7 wonderful things that happened in 2020
A new year brings new hope. And it turns out that — despite many gloomy news headlines — we have plenty of reasons to be optimistic. The implications of these wonderful events will roll forward into the upcoming year.
Here are just a few good things that happened in 2020.
A vaccine in record time
The world's medical and pharma scientists have never made vaccines as quickly as they did this year. The vaccines will not only let us emerge from lockdown (and travel again!), they're also the first using messenger RNA, proving that vaccine technology is a game changer. Not only does that open the door for use against existing diseases, it but also means we could rapidly produce vaccines to fight future pandemics.
Carbon emissions fell by the largest amount ever recorded
Emissions fell by a record seven percent in 2020. Some countries around the world are making commitments to continue this trend. China, Japan and South Korea all pledged this year to net zero emissions by mid-century. The EU and the UK, locked in Brexit negotiations, competed for the greatest emissions reductions by 2030 (pledging 55 percent and 67 percent respectively). Corporations are on the same carbon reduction trend, with Apple going net zero by 2030 and Wal-Mart following suit in 2040. The big question: how low can we go?
Africa declared free of polio
Polio can lead to paralysis by attacking the nervous system. More than 95% of Africa's population has now been immunized. That’s a stark difference from 1996, where poliovirus paralyzed more than 75,000 children across the continent. That year Nelson Mandela launched the "Kick Polio Out of Africa" programme, mobilizing millions of health workers who went village-to-village to hand-deliver vaccines. The results are Keep reading.
Elephant populations are bouncing back
By the end of summer, Amboseli National Park in Kenya reported more than 170 calves, versus 113 in all of 2018. The pregnancy peak followed heavy rain the previous year, which means better grazing and therefore more successful births. Alongside the elephantine baby boom, Kenya has reported that the rate of poaching has fallen to just seven (down from 80 in 2018), with numbers of the animals rebounding from 16,000 in 1989 to more than 34,000. Read more at NPR.
A woman in the White House
The US elected its first female vice-president, and she's a woman of colour. In a year of difficult politics, and amid a backdrop of racial tension, the US managed to make a major step forward by electing Kamala Harris. Read more pretty much anywhere, but start with learning about Harris's connection to Montréal!
Electric cars are accelerating
Part of the reason for declining oil demand in 2020 is the (quietly) roaring victory of electric vehicles. Globally, 10 percent of all cars sold in 2020 were EVs — a 28 percent increase from 2019. Sales are predicted to go up again by 50 percent in 2021. The EU is driving much of that sales growth, but California just mandated an end to internal combustion engine sales by 2035. The Guardian has more on this story.
We made the earth greener
An international effort towards "rewilding" — restoring all degraded natural areas — could store centuries' worth of carbon emissions and save 70 percent of endangered species. The UK, for example, is paying landowners to let their fields grow wild. It is now more woodland-covered than at any time since the age of Robin Hood.
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