2016: (not) the end of the world

Jihoon Park_online

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“If Donald Trump becomes president I will tie my hair into a man bun and then set it on fire.”

My friend posted that on Facebook in early November. I don’t really know what he was trying to accomplish, but it got lots of likes and “haha” reactions. Everyone thought it was an extra good joke.

After the election, I asked him whether he was going to actually do it. He replied, “No, it was just for fun. It’s not like all those people who said they’d move to Canada are actually going to do it. Besides, it’s not the end of the world just because Trump is president.”

I’ve been hearing the phrase “the end of the world” more often now that 2016 is almost over. 2016 seemed like one giant, unrelenting turn of terrible events — police shootings, acts of terrorism in the United States and overseas, natural disasters, Zika outbreaks, Donald Trump’s election, the deaths of so many inspirational figures — it’s no wonder people think the world is going to shit.

But my friend is right. Despite everything that’s happened, it’s not the end of the world. There have been many years in the past when things were terrible and everyone thought the world would end. But here we still are. It’s only natural for us to be angered by these tragedies, but sometimes we get so blinded that we forget about other events that have transpired.

To be fair, we’ve actually made a lot of progress this year, and we should try to find joy in those things. Although it may not seem like it, there are plenty of things that happened in 2016 to be thankful and happy for:

We may have elected a president who is at best “open minded” about climate change, but just this past October, 55 countries that emit more than half of the planet’s greenhouse gasses came together to ratify the Paris climate change agreement and started a global initiative to reduce emissions. Earlier in July, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, two pioneers in aviation technologies, made history by completing their around-the-world trip in the solar plane Solar Impulse 2 without using a single drop of fuel. Breakthroughs such as these show us that we are closer than ever to fighting climate change and finding renewable sources of energy.

Remember those ice bucket challenges people did instead of actually sending money to the ALS Association? Although the challenge was criticized as being a form of “hashtag activism” and more of a passing internet fad than a legitimate cause, the ALS Association was able to bring in enough money from the viral stunts and, earlier this year, discovered the main gene associated with the disease. We are now one step closer to finding a cure.

Despite the Zika virus, green pool water and robbers, athletes from all over the world came together in Rio de Janeiro for an amazing and unforgettable Olympic Games. The United States brought home 121 medals, 20 of which were earned by our very own Golden Bears, past and present, making UC Berkeley the most represented college in the Rio Games.

The tiger population has risen for the first time in a century. The World Wildlife Fund predicts that if current progress continues, the number of wild tigers will double by 2022. Before long, humankind and tiger-kind will be living side by side in harmony. Hopefully, tigers will stop attacking hikers, and we will stop using tiger fur as carpeting. Not only that, but giant pandas are no longer endangered. Maybe in the future, we can finally have pandas as pets.

Although we didn’t elect the first woman president, women still made history on Election Night. Kamala Harris, Catherine Cortez Masto and Tammy Duckworth were elected to seats in the Senate. In addition, Stephanie Murphy and Pramila Jayapal were elected to the House of Representatives. Not only are these women of color, but Congress now has more women than ever before. This is a huge step in gender equality and equal representation in office.

Recreational marijuana is legal in California. Now, people who already smoke weed every day can continue to do so without worrying about the police.

Finally, for the first time in 108 years, the Cubs won the World Series title. Since the last time the Cubs took the championship title in 1908, some pretty amazing things have happened. The Wright Brothers unveiled their flying machine. Women fought for and earned the right to vote. Racial segregation in public schools was outlawed. We invented jazz. We sent a man to the moon. The radio and television were invented.

I am not mentioning these events to undermine the countless tragedies and acts of hate. Instead, I believe these events show how, after every tragedy, people still wake up in the morning and continue to make progress, taking care of themselves, their friends and family and people in need. These events show the goodness and cooperation between people — exemplified by the countless protests, candlelight vigils and fundraisers we hold in response to tragic events and their victims. It goes to show just how resilient we really are and, most of all, that the end of the world is not happening any time soon.

Contact Jihoon Park at [email protected].

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