facts of 2020 that make us believe a better future is possible. The 2020 pandemic shut down the world, causing that many look at the future through lenses of fear, uncertainty, and hopelessness. However, in NooS we have decided to start this 2021 on a high note by presenting you 5 beacons of hope. Scientists, environmentalists, activists, and everyday heroes kept working for a better future and have certainly achieved important accomplishments. We show you the progress that makes the “new normal” a better normal.
Increasing demand of environmentally responsible practices
A new report on circular economy in the fashion industry has shed light on the potential of second-hand markets to accelerate recovery after the covid-19 pandemic. According to Ellen MacArthur’s report published in October, resale and rental business models can increase the revenue stream per garment. This is particularly important as consumer awareness on sustainability-related topics is increasing. The study stresses that 71% of customers have a higher interest in second-hand and higher quality clothing, while 54% of sustainable clothing brands report a growth in customer interest in environmentally responsible practices since the beginning of the pandemic (Source: Ellen MacArthur). Reused clothing has a lower impact on the environment, as it can save on average 22 kg of CO2, 1 kg of waste, and 3,040 litres of water per pre-owned garment. Policy makers are also banning wasteful and environmentally harmful practices. This is the case of the 2020 French Circular Economy Law which prohibits the destruction of unsold or customer returned items (Source: EU).
Scotland made tampons and pads free
On November 25th, Scotland became the first country to make tampons and pads free in public facilities, as a way of combating period poverty. Sanitary products were already free in high schools and universities across the land. Alone in the UK, more than a quarter of women and girls could not attend school or go to work because they could not afford menstrual products (Source: Plan International). The European Union is poised to no longer tax menstrual products -known as “tampon-tax”- by 2022. Period poverty is a global sanitation crisis, especially affecting women in poorer countries who also face stigma and discrimination. Globally, 2.3 billion people lack access to water and sanitation, meaning that for many women it is impossible to hygienically manage their periods (Source: Global Citizen). Organizations such as ActionAid train women in developing countries to make reusable pads.
Chile voted to rewrite Pinochet's constitution
“Today citizens and democracy have triumphed” were the words of right-wing Chilean president, Sebastián Piñera, after an overwhelming majority voted to rewrite the constitution (Source: elDiario). The referendum of October 25th represents a major milestone in Chilean contemporary politics, as 78% of Chileans chose to replace Pinochet-era constitution and decided that the body in charge of drafting it will be entirely elected by popular vote (Source: BBC). High social inequality led to the unprecedented demonstrations of 2019 where more than 1 million people took to the streets of Santiago demanding a wider social safety net and greater protection for workers. Economic and political elites disapproved of the referendum, which reaffirms that this social segment is disconnected from the everyday problems of the middle and lower classes (Source: WPR). It is expected that in 2022 Chileans will vote on the new constitution.
UK gives first COVID-19 vaccine doses
“We believe it is really the start of the end of the pandemic” said BioNTech CEO, Ugur Sahin, alluding to Pfizer/BioNtech’s COVID-19 vaccine that started to roll out across the UK on December 8th (Source: CNN). The UK became the first country to authorise a mass vaccination campaign in the fight against the pandemic. 90-year old Margaret Keenan was the first person to get the vaccine out of 320,000 people that could be inoculated with the first available 800.000 doses. In a record time of 11 months, the vaccine was developed, tested and authorised; generally, the process takes years. This is an incredible moment for science: researchers have achieved a development of high-speed coupled with highly effective results (the vaccine has a 95% effectiveness preventing infections). Half of the 10 billion pre-ordered vaccine doses will go to high-income countries, which might leave low-income countries in the waiting line until 2022 (Source: So & Woo 2020). New Zealand, however, plans to offer free vaccines to the neighbouring Pacific Island. As of December, more than 1.6 million people have died from COVID-19 while more than 43 million have recovered (Source: Google Data).
China pledges to become carbon-neutral by 2060
The world’s biggest carbon dioxide emitter announced to the UN general assembly its commitment to achieve carbon-neutrality before 2060. China’s emissions account for at least 28% of total CO2 emissions, followed by the US with a share of 15% and India with 7% (Source: Forbes). After the Paris Agreement in 2015, China’s announcement is the greatest climate policy milestone and a valuable step in the fight against climate change. Observers believe that it shows positive political willingness; however, there is still a lot of work to be done. China’s president Xi Jinping also encouraged all countries to achieve a green recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the bold declarations, China had agreed to peak emissions around 2030 (Source: The Guardian). It is expected that the US follows after Joe Biden’s presidential victory, whose climate plan targets net zero emissions by 2050. Richard Black, director of a UK-based climate think-tank, said that “China isn’t just the world’s biggest emitter but the biggest energy financier and biggest market, so its decisions play a major role in shaping how the rest of the world progresses with its transition away from the fossil fuels that cause climate change” (Source: BBC).
Broadly speaking, the COVID-19 pandemic challenged our status-quo, forcing us to rethink the ways we interact with each other, with technology, and with nature. Now it is up to us to collectively build the society we want future generations to live in – we must join efforts to increase our collective effectiveness. At NooS, we are aware of our role in the transformation towards sustainable development; thus, we use technology to accelerate social and environmental impact and amplify the voices of companies, citizens, and impact organizations.
Photography credit – Cover: Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash