How many times have I heard from people that 2016 sucked? Blogs like “Why 2016 Sucked” don’t help that perception. I agree that for some, it did. That is the same for every year. For some, a year is awful. For others, a year is fantastic. For most of us, it’s a mix of both and in between. But I hear lamenting about 2016 from people who married their true love this year, from those who got their dream job, and from those who did not suffer any personal major losses. Even worse is that I most often hear the “2016 sucked” statement, not so much in reference to our world’s ongoing climate change, the various terrorist acts or wars, or the tumultuous (to put it mildly) political decisions that happened this year, but instead after each announcement about the death of a celebrity.
I agree, there were a lot of icon losses this year—Carrie Fisher, Prince, George Michael, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Muhammed Ali, Leonard Cohen, and Alan Thicke, to name a few. But does that really make you want to toss this whole year in the garbage bin?
I think that we can mourn the loss of these famous people who we’ve come to feel we know personally (though most of us didn’t know them). But, I also am tired of hearing what an awful year 2016 was because of their deaths. I get that they are icons. But of course it wasn’t 2016 that was to blame. For many of them it was drug and/or alcohol abuse that shortened their lives. They lived big lives. They did great things and made some bad choices that ultimately shortened their lives. Some of them suffered from mental illness and self-medicated. They at least had access to any form of wellness care they could imagine to manage their conditions. So many don’t have that option.
Can you feel sad that they won’t be able to entertain us with new material? Yes. But did your 2016 really suck? If it did, I’m sorry, and I hope that this new year brings you better times, better health, more joy.
Is it true that 2016 sucked?
I also hope that this list of good things—all of which happened in 2016—helps everyone see that 2016 wasn’t all bad.
- Giant pandas are no longer endangered!
- That ALS ice bucket challenge you took in 2015 actually helped fund research that has discovered a new gene related to the disease, potentially offering a new treatment direction.
- In BC, 85% of the Great Bear Rainforest will be protected, with the other 15% being regulated under the “most stringent standards in North America” for logging.
- More than 20 countries have pledged over $5.3 billion for ocean conservation, creating 40 new marine sanctuaries, including the world’s biggest marine reserve, off the coast of Antarctica.
- On my list of places to visit, Lake Titicaca, South America’s largest freshwater lake, is now being preserved as a result of a deal between Peru and Bolivia.
- Acid pollution is down!
- Major illnesses like heart disease, colon cancer, and dementia are actually down in numbers this year in wealthy countries (though the reason why is unclear).
- Public smoking bans have improved health in countries around the world.
- The number of smokers in the U.S. has dropped by 8.6 million people since 2005 and health communities and individuals around the world rallied behind Uruguay in a court case against big tobacco Philip Morris.
- Child mortality rates in Russia reduced by 12%.
- Malawi showed a 67% decrease in the number of children acquiring HIV.
- Life expectancy in Africa has increased by 9.4 years since the year 2000.
- There are no known remaining cases of Ebola in West Africa.
- The WHO announced that the Americas (from Canada to Chile) have eradicated measles.
- World hunger dropped by 25%!
- The number of people living in extreme poverty in East Asia dropped from 60% in 1990 to 3.5% in 2016.
- Same sex marriage (1) and transgender rights (1,2,3) have advanced in places around the world, and continue to improve.
- There has been progress in bans on child marriage and female genital mutilation.
- Each one of these links really deserves its own line because of the significance of positive shifts in attitude and action, but here it is in short anyway (but, really, do check out the links!). Coal use is declining (1,2,3), renewable energy increased (1,2,3,4,5,6,7—and so many more!), and global carbon emissions didn’t increase this year, for the third year in a row.
- Fish are starting to return to waters where they were overfished.
- Norway is the first country to commit to zero deforestation, while in India, more than 800,000 volunteers planted 50 million trees in a day.
- Israel, one of the driest countries, now makes 55% of its freshwater and has even more water than it needs.
- A half-century long conflict was ended in Columbia.
- The first-ever Olympic refugee team competed in Rio’s summer Olympics.
- Gestures of reconciliation between the U.S. and Japan over Hiroshima and Pearl Harbour were made with visits by President Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
- A former slave and African-American abolitionist, Harriet Tubman, will replace the image of slave-holding Andrew Jackson on the front of U.S. $20 bills.
- Every major grocery store and fast-food joint in the U.S. has vowed to use only cage-free eggs by 2025.
- Elephants, porpoises, rays, and parrots are amongst some of the animals that will receive the strongest protection thanks to an agreement between 183 countries.
- Manatees, Yellowstone’s Grizzly Bears, the Columbian white-tailed deer, green sea turtles (in Florida and Mexico), and humpback whales have all made an improvement in numbers, moving up a rank from endangered to threatened (we still need to take care of them!).
- Tigers in the wild have increased in number for the first time in 100 years.
There are 52 stories linked here (1 a week for 2017, if you want) showing the good side of this past year. What other good stories from 2016 (in the news or personal) would you like to share?