2020 will most certainly been known as the year of the COVID-19 global pandemic which caused worldwide panic, however this unfortunate event was not in isolation.
6 months into 2020 and it is already being branded as ‘the worst year ever’.
The year started with mega-fires which devastated large parts of Australia, killing billions of animals and driving many species to the brink of extinction. Lives were lost, hospitals were inundated with the injured, and homes were destroyed. Whilst still in crisis, Australia was then hit by severe floods.
Globally, the year started with the fear of a war breaking out due to tensions escalating between the US and Iran.
In May, George Floyd was killed by police officers in Minneapolis sparking mass protests around the world and a long overdue reckoning on systemic racism.
A locust plague hit Northern Kenya due to the wet weather conditions allowing the insects to breed uncontrollably.
Whilst the first half of the year has been inundated with bad news, maybe this year has made us think more about the necessary changes we need to make to the way that we live our lives.
The Australian fires was a global wakeup call about the rapid progression of climate change
The extreme fires, which scorched more than 18million hectares of bush in Australia, caused complete devastation. Evidence now suggests that human-induced climate changed increased the risk of the weather conditions that drove the fire by at least 30%.
As a result of the fires, more than 27 Australian scientists have signed an open letter demanding their government takes urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They believe that the epic bush fires and the highest recorded temperatures on the continent were an indication that climate change is occurring even more rapidly than models have predicted. These fires are just a glimpse of the future that the entire world will face if climate inaction continues.
Counties that have legally committed to reach net zero emission by 2050, after signing the Paris Agreement, are continuing to work on reducing their carbon emissions.
The fear of a world war has sparked debates on how to diffuse future conflicts between countries
The feud between the US and Iran has heightened the need to control arms sales and heavy spending on aggressive military capabilities in order to prevent violence. Promotion of nonviolent alternatives and successes have also occurred, including citizens of the US demanding that their lawmakers reassess the use of sanctions as a disciplinary instrument which have resulted in a death toll of around 576,000 Iraqi children.
The death of Gorge Floyd has resulted in the much-needed reckoning of systemic racism
The family of George Floyd were determined that his death would not be in vain. Already, Floyd’s death has brought about much needed changes in society.
His death sparked mass protests around the world over the way police treat black people and highlighted the racism and inequality in societies. During these protests statues and monuments of people linked to slavery were toppled by demonstrators with the belief that they belong in museums rather than seeming to celebrate these individuals.
The protests have resulted in more people speaking out about racism. Large companies have pledged their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and millions of individuals have been donating to causes relating to racial injustice.
Police departments have also started to make changes. Minneapolis city council have forced the police department to ban chokeholds and neck restraints, and unannounced police raids have been scrapped in Louisville where Breonna Taylor died. Derek Chauvin has now been charged with murder and manslaughter over George Floyd’s death and the three other former officers face charges of aiding and abetting murder.
Other changes include; the removal of programmes which contain racially insensitive or inappropriate characters from streaming services and the renaming of streets in each New York borough to ‘Black Lives Matter’.
The Plague of Locusts is indicative of how humans are changing the environment
East African nations have been battling with swarms of desert locusts since the beginning of 2020. Studies have now linked a hotter climate to more damaging locust swarms, leaving Africa disproportionately affected. The widespread increase in rainfall, a phenomenon of climate change, has also favoured the multiplication of locusts.
While climate change is a global phenomenon, Africa sands out for its vulnerability which is driven primarily by the prevailing low levels of socioeconomic development. This has brought the necessity of combatting climate change to the forefront of the United Nations agenda.
The Coronavirus has resulted in positive lifestyle changes across the globe
Whilst the world has been forced to a standstill and communities have had to stay away from each other for survival, there have been some silver linings.
Before the pandemic, many of us were so busy living our lives that we lost those real and genuine moments with our loved ones. As life slowed down, we have found ways to stay connected with people and plan our work better.
The BMJ reported a reduction in other medical conditions because of the dramatic changes in how people are living their lives. Alice Pong, a paediatric infectious disease physician and the medical director for infection control at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, said the hospital has seen a sharp decline in paediatric admissions for respiratory illnesses. Beyond the disease reducing effects of social distancing, Pong said she believed children and families are taking advice on hand washing, personal hygiene, and other preventative measures seriously. The public is now acknowledging the importance of staying at home when they are sick, hand washing, and covering a cough or sneeze.
Covid-19 has forced the economy to a standstill and in most parts of the world people are staying closer to home. Traffic has reduced as a result and NASA satellites have documented a significant reduction in air pollution in cities around the world.
The pandemic has also resulted in the reassessment of priorities. People are more aware that nothing else really matters when health is lacking, and this raised awareness may be the driving force towards healthier habits worldwide.
Whilst 2020 may not seem like the year we all had planned when we celebrated the new decade on January the 1st but maybe it is the year we needed. Global warming, racial injustice, illness and disease, and conflict have all been brought to our attention and ignited actions aimed at change.
It’s important to focus on how we can better ourselves during this time of uncertainty and consequently help our planet find peace.