20 positive news stories from 2020 – because despite everything, it wasn’t all bad
Let us remind you of everyone who managed to light up an otherwise pretty bleak year.
By Becky Hardy
Sure, 2020 isn’t exactly going to go down in history as one of our finest. But, as the saying goes, stars can’t shine without the darkness. So take a look through our proverbial telescope and let us remind you of everyone who managed to light up an otherwise pretty bleak year.
The COVID vaccine wasn’t the only medical breakthrough…
In July, scientists in Australia found studies of a new cancer vaccine had shown promising results. It’s hoped the new vaccine could be used to treat blood cancers, plus other solid tumour types, including breast, lung, renal, ovarian and pancreatic cancers and glioblastoma. Although developed by researchers at Australia’s Translational Research Institute, in collaboration with the University of Queensland, the work was actually funded by grants from the UK cancer research charity, Worldwide Cancer Research, and Mater Foundation, a community-based fundraising organisation.
We took a step closer to gender equality
While we’re by no means there yet, the United Nations’ World’s Women 2020 report, published in October, found women’s representation in parliament has more than doubled globally – reaching 25% of parliamentary seats in 2020. There are now 20 countries with a female head of state or government (up from 12 in 1995), while health outcomes for women have also improved in some key areas, particularly childbirth.
Fewer animals became extinct
Definitely not the end goal, we know, but it’s a step in the right direction. In September, it emerged that up to 48 bird and mammal species have been saved from extinction by international conservation efforts since 1993. This is in the same year that critically-endangered blue whales were spotted in ‘unprecedented numbers’ around Antarctica and a record number of endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles hatched in Mexico.
Life beyond our planet also became a real possibility
In October, Nasa confirmed that the amount of water on the moon is more widespread than previously thought and could help sustain future missions as drinking water or fuel. The space agency’s Artemis programme will learn all it can about this water in advance of sending the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024, with the aim of establishing a sustainable human presence there by the end of the decade.
More women than ever are directing films
A report in January revealed that twice as many directors of 2019’s top-grossing films were female compared with those in 2018. Now let’s hope that means at least one of them will make it into next year’s Oscar’s nomination list, eh?
Britain went coal-free for the first time ever
The UK switched off its last coal generator on 9th April this year, after the country went into lockdown, and no coal has been used for electricity since. According to the experts, so far this year renewables have generated more electricity than fossil fuels – which has never happened before. This means there’s a real chance that renewables will overtake fossil fuels in 2020 as a whole.
We had bookshops feeling like Harry Potter was back on sale
During the first week that shops reopened after the first lockdown, records show almost 4 million books were sold in bookshops across England. Reni Eddo-Lodge’s anti-racism book ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race’ helped propel sales as it topped the charts, with total book sales up 30% on the same week in the UK the previous year, despite the fact that shops in Wales and Scotland remained closed at the time.
It only took six days for us to donate more than £1 million to Black Lives Matter UK
In the wake of the shocking murder of George Floyd in May this year, the Black Lives Matter movement launched a fundraising drive which saw an overwhelming amount of support – and money – go towards combating the causes and consequences of racism. Receiving more than £1 million in the space of just six days, the UK group said the funds would go towards effecting changes in the law, developing and distributing educational resources and healing practices in Black communities.
After 13 years of playing it cool, two giant pandas at the Ocean Park Zoo in Hong Kong finally made a move
And conservationists couldn’t be happier. It seems that perhaps all the pair needed was a bit of privacy in order to mate, as the zoo closed to the public in January due to the pandemic. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for the pitter-patter of tiny paws soon.
Lockdown saw many of us reconnect with our local community
A study of 2,000 people by Remember A Charity found that more than 50% have grown closer to their neighbours. It also revealed that just more than half of people believe that they are more appreciative of their local communities and charities due to COVID, and 47% are consciously choosing to value the smaller things in life.
North East teen sends more than 500 ‘boxes of positivity’ to children across the UK
16-year-old Jack Cole from Darlington was home for the weekend during his third stay at a mental health hospital when he started putting together ‘Jack’s Treasures’ boxes for his friends there. The boxes include sensory items, a worry stone and ‘encouragmints’ – Polos with inspirational quotes written on them – and were paid for with money he had saved from his birthday and Christmas. After seeing the positivity they helped to spread, Jack kept putting the boxes together and has now sent more 517 boxes around the country. Go on Jack!
Joe Wicks raised millions for Children in Need
In November, ‘the nation’s favourite PE teacher’ Joe Wicks completed an incredible, live 24-hour workout challenge – and raised more than £1.5m for BBC’s Children In Need in the process. The fitness expert and author was joined by famous pals, including Louis Theroux, Sam Smith and Mel C, who all took part in an array of workouts from HIIT to yoga.
It was announced that we will get an extra four-day bank holiday weekend in 2022
Last month, it was announced that a four-day bank holiday weekend will take place in June 2022 in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, celebrating her 70 years on the throne. Many of us welcomed the announcement, feeling as though we lost out on the one-off bank holiday announced for 2020 to celebrate VE Day.
UK supermarkets pledged to cut down on Christmas plastic
Tesco joined Morrisons, Iceland and Asda by introducing plastic-free Christmas ranges this year. A huge amount of plastic enters the ocean every single minute – and the UK’s supermarkets produce 800,000 tonnes of it every year, according to Greenpeace. But Tesco removed more than 20 million pieces of single-use plastic from its seasonal ranges, including crackers, cards and lights. It has also eliminated glitter in all its single-use products and packaging, making its wrapping paper, gift bags, cards and crackers completely recyclable.
Chelsea Women’s FC donated all of their title win prize money to charity
For winning the Women’s Super League this year, Chelsea Women’s FC won £100,000 (compared to the £150 million their male counterparts received, just FYI). But the champions proved they were winners on and off the pitch by donating the entirety of the prize money to the charity Refuge, which is the UK’s largest provider of domestic abuse services.
Joe Biden pledged to tackle climate change
US president-elect Joe Biden has promised to hold a major, international climate change conference early next year. He has also said publicly that he would seek to re-join the Paris agreement on the first day of his presidency, putting the US on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050.
The Theatre Support Fund+ raised £500,000 for theatre workers and the NHS
Since it was launched by theatre industry workers six months ago, The Theatre Support Fund+ has raised half a million pounds for theatre charities – including Acting For Others and The Fleabag Support Fund – as well as for the NHS COVID-19 Urgent Appeal. Their ‘The Show Must Go On!’ campaign drew huge support from the likes of Keira Knightley, Michael Ball and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
We finally got our hands on IKEA’s meatballs recipe
To lift our spirits during lockdown, furniture store IKEA decided to publish the previously-top-secret recipe for their iconic meatballs so that frustrated fans could make them at home. The move prompted the phrase ‘homemade IKEA meatballs’ to become one of 2020’s most-searched-for keywords on Google.
We met our new national hero, Sir Tom Moore
First introduced to us as ‘Captain Tom’, the former British Army officer raised a staggering £32 million for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his garden in the run-up to his 100th birthday. A knighthood swiftly followed, as did the presentation of SPOTY’s Helen Rollason award earlier in December, as well as the revelation that the programme had launched a brand new award named after Sir Tom himself. But he hasn’t put his feet up yet – the Second World War veteran has launched a podcast in partnership with Cadbury and charity Age UK’s ‘Donate Your Words’ campaign to help tackle loneliness in elderly people.
One couple made everyone’s Christmas dream their reality
We’ve all dreamed about a White Christmas. You know, just like the ones we used to know. Well, 2020 saw one couple from Dorset tie the knot in November to make that dream a reality. After their July wedding was postponed due to the pandemic, the pair finally joined surnames to become Mr and Mrs White-Christmas. We can only hope that the rest of their days are merry and bright.