2017: Looking at the Year Ahead

When children in 50 years swipe back to 2016 on the technology of their time they will stumble upon a turbulent year of change and global awareness. Let’s not deny that the ringing in of the New Year will wipe the world’s slate clean. The results of the US election will be felt on January 18 2017 when Donald Trump takes the reigns of US Presidency.

As March 31 approaches, Theresa May will feel the increasing pressure to come good on her promise to invoke article 50. Global politics has been turbulent at times in 2016 and with major elections ahead in 2017, this shows no sign of subsiding.
Putting these major events to one side, Talk to the Pen has compiled an alternative list of things to look out for in the coming year.

Finland welcomes Same-Sex Marriage

Robert Couse-Baker 2015

On March 1, Finland will implement same-sex marriage. Marriage will be defined as gender neutral, with these legislative changes also opening up adoption rights to same-sex couples. Once the law comes into effect, current registered same-sex partnerships will be recognised as marriages, with the submission of a form to their local register office.

Cheaper Calls, Texts & Data Abroad

EU will abolish roaming charges for phones this June in all 28 member states. European roaming charges were capped last year at the end of April, with a 75% cut on data costs. The new legislation means that there will be no additional charges on top of your usual phone plan. This excludes a fair usage policy to avoid using large amounts of data abroad.

Eyes on Kiev at the Eurovision

By Albin Olsson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Eurovision Song Contest takes place this year in Kiev, Ukraine during May 9-13 2017 in the capital’s International Exhibition Centre. Last year’s winner Jamala claimed an overwhelming victory with 534 points for her song, 1944. Referencing the deportation of Crimean Tatars, critics argued that the song violated rules against including political messages in lyrics.

Death to the Cosmetic Microbead

MPCA Photos 2015

As small as a grain of sand, Microbeads are tiny synthetic plastic particles used in everything from cancer research to televisions. These non-biodegradables are commonly added as an exfoliant in toothpaste, body washes and other cleansing products. The issue begins however when these microbeads go down the drain. Their minute stature helps them slip through wastewater treatment plants and into rivers, lakes and oceans where they are gobbled up by fish and other marine life. This conversely interferes with our food supply. However, in some countries, their days look to be numbered.

By the end of December 2017, the British government aim to ban microbeads used in cosmetics and cleaning products. Announcing their plans in September 2016, they follow in the footsteps of the United States. The latter’s Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 “prohibits the manufacture and introduction into interstate commerce of rinse-off cosmetics containing intentionally-added plastic microbeads” by July 1 2017. The Netherlands was the first country to impose an unofficial ban of microbeads in cosmetics by the end of 2016, however, at the time of writing there were still products containing these beads on shop shelves.

China’s Ban on Ivory Trade and Processing

On December 30 2016, the Chinese government announced the ban on the processing and sale of ivory and ivory products. Some of its 34 licensed carving factories and 130 retailers will cease the processing and sale of ivory by this March 2017. The remainder will close by the end of 2017.

Whilst this is a step in the right direction, it only addresses the legal ivory trade. 90% of all ivory sold in China is illegal, coming from poached elephants. Legal ivory, on the other hand, comes from government supplied ivory stock, built up before an international trade ban in 1989. Consequently, the ban won’t directly stop elephant poaching, which is bad news for the remaining 352,271 African savanna elephants worldwide.

Power to the People in 2017

Where 2016 left off, 2017 will pick up in another year of elections and power shifts. In Lebanon, for example, the parliamentary election was due to take place in 2014. However, instability linked to the Syrian crisis postponed the nationwide poll by three years. The UN Security council last year urged Lebanese leaders to hold an election by May 2017. This the 15-nation body states, is “critical for Lebanon’s stability and resilience to withstand regional challenges”.

In Kenya meanwhile, August 8 is the date of the presidential election. Current President Uhuru Kenyatta is likely to win another five years in power against the main opposition Raila Odinga.

Pressing forward to October, Angela Merkel is likely to return as German Chancellor for a fourth term. This is albeit with an expected smaller majority as part of a coalition.

Tākuta / Edward Hyde (FLICKR) [CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In New Zealand, an election date has not been announced yet by current Prime Minister Bill English. However, the current 51st Parliament expires on October 10 2017 requiring a General election by November 18 2017. The conservative National Party has had three consecutive terms in power since 2008. As a result, both the Labour and Green party have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to fight the National party in the upcoming election.

Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service (Jeon Han) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, the scandal in South Korea’s authoritative system might change the direction of government. Currently, President Park Geun-hye is suspended after South Korea’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to impeach the president. This followed mass protests in Seoul and other cities. She is currently under investigation for her role in a corruption scandal, and the impeachment still needs to be confirmed by the constitutional court. If so, South Korea will hold a presidential election within 60 days after the decision. If not, Park will serve out the remainder of her term until an election in December.

“You Can’t Sit with Us!”

Rounding off a hopefully fetch 2017, Mean Girls the musical will premiere this autumn, kicking off at the National Theater in Washington D.C. on October 31 2017.

It has been over 12 years since Tina Fey brought us, a naïve Cady Heron, the Plastics, the iconic Jingle Bell Rock dance, and over 90 minutes of quotable lines.

Despite the comically exaggerated hierarchies and stereotypes in this cult teenage high school comedy, the humour as well as life lessons in equality, respect and even feminism are just as relevant in 2017.

Tweeting on October 3, an annual calendar fixture for every mean girl, the official Mean Girls twitter page announced the musical. This was followed by another tweet of which we can only hope are song titles from the show.

– Sarah Maclean

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