I think it’s safe to say that most of us are counting down the days to when 2020 will become a thing of the past. The amount of tragedy and death that occurred around the world this year is heartbreaking, and though there won’t be immediate change, 2021 offers us some hope. Hope for a sense of normalcy, hope for a healthy future, and hope that we can be with each other again, maskless and without fear. Despite all that has happened though, positive changes have come out of this past year, and we at Shared Planet are here to celebrate them.
1. The Environment got a break
This compilation of photos shows famous streets, intersections, and highways all over the world completely empty due to stay-at-home orders. With international travel restricted and the majority of the world’s population working from home, the number of planes, trains, and automobiles in daily use decreased drastically. Because of this, our environment got the break it so desperately needed. Daily global CO2 emissions decreased by 17%, with a decrease of up to 26% in individual countries. Before the pandemic, global CO2 emissions were increasing on average 1% every year. The environment benefitted in smaller ways, too. More people took up gardening, and #PlantMom and #PlantDad became common hashtags on social media. Exhibit A: this viral #plantdaddy tiktok. Exhibit B: This Barcelona opera performance to an audience of plants, which were later donated to healthcare workers to help lift their spirits.
2. Our Health Improved
With gyms and restaurants closed for a significant period of the global pandemic, people began to take matters into their own hands, getting creative in how to stay healthy. At-home workouts became all the rage, with exercise equipment sold out for months. This man ran a marathon on his balcony after it was cancelled due to Covid-19 and this fitness instructor led a class from his roof. Baking, specifically bread, increased as well, with many people attributing its meditative feeling to the trend. Finally, more people took control over their mental health by adding meditation, journaling, and therapy to their days. Headspace offers free subscriptions to healthcare workers and educators specifically. Through the stress of the pandemic, many people found solace in what they could control: feeling good, both inside and out.
3. We became activists
The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers prompted activism like we haven’t seen in quite some time. People all over the world took to the streets to protest police brutality and fight for social justice and equal rights for all. Books like “How to Be an Antiracist” and “So You Want to Talk About Race” all but sold out, prompting communities to come together more solidly as a force against white supremacy. Racism and violence against people of color is not new in our country, but 2020 saw more institutions, corporations, and family units having honest conversations about the steps we must take to dismantle the white supremacist values our country was founded on. This increase in activism showed in the most recent election as well, with over 161 million Americans voting, the largest number in U.S. presidential election history.
4. Pet Adoption
This 2020 win makes me smile big time. Like everyone else, animal shelters got creative in how to stay “open” amidst the pandemic (think virtual tours and Facebook Live videos), and pet adoption increased dramatically. Whether it’s because people were lonely working from home, wanted a reason to take a walk outside, or needed a furry friend to help them de-stress, thousands of dogs and cats found fur-ever homes, offering unconditional love in return. Swoon.
5. The CDC approved a vaccine
December 2020 saw the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Multiple Covid-19 vaccines were approved by the CDC, and over 5 million doses have already been distributed all over the country. As we speak, frontline workers and high-risk individuals are receiving the vaccination that will help set “normal” back in action. This video of the first vaccines leaving Michigan is sure to make you cry.
Looking back on these 2020 wins, I hope we can smile knowing that there will always be light in the midst of darkness. Our global community came together in a way like never before, and people learned to appreciate the things that really matter, both large and small. Let’s hold onto this feeling as we go into 2021, with optimism, positivity, and love for all.
Maggie Blehar is a Philadelphia based writer/educator with a Bachelor’s in English and a Master’s in Education. She has been plant-based since 2011 and is always in search of ethical companies to support. She loves traveling, walking her dog, painting, meditation, working for social justice, digging deeper into her zodiac sign, and exploring the Philly vegan scene with friends. Some of her favorite organizations are: Don’t Eat the Homies, Farm Sanctuary, CHNGE, Gentle Barn, and the Equal Justice Initiative.