A month into 2021, Writer Jolene Ong takes a look back at some of the lesser-known, faith-restoring events of 'cursed' yesteryear.
2020 has been one bizarre ride. As if Covid-19 wasn’t enough, we see the poor lodging environment migrant workers in Singapore are subjected to, the Black Lives Movement demonstrations taking over the streets of America, devastating explosions erupting in Beirut and Syria; the list doesn’t end. However, like how every cloud has a silver lining, 2020 might just be preparing us for better things to come.
Here are six positive things that happened in 2020 that didn’t make it to your news feed, which will brighten your day and faith in the year ahead.
1. Futuristic Contact Lenses
Wish you could experience a day in the life of Tony Stark – one that revolved greatly around augmented reality incorporated into your day to day schedule? What about owning a pair of Peter Parker’s E.D.I.T.H glasses? If you’re nodding vehemently or screaming “YES of course!” internally, you’ll be excited to hear that these futuristic fantasies are set to become reality.
Mojo Vision, a California-based augmented reality developer company, announced in January this year that they are currently developing the world’s first true smart contact lenses, allowing us to potentially live with augmented vision. These lenses are able to detect our real-world context and environment, before projecting important information and notifications in a timely manner into our retinas via a tiny projector. These are all done without disrupting our focus from our priorities in the present moment.
Imagine going for a run and having a notification pop up within your line of sight, reminding you of an important meeting with your boss scheduled later in the evening? How useful and cool is that? These lenses can also greatly help enhance vision capabilities and revolutionise how people with vision impairments see the world.
Nevertheless, more safety and effectiveness certifications and trials will have to be carried out before the official green light is given for the market launch of these lenses. There isn’t a specific dateline promised by Mojo Vision before the product launch but considering the fact that more than a whopping $159 million in funding have been raised from investors to date, this life-changing creation seems to be a promising and worthwhile venture to look forward to.
2. Food out of Thin Air
Solar Foods, a Helsinki-based start-up company, has literally created food out of thin air. Solar Foods’ aim is to revolutionise and reform the way food is created by reducing the need to rely on agricultural practices for food production. As such, this will minimise the strain placed on our environment and ensure that Earth’s dwindling resources are not continued to be stretched too thin.
Their new protein ingredient creation, Solein, is a microbe grown in liquid through a fermentation process similar to that of beer brewing. These microbes feed on carbon dioxide derived from air, and hydrogen which is produced by passing electricity through water. The entire process is powered by renewable sources of energy, thereby creating Solein in a manner which is 100 times more climate friendly and less polluting on the environment as compared to meat and other plant-based protein alternatives.
Solein, described as an ingredient indistinct in taste and appearance but high in nutritional value, can be incorporated into any meal for an additional protein boost. Hear that fitness junkies? It is said that its nutritional values are comparable to that of soy-based products or even animal-based protein. The Finnish start-up is prepared to launch their new innovative protein source in Q4 of 2022, and its price is said to be comparable to that of soy just within 5 years.
With this new protein source available at a lower expense of environment, are you willing to sacrifice your animal-based proteins to give it a try?
3. The Return of Leatherback Sea Turtles
Major technological advancements aren’t the only good things happening in 2020.
Just earlier this year in April, leatherback sea turtles have been seen making a comeback to the shores of beaches in Florida and Thailand. These places, once thronged by locals and tourists alike, are now just patches of deserted soft sand caressed by ebbing waves.
Experts have attributed such a heart-warming phenomenon to the plunge in levels of water pollution and habitat disturbances which man had previously inflicted upon the environment before the pandemic escalation and lockdown.
4. … and the Himalayas!
Another stunning event was the first visible sighting of the Himalayas from Punjab, India, in almost 30 years! Many locals expressed their amazement at the majestic sight of the Himalayas from the rooftops of their homes, owing to the exceptional improvement of air quality in India – a country home to almost 70% of the world’s most polluted urban areas.
5. ‘The Floating City’ Floats Once Again
Venice, better known as the “City of Canals” or “The Floating City”, is one of the world’s most picturesque cities. However, due to overwhelming tourist footprints over the last few years coupled with rising sea levels, it has been ironically, sinking. Moreover, the booming tourism industry in Venice meant that water taxis are always floating down canals. Tourists ferrying boats and cruise ships are constantly docking at the harbours before thousands of tourists flood into the city daily.
However, due to the pandemic lockdown, the streams of tourists visiting the city were cut off almost immediately. Locals were able to regain their slow-paced way of life, avoid difficult manoeuvres through hordes of international day-trippers just to get their daily groceries, and finally sit back to reflect on ways to ensure Venice’s sustainability as a tourist hub, and its liveability for local Venetians in coming years.
Air quality in Venice improved tremendously, with the water canals being clearer than ever due to less waste thrown into canals and less sediments being stirred up to the surface due to water traffic.
The pandemic is almost like a reset button for Mother Nature. However, I cannot help but think, what will happen once this pandemic is over? Will the lives of the endangered animal species come under greater threats now that they are in closer proximity to mankind and our destructive actions to their natural habitats? Will the Himalayas Mountains shy behind the thick fog once again?
We cannot be sure of all these, but now the ball is in our court and we have control over whether these positives will still be around for our future generations to relish.
6. Kindness Personified
Just across our borders in Malaysia, a team of 15 refugees from Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, have been whipping up dishes for frontline health heroes in a refugee kitchen in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Although they are not being remunerated, all 15 of them volunteered almost immediately when they knew about the meaningful undertaking initiated by Al-Hassan Volunteer Network and Beyond Borders Malaysia.
Most of them wanted to show their appreciation to the health workers for their unwavering efforts in fighting the battle against the pandemic. Some just wanted to show their gratitude to Malaysia for providing them with a place to settle after fleeing their war-torn countries. Within a month of operations, the team managed to dish out more than 400 meals for frontline staffs, and at times even had to dip into their savings to purchase the necessary ingredients.
Despite not being Malaysian citizens themselves, their compassion and sincerity in wanting to contribute and make a meaningful difference in these hard times say and mean a lot. If these refugees are willing to give their all for a country not even theirs, we should also continue to strive to show more empathy and concern for our fellow Singaporeans and our Singapore.
2020 has proven to us that as long as we brave through the storm, we’ll find the little hidden pockets of joy; the ones that should matter the most. At the end of it all, we can only hope that things get better. And if the storm has yet to pass, it simply means that we have not yet reached the end.
We’re a few weeks in to 2021, and all I hope is for more morale boosting news to pop up on our notifications – to compensate for the slew of not-so-good things that happened last year. All things considered, I’m still happy to bid adieu to 2020, and welcome its successor with open arms.
Were there other events in 2020 that gave you hope? Share it with us in the comments.