By Callam Rodya
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article appeared in the Dec. 9th special year-end issue of Lambda.
A lot happens in a year and the world can change dramatically in that relatively short time, However, by the time the holidays roll around, many of the most consequential events of the past months have been relegated to vague memories and shadows in our collective consciousness.
2010 has certainly seen its share of notability. We have witnessed great disasters, triumphs in science and human achievement, financial chaos, and the end to the most notorious armed conflict of the new millennium.
Certainly, 2010 is a year not to be forgotten. So here, we present a bit of a refresher of the ten events that shaped this past year.
1. August 31: Obama declares an end to the Iraq WarSurely it can be argued that US President Barack Obama’s declaration from the Oval Office ending Operation Iraqi Freedom was more symbolic than anything. But with that declaration, he put an end to a dark legacy that had marred the nation for over seven years. By the time Obama officially ended the war, over half a million people were dead and still no weapons of mass destruction were ever found. The Iraq War will remain George W. Bush’s legacy. Ending it will be Obama’s.
2. January 12: A magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastates HaitiIt was the sixth-deadliest earthquake in recorded history, with a death toll estimated at 230,000 – nearly that of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. The capital, Port-au-Prince, was effectively reduced to ruins. Above all else, this disaster illustrated the fragility of human life in the face of nature’s unpredictable violence. After all, short of a nuclear explosion, only the Earth can kill hundreds of thousands in a minute.
3. April 20 – July 15: Deepwater Horizon oil spillFor a while, it appeared nothing could stop the flow of oil from BP’s flagship offshore rig into the Gulf of Mexico. By the time the well was finally capped, 4.9 million barrels of crude oil had been released into the water, devastating the Louisiana coast. After an internal investigation, BP admitted that it made mistakes that directly resulted in this, the worst maritime oil spill in the history of petroleum.
4. April – November: WikiLeaks defies national secrecyIt had existed since 2006, but it wasn’t until April of this year that WikiLeaks truly entered the public consciousness and sparked a frenzy of international chaos. It started with a video showing Iraqi civilians and journalists being killed by US forces, and was followed by the release of hundreds of thousands of classified documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as US diplomatic communications. At the time of this publication, WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, is enjoying greater notoriety than Osama Bin Laden and his website threatens to fundamentally change national security and secrecy, as well as journalism itself.
5. October 13: 33 trapped Chilean miners are returned to the surfaceThey survived underground for a record 69 days and they all came out alive, as over a billion people around the world watched live. Once returned to the surface, the 33 miners became instant national celebrities and this event stands as one of the most inspiring tales of survival of modern history.
6. January 31: Avatar becomes first film to gross $2 billionJames Cameron knows how to make a blockbuster. Avatar had an estimated budget of $237 million, the most expensive film ever made, and grossed over ten times that, with a final box office take of over $2.7 billion. It easily became the highest-grossing film of all time, surpassing Cameron’s own Titanic, which had held the record since 1997. Avatar showed that a mere 162 minutes of film could make billions of dollars in just over 70 days.
7. January 4: Burj Khalifa opens in DubaiIn July 2007, it became the world’s tallest building. In September 2007, it became the world’s tallest freestanding structure, much to the dismay of Torontonians and their beloved CN Tower. And finally, in September 2008, it became the tallest man-made structure ever built. Then, they added an extra 140 metres just to be safe. The Burj Khalifa (formerly Burj Dubai) stands at 828 metres high and is a monument to human engineering triumph, as well as human excess.
8. December 2: NASA announces discovery of arsenic-based life formIt is the stuff of science fiction: NASA scientists have discovered a never before observed bacterium that, when starved of phosphorus, has the ability to incorporate arsenic into its protein synthesis. While this might not mean much to the layperson, it represents a fundamentally different basis of sustaining life than anything previously observed in the natural world.
9. April 3: Apple launches the iPadHear that? That’s the sound of Apple revolutionizing the computing world yet again. It took the company half the time to sell one million iPads as it took to sell the same number of iPhones when that device was first released. Most electronics companies are now following suit with their own similar device. And many industry analysts are calling the iPad the “laptop killer,” a product genre that has the potential to usurp the notebook computer completely.
10. February 12-28: Canada’s Winter Olympic GoldWe needed this one. After a rocky start to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, marred by the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during a training run, mild temperatures and rain, and poor Canadian performance, our Olympic team bounced back. By the end of the games, Canada had set a new Winter Olympic record with 14 gold medals. And who can forget the most exiting event of all: Canada beating the US to win the gold in men’s hockey. Let’s be honest, our national pride needed that boost, and after those games closed, we were all a little prouder to be Canadian.
Arts & Entertainment/Online Editor