As we head into 2021, it was salutary to read an inspiring encounter with wildlife experienced by famous naturalist and broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough.
Now 94, he has watched the most amazing animals on the planet thrive in their natural habitats around the world. But this come at its own London gate.
Like many others, the pandemic led to long periods confined to the home, meaning Attenborough ultimately experienced the birdsong in the garden of his own home.
From spring to fall, he sat outside and made a determined effort to identify all the species he could hear. Thrushes, jays, blue tits and blackbirds.
Of course, it wasn’t just an experience for the world’s most renowned wildlife watcher. In a discouraging year, our forced reconnection with nature at home has been a boon to many people across the planet.
“A lot of people suddenly realized just how deep and deep joy can come from witnessing the rest of the world – the natural world,” Attenborough said in September.
“We have realized our dependence, emotionally and intellectually, on nature in ways that we did not know before,” he said this month.
Seize the moment
This awareness is a powerful force to take with us as we step into the opportunities of 2021. It reminds us that the exit from COVID-19, and all the sadness, tragedy and confinement that comes with it, can lead to a better place. As Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.
And hell it was. As the pandemic raged, 2020 was also the year of climate degradation. All over the world, heat waves, hurricanes, floods and drought have been made worse by biblical locust plagues.
But the world’s attention has finally turned to the problem of the climate emergency.
The year 2021 must count, it must be the year of action, to take us on the path to a sustainable and zero carbon future.
The lesson of our relationship with nature has highlighted how its deterioration can lead to zoonotic diseases like COVID-19; and elsewhere, it has reminded us of how we need to reshape the way we control and manage wildlife and its conservation – especially in Africa.
We know conservation works. This month a small group of cheetahs moved to Bangweulu Wetlands in Zambia, the first of their kind to return to the unique community-owned wetland for nearly a century.
And there was a increase in the number of elephants in Kenya; more than 34,000 now live there, more than double the number in 1989.
In addition, the Kenyan government estimates the number of the Lions living in the country has increased by 25 percent – from 2,000 in 2010 to 2,489 now.
Reimagine the future
But as we restructure our strategy for post-COVID recovery, there is a growing awareness that protecting the environment must be at the heart of development plans.
For example, wildlife tourism in Africa should not be the domain of the wealthy Westerners alone.
“We need to promote national and regional tourism in Africa,” said Kaddu Sebunya of the African Wildlife Foundation. “It’s high time we market Africa to Africans at affordable and flexible budgets that will encourage them to embrace their heritage.”
It has been a dark year. But it’s also a time to reflect, reconnect and reinvent a very different future, which can reshape and restore us and the planet we live and rely on.
Overview of your environment
1. Hottest year on record ?: Last month was the hottest second November on record. If December temperatures show a similar trend, 2020 is on the right track to be the hottest year the world has ever known.
2. Ski resorts in the eye of the climatic storm: Austrian promoters meet local resistance to plans to demolish part of the Alps to build a ski resort. This while a global warming endangers the snowy region and the local way of life.
3. All the answers on climate change: What is the Paris Agreement? How many problems is the earth in? To demystify global warming, here is a useful list of 17 climate questions with simple answers.
4. Call the cavalry: police horses save the downtown garden: In London, a community garden was unable to find livestock to help dab the autumn seeds. But they got help from the next best thing: police horses.
The last word
We will draw from the very heart of suffering the means of inspiration and survival.