Was 2020 the worst year in history? Historians say 536 AD was even worse: freezing temperatures; a plague that wiped out a third of humanity; and a fog that plunged Europe into darkness for the entire 12 months. But in the annals of awfulness, 2020 remains pretty near the top: devastating bushfires; a billion animals killed; Iran and the USA on the brink of war; the killing of George Floyd; many other outrages against black people; a plague of locusts in Africa. And that’s all before Covid-19 struck, killing 1.5m people so far and wiping out a billion jobs. But don’t despair. Some good things did happen this year. We have scoured the archives to find one good news story for every month – a dozen reasons to punch the air and cry “yay!”. In fact, let us call them our 12 yays of Christmas, if you’ll forgive the worse-than-a-cracker pun… See you on the other side.
AI unravels 50-year-old biological riddle
Was this the most important news story of 2020? Researchers at DeepMind have made a mind-boggling discovery that could eradicate diseases and put the brakes on climate breakdown.
Stop press: the world is a wonderful place!
Should there be correspondents for good news? Traditionally most events that make the headlines are bad – wars, disasters, deaths – while much that is praiseworthy goes unreported.
The school that set its sights on Hollywood
Can we all achieve our dreams? Today sees the premiere of a full-length film made by a London state school that will be streamed all over the world – making stars of its teenage actors.
Whale escapes from crocodile infested river
But is this really news? The story of the whale and the crocodiles made headlines yesterday all around the world. Why? Wasn’t this just a non-event? Or does it have a deeper significance?
New penguin colonies discovered – from space
Is this good news for humans? Emperor penguins are the world’s early warning system. Could the discovery of new colonies give us any hope that Earth has begun to reverse the climate crisis?
Insects in amber hint at Jurassic dreams
Could scientists bring dinosaurs back to life? Bugs preserved in amber offer a window into prehistory. But resurrecting the dinosaurs is not going to be as simple as it is in the movies.
Striker fights on for free school meals
Is Marcus Rashford an exception or an inspiration? The Premier League striker grew up poor and hungry, but is now using his fame to fight for children going hungry during the lockdown.
First baby bison born in the wild since 1876
Should this be the biggest news story of the day? These mighty beasts were driven to near-extinction 200 years ago. Conservationists are celebrating the birth as a historic turning point.
How an ancient mariner became a modern hero
Do we all need a challenge? Yesterday, 72-year-old Graham Walters came within six miles of rowing across the Atlantic Ocean single-handed, showing that age is no barrier to ambition.
TikTok’s ‘sight bites’ capture the zeitgeist
Should we take TikTok politics seriously? One of the most successful apps in the world was developed for teenagers messing around. Now, it is being adopted by political campaigners.
Penguins can talk to each other like people
Do some animals have a language? New research has found that penguins speak similarly to us. But the jury is out on whether they use grammar and thought in a comparable way to humans.
One woman’s fight to capture whiff of the past
Should there be museums for smells? As our lives move online and artificial intelligence takes over, some think it has never been more important to preserve culturally important aromas.