A Look Back at 2020’s Social, Economic and Environmental Data

This Was 2020: in Charts

As is said across pretty much every platform everywhere, 2020 was a bust, at best. At worst, it was a soul-crushing nightmare that forced people out of their homes and into the streets, either to protest racial inequality or because they simply could no longer afford their bills after they lost their jobs.

The pandemic played a majority role in this, but it also allowed the cracks in our society to break wide open, the impact of climate change to really hit home, and our eyes to open to how a changed world could really, truly work.

I am lucky, as I have been able to keep my job and my company through the year. I didn’t have to lay off anyone on my team. I love my husband and my dog and cat, so being stuck at home never felt like being stuck; it felt like being home.

And it’s given me an opportunity to think back about this year, before we head into the next. Reading through these really puts the year in perspective. 

Travel all but stopped.

Conferences, sales calls, happy hours, and visits with family went online. Travel van, camper, and boat sales went through the roof, but airline travel has a long way to go to get back to pre-pandemic numbers.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season Broke Records.

The 2020 hurricane season boasted a record 30 named storms, 13 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes. On November 16, 2020, Hurricane Iota became the very first Category 5 hurricane in the 2020 season; no Category 5 storm has ever formed that late in the year.

Forest Fires Blazed through the Western States.

More than 10.3 million acres burned in 2020, compared with 4.7 million acres in 2019. Five of the top 20 largest California wildfires fires occurred in 2020, according to CalFire’s list.

Climate Change Is (Finally) a Thing.

The Northern Hemisphere had its warmest November on record in 2020. The world is expected to hit its hottest (or so) year to date. And more Americans than ever before—81% in fact—believe in climate change. 

The Great Lockdown of 2020 Happened.

For the first time in our history, communities across the planet severely restricted the movements of their citizens in an effort to curb the health impacts of the pandemic and keep hospitals functioning. While the lockdowns likely saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives, they also resulted in the worst economic downturn ever recorded—and a dramatic improvement in air quality demonstrates the degree of reduction in travel as the world stayed home.

The Stock Market Is Not the Economy.

The stock market, after an incredible crash and dramatic rescue by the Fed, rebounded to close-to-if-not-actually record highs.

However, the rest of the world is not faring too well. In the U.S., the labor force participation rate is well below the level in 2019, 2015, 2000…actually, we have not seen such low numbers in decades.

Black Lives Matter.

The disparities between the stock market and the real economy are reflected in demographics as well. Protests erupted across the world in support of Black Lives Matter, finally bringing racial inequality (in all of its forms) to the forefront of the world’s—and especially America’s—citizens.

Everything is Online Now.

Nearly $1 in every $5 was spent online in Third Quarter 2020, up 37.1% from the same quarter last year, while sales at brick and mortar stores are down 14%. Thanks to working—and going to school—from home for those who can do it, Zoom’s share price increased from $73.09 in January 2020 to $409.00 at market close on December 22, 2020.

The U.S. Elections Were Odd.

Despite everything that has happened this year, more Americans voted than ever before. President Trump was one of only ten incumbent presidents who tried—and failed—to win re-election. 

In Summary…

It has been one hell of a year. In addition to all of this happening around us, most people also had lives to rebalance and personal battles to fight: frustration, pain, fear, and anger were common. We are living in the midst of a global pandemic that has sickened almost 80 million people and killed more than 1.7 million people worldwide as of December 23, 2020. We’re watching our world change around us and—in many ways—it’s totally unfathomable.

And yet—as humans—we have been here before. Often in times of great crisis come great advancements. 2020 was a tough year, but it was a year that highlighted our weaknesses, and that gave us an opportunity to fix them, together. So here’s to the end of 2020, and to an optimistic start to 2021.

Happy holidays, everyone, and my very best wishes for you in the new year.


About the author

Erin Rothman

Talk stormwater with erin@stormsensor.io With more than 15 years of environmental consulting experience, Erin observed so many opportunities for innovation in the stormwater industry. With those in mind, she founded StormSensor to enthusiastically embrace new technology to help solve the problems of an age-old industry.