Years’ news is more than doom and gloom

By Kathleen Naday Source:Global Times Published: 2015-12-14 20:23:01

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

It's that time of year when we get to find out what the media, the great and the good and the rest of us think were the standout moments of the year. From Time magazine's person of the year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to the top viewed YouTube videos or most retweets (a tweet about One Direction) and hashtags, December is always a time to look back.

And what a year to look back on. Any news watcher could be forgiven for thinking this is one of the most depressing and brutal years in recent history. It has eclipsed 2014, which had plenty of lows, such as Ebola, the twin Malaysia airline tragedies, Ukraine, the Ferguson protests, Boko Haram. But 2015 has been a doozy, but for all the wrong reasons.

The relentless deluge of horror stories includes the rise of the Islamic State, acts of terror in Paris, the Nepal earthquake, tourists massacred on the beach in Tunisia, the Russian jet bombing, conflicts rumbling on in Yemen and South Sudan, the Syrian refugee crisis and mass shootings in the US.

Many people tell me they no longer read or listen to the news, and I can understand why. Sometimes it's hard to remember that good things have happened too. On traditional news bulletins, the last story was very often quirky or intended for light relief.  

Recent "and finally" stories on a British TV news website include a homeless man winning $500,000 and a department store Santa Claus talking in sign language to a 3-year-old deaf girl. On the not so good side, it also included a man who burgled a home in Florida only to be eaten by an alligator when he hid in a lake. These stories may all raise a smile, but in a year when the news has been so relentlessly bleak, surely we can all do with some relief.

But although we may not remember it, there has been a lot of good news in 2015. Great strides have been made in marriage equality. The US Supreme Court ruled in June that all states must give equal rights to marriage. In Ireland, a whole nation for the first time voted overwhelmingly for same-sex marriage. Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce, became the first transgender person to grace the cover of Vanity Fair.

Sometimes, a story that started off badly also becomes life-affirming, as in the tale of a boy who took his homemade clock to school in Texas, only to find himself arrested as a terror suspect. Ahmed got his own hashtag and ended up at the White House. 

Locally, Beijing tried yet again to ban smoking in indoor spaces, and seems to have largely succeeded. The smog in North China was bad news, but in good news, most people followed the rules of Beijing's red alert, so not making it worse.

Across China, wildlife action seems to be succeeding, with the price of ivory having dropped by half on the back of a government ban, with 71 percent of people opposing the trade, reported Save the Elephants recently.

In 2015, the United Nations 15-year push to tackle some of the planets most intractable problems, the Millennium Development Goals, ended. While not all the goals were achieved, the efforts certainly succeeded to a large degree.

The number of people now living in extreme poverty has declined by more than half, falling from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015, the UN said. Other highlights include nearly halving the number of out-of-school primary children, from 100 million in 2000 to 57 million today, preventing 6.2 million malaria deaths, and 147 countries have met safe drinking water standards.

Perhaps the best news of the year has just been announced; a resolution thrashed out at the Paris COP21 climate change meeting agreed to limit global warming and cut back on emissions has had more worldwide political will behind than any other agreement before. 

Some countries are already making great strides. A solar scheme in Morocco will be the largest in the world when finished, and provide power to an estimated 1 million homes. Uruguay is showing everyone up, announcing in Paris that it gets 95 percent of energy from clean sources. And two years ahead of schedule, New York City has finished its goal of planting extra 1 million trees. The year's top trends on social media, "JeSuisParis," "JeSuisCharlie" and "BlackLivesMatter," while reflecting tragedy, also show an overriding global will to show solidarity after calamitous events.

So perhaps it's time we all started looking at the positive instead of being overwhelmed by the negative. I've started looking at websites that only report good news when things get too much. And OK, there are a lot of animal rescues, and babies doing strangely adult things, but as we look back on 2015, it's the small random acts of kindness I read about that will stick longer. So if you want to be cheered up, just go watch the video of the whale celebrating after it got cut free from fishing nets.

The author is an editor with the Global Times.

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