The year 2021 was massively disappointing, right from the start. The pandemic loomed over and affected all of us. There were more than 5.4 million deaths worldwide from COVID-19. Record-soaring unemployment plagued the economy. Serious incidents of police brutality took even more lives.
But amid all the struggles there was still hope because beyond the appalling news headlines, there was a tremendous amount of progress. Below, I’ve written down 21 positive things that happened in 2021.
1. COVID-19 Vaccination Progress
This year marks the laudable achievement that is history’s largest vaccine campaign. At the time this is being written, more than 9.0 billion vaccine doses have been administered. By the end of the year, we are on course to immunize over 50 percent of the world population, and this is not just limited to the richer nations of the west. Currently, China is dispensing 8.7 million shots a day and is over 83% fully vaccinated. International cooperation is increasing every day. The African Union came together to buy 400 million doses of J&J vaccines and improved their infrastructure for future pandemics.
2. Joe Biden was Inaugurated
This year, President Joe Biden was inaugurated, marking the beginning of an era of healing, robust global leadership, and an effective old-fashioned governing system.
3. Stabilizing the Climate
The year 2021 has been a massive year for climate change. Monumental events, including the Siberian wildfires, heat domes, floods, and the IPCC’s ‘code red’ report, marked constant reminders about what’s at stake. Due to these events, the US, the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, rejoined the Paris agreement and President Biden signed a wave of climate orders.
4. Combatting Other Diseases
This year, the Yamagata virus, one of the largest strains of influenza, simply disappeared. In September, a scientific study concluded that it was most likely gone for good, thanks to masking and social distancing. Malaria, another grave disease, takes around half a million lives a year. This year, it seems quite possible that malaria’s days might be numbered due to the first-ever vaccine and drones spreading anti-mosquito spray in Africa. Meanwhile, another polio outbreak is being contained with a novel oral vaccine.
5. Significant Innovations
This year taught us significant and ever-lasting information about the future. The desperate need to develop a vaccine spurred scientists and researchers to make impressive advances in coding diseases, while the rest of the world learned to take advantage of the digital age. This year opened doors for several more innovative possibilities. Popular Science released its annual innovations awards for 2021. This list includes Apple’s latest M1 chip for the Gadgets section, the R1T truck by Rivian, the dual-cell ULED 4k TV by Hisense, and much more! These new innovations bring radical and efficient changes to our everyday life.
6. Significantly Curbing Emissions
To begin the renaissance, the United States reentered the Paris climate agreement. This marked one significant step toward preventing the planet from warming past a crucial threshold. However, the coming year calls for more actions. Even the executive order signed this month, aiming to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, is not enough without Congress passing a policy that charts the national transition.
7. SpaceX launched an all-civilian crew into space
SpaceX launched the first all-civilian crew into space. Jared Isaacman, the billionaire chief executive of Shift4 Payments, led the Inspiration4 mission to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
8. The Chauvin Verdict
This year, Derek Chauvin was convicted on all three counts in the murder of George Floyd. However, the verdict could never make up for the life unjustly taken. The verdict does serve as a blatant example of severe police misconduct. There was a glimmer of promise when, in December, three White men were convicted of murder for pursuing and shooting Ahmaud Arbery while he was jogging.
9. Worker Empowerment
The year 2021 saw a record number of Americans quitting their jobs. This may seem like bad news, but it may not be. Workers took advantage of vast job opportunities and took a stand for better salaries and labor conditions. This year, the pay did rise substantially, especially for lower-paid laborers.
10. Environmental Progress
The White House brought back protection policies to the Bear Ears, the Grand Staircase-Escalante, and other monuments–protecting Indigenous tribes’ sacred land.
11. Endangered Animals
This year, several endangered animals bounced back and are continuing to do so. The Great Panda was a symbol of threatened species for many years, but as of 2021, pandas are off this list. In the continent of Africa, a vast reserve full of endangered species dropped off of a UN list of threatened sites. Bison and wolves are back in Europe and butterfly populations have similarly returned to California.
12. A Diverse White House
This year, the new White House filled its ranks with a diverse group of public servants. Most importantly, this year marked the election of the country’s first female vice president – as well as its first Black and South Asian leader – in Kamala Harris.
There’s yet another example of a fresh sense of economic empowerment. Americans are starting new businesses at a faster pace than ever. There has been a substantial jump in people working for themselves as consultants, and other positions, for a source of passive income. Not all of these ventures are likely to survive. Still, it’s inspiring to see individuals feeling confident enough to innovate and build something new.
14. Cultural Innovation
This year, viewers seemed quite delighted by “Bridgerton” and its Regency-era, romantic reinvention of the period drama, accompanied by a multiracial cast. Several movies and shows proved that casting actors of all backgrounds in leading roles, which were once limited only to White actors, is more significant than just equality. This particular element enhances storytelling. For example, the movie revival of “West Side Story” arrived to respect the much-loved, original Puerto Rican culture and explore racial power dynamics.
15. Medical Advances
While Covid-19 issues dominated health news, there were several other medical advances and developments in 2021. The first-ever vaccine against malaria was approved and held the potential to save thousands of lives. A breast cancer vaccine trial was launched in the US, and brain-reading computer software allowed a paralyzed patient to compose sentences on a computer for the first time. Additionally, HIV shots were approved for use in Britain.
16. Social Progression
Despite the culture wars and rise of authoritarianism seen in 2021, the whole world has become significantly more socially progressive. The Social Progress Index has charted the progress of 167 nations, assessing topics such as rights, access to education, quality of healthcare, personal safety, and quality of the environment. According to the latest Social Progress Index, 147 nations recorded a better score in 2021 than they did a decade ago.
17. Wins for Indigenous Groups
This year also saw several wins for Indigenous groups around the world. For example, Australia finally pledged to pay Indigenous Australians who were removed from their parents as children. Indigenous politicians also rose to prominent roles in governments across the world.
18. Progress on Female Representation
There was also progress on female representation in several fields. Female politicians were elected to governments in Estonia, Honduras, Samoa, Sweden, Tanzania, and Tunisia for the first time. In the corporate world, there were several fruitful efforts to boost female leadership in UK boardrooms. Among other signs of progress was the election of Zara Mohammed as the first female leader of the Muslim Council of Britain.
19. Racial Diversity and Class Equality
In March, the most diverse Oscars nominee list was revealed as the Award Academy shed its reputation for being pale and male. During that same month, Wales announced that Black history lessons are to be mandatory in schools. And, in local UK elections, Joanne Anderson became the first-ever Black woman to lead a major city. Several other people of color rose to prominent roles. Most importantly, KPMG promised to address the issue of the socio-economic pay gap in society.
20. G7 & Multinational Taxing
The G7 also backed a deal to tax multinationals. The union reached this historic deal in June. The seven nations agreed to tackle the issue of tax avoidance by forcing companies to pay more in countries where they perform their business. They also agreed to a minimum corporate tax threshold of 15 percent.
21. 2021’s Over
And last, but not least, 2021’s over and the year 2022 brings a fresh chapter to our lives!