Ignore the headlines: 2015 was a great year

If you spend a lot of time with us here on CNN (and we hope you do), you probably think 2015 was a pretty terrible year: Wars. Refugees. Terrorism. The list goes on.

But take a step back from the headlines, and it’s clear the year gone by was full of good news for hundreds of millions of people around the world.

As the year ends, here are seven reasons to be cheerful:

The world is awash with black gold, so prices have dropped by more than a third. The value of a barrel of crude is as low as it’s been since the financial crisis in 2009, and there’s speculation that it could fall even lower if and when sanctions on Iran are lifted.

Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi spent nearly 18 years under house arrest, she’s barred from being president because her husband was British, and the military is keeping a quarter of seats in parliament for itself — and even so, her National League for Democracy won so many seats in parliament she looks set to be calling the shots.

Some key things to know about the Paris agreement: Every country signed on to it. It’s legally binding. Supporters are calling it “the end of the era of fossil fuels.” It may not do enough to achieve the stated goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), but CNN’s John D. Sutter calls it “a giant shove in the right direction.”

The United States has moved with remarkable speed to accept gay rights, with a majority of younger people saying that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, and the country’s highest court agreeing. Even if you don’t support same-sex marriage, it’s hard to deny that the country has lived up to its professed ideals of freedom and equality. Across the pond, Ireland voted to legalize same-sex marriage too.

Unless you’re a professional do-gooder, you might not have paid much attention to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, so here’s a cheat sheet: Back in 2000, world leaders set out eight ways they were going to try to fight poverty over the next 15 years. One goal was to “eradicate extreme poverty,” defined as living on less than $1.25 a day. This year, the UN reported that the number of people that poor had fallen from 1.75 billion in 1999 to 836 million today. And the percentage of people in developing countries that poor fell from 37% in 1999 to 14% now.

Internet and phone access has skyrocketed. This was another Millennium Development Goal. Ten times as many people have mobile phone subscriptions now as did at the turn of the century, and Internet penetration has leapt from 6% worldwide to 43%

There’s a new Star Wars movie out, and there’s widespread agreement that it’s terrific. Even if it’s merely pretty good, it has to be better than The Phantom Menace. No spoilers, please — I still haven’t seen it.

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