Culture

2019: Unwrapped

Written by Becky Waldron

Illustrated by Poppy Wilkes

As December draws to a close, so does yet another year. It only feels like yesterday we were saying goodbye to the diabolical 2016, and now we’re approaching the big 2020. Futuristic, eh?

Whilst we’re still none the wiser about Brexit and it feels like it’s been one of the most surreal years for our generation so far, it’s always important to look back on what’s happened. As we recap on the year that’s just been and gone, some of these events have contributed to shaping our future as well as our history. 

There’s no good without the bad, and although our media has shaped a very gloomy year, we also hope that the world has continued to progress for the better. 

January 

We came into 2019 following an airport shut down due to drone disruption at Gatwick and the chaos of ‘Gilet Juanes’ protests in Paris. Whilst the protests continued throughout January, as ever, we hoped for a year that would be better than the last. 

On January 21st the world experienced a total lunar eclipse, also known as a “supermoon”. This blood-red moon will not be seen again now until May 2021. 

Source: The Jakarta Post

Did you know that on January 25th Macedonia changed it’s name? Previously The Republic of Macedonia, it was decided by Athens and Skopje – the country’s capital – to be called The  Republic of North Macedonia. 

A record-breaking 250,000 people also tried out Veganuary. This plant-based pledge exceeded previous years. Let’s see if 2020 can top the number. 

February

On February 12th Mexican drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, aka El Chapo, was found guilty on all counts. He was set to go to prison (again) in Colorado. He was known to be the biggest suppliers of drugs to the US. 

El Chapo, source: The New York Times

In a report released by scientists at Exeter University, Vincent Wildlife Trust in February, carnivorous animals such as otters, polecats and pine martens made a big comeback in Britain since the ’60’s. These animals were on the brink of extinction, however this researched proved they were more safe than previously thought. 

March 

On March 5th, research findings were published showing that stem cell transplants can make HIV undetectable. This means that transmission of the virus is preventable. This was one step closer to treating the virus itself. 

March 13th was when Theresa May stated we could still leave the European Union with a “good deal”. This was after her deal had been rejected for a second time. It was a laugh or you’ll cry kind of moment.

A heart-breaking terror attack rattled New Zealand and our media, this took place on March 15th. At a mosque in Christchurch, NZ, a gunman murdered 50 innocent people and injured many more. Prime minister Jucinda Arden showed a pragmatic and warm approach, uncommonly seen in leaders as of late. This left her a prime minister that all governments should aspire to. 

April 

We are constantly being amazed at the leaps and bounds scientists are taking throughout the years. Although it looked like a blurry picture of a dragons eye, the first ever image of a black hole was snapped by the Event Horizon Telescope. Lying in galaxy M87, scientists saw something they once believed would be impossible to see. 

Source: National Geographic

Europe was shocked when images of the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the 850 year old building in Paris, France, covered in flames braced the newspapers. France’s president, Macron tweeted: “fallen prey to flames … Like all my compatriots, I am saddened this evening to see this part of us burning.” 

However, when the building accumulated millions of euros from the wealthy (such as Apple CEO) this sparked debate as to how these people choose to spend their money, and the causes they donate to.

Easter Sunday, April 21st, three luxury hotels and three churches in Sri Lanka were bombed. Around 250 people were killed in attacks carried out by the Islamic State group, IS. The Red Cross were amongst a few organisations who helped with the aftermath and encouraged members of the public to donate. Unfortunately, in the West at least, this destruction didn’t receive as much attention as the Notre Dame fire.

May 

As much as we slate them at times, the royal family is almost symbolic to our nation. Meghan Markle popped out her very first royal baby on May 6th: Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.

Source: Vanity Fair

On May 17th, our world progressed that little bit more. Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage. This was the first place in the entire of Asia to pass gay marriage legislation. Taiwan has a large LGBTQ+ community and holds the biggest pride event in Asia. Following a decision that has been long in the making, Taiwan’s president tweeted: “We took a big step towards true equality, and made Taiwan a better country.” 

June

Politics had yet another twist and turn on June 7th. Theresa May formally resigned and released a statement. We thought she was bad pre-Boris. Some felt sorry for her at this moment, as any person who attempts to tackle Brexit should be saluted. Others were angry at her only display of emotion being at her quitting her own job, not some of the more serious matters she spoke about through her career as prime minister. 

Source: BBC

On June 9th, over a million protestors took to the streets of Hong Kong. Following a proposed plan for a legislation where  suspected criminals will be extradited to mainland China. Since Hong Kongs return to Chinese rule all the way back in 1997, legislation has often been an issue between the two places. Now, the protests have evolved to wider demands regarding democratic reform. 

July

New Delhi is ranked the 6th most polluted city in the world, according to the World Health Organization. This is why on July 5th it was such good news to hear that India formally joined the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, being the 65th country to do so. As part of the coalition, you must pledge to improve air cleanliness standards by 20-30% by 2024. 

Another win for the human rights movement occurred on July 8th when Ecuador made same-sex marriage legal throughout the country. This made Ecuador the 5th country in South America to pass this legislation after Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay and Brazil.

Boris Johnson became prime minister of the UK on July 24th. After a win against Jeremy Hunt, it was clear the Conservatives thought Johnson was the best choice for the job.

August 

On August 2nd a new rule was announced in the UAE country that women are allowed to travel abroad without a man’s consent in Saudi Arabia. Women who are over 21 years old can apply for a passport without authorisation from a male. 

On August 15th the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that July 2019 was the hottest month globally on record. It came in at 0.95°C hotter than the 20th century average. 

Although the date is a bit unclear as to when this issue was brought to the public attention, it was around the 27th of August when NASA satellite images confirmed that the Amazon Rainforest is burning at an accelerated rate. Wikipedia states that the rainforest has been burning since January 2019 and is still burning now. This was especially anger inducing as the forests weren’t entirely burning due to a natural occurrence, but to it being illegally destroyed for agricultural and profit purposes. 

Source: The Independent

September 

We said goodbye to one of the oldest travel firms, Thomas Cook on September 23rd following their bankruptcy. This stranded around 600,000 tourists across the globe.

On this same day, Russia formally adopted the Paris climate agreement. Members of this agreement must work to combat serious environmental and climate issues. This includes working towards low green-house gas emissions and ensuring economic development does not drastically harm the environment. 

October

Around one million people marched through London in protest for a second Brexit referendum on October 19th. The People’s Vote March was a true example of the determinism of our generation.

London anti-Brexit protest, source: The Telegraph

In a bold and arguably controversial, but seemingly wise move, Twitter banned political advertising worldwide on October 30th. They said political messages “should be earned, not bought”. This wasn’t about censoring politicians (as Mark Zuckerberg likes to phrase it) but about minimizing potential risks to politics. 

November 

On the 2nd of November, the government halted all fracking in England with immediate effect. The government warned shale gas companies that it wouldn’t support future projects. Whilst the choice to put fracking to a halt was to prevent earthquakes, we hope this is a step towards stopping the damaging process altogether. 

People across Britain, especially London, thought they had stepped into the past on November 29th. Another London Bridge terror attack shook up the capital. Usman Khan, who had recently been released from jail, stabbed five people in a London office and was shot shortly after by the police. Our hearts go out to the victims who died in this horrific incident.

December 

The UK general election on December 12th. More people seem to be realising it’s not that we want change any more, but we need it. 

The year and decade comes to a close tomorrow. It’s been a weird yet wonderful year and despite our generation getting constantly criticized, in many ways I’m proud to be part of such a determined, politically active and intelligent youth. 

Let’s hope we continue to grow and prosper as a generation and that’s it’s not too late to see the world and our society remain resilient and flourish to a better and less anxiety-fuelled place. 

The Author

Becky studied at the University of Sussex and currently lives in Birmingham. She specialises in musical journalism and is currently a traffic data journalist. She enjoys writing poetry and songs in her spare time.

Edited by Stephanie Kleanthous

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