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2020 has been a challenging year across various aspects of our individual lives and in general, wider society. The year will be a period which is covered by economists and historians for many years to come. However, as we end the year it is important to take a moment to pause, look-back and attempt to process what happened. This is easier said than done and whilst perspective is a powerful tool, this should not take away from the fact that our own individual hurdles and experiences are very real to us, and should not be taken lightly. At the same time, taking a moment to recognise our wins no matter how small, is just as important and for the last post of 2020, I wanted to share some stories of individual achievements and collective movements, all of which I hope bring a sense of happiness, inspiration and motivation.
Thanks to one of Crayola’s launches, the world of colouring became more inclusive in 2020, in May the company announced the launch of crayons called “Colours of the World” which is hoped at creating a more inclusive world for children. The new packs include crayons for different coloured skin tones, eyes and hair colour. Rich Wuerthele, CEO at Crayola, said in a statement, “…with the world growing more diverse than ever before, Crayola hopes our new Colours of the World crayons will increase representation and foster a greater sense of belonging and acceptance”.
Lewis Hamilton started his racing career in Formula One around 15 years ago where he was the first driver of colour in the sport, where today he remains the only Black driver. Hamilton said in a statement, “Despite my success in the sport, the institutional barriers that have kept F1 highly exclusive persist. It is not enough to point to me, or to a single new black hire, as a meaningful example of progress. Thousands of people are employed across this industry and that group needs to be more representative of society”. In response, in June 2020, Hamilton announced his partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering to launch The Hamilton Commission, which is aimed at understanding the key barriers to entry for Black People in UK motorsport. Thus allowing the implementation of programmes which will eventually increase the diversity of the industry by opening up avenues which increase the proportion of Black people entering STEM careers.
At the same time, Northern Ireland (January – Europe) and Costa Rica (May – South America) joined a growing list of countries where same-sex couples can legally marry. The US Supreme Court (June) ruled that title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which applies to sex-based employment discrimination protections, now applies to sexual orientation and gender identity. Montenegro (July – Europe) legalised same-sex civil partnerships, whilst Gabon (June – Central Africa) and Bhutan (December – South Asia) decriminalised homosexuality (pending the King’s approval in Bhutan). Whilst in Taiwan, same sex couples joined a mass wedding hosted by the military for the very first time in its history.
Elephant Baby Boom
Nestled in the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, Amboseli National Park, has been home to an elephant baby boom throughout 2020. As explained by Euro News, as we entered November the National Park saw a record 200 elephant calves being born thus far during the year. In contrast, Elephant Trust reported 113 new calves in 2018 (note 2019 wouldn’t be considered a good year for comparison given the gestation period for elephants can be up to two years).
What’s changed? Increased rainfall and its positive knock-on effect to vegetation, combined with increased anti-poaching efforts. Furthermore, due to increased conservation efforts, the Director of Kenya Wildlife Service recently reported Kenya’s Elephant population has more than doubled in the last 30 years.
At the age of 96, Giuseppe Paternò has faced many hurdles in life – poverty, war and recessions. Growing up in Sicily during the remnants of the Great Depression, Paternò received a basic education, subsequent to which he served during World War II before becoming a railway worker as he married and became father to two children. In a society focused on rebuilding due to post war efforts, work and family were considered a priority however Paternò always wanted to learn and at the age of 31, after attending evening classes, he graduated from high school with a desire to further enhance his education.
Eventually in 2017, Paternò enrolled at the University of Palermo into the Department of Philosophy. “I’d wake up at seven to study,” he said. “I’d use an old typewriter to complete my assignments. I’d rest in the afternoon and in the evening, I’d study until midnight. My neighbours used to ask, ‘why all this trouble at your age?’ But they couldn’t understand the importance of reaching a dream, regardless of my age”.
When courses moved to remote learning Paternò confessed at the unease it caused however Paternò’s dream came true this summer where he graduated first in his class. “It’s one of the happiest days of my entire life … I only wish my wife were here to see me. She died 14 years ago … I’m considering carrying on for a master’s degree. My mother lived to be 100. If the numbers and the genetics are on my side, then I still have four years left”.
Yosemite National Park (USA) is a National Park known for its stunning beauty, first protected in 1864 the park is known for its waterfalls, valleys, meadows and wilderness. El Capitan, a vertical rock formation at more than 3,000 feet above the valley floor stands at three times as high as the Eiffel Tower. “It is a beacon for visitors, a muse for photographers and one of the world’s ultimate challenges for climbers”. In November 2020, Emily Harrington became the first woman to free climb El Capitan in one day, more specifically 21 hours and 12 minutes, which came after her first attempt which resulted in her being admitted to hospital.
Emily told Lonely Planet “I think mostly I learned how to fail. How to deal with uncertainty, struggle, and the very real possibility that I was working toward something that might never happen. I had to come to terms with that. I’ve always been a perfectionist and incredibly hard on myself. Once I learned to have a little more compassion for myself, that nothing was ever going to be perfect; I gave myself the space to really try hard, to get creative, and to eventually succeed”.
Thanks for reading, wishing you all the very best in the New Year!
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