Call me an optimist. 2016 was a very good year.
But for a number of very valid reasons, many of us didn't see 2016 ending on quite the high that the title of this article suggests, especially if you frequent social media or are a fan of the big screen and music industry.
Here are 10 reasons why I think 2016 was spectacular, and how it can set us on a trajectory for an even greater 2017.
#10 – The Giant Panda is now off the endangered list. Since I was a child, this rare animal has been endangered and efforts have taken place worldwide to support the species that was decimated by decisions made by humans. (Let’s also give a shout out to the number of tigers, on the rise of the first time in 100 years with expected growth to double by 2022.)
#9 – More than 40 new marine sanctuaries were designated in 20 countries in 2016, a total area that is more than the size of the entire United States. These marine ecosystems house hundreds of thousands of species while allowing humans the ability to enjoy beaches and waterways worldwide. Since sanctuaries are protected areas, the areas noted are then both protected and can house conservation efforts to address a host of issues, including global warming.
#8 – A new treatment is now available for melanoma, providing those with a 40% survival rate. While the number may seem low, this is a huge step towards long-term cancer survivability. 2 million Americans are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma in 2017, so the treatment will significantly and successfully impact lives.
#7 – A vaccine for Ebola was developed by Canadian researchers with a 100% success rate. Having read The Hot Zone to my 8th grade science classes back when I taught, this is one of the most ravenous, deadly diseases that has emerged in the last 25 years.
#6 – Air travel has never been safer. 2016 had the second fewest deaths per capita in aviation of any year on record, which is significant in that air travel continues to rise.
#5 – Graduation rates never higher, and teenage birth rates have never been lower. This is fantastic news for those of us in public education, especially since both equate to more opportunities for young people finishing high school.
#4 – Major diseases in the US are in decline, including a 50% mortality drop in colon cancer. Similar successes have been seen in the battles against heart disease, osteoporosis, and dementia.
#3 – It might have seemed silly to watch Facebook and YouTube videos of people dumping water on their heads, but it was anything but silly for those suffering from ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease). Enough money was raised through the Ice Bucket Challenges to isolate a genetic cause for the disease, which will significantly improve research and treatments.
#2 – 2016 was the most charitable year in American history, with donations topping the 2015 record estimated at $373 billion. As the year concludes, we’ll watch the final numbers and celebrate the generosity of our fellow Americans.
#1 - The number of homeless veterans nationwide has dropped 20% in 2016 and, in the past decade, has been cut in half. There are dozens of organizations in our communities that work to support veterans and their unique needs, so hats off to those who the much needed assistance that changes the very lives of those who have fought for us for decades.
Here’s to 2017 and a year of even greater accomplishments!