The decade in review: news
News / January 12, 2010
The 2000s, for a lack of a coined moniker, was a decade that will not soon be forgotten. It was filled with moments of hope – Obama’s victory speech in Chicago, moments of terror – the fall of the twin towers, and moments of equality – Canada becoming the fourth country in the world to legitimize same-sex marriage. On the economic front, Marshall McLuhan’s famously coined phrase, “Global Village,” came to fruition for good and for bad. Industrialized nations attempted to capitalize on ‘free-trade’ and globalization became all the rage. Communication, through the rise of social networking sites like Facebook and Enternexus (admit it, everyone loved Nexopia), became king and gave rise to new media. The thoughts and views of the individual became popular this decade, with TIME magazine naming “YOU” the person of the year in 2006. The financial industry crashed and the world woke up to the idea that the ‘Great Depression’ could happen again. It has since been reported that laughter can be heard from John Kenyes’ grave.
To celebrate the decade of our birth, we, at the Runner, have decided to provide you, our dear readers, with a decade in review-of sorts. Please enjoy!
The bug that never came: Y2K
“Army Fears Civil Chaos From Millenium Bug: Armed Forces Gearing Up To Deal With Civil Chaos” – Globe and Mail
The premise of the Y2K bug was based on a simple programming mistake that existed in many computers. When computers were first developed, programers thought it was easier to represent the year of a date with two digits, such as ‘99, as opposed to the full format of 1999. When the year 2000 was to come around, computers were programmed to change to the year ‘100 (representing the year 19100), which in many cases resulted in catastrophic errors.
Around the world rumours and news transpired claiming that bank records would be lost, electrical systems would fail, and hundreds of other issues would result. Governments and their people worried of potential civil chaos if anything did happen.
Prior to Y2K occurring, millions of people who were in fear of losing money in their bank accounts lined up at banks around the world in hopes of withdrawing their life savings. As a result, economists were worried that too much cash would be circulated in to the market at once, causing an economic meltdown.
Anxieties were high. To many, the year 2000 represented an apocalyptic event. But governments and organizations around the world had made many preparations to correct and Y2K issues on almost all computer systems. On Jan. 1, 2000, at 12 AM, everyone was still alive, and the power was still on. The end.
- Denny Hollick
The day Osama changed the world
“Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward. Freedom will be defended!” – George W. Bush
On Sept. 11, 2001 the world that we knew changed dramatically from a single event that took place at 8:46 AM in New York City. Nearly 5000 km away from Vancouver, a lone airliner jet crashed into one of the World Trade Centre buildings without warning. Almost immediately, every news channel in North America was broadcasting the same thing. Millions of people around the world watched as the first tower burned hopelessly. Soon, and on live television, a second airliner crashed into the remaining tower. People watched in shock as it became apparent that this was no accident, but a clear attack on US soil. Several other events transpired, including the two other hijacked airliners, one of which crashed into the US Pentagon, and the other which was flown in to the ground in rural Pennsylvania.
In all, 2,973 victims and the 19 hijackers died as a result of the terrorist attacks that day, and the term “terrorism” would become a term used in day-to- day language. The consequences following that day were equally as monument as nearly 7000 FBI special agents began investigating along with the help of thousands from agencies around the world. It was also the day that “Osama Bin Laden” became a household name.
The motives of the attackers were found to be a directive handed down by Al-Qaeda, and written by Osama Bin Laden stating that it was “the duty of every Muslim” to “kill American’s everywhere,” in following his statements on how “For more than seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbours, and turning
its bases in the peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighbouring Muslim peoples.”
Almost immediately did these attacks affect the lives of millions of people around the world. Military units in nations from several counties, including Canada, would engage in a “War against terrorism,” targeting anything that represented terrorist activity including the fundamentalist group Al-Qaeda. The U.S. government would set a precedent of allowing government agencies almost unlimited access to private and personal records in the U.S. by enacting the Patriot Act for homeland security. This also included tapping phone lines without a warrant. Canadians had growing concerns as any private information that is be kept in the U.S. (such as Gmail accounts, or medical records held by US companies) could now be accessed by the US government.
Today the war on terror still continues, but with many critics and varying results, governments are reviewing the need to have troops in other countries fighting for the cause.
- Denny Hollick
Corporations take a tumble
“The corporation is an externalizing machine (moving its operating costs to external organizations and people), in the same way that a shark is a killing machine.)” – Robert Monks, corporate governance advisor and former republican candidate for senate
The corporation, an organization that is given legal rights as a separate entity from its owners, is not a concept of modernity. The idea of a company can be traced back to times of the Romans however, you mix the modern corporation with two parts consumerism and you will be left with a toxic, greed-filled stew.
By the late 1990s this stew was at a boiling point with companies like Exxon Mobil and General Electric making profits at unsustainable rates. Corporations like Walmart were now considered economic entities, with GDPs ranking above many countries, such as Greece and South Africa.
However, in 2000, the tides began to turn for these global giants. Multi-billion dollar sports company, Nike, admitted to employing child labourers in third world countries. The Enron scandal was revealed in 2001, followed by a series of whistle-blower reports on fraud, environmental destruction cover ups, and inaccurate accounting.
On July 21, 2002 Worldcom filed, what was at the time, the world’s largest-ever bankruptcy. Although 2002 was not the beginning of the end, it was the end of something: puppy-love with the man. Documentaries like ‘The Corporation’ became a critical success and Naomi Klein’s ‘No Logo’ became an international bestseller. The backlash by consumers gave rise to both government and private sector policies on Corporation Social Responsibility (CSR), which resulted in increased awareness of human rights, environmental protection programs, and sustainability planning.
- Kassandra Linklater
The rise of pandemic-mania
“For the first time in history we can track the evolution of a pandemic in real time. Influenza viruses are notorious for their rapid mutation and unpredictable behaviour.” – Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO)
The Black Plague, Small Pox, Yellow Fever, and Tuberculosis. Pandemics are nothing new in human history, however, the 2000s gave rise to pandemic mania. Although scientists predicted that there would be a global influenza pandemic that could attack as much as 20 per cent of the world population, none of the hysteria truly came to fruition.
Pandemic-palooza started in 2003, with the onset of SARS. By 2004 we were being hit with reports of H5N1, better known as Bird (Avian) flu, resulting of a mass slaughtering of poultry. 2009 gave way to another animal-related infection, known as Swine Flu. However was quickly re-branded as H1N1 to prevent the banning of of meat and pork products. Between April and November of 2009, 3,900 people died from the H1N1 pandemic; whereas 36,000 people die per year from the common flu.
Let’s examine the following:
The Beginning – SARS:
2003 was the year that Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, better known as SARS, terrorized the world. Suddenly fear of a pandemic swept the nation. Toronto was especially hit hard, with 44 reported deaths due to the disease. The city’s economic losses were reportedly in the millions, with the hotel industry taking the brunt of the hit. In April of 2003, it was estimated that $39 million in lost revenues alone. The city was so worried about an economic meltdown that they called in the big guns: The Rolling Stones. SARS-Fest saw the likes of AC/DC, The Flaming Lips, Dan Aykroyd, and of course, the Stones roll into the city to revive Toronto’s fledging tourism industry.
Total Global Death toll in 2003 from SARS: 774
Total Global Death toll in 2003 from Smoking: 4.6 million
- Kassandra Linklater
The rise of new media
“The value of a social network is defined not only by who’s on it, but by who’s excluded” – Paul Saffo, quoted in the Economist
The decade also saw an massive advancement in technology and its integration into our daily lives. This wasn’t more evident than to the media industry, which found itself fighting a battle with the Internet over informing readers, viewers and listeners. Prior to the Internet, people had a very specific way to receive information, be it from newspapers, television or radio broadcasts. The Internet changed all of that by basically giving the user access to a world’s worth information, in almost every medium imaginable.
At first, the news industry wasn’t bothered, they were resting on decades’ of experience and were slow to embrace the internet. This proved near fatal, as the Internet also gave users the power to create their own information portals, and thus, blogs, video diaries and podcasts were born. Soon users began relying on the Internet for their information, as it was more diverse, faster and cheaper than traditional news outlets.
The Internet gave everybody a voice, and evidently everyone had something to say. It also gave people an identity that would be seen by the world, which can be exemplified by social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. 2004’s launch of Facebook marked a huge shift in the role the Internet played in people’s lives. Suddenly, the media industry found itself in crisis, and as newspaper subscriptions fell and newspapers began dropping like flies, news outlets were forced to see the error of their ways.
Had they have been quicker to embrace the Internet, news outlets may not have found themselves in such dire straits.
- Christopher Poon
A name to be remembered: Katrina
“George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” – Kanye West
“New Orleans is sinking and I don’t wanna swim,” were the famous words sung by the band the Tragically Hip back in 1989. Little was it known that this would be a very true statement in the year 2005 when Hurricane Katrina would hit the coast of Louisiana in the USA.
The disaster occurred on Aug. 28 2005, when Katrina, a class five hurricane with winds of 280 km/h hit the major city of New Orleans leaving over 80 per cent flooded and under water. With over 1,800 people left dead, it was hard to believe that a developed nation could have so many casualties with a disaster where deaths could have been avoided. Total damages were estimated at nearly $90 billion USD.
With most of New Orleans under sea level, damages were further sustained with flood waters having nowhere to go. Much of New Orleans today still has not been rebuilt, with many neighbourhoods and buildings still abandoned and left to rot.
The disaster brought people from around the world together though, included thousands of volunteers travelling to the affected areas to help rebuild the lives of those who had lost everything. Controversy was arose with one initiative on a television fundraiser when rapper Kanye West indirectly blamed the suffering of residents on president George W. Bush as he stated on live TV, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” The statement gathered much media attention and raised public concern that appropriate federal aid wasn’t sent to the affected areas because of racial motivations.
- Denny Hollick
Al Gore as Superman – climate change and our world
In 2006, Al Gore in association with Paramount partnered to create one of the most widely viewed documentary films of all time. An Inconvenient Truth has been credited as one of the more influential sources on people around the world in bringing the dangers of climate change to the public forefront.
Climate change has been labelled as possibly one of the most real threats to the world and its inhabitants; throwing off the natural life cycle of species and ultimately having the potential to become an apocalyptic event.
Just over the past four years since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, a green revolution has begun. The public attention climate change is now receiving is changing how governments think, how companies do business, and how consumers live their day to day lives. Things that were once just mundane tasks such as driving a car now pose the question, “how does this affect the environment?”
But like everything, the concept of climate change has attracted controversy and skeptics. A minority of scientist and organizations claim that climate change is not occurring, ceased, or may be caused solely by natural occurrences and not by human activity. Many companies have also taken advantage of the green revolution by “greenwashing” consumers, the act of presenting consumer products as “environmentally friendly,” to increase sales.
More recently, the United Nations just held their last conference focusing on the issue of climate change in Copenhagen where world leaders met to try and come to a consensus on what measures will have to be taken by governments to prevent climate change. Although citizens around the world were hoping that government leaders would come to a binding agreement, countries left empty handed with no new measures in place. World leaders will meet again this year in Mexico to try and ratify an agreement.
- Denny Hollick
The Obama sensation captures the nation (and the world too)
“We will begin the next great chapter in America’s story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea – Yes. We. Can.” – Barack Obama
It’s hard to believe how US politics shapes how we as Canadians live our lives. But in February 2007, Barrak Obama announced that he would be running for the presidential vote, which would later shape the lives of not only Canadians, but people around the world.
Barack Obama, who assumed office in January of 2009 as the first African-American president, gave hope to people around the world for several different reasons. Many were inspired by his charisma and his famous three words “Yes we can.”
The campaigning between Obama and opoponent John McCain was widely watched on national TV, and almost as entertaining as reality TV. Obama only assumed office with 52 per cent of the popular vote in the USA, but being the first African-American president in office was a paramount landmark in history.
More recently, Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples, ” according to the Nobel Foundation. The award found many praises and criticism.
- Denny Hollick
“Assuming China does not become destabilized and continues to grow, it will no doubt develop a military program in proportion to its resources.”-Martin van Creveld
In 2008 the world turned to Beijing to watch as a city with 15 million people hosted the summer Olympics. We watched as a country known for its massive population and its massive human rights violations welcomed athletes from far and wide. We watched as the world remembered that China is set to be the next super power.
China is home to over 1.3 billion people and that number is growing. According to the World Bank it’s growing by .55 per cent a year. And, with this massive population, we’re seeing the biggest mass migration in the history of the world as people pour into the urban centres. It’s said that what Europe did in it’s 150-year industrial revolution, China aims to do 15-20 years. This means money and a lot of it.
China expected an economic growth rate of 7.5 per cent in 2009 while the U.S. expected a growth of just 2.8 per cent. The growth, both physical and economic is fueled by Western capitalism, despite the $1 trillion the U.S. already owes the country in debt. Everyone wants a piece of China.
But, as China rises to accommodate the 345 million people that are going to move into the cities over the next 20 years, it’s the environment that will take the hit. According to Foreign Affairs magazine, China is already home to 16 of the world’s 20 greatest polluted cities, and approximately 14,000 new cars emerge on China’s roads every day resulting in more than 52,700 miles of developing highways throughout the country.
China’s industrial revolution takes precedent over the trendy “green revolution” of the West.
- Melissa Fraser
“The current crisis is more serious than the worst previous recession of the postwar period, between 1979 and 1982, and could conceivably come to rival the Great Depression, though there is no way of really knowing.” – Robert Brenner
The year 2009 sucked. Financially, that is. The stock market crash of 2008 was beginning to take full effect and like it or not, we were in a recession.
Financial crises are nothing new to the 2000s. Early 2000, we woke up to the bursting of the dot-com bubble, followed by an over decline in economic activity in developed countries mid-decade. This was quickly followed by realization that sub-prime mortgages and high levels of consumer debt were catching up to the general populous and the average family was not able to keep up with payments. 2008 saw the crash of the U.S. auto-industry, hitting the American economy particularly hard; at least two million jobs were lost.
This gave rise to the infamous ‘bailout.’ $700 nillion to the banking sector and $30 billion to the auto-industry, resulting in mass debt load in the United States. According to the US debt clock, the America national debt load is $12.2 billion. The global downturn has had adverse effects on the Canadian economy however, Canada has been able to come out of the recession relatively unscathed due to strong financial legislation.
The sentiments of BMO Nesbitt Burns’s chief economist Michael Gregory,”We will be pulled down, but not as deep, not as long,” and 2010 looks to put the economic course of Canada back on crash. Only time will tell.
- Kassandra Linklater