Ten of our best writers put their heads together and came up with a collaborative list of the ten most significant events of the last ten years. This is a first for Listverse and, as the last list we publish in the 2010s, it is a fitting transition to the New Year and new decade. Happy New Year!
2010—The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
On April 20th, 2010, the world experienced one of the worst environmental disasters in history. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig ignited into flames, burning for more than 24 hours before finally sinking into the Gulf of Mexico, leaving the well gushing 8,000 barrels worth of crude oil a day directly into the sea.
It was a terrifying start to our decade — but one made all that much worse by just how many chances they had to prevent it.
No alarm sounded to warn the 126 men on board about what was going to happen — because they had turned it off. They’d been frustrated with a malfunctioning safety system that would freeze up and set off false alarms and, instead of fixing it, just shut the whole alarm system down.
It had been off for more than a year by the time the explosion happened, but it was hardly the only failsafe they had. They had another device that should have shut down the drill as soon as gas levels became dangerous — but that one had been shut off for 5 years.
Nobody knew, though, because the crew had been putting in fake data to cover up their work. And so, ironically, on the day it exploded, BP executives visited the rig to celebrate 7 years without a single safety incident.
After a speech on the importance of safety, the BP executives order the rig’s chief mechanic to switch the heavy mud they were using to keep the well’s pressure down with seawater to speed up the process. And two hours after they left, their order caused a build-up of pressure that would ignite the rig in flames.
4.9 million barrels of oil seeped into the ocean before the well could be plugged – and we’ve yet to clean it all.
2011—The Death Of Osama Bin Laden
On May 2nd, 2011, U.S. Forces killed the most wanted terrorist in the world – Osama bin Laden. The raid that took place at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where the notorious al-Qaeda leader was in hiding, lasted only 40 minutes. The operation carried out by SEAL Team Six took years of planning and was considered a “flawless” mission.
bin Laden’s death came a decade after the 9/11 attacks which were orchestrated by al-Qaeda. The Islamic terrorist group was responsible for a series of four coordinated attacks in Manhattan, New York; Arlington County, Virginia; and Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. These attacks resulted in the deaths of 2,977 victims.
In 2010, U.S intelligence was able to locate bin Laden after being tipped off by the extensive security measures they found surrounding the compound. President Barack Obama authorized the mission and SEAL Team Six practiced the operation using a life-size replica of the compound.
The mission was almost aborted as one of the Stealth Black Hawk helicopters crashed before arriving at the compound but there were miraculously no injuries. Once the Navy SEALs located bin Laden on the third floor of the compound, he was shot directly in the head. bin Laden’s body was then placed in a body bag and backup helicopters picked up the remaining team members.
President Obama addressed the nation and announced the death of bin Laden. He added, “Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.”
bin Laden’s body was buried at sea within 24 hours to comply with Islamic law. The following day, DNA tests confirmed it was the body of the al-Qaeda leader.
2012—Kim Dotcom’s Megaupload Shut Down And Seized
Megaupload was a filesharing website with 150 million registered users. Founded by programmer Kim Dotcom (not his birth name), Megaupload was one of the most visited sites in the internet, until, on 19th January 2012, the FBI closed them down overnight for violating piracy laws. They claimed that Megaupload had cost copyright holders $500 million in lost revenue. Dotcom faces charges of racketeering, copyright infringement, money laundering and wire fraud, despite the fact that Megaupload users did not pay for file transfers.
The company’s income came mainly from advertising.
Megaupload disputed the FBI’s figures, saying that their income was grossly exaggerated, but Dotcom, with 3 other Megaupload executives, was arrested at a $30 million mansion in New Zealand, which probably didn’t help his case. Despite Dotcom being a German citizen, and the business being registered in Hong Kong, the FBI applied for extradition and seized Megaupload’s data.
This had serious potential implications for all those registered subscribers, and the hacker group Anonymous, also took exception to ‘their’ downloads being repossessed.
Anonymous launched a massive Distributed Denial of Service attack against the FBI, and the regulatory organisations for the distribution of music and film in America, amongst others. In case the point was missed, they even tweeted the FBI, saying, ‘We sincerely hope you like your own medicine.’
In their accompanying statement, Anonymous also published the personal addresses and phone numbers of the executive directors of these trade bodies, so that non-hacking Megaupload subscribers could register their objections too.
Despite their act of civil disobedience, one of the largest ever made, and despite the negotiations by Dotcom’s lawyers to restructure Megaupload, the site remains closed and attempts to extradite Kim Dotcom and his colleagues from New Zealand are still ongoing. In his own way, Dotcom was a pioneer. Whilst his case marked the beginning of the end of illegal file sharing sites, it hastened the growth of legal digital distribution sites, including Dotcom’s own Megupload replacement site which offers 50GB free data and remains fully functional and within the law. The new site is called Mega.NZ.
2013—Pope Benedict XVI Abdicates The Papal Throne
In 2013 things seemed to be going relatively smoothly, and then Pope Benedict the XVI shocked the world by announcing his resignation as head of the Catholic Church. Now, people are always surprised when someone gives up power of any kind willingly, but especially in this case since the last pope to resign was Gregory The XII in 1415.
Pope Benedict The XVI used a provision that allows him to resign for health reasons, but some still could hardly believe it was happening. Those who are scholars of the Catholic Church were even more surprised, as resignations in general are incredibly rare. Even back in the tumultuous days of the early church when the still rare but larger amount of resignations occurred, many resignations were arguably popes being forced out of their position. However, as far as anyone can tell, Pope Benedict The XVI did it entirely by his own choice, and then chose the title Pope Emeritus and stuck around nearby to advise the next guy.
As for the next guy, the Enclave of Cardinals quickly chose Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and shocked the world again. He chose the name Pope Francis The I after Francis of Assisi, which he took to highlight the fact he was the first Jesuit Pope. He is also the first pope from the Americas and the first from South America, as well as the first pope from outside Europe since the 8th century. Pope Francis quickly became the biggest story of the year, due to his kind, gentle and loving approach to being the pope. He also quickly became seen as a reformer, and his vow of poverty impressed even Non-Catholics the world over. While Rome wasn’t built in a day, Pope Francis has gone a long way in just a few short years when it comes to improving not just the church’s image, but its internal workings as well.
2014—Russia Annexes The Crimea from Ukraine
A lot happened in 2014, including a widespread Ebola outbreak and the declaration of an ISIS Caliphate, but the biggest news of the year happened when Russia annexed a small portion of Ukraine called Crimea. The annexation in March sparked worldwide outrage, and talk of a new Cold War was quick to follow. Within short order, Russia was booted from the G-8, and the United States imposed harsh economic sanctions, which remained in place for some time.
The people of Crimea weren’t particularly unhappy with their annexation, due to a long history related to Russia, but that hardly mattered in terms of international relations and border sovereignty where Ukraine was concerned. The nation was quickly embroiled in a partisan war on its Russian border, and that conflict remained ongoing at the close of the decade. The annexation marked the first time a European nation seized the land of another since the end of World War II, and the government in Kiev responded by declaring their refusal to recognize the annexation or the loss of Crimea.
The annexation had further impacts on western relations and even led to the events that sparked the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump. Most significantly, the resulting conflict in eastern Ukraine has resulted in a proxy war between the Russian military and western-backed Ukranian forces. The ensuing conflict resulted in the estimated deaths of more than 10,000 people and the displacement of some 1.5 million.
As the conflict continued from 2014, and into 2019, it moved into a stalemate, which is interrupted by shelling and border skirmishes. To date, Russia has denied any involvement, but their troops and equipment have been easily identified as being active in the region, though they wear no identifying marks, as they have all been removed from their uniforms and equipment.
2015—The Paris Terrorist Attacks
If there’s one region that dominated the headlines throughout 2015, it was the Middle East. With the Syrian War at its peak and ISIS at its absolute strongest, 2015 was a pivotal year in many ways. It was when Europe first grappled with the refugee crisis, as the war in Syria and Iraq forced an unprecedented number of people to flee their homes and countries. While attitudes towards immigrants were largely favorable in Europe and the rest of the developed world till then, it was multiple events that happened in 2015 that changed that.
The biggest one has to be the Paris Attacks in November, when a group of terrorists sworn to ISIS carried out a series of planned attacks in the heart of the Western world. The brutal attacks that killed 130 – wherein armed militants struck at four of the most popular locations in the city – brought the horrors of the war in Syria home for many in the Western world. While it wasn’t the first terrorist attack to have happened in the city – as the Charlie Hebdo shooting happened earlier that year – it was by far the deadliest.
For those who may have forgotten, it wasn’t the only major ISIS attack that year. From Turkey to Sinai to the USA, multiple attacks were carried out by ISIS (or armed terrorists sworn to them) throughout the world in 2015. ISIS may have been all but defeated by now, though that wasn’t the case back then. The Paris Attacks, however, changed the world in more ways than any other ISIS attack could.
Public opinion on refugees – especially in France and rest of Europe – drastically changed following the attacks. Many European countries introduced laws that restricted – or flat out prohibited – the entry of refugees immediately after it. Far right parties swept through ballot boxes across Europe, claiming more votes and parliamentary seats than ever. The debate on immigration has caused some of the most far-reaching events of recent times (like Brexit), and continues to be an important political conversation even in 2019.
2016—The Election of President Donald J. Trump
I was staying in the upper west side at the time—five minutes walk from Trump Tower. The streets of New York, humming at the best of times, were electric. It was a cacophony of sound: reporters were breathlessly filling the airwaves with their breaking news stories, helicopters were shuttling wealthy city dwellers to the venues where they were going to hear the results, and average Americans from both sides of the political spectrum filled the streets.
I had spent most of the day traveling between Trump Tower and the Javits Center, the hubs of the two candidates. Around midnight I decided to take a break and catch up with the rest of the country via the news in my hotel room. It was there, at just before 2am, that Donald J. Trump was announced the winner of the election for the 45th President of the United States. The sounds of both elation and disbelief reached the windows of my 40th floor hotel room.
I ventured back to the street and watched in astonishment as tens of thousands of protesters began to fill Central Park West. Everyone was protesting for different reasons: transgender rights, gay rights, women’s rights, every right you could imagine. But within thirty minutes, organizers began to appear with megaphones and printed signs. In a very coordinated manner, they rallied the people into a uniformly anti-Trump protest.
I was in New York specifically to witness this event and I had strongly suspected Trump would win on the basis of the sheer numbers at his rallies. It was a moment the likes of which I will never witness again. In the words of Michael Moore in the clip above, the 2016 election will forever be remembered as “the biggest ‘fuck-you’ ever recorded in human history.”
2017—Mass Shooting In Las Vegas
The ever-simmering gun control debate was instantly reignited on 1 October 2017 when Stephen Paddock fired more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition into an unsuspecting crowd of concertgoers on the Las Vegas Strip. 64-year old Paddock murdered 58 people and injured 413 more. He used bump stocks to fire rapid shots and had a collection of weapons including AR-15 and AR-10 rifles as well as a bolt-action-rifle. These weapons were stashed in the hotel room from which he was carrying out the attack. The shooting lasted only 10 minutes and Paddock was found dead an hour later, having shot himself. In the aftermath of the shooting, an airport alongside the site of the shooting was shut down as was much of Las Vegas Boulevard.
Investigation into Paddock’s history revealed that he was a frequent gambler who liked to place bets that would see him earn rewards such as free food and accommodation. It was also established that he was somewhat of an alcoholic and that his father was a criminal wanted by the FBI. It seemed that Paddock simply wanted to murder a lot of people without any obvious reason as it was found that he researched other venues in Boston and Chicago before deciding on Las Vegas. Naturally many conspiracy theories saw the light after the massacre including accusations of a false flag event and rumors of a second shooter that was never brought to book. Other theories linked Paddock to the Antifa movement while ISIS falsely claimed that he was one of their “soldiers”. Some believe that there were a group of shooters but that this is being covered up in order to advance the promotion of gun control laws.
It is very likely that the true motive for the senseless massacre will never be discovered. To date this was the worst mass shooting carried out by one person in the history of the US.
2018—Prince Harry And Meghan Markle Ties The Knot
The last decade saw several royal weddings. But the special day that belonged to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was different. They broke
the barriers of tradition, class, race, and public prejudice to find each other.
Despite what many may think, the couple did not have a whirlwind romance. They dated for close to two years. A mutual friend introduced them in July 2016 and a month later, Harry publicly confirmed that they were seeing each other. But this did not mean they were now fair game to be followed and photographed. The pair managed to court in private despite some of the best attempts from the media to follow the relationship.
Harry literally went down on one knee and proposed in November 2017. His speech was so long that Meghan had to interrupt him so she could accept. They married the following year, on May 19 at Windsor Castle and became the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
The wedding broke with tradition in several ways. Harry was allowed to keep his beard, even though he was wearing his military uniform and the two do not usually mix. The page boys forgoed their usual outfits to wear miniaturized versions of the groom’s uniform. Meghan also walked down the aisle with her future husband’s father, Prince Charles, instead of her own who did not attend.
The couple also added their own personal touches. The bride’s traditional “something blue” was a piece of the dress she wore on her first date with Harry. The cloth was sewn into her veil. There was also an empty seat next to Prince William, which meant to include the brothers’ late mother, Princess Diana, at the wedding.
2019—Britain’s Election Changes Europe Forever
Back in early September, the New York Times published a think piece wondering if the UK’s Parliamentary system had rendered it immune from the populist wave sweeping Europe. After all, Boris Johnson’s then-struggling minority government was incapable of getting Brexit legislation through in the face of a moderate Parliament.
Well, if that column ever had relevance, it vanished at 10pm, GMT, on December 12. That’s when, the BBC’s exit poll predicted a Conservative landslide. Boris Johnson’s brand of populism hadn’t been rejected by Britain; the voters (outside Scotland) had embraced it. And, just like that, all hopes for a delayed, soft, or canceled Brexit became just so much dust.
While there’s plenty to say about why the election produced the result it did (you can sum it up as “Boris hammered the issue voters cared about (Brexit), the Labour Party stupidly ignored it”), but this column is more interested in the long-term effects going into the next decade. And make no mistake, this was one of the most-significant votes in memory.
With his majority strengthened, Boris will now – barring a freak occurrence like the outbreak of nuclear war – take Britain out the EU on January 31. While the post-Brexit relationship still has to be hammered out, it’ll likely result in the EU and UK having only the loosest ties.
Whether that’s a good or a bad thing depends on your point of view. Yet there could be further consequences. After the Scottish National Party dominated in Scotland, it now appears another Scottish independence referendum is on the cards. With Boris likely to refuse Scottish attempts to ‘Scexit’ (ironically), north of the border could yet become the new Catalonia. Is the UK destined to break apart? See you back here in ten years for the answer