99 Reasons 2017 Was A Great Year

If you’re feeling despair about the fate of humanity in the 21st century, you might want to reconsider.

Angus Hervey
Dec 6, 2017 · 14 min read
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Change of the seasons, Patagonia (Image credit: )

In 2017, it felt like the global media picked up all of the problems, and none of the solutions.

To fix that, we spent the past 12 months searching for good news from every corner of the planet, and sent it to thousands of people on our feed, on , and

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Here are 99 of the best stories from this year that you probably missed.

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A village doctor examines a patient in Nanning, China. (Image credit: )

1. This year, the World Health Organisation unveiled a new vaccine that’s cheap and effective enough to end cholera, one of humanity’s greatest ever killers.

2. Cancer deaths have in the United States since 1991, saving more than 2 million lives. Breast cancer deaths have fallen by 39%, saving the lives of 322,600 women.

3. Zika all but disappeared in 2017. Cases plummeted in Latin America and the Caribbean, and most people in those places are now immune.

4. A new report showed that the world’s assault on tropical diseases is working. A massive, five year international effort has saved millions of lives, and countries are now signing up for more.

5. Soft drink sales in the United States dropped for the 12th year in a row, thanks to consumer education and new sugar taxes aimed at stemming obesity and diabetes.

6. Trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, was eliminated as a public health problem in , and Mexico became the first country in the Americas to eliminate it.

7. Meet Sanduk Ruit and Geoff Tabin, two eye doctors responsible for helping restore sight to 4 million people in two dozen countries, including North Korea and Ethiopia.

8. Premature deaths for the world’s four biggest noncommunicable diseases­ — cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory — have declined by 16% since 2000.

9. have fallen from around 40 procedures per 1,000 women in the early 1990s, to 35 procedures per 1,000 women today. In the United States, abortion rates have reached their lowest level since 1973.

10. In July, UNAIDS, revealed that for the first time in history, half of all people on the planet with HIV are now getting treatment, and that AIDS deaths have dropped by half since 2005.

11. There were only 26 cases of Guinea worm in 2017, down from 3.5 million cases in 21 countries in Africa and Asia in 1986.

12. The United Kingdom announced a 20% fall in the incidence of dementia over the past two decades, meaning 40,000 fewer people are being affected every year.

13. Thanks to better access to clean water and sanitation, the number of children around the world who are dying from diarrhoea has fallen by a third since 2005.

14. Leprosy is now easily treatable. The number of worldwide cases has dropped by 97% since 1985, and a new plan has set 2020 as the target for the end of the disease.

15. In October, new research from the revealed that between 2000 and 2016, the measles vaccine saved 20.4 million lives.

16. And on the 17th November, the said that global deaths from tuberculosis have fallen by 37% since 2000, saving an estimated 53 million lives. These astonishing achievements were of course, reported by every media outlet on the planet.

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A polar bear stands on sea ice as the sun sets on Repulse Bay, Canada (Image credit: )

17. Chile set aside 11 million acres of land for national parks in Patagonia, following the largest ever private land donation from a private entity to a country.

18. China invested more than $100 billion into treating and preventing water pollution, and launched nearly 8,000 water clean-up projects in the first half of 2017.

19. The United States, Russia, China and the European Union reached a deal to make the Arctic off-limits to commercial fishers for the next 16 years.

20. In July, 1.5 million people in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh set a new Guinness record for reforestation by planting more than 67 million trees in a 12 hour period.

21. A province in Pakistan announced it has planted 1 billion trees in two years, in response to the terrible floods of 2015.

22. In August, the Canadian government and Inuit groups signed a deal to create the ‘Serengeti of the Arctic’ by far the largest marine reserve in the country’s history.

23. A month later, one of the world’s largest marine parks was created off the coast of Easter Island, and will protect 142 species, including 27 threatened with extinction.

24. The EU imposed new, stricter limits on pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, mercury and particulates that will apply to all 2,900 of Europe’s large power plants.

25. China carried out its largest ever crackdown on pollution, reprimanding, fining or jailing officials in 80,000 factories, 40% of the country’s total.

26. pledged $1 billion to clean up its seas from plastic, announced a ban on plastic bags, and said it will ban them in its coastal cities (30 countries now have existing or impending bans in place).

27. Eleven countries continued their plan to build a wall of trees from east to west across Africa in order to push back the desert. In Senegal, it’s already working.

28. committed to restoring over 12 million hectares of forest in the Congo Basin, and Brazil started a project to plan 73 million trees, the largest tropical reforestation project in history. .

29. In November, Mexico’s government created a new 148,000 square kilometer ocean reserve, ‘the Galapagos of North America’ for the conservation of hundreds of species, including rays, humpback whales, sea turtles, lizards and migratory birds.

30. In 2017, the ozone hole shrunk to its smallest size since 1988, the year Bobby McFerrin topped the charts with ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy.’

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‘Light for Hope,’ in West Bengal, India (Image credit: )

31. The announced that nearly 1.2 billion people around the world have gained access to electricity in the last 16 years.

32. In February, the published new figures showing that 20 years ago, the average malnourished person on planet Earth consumed 155 fewer calories per day than they needed. Today, that number is down to 88.

33. Since 2000, life expectancy in Rwanda is up from 49 to 64, child mortality is down more than two-thirds, maternal mortality is down nearly 80%, and HIV/AIDS prevalence is down from 13% to 3%.

34. In the last three years, the number of people in China living below the poverty line decreased from . And since 2010, income inequality has been falling steadily.

35. 275 million Indians gained access to proper sanitation between 2014 and 2017.

36. In 1991 more than 40% of Bangladesh lived in extreme poverty. The World Bank said this year that the number has now dropped to 14% (equating to 50 million fewer people).

37. The United States’ official poverty rate reached 12.7%, the lowest level since the . And the child-poverty rate reached an all time low, dropping to 15.6%.

38. Between 2005 and 2017, Afghanistan built 16,000 schools, the nation-wide literacy rate increased by 5%, and the youth literacy rate increased by more than 16%.

39. In October, a new report by the International Labour Organisation revealed that global child labour has plummeted. In 2016, there were 98 million fewer boys and girls being exploited than in 2000.

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Image still from Deepwater Horizon (Image credit: )

40. Sweden committed to phasing out and the country’s largest pension fund divested from six companies that violate the Paris Agreement, including Exxon, Gazprom and TransCanada.

41. New figures at the beginning of the year showed that the global coal industry is taking a hammering. A 48% drop in pre-construction activity, a 62% drop in construction starts and a 19% drop in ongoing construction.

42. In May, a shareholder rebellion forced ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company, to start reporting on the effect of preventing climate change on its bottom line.

43. France stopped granting all licences for oil and gas exploration, and said it will phase out all production by 2040, a major transition towards clean energy being driven by the new Macron government.

44. Deutsche Bank, one of the coal industry’s biggest financiers, announced it would stop financing all new coal projects. Ouch.

45. , the largest pile of money on the planet, announced they were officially divesting from all fossil fuels, and the global insurance industry has pulled $20 billion.

46. In 2017, the , and all agreed to ban the sale of any new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.

47. China continued its all out war on coal, stopping construction on more than 150GW of coal plants, and laying off more than 700,000 coal workers since 2014.

48. In one of the great climate change victories of our time, TransCanada terminated its tar sands pipeline, triggering a $1 billion loss and ending an epic 4 year battle between politicians, big oil, environmentalists and indigenous communities.

49. On the eve of one of their major feast days, 40 Catholic institutions on five different continents announced the largest ever religious divestment from fossil fuels.

50. In the United Kingdom, the birthplace of the industrial revolution, carbon emissions fell to the lowest levels since 1894, and on the 21st of April the country did not burn coal for the first time in 140 years.

51. In November, a new global alliance of more than 20 countries, including the UK, France, Mexico, Canada and Finland, committed to ending their use of coal before 2030.

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Solar panels covering Blackfriars Bridge, London (Image credit: )

52. The cost of solar and wind plummeted by more than 25% in 2017, shifting the global clean energy industry on its axis.

53. The cost of solar plants in the dropped by 30% in one year and in the , the price of offshore wind dropped by half in less than two years.

54. Solar energy is now responsible for one in every 50 new jobs created in the United States, and the clean energy sector is growing at 12 times the rate of the rest of the economy.

55. In June, South Korea announced a major U-turn on energy, shifting one of the world’s staunchest supporters of coal and nuclear power toward natural gas and renewables.

56. JP Morgan Chase said it will source 100% of its energy from renewables by 2020 and will facilitate $200 billion in clean financing through 2025.

57. believes “the future is all-electric announced it’s investing 70 billion euros and “putting its full force behind a shift into electric cars” and Volvo said that starting in 2019 it will only make fully electric or hybrid cars “the end of the combustion engine-powered car.”

58. China is going to install 54GW of solar by the end of 2017, more than any country has ever previously deployed in a single year, and doubled their 2020 goal to 213 GW.

59. The world’s largest carbon emitter also announced that their Paris Agreement pledges will now be met a decade ahead of schedule, with emissions forecast to peak in 2018.

60. Following in China’s footsteps, India more than doubled its solar installations in 2017, accounting for more than 40% of new capacity, the largest addition to the grid of any energy source.

61. A new report from the European Union said that between 1990 and 2016 the continent cut its carbon emissions by 23% while the economy grew by 53%. So much for the propaganda of fossil fuel lobbyists...

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Hundreds of thousands of protesters converge on Washington, D.C. for the Women’s March (Image credit: )

62. On the 21st January 2017, the Women’s March became the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history.

63. On International Women’s Day 2017, Iceland became the first country in the world to make . Two days later, India passed a bill giving every working woman in the country 26 weeks of compulsory maternity leave.

64. Thanks to the legalisation of same-sex marriage, suicide attempts by LGBT teenagers have decreased by 14% in US high schools since 2014.

65. In May, Taiwan’s constitutional court ruled in favour of allowing same-sex marriage, becoming the first Asian country to do so.

66. Saudi Arabia said women would no longer need male permission . A few months later, women received the right to drive.

67. New figures showed that the gender pay gap in the United States has narrowed from 36% in 1980 to 17% today. For young women the gap has narrowed even further, and now stands at 10%.

68. Women now occupy 23% of parliamentary seats around the world, up from 12% in 1997. The Middle East and North Africa have seen a fourfold increase in that time.

69. As plunging crime closed prisons across the Netherlands, the government started turning them into housing and cultural hubs for ten of thousands of refugees instead.

70. New data showed that young people are officially less racist than old people. The worldwide trend is towards towards less discrimination on the grounds of skin tone or caste.

71. 17% of newlyweds in the United States now marry someone of a different race or ethnicity, a fivefold increase since 1967, when interracial marriage was legalised.

72. The immigrant population of the US (people born in another country) has now reached 43.7 million people, one out of every eight residents, the highest proportion in 106 years.

73. Canada became the 9th country to , rather than male or female, on passports and government documents. That came two months after country number 8, Pakistan.

74. India’s Supreme Court issued a historic ruling confirming the right of the country’s LGBTQ people to express their sexuality without discrimination.

75. California became the first US state to , and Germany’s top court ruled that lawmakers must legally recognise a third gender from birth.

76. In December, Australia became the 26th country to legalise same sex marriage. A wonderful victory, hard fought for by so many brave people. About bloody time.

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Syrian refugee children (Image credit: )

77. Global deaths from terrorism dropped by 22% from their peak in 2014, thanks to significant declines in four of the five countries most impacted: Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

78. After quintupling between 1974 and 2007, the imprisonment rate in the United States is now dropping in a majority of states.

79. The number of executions recorded worldwide fell by 37% since 2015. The decline was largely driven by fewer deaths recorded in Iran and Pakistan.

80. You didn’t see this story in the evening news — in June, we heard that the homicide rate in Australia has dropped to one victim per 100,000 people, the lowest ever recorded.

81. Rates of violent crime and property crime have dropped by around 50% in the United States since 1990, yet a majority of people still believe it’s gotten worse.

82. A new report showed that incidents of bullying and the number of violent attacks in American public schools have decreased significantly since 2010.

83. The European Union passed fresh rules that make it more difficult for armed groups to finance their activities through the sale of conflict minerals.

84. Heckler & Koch, the world’s deadliest arms manufacturer, announced it would end gun sales to countries falling short of corruption and democracy standards.

85. Nepal passed a law criminalising an ancient Hindu practice called chhaupadi that banishes women from the home during menstruation and after childbirth.

86. Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon repealed provisions in their penal codes that allow rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victims.

87. India’s Supreme Court outlawed non-consensual marital sex with child brides, and raised the age of sexual consent for all women to 18.

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Snow leopard in Southern China (Image credit: )

88. Snow leopards have been on the endangered list since 1972. In 2017, they were taken off, as the wild population has now increased to more than 10,000 animals.

89. In March, in a big win for two of the world’s most endangered big cats, the Amur leopard and tiger, China approved a national park 60% larger than Yellowstone.

90. Taiwan became the first Asian country to ban the eating of cats and dogs, with new laws imposing fines for consumption and jail time for killing and cruelty.

91. A decrease in pollution in the Ganges brought Gangetic dolphins, one of the four freshwater dolphin species in the world, back from the brink of extinction.

92. Germany banned fur farming. This followed similar decisions by Japan and Croatia within the last year. A victory that was two decades in the making. Well done

93. Vietnam agreed to end bear farming, and said it would work with to rescue 1,000 remaining caged animals.

94. The British government unveiled new plans to require compulsory CCTV cameras in all slaughterhouses, in order to enforce laws against animal cruelty.

95. In more than 60 regions across the globe, more populations of large sea turtles are improving than declining, a big change from a decade or two ago.

96. China agreed to ban the domestic ivory trade in . By mid year, the price of raw ivory in Asia had . And in October, the UK government banned the sale and export of all ivory items.

97. Gucci announced it would go fur-free in 2018 and auction off all remaining fur items. It follows in the footsteps of Armani, which went fur free in 2016.

98. One of China’s richest women, He Qiaonv, announced a $2 billion donation for wildlife conservation, the largest environmental philanthropic pledge of all time.

99. The Indian government officially banned the use of all performances. One month later, the Italian parliament did the same. 40 nations now have animal circus bans in place.


If we want to change the story of the human race in the 21st century, we need to change the stories we tell ourselves.

Our is a great place to start.

You can also catch us on and .

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Future Crunch

Intelligent, optimistic thinking for the future.

Angus Hervey

Written by

From Melbourne and Cape Town, with love. Political economist and journalist, and co-founder of futurecrun.ch

Future Crunch

Intelligent, optimistic thinking for the future. We help people understand what's on the frontiers of science and technology, and what it means for human progress.

Angus Hervey

Written by

From Melbourne and Cape Town, with love. Political economist and journalist, and co-founder of futurecrun.ch

Future Crunch

Intelligent, optimistic thinking for the future. We help people understand what's on the frontiers of science and technology, and what it means for human progress.

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