Teenage Times

As the decade comes to a close, Tallulah Hutson looks back on some of the news, facts and cultural moments of the “teenies”.

It is the end of the twenty-first century’s teenage years. How did it handle puberty? It was on April 3rd at the beginning of the decade that Apple introduced the iPad; a product launched not to fill a visible gap in the market but to carve a niche out by simply existing. Initial reactions to what seemed like an over-sized iPod touch are a distant memory in the face of today’s tablet industry. Leaps and bounds have been made in many categories other than technology, but some feel we’ve slipped backwards in certain areas as well.

In today’s fast-paced News and social media age, it’s hard to keep track of events over a year, let alone a decade. Collated together, several events from the last 10 years startle me with how far we’ve come, whilst others cast varying shadows from points where we may have gone wrong.

2010 saw the last combat brigades of U.S. forces leave Iraq, and Haiti was hit by an unforgettable earthquake that destroyed much of the capital, Port-au-Prince. In 2011, the president of Tunisia fled the country. The Egyptian revolution began and Mubarak resigned. Colonel Gaddafi eventually lost power and was killed in Libya. What we would come to know as the Arab Spring had begun.

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Egyptian activist with raised Egyptian flag, June 2013

A tsunami hit Japan and the second biggest nuclear accident in human history ensued at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. In May, almost 10 years on from 9/11, U.S. forces carried out that raid on the hidden-in-plain-sight home of Osama bin Laden. Neutrinos were discovered. The global population passed the 7bn mark. The world lost Amy Winehouse, and Steve Jobs. Game of Thrones premiered; the world and many other 11 year olds received One Direction’s first album. A sign of the times

In 2012, the first church to approve a rite to bless gay marriages did so. Wikileaks came into being; Assange became and remains a well-known name. Kim Jong-un succeeded his father as the Supreme Leader of North Korea. The London Olympics took place and Usain Bolt, the fastest man to date, did not disappoint. Nelson Mandela died, aged 95.

In 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement came into being. North Korea rocked the global boat with its claims that one of its nuclear devices was ready to be weaponised. More peaceful scientific progress was made elsewhere. Human stem cells were successfully cloned for the first time and calcium deposits were discovered on Mars, further indicating that water had once been present on the red planet. Orange is the New Black and Frozen were released, and slightly different types of strong female protagonists took to our screens.

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People marching in the Martin Luther King Jr. Kingdom day parade in Los Angeles holding up Black Lives Matter signs, January 2015

In 2014, the brief but effective Ukrainian revolution took place: within the month the pro-Russia president had fled. Just over one month later, however, Russia controversially annexed Crimea. Islamic State siezed the Turkish consulate in the Iraqi city of Mosul and IS’s actions reached global news for the first of many times to come. Gangnam Style became the most watched video on YouTube, having reached 2bn views.

The following year, Barak Obama and Raúl Castro participated in the first meeting of U.S. and Cuban heads of state since the Cuban Revolution that began in 1953. In June of 2015, Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign. By mid-August he was the Republican front runner, already a controversial wild card, pouting out of the cover of TIME magazine.

In 2016, Mr Trump was elected to be the 45th president of the United States. Earlier in the year, the Paris Agreement was signed, holding 195 nations to a commitment to contain climate change by preventing sea level temperatures from rising much more above pre-industrial levels than that crucial 1.5°C. The United Kingdom narrowly voted in favour of leaving the European Union in the Brexit referendum. Beyoncé released her video album, Lemonade. Bob Dylan won a Nobel Prize for literature. David Bowie and Prince both passed away. As did Mohammed Ali, and Fidel Castro.

In 2017, Emmanuel Macron became the President of France, defeating the right-wing figure of Marie Le Pen. The Iraqi government announced the defeat of ISIS in Mosul, and later in the year allied forces reclaimed Raqqa from the militant group for the first time since it was taken three years previously. Bangladesh faced a humanitarian crisis as Rohingya refugees fled from their persecution and the ethnic cleansing taking place in Myanmar.

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Rohingya refugees queuing for food at a refugee camp in Bangladesh, January 2018

That same year, the New York Times published an investigatory piece on Harvey Weinstein and sexual harassment in Hollywood. Tarana Burke’s me too movement gained traction over twitter, becoming an international conversation and call for change. TIME magazine later named women associated with the movement the TIME Person of the Year, granting them the title of The Silence Breakers.

Snapchat had truly grown up, as it underwent its much anticipated Initial Public Offering. Facebook announced the shutting down of hundreds of fake accounts associated with fake news, created by a Kremlin-linked Russian company called the Internet Research Agency. The U.S. became the only nation in the world no longer involved in the Paris Agreement, after Syria took its place when the Trump administration gave official notice that it would cease to participate in the pact. China announced a ban on 24 kinds of foreign waste imports. Having previously received up to 56% of global plastic waste exports, China’s ban increased pressure on recycling and sustainable solutions for the plastic problem.

2018 feels almost too recent to reflect on. Apple became the first public listed company in America to reach $1 trillion in value. The U.S. Supreme Court battle regarding sexual assault allegations against Trump’s choice of Judge Bret Kavanaugh to replace a Justice took place. We witnessed the bravery of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Kavanaugh was appointed by the narrowest margin a Supreme Court Justice has been voted in by. The whistle was blown on the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal, opening eyes to the role cyber data did and could play against democracy.

The leaders of North Korea and South Korea met in a summit in Singapore and announced an official end to the Korean war. The first meeting ever between a North Korean leader and a President of the United States took place. The civil war in Syria remained ongoing, as did the resulting refugee crisis. The UK, U.S. and France participated in air-strikes targeting Syrian government sites in response to evidence that chemical weapons had been used against rebel forces.

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Apparent US-led coalition airstrike causes an explosion in Syria, 2014

Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, launched the National Healthcare Protection Scheme, involving healthcare insurance for up to 500 million people it is the world’s biggest healthcare program to date. The Incredibles 2 finally came out, and broke box office records on its opening weekend. Black Panther premiered; Cardi B became the first female rapper to get two number one US Billboard hits. Aretha Franklin died, as did the renowned physicist Stephen Hawking.

During 2019, Syrian Democratic Forces announced that the last territory IS was holding in Syria had been reclaimed. The group’s 5 year campaign was declared over; later, U.S. special forces killed IS’s founder during a raid.

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Greta Thunberg among other young climate change protesters in Washington, September 2019 

The world was introduced to Greta Thunberg as her school strikes for climate change garnered attention and support, and she was recently pronounced TIME Person of the Year at just 16. Studies, published in journals such as Nature, have placed the scientific consensus that current global warming is being caused by humans at 99%. The Sumatran Rhino species was officially declared extinct. The Amazon Rainforest experienced weeks of intense forest fires; Brazilian President Bolsonaro met international outcries for intervention with statements that the forest regions within Brazil were part of the country’s sovereignty. Australia remains ablaze, as it experiences some of its worst forest fires in history.

The Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was overthrown after 29 years in power; the protests in Hong Kong that began against a bill on extradition to China are ongoing, as is the U.S. – China trade war. Juan Guiadó declared himself the new President of Venezuela in January, and was recognized as such by nations across both South and North America. The former president, Nicolás Maduro, however, refused to step down and the presidential crisis in the country continues. Without parliamentary debate, the Indian government revoked article 370 that granted the Pakistan-border province of Jammu Kashmir its historic special status.

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Protesters of the proposed extradition law in Hong Kong, June 2019

Brexit gridlock gripped the UK; Boris Johnson was elected to stay on as Prime Minister with the biggest Tory majority since 1987. A large disparity between voting age groups was exposed, with only approximately 21% of people aged 18-24 voting Tory. Just a few days later, Donald Trump became the third U.S. President to be impeached by the House of Representatives. His future trial in the Republican-majority Senate will determine if he will stay in office.

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Sample of voting demographics by age in the UK December 12th 2019 general election, presented by YouGov.

It is the nature of any present time to be uncertain to an extent. But the undulations we’ve seen in the last decade call to mind the twists and turns and occasional extremes of being a human teen. Recently, we’ve seen the political pendulum sway from left to right in several countries, like a global mood swing, possibly born from a sense of insecurity in some groups and frustration in others. There is an atmosphere that opposing sides no longer meet in the middle, and they appear to chafe against and inflame each other all the more for it.

Other issues have been on the slow boil whether or not the politicians and global public were watching. Researching the last decade of news, the rate and scale of events linked to climate change appears to have gone up even in this tiny slice of the human timeline. At the very least, reporting on it has increased.

It will be interesting to see what degree of pragmatism we will take on to tackle what may come, and whether the globalist or the nationalist corner will turn up more support in the long run. I wonder what the generation of us who shared our own tumultuous teenage years with the century will become, having first tested out adulthood in the metaphorically and physically shifting landscapes of the last 10 years. More interesting still, is who those around the world born into these times will be, and what they will in turn say of you and me.

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