By: Sophie McAdam,
Despite the usual stories of financial crisis, ecological disaster and never-ending wars, 2013 wasn’t all doom and gloom. Here are 5 positive news stories from the past 12 months that will give us all hope as we move into 2014. Happy holidays everyone!
1. The Pope is on our side
Even atheists can be proud of Pope Francis’s demands for economic equality and justice for all. This year, the head of the Catholic church- one of the most powerful men in the world- attacked consumerism and a financial system that puts profit over people. He acknowledged the fact that inequality causes violence, called for the end of a monetary system which rules rather than serves, demanded the end of war and ecological destruction, and even took a leaf from Jesus’s book when he washed the feet of prisoners at a detention center in Rome. Pope Francis, we salute you.
2. One of the world’s biggest palm oil traders vowed to end rainforest destruction
The systematic destruction of the Indonesian rainforest to grow oil palm trees for greedy corporations is wiping out orang-utans and tigers, not to mention many other species. You’ve probably never heard of the commodity trader Wilmar International, but with 45% of all the world’s palm oil passing through their hands, it’s likely you have bought something containing its palm oil. After campaigns by Avaaz and investigations by Greenpeace, something amazing has happened. Wilmar have vowed to stop clearing forests, promising to only buy palm oil from sustainable, legal sources. Wilmar- better late than never. We salute you.
3. Venezuela legalized cannabis
With 50% of all Americans favouring the legalization of marijuana, chances are many of our readers will be hopeful that progressive drug reforms in neighboring Latin America could mean the start of a new, realistic approach to the green weed in the land of the free. Whether you’re a user or not, the medical benefits of cannabis are well documented and make a compelling case for a change of tactic. In addition, legalization and taxation of this misunderstood plant would boost the economy-
4. Russian President pardons his enemies
Vladimir Putin, for all his faults (yes, he has many) showed his softer side this Christmas when he decided to release some high-profile political prisoners. These included an exiled oligarch, a group of Greenpeace activists known as the Arctic 30 and the two remaining members of activist punk band Pussy Riot, who had been languishing in prison for 21 months after staging a protest against Putin’s leadership back in March 2012.
And while the Russian leader’s amnesty law was (almost certainly) nothing more than a PR stunt to gain popularity, it was nevertheless a refreshing act of compassion. Other world leaders could take a leaf out of his book and show a little goodwill to all men at this time of year- maybe in 2014 Obama could remember his campaign promise to close Guantanamo? Stranger things have happened. Presidents who recognise the power of compassion, we salute you.
5. The NSA is officially unconstitutional
This year, in light of scandalous revelations provided by Edward Snowden, a federal judge claimed that current mass surveillance of civilians is ‘Orwellian’ and a clear breach of the fourth amendment. It’s hardly surprising, but it did embarrass Washington and could be the start of a backlash against Obama’s Big Brother government which will lead to transparency, justice and the reclaiming of privacy by the people. Judges who fight for freedom, we salute you.