruptive year has exposed several instances of vulnerability and injustice. It has highlighted the potential impact of natural phenomena on our lives, and encouraged worldwide policy~makers to take scientific advice more seriously and commit to active change.
The damage of COVID~19 has created space for ideas of ‘green recovery’, with many political leaders announcing new commitments to sustainability initiatives, including China’s vow to cut CO2 emissions by 65% of 2005 levels by 2030, the EU’s plan to reduce greenhouse~gas emissions by 55% between 1990 and 2030, and a variety of net~zero, adaptation climate finance commitments across the globe.
More than 60 nations have pledged to prioritise the protection of our planet and its species when approaching COVID recovery, with notable plans to reduce habitat destruction, end environmentally destructive subsidies, promote regenerative agriculture and transition to principles of circular economy in industry.
Its certainly been a whirlwind of a year for international politics. Of course, there have been many drawbacks, errors and injustices, but I hope here to have captured some good news you can take from the political action of 2020.
Personal Achievements in 2020
This past year has forced us to adapt under extremely difficult circumstances.
The good news here of course, is that we’ve had the opportunity to learn, develop and reflect. Each and every one of us can look back on 2020 and see drastic change in ourselves and in our lives.
When you look back, what positives do you see? What lessons have you learned, what success have you achieved?
For me, 2020 is the year I completed my Masters in Social Development, being awarded a merit despite the disruption of my study and the fact that I never actually met my dissertation supervisor.
Its the year I had the idea of creating Waggle Dancers, which has ignited an unstoppable passion within me and encouraged me to learn new skills I had never previously imagined.
In a matter of months, I’ve gained a generous network of inspiring contacts, a credible social media audience and new confidence in myself and my abilities.
I look back on 2020 and see the supportive relationships I’ve built.
I’ve grown closer with colleagues as we’ve come together in adapting to new and difficult circumstances. I’ve bonded with my Aunt and her family, having moved in with them to avoid severe isolation during lockdown. I’ve maintained connection with friends back home, finally having the time for lengthy phonecalls and the revelation of easy video communication.
I’ve even boosted my skills in building relationships with customers. Though its something I’ve long prided myself on, being mentioned by name in 9 5~star TripAdvisor reviews has certainly been a nice ego boost!
I’m proud to say I’ve truly embraced the opportunity to learn and develop this year. Though I can’t pretend I’m sad to see it come to an end, I would also argue that 2020 has not been a total write~off.
Despite its many flaws, there has been good news to take from 2020.
As we bring in a new year, I’d love to hear your reflections. Whether its good news you’ve noticed, lessons you’ve learned or personal achievements – Share your 2020 positives in the comments below!