We are now just days if not hours away from the close of the first full decade of this third millennium of the Common Era.
So remarkable has it been that three FIFA World Cups and three Olympics during the decade – including track phenomenon Jamaican Usain Bolt’s record breaking races – have to compete with other stunning events as most memorable.
Nature has played havoc with us over the past 3653 or so days. Just this year we had an Icelandic volcanic eruption that stopped air travel over Europe for days.
But, on December 26, 2004 the Indian Ocean earthquake and subsequent tsunami set a record at magnitude 9.3 and led to tragedy, causing the death of more than 250,000. Tremors were felt as far away as Alaska.
Then in 2005, Hurricane Katrina, a category 5 storm that formed over the Bahamas in late August, took her place in the record books, killing more than 1,800, demolishing New Orleans and leaving more than $80-billion (US) in destruction. It also laid bare the lack of preparedness on the part of U.S. authorities to aid its citizens. Five years later, New Orleans still has not fully recovered.
Yet again, it was just as 2010 was getting started that the Western Hemisphere’s destitute child, Haiti, was brought to her knees by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that took almost a quarter of a million lives and left millions homeless. This was after having faced a decade of floods and being battered by a number of earlier hurricanes, plus seeing President Jean-Bertrand Aristide forced out of office back in 2004.
Yet, for sheer terrifying drama, September 11, 2001 will forever be a red-letter day in the annals of American history, not to mention American mystery. Three planes in a carefully timed execution slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. In New York City, more than 3,000 were killed. The collective American psyche is still recovering from the trauma. Following those tragedies America launched wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. We then became familiar with the terms ‘Islamist terrorist’ and ‘suicide bomber’ and the names Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
And on the subject of war, along with America’s ‘War on Terror’, the people of the Darfur region of Sudan were for the better part of the decade under attack by government-sanctioned militia, the janjaweed.
Some other terms also held their own during this first decade, among them: cell phone, Google (both as a noun and verb), Facebook, YouTube, twitter, blog, texting, climate change, environmental footprint, WMD (weapons of mass destruction), IEDs (improvised explosive devices), Taliban, al-Qaeda, H1N1, SARS, reality television, hip-hop, vuvuzela, and of course, Obama. These terms are so new that if you are ‘keyboarding’ using your Word program they will appear as spelling errors.
This is the decade in which the seemingly immortal President Fidel Castro of Cuba retired, leaving his brother Raul in charge, and America amazed itself and the world by electing a Black man to the White House. George W. Bush had Katrina and Barrack Obama had the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Also called the BP oil spill, this disaster dragged on for three months making it the worst marine oil spill in history.
And because no story about the decade would be complete without the mention of money, we saw what happens when you throw globalization, deregulation, derivatives, sub prime mortgages and bailouts into an economic blender. The result has been referred to as a global economic meltdown. At the same time, we saw the raised profile of the G20 and not just the G8.
In Canada, Michaëlle Jean, a Haitian-born woman became Canada’s first Governor General of African descent and we saw the end of an era when the federal Liberals, ‘Canada’s natural governing party’ took their seats as the official Opposition while Conservatives led by Stephen Harper became a minority government and began shifting the country’s image and politics away from the centre and taking it deep to the right. Along the way, we have learned important civics lessons regarding prorogation and the fragility of our civil liberties.
We certainly haven’t eased into the new millennium.
A note on New Year’s resolutions…
It is a good idea to make New Year’s resolutions, but to avoid disappointment, let’s try something achievable like replacing a half an hour of TV watching with half an hour of daily reading. There are so many good books available to be enjoyed.