Global news and social media love to bombard us with negative and fear-mongering stories hinting at the end of humanity or the steps we take toward it.
But it’s not all bad. In fact, 2019 has been an awesome year of enacting change and big steps towards climate change, equality, diversity, and great medical and technological advances that aim to make the world a better place.
So if you’ve missed these positive stories, here are 19 times humanity won in 2019:
1. Taiwan becomes the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage
Same-sex marriage in Taiwan was officially legalized last May 24, 2019. The self-ruled island became the first ever in Asia to allow same-sex couples to get married legally, which allows them to enjoy rights such as adoption and cross-national marriage.
2. The world’s Sea Turtle population increases by 980%
Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, the median sea turtle population has experienced unprecedented growth in population, making a staggering comeback at 980%. The law has successfully protected 99.5% of species on its list from extinction since its enaction in 1973.
3. Malawi female chief Theresa Kachindamoto annuls 1,500 child marriages
Dubbed as the “Terminator,” Malawi female chief Theresa Kachindamoto saved more than 1,500 girls from child marriages, putting them back to school to help provide a better future. Her mission is supported by UN Women, the United Nations branch for gender equality and the empowerment of women.
4. Canada announces its plans to accept 1 million immigrants within its borders
Canada wants to welcome 1 million immigrants into its borders in the next 3 years. The number constitutes almost 1% of its current population each year.
According to Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC):
“Thanks in great part to the newcomers we have welcomed throughout our history, Canada has developed into the strong and vibrant country we all enjoy.”
5. The world’s suicide rates are dramatically reduced by 38% since its recorded all-time high in 1994
Data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle shows a 38% decline in global suicide rates. This is the lowest it has ever been since its recorded peak in 1994. New laws and policies around the world addressing mental health problems may be the biggest contributing factor to this change.
6. Scientists successfully fertilized 7 eggs from the world’s last remaining Northern White Rhinos
A group of Italian scientists successfully fertilized 7 eggs with frozen sperm from two now-dead male rhinos. Najin and Fatu, a mother and daughter, are the only two northern white rhinoceroses left in the world. This fertilization will hopefully restore the Northern White Rhino population from complete extinction.
7. An HIV-positive man from London was cleared of the virus through a successful stem cell transplant, the second ever in history.
A man from London diagnosed with the HIV virus became the second person to be cured of the virus after receiving a stem-cell transplant that replaced their white blood cells with HIV-resistant versions. The patient stopped taking antiretroviral drugs, with no sign of the virus returning 18 months later.
8. The Netherlands becomes the first country in the world with no stray dogs.
The Netherlands has managed to become the first and only country in the world with zero stray dogs. This comes after an extensive sterilization program (NVR programme or Collect, Neuter, Vaccinate and Return) and the introduction of laws that protect animal welfare.
9. Iceland becomes the first country to legally demand equal pay for both men and women.
In Iceland, it is now illegal to pay a man more than a woman. The country is demanding equal pay for any company with more than 25 employees. Companies who cannot show that they provide equal pay will be subject to heavy fines.
10. Humpback whales population grow to over 25,000
The population of the near-extinct Humpback whales has made a major comeback. A new study shows that the western South Atlantic humpback population has grown to 25,000 whales. Not too long ago, the species were on the brink of extinction, with experts recording only 450 whales. Thanks to the protections put on the species in the 1960s, researchers now believe this new estimate is close to the original numbers before the massive whaling industry in the early 1900s.
11. Amazon tribe wins a lawsuit against oil companies, saving a huge amount of rainforest.
The Waorani people of Pastaza wins a historic battle against the Ecuadorian government’s intentions of drilling for oil throughout seven million acres of south-central Ecuadorian Amazon. This means half a million acres of their Amazon rainforest territory will be protected from being drilled. Not only that, the Waorani people disrupted the contemplated auctioning of another16 oil blocks covering more than seven million acres of rainforest.
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12. Italy makes climate change study compulsory in schools.
Italy has become the first country in the world to include climate change as a compulsory subject in its schools. Climate change will be integrated into civics classes as well as some parts in mathematics, physics, and geography classes. 33 hours per year—one hour per school week—will be dedicated to addressing climate change issues.
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13. 50 plastic-eating mushrooms were discovered by scientists.
A group of scientists made waves in 2011 when they discovered a fungus in Ecuador called Pestalotiopsis microspora that literally eats plastic. Inspired, various researchers around the world explored the possibility of using fungus to get rid of our overwhelming plastic waste problem. In 2019, Katharina Unger for Utrecht University in the Netherlands discovered a way to use uneaten parts of fungi to break down plastic while simultaneously producing a novelty food product. That’s right, not only can we get rid of plastic, it can be part of our food chain too!
14. One-third of the world’s power plant capacity now comes from renewable resources.
Renewable energy has been making waves for three years now. But this year, it has taken over in ways it hadn’t done before. According to The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), new data that shows impressive growth in both wind and solar energy, which contributed to the changes in energy sources around the globe.
15. Saudi women can now travel without asking for permission.
Yes, women around the world are still subjected to patriarchy, to the point they’re not even allowed to travel without asking permission from a close male relative. Such was the case in Saudi Arabia. But this year, the ban has been lifted. Saudi authorities announced that women can be granted passports and travel abroad without the consent of their male guardians. It’s a small step, but it is a step.
16. An ‘undersea robot’ successfully delivers 100,000 baby corals to the Great Barrier Reef
Two Australian universities teamed up to create an underwater robot that successfully delivered 100,000 coral reefs to the bottom of the Great Barrier reef. A briefcase-sized robot called LarvalBot is designed to move along damaged sections of the reef to seed them with hundreds of thousands of microscopic baby corals. This effort was made to attempt to reverse the coral bleaching that’s been happening in recent years.
17. The United States swears the most diverse—including more women than ever—congress in history.
A record number of women now makes up nearly a quarter of both chambers in the US congress. This also includes representatives from racial or ethnic minorities, making the 116th congress the most racially ethnically diverse in history in US history.
18. New Zealand now has a “wellness budget” that aims to prioritize mental health welfare.
New Zealand plans to ditch prioritizing the country’s Gross Domestic Product in favor of a “wellness budget” that will prioritize the health and wellbeing of its citizens. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern just adopted the Happiness Index metric, with a budget focusing on improving the prosperity of local communities.
19. The Dutch city of Utrecht transforms 316 of its bus stops into “bee stops” to combat the declining bee population.
Experts have repeatedly warned the world of the impending extinction of bees and the disasters it will make in our ecosystem. Utrecht, Netherlands plans to stop this by transforming 316 of its bus stops into bee sanctuaries. The roofs are now filled with wildflowers to attract bees. Not only that, they feature green roofs that trap dust and collect rainwater. The stops have also been fitted with LED lights and bamboo benches for more sustainability.
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