Oxford’s Place of the Year campaign pulls together the most significant places and events of the year. The 2018 shortlist of nominees brings to light impactful moments in global history, influencing the environment, international relations, humanitarian crises, and space exploration. Explore each of our locations and vote for who think should be recognized as Oxford’s Place of the Year 2018!
Mexico endured multiple natural disasters in 2018. One earthquake hit Mexico City right after the Mexican national soccer team defeated Germany in the World Cup, leading to initial speculation that the quake had been caused by jubilant fans. This was proven untrue shortly after, however—it was in fact an entirely natural earthquake. On the Pacific coast of Mexico, it has been a difficult hurricane season. This week, Tropical Storm Xavier became the 22nd named tropical storm of the 2018 eastern Pacific hurricane season, making this year’s hurricane season the most active since 1992.
In economic news, Mexico, the United States, and Canada agreed on a revised trade deal to replace NAFTA in early October, called USMCA. It is expected to be signed by end of November, and then will be sent to Congress for approval. Despite the cooperation, however, tensions remain high as immigration remains a talking point in both countries. As a caravan of migrants from Central America makes their way through Mexico toward the US, President Trump has deployed troops to the US-Mexico border to keep the migrants out.
A study in March revealed that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), the world’s largest collection of ocean garbage, has grown to more than 600,000 square miles. That is twice the size of Texas, or three times the size of France. The mass weighs 88,000 tons, a number which is 16 times higher than previous estimations indicated. The trash in the patch originates from around the Pacific Rim, including nations in Asia and North and South America.
The GPGP is devastating for marine life. The plastic has deteriorated into microplastics as a result of sun exposure, waves, marine life, and temperature changes. Once they reach this small size, microplastics are difficult to remove. They are often mistaken for food by marine animals, resulting in malnutrition and serious threats to the animals’ behavior, health, and existence.
There are serious consequences for human beings and our economy as a result of the GPGP. Through a process called bioaccumulation, chemicals found in plastics will enter the body of the animal that feeds on it, which will consequently be passed to humans as they eat the animal. According to the United Nations, the approximate environmental damage caused by plastic to marine ecosystems represents $13 billion.
INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION
At the end of August, a tiny hole was found in the International Space Station (ISS), leading to a small drop in cabin pressure. Initially thought to be the result of a micrometeoroid strike, Russian cosmonauts came to the shocking conclusion that it may have been deliberately drilled, leading to suggestions of sabotage. The investigation into this incident is ongoing. One investigation that is closed, however, is the one into the failed launch of a Soyuz spacecraft in October. The Russian agency Roscosmos explained that their investigation pointed the blame to a bent pin, which prevented one of the side boosters from cleanly falling away. This resulted in its decompression, and the loss of control over the rocket.
All this is happening in the shadow of President Trump’s proposal in June to create a new branch of the US military called the United States Space Force. He explained that, “We must have American dominance in space.” How this could affect the spirit of cooperation on ISS is unknown.MYANMAR (BURMA)
Extreme violence and discrimination has led to a humanitarian crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Throughout 2017 and 2018, Rohingya refugees have been crossing the border into Bangladesh in fear of their lives. United Nations officials have described the crisis as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Mid-October reports have revealed that the number of Rohingya refugees has reached nearly one million, with young girls in Bangladesh refugee camps sold into forced labor accounting for the largest group of trafficking victims.
Myanmar military personnel conducted a systemic campaign through false Facebook accounts and posts, targeting the country’s predominantly Muslim Rohingya minority group. The posts consisted of personnel posing as pop stars and national heroes, one claiming Islam was a global threat to Buddhism, and another sharing a fictitious story about the rape of a Buddhist woman by a Muslim man. Human rights groups blame this anti-Rohingya propaganda for inciting murders, rapes, and the largest forced human migration in recent history.
In April, Kim Jong Un, Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea and Supreme Leader of North Korea, met with Moon Jae-In, President of South Korea, for an inter-Korean summit. The countries reached a historic agreement to work toward peace and reunification following decades of conflict. North Korea promised to retire its nuclear program, and both countries signed an agreement pledging to work towards the “common goal” of denuclearization on the peninsula. In late October, along with the United Nations Command, North and South Korea agreed to remove firearms and guard posts from a portion of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two countries.
In June, Kim Jong Un met with US President Donald Trump for the first time in Singapore, resulting in President Trump declaring that Kim, “trusts me, and I trust him.” Leading up to high-level talks between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart Kim Yong Chol in early November, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry warned that if the United States did not ease the sanctions on North Korea, Pyongyang could restart “building up nuclear forces.” The negotiations are at a stalemate, as the United States is only willing to form a peaceful relationship with North Korea until after it gives up its nuclear weapons, and North Korea is only willing to give up its nuclear weapons once it has established a peaceful and trusting relationship with the United States.
Featured image credit: “globes-spheres-maps-ball-world” by Free-Photos. CC0 via Pixabay.