In a lot of ways, we have not had a great year. Maybe we’ve been saying this since all the celebrity deaths in 2016, maybe we’ve been saying it since the beginning of time. Who can say. But in any case, one thing remains true: 2019 has been more than a little bit rubbish.
We’ve had relentless, often seemingly fruitless, conversations about the climate crisis. We’ve had Brexit extensions, a surprise general election, and a prime minister stepping down – only for Boris Johnson to step up. Everything, for many of us, has felt depressing and hopeless.
Of course, it’s not actually all been doom and gloom – the good has just been lost in a sea of terrifying bad news. Here are some actually positive things that happened this year that you probably just managed to forget about in the fog, many of which will have a positive impact on our climate and future...
In a year full of terrifying climate-related news, there has been one ray of hope: 16-year-old Greta Thunberg. Her work to save the planet began over a year ago, in August 2018, when she began skiving off school to strike outside parliament to call for action on global warming. Her bravery went immediately viral, and even in the face of harsh and cruel criticism, the schoolgirl has refused to back down. In fact, this year, she’s inspired thousands of others to join her fight. This year, a year on from her initial strike, Greta sailed from the UK to the US to raise awareness about reducing emissions.
Northern Ireland decriminalises abortion
Activists in Northern Ireland have been fighting for a long time to legalise access to safe abortions in the country. Despite opposition from anti-choice protestors, in October of this year, abortion was decriminalised. Previously, mothers and health providers were at risk of prosecution in the case of abortion. This forced women to travel to England for abortions, to risk their lives, and for many, avoid the procedure out of fear. Now, they can terminate an unwanted pregnancy without having to fear prosecution. The Department of Health are working hard with medical staff to bring abortion services in line with the rest of the UK by April 1 2020.
There's been some positive climate-related news
The way that we’ve been talking about the climate crisis constantly this year may, in part, make it seem as things are dire and beyond redemption. But all that talking is actually doing a whole lot of good: for one, we’re all shaming one another into using less single-use plastics. The EU is making moves to ban single-use plastics by 2021. The earth, in parts, is getting greener. Scientists invented a coil that could break down plastics in the ocean. Researchers have found a way to turn old plastic into cheaper, lighter prosthetic limbs. Sales of plastic bags are down 90 per cent since the introduction of the 5p/10p bag. Essentially, there is hope, even if it is small.
People are more politically engaged than ever
In the aftermath of another general election, it can be easy to feel as if there's little hope for our future. It would be understandable if people were feeling hopeless and apathetic. But the reality is the opposite. With the help of social media, more and more people are becoming politically engaged. People are protesting all over the world in support of the environment. People are encouraging one another to vote, leading to over 3 million people registering to vote (some, but not all, of them are new voters). While social media has its downsides, it's energising people to make changes and connecting people to information about politics and the world that's serving to change minds and reinvigorate people.