Not Everything Was Bad in 2018: Some of the Good News We Reported On

We review the most positive news stories to end the year with a smile: from womens’ mobilization to progress against climate change

Two thousand eighteen was a year full of news. The year began with Mariano Rajoy as Spanish president and, after an unexpected no-confidence vote, it ended with Pedro Sánchez in command at La Moncloa. The country also saw how the extreme right gained parliamentary representation in Andalusia; how the 40th anniversary of the Constitution coincided with the Catalan territorial issue, as topical as ever; and how the government is considering the removal of dictator Francisco Franco’s remains from the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) mausoleum.

But, beyond politics, at we also reported on many other stories. To wrap up the year, we review the most positive ones:

1. Women Take to the Streets

March 8 will be remembered as the day women took to the streets to claim their rights and freedoms. Hundreds of thousands of women filled more than 60 Spanish cities to promote feminism, grouped behind university banners, professional associations, unions, and collectives. Even the media felt the impact of the feminist wave: journalists from dozens of newspapers, and radio and television stations, went on strike.

2. The Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry Go to Two Women

The rise of female empowerment coincides with a historic coincidence: two women won the Nobel Prize — in Physics and Chemistry — for the first time in the same year. Donna Strickland and Frances Arnold gave a boost to female researchers, although a significant under-representation of women remains in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The data confirms it: Ninety-two percent of past Nobel laureates have been men.

3. Ireland Decriminalizes Abortion, and Argentina Mobilizes

Ireland used to punish women who received abortions, as well as the health workers who performed them, with up to 14-year prison terms. In 2018, via a referendum, the citizens of this country with a strong Catholic tradition voted “yes” to liberalize abortion. Less fortunate were Argentine women, who saw the Senate reject the legalization of abortion, but who also watched as the feminism movement grew by leaps and bounds in their country and in the rest of Latin America.

4. Towards the First Federal LGTBI Law

The Congress approved the consideration of the first federal LGTBI law, which means that the parliamentary process will continue. The majority of parliamentary groups have advocated for a regulation that establishes a framework to combat LGBTI-phobia, although some differences remain regarding specific aspects of the text. If passed, the law would (among other measures) prohibit false therapies that claim to “cure” homosexuality and transsexuality.

5. Medical Coverage Becomes Universal Again

Alpha Pam died of tuberculosis in 2013 because she did not have medical coverage. Budget cuts by the People’s Party severely affected the healthcare system, and undocumented migrants watched in 2012 as they lost their coverage. Four years later, the government of Pedro Sánchez, with parliamentary support, has restored the right to coverage to excluded groups. The Ministry of Health estimates that 280,000 people will benefit. In addition, single women and lesbians will once again have access to assisted reproduction.

6. Future Drugs Against Cancer Recurrence

Gradually, science is moving towards a cure for cancer. Researchers at the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology have discovered how to eliminate dormant tumor cells, which are the cause of resistance to treatment and recurrence in apparently cured patients. This discovery opens up the possibility of developing drugs against cancer recurrence. Up to now, most drugs slow the growth of tumors by killing cells that are proliferating, but not those that are dormant.

7. Hotel Cleaners Reap the Rewards of Their Labor Struggle

Las Kellys (an association representing hotel cleaners) have reaped the rewards of their labor struggle in 2018: Their work-related illnesses were recognized and will be treated by healthcare providers. This historic concession to the collective of hotel cleaners became a reality following an agreement reached at the Bureau for Quality Employment in the Hospitality Sector.

8. Minimum Wage Increase, and Equal Maternity and Paternity Leave

An increase in the Minimum Interprofessional Wage will take effect in 2019: The Council of Ministers approved that this remuneration should rise to 900 euros, which means an increase of 164 euros per month. This measure was included in the budget agreement between the Socialists and Unidos Podemos, pending approval in Congress, which also stipulates that maternity and paternity leaves will “gradually” be made equal and non-transferable.

9. Renewable Energy Surpasses Coal

For the first time in the history of the European Union, wind, solar and biomass power exceeded coal-generated power. Data for 2017, published in 2018, showed that these three renewable energy sources supplied 679 terawatts per hour over the past year, while coal contributed 669 terawatts per hour. To put this historic milestone in context: Only five years ago coal produced twice as much energy as the clean energy sources.

10. The Protected Mediterranean Cetacean Corridor

The 46,000 square kilometers between the Cape of Creus (Girona) and La Nao (Alicante), which run parallel to the Balearic Islands, have been declared an area of special importance. The area constitutes the Mediterranean cetaceans corridor, an area of migration and habitat for species such as the sperm whale that have been declared vulnerable. But the area is also of particular industrial interest: Since 2018, it is safe from drilling exploration and underwater explosions, although it still has to fight the scourge of plastic pollution.

11. The Ozone Layer Improves

The latest scientific review by the UN shows that the ozone layer, which surrounds and protects the Earth, is recovering thanks to agreements to reduce the aerosol emissions that had caused the famous hole in the stratosphere. The hole was the first call to arms on the harmful effects of human activity on the atmosphere. In some parts of the stratosphere, the ozone layer has grown at a rate of 2-3% per decade since 2000.

12. Logging of an Old-Growth Forest Halted

The old-growth forest of Hambach, Germany, which is 12,000 years old, will continue to stand. A German judge temporarily halted the logging planned by energy utility RWE to expand its mining of brown coal. The Münster High Court ordered that deforestation be halted while an appeal filed by an NGO is resolved. The forest has become an icon of the battle between the fossil fuel industry and the fight against climate change.

13. The Aquarius Arrives in Spain

The closure of Italian ports left the 630 migrants rescued by the ship Aquarius without a safe harbor to disembark. The solidarity of Spain received international attention after the the boat was received by the port of Valencia. A similar situation was repeated in 2018 with dozens of migrants on the Spanish vessel Open Arms. The cities of Barcelona, Palma and Algeciras accepted the migrants, despite the distance.

14. Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities Can Vote

Following an amendment to the Electoral Law, all persons with intellectual disabilities in Spain (around 100,000) will be able to vote in elections starting in 2019. It was an historic complaint by the group: By losing legal capacity because of the risk of being manipulated, the ability to vote was also automatically revoked. “It seems unfair to me,” said Pablo, whose right to vote was taken away by a judge a few years ago. “Why can’t I (vote)?” , asked Roberto, also intellectually disabled.

15. An (Almost) Impossible Rescue in Thailand

“We have made the impossible possible.” This was how Narongsak Ossottanakorn, spokesman for the mission to rescue the 12 boys and their soccer coach who were trapped in a cave in northern Thailand, summarized the rescue operation. None of the children knew how to swim; they learned how to swim underwater in order to be rescued. The story had a happy ending: “All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave,” the elite Navy corps posted on Facebook.

16. A More Diverse United States

The elections in the United States delivered a much more feminine political landscape: 277 women ran for seats in Congress or to become governor, an all-time high. Most of them are Democrats, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is among the best known. The first two Muslim and first two Native American congresswomen were also elected to the House of Representatives.

17. Our Fiction Is International

La casa de papel (The House of Paper) made history in Spanish fiction: In 2018 it won the International Emmy for Best Dramatic Series, the most prized category of all television awards. It took 45 years, since the first edition of the International Emmy Awards in 1973, for a Spanish series to be recognized with this award.

18. We Can Now (Legally) Buy Fariña

If you want to read about drug trafficking in Galicia in the 80s and 90s, you can now (legally) buy Fariña, the book written by journalist Nacho Carretero. The Provincial Court of Madrid accepted the appeal of the journalist and his publisher against the decision of a court in Collado Villalba to block the sale of the book until a final sentence is handed down. Freedom of expression ended up prevailing against a complaint by Alfredo Bea Gondar, former mayor of O Grove, who sued the journalist for several allusions in the book.

19. A Second Chance on Twitter

This is the story of a bestseller created on Twitter. At the Almería Book Fair, Twitter user Jota Merrick met Emilio Ortega, an elderly man who went to the biggest literary event in his city as a last resort to publicize his book. Emilio had not managed to sell a single copy of his book El mundo visto a los ochenta (The World Viewed from the Eighties) since it had been published by Círculo Rojo. After Emilio met Merrick and gave him a copy, the young man talked about it on Twitter, and along with another Twitter user, both the book and Emilio went viral.