What was the biggest event of 2011? The Japanese tsunami, the US or European debt crises, or the deaths of Osama bin Laden, Kim Jong-Il, Muammar Gaddafi, or even Steve Jobs? Or was it something else?
In a year where the world’s population reached 7 billion (October 31), Gregorian Year MMXI has revealed no less hype, drama and tragedy than we’re used to seeing. Perhaps in terms of enormity the following ten events can be considered (in reverse ‘countdown’ order of importance) the biggest, most memorable:
NUMBER TEN – NASA’s Space Shuttle Program Concluded
Atlantis’ last, Flight STS-135, concluded the final mission of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program when it lands back at the Kennedy Space Center on July 21. 135 missions were flown between 1981 and 2011. Besides its launching of space probes, satellites, and work with the International Space Station, the Program’s most memorable legacy might, unfortunately, be the 1986 Challenger and 2003 Columbia disasters.
NUMBER NINE – Twin Terrorist Attacks in Norway
The world is shocked when it learns of the 76 people killed in simultaneous attacks in Oslo and the island of Utoya on July 22. What is designed by the terrorist to divide the country actually unites it-in its grief. It compels many democracies to reconsider their approach to justice for such situations.
NUMBER EIGHT – Steve Jobs’ Death
Whilst the death of Steve Jobs (October 5) pales into insignificance when compared with other critical world events for the year, there is no question the impact such a death, and therefore his life, had over the world. Millions of tributes are written as the world laments the passing of a technological genius.
NUMBER SEVEN – Horn of Africa Famine
Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya are entrapped in a famine affecting the livelihoods of nearly 15 million people; the worst in 30-60 years. Various aid agencies work together in the troubled regions to assist as they can, and to promote the plight of these ultra-poor to the comparatively rich Western world. This crisis sickens several seasoned social justice commentators for the sheer size of the famine and resultant desolation and the comparative apathy of the world’s response.
NUMBER SIX – Muammar Gaddafi Killed
Reports of the October 20 death of the Libyan dictator stream into lounge rooms. It is a win not only for the local people, but for democracy and hope for the wider region and more global world. Just two months earlier, during the Battle of Tripoli, Libyan rebels ousted Gadaffi’s regime.
NUMBER FIVE – North Korean “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-Il Dies
On December 17, North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Il dies of a heart attack aged 69. News breaks slowly over national television and filters into the international community within 48 hours as many brainwashed North Korean nationals enter into severe mourning. Soon the mooted successor emerges: Kim Jong-Il’s youngest son Kim Jong-Un. This event causes widespread interest and concern for regional and global threats because of political instability. A one million strong genocide and a one million strong army are the legacies of Kim Jong-Il.
NUMBER FOUR – US Debt-Ceiling Crisis
In late July, the culmination of 30 years of growing debt, together with the consequences of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, sees the United States days from bankruptcy; as a result President Barack Obama engineers the Budget Control Act, 2011, into legislature. The US government bond is downgraded for the first time in the nation’s history.
NUMBER THREE – Osama bin Laden Killed
What is arguably the biggest event of 2011, for the sheer magnitude of one terrorist’s destructive legacy, perhaps the biggest influence over worldwide affairs in the first decade of the 21st century, is finalised on May 1. Bin Laden’s death brings an outpouring of emotion worldwide, significantly months before the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks.
NUMBER TWO – Impending Collapse of the Euro
The economies of Greece and Italy, among others, severely stretch the sustainability of the Euro. Momentous political and economic reforms are made as the Euro system teeters on the brink of collapse, which threatens to drag the world into a prolonged recession.
NUMBER ONE – Japan Earthquake and Subsequent Tsunami
The March 11, 14:46hrs (Japan Standard Time), 9.1 Magnitude Tohoku undersea megathrust quake, with an epicentre 70 km from dry land, at a relatively shallow underwater depth of 32 km, hits the mainland of Japan, via a tsunami, shortly after. The biggest secondary impact is on Sendai and the Fukushima nuclear power plant, initiating a protracted national nuclear emergency. At an estimated economic cost of US$235 billion, the World Bank rates it the most expensive natural disaster on record. Almost 16,000 people die, almost 6,000 people are injured, and some 3,600 are listed still missing, from 18 prefectures. Significantly, this earthquake shifts earth minutely off its axis.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.