Well, that was a year.
As the ink dries on this chapter of the history books, how will we summarise the year that was 2020?
Phrases such as “The world has gone mad!” and “We’re living in unprecedented times.” reverberate frequently, and while it is undoubtedly unprecedented, it’s not the world that has gone mad, just a small percentage of the people living in it. Unfortunately pretty much everyone else is going to be affected as a result.
So if it were up to me, I’d suggest 2020: The year humanity totally lost it.
Back in January, as Covid-19 began making a proper nuisance of itself spreading out of China and into the wider world, everyone watched seemingly half-interested as things developed. I mean, it’s miles away, right? No worries all the way over here. Right? Echoes of avian flu, and comparisons with other influenza variants made it appear less concerning.
Alarm bells failed to properly start ringing until few weeks later when cases began to emerge here in the UK. That’s when the topic became a little more attention-worthy on the local scale.
Then as regular winter bugs started going around and the inevitable colds and sore throats took hold, the shadow of C-19 made it much easier to justify working from home, you know, just in case. So really, my own precautionary behaviour started in February, with trips into the office countable on the fingers of one hand.
And now ten months later, I’m still working from home with no change to that visible on the horizon in the immediate future – which is great. And, yes, I know this isn’t an entirely popular point of view but it really works for me.
The C-19 crisis has taught me a few things about myself, and reinforced some other long-held opinions about how different things could be in the world given sufficient motivation. The saddest thing is that it took the lives of thousands and the fear of millions to make it happen.
We adopted and/or repurposed a few words and phrases quickly and now use them regularly in day-to-day language: lockdowns, tiers, WFH, furlough, Zoom, bubbles, self-isolation, vaccines and such.
Sure the UK was, and still is, being piloted by a bunch of unqualified disaster monkeys, but at least we were not alone there. I’m looking at you, USA – however at least you stepped up and addressed that as best you could this year, so well done to you.
The high street continues to crumble and unemployment is poised to explode when the businesses that have furloughed their staff eventually succumb to the inevitable and lay them off permanently or go under completely.
Meanwhile the world is burning up, drowning in plastic and being deforested faster than ever in order to maintain a status quo that suits a tiny percentage of earthlings, who, by the way, have been more politically polarised and had their divisions exploited by devious means than ever before, thanks primarily to social networks occupying dubious spaces between the lines of outdated laws.
And then of course, there’s Brexit.
Never before in human history has so much damage been done to so many by so few.
Has anything good happened this year? Well, yes it has;
By keeping people inside and limiting movement during the pandemic, we saw pollution in some of the worst affected cities reduce to the point where their inhabitants could actually breathe and see the sky again. Sadly this was relatively short lived, but we got to see the possibilities at least.
We witnessed SpaceX’s first human-occupied Crew Dragon Demo-1 mission, a big deal because it was the first human-occupied space flight resulting from a collaboration between government and a private commercial company.
That success was a bit of a double-edged sword to be honest, With SpaceX being fronted by Elon Musk who has proven to be thoroughly undeserving of adulation on more than one occasion. But still we watched and marvelled at the reliability of the system and the professionalism of everyone involved.
Black Lives Matter
A long overdue reaction rising up from tragic events brought about by police brutality in the USA rapidly became a world wide call to stand together with people of colour, to add our support wherever possible and to look at ourselves to really understand the many forms that racism can take.
Thankfully not everyone is racist intentionally, but many of us can be without even realising it. And it can be a relatively simple change of mindset to begin to see where the problems are within. This movement and the information it brought into view really helped me to understand my own shortcomings and figure out how to move towards becoming an ally.
Edward Colston Statue
Many people yelled their disconsent at the images beamed from Bristol showing the statue of a 17th century slave trader being torn down and dumped in the docks. Personally, I saw it as a fitting end to an abhorrent memorialisation of a figure responsible for the suffering of thousands of people, many of whom died as a direct result of this man’s actions.
The truth is that, had the council listened to those objecting to the public exhibition of the statue for many years beforehand, and to the reasons for those objections, that situation could have been avoided, and the people involved may have felt like the powers that be at least take action to address their anguish.
But instead, they were ignored and dismissed so direct action was taken to shine a light on the problem here, too.
This in turn sparked wider-reaching reactions, and it is reassuring to see people and organisations taking a look at their own history and privileges with a view to understanding and, in what ever way possible, beginning to make whatever changes they can in order to make things better.
Whilst there doesn’t appear to be a great deal going on in the natural environment that I’d class as Things To Be Positive About, there are things we can all do to help to make a difference. One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve heard most from attending various virtual environmental meetings this year has been “What can I do as an individual to help make things better?”
It seems that many of us are waiting for our respective governments to do something, or tell us what we should do, and we’ve seen environmental issues pushed further and further back down the agenda by our current overlords.
But there are things you can do, right now, that will make a difference. Below are the few things I’ve made a commitment to.
Trees love carbon, but we’re cutting them down all over the place and in vast numbers.
The good people over at Ecologi are making reforestation a priority, and you can get onboard too. A few pounds each month enables them to fund tree planting projects around the world and every new tree, in addition to being a carbon sink, also helps to support localised biodiversity.
There are a few levels of support you can choose from, and my own efforts are visible to anyone who’s interested right here: https://ecologi.com/justinpinner
You may notice that this isn’t specifically a 2020 thing as I joined Ecologi in 2019, but this year I was able to increase my contribution a little.
Regardless of what our governments do or, more likely, don’t do, we can have a positive effect on renewable energy generation.
When we choose an energy supplier we often do so on the merits of cost alone, and I can understand why that is the ultimate deciding factor for many.
Some time ago I took a slightly different approach however, and figured that I could pay a small premium for energy and in return know that I’m helping to fund further renewable energy development and that all my consumption is as ecologically sensible as possible. And for that I picked Good Energy as my supplier of choice.
Be a little cautious when making your choices though as not all energy providers deliver on the promises they make regarding renewables. In some cases (e.g. Ovo) they simply mislead their customers.
I can’t claim to have made this change entirely independently, but working remotely during the C-19 pandemic has certainly helped to reduce my carbon contribution. It has also recovered up to three hours per working day that would otherwise be lost to the commute.
My main hope is that, when the virus is properly brought under control, we don’t just mindlessly revert to our old ways of doing work if we don’t have to. Because it makes no sense whatsoever.
Be more vegetarian. The meat that you eat comes at a cost. There are many resources on the end of a web search that discuss the issues related to farming for meat production but, if that’s too much hassle and you need a hint, start here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/series/animals-farmed
I made a mistake, for which I apologise here and now. YouTube isn’t the ocean of under-talented attention seekers I had initially pegged it as. Well, it might be a lot of that but, as I discovered by having more time at home, and YouTube installed on the TV, there are many quality producers and channels in there too. I’ve included a few of my favourite topics below
Jelle’s Marble Runs
I first encountered marble racing some time ago, but during the pandemic I felt it necessary to share that discovery with my wife. Thankfully she appreciated it as much as I did so it’s only right that this makes the cut. To discover for yourself, drop in on one of my my personal favourites: Marble Rally 2019
If marbles aren’t your bag, how about 1/64 scale diecast car racing? Think Hotwheels and you’re heading in the right direction.
Honestly, I didn’t even know this was A Thing until I discovered the 3Dbotmaker channel. I’ve since discovered that there are others but they just lack the professionalism of the botmaker experience. The commentary makes or breaks this kind of experience for me, and that’s where this channel excels.
If you want to take a look, start here: 2020 Rally Championship
Radio Controlled Trail Driving and Rock Crawling
Yep, this one caught my attention in a big way and I’ve started writing some of this up already. See Let’s RC!
Too Much To Mention
When I started writing this I figured I’d list all the great stuff I’d found on YouTube this year, but then I thought about how long that list would be, so instead I put together a YouTube playlist just for you that included at least the first one of my favourites from a range of producers that you can use as a jumping-in point.
I found and backed a few good things on Kickstarter this year. Namely;
A couple of stand out game releases happened in 2020.
First up, Untitled Goose Game is a
honk hoot. Don’t think, just get it: https://store.steampowered.com/app/837470/Untitled_Goose_Game/
Then, a couple of weeks ago Cyberpunk 2077 was unleashed. Okay it had some issues. Quite a few to be honest, and not just limited to bugs. It had been in development for years, and despite pushing the release date back a couple of times, still resulted in a huge crunch period for the devs.
I get that games at this scale are going to have day zero problems, and that the money driving the development isn’t unlimited. But given the furore that met this particular title’s launch offering, and the unpleasant backlash from, well, almost everywhere, you have to ask if it would have been better to postpone again until it was truly ready. Even if that was a few months down the line.
Anyway, I’ve been playing it and found a few irritating things with it, but the potential is huge and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.
New Years Eve
So here we are. 2021 is on the horizon, 2020 is about to become a series of memories, some bad and, as mentioned above, some good.
Whatever’s coming, let’s learn and move on. Also, good luck to us all!