With celebrity death and elections taking the media by the nose, it’s easy to forget that this year saw a great many positives. Let’s look.
David Bowie has died. It leaves me and, I suspect, millions around the world, with an instant feeling of loss and emptiness - and yet also a wistful joy, a sense of how creative and inspirational just one of us can be. His art defined an image of outer space, inner self, and a rapidly changing world for a generation finding themselves at the confluence. I am honoured to have been able to return some of that favour. Being able to record Oddity (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaOC9danxNo) on the International Space Station was an attempt to bring that art full circle. It was meant as a way to allow people to experience, without it being stated, that our culture had reached beyond the planet. We live in space. I thank him for allowing us the opportunity, and for being so kind since. These past two weeks I had watched and listened to David twice: once absorbing Lazarus (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-JqH1M4Ya8) from his new album, and once re-watching the recording he did of Little Drummer Boy with Bing Crosby (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9kfdEyV3RQ). To me they are lovely, thoughtful moments, insights into in his relentless creativity. Bookends of intimacy spanning a life, both which make me want to watch them again and again. If you haven’t seen them, I recommend you take the time. With much respect to a genius, a silent moment of reflection: ashes to ashes, dust to stardust. Your brilliance inspired us all. Goodbye Starman.
With celebrity death and elections taking the media by the nose, it’s easy to forget that this year saw a great many positives. Let’s look. 1. The Colombian government and FARC rebels committed to a lasting peace, ending a war that killed or displaced over 7 million people. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38153932 2. Sri Lanka spent five years working to exile the world’s deadliest disease from their borders. As of 2016, they are malaria free. http://www.searo.who.int/mediacentre/releases/2016/1631/en/ 3. The Giant Panda, arguably the world’s second cutest panda, has officially been removed from the endangered species list. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/giant-pandas-are-no-longer-endangered-n643336 4. Tim Peake became the first ESA astronaut from the UK, symbolizing a renewed British commitment to space exploration. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/jun/20/tim-peake-nursing-worlds-worst-hangover-after-six-months-in-space 5. Tiger numbers around the world are on the rise for the first time in 100 years, with plans to double by 2022. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160410-tiger-numbers-rise-wwf-conservation-double-population/ 6. Juno, a piece of future history, successfully flew over 800 million miles and is now sending back unprecedented data from Jupiter. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/07/05/juno-probe-nasa-celebrates-as-830m-spacecraft-successfully-enter/ 7. The number of veterans in the US who are homeless has halved in the past half-decade, with a nearly 20% drop in 2016. http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/veteran-homelessness-dropped-50-since-2010/ 8. Malawi lowered its HIV rate by 67%, and in the past decade has seen a shift in public health that has saved over 250,000 lives. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/07/malawi-reduced-hivaids-infection-rate-160718084113107.html 9. Air travel continues to get safer, and 2016 saw the second fewest per capita deaths in aviation of any year on record. http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/2016-one-safest-years-aviation-history/ 10. India’s dogged commitment to reforestation saw a single day event planting more than 50 million trees, a world record. http://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2016/05/11/india-bet-6-billion-carbon-storage-afforestation/#5dfd2864292e 11. Measles has been eradicated from the Americas. A 22 year vaccination campaign has led to the elimination of the horrific virus. http://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2016/09/measel-free-americas/501887/ 12. After a century, Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves has been proven correct, in a ‘moon shot’ scientific achievement. https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/nsf-s-ligo-has-detected-gravitational-waves/ 13. China has announced a firm date for the end of the ivory trade, as public opinion is becoming more staunchly environmentalist. http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/china-announces-ban-ivory-trade-end-2017/ 14. A solar powered airplane flew across the Pacific Ocean for the first time, highlighting a new era of energy possibilities. http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/24/travel/solar-impulse-2-plane-california/ 15. Costa Rica’s entire electrical grid ran on renewable energy for over half the year, and their capacity continues to grow. http://thecostaricanews.com/costa-rica-used-100-renewable-energy-299-days/ 16. Israeli and US researchers believe they are on the brink of being able to cure radiation sickness, after successful tests this year. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-radiation-treatment-idUSKCN0WB1ZJ 17. The ozone layer has shown that through tackling a problem head on, the world can stem environmental disasters, together. http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/01/health/antarctic-ozone-layer-healing/ 18. A new treatment for melanoma has seen a potential 40% survival rate, taking a huge step forward towards long-term cancer survivability. http://www.bbc.com/news/health-36304018 19. An Ebola vaccine was developed by Canadian researchers with 100% efficacy. Humans eradicated horror, together. http://www.newsweek.com/ebola-vaccine-small-pox-outbreak-vaccine-trials-537336 20. British Columbia protected 85% of the world’s largest temperate rainforest, in a landmark environmental agreement. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-canada-environment-rainforest-idUSKCN0VA2NC 21. 2016 saw the designation of more than 40 new marine sanctuaries in 20 countries, covering an area larger than the United States. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-environment-oceans-pledges-idUSKCN11M24T 22. These marine reserves include Malaysia’s 13 year struggle to complete a million hectare park, completed this year. https://www.theguardian.com/world/blog/2016/may/30/malaysia-just-established-a-one-million-hectare-marine-park 23. This also includes the largest marine reserve in history, created in Antarctica via an unprecedented agreement by 24 nations. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/10/ross-sea-marine-protected-area-antarctica/ 24. Atmospheric acid pollution, once a gloomy reality, has been tackled to the point of being almost back to pre-industrial levels. http://sciencebulletin.org/archives/5347.html 25. Major diseases are in decline. The US saw a 50% mortality drop in colon cancer; lower heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/10/upshot/a-medical-mystery-of-the-best-kind-major-diseases-are-in-decline.html 26. Uruguay successfully fought tobacco companies to create a precedent for small countries looking to introduce health-focused legislation. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2016/0709/Uruguay-The-little-country-that-changed-tobacco-laws 27. World hunger has reached its lowest point in 25 years, and with poverty levels dropping worldwide, seems likely to continue. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/09/opinion/is-the-era-of-great-famines-over.html 28. The AU made strides to become more unified, launching an all-Africa passport meant to allow for visa-free travel for all citizens. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/07/01/the-opposite-of-brexit-african-union-launches-an-all-africa-passport/ 29. Fossil fuel emissions flatlined in 2016, with the Paris agreement becoming the fastest UN treaty to become international law. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/rise-in-global-carbon-emissions-slows/ 30. China announced a ban on new coal mines, with renewed targets to increase electrical capacity through renewables by 2020. http://www.wri.org/blog/2016/04/chinas-1-2-3-punch-tackle-wasted-renewable-energy 31. One third of Dutch prison cells are empty as the crime rate shrank by more than 25% in the last eight years, continuing to drop. http://www.dutchnews.nl/features/2016/10/falling-crime-rates-and-prison-closures-what-is-really-going-on-in-the-dutch-justice-system/ 32. In August went to the high Arctic with some incredible artists. They helped open my eyes to the promise of the next generation. www.generatorevent.com/arctic/ 33. Science, economics, and environmentalists saw a reversal in the overfishing trends of the United States this year. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/04/19/how-dwindling-fish-stocks-got-a-reprieve/ 34. Boyan Slat successfully tested his Ocean Cleanup prototype, and aims to clean up to 40% of ocean-borne plastics starting this year. https://www.theoceancleanup.com/ 35. Israel now produces 55% of its freshwater, turning what is one of the driest countries on earth into an agricultural heartland. https://ensia.com/features/water-desalination-middle-east/ 36. The Italian government made it harder to waste food, creating laws that provided impetus to collect, share and donate excess meals. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/italy-food-waste-laws-news-measures-passed-bill-economy-donations-hunger-a7171251.html 37. People pouring ice on their head provided the ALS foundation with enough funding to isolate a genetic cause of the disease. http://www.alsa.org/news/media/press-releases/significant-gene-discovery-072516.html?referrer=http://www.gq.com/story/good-things-2016 38. Manatees, arguably the most enjoyable animal to meet while swimming, are no longer endangered. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown/manatees-threatened/ 39. Grizzlies, arguably the least enjoyable animal to meet while swimming, no longer require federal protection in national parks. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/03/160304-grizzlies-bears-animals-science-endangered-species0/ 40. Global aid increased 7%, with money being spent to help the world’s 65 million displaced people and refugees doubling. http://www.oecd.org/development/development-aid-rises-again-in-2015-spending-on-refugees-doubles.htm 41. 2016 was the most charitable year in American history. China’s donations have increased more than ten times since a decade ago. https://givingusa.org/giving-usa-2016/ 42. The Gates Foundation announced another 5 billion dollars towards eradicating poverty and disease in Africa. http://www.africanews.com/2016/07/18/bill-gates-to-invest-5-billion-dollars-in-africa/ 43. Individual Canadians were so welcoming that the country set a world standard for how to privately sponsor and resettle refugees. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/01/world/americas/canada-syrian-refugees.html 44. Teenage birth rates in the United States have never been lower, while at the same time graduation rates have never been higher. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/teen-birthrate-reaches-all-time-low-cdc-report-says/ 45. SpaceX made history by landing a rocket upright after returning from space, potentially opening a new era of space exploration. https://www.wired.com/2015/12/spacex-just-landed-rocket-ground-first-time/ 46. Finally - The Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years, giving hope to Maple Leafs fans everywhere. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/sports/chicago-cubs-bury-curse-first-world-series-title-108-years-n677091 There are countless more examples, big and small. If you refocus on the things that are working, your year will be better than the last. Happy New Year, everyone.