2020: The Good, the Bad, the Meh
by Efe Ozturkoglu | published Feb. 2nd, 2021
This year started off with a bang when the United States assassinated Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, placing both countries at the brink of war. Since then, the world has experienced the worst pandemic outbreak in recent history, which has overtaken much of our daily lives and conversations. However, much more has occurred this year — both good and bad — that has not received the same level of attention.
1. The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor has brought racial injustice and police brutality into the political spotlight. Hundreds of protests broke out across the country and many activists called for immediate reform and change within police departments.
2. Massive wildfires engulfed much of California and Australia, burning down countless acres of trees and misplacing many people and animals. Scientists warn wildfires like this will become much more commonplace as climate change is accelerated by irresponsible fossil fuel consumption, according to an article published by NASA. Currently, much of South America is now dealing with wildfire outbreaks.
3. Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence surpasses human doctors in clinical trials for detecting breast cancer. This breakthrough could eventually lower the amount of time and cost of detecting a variety of diseases through medical diagnostic imaging.
4. Protesters in Hong Kong assembled against rising authoritarianism as the ruling Communist Party of China sought greater control over the former British colony. This occurred as the Chinese government continued to persecute Uyghur Turks in the Xinjiang province, forcing them into concentration camps and coercing them to assimilate into Chinese culture.
5. Africa was declared to be free of wild polio by the World Health Organization. However, there are still cases of “vaccine-derived polio” in Africa, which is a variety of poliovirus that originated from the cheaper oral vaccine for polio, according to NPR. The oral vaccine contains a live (but weakened) form of the virus, which was found to spread and mutate through the water supply. This often occurs in areas with low sanitization and a highly unvaccinated population.
6. Former Vice President Joe Biden defeated incumbent President Donald Trump, becoming the 46th president of the United States. Kamala Harris became the first female vice president.
7. The stock market ended its 11-year bull run with a historic crash. The Dow broke the record for the worst single day point-drop multiple times as it fell to its 2016 value, according to The Balance. From March to November, the market regained almost all of its value through volatile trading.
8. SpaceX made history with Dragon, the first private spacecraft to carry humans into space. This achievement has restored American human spaceflight capabilities since the Space Shuttle program was retired in 2011. NASA astronaut Christina Koch set the record for longest time spent in space by a woman at 328 days.
9. The third impeachment trial of a president in US history concluded on Feb. 5, 2020 after the Republican majority in the Senate voted to acquit Donald Trump of the impeachment charges. Mitt Romney became the first senator in U.S. history to vote to convict a president from his own political party.
10. A blog post by FitBit revealed that people have been getting longer, higher quality and more consistent sleep due to the pandemic. Quality sleep is very important for general health; it also helps to improve the immune system, which is especially important during the coronavirus outbreak.
11. A massive explosion rocked the Lebanese city of Beirut, causing hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. The humanitarian crisis left 300,000 people homeless and exacerbated political and economic instability within the country.
12. People found remarkable new ways to socialize in a socially distant way. Applications like Netflix Party and Zoom exploded in popularity. Tiger King and Among Us became popular as people sought ways to entertain themselves and connect with each other.
13. Reduced roadway utilization led to a historic drop in fossil fuel usage and carbon dioxide emissions. However, lifestyle changes due to lockdowns caused an increase in plastic consumption, and thus, plastic pollution.
14. A patient was cured of HIV for the second time in history. Adam Castillejo, also known as the “London Patient,” was confirmed to be free of HIV following a bone-marrow transplant for his lymphoma.
15. The United States experienced an extraordinarily active hurricane season, tying 1886 and 1985 for the most continental landfalls within a single season. Earthquakes ravaged Turkey, killing over a hundred people and injuring thousands. Other, smaller natural disasters affected various parts of the world, such as windstorms in Europe, and the Taal Volcano eruption in the Philippines.
16. Cheetah cubs were born for the first time using in vitro fertilization through a surrogate cheetah at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio. The breakthrough could be vital to maintaining the cheetah population, which is nearly endangered with only about 7,500 cheetahs remaining in the wild, according to The Washington Post.
17. Many jobs were converted to at-home jobs, leading to a rise in tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Drive. Some companies such as Facebook, Square and Microsoft announced that they plan to offer more opportunities to work from home after the pandemic.
18. The United Kingdom officially withdrew from the European Union following years of negotiations.
19. The invasive Asian giant hornet species (a.k.a murder hornets) arrived in the United States. Since these hornets hunt bees, experts are worried that their presence in America could cause disastrous repercussions within the honeybee population, which is already dwindling. Thus, the species has been the target of an eradication campaign.
20. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away at the age of 87. Republican lawmakers rushed to fill the resulting Supreme Court vacancy with Justice Amy Coney Barrett before the 2020 national elections.