2020 End-of-Year Review: Hindsight is Not Always 20/20

Building on the 2020 Mid-Review, Nathan Yang takes a look back at the second half of 2020 and raps up a strange year that has given an abundance of events, stories, and change around the world. How will societies, governments, and individuals evolve in 2021 in the midst of a seemingly endless pandemic overshadowing plans and goals?  

Original artwork by Keli Sheng

In the future, the textbooks of history students around the world will be composed of one half pre-2019 and one half solely for 2020. It is astounding to look back and see how this year has been so rich with innovation and hope but dominated by conflict and despair with one thing overwhelming the headlines: the Covid-19 Pandemic. Yet, as the pandemic continues on into the new year, we must take a second to reflect on the socially distant events of this year to better understand and prepare for the resolutions we have made for 2021.

Before you continue to read on in this article, please take a look at the 2020 Mid-Year Review: Loss, Isolation, and Prejudice to refresh your memory.

The following list is a snapshot of some of the influential events from July to December 2020:

July 2020

Wildfires from the article: Shrouded in Haze. Original artwork courtesy of Yana Marchuk

5th – The Oregon Department of Forestry declared the beginning of fire season. What followed was months of record breaking fires caused by extreme climactic events all along the US West Coast, burning more than 8.3 million acres of land in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, and Arizona. Some of these fires continue to burn today.

19th – The Hope orbiter by the UAE Space Agency launches from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan on a mission to Mars as the first of three space missions sent towards the planet during the July 2020 Mars Launch Window. Missions by China and the US later launched with all three set to arrive at Mars in February 2021.

25th – The MV Wakashio, a Japanese bulk carrier loaded with over 4,000 tons of oil, ran aground on a coral reef in Mauritius. The tanker later split in half, spilling over 1,000 tones of oil into the ocean, leading to the Mauritian Government to declare a national emergency. This spill was likely the worst environmental incident in the history of Mauritius with long term habitat and ecological impacts.


August 2020

The Port of Beirut, Lebanon before (left) and after (right) the explosion. August 5, 2020. (Planet Labs)

4th – 2750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical used in pyrotechnics, exploded in the port of Beirut, killing over 200 people and devastating the port and central areas of the city of Beirut. Later, Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced the resignation of the Lebanese government amid anger and protest over the country’s leadership.

9th Three Farm Bills passed in the Parliament of India seeking to provide farmers with multiple marketing channels and provide a legal framework for farmers to enter into pre-arranged contracts. Mass protests by farmers followed fearing the pro-commercialization of crops and increased regulations would damage their individual practices and incomes to corporate control.

25th Africa is declared free of wild poliomyelitis by the World Health Organization. Since 2016, the Africa Regional Certification Commission confirmed that the region has eradicated the virus following years of vaccination and surveillance efforts. It is only the second virus to be eradicated from the continent since smallpox.


September 2020

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in the East conference room at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C..(Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

18th – US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passes at the age of 87. She spent her lifetime fighting against gender discrimination and became a leading voice for gender equality, women’s interests, and civil rights and liberties.

27thClashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces erupts in Nagorno-Karabakh leading to both states declaring martial law and implementing curfews. This region has been disputed since the two regions became independent of the former Soviet Russia. Six weeks later, a ceasefire was declared following intervention by the Russian Government.


October 2020

Young Nigerians protesting against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria. October 15, 2020. (Alucardion/Shutterstock.com)

3rd – A video showing a SARS police officer shooting a young Nigerian in Delta State, Nigeria trended on the internet restarting the ENDSARS campaign around the world to end police brutality in the state.

30th – A 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck near the Greek Island of Samos and Turkey’s Aegean coast killing 116 and injuring over a thousand in the region. The Aegean Sea Earthquake became the deadliest in 2020.


November 2020

2020 US Election. Original artwork courtesy of Yana Marchuk

4th – The United States becomes the first country to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. The treaty was created to bolster the global response to the growing threat of climate change. The Trump Administration has been focused on exiting this treaty since June 2017, however, incoming President Joe Biden has promised to re-join the agreement.

7th Joe Biden is elected the 46th President of the United States after the remaining votes from key states are counted following delays from mail-in ballots caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic. Running mate Kamila Harris becomes the first Female, Black, and the first South Asian Vice-President of the United States.

27th – Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed near Tehran, Iran. He was a key leader in Iran’s nuclear development where uncertainties about Iran’s nuclear focuses were a concern to opposing foreign governments. Responsibility for his assassination is still unclear.


December 2020

A vial of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

2nd – The UK becomes the first nation in the world begin mass inoculation of the clinically authorized Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19. China’s Sinovac vaccine and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine only reached interim testing results before being distributed. The UK began vaccinations on the most vulnerable populations on December 8.

15th – United States president elect Joe Biden becomes formally elected by the members of the Electoral College with an official total of 306 votes. Still, incumbent President Donald Trump is focused on overturning the outcome of the election, refusing to give in.

19th – Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces the discovery of a new variant of the Covid-19 virus in the south east region of the UK. This discovery forced the invention of a new tier level for these areas in the UK and has warranted many European and international countries to close their travel and trade links with the UK. This new strain has not been proven to be more deadly but is shown to be more easily spread between people.


One thing is evident among all the events that have happened over the past 365 days, the world is changing. It is changing environmentally through the increase of extreme climactic events that will only perpetuate with current rates of consumption and lack of regard for our natural surroundings. It is changing politically through the power shifts within individual states, transformations in leadership, and evolutions of international relationships. It is changing socially with the growing exposure and awareness of inequalities, injustices and prejudices that lay in racial, ethnic, and gender preconceptions. It is changing economically as governments, businesses and societies adapt to this brave new world we are entering following the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Moreover, while the pandemic was not a major event to have occurred at one time like the rest of the events in this list, it certainly was the dominant, overarching event that became a catalyst to the change that has occurred this year. The pandemic has separated families, ruined plans, and created harder borders between countries and leaders trying to protect their people.

Yet, it has opened up new opportunities for positive change. It showed the weaknesses in our international environmental plans allowing for regulation to be brought up to a higher standard in areas such as transport and industrial emissions. And while we were socially distant, the pandemic only strengthened the bonds in communities. It helped to expose the inequalities and injustices that lay in our societies. It uncovered flawed leadership in many places as governments attempted to manage a health crisis, some far better than others. In a way, without the pandemic, the change that global organisations, governments, and businesses has previously planned became positively accelerated, moving goals planned for the long term (20-30 years) to within the next decade.

Unfortunately, it is unreasonable to expect the world to “return to normal” as it was before the start of 2020. We need to adapt to a new normal and new expectations as to what we can achieve in the wake of change. Some may say that “hindsight is 20/20”, yet there is still so much to learn from this year; it is important that we analyse and understand what has gone on from an individual and a global level.  In 2021, we need to make the decision to take the changes of 2020 to heart, reach out to new opportunities, and engage in a more positive future.

Happy Holidays from all of us at the Bloomsbury Geographer!

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