From Pot to Protest to the Pro-Choice Base: 10 Great Things About 2012
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5. This year marked momentous wins for gay rights. Massachusetts, Maine, and Washington legalized marriage equality, and Minnesota defeated a restrictive state constitutional amendment that would have upheld a ban. Now, one-tenth of states in the U.S. uphold marriage equality. Thanks to activist pressure, on May 9 President Obama became the first sitting president to endorse marriage equality for same-sex couples. Several prominent leaders in the Democratic Party followed his lead, and muted conservative responses only served to demonstrate how far public opinion has shifted on the issue.
6. Climate activists have been kickin’ up a storm. Anti-coal activists have helped retire over 100 coal plants, victories that will save lives and clean our air and water, while wind energy hit a historic milestone of 50,000 megawatts. The global anti-fracking movement mounted effective campaigns that has led to local bans in the US and Canada, national moratoriums in France and Bulgaria, and tighter regulation in Australia and the UK. The grassroots campaign to stop the Keystone Pipeline has awakened a new generation of activists (don’t forget the upcoming February 17-18 President’s Day Climate Legacy/Keystone XL rally in Washington, D.C.). And on the national front, in August the Obama administration issued new miles-per-gallon rules on car manufacturers, mandating that Detroit nearly double fuel efficiency standards by 2025.
7. Unions have been hard hit by the economic crisis and political attacks, but worker’s gains made in 2012 show potential muscle. The Chicago teachers’ strike in September, lasting for seven school days, led to an important victory for public education. Walmart workers staged the first-ever strikes against the biggest private sector employer in the United States and heralded a new model of organizing, with workers and community members coming together to support better conditions in the stores and warehouses even before the workers join a union. And in another example of worker/community organizing, student activism allied with union advocacy in San Jose, California led to a ballot initiative that will raise the minimum wage from $8 to $10 per hour for everyone working within the city limits.
8. On the foreign policy front, opposition to drone warfare is on the rise. After years of silence about the use of lethal drones overseas, the public began to learn more and the level of anti-drone activism skyrocketed. Now there are protests all over the country, including army bases where drones are piloted and manufacturing plants, and US activists have hooked up with drone victims overseas. US attitudes, once overwhelmingly pro-drone, are beginning to change, becoming more aligned with the global opposition to drone warfare. And the increased global opposition is leading to a rethinking of US policies.
9. The international movement for Palestinian human rights has gained unprecedented momentum. In November the United Nations endorsed an independent state of Palestine, showing sweeping international support of Palestinian demands for sovereignty over lands Israel has occupied since 1967. The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions call by Palestinian civil society gained international traction as well, with economic, cultural and academic victories. Several different Christian denominations and college campuses voted to divest from Israeli occupation, the Technical University of Denmark dropped scientific collaboration projects with an Israeli settlement, the South African ANC endorsed the BDS call, Stevie Wonder cancelled a performance at a “Friends of the IDF” fundraiser, and much more. The grassroots call for Israel to adhere to international law has never been louder.
10. After nearly 15 years of house arrest, Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was elected to Parliament! Suu Kyi’s party, the NLD (National League for Democracy), swept the April by-elections, winning 43 of the 44 seats it contested. After decades of abuse, the military-dominated government released hundreds of political prisoners, enacted laws on forming trade unions and freedom of assembly, eased official media censorship, and allowed the opposition to register and contest elections. President Obama’s November visit, the first by a sitting US president, was an acknowledgement of the reforms. There’s still need for pressure, as hundreds of political prisoners remain, ethnic conflict continues, and Burmese military still holds too much power. But 2012 was a good year for the Burmese people.