Ellina Webb reflects on 2017 and the interesting things she learnt from TV, in film and while surfing the internet.

2017 has been an interesting year politically, socially, environmentally and for me, personally.

In fact, I think it’s been the ideal year to start The Hub as an outlet for discussion on current affairs. After all we’ve seen changes in the housing market, interesting discussion points from the budget, the continuing fight against pollution (hello T Charge!) and the UK leading Europe in solar growth.

However, these topics aren’t just interesting to Hub readers, my colleagues and our guest editors, for the first time many of these subjects have actually resonated with me.

As a new homeowner and a driver of an older car, the rise in interest rates, the increase in house prices and the introduction of the T Charge are actually things I need to pay attention to (as i'm sure a lot of you do too).

The year of the rooster has been an insightful year for me, so looking back, what are the most interesting things I’ve learnt in the past 12 months?

Goodbye coal

In the technological age, the UK really can live without coal – as it did before the Industrial Revolution.

The National Grid reported on this historic day back in April and it looks as though in this case, One step backwards (to the coal-less Britain of the past) will hopefully put us two steps forwards towards a future where we don’t rely on fossil fuels.

Britain’s last coal PowerStation is due to close on 2025 and over the new few decades we should see a move to renewables – and it looks as though Britain is already leading the way.

Whales wail

I’ve seen many great TV shows this year- The Handmaids Tale, Stranger Things 2, Game of Thrones, Top of the Lake , but none quite as epic as Blue Planet II.

If you watched this series shown in autumn on BBC 1 then you’ll probably know the episode I’m going to reference… the mourning whales in episode 4.

There are only a handful of animals on our planet that we understand to have emotions similar to those of humans. Whales are one of those species and as this episode showed, the female Blue Whale whose baby died had refused to let go.

Heartbreakingly, as her family watched on – also in visible mourning, she dragged its carcass around unable to part from the calf she was quite clearly attached to.

But how did the whale die? Could it be the toxins from plastics discarded in the ocean? David Attenborourgh spoke about the devastation that plastic will and is having on marine life, and seeing a wailing whale only made the reality of this truth even harsher.

By 2050 research suggests that humans will have produced 34 million tonnes of plastic, by this date it is also predicted that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish

Adios auto

On the Hub I’ve spoken quite a bit about pollution and traffic over this past year, mainly the effect on air quality and how car free days can combat this.

But one of the interesting things I learnt about car free days is that in Bogota, Columbia 76 miles of streets are closed to traffic between 7am-2pm every Sunday as part of a programme called Ciclovía that the local Government has run since 1974.

Not only does Ciclovía help with the environment, it also allows city dwellers to exercise and children to play. In fact Ciclovía is the largest and most frequented mass recreation event in the World!

And while cities like Paris have also followed suit with a yearly car-free day, Bogota has set the standard and I think it’s about time more cities followed. 

Overshooting is getting worse

In 2017 the reality became clear to me that our resources are dwindling at an alarming rate and Earth Overshoot Day seemed to have had a bigger impact on me and the people around me than ever before.

Earth Overshoot Day is the date when our resource consumption for the year exceeds earth’s capacity to generate those resources in that year. This year we reached that day faster than any other year before and to put that into perceptive these are the Earth Overshoot Days of the past 20+ years:

  • Overshoot days in the 10s

    Wednesday, August 02, 2017

    Wednesday, August 03, 2016

    Tuesday, August 04, 2015

    Monday, August 04, 2014

    Monday, August 05, 2013

    Monday, August 06, 2012

  • Overshoot days in the 00s

    Monday, August 09, 2010

    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    Saturday, August 16, 2008

    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    Monday, August 21, 2006

    Friday, August 26, 2005

    Thursday, September 02, 2004

    Wednesday, September 10, 2003

    Thursday, September 19, 2002

    Sunday, September 23, 2001

    Saturday, September 23, 2000

  • Overshoot days in the 90s

    Thursday, September 30, 1999

    Thursday, October 01, 1998

    Tuesday, September 30, 1997

    Wednesday, October 02, 1996

    Thursday, October 05, 1995

    Tuesday, October 11, 1994

    Wednesday, October 13, 1993

    Tuesday, October 13, 1992

    Friday, October 11, 1991

    Saturday, October 13, 1990

  • Overshoot days in the 80s

    Friday, October 13, 1989

    Sunday, October 16, 1988

    Saturday, October 24, 1987

So as you can see, while this day has remained in August for the past 8 years, if we don’t make a change, it’s extremely likely it will hit July by next year.

So what can we all do to help?

As part of the #movethedate campaign by Earth Overshoot Day, it is suggested that you look at ways in reducing your carbon footprint – like eating veggie or riding a bike. On a wider scale, decarbonising the economy, greening the National Grid and using renewable and clean energy is one of the best ways for us to improve this and address climate change.

An air source heating pump in your home for example could reduce your carbon footprint by 67% against a direct electric system.

Hello Steve

This year I’ve been quite fascinated by the sky above, as my The Sky at Night article explains. There have been quite a few cosmic displays in the past 12 months and if you live away from a light polluted area you will have seen numerous spectaculars like the 21st Century’s first total solar eclipse (mainly visible from America), meteor showers, planet alignments and changes in the moons cycle.

If you live in northern Canada however, you might have been witness to a new type of natural phenomenon.

In 2017 scientists classified a new type of aurora feature and named it Steve.

Steve is a vertical purple and green streak although it’s not clear if this formation if definitely classed as an aurora due to it not stemming from the interaction of solar particles with Earth’s magnetic field.

Either way, the photos look lovely and I look forward to hearing more about Steve in 2018

You can learn a lot from Google maps

As a filmophile (yes I learnt that really is a legitimate term for film lovers) I’ve seen a lot of films this year and I’ve critiqued many of them too, especially the Oscar winners.

The film that stood out the most to me – which was nominated 6 times but unfortunately didn’t win, was Lion, a biographical film directed by Garth Davis.

The film is based on a man, who as a young boy in India gets lost and after a few months of utter hell, is adopted by a family in Australia. As the years roll by and he grows into adulthood the reality and haunting memory that he is lost pushes him to retrace this journey using Google earth.

Google earth is a brilliant piece of technology and shows how going digital really is changing our planet – and how we view it; from satellite navigation, to reminiscing on old locations we use to visit and new locations we would like to explore.

Since the launch of Google Earth in 2001 Google has gone on to use the technology in ways such as time-lapse to show how the earth has changed over 32 years. The clips which can be viewed here show the changing faces of the urban and natural environments across the globe; from developments in Dubai to melting glaciers in Alaska.

Which reminds me of another critically exclaimed film called Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance which shows a time-lapse footage of the changing landscape in America.

Summing up the year

So all in all, it’s been an insightful year filled with positive and negatives; some which are out of our control, and others where we can make small changes and see a big difference.

And to end the year on a high, one of the interesting words I’ve learnt this year is Youthquake. In fact on 15th December it was declared word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries.

So what is the positive meaning behind this word?

The term refers to a political awakening among millennial voters – something that I remember from the General Election of 2010 when my generation made an impact in votes for the Liberal Democrats; leading to a coalition.

So in as 2018 dawns I hope Youthquake continues and we see an awakening among millennials (and all other generations) into all the issues I’ve discussed above and all the issues we’ve discussed throughout the year on the Hub. 

Ellina Webb is a Senior Marketing Executive at Mitsubishi Electric

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