One Helluva Year
WE ONLY HAVE A WEEK OR SO LEFT OF WHAT
many folks in the world are calling the “Worst.
That’s a bit drastic, considering we’ve seen far
worse. There was 1919, with its Bloody Summer,
influenza epidemic, labor strikes in the millions
and leadup to the Great Depression. Or 1943, which marked the height
of WWII’s horrors. Or 1968, which saw the assassinations of both Martin
Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.
But if you ask some people (ahem, social media Millennials) 2016 was up
there as the “Worst. Year. Ever.” There was Zika and Ebola and Harambe.
There were mass shooting and police shootings and terrorist attacks by the
dozen. There was the Syrian refugee crisis. The UK collectively lost its mind
over Brexit and, on our shores, the US joined them in the run-up to the
presidential election, and its aftermath (it’s actually still being sorted out).
There were hate crimes and protests. The proliferation of fake news and
the dismissal of facts. And we lost cherished cultural figures: David Bowie,
Prince and Leonard Cohen. Muhammed Ali, Harper Lee and Gwen Ifill.
Alan Rickman, Florence Henderson and Gene Wilder. (Professor Snape!
Carol Brady! Willy Wonka!)
But for all of that, some good things did happen this year and, in the
spirit of the season, I’ll mention a few: After nearly two billion miles and
five years, NASA’s Juno spacecraft reached Jupiter. The US Women’s
Gymnastics Team won gold (multiple times). The world’s tiger population
has increased, and giant pandas are no longer considered endangered.
Volunteers in India planted nearly 50 million trees in a single day, obliterating a world record. The first-ever solar-powered plane made a full orbit around
the globe without a single drop of fuel. The Paris Agreement became the fastest (and largest) UN treaty to enter international law in modern history. Tech
innovations and global political support advanced the use of renewables.
The first “three-parent baby” was born, marking a breakthrough in dealing
with hereditary mitochondrial diseases. New chemotherapy breakthroughs
have substantially increased the five-year survival for pancreatic cancer. The
WHO reported global malaria deaths have declined by 60% since 2000.
And the Ice Bucket Challenge and resulting “slacktivism” actually worked—
enough money was collected to fund the discovery of a new identified gene
linked to the disease.
The US Army started offering 12 weeks of paid maternity leave (do you
hear that, private sector?). Six women of color made history in the recent
elections, winning positions in both the Senate and the House. There was a
surge of donation activity in the wake of the elections, flooding the coffers of
organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.
And, of course, the Cubs won the World Series.
So you see, it just depends on how you look at things.
Here’s hoping you start 2017 with a glass that’s at least half full.
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