Many will remember 2017 as a bummer of a year. The United States, under President Donald Trump, began to lose its status as a world leader. The U.S. moved backward in terms of environmental protection, diplomacy, equality and common decency.
But there are also many reasons globally for optimism as we look ahead to a new year. The folks at Future Crunch, which promotes “intelligent, optimistic thinking for the future,” have put together a list of 99 such reasons that fall into these categories: global health, global conservation, rising standards of living, fossil fuels and clean energy, justice, violence, a healthy planet. Here’s a sampling.
There are been major breakthroughs in disease prevention and treatment. In 2017, Zika, which spread fear through North, South and Central America, all but disappeared. There was one confirmed case in the U.S. this year, compared to 26 in July 2016 in just one place — Hidalgo County in Texas. Scientists credit a growing immunity to the disease.
This year, the World Health Organization unveiled a new, cheap vaccine against cholera, a disease that threatens more than 1 billion people. The vaccine, which was developed with financial help from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is now being used in Bangladesh, where cholera was first documented in 1817.
China made huge investments in preventing and cleaning up water pollution and cracked down on pollution, fining companies and shutting down factories. Kenya banned plastic bags and Indonesia pledged $1 billion a year to clean plastic pollution from its oceans.
Rising standards of living
In the United States, childhood poverty reached an all-time low, and overall poverty rates were at the lowest levels since before the recession. The drop is because of government programs, particularly food stamps and the refundable tax credits, according to research by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. China cut is poverty rate in half over the last three years.
Globally, child labor has rapidly declined, access to electricity has grown and malnutrition is easing.
Fossil fuels and clean energy
Several countries and Catholic groups are divesting from fossil fuel and coal companies because burning these fuels is a major contributor to climate change. ExxonMobil was forced by its shareholders to report the impact of climate change mitigation strategies on its finances.
Meanwhile, the clean energy sector in the U.S. is growing at 12 times the rate of the rest of the economy and the solar industry is responsible for one out of every 50 new jobs. The cost of solar and wind installations is rapidly falling and car makers are investing in electric vehicle production.
Globally, women occupy twice as many parliamentary seats as a decade ago, pay gaps between men and women are shrinking and same-sex marriage is now legal in Taiwan and Australia. Women in Saudi Arabia no longer need male permission to travel, study or drive.
LGBT teen suicide attempts in the U.S. have dropped in recent years, and young people are less racist than previous generations, according to new surveys and research.
Global deaths because of terrorism dropped 22 percent from the 2014 high. The biggest declines were in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. The number of executions dropped by more than a third since 2015.
Snow leopards were taken off the endangered species list this year, China has approved a huge national park to protect tigers, and the Amur leopard and sea turtle populations are on the rise.
There was lots to be frustrated about in 2017, but there are also reasons for thanks and hope as we welcome a new year.
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