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Readers' wishes for 2024: TLC for Earth, an end to AIDS, more empathy, less light

We asked our readers to send in their wishes for 2024, and many of you expressed a hope that humans pay attention to the health of the planet. The woman pictured above is one of the nomadic Wodaabe people — cattle herders who live mainly in Chad and Niger. Their lifestyle is affected by higher temperatures, shifting winds and changing precipitation patterns due to climate change.
Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images
We asked our readers to send in their wishes for 2024, and many of you expressed a hope that humans pay attention to the health of the planet. The woman pictured above is one of the nomadic Wodaabe people — cattle herders who live mainly in Chad and Niger. Their lifestyle is affected by higher temperatures, shifting winds and changing precipitation patterns due to climate change.

Several weeks ago, we asked global health and development leaders to share a wish for the coming year. Then we turned the metaphorical mic over to our readers.

Thanks for the many submissions of wishes for 2024. Here's a sampling of responses.

Pay attention to the health of the planet ...

"I come from the South South region of Nigeria," writes Dr. Oritseweyinmi Erikowa-Orighoye. "We are faced with water and air pollution, rising seas, tides and extreme heat alongside flooding. My global wish for 2024 is to create more climate and health advocates, especially for women and children in coastal areas, by documenting more stories and doing more campaigns and hands-on projects on how climate affects their health. Women and children are disproportionately affected due to limited resources and access to quality health care alongside various socioeconomic inequalities."

Many of our readers share her wish for the planet to be a priority in 2024. Janice Hawn from Culpeper, Va., wants "our leaders to get serious about attacking global warming."

"My wish is that this country and the world take climate change more seriously!" writes Susan Jewett East Hampton, N.Y. "I am so sad when I look at the beautiful parts of our planet, knowing how adversely they will be affected and thinking about the future generations and the world they will have to live in."

... and do something about plastics!

That care of the Earth must include facing the problems caused by plastics, says Dayle Wallien from Seattle, Wash. "We need to enact the Global Plastics Treaty and rapidly phase-out chemicals in plastics that cause harm to human health and the environment," she says, referring to an agreement that United Nations members hope to finalize by the end of 2024 to reduce plastic waste. "Plastic recycling is touted as a solution, but less than 10% is actually recycled."

Turn down the lights

Let there be less light – that's a wish from Christina White of Northampton, Mass., who points out that light pollution affects people, animals and plants (probably fungi, too!) "I wish people would turn their lights off and then use warmer, dimmer lights directed down when they really need them. Light pollution, unlike greenhouse gasses or plastic, just stops when you turn it off. But glare and sky glow resulting from human lights disrupt bird migrations, bats hunting, and organisms trying to rest--trees, insects and mammals, and people."

Memo to the media: Accentuate the positive

In a time of polycrises, Julia Bates from Sewanee, Tenn, urges positive thinking: "I wish every news broadcast would start with information on a successful effort to address climate change or pollution or community development. Surely someone is creating positive change!"

Care for the health of all humans

Other wishers emphasize that the health of people is as important as that of the planet.

"I want us to go deeper – delve below the surface and build stronger relationships with people who are different from us, in order to engender trust and advance health equity," writes Dr. Lisa A. Cooper from Clarksville, Md., for her 2024 wish. "Like an iceberg, visible health disparities are the tip of a larger, submerged whole, that includes beliefs, values, preferences, life experiences, strengths, and social needs of the people living with these disparities, as well as negative experiences and limitations in the opportunities they have been afforded. The iceberg of health disparities can be effectively navigated by respecting and empathizing with people from diverse backgrounds, engaging in self-reflection, being a good listener, adopting holistic approaches to health, and embracing multisector partnerships."

A call for inclusion also comes comes from Lisa Pelham of Mobile, Ala. "My wish is for those with Down syndrome and all of those with intellectual disabilities enter the discussion of those who are calling for inclusion & diversity," she writes. "They are as diverse as any and too often they are not included in all aspects of our communities."

Richard Crank from Topeka, Kan. "I wish that 2024 be the last year that HIV be transmitted from one human to another. With antiretroviral therapy and pre-exposure prophylaxis, and the U.N.'s Undetectable = Untransmittable informational outreach campaign, it seems that an end to the HIV/AIDS pandemic has, at least theoretically, become possible. I want it to become reality."

"Universal health care coverage in USA," is the place to start for Cori Baill from Orlando, Fla.

Don't be cruel

"I wish for the year 2024 to see more empathy & compassion shown to our fellow humans (and creatures of the earth) replacing mean, inconsiderate and bullying behaviors," says Leora Stewart of Zephyrhills, Fla. In this, an election year, "my wish for 2024 is that Congress will work together to pass legislation," writes Beth Larklund from Moscow, Idaho. "Well really, for everyone to just work together. We are all residents of this planet and more alike than different."

Take action

Turning frustrations into action is a 2024 wish of Steve Hilton from north Texas. "I wish more people would decide to do something tangible about the problems," he writes, such as, "Become a voter registrar, or attend events and help people to register to vote." (Editor's note: That's a wish that could hold true in many countries – our story on buzzwords notes that 2024 is being referred to as a "mega election year.")

Age-old wishes that are timelier than ever: Empathy and peace

Mary-Claire Bernstein from Tenakee Springs, Alaska, says "I wish for all people of the earth to have enough sustenance in their life to find peace and end all wars."

And Mary McKnight of Ellicott City, Md. says, "Let us listen to each other and remember that each of us has a story, a background, loves, losses, laughter, tears. In that listening and remembering, let us share our humanness, rather than compete and lift each other in peace, in opportunity and in the collective care of our world."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Gisele Grayson
Gisele Grayson is an editor on NPR's Science desk, the place she's called home for much of her journalism career.