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Things That Made the World a Better Place in 2021

Let's celebrate some of the good stuff that happened in 2021.

Nearly 9 billion Covid-19 vaccinations were administered globally

In December 2020, the UK administered the first non-trial Covid-19 vaccine in the world to a 90-year-old woman. A year later, almost 9 billion Covid jabs have been put in arms around the world in the largest mass vaccination campaign in history. The speed of the life-saving vaccine rollout was pretty amazing and Bloomberg estimates that we’re just three months away from 75 percent of the global population having had their first dose.

Donald Trump was banned from Twitter

Over the course of the past decade, we have repeatedly seen our digital overlords refuse to protect us from harm, twisting their policies to maximize their profits with very little consideration for the ways in which democracy can be irreparably damaged in the process. This is why it was such a relief when Twitter finally banned not-president Donald Trump from the platform in January, after he seemed to glorify the violence surrounding the storming of the US Capitol by his supporters. The ban came into force on 8 January and is permanent.

Iberian lynx bounced back

For more than two decades, the Iberian lynx, native to the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal and Spain) has been classified as critically endangered. In 2002, numbers dwindled to just 94 in Spain and none in Portugal.⁠ Thanks to ongoing conservation efforts, Iberian lynx numbers rose to 1,111 in the wild last year, including 239 breeding females and 414 newborn cubs. The number is a record high which gives tremendous reason to be optimistic about the survival of the species.⁠

China eliminated malaria

The World Health Organization declared China free of malaria after “decades of targeted and sustained action” against the disease. In the 1940s, China reported 30 million malaria cases annually; in 2020, the country reported four consecutive years of zero indigenous cases, paving the way for WHO to declare it malaria-free in 2021. In April, WHO launched a campaign to rid 25 more countries of malaria by 2025.

Virtual queues revolutionized waiting

Thanks to the inherently non-socially-distanced nature of queues, restaurants, entertainment establishments, and theme parks around the world decided to shake up the centuries-old habit by starting a virtual queue revolution. By allowing us to queue with a couple of taps of our finger, instead of our feet, virtual queues have reduced the pain associated with waiting (and waiting, and waiting) in line.

Global tiger recovery

Once at risk of becoming extinct in the wild, tigers are now making a remarkable comeback. In November, paw prints belonging to a Siberian tiger were spotted in Russia’s largest province for the first time in 50 years. The sighting is a further sign that the big cats are recovering after being pushed to the brink of extinction by logging and hunting, with numbers dropping to just 40 by the 1950s. The former Soviet Union became the first country to grant the tiger full protection and introduced tough penalties for those caught hunting the cats. Today, there are an estimated 600 Siberian tigers in the wild. And the good news extends far beyond Russia. Numbers are also on the up in Bhutan, China, India and Nepal after a World Wide Fund for Nature initiative was launched in 2010 - when there were estimated to be as few as 3,200 wild tigers remaining. In some of these regions, the numbers have since doubled.

World’s first 3D-printed school opens

In less than 24 hours - 15 to be precise - affordable housing group 14Trees built an entire school in Malawi this July using 3D printing technology. It is hoped that similar initiatives will help to combat the classroom shortfall in the country, as well as the rest of Africa, enabling children to travel shorter distances to school and work in better conditions. Women and children sang and danced in front of the new school to celebrate its opening.

'Extinct' orchid found on a London roof

The biggest-ever game of hide and seek ended in June when a rare species of orchid was found growing on top of an investment bank in London, despite scientists believing the plant was extinct in the UK. Ecologist Mike Waller, author of Britain’s Orchids, said: “This is clear evidence that with patience and dedication, even the most unlikely places can become havens for some of our rarest wildlife.”

United flew the first passenger plane with 100 percent sustainable fuel

In December, 100 passengers flying from Chicago to Washington, DC, were the first in the world to do so with one engine running on 100 percent non-petroleum-based sustainable fuel made from sugar water and corn. The fuel is said to burn up to 75 percent cleaner than petroleum-based fuels, and while there is some debate about greenwashing surrounding the event, it was nonetheless a vital moment for the aviation industry.

Unseeded, unknown tennis player wins US Open

What Emma Raducanu achieved at the US Open remains astounding and was surely one of the great 'feel-good' moments of the year that suddenly made life and the world feel like a better place. Her flights home were booked at the end of the qualifying week, an understandable and realistic precaution for someone who had never competed in an overseas qualifying tournament. Instead, she won nine matches in a row and she did not drop a single set as she clinched a grand slam title. Her final against Canadian Leylah Fernandez generated so much attention that it had higher television ratings in the US than the men’s final between the top two players in the world. In Britain 9.2 million viewers tuned in to Channel 4, as Raducanu became the first qualifier to win a grand slam title in the Open era and the first player to win a major in her second grand slam tournament.

EVs outsold diesel for the first time in Europe

In August, electric cars outsold diesel ones in Europe for the very first time, and next year, experts expect that more electric cars will be sold overall in the UK.

Dutch bee hotels are working

More than 11,000 people counted bees as part of the Netherlands’ national bee census in 2021 - and what they discovered was encouraging, as urban bee populations were found to have remained steady over the past few years. It is believed that a number of initiatives - from hollowed out plant stems that act as “bee hotels” to a ban on chemical weed killers - are helping the bees thrive.

Renewable energy had a record year

It has been another record year for renewable energy, despite the Covid-19 pandemic and rising costs for raw materials around the world, according to the International Energy Agency.

About 290GW of new renewable energy generation capacity, mostly in the form of wind turbines and solar panels, has been installed globally this year, beating the previous record last year. On current trends, renewable energy generating capacity will exceed that of fossil fuels and nuclear energy combined by 2026.

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