Well, here we are in 2021! The UK has finally left the European Union, and I am really struggling to decide what to do with all the lovely sovereignty that I now have. I just feel so free! It’s enough to make me want to stride down the street clad only in my Union Jack underpants! But enough (for now) of the political disaster that is Brexit, 2020 has been a nightmare in so many other ways. The COVID-19 pandemic has already killed over 1.8 million people worldwide, and it is currently creating absolute chaos in Europe, especially the UK, partly due to the high prevalence of idiocy in our population (especially among the Government), but also due to the emergence of a new strain of SARS-CoV-2 known as UK B117, which is much more easily transmitted than the original version of the virus.
At this time of year you tend to get articles that look back over the previous year. Bearing in mind how horrendous 2020 has been for most people, a number of these this year have sought glimmers of good news among the gloom.
The First Bit Of Good News From 2020
Probably the number 1 bit of good news is the fact that Joe Biden assumes the US Presidency on 20 January, although Trump still doesn’t seem to have accepted this, and has been recorded on the phone trying to persuade election officials in Georgia to find him the imaginary votes that he would need to win the state! The defeat of Trump is good news in so many ways, but globally probably the most important of these is the fact that we are swapping a corrupt climate change denier for a man who believes in the science, and who seems determined to have the US take an active role in tackling the climate change crisis.
The Wired List
Wired magazine has produced a very varied list of “20 things that made the world a better place in 2020”, some of which are more momentous than others!
The first thing that they list is the fact that we have managed to create the World’s first mRNA vaccine in less than a year. Since this is, hopefully, going to be part of the solution to the biggest public health crisis of our lifetimes, it is undeniably good news. They also point out that vaccines of this type may have a role in other diseases, and may also be handy for future pandemics (less cheery thought).
Second on their list is the fact that lab-grown meat is going to be on sale for the first time. Apparently, the Singapore Food Agency has approved the sale of lab-grown chicken made by the American company Eat Just. The cells for the “chicken bites” are harvested from chickens, but they are grown in a bioreactor.
The third thing on Wired’s list is the fact that an artificial intelligence (AI) network developed by Google AI offshoot DeepMind has made a huge leap in the solving of one of biochemistry’s biggest challenges, namely determining a protein’s shape from its amino acid sequence. This is an extremely difficult task that normally requires lengthy, expensive lab experiments.
The fourth entry on the list refers to the fact that the dream of unlimited clean energy from nuclear fusion could be fulfilled by the Joint European Torus (JET) project, which will start work this year (so, strictly speaking, not in 2020!).
Thereafter, apart from celebrating the joyful fact that Kamala Harris was elected the USA’s first female Vice President, the list becomes a bit more contentious——-suggesting that finding good news in 2020 involved a significant amount of barrel-scraping. The building of a dam by beavers in England (even though it’s the first in four centuries), and the rediscovery in Surrey of a spider species not seen since 1999 gives you a flavour of what I mean.
One thing that did please me, having visited Amboseli National Park in Kenya myself in 2012, was the inclusion on the list of a baby boom there in the elephant population. Apparently, there were more than 170 calves in the park by the end of last summer compared with 113 calves in the whole of 2018. The rate of poaching is also a fraction of what it was.
There were a few other bits of significant good news in the Wired list from 2020 on the environmental front, but I will cover these further in my next post.
As the UK seems to be announcing more and more coronavirus cases every day, it is difficult to remain optimistic for long, but it helps a little to remember that some good things happened in 2020!