2017 was a year where many milestones were achieved, the UK had is first day without coal which was a great step forward in the journey towards achieving a fossil fuel free future. At the other end of the scale however, milestones such as reaching Earth Overshoot Day faster than any other year before (in 2017 it was 2nd August, in 2019 it was 29th July) was a major blow in how poorly the world is respecting its resources.
In 2018 the grave issue of air pollution was a topic I read extensively about along with the environmental cost of industries such as fashion. I also observed how David Attenborough again shed light on wildlife problems across the global and lesser known “broadcasters” such as Stacey Dooley and Professor Green dipped their toes into shedding light on social issues such as homelessness.
2019 however challenged us with further upheaval – the year of 2 elections, climate strikes, extinction rebellion, and wildfires and not to mention the sacking of Pochettino!
On a more positive note, this year saw the birth of another royal baby, England winning the Cricket World Cup and major train stations in London scrapping the fee to pee (my highlight for sure!).
But what are the 5 stand out things I have learnt this year?
Life expectancy in the UK is slowing down
Between 1840 and 2011, life expectancy figures have almost doubled from 40 years old to around 80. This increase was pretty rapid, especially over the 1950s and highlights how healthcare and other social-economic factors have advanced in the post-war era. In the UK however, life expectancy has slowed down at a greater pace than any other EU country.
But why is this?
This report by The King’s Fund in October 2019 suggests that excess deaths in the winter, especially among older people and due to illnesses such as the flu, could be the cause of the slow down. This problem also shines a light on the strained health and social care services, which without proper public funding, have slowed down on the advances and support we’ve seen in previous decades.
Regardless of what the issues could be (The King’s Fund is currently undergoing further investigation along with the Health Foundation) the problem with excessive deaths in winter is topic I have consistently read about year after year.
Fuel poverty currently affects 3.5 million UK households (roughly 12.9% of all households), a figure that worrying seems to be increasing. This means a huge chunk of the population is struggling to heat their homes, potentially leading to a “eat or heat” situation for many families in the winter months.
Other problems such as poor housing also exemplifies the problem and reports such as this one from the NEA in February 2018 covers how cold homes is directly linked to the large share of excess winter deaths.
Fuel poverty, the indoor environment, the importance of insulated homes and building high quality social housing are all topics we’ve discussed here on The Hub, so here are a few to read over (add list):
Gas heating for new houses will be banned by 2025
“The homes will keep warm with devices such as heat pumps and with “world-leading” insulation standards” reported the BBC back in March. The move away from fossil fuels is long overdue in my eyes so the fact that all new houses from 2025 will be using renewable technology was music to the ears of many, especially those protesting climate change.
2019 has turned into the year that children across the world called out for tough action to cut emissions and technology like heat pumps in homes is a proven way in achieving this.
Of course more has to be done and unfortunately the Government hasn’t made the move to a complete ban on gas boilers and oil boilers which are eating away at resources in existing properties. Heat pumps are also the ideal way to tackle fuel poverty issues as they are just as efficient, and in some case even more efficient than a premium gas boiler. Plus with paybacks from Government incentives like the Renewable Heat Incentive, owners can receive quarterly payments back on their heat usage.
In addition to the tough action against climate change, 2019 also saw the UK’s commitment to net zero UK carbon emissions by 2050 as set out by Theresa May in June. This puts Britain on the path to being the first major economy to do so.
The Sumatran rhino became extinct in Malaysia
The world’s smallest rhino is now extinct in Malaysia after the last surviving individual was reported to have died in captivity in November. In other areas of the world it is estimated that fewer than 100 are left in the wild, although due to poaching and the destruction of their natural habitat, the end is nigh.
For years the plight of the rhino family has been under risk across the world, so this recent news continues the heart-breaking unravelling of a genealogy that has lasted on earth for millions of years.
In the past 50 years the world has seen a decline in all wildlife of 60%, which is a topic I have discussed on The Hub previously here. As a huge animal lover, the devastation to wildlife on our planet leaves a sick feeling in the pit of stomach, and it feels like there is nothing I can do to make a difference except continue to talk about it so collectively we can make small changes.
The most impactful of these is to double check where your produce is made, where it comes from and what ingredients are used. Palm oil is probably the most famous example of a resource used in a large number of products which, if sourced unsustainably, is detrimental to wildlife habitats.
This year the number of empty shops stood at a record high
2019 has seen the elimination of big brands across the high street. Continuing the collapse of the retail sector, this year saw the closure of brands like Mothercare, Bonmarche, Jack Wills, LK Bennett and much more. Popular food chains also shut down including Jamie’s Italian, Patisserie Valerie and the biggest shock of all, Pizza Express.
In October the BBC reported that “In July the proportion of all shops that are empty reached 10.3%, its highest level since January 2015”. This has been driven by the expanse in online shopping and the 10% reduction in high street shoppers over the past 7 years.
Is Brexit to blame?
Moving away from the high street, the collapse of Thomas Cook also sent shock waves across the nation, leaving thousands of travellers stranded.
The Isle of Wight was awarded "Biosphere Reserve" status by UNESCO
If you don’t know what a Biosphere Reserve is (and I didn’t!) it is a “unique area of environmental significance in which communities strive to work hand in hand, innovatively and responsibly to protect and support the local environment and the world we all live in”. The Isle of Wight is England’s third, and the UK’s seventh Biosphere Reserve along with North Devon and the Isle of Man.
For those of you who have visited this glorious isle, the beaches and countryside are beautiful, helping the location become one of the top staycation resorts in the UK.
So all in all, it was a year of highs and lows. Talking about the lows however – mainly the low-brow end of the scale, this year I also learnt that all good things do come to an under (in the case of The Jeremy Kyle Show and the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show) and Cricket can be exciting to watch, although not as exciting as darts; so bring on the World Championship and come on Gary Anderson!!