Between celebrity deaths and political upheavals, 2016 earned a reputation as a bit of a bad year. But it’s not all doom and gloom! Here are some of the best things to come out of the previous 12 months.

1. The Ice-Bucket Challenge made a difference

Benedict Cumberbatch Ice Bucket Challenge
Benedict Cumberbatch participates in the Ice-Bucket Challenge

Thanks to money raised by the Ice-Bucket challenge, scientists have discovered the gene responsible for motor neurone disease—taking us closer than ever before to finding an effective treatment.

 

2. Protecting the natural world

pandas are no longer endangered 2016

The numbers of tigers and manatees in the world are growing, while pandas are no longer considered endangered.

Read more: Meet the man fighting poachers

 

3. Leo got his Oscar!

Leo won his oscar
Image via Huffington Post

Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar for his performance in The Revenant. The actor used his speech to speak out about climate change, and how important it is that we take action. 

"Making The Revenant was about man's relationship to the natural world," he said. "A world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history… Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating."

Here's why DiCaprio was our Editor's unsung hero of 2016

 

4. Political pets

Gladstone the cat
Image via The Treasury

The Treasury got a new cat named Gladstone. He wears a tiny bow tie and has been known to sit in the red suitcase.

Amid all the political upheavals of 2016, Gladstone was the sort of good news we needed from number 10. 

Read more: 20 Purrfect films featuring felines

 

5. Planting more trees

plant more tree
Image via Plant a Billion 

India reached their target of planting 50 million trees. 800,000 volunteers were involved in the effort to help the country fight climate change. Incredibly, they planted the trees in just 24 hours.

The 80 different species are now growing along roads, railways and other public spaces. 

 

6. World number one

andy murray celebrating

Andy Murray won Wimbledon for the second time and became the first British man to attain the world-number-one ranking.

 

7. Success in space

Tim Peake
Image via Huffington Post

British astronaut Tim Peake completed his International Space Station mission and was reunited with his family after six months in space.

 

8. A football fairytale

Underdogs Leicester City

Underdogs Leicester City surprised the nation by storming to Premier League victory in a true football fairytale.

Experts called it the most improbable win in the history of the sport.

 

9. A snail found love

jeremy the snail found love
Angus Davison and Jade Melton with the snails. Image via Angus Davison/University of Nottingham

The sinistral snail Jeremy, who is classed as a mutant because the spiral on the outside of his shell is anti-clockwise, had been having trouble finding a mate due to his unusual looks.

Thanks to a Twitter hashtag (#snaillove), researchers at the University of Nottingham found another mutant sinistral snail. The happy couple will now be researched side by side.

 

10. We're closer to curing HIV

closer to curing HIV

 A British man became the first patient to show no signs of the HIV virus after treatment.

The new method involved combining antiretroviral drugs with a drug that reactivates dormant HIV and a vaccine that prompts the immune system to try and destroy the virus. 

 

11. The first three-parent baby was born

three parent baby

The process has been used to ensure that the baby boy did not develop Leigh Syndrome, a serious disorder affecting the nervous system.

Despite being controversial, this three-person IVF may well be used in the future to help those with mitochondrial disorders to have a healthy child. 

 

12. Peace in Columbia

Teresita Gaviria
Teresita Gaviria speaking in Cuba. Image via Semana

The war in Columbia has been ongoing for 50 years, but thanks to the love of a mother, the country is now approaching peace. Twelve members of Teresita Gaviria's family were killed, and when her 15-year-old son was kidnapped on his way to school, she knew she had to take action. 

What started as a one-woman protest in front of a church soon became a movement involving hundreds of people. Then, finally, she was invited along with other protestors to Cuba where peace negotiations were being held. This year, they reached a peace deal.

The deal still isn't perfect, but it's an encouraging first step towards ending an era of bloodshed. 

 

13. Sri Lanka became malaria-free

malaria

In 2009, Sri Lanka amazed the world when they announced that they wanted to become malaria-free within just five years. 

Every time a patient with a history of fever entered a hospital, they were tested. If they had malaria, they were treated, their family were tested, and their homes were sprayed with insecticide. 

This year it was made official. Sri Lanka was malaria-free. What's more, the World Health Organisation announced that since 2000, deaths from malaria have decreased by 60 per cent worldwide. 

 

14. Respecting our oceans

the ocean

In 2016, 20 countries signed an agreement pledging a total of £4.2bn towards ocean conservation.

Forty new marine sanctuaries were created, including a new record-holder for the world's biggest marine reserve, just off the coast of Antarctica. 

Britain agreed to double the area of ocean under marine protection in our territories, creating a protected area greater than the landmass of India. 

 

15. Farewell to famine?

farewell to famine

The era of great famines may finally be coming to an end. 

The New York Times reported that in 2016, world hunger had reached its lowest point in 20 years.

 

16. Whale welfare

whale welfare

Anyone who has seen the chilling documentary, Blackfish, will rejoice to hear that Sea World has finally agreed to stop breeding captive killer whales.

This is the first sign that the era of captive orcas will some day come to an end.

 

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