How the world changed in 2017

OPINION: If 2016 was the year of celebrity deaths, 2017 has been a year of change.

From shifting attitudes on sexual assault and gender, to fluctuating ascendancy in our national sport, to a former reality TV star occupying the White House - things are different now.

Here are a handful of the ways the world has changed most significantly in 2017.

Weinstein scandal ignites #MeToo movement

In October, a damning New York Times report detailed allegations of sexual misconduct by film executive Harvey Weinstein. The story, which included accusations of sexual harassment and assault of actors Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, saw dozens more women feel empowered to speak out about the alleged sexual abuse they'd suffered at his hands.

There have now been more than 100 sexual misconduct allegations brought against Weinstein, and one of the most powerful men in Hollywood has seen his career toppled and reputation torn to shreds.

Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, among more than 100 others, exposed the alleged sexual misconduct of Weinstein.
Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, among more than 100 others, exposed the alleged sexual misconduct of Weinstein. Photo credit: AAP

His very public fall from grace has incited an unprecedented crusade for justice for the women who, in years past, had stayed silent because they thought their voices would be drowned out.

That crusade has since been dubbed the 'Weinstein Effect', and while it stayed close to the nucleus of Hollywood for a long time - outing other industry royalty such as Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, Brett Ratner and Louis CK – the net soon spread. The movement has now seen broadcast journalists Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose lose their jobs, along with politician Al Franken and celebrity chef Mario Batali. Many others are under investigation.

The movement has even stretched to the masses, with #MeToo trending this year as victims of sexual misconduct in all its forms spoke out about their experiences.

2017 has brought a seismic shift which has empowered victims of sexual assault to speak out.

Donald Trump proves he has longevity

Donald Trump has been in the Oval Office for nearly a year.
Donald Trump has been in the Oval Office for nearly a year. Photo credit: Getty

After the initial shock at the real estate mogul's meteoric rise to the top job in US politics at the end of 2016, many were intrigued to see what a Donald Trump presidency would actually look like. And their wish was granted when, on January 20 this year, he was officially inaugurated.

Many were expecting President Trump's tenure in the Oval Office to be cut short by impeachment, and for the whisperings of dodgy business dealings, sexual misconduct and election tampering by the Russians to be promptly proven as fact. Others predicted his first few months in power would expose his incompetence, and that there would be a strong enough backlash for him to resign.

But while the controversies remain, Mr Trump is evidently sticking around for the long haul.

Despite attracting ire for comments on the size of the crowd at his inauguration, his belligerent approach to dealing with North Korea's nuclear threat (more on that later), his ban on transgender people serving in the military, his infamous 'covfefe' tweet, his frequent declarations of 'fake news' and his many controversial speeches, he's still in office - and appears unmoved by the growing dissatisfaction at his leadership.

He's proven he's more than just the king of rhetoric, and can actually do this presidency thing too - even if not particularly well. The US better get used to it.

Rugby supremacy shifts to the northern hemisphere

Could England oust the All Blacks as the best team in the world?
Could England oust the All Blacks as the best team in the world? Photo credit: Photosport

For years the might of the Springboks, Wallabies and All Blacks - and more recently, Argentina's Pumas - has proven too strong for sides north of the equator. Not so long ago, we in the southern hemisphere were known as the innovators of the rugby world: home to teams that played an offload-laden, fast-paced brand of rugby that was exciting to watch and overwhelming to play against.

But that's all changed. The wheels started coming off before 2017 for the increasingly hapless Springboks and Wallabies, and the Pumas haven’t clicked into the next gear despite an impressive showing at the 2015 World Cup. South Africa failed to replace their retired legends, while Australia have had myriad struggles with coaching, tactics and personnel.

And cracks have started to show for the All Blacks too. While 2017 could still reasonably be deemed a success having claimed the Rugby Championship and going unbeaten during their end-of-year European tour, our national team limped to a 1-1 draw in the home series against the British and Irish Lions and performed awfully in their 23-18 defeat in Brisbane in October. Barring one stray pass, the All Blacks could also have suffered a humiliating loss to Scotland in November.

The All Blacks disappointingly drew 1-1 in a home series against the British and Irish Lions.
The All Blacks disappointingly drew 1-1 in a home series against the British and Irish Lions. Photo credit: Getty

Meanwhile, those up north just keep getting stronger. Ireland completed a 38-3 massacre of the Springboks, while Scotland continue to improve in leaps and bounds and Wales and France remain real forces.

England have also continued their ominously impressive run of form under coach Eddie Jones. They appear to be genuine challengers for the top ranking in rugby, and it'll be interesting to see what happens when they finally line up against the All Blacks on November 10 next year.

North Korea escalates international tensions

On January 2 this year, Kim Jong-un announced that North Korea was in the final stages of preparing its long-awaited intercontinental ballistic missile - a warhead capable of travelling beyond its immediate region and administering major damage to its enemies.

Kim Jong-un has shown he's not afraid to ramp up tensions using nuclear weapons.
Kim Jong-un has shown he's not afraid to ramp up tensions using nuclear weapons. Photo credit: Reuters

Six months later - not-so-coincidentally on July 4, US Independence Day - North Korea tested its first such missile, which was fired 900km east into the Sea of Japan. It ultimately did no real harm, but alerted the US for the first time to the reality that North Korea had the capacity to hurt them.

Cue US President Donald Trump who, clearly affected by the threats, warned Kim Jong-un he'd "be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which the world has never seen before", if they persisted with their missile tests. North Korea immediately ratcheted up the tension by threatening the US just hours later, and for the next few months Mr Trump and Mr Jong-un traded insults and threats while missile tests went on.

South Korea, Japan, China, the US and even Australia are still embroiled in the crisis, which is likely to ramp up further in 2018 as North Korea suffers from the sanctions imposed on them.

ISIS destroyed, but terror lives on

Iraqi forces celebrate after recapturing an ISIS stronghold.
Iraqi forces celebrate after recapturing an ISIS stronghold. Photo credit: Reuters

The most feared terrorist organisation on the globe, ISIS has shown its might and reach in recent years with attacks all around the world. With strongholds in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and Afghanistan, just two years ago the group was a terrifying force that appeared too strong to vanquish.

This was the case especially in December 2015, with ISIS boasting 30,000 fighters and a $1.41 billion budget - as well as increasing influence in the West, with high-profile attacks carried out in France, Britain, Belgium and the US.

But in 2017, its star faded dramatically.

The Islamic State is almost no more after military action destroyed much of its personnel, took the Syrian city of Mosul back from them, and swallowed up 98 percent of the territory it had just a year earlier. After enforcing its belligerent brand of sharia law on 8 million people, its impact on the world has been reduced to negligible threats and claims of responsibility for terror attacks it has nothing to do with.

But that’s not to say terror has come to a halt – quite the opposite. While ISIS has been mortally wounded this year, terror groups and the lone rangers they inspire have carried out hundreds of attacks, the majority of which occurred in the Middle East and Africa. In the West, lives have been claimed in the Westminster attack in March, the St Petersburg Metro bombing in April, and May’s Manchester Arena concert explosion.

So, while ISIS has been all but snuffed out, what they stand for very much lives on.