2015, THE CONSENSUS SEEMS TO BE, was a rough year. The rise of ISIS, mass shootings, racist attacks on churches, horrible demagoguery in the already-too-long 2016 Presidential Election, and, of course, the inevitable creeping dread that comes with the passage of time and the slow, inevitable approach of death. More than one of my friends posted this video:
But 2015 really wasn’t all that bad. Sure, there was rough stuff, but human beings have a negativity bias that makes them to remember bad news more strongly than good news. So let’s take a moment and remember some of the really awesome stuff that happened in 2015.
1. Gay marriage was legalized throughout the United States.
2. This one family saved thousands of lives in the Mediterranean.
In the midst of the horrible refugee crisis in Europe, one family travels around the Mediterranean saving the lives of refugees who might have otherwise drowned in the perilous trip from Northern Africa to Europe.
3. A weasel flew around on a woodpecker.
Because why not?
4. When ISIS threatened the city of Rome, Romans responded with travel and traffic advice.
ISIS supporters began tweeting with the menacing hashtag #We_Are_Coming_O_Rome, so Romans responded the best way they knew how: with a sense of humor.
— iCY beats (@iCYbts) February 19, 2015
— Mauro Giulivi (@Giulivello) February 20, 2015
5. Muslims fought prejudice with hugs.
6. We made it to Pluto.
TIME's Top 10 Photos of 2015. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Each photograph, carefully culled from thousands and presented here unranked, reflects a unique and powerful point of view that represents the best of photojournalism this year. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 2015 gave us the ever picture of Pluto, made by @NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. The high-resolution color image was taken more than nine years after the two cameras that shot it left Earth in the fastest spacecraft ever launched into space. "This is really the completion of a 50-year quest to explore all of the planets in our solar system," says photographer Alan Stern (@alanstern). "NASA began under President Kennedy and finished under President Obama. I believe that 100 years from now, this image will be an icon from the year 2015." ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Read more from each #photographer at lightbox.time.com⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #topten #bestof2015 #pluto #space
7. A boy who asked a mailman for junk mail to read got hundreds of book donations after a viral Facebook post.
8. We found out the Ice Bucket Challenge actually worked.
Last year, as people dumped ice on their heads for ALS research, many derided the viral stunt as “slacktivism.” But this year, it came out that ALS research had had a major breakthrough, at least in part due to money made from the ice bucket challenge.
9. Mozambique cleared its deadly landmines.
After 2 decades of work, the 171,000 landmines that were planted during Mozambique’s Civil War, were finally all removed this year.
10. We found out that the worldwide childhood mortality rates have been cut in half since 1990.
5.9 million children under five die each year, which is still way too high. But that’s down from 12.7 million a year in 1990.
11. Cuba opened up.
U.S. travelers rejoice!
12. Liberia beat Ebola.
After 2014’s horrendous Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Liberia, one of the worst-stricken countries, was declared Ebola-free.
13. India’s tigers started to come back.
Thanks to intense conservation efforts, India’s endangered tiger population rebounded in a big way — they now have a third more tigers than they did four years ago.
14. Utah found a way to drastically reduce homelessness.
The Great State of Utah has been experimenting with a radical idea: give the homeless homes, no questions asked. It turns out, unsurprisingly, that the program is wildly successful in reducing homelessness, but more surprisingly, it actually saves the state a ton of money. You can read a full explanation and breakdown at Mother Jones.
15. Ecuador broke records fighting to bring back the rainforest.
Given how horribly deforestation has harmed the Amazon and the world’s environment as a whole, it was awesome news to hear that Ecuadorians broke a Guinness World Record by planting nearly 650,000 trees in may.
16. The world finally came to a climate agreement.
This December in Paris, the world’s leaders finally came to a serious agreement about working together to fight climate change. Was it perfect? No. Was it still really good news? Yes.
17. Americans got outside instead of into malls on Black Friday.
After retailer REI announced they were closing on Black Friday to let their employees get outdoors with their families, several states opened up their state parks for free in order to get Americans back into the great outdoors.
18. California, Vermont, and Hawaii all made huge steps towards becoming more renewable.
All three states passed laws to up their clean energy game. Hawaii is going to be 100% renewable by 2045, Vermont wants to be at 75% by 2032, and California wants to be at 50% by 2030. Also, as of this year, the entire country of Costa Rica is running on renewables.
19. A nuclear agreement was reached with Iran.
One less war can only be a good thing.
20. The new Star Wars was pretty great.
And a nervous world heaves a sigh of relief.