Star light, star bright, the world could really use a wish or two granted tonight.
Earlier this month, we asked: What could the world achieve this year if we had a limitless budget and full support from our political leaders? Global thinkers — including Nobel Peace Prize winners Malala Yousafzai and Nadia Murad — shared their big dreams for 2022.
We also asked our readers to share their own wishes with us. And they did. Over 300 people messaged us via email and Instagram.
Here's a sampling of wishes that warmed our hearts. Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.
Get back to nature – stat!
I wish for everyone to go outside.
Humans are an increasingly urban species, and while there are many communities around the world that still live close to nature, the majority of us – especially in the developed world – do not.
What do we lose when we distance ourselves from the natural world? Certainly our connection with ancestral traditions. It wasn't so long ago that the stars gave us our bearings, the forest was our fridge and the river was the unerring path home. Additionally, increasing urbanization has negative health impacts for both human and natural communities. These impacts fall hard on the most vulnerable. They are susceptible to declining air and water quality that accompanies our urban lifestyle because they live closest to the highways, the refineries, the dumps that hold our trash.
We must insist that urban areas incorporate substantial green space. We must preserve the natural areas already set aside as parks and reserves. And we must immerse ourselves in these spaces to the fullest extent that our personal and financial resources allow. Do you have time to take a walk in the park? Or space to plant a garden?
Maintaining a healthy Earth is enabling for children, nurturing for adults and essential for all living things. I wish for us all to be able to spend time outside enjoying and caring for our beautiful planet.
Alexandra Moore is a senior education associate for the Paleontological Research Institution based in Brooktondale, New York.
See refugees differently
I immigrated to the United States with my family from Vietnam in the early 90s as a refugee of war. We were forced to abandon everything we owned, we were in debt because of our flights to the U.S. and we didn't speak English. It was hard, but we were able to access social and economic support to rebuild our lives.
My siblings and I went to school during the day and took on odd jobs at night on and the weekends — cleaning motels, washing dishes, working assembly lines, picking strawberries, delivering newspapers, working at chicken processing plants and many more.
Essential jobs that keep our daily society running often are done by newly arrived immigrants. There are millions of refugees and displaced people around the world. International migration can be harnessed as an engine for economic progress as it introduces new talent and workforce for aging societies as well as social and cultural vibrancy.
One study, reported in The Washington Post in December, showed that while Detroit continues to suffer in terms of economic downturn and population loss for the fifth decade in a row, two neighborhoods in the city with high concentrations of immigrants from Bangladesh, Yemen, Mexico and Central America showed different trends. The populations grew, the neighborhoods improved and more than new businesses opened.
I wish host countries would understand the long-term positive social and economic progress refugees have on their society by investing in them.
Thoai Ngô is the vice president of social and behavioral science research at Population Council and is based in New York.
Invest in local health journalists
My wish for 2022 is that journalists everywhere, especially in less-developed countries and those who represent vulnerable and marginalized communities around the world, are equipped with the tools, knowledge and resources to counter misinformation and disinformation on COVID-19, vaccines and health.
In remote communities where mainstream information is often unavailable, local journalists are trusted sources of health information who can address people's concerns, challenge misguided beliefs and open up spaces for dialogue.
Think of the refugees living in crowded settlements in Western Uganda. If it were not for the Spice FM radio team's reporting on the pandemic, many refugees might believe that eating the head of a chameleon would make them immune to COVID-19. This was one of many myths circulating in the camps at the start of the pandemic.
Whether it is COVID or other critical health topics, journalists have a vital role to play in translating science into a language people can understand and use to make important life-saving decisions for themselves and their families.
Beatrice Spadacini is the health media manager of Internews, an international nonprofit organization and is based in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Let's be more humane
My wish for 2022 is for less political hate and more humanity.
When I was a resident physician in Kansas, I had the opportunity to participate in NPR's "One Small Step," a program that brings people with different political views together for a dialogue.
I had a wonderful conversation with a local small business owner, Michael, who identifies as conservative. We discussed how quick some people are to clump all conservatives together as racist and ignorant. I described a scenario at work where I felt singled out for being Indian. I was told to "go back to my country" by a patient, despite having spent most of my life in the United States — and Michael felt offended on my behalf.
I feel this political divide has also bled into medicine, where those who are not getting vaccinated are immediately viewed as conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers. I think it's important to be able to have conversations with coworkers, neighbors, friends and family without jumping to those conclusions — and therefore being close-minded to an opportunity to have a human connection.
Dr. Shweta Goswami is a neurocritical care fellow at University of Florida Health.
Create a global network of medical research institutions
Historically, high-income countries have controlled funding for medical research — and dictate agendas — around the world. My wish for 2022 is for there to be medical research institutions – like the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. – in every region or country in the world, especially in lower-resource countries where medical research is not as prioritized.
These agencies will study trends in global infectious diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and HIV – and also noninfectious conditions like heart disease and cancer, which are emerging causes of decreasing life expectancy in the developing world.
Local experts will mentor future biomedical researchers to lead projects without having to depend on foreign-funded or foreign-led researchers — a big step to decolonizing global biomedical research.
Dr. Shivakumar Narayanan is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is based in Baltimore.
And here are some short and sweet ones from NPR's Instagram
End childhood cancer. Specifically brain cancer. OK, really my daughter's brain cancer. -- swicksterchick
PEACE and kitty rescues. —anitalazr
Kindness and love to be universal motives in human interactions. —drownmelancholia
Peace on Earth. Always the same wish. Peace. Peace means we work together. Peace means we share. Peace means all thrive equally. --mujowakei
There would be peace in Tigray, Ethiopia and there would be no more wars. --mehretta
A 2-degree drop in global temperature. --fladda1
Thank you to everyone who took the time to send in their hopes and dreams for the world. You all are amazing!