It is safe to say that 2020 has not been a great year.
There has been a worldwide pandemic, lockdowns put in place across the world and political turmoil over whether or not the correct measures have been implemented in order to tackle COVID-19. However, whilst this period of lockdown has undoubtedly brought misery to many and has changed our way of life, there have been some positive consequences as well.
Whilst it has not occurred in the way that we hoped it would, our environment has improved drastically since the start of the pandemic. Carbon emissions have fallen, with levels of pollution in New York dropping by nearly 50% when compared to the same time last year. This is due to the measures put in place there to contain the virus, which lead to a decline in the number of people travelling, most notably those who would have made a commute to and from work every day. This lack of movement by workers, many of whom have instead been working from home, has improved the air quality in previously polluted cities whilst offering many employees a better mix of work and home life. By replacing the daily commute with shutting down one’s laptop, employees have been given more time to spend with loved ones after the working day.
The lack of human presence that towns and cities are so accustomed to has even seen local wildlife becoming more visible. In Llandudno in North Wales, the iconic goats that normally live on the town’s limestone headland – called The Great Orme – have made their way down from their home to investigate why their habitat was not bustling with tourists as it normally is during the spring. Images emerged of the seaside town being overrun by the friendly goats, and they became so popular on social media that they managed to raise £3,000 for a local hospice through the selling of t-shirts and tote bags that featured their images. However, the long-term impact of the virus on our environment depends upon what we do next. Whilst the pandemic has been awful in so many ways, it has highlighted just how big the task of improving our environment is, as even with the improvements already made, it is no-where near enough. This pandemic has truly shown us just how much more we need to do to save our planet.
For many, going home to quarantine with family members has been an opportunity to spend some quality time with loved ones. Family walks have become a precious time to re-connect with parents and siblings. Whilst group calls with other family members and friends have highlighted just how much we took them for granted when we used to see them every day. Although the situation has been far from ideal, for many it has been a chance to re-connect with family members without feeling the constraints of time which we normally experience during the academic year. Family game nights have become a much anticipated event and move nights a common choice of entertainment (and with the help of Netflix Party we have even been able to have movie nights with those who live elsewhere).
We’ve even been given more time to spend on hobbies that we are normally too busy to be concerned with. One of the biggest comebacks of the year is Animal Crossing, with 11 million people playing the game during lockdown. It is a game that its creators have said was meant to be shared and during a time where people cannot meet in person, it has brought friends and family members together in its fantasy world. Once again showing just how video games can help someone escape from the real world. As well as video games, more people have been making time to exercise. Many of us have been exercising outside, taking up jogging or long walks, whilst others have been taking part in online workout sessions which have proven popular with 4/10 people taking part in them via Youtube and Livestream. For many, exercise has been a way to fill the time during isolation and to improve their moods during such a difficult period.
My personal favourite pastime during lockdown has been reading. As an English student I do plenty of it, but often I cannot chose what books I would like to read. Lockdown has provided me with the chance to read books that I normally would not have the time to, such as Stephen King’s IT, which sat on my bookshelf for almost two years before I opened its pages. Research conducted by Nielsen Books has revealed that since lockdown began in Britain the amount of time the British public spent reading increased from 3.5 hours a week to six. The research also revealed that the preferred genre was crime fiction, with dystopian literature falling in popularity (for obvious reasons). Similarly to video games, books can provide an escape from reality and the comfort of a solved mystery seems to be bringing people some joy during a time where everything is so uncertain. There is even more choice for readers than ever before, particularly for fans of Harry Potter who were thrilled when J.K. Rowling announced that she was publishing her story “The Ickabog” online for young readers to enjoy. Rowling had considered publishing the story before but never did, and decided that now was the right time to do so to help entertain her young fans during these boring times. Perhaps, this short story would never have been made available to the public had it not been for lockdown.
COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns in the UK and abroad, has taught us a lot about how the general public and politicians react to such a large crisis, but it has also taught us to appreciate the mundane things in life. Never again will I complain about 9am lectures or the poor choice of music at Club 601, and forever will I appreciate my normal life when it returns.