Five Highlights of 2017

2017 was a year that impacted everyone across the globe differently, but immensely at the same time. With so much conflict and negative things coming to light in the past year, it is important to reflect on the best parts as well. Many people tend to focus on the negative more than the positive; however, characterizing an entire year by the bad is irrational and narrow-minded. Don’t worry! I’m here to remind you of some of my, and hopefully your, favourite highlights of 2017. 

1. Scientific Advancements

One of the things I was most excited to hear about was the progress announced late May in finding a successful treatment for ALS, thus bringing us one step closer to a cure. ALS, if you are unfamiliar with the term, is a rare and eventually deadly disease where motor nerve cells in important parts of the body like the brain and spinal chord are damaged and subsequently killed by something called the glial cells in the body. This has countless impacts on the body that progress and slowly worsen, including paralysis and respiratory failure, to name a few. Israeli scientists at Ben-Gurion University have newly discovered a way to stop the rapid activity of glial cells and allow the immune system to fight them off for longer. In turn, the life expectancy of ALS patients would increase. As well, this drug could potentially increase the life expectancy of people living with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. I found this so important because I vividly remember standing in a friend’s backyard 5 years ago pouring buckets of ice on our heads in support of ALS. 2017 showed me that raising awareness does, in fact, pay off. 

Another advancement that caught my attention was for burn victims. Burn victims typically endure a very long process of painful treatments, surgeries and ugly scars. There is a new product revolutionizing the science of treating burns, and it is called the SkinGun from RenovaCare. In short, victims can be sprayed with their own stem cells and these cells help the damaged skin regrow without scarring. This is revolutionary in providing victims with relief from the pain and the costly, lengthy procedures, as well as permanent physical damage. 

2. The Royal Engagement 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got engaged in early November. Many people might not care about a royal engagement and wedding because let’s be real, what does the royal family even do? The reason why I would add this to my list of highlights of 2017 is that of how this illustrates a change in society. The royal family is generally looked at as very old-fashioned and strict in their traditions, rules and customs. However, Meghan counters many of them. To name a few, she is biracial, a divorcee, an American citizen and brought up very differently than those in the royal family. Meghan has done a lot of work in support of feminism and activism and plans to use this large platform to raise even more awareness. If this doesn’t defy royal standards in the best ways possible, I don’t know what does. 

3. New record for the most re-tweeted tweet of all time

On a funnier note, in early April, a teen named Carter Wilkerson in Nevada asked Wendy’s, over Twitter, how many re-tweets it would take for him to earn a year worth of free chicken nuggets, to which they promptly responded 18 million. He replied with “consider it done” and launched a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #NuggsforCarter. He ended up breaking the record for the most retweets, beating out Ellen’s Oscar selfie from 2014, and the tweet is currently sitting at 3.6 million retweets. Wendy’s considered this record-breaking number enough for the free nuggets for a year, even though he was short 14.4 million. They also donated $100k to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, their affiliated charity. Carter used his newfound fame to introduce his own website with merchandise, also benefitting Wendy’s foundation. This was one of my personal favs because it’s not only funny but also helped raise money for charity, making it an overall feel-good story. 

4. Legalization of gay marriage

Here in Canada, and more specifically Ontario, this may not be of everyone’s concern, since we have enjoyed the luxuries of same-sex marriage for over 15 years. Nonetheless, same-sex marriage in some countries was only legalized this past year, which in my opinion is long overdue. Although it was years in the making, this definitely takes us one step closer to a more unified and accepting society overall. This past year, Australia, Germany and Malta took that next step to legalizing same-sex marriage, and people could not be more thrilled. Germany was the first to do so, when, in June, lawmakers voted in favour of same-sex marriage. The chancellor Angela Merkel voted against it, but allowed members of the conservative party to vote independently, which turned out to be a success in the eyes of fans of marriage equality. Shortly after, in July, a little country called Malta, just south of Italy, decided to also legalize same-sex marriage, something the Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, had promised the Maltese people. (P.S., if you are unfamiliar with Malta and want to watch a hilarious video about it, enjoy this Buzzfeed video of an American woman who accidentally became famous in Malta. Finally came Australia just last month in December, when their high court ruled that prohibiting couples from marrying due to sexual orientation is a form of discrimination. 8 years ago, they began allowing same-sex couples to form civil partnerships and adopt children together but decided that as of 2018, they should be allowed to formally marry. 

5. Feminism Movements

Last, but definitely not least, it’s pretty hard to ignore the groundbreaking progress society is making in terms of stopping the culture of sexual harassment and rape. Everyone has heard of the allegations that came to light in 2017 against prominent and powerful men in Hollywood, including Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Ben Affleck and dozens more. Regardless of the degree, whether it be rape or verbal harassment, I think the most important thing to take away from this is that not only are these men finally getting reprimanded for their awful actions, but it also gives a platform for women to speak out. A few years ago, filing a lawsuit or making a claim against someone as powerful as Weinstein, for example, would never hold up in court because he had the best lawyers to prevent that from happening, and infinite amounts of money to pay people to keep quiet. It took an army of women to unite and get the attention of the media, but it definitely worked. Women are more confident in speaking out against injustice, and powerful men are now more aware that they cannot have their way with people and commit heinous acts simply because of their status. All of this turmoil sparked various movements including “Me Too” and “Times Up” to name a few. #MeToo, created by Tarana Burke in 2006, was popularized by actress Alyssa Milano in October of 2017 to denounce sexual harassment and assault in the wake of events from the past year. Using this hashtag means that you have experienced some form of harassment or assault of a sexual nature, done to demonstrate how widespread this misogynistic behaviour has become. Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lawrence, Terry Crews, Reese Witherspoon, Lady Gaga and more have responded to the movement with their own stories. #TimesUp, on the other hand, was brought to our attention at the Golden Globes in early January (cheating because this was in 2018 but counts because it was caused by events in 2017, ok?) when celebrities wore black in support of fighting against sexual assault, harassment and gender bias in society. It also went on to declare that powerful men must be held accountable for their actions with no exceptions. Learn more about Time’s Up at where you can donate to the Time’s Up legal defence fund and have your name added to a Letter of Solidarity. 

I hope you enjoyed some of my personal favourite highlights of 2017 and maybe even learnt something new!