2021 was a rollercoaster of a year, filled with on and off pandemic restrictions, conversations about white supremacy, the ongoing movement for climate awareness and so much more.
Many of us entered 2021 filled with hope and excitement for the pandemic to end, after an exhausting and difficult 2021.
While things may have seemed “normal” for a split second, the year has once again ended with the same repeated cycle of feeling hopeless and exhausted as we enter year three of the pandemic.
While we keep our fingers crossed for the pandemic to ease up and for our global leaders to take proper action on issues such as the climate crisis, justice for marginalized and vulnerable groups, and so much more, let’s take a glimpse of some things that went down this year and what we learned from it.
The Capitol Riot as yet another example of how white supremacy is alive and well
Trump supporters were not happy when Joe Biden was sworn in to be the 46th president of the United States, but it made matters worse whenTrump alleged that the election was rigged and that the Democrats engaged in and committed voter fraud. Trump supporters then stormed the barricade outside the Capitol in January and violence broke out both inside and outside the building. Rioters broke down doors and shattered windows while making their way inside. As chaos erupted and news spread around the globe of what was happening, many activists and leaders began to question the way the riot was handled, including the discrepancies between how peaceful Black protesters are treated in comparison to how these violent white supremacists were treated. This riot was yet another example of the racial injustices and racism faced between “two different America's,” and that we need to continue to fight the insidious nature of white supremacy—even in 2021.
The climate crisis intensifies
This summer was unbearably hot in many parts of the world, including B.C., and the winter came with its own set of climate challenges, including floods and freezing temperatures. With the climate crisis intensifying every year, it seems that the window to address the climate crisis is closing on us, as our world leaders remain relatively indifferent. We saw this when the U.S. experienced hurricanes, storms and wildfires, major flooding in parts of Europe, Sudan, and China, and a heat dome in provinces across Canada. Human activities continue to take a toll on the planet, with the cost of damages from our climate crisis continuing to add up. The UN also released their climate change report, issuing a ‘red alert’ for humanity after the goals for the Paris Agreement fell short. However, global warming is not just at its highest peak when the heat rolls in. Texas was hit with a cold wave, while the city of New York has yet to expect their first snowfall this season due to the warmer than average temperature. The signs of extreme weather are there, and we need to continue doing our part with holding world leaders and corporations accountable, and push our governments to take actions against the activities warming our planet and leading to disastrous weather events. 2021 taught us that recycling and banning straws isn’t enough, and we need rapid action to keep from killing our planet.
Remains of Indigenous children found in parts of Canada
The remains of 215 Indigenous children were first found on the ground of a former residential school in British Columbia earlier this year. Shortly after, the numbers continued to rise and have surpassed 1,000 bodies being discovered on the grounds of former schools in different parts of Canada. This horrific discovery is a harsh but sad reminder of Canada’s brutal past and present history with the genocide of Indigenous peoples. Canada marked its first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation this past September 30th where we honoured those who were and continue to be affected by the residential school system. However, while many of us decided to take the day to reflect on how we can be a better ally and amplify the voices of those affected, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided to take a vacation in Tofino with his family. The ignorance and harmful actions by our country’s leader shows very little compassion and lack of leadership for an issue that needs the utmost attention and support from the Indigenous community, and an apology doesn’t solve that either. This taught us that Canada and Canadians are complicit in this violence, and empty words mean nothing if we don’t take action to address injustice, including taking steps to meet the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.
The controversy surrounding the Olympics
From U.S. fencers wearing pink to protest a teammate who got accused of sexual misconduct, to sexualization of women, and underrepresentation on the world’s biggest stage, the Olympics had no shortage of controversy this year. With this years Olympic being named the “first gender-equal Olympics,” it sure didn’t feel that way when athletes with sexual misconduct allegations were allowed to play, women with higher testosterone levels were policed and disqualified from competing, motherhood and breastfeeding seemed to be an institutional issue, and women athletes were sexualized and objectified for their clothing choices. Sexism, misogyny and discrimination persisted at this year’s Olympics, showing that there are still big steps to take in terms of achieving gender parity on a world stage. One moment, however, shared a different lesson about setting boundaries, saying no, and mental health, when US Olympian Simone Biles chose not to compete due to her mental state. She was later named Time Magazine’s Athlete of the Year, proving that putting yourself first is always a win-win situation.
The world really can’t live without social media
A temporary social media blackout this Fall really opened our eyes to how much people need social media as a part of their everyday lives. If you’re a social media addict like myself, the blackout may have caused some unintentional anxiety and panic when your Facebook and Instagram weren't loading during a momentary Facebook system outage. I kept going back and forth every five minutes to see if the apps were back up again, and it made me realize how consumed I am by my phone and how I really needed a break. I decided to watch some shows, catch up with my friends, and take some much needed time for myself to practice self care. It showed how connected we are with our phones and sometimes disconnected from the outside world. If anything, the pandemic, and the impact of just a few hours without IG, should have taught us the importance of connecting more with ourselves and others. Although its difficult to step away from our devices, perhaps in 2022 we can learn to take some much needed time to unplug, so that the online world isn't the only world we get immersed in.
The never-ending pandemic
This pandemic continues to be a never-ending scenario with new variants taking over and the dream of “going back to normal” feeling out of reach as restrictions being lifted one second, and reinstated the next. Trying not to contract the virus, limiting your circle, working from home, and managing your mental health has been challenging to say the least. While the UN chief released a statement earlier this year calling on rich world leaders to stop hoarding the vaccines, there are many more issues at play with requiring people to stay home if they are sick, given a lack of paid sick leave for many people. In addition, the toll of isolation, or being stuck at home can have varying consequences for people, especially with a lack of adequate mental health support. However, during the pandemic there were some silver linings, including learning that spending time on our own and enjoying your own company isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Time alone doesn’t necessarily equate to loneliness. It also taught us the importance of community and community care, and also in finding ways to take care of ourselves and be comfortable with our solitude despite all of the chaos around us.
As we prepare for the new year, there can be a lot of tension around what 2022 will bring for all of us. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to be unsure of the future, and that there are many of us out here in the same boat.
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