12 Days of Christmas Cheer

Short days and long nights and an incessant battle against wind and rain. In addition to our own personal ‘winter slump’, terrible and pessimistic news has been reverberating around the world in the last few weeks. The Gryphon pays attention to some alternative news, with twelve stories illustrating that good things happen too. This is not to take away from the importance of current affairs, but to highlight what lies beyond the negative headlines.

cop21 1. The milestone COP21 deal has been formed by international governments to mitigate climate change. If greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to continue as they are, the Climate Action Tracker has projected that global temperatures could heat up by a dangerous 4.5C in 2100. Despite coming under fire for scaling down targets during discussions, and the government being heckled for the agreement being voluntary, keeping temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius can be viewed as progress.floods

2. A huge effort co-ordinated by several charities has stepped up to provide relief to victims of Storm Desmond. The Al-Imdaad Foundation is a Muslim Charity which has previously worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan following natural disasters. At a time when the Muslim Community is facing immense scrutiny, this acts to remind us of the good will and cohesion these volunteers wish to extend to a devastated area.

3. The U.S. is one of the few countries which still allows the animal testing of great apes, with 50 chimpanzees remaining at the National Institutes of Health used for invasive biomedical research. But recently, the NIH has decided to retire the animals. The chimpanzees will be sent to wildlife sanctuaries; although practices on chimps have not yet been made illegal in the States, the journal Nature has reported that the NIH programme will now cease to run.

maisiehymers4. An eight-year-old in Portsmouth has saved up £400 of her own pocket money in order to buy presents for poorly children who have to stay in her local hospital over Christmas. According to Portsmouth News, Maisie Hymers spent the year saving money with some help from her family, after previously spending some time in the Queen Alexandra Hospital for a broken arm. Maisie bought 50 presents including games and teddy bears, her generosity inspiring both parents of patients and hospital staff alike.

amnesty5. In Moldova, a country where human rights were rarely discussed up until recently, record numbers of school students have demanded access to human rights education. Amnesty International Moldova sparked the initiative for introducing classes on issues such as rights of the child, equality and diversity. Around 2000 students have opted to study the curriculum of their own volition. One student told Amnesty: ‘People who do not know their rights will never know when they are violated’.

menorah6. It is not all about decorating trees, eating chocolate every day and driving home for Christmas. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah has been celebrated, remembering the victory of the Jewish people in a battle over 2000 years ago allowing them to freely practice their religion with the miracle of an oil lamp burning for eight days straight. Menorahs have been lit, dreidels have been spun, and good food has been consumed all over the world.
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7. A retired pilot in New Delhi, India has sold his land and purchased a decommissioned aircraft for one purpose: to let underprivileged citizens, particularly children, the chance to ride on the plane. For $1, the plane doesn’t actually move, but Bahadur Chand Gupta told Barcroft India that he wants to give villagers an experience they will never forget.

8. LGBT Weekly has published a 2015 review of 2015, a monumental year for the LGBT Community. Dubbed ‘At Last’, the primary achievement is the legalisation of same-sex marriage for the US in June. Was 2015 ‘The Year of Caitlyn’, despite some arguing that her celebrity voice and controversial comments should not speak for all transgender people? Obama has been labelled as ‘The Gay President’, widely speaking about LGBT civil rights, giving a speech about equality in front of the conservative Kenyan president and installing gender neutral bathrooms in the White House.

syria9. Following the government decision to undertake airstrikes in Syria, thousands of people believing that this is not an ethical course of action took to the streets in several UK cities. Although the news of proposed war on Syria is anything but positive, the mass attendance of protests organised by the Stop the War Coalition instils hope in the freedom of speech and our concern for the welfare of non-Western people. These protestors do not want to be associated with civilian deaths or held accountable for extremism and anger stirred up as a result of our own intervention, hence the ‘Not in my name’ slogan plastering a sea of placards throughout the country.

bike10. A petition called ‘Bike the Nobel’ has been created to put the bicycle forward as the winner of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. An Italian radio programme ‘Caterpillar’ is behind the campaign, believing that the bike is environmentally friendly as it neither relies on oil or contributes towards air pollution. To go a step further, they argue that the bicycle is democratic, an instrument of ‘liberation and resistance’. Italian cycling champion Gino Bartali used his bike to help Jews in World War Two by transporting counterfeit paperwork.

11. For the first time in 38 years, NASA has informed the world that on December 25th this year, there will be a full moon. Following a year of unusual lunar events such as the March solar eclipse and the ‘red moon’ in September, it seems fitting that the last full moon of the year will grace us on Christmas Day.

671px-Manal_al-Shraif_(cropped)12. Saudi women have been allowed to vote for the first time. In a landmark election, there was a high turnout of approximately 130,000 women exercising their new right, and at least four women have been appointed as councillors according to the Saudi Press Agency. This is only a small gain as the councils only have limited powers, and during campaigning, female campaigners were banned from speaking to male voters. Nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction for Saudi Arabia, although women are still not permitted to drive.

Meenakshi Parmar

[Image: Bowenchristmastreefarm.com, carbonbrief.org, thisislancashire.co.uk, Michelle W. CC., Portsmouth News, Amnesty, Paul Warner, BBC, Frankie Fouganthin, Julian Simmonds, bicycleattorney.net, Kevin Wolf, Manal al-Shraif]

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