Like any other year, 2016 had its highs and lows. We focus a lot of our anxiety towards the Trump presidency, Russian hacking, ISIL, or the future of healthcare. However, we should also acknowledge the notable achievements in our nation, and throughout the world.
First, The United States: The teen birth rate has been reaching a record low. Compared to that, the U.S. high school graduation rate is at around 80 percent, the highest record in five years. And last year’s unemployment rate was 4.9%, the lowest since before the Great Recession. The entire Americas has even been declared measles-free. Though there is still a great number of things to accomplish, 2016 has been an improvement in these areas from earlier years.
And speaking of improvements, internationally, child mortality is down. West Africa is free from the ebola pandemic, and scientists discovered that the ozone hole above Antarctica has been slowly healing since the ban on aerosol chemicals in the 1990s. Even China is becoming committed to the fight against global warming, expanding renewables manufacturing and shutting down coal plants. Above all, the Paris Agreement signed by 194 countries to limit global warming is now international law. Animals might also be feeling overjoyed, since the tiger population has risen for the first time in a hundred years, the manatee population continues to grow, and pandas are not endangered anymore. That counts for something, right?
The point is, we have already accomplished a great many things last year, not to mention the countless of technological and societal advancements in the entirety of modern history. People throughout the world, the activists, leaders, and scientists of our time, have been at work to accomplish everything that they can.
For example, Colombia has ended its more than 50 years of civil war peacefully, Myanmar has become a democratic nation, and nonviolent protests caused the impeach of a president in South Korea. In these regions, these things have been concluded without bloodshed between the government and its people.
There are even scientists in Israel developing a therapy that could cure radiation sickness. Also, an Australian PhD student developed a way to combat superbug strains without using antibiotics by ripping apart cell walls. This in particular could help save the projected millions who may die every year by 2050 due to the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And leading another fight, genetically engineered immune cells are being tested to fight cancer.
Other scientists discovered how to link robotic limbs with the brain so that the limbs move more naturally, and Elon Musk showed us that rockets can land safely back on Earth to be reused for spaceflight. Physicists even confirmed the existence of gravitational waves. They discovered this by examining the blast of two black holes colliding together and distorting spacetime into waves reaching Earth 1.3 billion years later. We’ve discovered actual ripples in spacetime, and we’re that much closer to understanding the universe. Maybe even time traveling (probably not).
Okay. So that was a lot. But at the same time, these things are only a fraction of what all of humankind has accomplished in the last year alone. Despite all of the tragedies, whether is be the crisis in Aleppo, global warming, or Bernie Sanders not being our president, we are making progress.
So do not feel discouraged from the daily news, or from the crises of last year. The point isn’t to feel disdain for the future, but hope. We are only beginning to improve and innovate, and last year was only a start. Surely, if we continue believing in and working what we want accomplished in our lifetimes, then it will happen. That’s a future to believe in.