Updated: Jan 19
It is finally over, but we will not forget it easily. 2020 has been a challenging year for all of us. It’s also been a tough year for the environment. Wildfires raged in Siberia, Australia, and U.S., and forest clearing in the Amazon continued to rise. BUT, there were glimmers of hope that shone through the dark. Today, we share some of the best news from 2020.
“PASCITE UT ANTE BOVES, PUERI, SUBMITTITE TAUROS” “Feed the cattle as always, my children, and rear the bulls”
- Publius Vergilius Maro Blossoms of hope
If you feel overwhelmed by 2020, you are not alone. Our working lives, mental health, and families have been under pressure. It is true, we each need to heal.
Should we, however, only focus on ourselves? In the shadow of the pandemic, the environment was also heavily struck by 2020. The planet and forests are now, more than ever, in need of our compassion and positive contribution.
And there’s good news. In this crazy year, examples of success cast a light of hope for our common Home. Here are five of the many success stories. Let these inspire us, and instead of stepping back in 2021, encourage us to be even more ambitious.
1. An Earthy catch to the lockdown
The lockdown continues to be a challenge for us all. Yet, its positive effects cannot be ignored. You might have seen the images from the satellites around March-April. Long story short, the air got cleaner for a while. The concentration of pollutants dropped due to the almost complete halting of air traffic and the reduced number of cars on the streets. Certain parts in Punjab, India, constantly shrouded in haze, saw the Himalaya for the first time in decades, and in Cagliari (Sardinia, Italy) they spotted dolphins as the water got much cleaner. What are we learning from this? Not that we should all continue to be in lockdown. But rather, that radical change in the way our system operates is possible. We now know that we are totally capable of embarking on less damaging future pathways − right now. The question we’re asking is this: how can the lockdown inspire us to create a more regenerative tomorrow?
2. Look at where the money’s at
The world of Wall Street is gradually acknowledging climate change and is investing accordingly. A new report by the University of Texas in Austin revealed how “From banks and insurers to pension and mutual funds, 97% of 439 respondents believe global temperatures are rising”. Moreover, Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, world’s largest money manager, declared that companies consider the issue to be of paramount importance for their decision-making for mid and long-term investments, leading to a reshaping of the worldwide financial landscape. In this year of great angst, we may feel reassured that such a significant number of institutions are moving their capital in a direction that makes them become part of the solution addressing climate change. The next step: to follow through on the promises!
3. Forests are getting serious attention
In the past year, more and more companies are committed to protecting forests. This general positive trend spreading amongst companies is also displayed by innovation in legislation: a representative example is the “Environment Bill currently before the UK Parliament, (which) will require large companies to carry out due diligence to ensure supplies of forest-risk commodities have not been produced as a result of illegal deforestation.” Though progress may still be slow, we’re slowly pivoting to a world where corporations both give more and degrade less.
4. More care for seas and oceans
As my job deals with the sea (in weMORI I am a volunteer writer), I’m particularly excited to write about this. In 2018, leaders of Canada, Mexico, Chile, Jamaica, Norway, Portugal, Ghana, Namibia, Kenya, Japan, Indonesia, Palau, Australia and Fiji gathered to deal with the management of the oceans area under their responsibility. After two years of work, the 14 representatives decided to sustainably manage the totality of the oceans under their jurisdictions by 2025, with a cumulative total surface close to that of Africa. Furthermore, they committed to set aside 30 percent of their seas as protected areas by 2030.
Last but not least, 2020 is the year of the launch of weMORI! And we can reassure you: this SHOULD give you hope. It has been a wild rush coordinating an amazing team all around the world, setting up the crowdfunding, organizing events, preparing contents, working on the app and more (much much more!). In April 2021 we will have our 1.0 launch, but we are ready to protect and restore forests now with the beta version of the appt! Download the app from the google play store or the apple app store today!
May 2021 not be a “2020 version 2” I choose the quote at the beginning for this article from Vergil, Eclogue I, for a simple reason: inspired by all the relentless positive changes, now more than ever -literally- we have to undertake a steward role towards nature. Heal what has been damaged. This is to say, 2021 must be for all of us (yes, including you) not a year of lost occasions, but one full of chances successfully taken.
Tokyo, December the 27th, 2020
6. Whales are coming back
Commercial whaling ended around the early 20th century, but as we know Japan, Norway and Iceland are still hunting, using “scientific research” as a reason. Nevertheless, the International Whaling Commission and particular regulations are finally proving beneficial as around South Georgia (a small island Eastward Argentina and above Antarctica) fifty-five blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) have been spotted: a record since the beginning of 1900. Furthermore, humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) almost rebuilt their number to pre-hunting levels, and experts are also optimistic for southern right whales (Eubalaena australis).
5. Tasmanian devils return to the Australian mainland after millennia
Did you watch Warner Bros’ Taz Mania when you were a child? I did, and I loved that messy bearlike-pandemonium always craving for food. I was saddened in more recent years, when I discovered that the history of Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) is quite a grievous one. Around 3,000 years ago, together with several other large mammals they were exterminated from the mainland by indigenous populations, and survived only on the Isle Tasmania. Around 30 years ago they were heavily endangered because of a contagious face cancer that spread frighteningly due to the aggressive character of the species. This year, however, around 25 of them were reintroduced in a protected area of the mainland. As scavengers, their role in the ecosystem is a balancing one since they tend to fight invasive species such as certain kinds of cats and foxes.
- A. Witze, 10 Sep 2020, The Arctic is burning like never before — and that’s bad news for climate change, Nature, https://cutt.ly/Bh4RMUJ
- Center for Disaster Philanthropy, 2019-2020 Australian Bushfires, https://disasterphilanthropy.org/disaster/2019-australian-wildfires/
- M.Bloch et al., 1 Oct 2020, Fire Map: California, Oregon and Washington, New York Times https://cutt.ly/Mh799ZU
- E. Simon & A. Castano, 6 May 2020, Deforestation of Amazon rainforest accelerates amid COVID-19 pandemic, ABC News, https://cutt.ly/wh4TgOS
- Vergil, Eclogue I, Here young Emperor Augustus gives to his citizens the mission of living their life with a sense of dignity, but also of responsibility
- Passenger Demand Plunges in March as Travel Restrictions Take Hold,29 Apr 2020, IATA, https://cutt.ly/eh4YKv5
- A. Tomer & L. Fishbane, 1 May 202, Coronavirus has shown us a world without traffic. Can we sustain it?, BROOKINGS https://cutt.ly/Hh4Iryu
- N. Bhowmick, 13 Nov 2020, In New Delhi, burning season makes the air even more dangerous. Can anything be done? National Geographic, https://cutt.ly/Zh4IM29
- N. Dely, 5 Nov 2020, Coronavirus: sui social impazzano le fake news sugli animali, National Geographic, https://cutt.ly/oh4OPb7
- Wall Street investors react to climate change, 18 Feb 2020, University of Texas at Austin, https://cutt.ly/kh4OXNo
- S. Meredith, 14 Jan 2020, BlackRock CEO says the climate crisis is about to trigger ‘a fundamental reshaping of finance’, CNBC, https://cutt.ly/ah4PTwm
- Forest 500, 12 Nov 2020,UK government to legislate on imported deforestation in Environment Bill, https://cutt.ly/GjegtRe
- Oceanpanel, https://oceanpanel.org/
- J. Amos,20 Feb 2020, Astonishing' blue whale numbers at South Georgia, BBC NEWS, https://cutt.ly/vh4Sqwc
- Return of the whales to South Georgia, 20 Feb 2020, British Antarctic Survey, https://cutt.ly/Hh4SQbX
- Brown, Oliver, 2006, Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) extinction on the Australian mainland in the mid-Holocene: multicausality and ENSO intensification
- Auckland Zoo, https://www.aucklandzoo.co.nz/animals/tasmanian-devil
- J. Bittel, 5 Oct 2020, Tasmanian devils return to mainland Australia for first time in 3,000 years, National Geographichttps://cutt.ly/Hh4FpyK