A Hole Lotta 2016

26 December 2016 Katherine Smyrk

A Hole Lotta 2016

Illustration by Zev Landes

WE’VE BEEN SHAKEN by earthquakes, whirled by cyclones, traumatised by civil wars, bereaved by the loss of cultural icons, ignored about climate change and (figuratively) grabbed in unmentionable
places by unmentionable people. It’s enough to make you not only want to hide under a rock, but dig a tunnel, stock up on supplies and make a new
life underground. But while you’ve been hiding under said rock, starting up said new utopian life, you might have missed some important, amazing or, at the very least, amusing moments in 2016.

In January, while you were packing your bags and shouting, “I don’t want to live in a world without David Bowie!”, you might have missed that the first ever flower was grown in space. It was a zinnia with orange petals.

In February, you might not have seen that Morocco switched on the world’s largest solar plant. It will soon be able to give power to one million homes. in April, when you were starting to feel settled into your new underground life, the first ever baby was born with the DNA from three parents.

In July, the gene that causes ALS  (the disease made known through the social media ice bucket challenge) was discovered. Do you know what this means, oh underground dweller? Annoying social media campaigns – where your friends tag you and you really wish they wouldn’t but you don’t say anything because you don’t want to look like a fun-sponge – really work!

August was a big month. And no, I wasn’t talking about how you finally figured out how to make a nutritious meal out of dirt and earthworms. Rather, I was talking about how the longest ever hunger strike ended in India…after 16 years. And that a shark was discovered in Greenland that was 392 years old. And that the state of Victoria introduced a permanent ban on unconventional gas mining and fracking. 

In September, Algerian Paralympic runner Abdellatif Baka ran faster in the 1500 metre final race than the gold medal winner of the same event at the Olympics. Then the silver and bronze medal winners, Tamiru Demisse and Henry Kirwa, beat the Olympic time, too!

Astrology sceptics everywhere were delighted later in the month when NASA revealed that there might be a 13th star sign. They giggled with glee as true believers tried to figure out who they really were now. “Can I no longer blame my terrible temper on being a Scorpio?” shouted people all over the world. 

Look, on some days we all wanted to join you in your new under-rock world (I’m looking at you 8 November). But then things improved.

At the end of November, UNESCO added Belgian beer to its Cultural Heritage List. The Obama/Joe Biden memes were invented. Play was stopped in an Australian A-League soccer game so the goalie could see to a seagull that had been hit by the ball. He scooped it up gently, popped it down at the side of the field and patted its head. Australians will have donated almost $7 billion to charity this year. A woman who dropped out of school at the age of 15 was made Australia’s first-ever female chief justice. People power proved its strength in the CUB industrial dispute and at Standing Rock. Somewhere, a kitten sneezed. A child tasted watermelon for the first time. Two people went on a first date and it went really well. And my dog tolerated me putting a hot dog costume on him for a fancy dress party.

So, maybe it’s time to crawl out of your hole, say goodbye to the naked mole-rat that has become your best friend only because it is dark underground and you can’t see that it is the grossest thing ever, dust the dirt from your pants and re-enter society. Things aren’t so bad up here.

Katherine Smyrk is the deputy editor of The Big Issue

This article first appeared in issue Ed#527 of The Big Issue