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2021: What happened?

World leaders have an uncanny knack for making even the most exciting of things thoroughly depressing. Given their rhetoric, you'd be forgiven for thinking that humankind is in no better position at the end of this year than we were last, but that's not the case at all.

Here's a reminder of what happened:

JANUARY: A riot at the US Capitol, a new President of the United States. I pledge to learn more about space, planets, and the movement of the stars and then quickly forgot about it. 86 countries sign a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. The coronavirus vaccine programme begins in earnest in the UK.

FEBRUARY: NASA's Perseverance and Ingenuity rovers land on Mars. I sign up to HEY, the email service from Basecamp, and it totally revolutionises the way I work and communicate. I kit the home out with Philips Hue lightbulbs, Eve cameras, and more smart-tech.

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MARCH: Ever Given jackknifes itself in the Suez Canal. The remains of a woman butchered at the hands of an off-duty police officer causes outrage across the country, reigniting conversation around violence against women. I get vaccinated; a syringe symbolising the slow-at-first-then-all-at-once return to some kind of normal. With the team behind The Week Junior's Science+Nature magazine, we make Mysteries of Science.

APRIL: I play croquet. I take up a bunch more freelance work. The number of confirmed COVID cases passes 150 million; the number of vaccinations surpass 1 billion. Prince Philip dies.

MAY: Netherlands orders Shell to align its carbon emissions with the Paris Climate accord. The Eurovision Song contest reunites nations around the continent; it's the first since the UK exited the EU. We come last. I visit Adam Henson's Cotswold Farm Park, SEA LIFE, do an at-home escape room, take on an assault course, do archery, ride a heritage railway, and walk in a forest used as a set for some of the biggest movies in the world. I turn 26 and take some time offline...

Standing among pigs at Adam Henson's Cotswold Farm Park (the pigs are out of shot, below us – the people in the photo are lovely)
At Puzzlewood, Gloucestershire

JUNE, JULY & AUGUST: Restrictions ease. Football fever grips the nation. The number of vaccinated people exceeds three billion. I lay the foundations for a log cabin in my garden and bury a time capsule within its concrete base.

Massive floods devastate large regions of Europe. The event is attributed to a slowed jet-stream caused by climate change. The IPCC unequivocally states that climate change is human-caused, widespread, rapid, and intensifying.

Two decades of foreign policy fail as the Afghan government surrenders to the Taliban; the US withdraws, ending 20 years of occupation. I come up with an idea that fulfils my new year's resolution to learn more about space and spend the next quarter planning for it.

I made some music in 2021. You can hear some of it on my podcast.

SEPTEMBER: I visit the Science Museum, We The Curious in Bristol, the Royal Observatory Greenwich, all for this project that launches in four days time. I sold my car. El Salvador becomes the first country to accept Bitcoin as an official currency. Inspiration4 is launched by Space X and becomes the first all-civilian spaceflight. I come back online and write a piece for Science+Nature all about the Overview Effect.

OCTOBER: I go to the cinema for the first time in two years to see James Bond. I visit a wedding. I stroll through history by walking the Ridgeway, treading a route that's been used by thousands for millennia.

NOVEMBER: World leaders gathered in Glasgow for the COP26 climate conference and emit nothing but hot air. I try NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – and tap out 14,000 words all about humankind and its attempts to project our condition into the universe.

DECEMBER: News of a new coronavirus variant seizes headlines once more. World leaders begin to hermit their kingdoms again. Vaccination efforts intensify, case numbers quintuple. I go to two Christmas parties and get a booster jab. The biggest space telescope ever built opens a new era in astronomical exploration.

My sister and her partner got a dog in 2021, Red

Our collective human story has always been marred with setbacks and challenges but 2021 is proof that the wheels of human progress will restlessly turn.

It was also a reminder that it's up to us to steer the vehicle.

You'll next hear from me in just a few days time on Tuesday, January 4th 2022 where I'm going to tell you about that exciting project I mentioned.

Happy New Year.