13 Things That Happened In 2017 That Will Actually Cheer You Up

    We found some! We had to look hard, but we found some.

    1. Despite ~some leaders'~ efforts, every country in the world is now a signatory to the Paris climate agreement, and they're working hard to achieve its aims.

    Tomassereda / Getty Images

    Syria and Nicaragua signed up, meaning that every single country in the world is a signatory. Donald Trump has said that the US will leave, but withdrawal will take years – the UN rules mean it can't leave until 4 November 2020. (The next US presidential election takes place on 3 November 2020.)

    Several countries have since strengthened their legal requirements to achieve carbon neutrality, including France, New Zealand, and Sweden. And a bipartisan coalition of US states was formed in June, in response to Trump's announcement, "committed to the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement".

    Oh and the World Bank announced that it was going to stop providing loans for oil and gas extraction.

    2. Two neutron stars collided (130 million years ago, but we found out about it this year in a very cool way) so your wedding ring could be made of stars.

    Dana Berry, SkyWorks Digital, Inc

    Last year the first detection of gravitational waves, from a pair of colliding black holes, was announced. There were three more detections of black-hole collisions in 2016 and 2017, and scientists say it has dramatically changed the face of astrophysics.

    Then in October 2017, it was announced that a fifth detection had been made, this time of the collision of two neutron stars – strange, ultradense leftovers from the death of stars. And the results proved that all of the gold and other precious metals in the universe – all the elements heavier than iron, in fact – were made in collisions like this. So if you're wearing a gold wedding ring, it was made in a collision of two dead stars billions of years ago.

    3. At the last count, there had been just 26 cases of guinea worm disease reported worldwide. That's down from 3.5 million 30 years ago.

    Collegebookworm / CC / Via commons.wikimedia.org

    Guinea worm disease is a nasty parasitic illness that, until not that long ago, was common in large parts of Africa. Tiny organisms in dirty standing water carry the worm larvae, and are drunk by humans. Then the fully grown adult female worm, around a metre long, bursts out of a sore on the body. It can be disabling and disfiguring; patients are bedridden for weeks and often get secondary infections in the wound.

    But thanks to public health efforts to stop its spread, such as encouraging people to filter water and keeping infected people away from water, over the last three decades – partly led by Jimmy Carter, the former US president – this small but significant source of human misery has nearly been eliminated.

    4. We also learned that global measles deaths dropped below 100,000 for the first time – an 84% fall since 2000.

    Fatcamera / Getty Images

    In 2000, more than 550,000 people died around the world of the measles virus. But the World Health Organisation announced in November that, thanks to a massive worldwide vaccination effort – more than 5.5 billion doses of measles vaccine given – that figure dropped to just 90,000 in 2016.

    Measles is a nasty disease that can cause disability, brain damage, deafness, and death. It used to kill 1.3 million people around the world every year. Vaccination programmes, therefore, save 1.3 million lives every year. “Saving an average of 1.3 million lives per year through measles vaccine is an incredible achievement and makes a world free of measles seem possible, even probable, in our lifetime,” Dr Robert Linkins, of the Measles and Rubella Initiative, is quoted as saying on the WHO blog.

    5. And there have been just 101 cases of polio reported worldwide.

    San Francisco Board of Health / public domain / Via commons.wikimedia.org

    Polio is another horrible, crippling disease, usually affecting children under 5, and in many cases leading to lifelong disability or even death.

    It was common around the world at one stage. But in 1988 a worldwide effort to eradicate it was launched. At that point there were around 350,000 cases a year. Vaccination programmes have slashed that number to just 101 this year, as of 13 December. The WHO estimates that the success of the vaccine means that there are 16 million people walking who otherwise could not have, and 1.5 million childhood deaths have been prevented.

    6. By one measure, global hunger has dropped by 27% since 2000.

    It's a bit complicated, because the International Food Policy Research Institute takes various metrics – undernourishment, child mortality, child stunting, and child wasting – and combines them to form one number, its Global Hunger Index. But the trend is clear.

    And it matches the World Bank's simpler assessment, the percentage of the world population that is undernourished. In 1991, nearly 1 in 5 people – 18.6% – were not getting enough to eat. In 2000, it was 15%. In 2015, it was 10.8%. That's still the better part of a billion people, worldwide, but the situation is vastly better than it was just a few years ago.

    7. The cost of renewable energy in the UK fell to record-low levels – cheaper than gas and nuclear.

    Creativenaturemedia / Getty Images

    Specifically, government contracts for new onshore and offshore wind farms are expected to provide energy at hugely lower prices than nuclear or gas power. The planned Hornsea 2 wind farm off the coast of Yorkshire and Moray off the northeast coast of Scotland will start making energy in 2022 at a guaranteed £57.50 per megawatt hour (MWh), while Triton Knoll off the coast of Lincolnshire will start in 2021 at £74.75/MWh.

    That compares with £92.50/MWh for new nuclear contracts, and according to the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, it's cheaper than current gas prices. So going green is becoming a good move financially as well as ethically.

    8. The British government announced that by 2040, petrol and diesel cars would be banned – but some car manufacturers are on course to stop making them long before then anyway.

    Extreme-photographer / Getty Images

    Britain (and lots of other countries, including France and the Netherlands) have said that every car on the road by 2040 will have to be electric, to help reduce climate emissions. But Volvo, for example, is already planning to make all new car models electric from 2019.

    9. Beavers are being reintroduced to the Forest of Dean, where they'll probably help reduce flooding and improve wildlife, because beavers are great.

    Steve Gardner / Scottish Wildlife Trust

    Last year, it was announced that the reintroduction of beavers to Scotland had gone so well that beavers were once again to be described as "native" to the country. And projects there and in Devon have found that beavers do great things for water quality, for flooding, and for local biodiversity.

    10. Ethiopian Airlines instituted an all-female air crew, from pilots to stewards.

    Afp / AFP / Getty Images

    Captain Amsale Gualu and first officer Tigist Kibret are among the crew of the Boeing 777. (Which isn't the plane pictured. That's a 787. We have to mention this or people will complain.)

    11. The British energy system had its first ever coal-free day.

    National Grid can confirm that for the past 24 hours, it has supplied GB's electricity demand without the need for… https://t.co/hFgSbXpnx1

    In April, the National Grid announced that, for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, Britain had gone a full 24 hours without coal power.

    The growth of renewables, as well as gas and nuclear, has meant that the use of coal – the dirtiest fossil fuel – has been dropping for years. But it's been especially rapid recently, down from 23% in 2015 to 9% in 2016.

    12. The spaceship Cassini's long, long mission came to a sudden and fiery end, which was kind of sad in a way, but also joyous because it had found out so many cool things and taken so many beautiful pictures.

    NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute / Via saturn.jpl.nasa.gov

    It found liquid oceans on two moons where no one expected to find any – opening up whole new worlds in the search for life in our solar system.

    And it also may have accidentally seeded one of those worlds with life, too, so that's a thing.

    13. And this little girl in Birmingham got a new prosthetic leg and showed it off to her friends, and honestly it was beautiful.

    Anu is seven and goes to school in Birmingham. Look what happened when she showed her friends her new sports blade.… https://t.co/0ht8bQY4uC

    *immediately starts crying*

    Tom Chivers is a science writer for BuzzFeed and is based in London.

    Contact Tom Chivers at tom.chivers@buzzfeed.com.

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