I’m a glass half full kind of girl so while everyone is super busy disparaging and writing off 2020, I thought I’d take a look at ten positives from this crazy year. I see all of these as forward motion and perfect examples of resilience and rebirth here in America. For all my friends in other countries, I think these apply to you as well but please feel free to absorb the good and ignore the ones that don’t!
1 Priorities – Well who hasn’t discovered what is really important to them this year? I know we certainly have. Everything from people to business decisions to amazement of time and money saved while locked down has colored our choices moving forward. We have made some major decisions about our business (more on that in the new year) and living conditions because we took (or were forced) time to examine choices and what is important. We actually don’t know anyone who hasn’t done the same.
2 Technology – Whew. Technology has both saved the day and become a necessity during the lockdowns and social distancing phases of 2020. From electronic voting to QR coded restaurant menus to online meetings, we have invented ways to interact using new technologies. Many of certain ages have been surprised to learn how easy it is to connect from a distance. Artists have predictably reinvented their art forms of all kinds with new technologies. I have musician friends who have created new ways to be artistic through photography or dancers who have begun teaching via zoom or singers who learned how to create YouTube channels to promote their talents. And we have been blessed with museums and theater productions online to keep us all entertained. I have seen productions I never would have been able to travel to see – because of the challenges of 2020 forcing theaters to reinvent and use technology. And let’s not forget the massive realization by powers that be that we didn’t have internet available in the whole country and how 2020 has provided incentive and awareness to bring high speed internet to every nook and cranny to benefit everything from medicine to education.
3 Gardens – We’ve all heard of victory gardens during WWII but there aren’t many who are still around to recreate them. Instead we have all grown what we could in our own spaces and found pleasure in it. In our house, Rick has become obsessed with growing avocado trees and acquiesced to my request for mint, basil, lettuce and cherry tomatoes. We already had blueberries but the addition of those items meant less trips to the store during the pandemic and certainly were cheaper. But I’ve also seen tons of folks working on their flower gardens and yards with renewed energy since they either weren’t commuting or looking for physical activity outdoors. ALL of that is great for our mental and physical health and the planet. Good things come when we grow them ourselves.
4 Pollution – Have you seen the photos of the amazing views in Los Angeles or Kathmandu? The views of the Delhi Arch (left) or the Christo statue in Rio? Most of the world has been delighted to see the real effects of less traffic pollution and statistics are bearing out the value of reducing carbon gases and all forms of manmade pollution. I am not naïve enough to think these issues are gone forever but it was surely eye opening to see the visual effects of shutdowns around the world. Here’s hoping we can use those images to propel us forward with more innovation and ways to protect the planet – because of 2020.
5 Retail – Well I AM a shopper from very the beginning and I’m not thrilled with being forced to shift to online options for everything, but I will have to grudgingly admit it has surely gotten easier during 2020. From curbside pickup to delivery services of all kinds, retail is reinventing itself. Now some have disappeared because they couldn’t adapt, others are at risk but trying. Small businesses are finding a way to be relevant and compete and the big boxes are almost as full of distance shoppers with giant carts and big lists as they are with individuals. (Note: I need to try on and touch such things as bathing suits and jeans and shoes so…..) But more importantly, 2020 will be the benchmark year when shopping centers and malls start going away. We don’t need to concentrate so much space on asphalt jungles to deliver what the younger generation already has brought from a giant warehouse straight to their homes. If the post office and delivery systems can continue to handle the workload, I suspect within a few years we will see those big boxes disappear completely. Is it a good thing? I’m on the fence but it won’t be up to my generation to decide and if the youngsters find it good to not have to GO shopping, it’s on it’s way.
6 Workplace – I know folks who have completely reinvented their lives by working from home. Those extra hours of interacting with family or sleeping or working out that used to be spent commuting will be a goal for the rest of their working lives. I don’t think businesses and offices can come back from this. There were a bunch of businesses and government agencies that have long resisted teleworking but 2020 has completely debunked the myths that it can’t be done. Zoom meetings and casual-below-the-belt office wear are here to stay. I know a government agency’s training department that reduced their backlog from 2500 waiting to attend courses to zero because they could now offer the courses online to more than could fit in their space. And to quote one senior supervisor “Those who were screwups in the office are screwups in telework. Those who excelled, continue to excel. Those who need micromanaging, still do. Nothing has changed except my office location.” Keep an eye out for diminishing big building office needs and more telework stations from your local economic development folks. Bonus: Almost everyone has figured out how to work from home and almost all of them like it.
7 Transportation – Because no one was commuting for a few months, roadworks have been accomplished in our region in record time. And if I were in charge, I would seriously start looking at items 4, 5, and 6 above before allocating tons more roadworks. It just strikes me that commuting might diminish. I’m sure there are statisticians and prognosticators of all sorts out there in this field of work who are scrambling to sort out new realities but from where I’m sitting as the average driver, 2020 has been a good thing for transportation. Forward choices aren’t always easy but we can see what it’s like when there are less cars on the highways because of 2020.
8 Education – There will never again be a need for snow days. At least not the traditional reasons of worrying about children’s safety on icy roads, etc. But the technological advancements, while a massive struggle and learning curve for all concerned, have shown us so many new ways to provide education. There won’t be any going back in the longterm for education delivery. Colleges have been accessible around the world instead of needing to be in one location. Elementary and secondary schooling has been reinvented. It’s not all perfect. But we have learned there are other ways to deliver information, and test it, and track it, and all of those processes are going to use technology to improve conditions. And, speaking of tech, our region is a perfect example of how we CAN deliver netbooks and laptops to kids who can’t afford them and how we can get high speed internet available in ALL regions of the country. All good things from 2020.
9 Democracy – Here in America it’s been a wild 2020 for democracy. Without choosing any sides what we can ALL appreciate is record numbers have turned out to vote and we have discovered both the value and the risks of remote and early voting. It’s a work in progress but we have proven democracy can withstand this pandemic crisis and massive polarization. Because of 2020. And now we know we have much work to do – from invasive interlopers of all stripes, to election security, to finding ways for the disadvantaged to exercise their rights to vote. Democracy wins because we evaluate our strengths and weaknesses. And playing out our challenges in such a visible way helps other nations and peoples understand democracy and assess their own situations and challenges. Because of 2020.
10 Robots – I believe we’re just now starting to see the affects of robots in manufacturing and logistics. Because of pandemic distancing and contamination issues and manpower challenges, many businesses have finally brought in more robots to complete regular tasks. Unions have long resisted the robotization of their industries, but the gig is up as they say. Robots have kept us fed, deliveries more consistent, and workers safer in 2020.
(Images are not the authors but used with permission from various sources.)