7 + 1 Ways the World Changed in 2015

trump
Republican Party Candidate Donald Trump

By Melissa Stanger

Last year was a year to remember. Yes, 2015 was one for the books. It wasn’t all good, but the world changed in many ways that will continue to shape our future.

  1. Trumpisms: “It’s freezing and snowing in New York, we need global warming.”

Trump’s inflammatory statements and proposals — to ban Muslims from entering the US, or saying the Mexican government sends its “rapists” across the border — have only served to embolden his supporters. At the end of December, Trump had a sizable lead over other Republican candidates, with 39% of GOP support, according to a nationwide CNN/ORC poll.

The rising support is not due to a lack of reprimand from the media or the public — even members of his own party have condemned his remarks. But unlike other politicians who reverse course and apologize for their blunders, Trump has stuck to his guns and not changed, or apologized for, his opinions. He says exactly what he thinks and feels and this, perhaps, could be his Trump card.

2. ISIS

KILL BOKO HARAM F1
Uprooting Boko Haram by Kingsley Nmbah

Attacks led by affiliates of the terrorist group ISIS including Boko Haram have displaced an estimated 2.5 million people in Nigeria and the surrounding region since 2009, when the Islamic extremist group launched military operations to overthrow the Nigerian government and create an Islamic state in the country’s northeast. Since then 45,000 people have been abducted, more than 20,000 have been killed and 7.5 million people need humanitarian aid to survive.

The conflict has spread to neighboring Chad, Cameron and Niger creating a regional crisis in the broader Lake Chad Basin.

In Paris in November an attack left 130 people dead, as well as the take-down of a Russian airliner in October that killed all 224 people on board. These were among a number of “lone-wolf” terror attacks that have made ISIS public terror enemy No. 1.

Feelings of alienation and a rift among Sunni and Shiite communities in Iraq and Syria, as well as chaos in Syria and other political turmoil in the Middle East, gave the terrorist group a hand in gaining momentum in 2015, and even in recruiting people from the UK, the US, and other countries.

The US has made fighting Islamic extremist forces like ISIS and other terrorist groups a priority since September 11. And other countries like Egypt, Syria, France, Nigeria, the UK, and Russia are now banding together to dismantle a violent organization.

3. Earn six figures playing fantasy football

american_football
The Minnesota Vikings face off against the Detroit Lions

Daily fantasy sports sites and apps like Draft Kings, Football Rat and FanDuel make it easier for sports fans (particularly football fans) to create their ideal teams and bet money on them.

Some DFS players have been known to earn into the six figures in this way, prompting federal and state action to prevent fantasy sports betting from becoming an even bigger industry. In 2015, nearly 57 million people in the US and Canada played fantasy sports — a 37% increase from last year. Some professional DFS players (about 1% of the pool) even make their living off of the industry, earning more playing fantasy sports than they did in their last jobs.

3. Pfizer becomes even bigger

pfizer
The “magical” blue pill

In November, pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Allergan announced their $160 billion mega merger, which has received a lot of backlash from regulators and politicians alike.

The merger will allow Pfizer to pay lower taxes when it moves its headquarters from the US to Ireland, where Allergan is located. The merger would top even AB InBev’s $108 billion acquisition of SABMiller to become the largest merger of the year.

4. Mass shootings in America become the norm

#blacklivesmatter
Photo Courtesy of Cnn.com

There have been more than 350 mass shootings — incidents in which more than four people are killed or injured from gunshots — in America in 2015, according to a Reddit-based Mass Shooting Tracker.

“This is not normal. We can’t let it become normal,” President Obama said of the frequency of gun-related incidents in the US in the wake of the November shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood. “If we truly care about this…then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them.”

A mass shooting at a social-services agency in San Bernardino, California, left 14 people dead at the beginning of December. Other shootings have occurred at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, at a Navy-Marine training facility in Tennessee, and at a historic black church in South Carolina, among others.

5. New Discoveries on Mars

At the end of September, NASA confirmed that scientists have identified dark streaks on the surface of Mars as flowing salt water — the best evidence so far that the red planet could support life. Scientists have suspected for a while that water flows on Mars, and had first discovered the dark streaks back in 2010, but it wasn’t until this year that NASA confirmed the dark streaks are water.

“It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future,” said NASA’s Mars Exploration Program lead scientist Michael Meyer in a press release.

6. The US Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

same_sex_marriage
Photo Courtesy of Cnn.com

Before this year, a number of US states had already legalized same-sex marriage, but in June the US Supreme Court ruled that two people, regardless of gender, could marry anywhere in the country. The US’s historic ruling, which had been an important topic of discussion among lawmakers for years.

The US is also steering campaigns in Africa in support of gay rights.

7. The Force Awakens

John Boyega

The sequel to “Return of the Jedi,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” earned a domestic total of $600 million in the first 11 days since it hit theaters, according to The Hollywood Reporter, making it the highest-grossing film in the “Star Wars” franchise.

Not only was the arrival of the seventh film historic in that series, creator George Lucas originally told fans not to expect any more “Star Wars” movies after “Revenge of the Sith,” but the film’s cast is more diverse than in past movies, with a woman (Daisy Ridley) and a Nigerian Brit (John Boyega) in two of the leading roles.

8. Need a ride, Uber has got you covered

uber_phone
Photo Courtesy of the Manhattan Institute

This was truly the year of Uber. The ride-hailing company turned five this year and became the most valuable private tech company in the world. Uber, which has raised billions in funding, officially became a $50 billion dollar company over the summer — the most valuable private tech company in the world. The only other company to have had an evaluation of that caliber before going public is Facebook.

Uber operates in more than 300 cities and nearly 60 countries including Lagos, Durban, Johannasburg and Nairobi. While the company is working to overcome regulatory hurdles, Uber has its sights set on plans bigger than just chauffeured transportation. The company has rolled out features like UberEATS and UberRush to test out logistics and delivery services. In May, Uber poached 40 Carnegie Mellon robotics researchers for its own Pittsburgh-based labs. Presumably, this will help Uber to create self-driving cars.

Melissa Stanger is a political columnist for the Business Insider. This story was adapted from the BusinessInsider.com, see the original story here.