2020 was the year we went to war. There’s no kinder, easier or softer way to say it. It’s been a tumultuous, terrifying and exhausting year, where things began to build up as soon as the year turned. From environmental disasters to war, deaths, culture shifts and, of course, the global Covid-19 pandemic, it’s been a long uphill battle that has made this year one that many cannot wait to leave behind.
Through the eyes of media, it was doubly hard to watch, observe and report on things that continued to only get from bad to worse. The question that constantly arose was whether this was the calm before the storm or has the worst past? Things constantly looked ready to swing both ways.
This was what we saw.
Mother Nature’s Warning Battle Cry
From as early as January, our planet gave us stark warnings that global warming was real and it was time we paid attention and did something – or else. The Australian bushfires and Amazon forest fires were only a speck in the 52,934 wildfires recorded between 1 January to 4 December 2020, amounting to about 9.5 million acres burned in the 2020 period, compared with 4.7 million acres in 2019. Then there is the drastic levels of plastic pollution in our oceans, leading to microplastics being detected in a pregnant woman’s placenta for the first time. Our level of consumerism is catching up to us, pointing out to us the damage we’re doing as we continue to capitalise for profits without a care for the damage to people and planet it leaves behind.
But 2020 was also the year green recovery gained traction. The UK recently pledged to invest £350 million to cut emissions from heavy industry, while South Korea promised to create 1.9 million jobs by developing green technologies. China presented a plan to become carbon neutral before 2060 and European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, promoted the EU Green Deal as the bloc’s strategy for reviving economic activity in which she pledged to cut at least 55% of the EU’s total emissions by 2030.
Covid-19 Drew First Blood
First detected in the end of 2019, Covid-19 acceleratedly took over the world in 2020 and 1,796,292 lives with it (as of 30 December 2020). The world went to war with an invisible enemy that split nations, governments and families. Economies went into lockdowns, people were separated from loved ones and the stark gap between the rich and poor grew. Some nations like New Zealand, China, Singapore and even Malaysia went into early lockdown and attained a good hand at keeping numbers from rising; others like the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom paid the price for more lenient measures in favour of the economy with healthcare systems now crumbling under the weight of soaring cases.
November brought some good news with the announcement that the first vaccines are ready to roll out. As of writing, 7.25 billion doses have been pro-purchased by countries around the world. From over 200 vaccines candidates being developed and tested, The Oxford University vaccine has proven the most popular so far, with over 2.5 billion doses sold. The academic institution, together with AstraZeneca, is doling out 500 million vaccines each to India and the U.S., as well as 400 million to the European Union. Novavax, the second highest seller of COVID-19 vaccines, has pre-sold 1.3 billion doses. So far, the early birds Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have pre-sold 10% and 6% of the total vaccine doses being manufactured respectively.
#BlackLivesMatter Takes to the Street
Formed in 2013, the #BlackLivesMatter movement gained new traction and attention circa June 2020 when George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was pronounced dead after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, despite Floyd’s repeated protests that he could not breathe. Wide circulation of a bystander’s video of Floyd’s last minutes triggered massive demonstrations in cities throughout the United States. Floyd’s case is predated by a long series of killings going back years involving the police killings of Black men and women including Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, and Breonna Taylor.
Large protests of these deaths in the name of Black Lives Matter captured national and international attention and will continue to play a prominent role in demonstrations against police brutality and racism.
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Gone But Not Forgotten
In a bleak year of already too many deaths, names that inspired hope and inspiration were also on the list. Kobe Bryant’s unprecedented demise stunned the world as did Chadwick Boseman’s, Eddie Van Halen, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sean Connery, Dame Barbara Windsor, Grant Imahara and Naya Rivera. Fashion suffered a blow with the departure of names like designers Kenzo and Pierre Cardin as well as supermodel Stella Tennant. The sports world also lost a legend in Diego Maradona.
There’s no other way to describe 2020 other than that it’s been a tumultuous, terrifying and exhausting year, but it’s also one where humanity showed that it can be resilient, heroic and hopeful. And like with every war we have ever seen, we will arise stronger and wiser, gaining key insights to a better tomorrow with lessons in unity, kindness and empathy.
Here’s to a better 2021.