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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

With a number of natural disasters raging across the country this year, and political discourse at its peak, it's important to remember that there is good news out there.

The bottom line: Americans are pulling together, every day, to help one another; there are medical advances that will help millions, and not even D.C. is that bad all the time. But, much of the good news never makes headlines.

1. The kids are alright

Teen birth rates hit a new low in 2016, dropping 9% since 2015 and 67% since 1991. And Washington University found that teens aren't abusing alcohol or drugs, or engaging in "delinquent behavior" as much as they used to.

2. We're more environmentally friendly

Boston has joined other cities in banning single-use plastic bags. St. Louis committed to a transition to 100% renewable energy by 2035 — it currently gets only 5% of its energy from renewable sources.

3. Technology is making a difference

Tesla restored electricity to a children's hospital in Puerto Rico after it was hit by hurricanes in September, and a North Carolina police department used a drone to find a missing 81-year-old woman with dementia within 25 minutes of her disappearance.

4. Medical advances are helping millions

The FDA cleared an earpiece that may help block symptoms of opioid withdrawal. And Portal Instruments, a private medical device company licensed from MIT, has made a needle-free drug injection device.

5. The economy is booming

13 states saw record-lows of unemployment this year; nationally, the unemployment level is at the lowest it has been since 2000. And financial satisfaction hit a 24-year high this year.

6. We're becoming more tolerant

Support for allowing same-sex marriage is at its highest point in 20 years, according to a Pew Research survey. For the first time, a majority of Baby Boomers (56%) favor allowing same-sex marriage, and almost the same amount of Republicans favor allowing it (47%) as opposing it (48%).

7. Space exploration

Vice President Mike Pence said in October that the U.S. "will return...to the moon not only to leave behind footprints and flags but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond." In September, NASA's Cassini spacecraft ended its journey after bringing us some incredible findings.

8. Neighbors are looking out for one another

A man in North Carolina has started the non-profit ChemoCars, a service that provides cancer patients with free rides to and from their chemo treatments. More than 6,000 Texas inmates decided to donate $53,863 of their commissary funds to Hurricane Harvey victims. And, a GoFundMe campaign raised more than $11 million for the victims of the horrific Las Vegas shooting in October that left 58 people dead, and hundreds injured.

9. American philanthropy is reaching beyond our borders

Uber partnered with the charity Whizz-Kidz to give those who use wheelchairs in the UK free rides to polling places this summer. And The Carter Center, run by former President Jimmy Carter, announced in October that it helped eliminate the disfiguring tropical disease elephantiasis from two states in Nigeria, where it was the most prevalent.

Editor's Note: Sign up for Axios newsletters to get our smart brevity delivered to your inbox every morning.

Go deeper

Biden confronts mounting humanitarian crisis at the border

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Pool/Getty Images     

Just over a month into his presidency, President Biden is staring down a mounting crisis at the border that could be just as bad as the ones faced by Barack Obama and Donald Trump, if not worse.

Why it matters: Immigration is an issue that can consume a presidency. It's intensely and poisonously partisan. It's complicated. And the lives and welfare of vulnerable children hang in the balance.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

The rise of vaccine passports

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Vaccine passports were touted early in the pandemic as an important piece of the plan to get people back to normal life. Now they’re becoming a reality.

Driving the news: CLEAR, the secure digital identity app that you see in airports around the world, and CommonPass, a health app that lets users securely access vaccination records and COVID test results, have joined forces.

"Vaccine tourism" stretches states' supplies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans who are highly motivated to get vaccinated are traveling across state lines after hearing about larger vaccine supplies or loopholes in sign-up systems.

Why it matters: "Vaccine tourism" raises ethical and legal questions, and could worsen the racial socioeconomic and racial inequalities of the pandemic.