Over the past few weeks, hundreds of you voted on our eight nominees for Place of the Year 2019. While competition was fierce, we have our final four: New Zealand, Greenland, the Palace of Westminster, and the Atmosphere! But which one is most emblematic of 2019? Which location has truly impacted global discourse? Refresh your memory with our spotlights below and vote for your pick to represent 2019 as the Place of the Year!
During Friday prayers on 15 March, a white supremacist terrorist attacked Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Center, both in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 people and injuring over 40 others. These attacks were the first mass shooting in New Zealand since 1997, and the terrorist livestreamed his attack on Al Noor Mosque via Facebook. One week after the attacks, 20,000 people gathered there to pay their respects in a nationwide moment of silence and prayer.
On 21 March, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles, and the legislation was voted into place by Parliament in a vote of 119-1 on 10 April. The swiftness of the initial ban prompted international conversations about gun control, racism, and tolerance, which continued in New Zealand in particular and prompted even more legislative action. In September, New Zealand lawmakers presented further gun control plans, including proposals to create a firearm registry, tighten gun license requirements, increase penalties for firearms offences, and more. Current owners of semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles have until 20 December, 2019, to surrender their now-illegal weapons to the government’s buy-back program.
The terrorist has been charged with 92 crimes, including murder, attempted murder, and terrorism, though he denies all charges. While the trial was originally scheduled to begin on 4 May, 2020, the High Court of New Zealand agreed to delay the trial to 2 June 2020, to avoid overlapping with Ramadan.
In an unprecedented loss, Greenland (roughly 80% of which is covered in ice) had two large ice-melts, culminating in a record-breaking loss of 58 billion tons of ice in one year—40 billion more tons than the average. In November, Greenland’s main airport Kangerlussuaq Airport reported that they will cease to operate civilian flights within five years due to runways cracking as the permafrost melts below them. As a result, Greenland is building a new airport in a more stable location.
In the political realm, U.S. President Donald Trump publicly implied that he would like to purchase Greenland from Denmark multiple times (despite the fact that Greenland is self-governing and not owned by Denmark). Trump’s – and China’s – interest in Greenland mainly revolves around the nation’s growing geopolitical significance: As polar ice caps melt, new North Atlantic shipping lanes have become available through Greenland’s waters. The island is also home to vast deposits of natural resources such as coal, copper, iron ore, zinc, and other rare minerals. Trump’s desire to purchase Greenland has been denounced by some Greenlanders as a dangerous example of imperialism.
Palace of Westminster
Brexit has been dragging on since 2016, but since July, the politics involved have become uncharacteristically chaotic. After her third Brexit proposal was voted down, Prime Minister Theresa May resigned on 7 June. Notoriously unconventional Boris Johnson was elected and promptly achieved a new record by facing seven consecutive defeats in his first seven votes in Parliament. In a bold, bipartisan act, some Conservatives joined the opposition to pass a law ensuring that Britain could not leave the European Union without a deal – an act which prompted Prime Minister Johnson to expel 21 members from the conservative party (the largest number to leave a party at once since 1981).
In an unprecedented act, Johnson, with the support of the Queen, announced his intent to close Parliament for four weeks. A month later, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled the suspension unlawful on the basis that Johnson secured the Queen’s support by giving her false information (again, unprecedented in modern memory).
After resuming, Parliament approved the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – essentially agreeing to continue debating the bill piece-by-piece, something which no previously proposed Withdrawal Agreement has achieved – but denied a 31 October exit. The new Brexit deadline is 31 January 2020 – as long as the General Election, called by Johnson, and set to occur on 12 December this year, doesn’t drastically change Parliament – or Britain’s future – yet again.
The summer of 2019 tied for hottest summer on record in the northern hemisphere, continuing the trend of extreme weather set by deadly cold winter temperatures, heavy snowfalls, and catastrophic mudslides and typhoons worldwide. Climate change claimed its first Icelandic glacier as a victim, where researchers marked the event with memorial plaque, and Arctic sea ice experienced the largest September decrease in 1,000 years. All of these climate events are driven by the carbon dioxide being poured into the oceans and Earth’s atmosphere by human activities, from corporations’ carbon footprints to the deliberate burning of the Amazon in exchange for timber and livestock pastures.
In September, the International Panel on Climate Change released a landmark report that the effects of climate change are being felt much more severely, and sooner, than previously anticipated; hundred-year floods are projected to become a yearly occurrence by 2050 in many locations, and global sea levels may rise as much as three feet by 2100 (this is 12% higher than the most recent 2013 estimate). Despite the dire warnings, 2019 is projected to be the year with the highest carbon emissions of all time, and while the fact that the ozone hole is the smallest it’s been since its discovery might sound like good news, it’s actually being kept on the smaller side by the record heat in our atmosphere.
Voting closes Wednesday, 4 December – be sure to check back on Monday, 9 December to find out the winner!
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