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As we move into the New Year, Ellina Webb looks back at 5 things she has learnt in 2018.

Last year I wrote an article about the interesting things I learnt about in 2017. Therefore it only seems right to do the same for 2018 as with each new year I discover more and more about the planet I live on and the people who inhabit it with me.

Much like we saw in 2017, 2018 has bought with it many challenges and developments, most notably the Democrats taking control in the House of Representatives, #MeToo and the COP24 2018 climate conference in early December (oh and let's not forget the Brexit shenanigans).

Least notably (for me), 2018 also ignited the ‘Yanny Vs Laurel’ disagreement; saw the departure of Arsene Wenger (and more recently Jose Mourinho) and ended the feud between Katy Perry and Taylor Swift.

But through all of this social and political noise, there are 5 interesting things I have discovered that that I would like to share before the year is up.

The grave issue of air pollution

2018 was the year that saw the first individual death linked to air pollution. The alarming news of a young girl succumbing to a fatal asthma attack linked to illegally high levels of air pollution hit the news in July, highlighting the devastating effects of poor air quality in the UK.

While the topic of air quality has been under discussion for the most part of a decade, reports highlighting that the issue is worsening once again, has made it one of the most talked about subjects of the year; especially here on The Hub.

In August my colleague Georgie King who was 6 months pregnant at the time wrote a piece here in reaction to the news that babies in prams can be exposed to 60% more air pollution than adults. The effects of this potentially causes issues like breathing problems due to their developing lungs, in turn causing more diagnoses of asthma, leading to more asthma attacks.

On a more positive note however, early 2018 saw air quality in London remain within the legal limits for the first time in 10 years; as Ventilation expert Janvi Patel reported on. Unfortunately it’s hard to tell what the levels were for the rest of the year but after a quick search, it appears to have gone downhill; as these coughing Teddy Bears highlighted in October.

Other related air quality topics that made up the buzzwords of 2018 (here at Mitsubishi Electric at least) included Sick Building Syndrome and the WELL Building Standard, both of which highlighted the issues of air quality indoors. Sick Building Syndrome was identified a few years ago due to poor ventilation in buildings (such as offices) where people spend around 90% of their time. To combat this, organisations such as BREEAM and WELL, and us here at Mitsubishi Electric have created and highlighted measures to “transform our buildings and communities in ways that help people thrive”.

On that note, 2018 saw the launch of a number of ventilation products by Mitsubishi Electric, including a new heat recovery ventilation unit to help improve air quality within our homes, and a large scale air handling unit suitable for energy efficiency ventilation in large buildings.

The environmental cost of Fashion

Back in late October I wrote on the Hub about an exhibition I attended at the Victoria and Albert museum called Fashioned from Nature where I learned more about the lifecycle of garments and the fashion industry’s reliance on natural materials. Conveniently the timing of the exhibition also clashed with a number of documentaries which aired on the BBC including ‘Drowning in Plastic’ and ‘Fashions Dirty Secret’ which was hosted by this year’s Strictly Come Dancing Winner Stacey Dooley.

2018 has become a huge magnifying glass in which the media and creative arts have drawn attention to the environmental cost of man’s effect on the planet and fashion once again has been scrutinised; and rightly so. The most shocking outcome of this for me is how 7,000 litres of water are used to produce one single pair of jeans!

Some other interesting fashion industry water facts can be read here.

As someone who has spent a lot of time invested in the world of fashion and design, the impact of these facts and figures have really affected me and have also slowly started to make waves at a consumer level; forcing ‘fashion influencers’ to adjust their fast fashion content and acknowledge the lack of sustainability on the high street.

The plight of the Lion

It seems like every year that goes by is marked a hard hitting and spectacularly filmed documentary series by David Attenborough and the BBC team. This year it was Dynasties which focused on the legacies of species from Penguins to painted wolves. Of course each episode stood on its own merits but in this article I’m going to focus on the lion episode that followed Charm and her pride.

Growing up with the Lion King as the standout Disney film of my youth, I, like many others perceived lions to be a species of animal that was top of the food chain and king of the Maasai Mara. Therefore, to find out that this species is endangered (they have no natural predators) was utterly shocking and even more upsetting was the human impact causing their numbers to reduce.

Dynasties highlighted, while following Charm’s journey, that farmers are taking their own measures to control lions and protect their livestock (and livelihood). To do this they poison carcasses in order to attract lions away from the grazing herds. In the case of Charm and many other lions in the wilds of Kenya, the poisoning can be fatal and even after the vets tried to intervene, one of Charm’s cubs died (and the rest were very sick).

According to the World Wildlife Fund, only 20,000 African lions remain in the wild due to habitat loss, illegal trade and human conflict. In fact lion numbers have reduced by over 40% in the last three generations.

It is predicted that by 2050 one third of species could be extinct due to climate change affecting habitats, as I’ve spoken about previously here.

The hidden homeless and the rise of the sofa surfer

As you can tell from my previous paragraphs, I watch a lot of documentaries and they often have a profound effect on me. Therefore, another documentary that furthered my learning this year was one presented by UK rap artist Professor Green called ‘Hidden and Homeless’. This documentary actually first aired in 2016 but was recently replayed on a satellite BBC channel.

The topic of homelessness, fuel poverty and poor quality housing has been another major focus for us here on the Hub and at Mitsubishi Electric. With the appointment of George Clarke as our Ecodan brand ambassador, the way we build, heat and maintain housing and affordable housing has been a driver for a lot of our content including:

Essentially there is a housing shortage, people are being forced into private rentals and thousands of families are being left without suitable homes. As George Clarke recently highlighted in his presentation at our Hatfield event ‘Transforming the Housing Mindset’, governments of all sorts have not built enough houses, and the private sector is simply not building enough to meet demand.

George Clarke on changing the Housing Mindset TV presenter and architect, George Clarke explains why the way we build homes in the UK has to change

There are currently more than 1.8 million households waiting for a social home, 78,000 families in temporary accommodation and countless thousands of people sleeping on the sofas of families and friends. However, due to them not sleeping on the streets they do not show up in official “homelessness” figures making the problem of being homeless significantly larger than the reports highlight.

In Professor Green’s documentary this shocking revelation was touched on while cameras followed Luke, a rough sleeper in Manchester. Luke’s story was not only plagued with a heart wrenching story of homelessness and loneliness, but also addiction and legal highs; I definitely recommend you watch it.

Since writing this article, news broke on the 20th December 2018 that 597 homeless people died on the streets and in temporary accommodation in 2017, an increase of 24% over five years. The shocking announcement further drills home the upsetting issue of homeslessness in the UK.

The last generation

Did you know we are the last generation that can stop climate change?

Following the 2018 UN climate change summit in Poland a few weeks ago that my colleague Russell Jones has spoken about here, each government needs to work towards cutting emissions by 2020. Unfortunately as highlighted in the August 5th issue of the New York Times Magazine, we had the data and the knowledge of what was going on 30 years ago and now there are only 12 years left to slow the damaging effects.

Rising sea levels, devastation to animal and plant life, heatwaves and extreme weather will be detrimental to the future of our planet as I spoke about in my November article here.

So what are my sobering thoughts on this as we draw closer to the end of 2018? Once the clock strikes midnight on the 31st December, so begins the countdown of time where we have the opportunity to save the planet.

4,380 days, 105,120 hours, 6,307,200 minutes.

Happy New Year!

Ellina Webb is a Senior Marketing Specialist at Mitsubishi Electric