Found! Light at the end of the tunnel

Cause for optimism: Joe Biden has pledged to fight climate change and the Covid-19 crisis.

Could next week be a positive turning point for the world? As the vaccine rollout expands and Donald Trump leaves the White House, many believe it marks the start of a brighter chapter.

Wildfires burned, scorching Australia.

A pandemic took over the world.

Summer brought plagues of locusts to East Africa and a deadly explosion in Beirut.

In America, a year of racial reckoning culminated in a riot at the Capitol.

The last year has been one of the bleakest in living memory.

There may be a glimmer of hope.

1. Covid-19. Herd immunity may be slowing the course of the pandemic in Britain.

Contracting coronavirus provides 85% protection against reinfection – nearly as good as the Pfizer vaccine, and better than the Oxford jab.

In the UK, 3.2 million people have tested positive – estimates are that one in five in England has been infected, equivalent to 12.4 million people.

2. Climate change. China shocked the world by pledging to become carbon neutral by 2060.

President Xi Jinping’s ambitious promise is a “game-changer”.

In the US, greenhouse gas emissions declined by over 10% in 2020.

In Britain, images show that woodland covers as much of the country as in the Middle Ages.

3. World peace. On January 20th, Biden will replace Trump as leader of the world’s most powerful country.

Biden has vowed to overturn Trump’s Muslim ban, rejoin the World Health Organisation and set up a Covid-19 task force.

Could next week be a positive turning point for the world?

Good days ahead?

Yes. The nightmare is nearly over. The vaccine is a route out of the pandemic. With Trump out of the White House, next week is the start of a new era of civility amongst global leaders. As China commits to carbon neutrality, there is hope the world can end the climate crisis.

No. It would be foolish to pin our hopes on the vaccine – scientists do not know if the jabs will do enough to prevent spread. Donald Trump will leave behind a divided country. Change may be coming, but not next week.

You Decide

  1. Will 2021 be a better year than 2020?

Activities

  1. Write a list of the first five things you would do if you became the President of the United States. Then compare your list with your classmates.

Some People Say...

“To live without hope is to cease to live.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 – 1881), Russian novelist and philosopher

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
It is generally agreed that watching or reading about negative news stories can itself have a negative impact on a person’s mental health. A 2020 survey by the American Psychological Association found that more than half of Americans say the news causes them stress. Even so, one in 10 adults check the news every hour. The bad news of 2020 inspired one US elementary school teacher and artist to set up a hotline allowing people to call and scream out loud for as long as they want.
What do we not know?
One main area of debate surrounds whether going “back to normal” in 2021 is really a good idea. Some point out that the lockdowns have had a number of positive side effects: more flexible work environments, more time for self reflection and crucially, a huge reduction in pollution and carbon emissions as people stay at home. But others say the cost of the lockdowns – economic devastation and social isolation – mean that we should aim to return to normality as soon as possible.

Word Watch

Racial reckoning
The death of George Floyd at the hands of a policeman in Minnesota last May sparked months of protests in more than 60 countries.
Herd immunity
The term refers to having enough people in a given community who have been vaccinated or recovered from a viral infection and, therefore, cannot pass it on. This prevents a population from future outbreaks. Immunologist Anthony Fauci says between 70% and 90% of people must be vaccinated against Covid-19 to achieve herd immunity.
Carbon neutral
When a country or company’s carbon emissions are balanced out by the amount of carbon dioxide it removes from the atmosphere. Examples of carbon offsetting include planting trees or storing carbon underground.
Muslim ban
Trump signed an executive order banning refugees and people from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the US in 2017. The ban was upheld by the US Supreme Court, despite legal challenges.

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