JOURNALISTS are often criticised for accentuating the negative and failing to inspire readers with messages of hope. Mea Culpa. But journalism is the language of priorities. We have enough cat videos on the internet. Nor is there any shortage of heart warming tales, such as Andy Murray donating his Aegon Tennis winnings to victims of the Grenfell fire, or the woman who brought cushions for rough sleepers so they could lie on those cruel pavement spikes. Great. All credit to them.

However, the real stories in both cases were the appalling circumstances of a deadly fire that should never have happened and the scandal of homelessness doubling since 2010 in the fifth richest country in the world. When column inches are short, the priority has to be the big issues.

However some very big good news stories somehow fail to get much attention. Last year I pointed out that the objectives of the 2005 Make Poverty History campaign, (remember Edinburgh surrounded by people dressed in white) were met years ahead of schedule. Extreme poverty has fallen by 70%. In 2017, the UN announced that extreme poverty should be eradicated within the next decade. That’s an astonishing forecast, any way you look at it. Relative poverty will still be around, of course, and there will be famines in war zones and failed states. But for the first time, probably in human history, everyone will actually be fed.

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And contrary to almost everything you read, the world is actually becoming more peaceful. The number of conflicts resulting in over 1000 deaths-per-year has fallen by over 70% since 1991, according to Ohio State University. In 2017, Islamic State, which recently controlled one third of Iraq was defeated there and in Syria, closing down the most murderous and nihilistic movement since the Nazis. We had terrorist atrocities in Manchester and Westminster Bridge, but the number of terrorist deaths in Western countries has fallen massively since the 1970s, and is in decline across the world. According to the Royal Statistical Society’s statistic of the year, more Americans are killed by toddlers with guns (21) than terrorists (16).

We’re so used to falling crime figures, that it’s no longer news. Rebus may be back from the dead but murder is going out of business. Overall, recorded crime in Scotland fell again last year by 3% and has dropped by nearly 40% in the last decade. This is despite a dramatic increase or “epidemic” as we in the media like to call it, of sex crimes such as rape, paedophilia, sexual assault. But even this is good news because it shows that many more rape and sexual assaults are no longer going unrecorded.

Donald Trump's nuclear stand off with the North Korean dictator Kin Jong Un shocked the planet, but 2017 may go down in history as the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons. In July, the United Nations adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, a great result for the Nobel-prize winning ICAN campaign. There’s a real chance now that sustained legal action by non-nuclear countries will succeed in outlawing these weapons in the coming years in much the same way that chemical and biological weapons have already been banned. No one ever thought they could be outlawed, but they were. Weapons of mass destruction that target civilians have always been illegal, but it is only recently that the majority of non-nuclear nations, horrified at Trump and Kim, have started getting their act together to apply the law.

A lorry was arguably the biggest environmental story of the year. Elon Musk's all-electric Tesla company unveiled an articulated vehicle which is capable of hauling 80,000 lbs at motorway speeds for 500 miles on a single charge. And it works. This is far more significant than the hype about self-driving cars. Transport is the second largest source of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions after industry, and emissions have been rising fast since 1990. In the UK, 70% of the nearly 2 billion tons of goods transported last year went by road against 9% by rail. Tesla trucks won't be self-driving, at least not yet, but can move in digitally-governed convoys which mean their efficiency could rival that of rail.

Diesel was the source of that other great environmental issue of 2017: air pollution in cities from particulates and nitrogen dioxide. Gasses from vehicles are more toxic and far more difficult to deal with than emissions from homes and factories. Attempts to limit diesel car use in towns are really rather pointless unless you also deal with lorries, buses and taxis. There’s been a reluctance to address this because no one ever thought electric lorries could actually work. Well, Tesla's do work and they are faster, safer, cheaper to run than conventional road haulage.

In 2017 we probably saw the beginning of the end of the private car. A sad moment for those of us who grew up on car culture and enjoyed the freedom they brought. But we all knew it couldn't last, and I think there was a breakthrough in public consciousness this year. The ban on diesel vehicles in Scottish and English cities will be followed by similar restrictions on petrol vehicles. Eventually the private car will become too costly and will pass into history. Only enthusiasts and collectors will still posses these vehicles, as the rest of us turn to self-driving taxis, electric bikes, public transport.

Of course, the energy for electrification of transport has to come from somewhere, if every lamp-post is to become an electric charging point. Fortunately Scotland is making real progress in the drive to replace fossil fuels. Last year was a another milestone in that for the first time the equivalent of 54% of Scotland’s gross electricity consumption was produced by renewable energy, not just for the odd day, but across the entire year.

Of course, climate change and plastic pollution remain massive problems. But we must always remember that some things can change, and that despair is the enemy of hope.