It was 4.7 degrees outside this morning, which is quite a change from New Years Day’s 57 degrees. The furnace has been running all morning fighting to replace the heat lost and the cats are snuggled up against the vents blocking the airflow. They are toasty warm though. Are we glad 2011 is over? It was such an interesting year.
We had revolution after revolution followed by portents of even more to come. Even the Russians went out into the cold streets of Moscow to demonstrate. It all reminds me of Marlon Brando in The Wild One.
“What are you rebelling against?”
“I don’t know, what have you got?”
2011 was the year of people pushing back. No one special, just regular people empowered to complain and doing so. Fascinating. It was another in a series of “hard times” years, and a lot of people have reached their limits, so they let everyone know. From Wall Street to Cairo, London to St Petersburg and Syria to Tunis people stood up and howled about it. Authorities furrowed their brows and rolled out the traditional restraints, which for the most part failed. A lot of people got killed in the process though, a lot of people.
2011 turned out to be a pretty deadly year, all in all. Not only did we have slaughter in the streets all over the Middle East, we had floods, earthquakes, tidal waves, a nuclear accident, 200 mph tornadoes and droughts to beat anything we’ve seen in quite a while. Although, we didn’t hear so much about the biggest killer of the year. The drought in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya reportedly killed over 30,000 children in 2011. Malnutrition is a very bad way to go. This is the first time in 30 years the UN declared a famine, over 13 million people in the region are in desperate need of food aid.
Three other notable but purposeful deaths, Osama Bin laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and his son Abdul Rahman al-Awlaki. Bin laden was notable because we’d been after him for three Presidency’s. The al-Awlaki’s because they were American citizens, killed by our government, in public, one of whom was 16.
Living on the east coast was very different this year with earthquakes in Washington shaking everything up to Maine and a hurricane that flooded everyone from North Carolina to Vermont. Irene made three separate land falls, caused in excess of 7 billion dollars damage and all while she was a mere category 1 storm. Although, to be fair, Texas had wild fires that burned through the entire summer and Joplin, Missouri got sucked up, shredded, and spread all over the Midwest.
However, there were good things going on as well. The Arab spring, though it was violent at times, freed 3 countries from what amounted to the oppressive regimes of dictators and changed government’s attitude in a great deal more. It’s by no means over but there’s hope for the future. The US finally got out of Iraq, maybe we won that one maybe we didn’t but it’s much nicer to see it in the rear-view mirror.
On the knowledge front, we had more hints of Higgs bosons and found the most habitable planet yet, Kepler-22b, approximately 2.5 times earth size and right in the sweet zone around it’s own sun. We also managed to not cancel the new space telescope, the most powerful ever conceived, so we may get an even better look at that new planet. We produced the first self-replicating synthetic life, discovered a new method for slowing down aging, and got a handle on slowing the spread of AIDS. In fact, researchers at MIT announced that they had developed a drug that is a “super virus killer.” The new compound killed all 15 viruses it was exposed to including Polio, Swine Flu and Rhino virus (colds).
Obviously it was a good year for gays in the US and in our military, public workers in Wisconsin and corporations in general. It was good to see the economy stumbling back as well, even with all the stops and starts, both here and around the world. 2011 may well have been the beginning of the rise of the “meek,” as it was clearly a demonstration and a potent message to the powers that be that we all want to be treated better. There are growing questions around a lot of the traditional “accepted” practices we’ve known all our lives. Political Parties are loosing power to “movements” like the Tea party and the 99%, both of whom agree that corporations are not people and there’s way too much money in politics. Gerrymandering and the electoral college are in danger and the Defense Department’s budget is no longer sacrosanct. Who could have predicted that?
As we move off into 2012, we’ll try and remember to write the right year on our checks, get organized for tax season and clean our ears regularly to get all the claptrap out of them. I‘m looking forward to some snow, driving lessons for my sons, as well as some travel. I’m not looking forward to more power outages, higher car insurance rates, and standing in line to board. However, there will be new things to do, new stuff to try and lots more to write about.
Copyright Prentiss Gray 2012