The 99 best things that happened in 2017

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

In 2017, it felt like the global media picked up all of the problems, and none of the solutions. To fix that, here are 99 of the best stories from this year that you probably missed.

An incredible year for global health

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. New York Times

2. Cancer deaths have dropped by 25% 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. Time

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

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. STAT

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. Reuters

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

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. CBS

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

9. Global abortion rates 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. Vox

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. Science Mag

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. Devex

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. iNews

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. BBC

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. New York Times

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

16. And on the 17th November, the WHO 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.

Some stunning victories for global conservation

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. Smithsonian

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. Reuters

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. Science Mag

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. RT

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

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. Globe & Mail

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. Guardian

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

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. NPR

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

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. BBC World Hacks

28. Cameroon 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. Fast Co.

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. Reuters

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.’ CNET

Rising living standards for billions of people

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

32. In February, the World Bank 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%. Mail & Guardian

34. In the last three years, the number of people in China living below the poverty line decreased from 99 million to 43.4 million. And since 2010, income inequality has been falling steadily. Quartz

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

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). Quartz

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

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%. USAID

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. CS Monitor

A terrible year for the fossil fuels industry

40. Sweden committed to phasing out all carbon emissions by 2045, and the country’s largest pension fund divested from six companies that violate the Paris Agreement, including Exxon, Gazprom and TransCanada. CleanTechnica

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. CoalSwarm

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. Washington Post

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. Bloomberg

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

45. Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, 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. Telegraph

46. In 2017, the United Kingdom, France and Finland 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. CleanTechnica

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. Calgary Herald

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. Catholic Reporter

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. Independent UK

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. BBC

…and an amazing one for clean energy

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

53. The cost of solar plants in the United States dropped by 30% in one year and in the United Kingdom, 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. CNBC

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. Reuters

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. PV Tech

57. General Motors believes “the future is all-electricVolkswagen 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.” Atlantic

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. PV Magazine

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. Australian Financial Review

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. Quartz

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… CleanTechnica

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”

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

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

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

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

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

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%. Pew Research

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. World Bank

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. Fast Company

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. Quartz

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. Pew Research

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. CIS

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

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

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

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. ABC

The world got a little less violent

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. ReliefWeb

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

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. BBC

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. Guardian

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. Pew Research

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

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. Mining.com

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

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

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

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. CNN

Signs of hope for a living planet

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. BBC

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. HuffPost

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. National Geographic

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. Hindustan Times

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 PETA.

93. Vietnam agreed to end bear farming, and said it would work with Animals Asia 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. Guardian

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. Associated Press

96. China agreed to ban the domestic ivory trade in 2017. By mid year, the price of raw ivory in Asia had fallen by around half. And in October, the UK government banned the sale and export of all ivory items. BBC

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. Harper’s Bazaar

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. Bloomberg

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

This post originally appeared on Medium. You can follow Angus on Twitter at @angushervey and sign up to Future Crunch’s newsletter here. Learn how to write for Quartz Ideas. We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.

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