2020: Catch My Good Side
Written by Ciara Briscoe
Anyone else think 2020 was just a wee bit dramatic? The year began on an innocent-seeming Wednesday but truly kept that hump day energy flowing from start to end. As the calendar pages for January flipped over to February, the Australian bushfires kept raging, tensions in the Middle East intensified, and, of course - COVID-19 began to spread. This pandemic led to social and economic disruption on a global scale, with lockdowns, border closures, quarantine protocol, and the hospitals worldwide filled up quickly - like you need me to remind you about all that.
Next was a head-first dive into the largest economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and further universal climate change disasters; the global wildfire crisis, extreme cyclones, flooding, and droughts, to name a few. Not finished yet, 2020 saw an explosion in the port of Beirut, a plummet in oil prices that headed straight into negative figures, and, of course, the introduction of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and the protests and civil unrest that followed. While certainly heavily defined by the sheer amount of chaos that occurred this year, 2020 wasn’t all bad, and I’m here to remind you of all the good.
To start, let’s give a round of applause to all the people who learned how to wash their hands properly! Hand soap and sanitiser sales have never been better. Not so much of a concern for us here in ‘Nam (otherwise known as ‘The Land of the Bum Gun’), but the toilet paper crisis has beckoned a bidet boom, the best option for both our bottoms and the environment, too. Healthcare is more accessible than ever, thanks to telemedicine. The bestseller lists are filled with anti-racist books, and the topic has thought-provokingly entered the conversations of many ignorant souls for the first time. Hundreds of thousands of shelter pets were fostered or adopted, and now it seems as if everybody has a dog; a considerably better option than just being stuck on lockdown with your significant other or children (personal opinion of author).
We here in Vietnam were counting our lucky yellow star when it seemed that the government was acing it Corona-wise. They blocked foreign entry into the country from the 22nd of March, and began rolling out lockdown protocols, but this didn’t stop a group of Vietnamese fishermen from rescuing a Filipino man adrift at sea for 17 days. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases passed 3 million worldwide on 27th April. Meanwhile, Vietnam was a week into slowly lifting it’s 22 day social distancing protocol, allowing many businesses to reopen.
A young Vietnamese girl, Truong Thi Linh Nhan, and her brother, Truong Cao Khoi, saw the rest of the world struggling, and decided to use their li xi (lucky money) from TET to buy 20,000 face masks and donate them to the U.K., one of the world’s largest coronavirus hotspots. People across Vietnam listened to the government, respected the sick and the elderly, and were easily convinced on the whole mask thing. It was 99 days without local transmission before a flare up in Da Nang, and the first deaths recorded.
Despite appearing in China at the tail end of 2019, COVID-19 didn’t officially get its name until February 11th. This coronavirus caused lockdowns, loss of employment or income, illness, and death, among countless other problems. It also allowed many to focus on personal growth, change, and self-care. There were big changes to public health worldwide, and social distancing left a space (of about 6 feet) between us and our loved ones (and other undesirables). This made some go crazy, but others got creative!
Drive-in movie theaters made a comeback, while drive-in concerts became a thing. Puzzles and board games got us all away from our screens for a tad, although we were back to them when many museums, national parks, zoos, and even Mars (yes, the planet) opened up to audiences virtually. NASA took social distancing to a new level, and for the first time since the Space Shuttle retired in 2011, flew American astronauts to the International Space Station on an American spacecraft made by SpaceX - twice. These astronauts were clearly fed up with their own homes at this point. Even the Pope embraced the online world of live streaming, sending the Urbi et Orbi blessing for Easter absolutely viral.
Lockdowns and quarantining resulted in a work-from-home revolution, and could change many workplaces forever. Lockdowns also led to reduced pollution and lessened human environmental impact globally. The switch to online and all the closed businesses meant fewer people flying, and a decline in people driving; for the first time in a century, the cities were filled with birdsong bangerz; the Venice canals revealed their secret fish; and the notoriously smoggy skies of cities such as Hanoi and L.A. were true blue. There was even a 17% drop in global greenhouse gas emissions at one point, the biggest fall in human history.
While the polluted skies unfortunately did slowly return to Hanoi, Central Vietnam filled with water for 6 weeks of horrific flooding, and many stories of community and support came to light. One man, Vo Van Binh, 66, and his 15 year old grandson rescued over 100 people from floodwaters, while risking their lives, and their own home perished.
One side of 2020 seemed like the year that Mother Nature engaged her revenge plan. Before January even began, the Australian bushfires burned. They kept it up all the way through to May 2020, destroying land and life everywhere they raged. These fires, plus the later intense wildfire season in the U.S., as well as a number of other climate change issues, led to significant discussion and education about the effects that humans have had on global climate. We also began discussing the world’s plastic pollution problem, as it came to light that every minute of every day, the equivalent of a truck-load’s worth of plastic is dumped into the ocean. China (shockingly) joined more than 125 other countries that have banned or taxed single-use plastic or plastic bags, and has put the pressure on many more countries to follow suit.
2020 was truly a year for social justice and change, with people fighting for the climate and a future for our planet; enforcing socially distant policies, mask wearing, and general hygiene; over to those arguing for basic human rights, loudly, and finally being heard. Police brutality and racial tensions increased in the U.S. to the point that riots began, with peaceful and non-peaceful protesters unfairly being labelled terrorists. The U.S., under Trump’s leadership, began to descend into anarchy, with countless human rights violations carried out by government backed bodies. Black Lives Matter became the largest mass movement in history. George Floyd was killed by police on May 25, and his death triggered approximately 7,750 BLM-linked demonstrations over a three month span across the U.S. Although it was images of burning cars and police clashes dominating the headlines, 93% of the protests were peaceful. The ripple effect has continued, with thousands of similar rallies reported in countries around the world.
Finally, science did us a solid, and 2020 ended with some FANTASTIC news: vaccines for the disease that ruined the year in the first place. The vaccines hold the promise that this time next year, good news will be a lot easier to find… Although, I’m sure this article showed you, good news is always there for those who want to find it!