Writer: Teresa Madaleno
The year 2017 was crazy – a year of natural disasters, political shock, and horrifying terrorism, yet good things still happened.
After Donald Trump, who has been accused of being a “sexual predator”, was inaugurated as U.S president, literally millions of women and men around the world took to the streets to stand up for women’s rights. Some suggest that the Women’s March in Washington was the largest single-day protest in recorded U.S history. There are even those who speculate that this type of demonstration lead the way for women to speak out about sexual abuse that they have kept quiet about for decades.
Women who have been harassed or assaulted in the workplace have been speaking up in recent months and people are actually listening to their stories. In 2016 the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission conducted a workplace harassment study and reported that anywhere between 25 and 85 percent of women say they have experienced sexual harassment at work. In the past, women did not come forward due to fear of retaliation. The pressure to push harassment under the carpet has been lifted, perhaps opening up a window of opportunity in 2018 to find ways to address the problem.
Where there is despair, there is hope and humanity. Hurricane Harvey dumped unprecedented amounts of rain on Houston and the Gulf Coast. Irma battered the Virgin Islands, St. Martin and other parts of the Caribbean then barged into Florida. Of course, Maria peeled roofs off buildings in Dominica and devastated Puerto Rico. So what is so good about this? In the darkest of times, people showed compassion to perfect strangers. Harvey took 77 lives and yet people put themselves at risk by using their own boats to rescue families, standing in the streets to flag down police and emergency personnel to help those trapped in vehicles, and forming human chains to guide people away from rising water. Lets not forget, strangers from around the world stepped up to offer supplies for those who were left with nothing.
There were many medical accomplishments in 2017, including the development of gene-altering techniques and immunotherapies to treat cancer. Ohio State University researchers developed a technology this past year called “tissue nanotransfection”. The technology is embedded in a tiny chip and can reprogram skin cells to repair organs and blood vessels. Thanks to medical advancements you can get electrocardiograms using a small device that attaches to the back of a smartphone. Analysis of results can be sent directly to your doctor. Before long, we will be able to get EKG’s by just placing a finger on the band of an Apple Watch.
Despite climate change deniers, including Donald Trump, governments of all levels across the globe made commitments in 2017 to reducing their carbon footprint. In Montreal a ban on the use of plastic bags went into effect January first with fines ranging from $200 to $1000. A number of other jurisdictions around the world have decided to enforce similar bans. Led by the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, the One Planet Summit was held with 20 international companies announcing that they would phase out coal. Former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg helped introduce the We Are Still In coalition, a network supporting climate action, despite Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. Bloomberg also announced in 2017 that he would donate 64 million to the retirement of U.S coal plants. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation announced that it is awarding 20 million dollars in grants to 100 environmental organizations. According to the Global CCS Institute there are about 22 significant carbon-capture and storage projects on the go as of 2017 in North American and around the world.
Love & Tolerance
I am not a royal family follower, but I am including the engagement of Britain’s Prince Harry and Actress Meghan Markle because Markle is divorced, biracial and American. Any one of these factors would have eliminated her from being considered a member of the British royal family just a few short years ago. This tells us that there has been progress in this traditional institution. If the Royals are willing to bend, perhaps there is hope for progress and tolerance elsewhere.
To put it mildly, 2017 was an interesting year. We can only hope that 2018 will bring more good, the world over.