Summary of the year 2021, in data and graphs

Why will this year ending in a few days be remembered? In the informational there are undoubtedly a handful of issues that emerge when asking this question. Especially the COVID-19 pandemic, which has passed its second year and is now further from its end than we imagined. But there are many others, whose keys, evolution or complexity we have tried to explain through data journalism.

Below, we summarize some of the main topics that we have counted and analyzed with data, graphs and visualizations in DatosRTVE in 2021. A summary perhaps not exhaustive, although it is representative of what this year has brought. Several were already very present in 2020 and will continue to be so next year. Of them, and of those who come, we will continue to report.

1. The COVID-19 vaccination race

The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 was embodied in the race for the vaccine, the remedy in which the world places its hopes of beating SARS-CoV-2. The objective in Spain, to reach the end of the summer with 70% of the population immunized with the complete regimen, was achieved with the sera of Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen. But nevertheless, did not bring the long-awaited group immunity. The arrival of new, more contagious variants like omicron and the need to reinforce protection with additional doses have derailed that goal. In any case, as the WHO repeats, we will not get out of the pandemic until we all do. The vaccine has yet to reach many countries.

2. Light, at the highest prices in its history

The rising pricesAfter years of sluggishness and even decline due to the pandemic, it has marked the economic situation of 2021, especially in the second half of the year. The progressive recovery of activity has had an influence, as has the supply crisis, but the most determining factor has been the increase in energy prices in international markets, which have triggered the price of fuel and, at the end of the production chain, of many everyday goods and services. In November, inflation in Spain reached 5.5%, the highest rise in almost three decades, with energy and food as the main drivers. No rise as striking as that of the electricity, which has marked record after record in wholesale markets -always in parallel with gas- until approaching 400 euros per megawatt-hour at the end of the year. For consumers, that has translated into a rise in electricity of 46.7%, according to the November CPI -although in October it was 63% -, which represents an increase of more than 35 euros in the average monthly bill of a household.

4. Afghanistan, the reconquest of the Taliban

The departure of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of war was exploited by the Taliban, who regained the country with little resistance from the Afghan army in just four months. On August 15 they culminated their offensive with the taking of Kabul after the flight of President Ashraf Ghani, thus confirming the weakness of the civil structure set up by Western countries to attempt a lasting democracy in the country, but which collapsed like a house of cards. Thousands of Afghans crowded at the gates of the airport to try to flee the new Islamist regime based on the radical interpretation of sharia, especially cruel to women.

5. Three months of eruption on La Palma

Although they have officially set its duration at 85 days and 8 hours, this 2021 we have passed 97 days with an eye on a volcano. Since the earth roared under La Palma on September 19 until scientists concluded the eruption on Christmas Day, the vagaries of nature have kept more than 7,000 people affected by the lava from the volcano in suspense. Many of them have lost their homes, but also their daily geography: the streets, the shops, their neighborhoods. In the first days, the neighborhoods of El Paraíso and Todoque disappeared under the lava. Later, the magma crossed La Laguna and little by little it found its way to the sea. In the 14 weeks that the eruption lasted, the twelve flows that the Cumbre Vieja volcano had covered 1,219 hectares of lava and have buried almost 3,000 buildings. But they have also created 48.5 hectares of new land and have been a prime research center for experts from around the world.

6. The alarm sounds again for climate change

The pandemic distracted the world from almost everything, but the old problems are still there, perhaps none as serious and pressing as the global warming. Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published in August the first part of their sixth report, which updates their assessment of the effects of this phenomenon, and their conclusions are resounding: climate change is now irreversible, humanity is responsible and, if action is not taken urgently, the temperature of the Earth’s surface at the end of the century will rise 2.7 degrees above the pre-industrial level. Even in a scenario of moderate greenhouse gas emissions, which is now very far from being in sight, the temperature would rise well above the two degrees that the Paris Agreement sets as the limit. Despite the forcefulness of that message, the Glasgow Climate Summit closed with another minor agreement between world governments, far from the ambition demanded by scientists, activists and a good part of the citizens.

7. Filomena, the great snowfall

The storm Filomena left between January 8 and 9 a historic snowfall in Spain, both due to the amount of snow that has fallen and the affected area of ​​the country. According to the State Meteorological Agency, the thickness of the snow cover was between 30 and 50 centimeters on average. It snowed a lot in the Pyrenees of Huesca and Lleida, where it is more common, but What was truly exceptional were the values ​​achieved in Madrid and the surrounding areas, such as Toledo, with more than half a meter of snow. Filomena gave way to a cold wave also with historical records: in the capital of Castilla-La Mancha the thermometers dropped to -13.4 degrees and in Teruel, to -21.

8. Environmental disaster in the Mar Menor

The image of hundreds of dying fish on the shores of the Mar Menor surprised us at the end of August. This has been the penultimate cry for help from an ecosystem that has been subjected to various environmental pressures for decades. First, the intensive mining of metals deposited its residues in the water. Later, the urban and tourism explosion altered the environment. And, finally, the intensively irrigated crop model has been dumping an excess of nutrients for years. To monitor the health of the lagoon, experts use the load of milligrams of oxygen per liter of water (mg / l). When this value is below 5, it is considered that the Mar Menor has an oxygen deficiency (hypoxia). This situation has occurred five times since 2017, but in September 2019, June 2020 and August 2021 it has been extreme (anoxia).

9. The pardons, the last chapter of the process

On June 22, the Government of Pedro Sánchez granted a pardon to the nine Catalan independence leaders who were serving sentences of between 13 and nine years in prison for holding the illegal referendum of 2017. The decision of the Council of Ministers meant the cancellation of between five and nine years in prison for each of them. The former president of the ANC and general secretary of Junts per Catalunya, Jordi Sànchez, and the president of Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart, are the ones who have served the longest prison sentence, about 41% of the nine years that the Supreme Court imposed on them by sedition. The former Catalan vice president and president of ERC, Oriol Junqueras, left prison after serving 3 years and eight months, 28% of the 13 years imposed by the high court for sedition and embezzlement.

10. Politics in Spain: ups, downs, pulses and changes

It seems difficult not to measure the management of a government and the work of the opposition regardless of the health and economic crisis caused by the pandemic, but the polarization that characterized Spanish politics has continued in 2021, with which it implies in the consolidation of little permeable ideological blocks. The evolution of the estimate of the vote of the main parties in the CIS barometers records the main milestones of the year: elections in Catalonia in February, pardons for those convicted of the process and elections in Madrid in spring, the new leadership in United We Can after the departure of Pablo Iglesias and the tensions between PSOE and PP over the renewal of the constitutional bodies. At the end of the year, which is also the middle of the legislature, socialists and popular They narrow their distance compared to January, Vox and United We can fight to be the third force and Ciudadanos declines towards irrelevance.

11. Mental health, in the foreground

In 2021 came the rediscovery for politics and society of mental health as a health challenge. And putting it on the public agenda has also made it emerge an almost always taboo subject, that of suicide. In 2020, there were 3,941 deaths from suicide or self-inflicted injuries in Spain, the highest number in four decades. Almost eleven people took their own lives every day, according to data from the INE. And be careful, because 300 of those people were under 29 years old, and 61 had not reached the age of 20: suicide is the leading cause of unnatural death in young people.

12. The Olympic Games of the pandemic, but, above all, of women

The Tokyo Olympics, celebrated a year late by the COVID-19 pandemic, have been the sporting event of the year, and not only because of the athletes’ deeds: the organization managed to carry them out despite the harassment of the coronavirus, the athletes spoke out like never before on issues such as racism or mental health and new advances in gender matters were achieved, such as the participation of Laurel Hubbard, the first transgender athlete. They were the most even games in history, with 5,494 women competing, 47.9% of the total, and of the 93 countries that achieved a medal, only 20 had none won by a woman. The United States, China and Japan occupied the top three spots on the medal table, and in all three delegations, women won more medals than men. And two of the three countries that premiered their Olympic record in Tokyo 2020, San Marino and Turkmenistan, did so thanks to a woman.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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