by Eve Lacroix

2016 is nearing its end, and boy has it been a traumatic year.

We have seen a wave of well-loved personalities pass away, experienced the racist and economic after-shocks of the British Brexit Referendum results and witnessed terrorist attacks in Beirut, Bagdad, Brussels and Nice to name a few. We’ve continued to struggle with refugee crises all over the world and been submitted to the ignorant, irresponsible and incomprehensible rhetoric coming out of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

As winter starts to make itself known, I would like to change the narrative by reviewing some of the positive things that have come out of this year. I assure you, there have been some! Here are 5 amazing moments from 2016, ranging from scientific breakthroughs, to environmental advancements, to comforting examples of the sheer force of human willpower to create a better world.

 1. The panda is no longer endangered

The WWF, founded in 1961, has held its instantly recognisable its panda logo since its inception. The panda logo was chosen because the species was endangered. However, in September 2016, big pandas were officially downgraded from “Endangered” to “Vulnerable” species on the global list of species at risk of extinction. This is fantastic news, and it is down to the tireless work of of governements works, particularly in China, to create networks of reserves that not only help pandas communities develop, but also protect bamboo forests.

 2. Tiger population is increasing for the first time in a century

The rise of tiger populations is the second great announcement from the WWF that we have received this year. Back in 2010, wild tiger populations were estimated to be around 3,200. Today, that number is up to 3,890. This is the first significant increase in the past century and is down to the long-term conservation efforts in Russia, Nepal and India. Hard work pays off! WWF claims these countries are now aiming to double the figure by 2022.

 3. Mass protest against abortion restricts in Poland are a success

(via ABC)

(via ABC)

When the coalition of the hardline advocacy group Ordo Iris and Stop Abortion brought the proposal of completely banning abortion to the Polish government, its ruling party (the Law and Justice Party PiS), voted unanimously in favour of passing the proposal to the next legislative step. Polish women already face restrictive abortion laws that only permit abortion in cases of rape, incest, the mother’s life being at risk and severe foetal abnormalities. When Polish people heard of the plans, a mass protest of 30,000 people in Warsaw’s Castle Square, baring slogans like “We want doctors, not missionairies” and “My uterus, my opinion”, dressed mostly in black. Surpassing all expectations in size, the Polish government backed down, and Jarosław Gowin, Minister of Higher Education and Science stated that the protest has “caused us to think and taught us humility.” Although there is more work to be done on abortion legislation, the mass protest is an incredible example of the strength of a peaceful mass protest to create positive change.

4. The NEK1 genome responsible for ALS is discovered

For more proof about the power of mass mobilisation, this time digital, let us think back to the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. In 2014, our collective Facebook feeds were flooded with friends and celebrities participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness for Amyotrphic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). ALS is a fatal degenerative neurological condition in which sufferers gradually lose the ability to control muscle movement. Most sufferers end up paralysed and have a life span of two to five years after being diagnosed. Far more than just an internet campaign that led to nothing, the viral Ice Bucket Challenege raised over $100 million dedicated to research for Project MinE. And the research has reaped its benefits— in a global collaboration among scientists, the NEK1 genome, responsible for ALS, was found. Whilst a cure is still on its way, this is a major step to learning how to treat the illness, and taught us that through collaborative work in the digital age, we can achieve scientific breakthroughs.

5. Solar Impulse 2 becomes the first airplane to fly around the world on renewable energy

(Solar Impulse 2, via ideas.ted)

(Solar Impulse 2, via ideas.ted)

The Solar Impulse 2 is an airplane which carries one pilot and one passenger, weighs 2.3 tonnes, and has wings that 72 metres long and fitted with17,000 solar cells to fly. It started its trip around the world in Abu Dhabi with the Swiss pilot André Borschberg on March 9th, 2015. Borschberg alternated flying with fellow Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard, and finally landed in Muscat on Tuesday the 26th of July, 2016, thus completing its first round-the-world trip on renewable energy. Piccard, speaking to the Guardian before completing the journey said, “It is a very, very special moment— it has been 15 years that I am working on this goal. I hope people will understand that it is not just a first in the history of aviation, but also a first in the history of energy.” This historic flight proves that with the necessary research, we will be able to achieve our goal of reducing harm to the planet by moving towards the use of renewable energy over fossil fuels.

With the necessary resources, scientific research, and protest, we can continue to make the present the best time to be alive.

Stay rad, 2016.

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