As 2020 draws to an end, we look at the journalism which spoke most to our readers.
This year we’ve been covering pandemic profiteers, scrutinizing pandemic mismanagement and calling for multilateral, internationalist solutions to the Covid-19 emergency. But, we’ve also continued to question the basic assumptions that govern social life and kept lesser-known stories in our headlines.
In the midst of the ongoing crises of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen dedicated organizers circumvent social distancing restrictions to keep human-to-human connection and solidarity alive with online mobilization and mutual aid work in their communities. We’ve also seen the world’s largest constellation of anti-racist demonstrations take place this year. With continual economic shutdowns and the vaccine nationalist tide to wade through, the challenges ahead are unlikely to abate.
Here’s a countdown of our most-read stories in 2020. But first, an honorary mention for a story that we can continue to learn from:
Barbudans are resisting disaster capitalists
Ever since Hurricane Irma struck in September 2017, residents of Barbuda have been trying to defend themselves against those who would cash in on their misfortune. Gemma Sou hears what they have to say.
‘Disasters are often viewed as opportunities for societies to “build back better”. But in post-disaster contexts like Barbuda “better” is a politically loaded term that is often defined according to a neoliberal logic of profit over people.’
10. The untenable luxury of self-isolation
A coalition of gig economy researchers at Fairwork explain how gig workers are being hit hardest by COVID-19.
‘Although many workplaces are moving their businesses online and encouraging remote-working, the policy of self-isolation at home rests on two fundamental assumptions: first, that everyone has a safe home where they can isolate themselves and second, that they can afford to stay at home.’
9. It’s official, the global economy is a ‘debtor’s prison’
As the World Bank and IMF sound the alarm on debts driven sky high by Covid-19 in some of the world’s poorest nations, Nick Dearden explains why debt ‘relief’ will not cut it – we need system change.
‘So-called vulture funds, which specialize in buying up debt very cheaply, purely in order to sue countries for the full face-value of the debt.’
8. We can’t grow our way out of poverty
For more than half a century, economists and policymakers have focused fanatically on growth as the only feasible way to end global poverty and improve people’s lives. But in an era of planet-wide ecological breakdown, that comfortable conventional wisdom is crashing to an end. Jason Hickel lays it on the line.
‘We could end poverty at a stroke and still leave the richest with average annual incomes of nearly $180,000 per year – more than anyone could ever reasonably need.’
7. Organic food is a human right
To stamp out pesticides from our fragile food systems is to protect those most prone to ill health, Friends of the Earth’s senior staff scientist, Kendra Klein explains to Yasmin Dahnoun.
‘Where science is indicating harm, we wait for the body count to rise before regulators are compelled to act.’
6. A continent ablaze
The fires consuming Australia are not a tragedy, writes Marc Hudson. They are the product of 30 years of wilful negligence and greed.
‘There is, I fear, a ferocious embedded contempt for the natural world (and by extension women and people of colour), a desire (need) to dominate which comes from settler colonialism.’
5. What if...a socialist became president of the USA?
Richard Swift ponders a pipedream – or a possibility.
‘A recent poll found 70 per cent of Millennials and 64 per cent of GenZers claiming they would be favourably disposed towards voting for socialist candidates. Unease with the future (or lack of same) on offer from climate-gobbling capitalism has swelled the ranks of organizations such as the Democratic Socialists of America and is helping to elect radical candidates (such as the Bronx’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a bevy of others) both in and outside of the Democratic Party.’
4. Police brutality is not just a US problem
Amy Hall on why the Black Lives Matter movement is once again resonating around the world.
‘“I can’t breathe’. These were also the last words of David Dungay Jr, a Dunghutti man held down by six corrections officers in Australia. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned against “importing the things that are happening overseas to Australia,” in response to protests there, saying that “we don’t need to draw equivalence here”.’
3. Hitting the population brakes
Popular wisdom has it that everything is speeding up, including population growth. Danny Dorling shows just how wrong that is – and argues that we are actually in a time of slowdown. A tour of future population prospects for key hotspots
‘A growing body of opinion believes the UN is wrong. We will not reach 11 billion by 2100. Instead, the human population will top out at somewhere between eight and nine billion around the middle of the century, and then begin to decline.’ - Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson, 27 January 2019
2. Should prisons be abolished?
Prisons damage people and have always been used by the powerful to control the most marginalized. But can society really do away with incarceration altogether? Kelsey Mohamed and Andrew Neilson go head to head.
‘It is impossible to safely address serious harm in a violent institution. Someone who has perpetrated violence won’t be incentivized to do better by being locked up and exposed to further violence, in places where prison officers sexually and physically assault people in their care. This dynamic will continue as long as the state is empowered to deny anyone their human rights. How can we be so concerned about people being hurt yet make an exception for those who receive a salary for it?’
1. Betrayed again
Under the cover of Covid-19, Turkey is hammering the Kurds. Again. Should the world care? Vanessa Baird offers several good reasons why it should.
‘The issue of Kurdish freedom is one with vast and complicated geopolitical ramifications. But it is also about simple, human things. One man who, with his family, had to flee from Turkish bombardment recalls: “My beautiful village home is now occupied by pro-Turkey Fayalaq al Sham fighters. My olive fields and pomegranate orchards have been seized by former IS fighters from Deir Ezzor.”’