2017 can be seen as a dark year in our contemporary history. It was a year filled with environmental catastrophes, political change and the growing problem of the Islamic State. But we’ve had enough of bad news. It’s time to spread light on the good things that shaped this year. These positive events are often less talked about or even completely ignored. In this article we will try to review some of this past year’s positive events and promising initiatives.
JANUARY 01, 2017: Dutch electric trains to run exclusively on green energy.
In the beginning of January, a spokesman of the Dutch national railway company NS declared that 100% of their electric trains were powered by wind energy, coming from windmills. The goal of the company was to reach that percentage by January 2018, but they actually achieved it a year earlier! The ENECO and NS companies declared that their 600,000 daily passengers were the first in the world to travel thanks to wind energy. They also declared that one windmill working for one hour could provide a train with enough energy to run for 120 miles. They hope to even decrease that amount of necessary energy by 2020.
MARCH 08, 2017: Iceland becomes the first country to eradicate the gender pay gap.
Iceland has now made it mandatory for companies of more than 25 employees to prove they pay their staff the same amount, regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity or nationality. Women should then enjoy the same salary as men for a same job. However, this move is part of a larger movement to completely eradicate the gender pay gap in Iceland over five years (so, by 2022). Although women were still being paid 14 to 18% less than men before this year, Iceland has long been engaged in giving equal rights to both genders and to fight inequality towards women. It has been ranked first country of the world in terms of performance on closing their overall gender gap for the ninth year in a row, by the World Economic Forum.
MAY 07, 2017: Emmanuel Macron wins the French presidential election.
This one is, of course, all relative. Not everybody wanted Macron to win, and many people are unhappy about his current domestic policies. But, the only alternative in this election was Marine Le Pen, who truly represents the most far-rights movements of Europe right now. We are aware and respect that many people voted for her and wanted her to win, however, many more people also saw her as a very dangerous threat for their country, and for Europe. Emmanuel Macron, regardless of his flaws, is a strong European-believer and is firmly engaged in the fight against climate change; Two things that Le Pen clearly opposed.
JUNE 30, 2017: Simone Veil dies at age 89.
Alright, this one is not good news, but we will try to use this moment to remember the battles and to salute the courage of this incredible woman. Simone Veil was a Holocaust survivor and one of France’s most influential states women. She survived Auschwitz concentration camp, and in 1974 became health minister of France. She fought for the legalisation of contraception and abortion. Her precursor work on the rights of women has marked the French political scene. Overcoming political and personal obstacles, she managed to pass abortion rights under the “Veil Law” name. In 1973, she gave a resounding speech on the right to voluntarily interrupt pregnancy before the French National Assembly, at the time, mostly constituted of men. Her speech is still often referred to and became one of those legendary speeches that marked their time. Simone Veil was a strong pioneering feminist and a firm pro-european believer. She served as health minister from 1974 to 1979 and again from 1993 to 1995. In 1979 she became the first president of the European Parliament and held that position until 1982.
JUNE 30: Germany legalises gay marriage. Finland and Australia as well.
After Angela Merkel dropped her long-standing opposition to same-sex marriage, the German Parliament passed the law, allowing everybody to unite under the same rights and to adopt children. Civil partnership has been legal in Germany since 2001, but full rights to get married were voted only this year. As the leader of the CDU (Christian Democrat Party), Angela Merkel has long been opposing gay rights, but she recently changed her mind, and allowed a snap vote.
Actually Finland passed the gay marriage legislation before Germany. On March 1st, the government of Finland legalized same sex marriage and the right to adopt. It was the last of the Nordic countries to legalize gay marriage. However, for now only civil marriage is allowed for all, as the traditional church wedding is still restricted to heterosexual couples.
On December 07, Australia also passed a historic bill legalizing same-sex marriage, prompting immediate celebrations in the parliament and throughout the country. After his speech on gay marriage, one MP proposed to his partner in the parliament.
JULY 06, 2017: France and the UK plan to ban petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040.
France’s new environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, declared that France would stop using vehicles that depended on petrol and diesel by 2040, as part of an environmental plan. This announcement is part of a five-year plan focused on clean energy, decided under the Paris Agreement. This also came after Volvo declared they would only produce electric cars from 2019 on. Poorer households should receive an allowance to exchange their polluting vehicle for a green alternative one. Moreover, the entire country also plans to stop using coal as a source of electricity by 2022. The British government also announced in July that it would ban all petrol and diesel-fuelled cars and vans by 2040, in order to tackle air pollution. Similarly, the Netherlands and Norway have also said that they wanted to ban all combustion-powered vehicles by 2025, and Germany and India aim to do it by 2030.
AUGUST 29, 2017: Successful test for the Ocean Cleanup project.
Back in 2013, young Boyan Slat came up with the idea of creating a new technology to clean the oceans. At first, his idea seemed to be unrealistic, but he received funding and started his non-profit organization. After several successful tests in the North Sea, the Ocean Cleanup project should be fully implemented in May 2018 in the North Pacific gyre. The technology is based on a passive drifting system that absorbs all plastics contained in the ocean, thanks to the natural currents. The organization has the respectable ambition to clean up half of the Great Pacific plastic pollution in a 5-years time.
SEPTEMBER 26, 2017: Saudi Arabia announces the end of the ban on women driving.
It was the last country in the world to forbid women to drive, and on September 26, King Salman released a decree that will end the law. The order should be implemented on June 24, 2018. This event prompted great celebrations amid feminists and women who have been fighting for their right to drive for decades. The ambassador confirmed that women would now have the right to drive wherever they liked and that they would not need a man’s permission to take driving lessons. Moreover, on December 11, Saudi Arabia also lifted the ban on cinemas after 35 years in effect, causing immediate joy amongst film lovers, directors and movie industry workers. The theaters should start showing films in March 2018.
OCTOBER 06, 2017: ICAN is awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.
The threat of a nuclear war weighs upon us all. Many countries are still in possession of nuclear weapons and, lately, North Korea and the United States have threatened to use their respective arsenals. Complete annihilation of nuclear weapons seems a long way away but organizations like ICAN still continue to fight for it. Last year, the Nobel Prize committee decided to award the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to the ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) organization for “its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons" ("The Nobel Peace Prize 2017". Nobelprize.org. 2 Jan 2018).
DECEMBER 09, 2017: Iraq declares victory over ISIS.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi declared in August that the armed forces have regained control over the ISIS occupied areas of Tal Afar and Nineveh. Although not the entire country has been liberated, most of it has been. This marks a real progress in the war against the Islamic States that has been ravaging Iraq for three years. This past year, the Iraqi military has reclaimed several cities and provinces from the terrorist group. On July 09, Mosul, the capital of the Nineveh province, was liberated. Following that, Raqqa was liberated on October 17, although completely destroyed.And, on December 09, the Prime Minister declared that the entire country had been liberated and that they had re-taken control of the Iraqi-Syrian border. Even though some terrorists are presumably still active in a small province of Iraq and that some others could still be hiding in the country, this declaration is a significant event.
DECEMBER 18, 2017: “The Silence Breakers” are TIME magazine’s person of the year.
The MeToo hashtag launched by Alyssa Milano on Twitter followed the Harvey Weinstein scandal. This year, more women than ever before started to speak out about sexual harassment. The American show business industry was the starting point of many accusations of sexual assaults. Then, millions of women shared their experiences on social media and reported their attacker. Sexual harassment is a deep problem rooted in our societies, and even if none of this is normal, it was often explained as “socially acceptable”. The MeToo campaign changed this perception. This year, the TIME magazine decided to honour all these courageous women who decided to follow the movement and to speak out.
DECEMBER 31, 2017: Ban on ivory trade in China enters into force.
China had declared earlier this year that it would progressively ban the ivory trade market throughout the country before the end of 2017. African ivory is widely pleaded in China, as it is seen as a status symbol. However, the illegal ivory trade has dramatic consequences in the African savanna. Thousands of wild elephants and rhinos are being poached each year causing severe issues in the local biodiversity. Activists see this move as a “gamechanger”, that could prevent the species from extinction. Nevertheless, now that the Chinese market is closed, Hong Kong could well become the traffickers’ new target to import illegal ivory on the legal ivory market.
SPECIAL MENTION to these people who restored our faith in humanity.
On April 11, Saffiyah Khan stepped in to defend a muslim woman who was being surrounded by EDL protesters (far-right movement) during a demonstration in Birmingham.
On November 10, Kate McClure created a GoFundMe account to help homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt, who selflessly gave her his last 20$ when she needed gas to go back home safely. She wanted to pay him back and created a funding campaign to help him get back on tracks. She has raised over 400,000$ so far!
In December 2017, a man saved a wild rabbit from the fire ravaging California.
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