It was a year that worked really hard. However, as is the nature of things, the year 2019 will go down in history as a footnote to 2020.
Regardless, there were several developments that make 2019 a memorable year.
Among the positive news, there was the visit of Pope Francis to the UAE in January this year. It was the first ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula. In March, the Pope visited Morocco, the first visit of a Pope to the Northern Africa. These visits constituted the base of a credible dialogue to counter the extremist tendencies.
‘Becoming,’ the biography of Michelle Obama sold over 10 million copies within a short time of its launch, according to its publisher Bertelsmann. It was good news for two reasons: 1. Despite the alarming erosion of decency and proliferation of misinformation we see on the social media, the vast majority of the people stand for politeness and truth; and 2. The love for the book in its traditional form – the printed and bound book – is on the rebound.
In April this year, the US online sales overtook retail sales for the first time, with 11.813% online compared with 11.807% for general merchandise stores. This shift, hopefully irreversible, will level the playing field for all the players, regardless of their geographical location.
The world’s first malaria vaccine, giving partial protection to the children, began to be administered by the WHO in April this year in Malawi. In November, Pakistan became the first country in the world to start providing a new vaccine to the children that ensures immunity against an extremely drug-resistant (XDR) strain of typhoid. These two vaccines, and the others that are in various stages of development, will not only save countless valuable lives but also reduce the costs associated with the treatment of such diseases.
The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, the Norway’s Government Pension Fund, worth $1 trillion, got authorization this year to drop fossil fuel investments from Norway’s government. This news did not get the attention it deserves. With the decision to drop the fossil fuel investments from the portfolio, the Norwegian policymakers acknowledge the fact that the era of centrality of the hydrocarbon assets is nearing its end. The hydrocarbons would certainly remain a thing of great value as long as they last, but their decisive role is successfully questioned by the renewable energies.
In February, the researchers from the RMIT University in Australia announced their finding that the honeybees are able to add and subtract, and understand the concept of zero. It is a news that shatters our assumption that we can make all the decisions about this planet. It underscores, yet again, that we need to act more responsibly toward the environment and the other creatures.
Speaking of the other creatures, there was the news in February that the insect populations worldwide were collapsing, with 40% classified as ‘declining’ and 30% described as endangered. If this trend remains unchanged, it will be catastrophic for the nature’s ecosystems.
However, the year 2019 brought a mix of good and bad news about environment and the planet. The NASA data released in February showed that the world got a little bit greener – 5% more leafier since the early 2000’s. This was mostly due to the massive tree plantation campaigns in many countries, most notably China.
In March, in a dead whale beached at Mabini (Philippines) about 88 pounds of plastic was found in its belly, including 40 pounds of plastic bags. In May, the American diver Victor Vescovo made the deepest diver ever to the bottom of the Mariana Trench at 10927 meters and found there a plastic bag.
The US Department of the Interior and US Geological Survey published a survey in August, announcing that plastic was found in 90% of rain samples taken in Colorado. ‘It is raining plastic’ was the headline of the survey report.
In March, the European parliament imposed ban on the single-use plastics, including the cutlery and straws, which will come into effect in 2021. Canada also announced the ban on single-use plastics, effective 2021.
In February, JP Morgan became the first bank to create its own crypto-currency, the JPM Coin. In May, a kidney was delivered by drone for transplant surgery at a hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. In August, Frank Zapata became the first person to cross the English Channel by flyboard in 22 minutes. These seemingly unrelated developments are actually a part of the same pattern: the world around us is changing fast, the way we live and the way we do things will transform beyond recognition in the foreseeable future; are we ready to adjust to what is descending on us?
In this small sampling from a whole year’s worth of news, we have tried to show that despite the demoralizing tone of the daily news cycle, we are actually moving forward, we are actually making things happen, we are learning from our mistakes and trying to undo the damage that has been done. /// nCa, 23 December 2019
Based on compilation by ‘On This Day’