The decade in review – 2016 – 2019

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

If you study history at all, you quickly notice that it is almost always the last three or four years that recognizably define the decade.

Elvis Presley and 1950’s Rock and Roll emerged in 1957 and ’58. The music and movements that we define as “The ’60s” also took form in the final years of the decade.

The issues, challenges and personalities of the last few years of the most recent decade will also define it.

One representative issue of the past ten years is the cost of EpiPens. A kit (two pens) cost under $100 in 2010 – and over $700 in 2019.

Here is an abbreviated review of how the second decade of the 21st Century came to a close –


The World Health Organization announced an outbreak of the Zika virus.

Barack Obama visits Cuba, marking the first time a sitting US president has visited the island nation since president Calvin Coolidge visited in 1928.

Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Three events that played a significant role in the 2016 United States presidential election all take place on the same afternoon: (1) U.S. intelligence agencies publicly accuse the Russian government of using computer hacking to interfere with the U.S. election process; (2) The Washington Post releases a videotape showing candidate Donald Trump privately bragging about sexual improprieties; (3) WikiLeaks releases thousands of private emails from inside the political campaign of candidate Hillary Clinton.

After a contentious election season, with almost daily leaks, scandals and plot twists, Donald J. Trump is elected president.

Notable deaths included David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Merle Haggard, Prince, Edward Albee, John Glenn, Carrie Fisher, Leonard Cohen and Fidel Castro.


2017 was the year wildfires came to town. From British Columbia to Paradise, California to Siberia, fires raged more fiercely – and closer to home than ever before. And for those out of reach of the flames, the smoke hovered for weeks.

In January Donald Trump, a Republican New York City businessman, is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Trump is the first person to be elected President of the United States with neither political nor military experience.

The next day millions of people worldwide join the Women’s March in response to the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States. 420 marches were reported in the U.S. and 168 in other countries, becoming the largest single-day protest in American history and the largest worldwide protest in recent history.

The UN warns that the world is facing the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II, with up to 20 million people at risk of starvation and famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria.

The United Kingdom triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, starting the Brexit negotiations, the talks for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.

American student Otto Warmbier returns home in a coma after spending 17 months in a North Korean prison. He died a few days later..

A fire at Grenfell Tower in London, England, kills 72 people and injures more than 70 others. (The building still stands, but is shrouded in giant tarps.

The World Health Organization estimates that Yemen has over 200,000 cases of cholera.

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and caused at least 3,000 deaths and damages estimated in excess of $91.6 billion.

On October 1st, Fifty-eight people are killed and 851 injured when Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd in Las Vegas, surpassing the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting as the deadliest mass shooting perpetrated by a lone gunman in U.S. history.

The United States officially recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Guatemala, Honduras and Panama do the same within days.

Fidget Spinners and selfie sticks are hugely popular. Each one in its own way sums up our values and identity.

The Fidget Spinner is perhaps the perfect metaphor for our times – always in motion, accomplishing nothing, not even points or skills, from the economy to Congress, the Fidget Spinner captured our essence.

Notable deaths of 2017 include Nat Hentoff, Chuck Berry, Don Rickles, Glen Campbell, Dick Gregory and Gregg Allman.


A school shooting occurs at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others. Massive demonstrations follow, demanding stricter gun laws.

President Donald Trump accepts an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for a meeting in May to discuss the denuclearization of North Korea.

China’s government approves a constitutional change that removes term limits for its leaders, granting Xi Jinping the status of “President for Life”.

In the Russian presidential election, Vladimir Putin is elected for a fourth term.

Fifty years after its release, the Abbey Road album cover is still widely used . Photo: Morf Morford

In May the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is held at St George’s Chapel, England, with an estimated global audience of 1.9 billion.

In June the 2018 North Korea–United States summit is held in Singapore. It is the first summit between a United States President and the North Korean leader.

Canada becomes the first major industrialized country to legalize cannabis for recreational use.

Saudi Arabia allows women to drive.

The share price of Facebook drops by almost 20 percent after the company warns investors that user growth has slowed following a data leak scandal. Over $109 billion is wiped from its market value, the largest single day loss in corporate history.

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake hits Sulawesi, Indonesia, causing a tsunami that kills at least 4,340 people and injures more than 10,679 others.

In early October, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi is murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, triggering a diplomatic crisis around the world.

Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the United States Supreme Court by a margin of 50-48, making it the closest successful confirmation (and certainly one of the most controversial) vote of a Supreme Court nominee since 1881.

11 people are killed during the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pennsylvania.

The Camp Fire ignites in Butte County, California. It becomes California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire, with 88 deaths and 18,804 buildings destroyed.

The U.N.’s International Telecommunication Union reports that, by the end of 2018, more than half – a full 51.2 percent – of the world’s population are now using the Internet.

December 21 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes at 22,445 after its worst week since 2008 .After weeks of losses the Dow Jones Industrial Average posts its largest ever one-day point gain on December 26: 1,086 points.


In January Chinese probe Chang’e 4 becomes the first human-made object to land on the far side of the Moon. The 2019 North Korea–United States summit is held in Hanoi, Vietnam. It is the second summit between United States President Donald Trump and the North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un.

On March 10th, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 bound for Nairobi, crashes shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa killing all 157 people on board. All Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are subsequently grounded worldwide. Needless to say, this is just the beginning of a year of challenges for Boeing.

On March 15th, 51 people are killed and 50 others injured in terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand: Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre, both of which were the target of shootings by Australia-born Brenton Harrison Tarrant. It is the deadliest mass shooting and terrorist attack in New Zealand’s history and described by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”

In April the full 448-page report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States Presidential Election (the Mueller Report) is released in heavily redacted form.

During Holy Week, a major fire engulfs Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, resulting in the roof and main spire collapsing.

U.S. President Donald Trump makes a state visit to the United Kingdom, meeting with Queen Elizabeth II and outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May. It is the first official state visit to the U.K. by a sitting U.S. president since 2011. Trump also attends D-Day commemorative ceremonies.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports, on August 15, that July 2019 was the hottest month on record globally, at 0.95 °C (1.71 °F) above the 20th-century average.

Japan resumes commercial whaling after a 30-year moratorium, following its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission.

The last Volkswagen Beetle rolls off the line in Puebla, Mexico.

Amazon rainforest wildfires: Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reports fires burning in the Amazon rainforest at a record rate, with more than 36,000 in the year to date, while smoke reaches São Paulo more than 1,700 miles away.

One of the largest and oldest travel firms, Thomas Cook, goes bankrupt as last-minute rescue negotiations fail, stranding 600,000 tourists worldwide.

September 20 brings an international strike and protest led by young people and adults, held three days before the latest UN Climate Summit to demand action be taken to address the climate crisis. The event is one of the largest climate mobilizations in history.

Typhoon Hagibis makes landfall in Japan, the biggest storm to hit the region in decades, with over seven million people urged to evacuate.

Social media website Twitter bans all political advertising worldwide.

Australia suffers from an extreme heat wave – and massive fires across the entire continent.

The Rise of Skywalker, the final movie of the Stars Wars saga is released.

As a true sign of the times, Oxford Languages declares the 2019 word (or expression ) of the year is climate emergency (1*) and Merriam-Webster chose they as its word of the year both as a singular pronoun and as a nod to those of non-binary identity.

Somehow a Latin phrase, Quid pro quo emerged in daily conversations.

Notable deaths of 2019 include Caroll Spinney (Sesame Street’s Big Bird), Ginger Baker, Cokie Roberts, Eddie Money, Peter Fonda, Toni Morrison, Gloria Vanderbilt, Tim Conway, Doris Day and Ram Dass.

In 2010, who knew (or even knew how to pronounce) words like vegan, Pokemon Go, vacay? Or who of us would think we would use terms like deep state, non-binary, screen-time, GOAT (Greatest of All Time) or gig economy? And what do we make of terms like “OK, Boomer”?

I wanted to wait until we had seen the last minute of 2019 before I put this column together.

And, of course, 2019 did not disappoint.

The final day of 2019 gave us a visit of a fleet of mystery drones that could be UFOs or an invasion or? (2*)

And who could have imagined an onslaught of tumbleweeds – enough to block a highway outside of Richland?

Yes, it’s been quite a year, but we survived. Anyone else ready for a new year?

Editor’s note: this is the last of three “Decade in Review” articles. See the December 31st article here, and the January 3rd article here.




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