I realize there is still a month of 2011 left and that it seems premature to make a post about the major events of the past year. But, so much has happened. As technology continued to advance and amaze, this year saw the birth of democratic revolution all over the Arab world, the United States government nearly shut down…twice, a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan, the FBI’s Most Wanted person and al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was finally defeated, and the world population officially reached seven billion people. Of course, as they say, that’s “just to name a few” of the many events that defined 2011.
Democratic revolution has saturated the Middle East. A new generation of young people tired of the old regimes of their home countries have taken to the streets to demand progressive change. Beginning in late 2010, when Tunisian protestors and revolutionaries called for President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to resign, protests began to rattle the Arab world. The Tunisian protesters were successful and in January, their president stepped down. Since then, both Egypt’s and Libya’s former governments have been dissolved thanks to the exit of dictators like Hosni Mubarak and NATO support for Libyan rebels. In late 2011, Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi was captured and killed by rebel forces. Protests and uprisings are taking place in several other Arab countries and these revolutions show no sign of stopping. 2012 may very well be the beginning of a more progressive Mid East.
Egyptian Protesters in Tahrir Square, Cairo
GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN SHOWDOWN
After the “Tea Party Tidal Wave” overtook the House of Representatives, America was introduced to a whole new meaning of “partisanship.” The far-right class of congresspersons that went to the Capitol in January set an agenda that was literally unwavering. Twice in one year, the federal government was on the verge of complete shutdown because Republicans didn’t like that Planned Parenthood received funding and also because they refused to raise the debt ceiling. Despite the fact that no federal monies go toward abortion, the GOP claimed that the US taxpayer was subsiding abortion (note: Planned Parenthood provides healthcare services, excluding abortion, to millions of women who otherwise would not be able to afford them). Thanks to the next debacle, in which Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless the Bush Tax Cuts were maintained, the nation’s credit rating was downgraded. So much for “fiscal responsibility.”
DISASTER IN JAPAN (TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE & TSUNAMI)
Eastern Japan was ravaged by a 9.0 magnitude off-shore earthquake, the fifth largest ever recorded, on March 11. Almost 16,000 people were killed, 6,000 injured and 4,000 declared missing. Millions of Japanese were effected by loss of power and the following tsunami that swallowed whole sections of Japan and washed towns out to sea. Nearly 10 percent of Japan is contaminated with nuclear radiation, following meltdowns at nuclear power plants along the Japanese coast that were damaged by the disaster. Those devastated by the disaster were sent aid from all over the world and have been busy rebuilding their lives. However, such massive disasters remind us how fragile humanity is. Since the Tōhoku quake and tsunami, many nations have reevaluated their reliance on nuclear power; Germany will phase out its nuclear power over the next 11 years.
Tōhoku Disaster Aftermath
OSAMA BIN LADEN FINALLY KILLED
Osama Bin Laden, orchestrator of the 9/11 attacks and the FBI’s most-wanted person, eluded the United States and her allies for well over a decade. As the leader of al Qaeda, he ordered and led terrorist attacks against the United States and many other nations. In 2001, President Bush announced that the US would do everything in its power to find Bin Laden. Two wars, over a trillion dollars and another President later, Bin Laden was finally taken down by the United States military. President Obama announced the death on May 1 to a stunned – and relieved – world. al Qaeda has been on the decline in recent years. With Bin Laden’s death, the death of the man who was supposed to take Bin Laden’s place as the group’s leader, and the wave of democratic revolution that has swept the Middle East in the last year, al Qaeda’s power and influence is continuing to dwindle.
Osama Bin Laden
EARTH’S POPULATION REACHES SEVEN BILLION
Seven billion people now inhabit the planet, according to the UN. The baby, Danica Camacho, was born at Manila’s Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in the Philippines. Earth’s population is expected to level out to around 9 billion people within the 21st century as more nations become industrialized and embrace more modern ways of life. It is possible that the population will go up several billion more by the beginning of the 22nd century. However, as more nations develop into industrialized economies and ways of life, birth rates are expected to level out and decrease, as has happened to nations that developed. It’s a phenomenon known as demographic transition. That’s good news for a planet facing accelerated climate change and a species facing challenges on how to feed and provide sustenance for several billion people.
photo of Central Park in New York, one of the largest urban centers on Earth