From all across the Internet, commenters have labelled 2016 as ‘just the worst’. There’s certainly no shortage of material to fully condemn the past year, with Brexit, Syria, Donald Trump and far too many celebrity deaths often brought up as its flagship moments. It’s a year that in many people’s minds was composed primarily of major societal shake ups and global tensions. However as 2016 drew to a close I was left wondering, was that the full story?’
Many of us have a tendency to focus on the worst case scenarios in life. I’ve been guilty of that myself more than a few times. The most shocking news stories of the day and the inadequacies within us often inform our judgements more than our successes do. Media coverage of volatile political battles and disparaging world events draw more commentary than the achievements of the everyday, especially when those achievements happen in contexts far from our own.
These everyday achievements and moments of perseverance though, should not be forgotten. They remind us of the resilience and competence we can exhibit when we commit, even in the face of adversity, to improving our own circumstances and those of the people around us. So I started looking into the flip-side of 2016; the stories and events that presented the successes of the year, rather than its nightmare scenarios. What follows are the results of that search and the conclusions I have drawn from it.
The success stories I found and present below surprised me, not just because they counteract the bleak picture many us have of the past year’s global affairs, but because they weren’t just small, everyday moments of perseverance. Many of the stories concerned national and global achievements that genuinely bettered people’s lives, but (in my millennial news bubble at least) were seemingly swept under the rug.
Whilst witnessing one political shake up after another and the fallout from ongoing civil conflicts in Syria and Iraq a lot of us neglected the background trends and changes in 2016 that have gone some way to heal some of the world’s ills. So here are just a few:
Hopefully those stories can remind of the advances the world has made whilst not undermining the severity of the issues the world currently faces. The purpose of this blog post is not to sugar coat the truth about the past year and tell you everything is wonderful, because it’s not. Climate change and the current plight of refugees across the world are happening now and remain serious issues the world will have to deal with in 2017 and the years that follow.
There are plenty of trials ahead for the world to endure, but we can’t forget we often have the capacity to face them. If we look at the stories listed above, then we can remember that 2016, despite being a terrible year in the eyes of many people, was a year in which the health of thousands of people, and some of the planet’s most valuable ecosystems, still empirically improved. Despite the hardships of the last year, the dedicated efforts of the world’s conservationists, public health officials, and poorest citizens still managed to persevere and yield successes.
The last year can be seen not just as one of volatile societal shake ups but as a year where international collaboration still managed to succeed and bring greater environmental protection, and where notable medical and ecological achievements were made. Rather than just subduing us, the events of the last year can remind us of what is possible and achievable. We can’t stop calling for and working towards a better world, and we need to remember that such a goal is possible. As the American cultural-anthropologist Margaret Mead once put it “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Sources for the Good News in 2016 Infographic:
Dhamtari District, India, free of open defacation:
Sri Lanka free of Malaria:
Tiger, manatee and Panda numbers on the rebound:
ALS research breakthrough funded by Ice-Bucket Challenge:
Portugal running on renewable energy for 4 consecutive days, the world circumnavigated by a solar-powered plane, the Ozone layer ‘healing’, and CO2 emissions stable for the third year in a row.
Largest protected place on the planet created around Antarctica:
A little piece of optimism about the future from a certain Mr. Bill Gates: