It was a year of tumult with COVID-19 still surging, racial inequality in the news and extreme weather events like fires and floods.
There were also positive developments across the globe. Here are a few news stories that we found uplifting and promising for the future.
United States takes a stand on climate change
In January, the United States rejoined the Paris agreement.
According to the Scientific American, “The U.S.’s position on climate change was completely reversed from what it was in 2020, after Biden was inaugurated in January and began undoing his predecessor’s rollbacks of measures to stem warming. On day one in office that month, the Biden administration filed the paperwork needed to rejoin the Paris climate agreement as of February 19. He has also directed federal agencies to take climate change into account when evaluating infrastructure projects. Other Biden executive orders end federal financing of coal and other carbon-intensive projects abroad and, in an effort to address issues of environmental justice, stipulate that 40 percent of the benefits of federal climate action should go to disadvantaged communities.”
Biden announced that the U.S. would cut its carbon emissions in half by 2030. He also joined with European Union leaders in promising to cut emissions of methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas. President Biden also halted the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which was set to carry oil 1,200 miles from the Canadian province of Alberta down to Nebraska.
COVID-19 vaccines make their debut
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, scientists have been working for many years to develop vaccines against viruses like the one that causes COVID-19. This knowledge helped speed up the initial development of the current COVID-19 vaccines.
“The U.S. government has invested substantial resources to manufacture and distribute COVID-19 vaccines. This allowed vaccine distribution to begin as soon as FDA authorized each vaccine. Hundreds of millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines. Through several monitoring systems, CDC and FDA continue to provide updated information on the safety of these vaccines,” per the CDC website.
With new variants of the disease emerging, countries around the world are in a better position to withstand the impact after the administering of the vaccines.
Medical advances not related to COVID-19
According to positive.news, “A malaria vaccine was approved, with the potential to save thousands of lives in Africa; a breast cancer vaccine trial launched in the US; and brain-reading computer software allowed a paralyzed man to compose sentences on a computer for the first time. Elsewhere, HIV jabs were approved for use in Britain, negating the need for daily pills; a ‘game changing’ brain cancer drug showed promise; and whole genome sequencing was found to improve rare disease diagnosis.”
LGBTQ+ rights strengthened globally
According to positive.news, “Switzerland said ‘yes’ to same-sex marriages; Canada passed a bill to ban conversion therapy; Montenegro registered its first same-sex partnership; and Botswana upheld a ruling decriminalizing homosexuality, rejecting a government appeal to overturn the law. Elsewhere, members of the LGBTQ+ community rose to prominence in politics. Tessa Ganserer and Nyke Slawik became the first transgender women to win parliamentary seats in Germany; Eduardo Leite became Brazil’s first openly gay governor; and Sarah McBride was sworn in as the first transgender U.S. state senator.”
FDA approves sending abortion pills in the mail
In December, the Food and Drug Administration announced it will permanently allow Americans to receive abortion pills by mail. Previously, it was only available in person. Although 19 states still have laws that prohibit residents from using telemedicine for abortion, for many, it will now be easier to receive the two-part medication (from a qualified healthcare provider) necessary to terminate an early pregnancy through 70 days or 10 weeks of gestation. Advocates feel it’s a big win for reproductive rights in the wake Texas’ extreme abortion ban and the future of Roe V. Wade up in the air.
New Washington State law will reduce the use of utensils, condiments, and straws
Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, Washington restaurants will no longer automatically include single-use food service items like utensils, condiments and straws with food orders. A new state law restricts the use of these items and prohibits packaged bundles of single-use items in order to reduce waste and litter — although customers can still request individual items if needed. This law is part of the broader waste reduction legislative package passed in 2021.
Nearly one trillion single-use food service products are disposed or littered each year in the United States, according to a 2021 Upstream report. Single-use food serviceware items are also a major contaminant in Washington’s recycling system that decreases the value of recycled materials. Reducing their use will protect the state’s rivers and streams, help the recycling system run more efficiently, and contribute to a growing culture of waste reduction and reuse.
Customers are encouraged to bring their own durable, reusable food containers and utensils to help reduce single-use waste and to create habits that keep those items clean and available for use on the go.