We do it every year and every year, without exception, we seem to top ourselves even when we don’t think it’s possible. But, as we look back on our most recent trip around the sun, we’ve done it again. We achieved amazing milestones everywhere we look. Of course, mankind having the frail and often unpredictable qualities that it has, we’ve also done things that have disappointed our better angels. From 40,000 feet as well as much closer to the ground, 2018 was memorable.
Once again, immigration has captured its share of attention. In late fall, scores of men, women and children, began leaving their homes in Central America, including Guatemala and El Salvador and began the trek north as gang violence, government corruption and sheer hopelessness became too much. For these ex-patriots, the U.S. offered a dream of a better life.
The exodus became known as ‘the caravan,’ not unlike other exoduses throughout history where people chose taking their chances on the unknown---however perilous---rather than living in fear of the known. In Washington, this flow of humankind became a political wedge with some clamoring for draconian measures to stop it while others, adopting a more thoughtful take, merely spoke of understanding its genesis.
But conflicts over immigrants and immigration is nothing new in a nation of immigrants. Over the year, policy dictated separating immigrant parents from their children, placing newly arrived kids into camps, oftentimes carelessly resulting in mix-ups and mysteries as to who was where. The numbers of those interred remain sketchy. As a new year looms, specific numbers of the missing along with solutions to this lingering issue remain opaque at best.
In science, the big story was and continues to be climate change. While many politicians continue to challenge its validity, the scientific community’s beliefs got a major boost when the United Nations said that the world has only a dozen or so years to give climate change serious attention.
The U.N. report, released in October, was an unambiguous warning that global warming cannot exceed a temperature rise of 1.5C without exponentially increasing the frequency of drought, floods, extreme heat and the repercussions they will bring on hundreds of millions of people. The past twelve months have demonstrated examples of the weather-related anomalies scientists have warned about. The world, the country and Colorado each experienced moments of each in 2018.
Wildfires scorched southwestern Colorado when the 416 Fire erupted north of Durango. The June fire burned more than 35,000 acres forcing scores of evacuations. Amazingly, no deaths resulted and no structures were lost. The Buffalo Fire broke out June 12th near Silverthorne. Thousands were forced to evacuate but no casualties occurred, and no structures were lost.
In politics, two names have become as much a part of daily discourse as any show biz, athletic or artistic tandem. It has become a challenge to hear Trump, the president without a quick reference to Mueller, the special counsel. At last count, investigations tying the pair together are nearing twenty.
In Colorado politics, the name Polis will get a similar attention. Congressman Jared Polis will soon become Governor Polis. He will also become the state’s first openly gay chief executive. His predecessor, outgoing Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is testing the waters in an attempt at one day in 2020 becoming President-elect Hickenlooper. Stay tuned.
Gun violence continues to plague the nation as mass shootings and the resulting carnage occurs in schools, houses of worship, nightclubs and public venues. While collective shock rings loud initially, the frequency of these senseless acts seems to have diminished their news value and shortened their shelf life.
The Parkland, Florida, school shooting, however, may have hit a nerve as a number of its victims have seized the moment and turned their tragedy into a national dialogue forcing elected officials into a long delayed and essential conversation.
Denver and Colorado continue to rank among the country’s leaders in economic news. The state’s unemployment rate sits at 3.2 percent and below the nation’s 3.7 percent. But the rosy economic climate still was not enough to lure Amazon and the estimated 50,000 jobs it pledged to bring. Instead the gigantic online retailer broke hearts all across the country when it chose New York and Virginia for its new locations.
Denver native Susana Cordova was named Superintendent of Denver Public Schools in December. Cordova is a product of the DPS system and served as acting superintendent during a leave of absence by Tom Boasburg. Cordova began her career in DPS as a classroom teacher and rising to principal before channeling into the district’s administration.
The University of Colorado continues to play a significant role in the country’s space program. But it had to say goodbye to the Kepler Space Telescope in 2018. After nine years of providing a whole new way of observing the universe, Kepler simply ran out of fuel. During its time in space, Kepler discovered more than 2,600 planets from outside our solar system including a number that could show some form of life.
Also, as 2018 fades into history, so to do two other University of Colorado missions. Voyager II has joined its twin, Voyager I, in interstellar space. Both were launched more than four decades ago. They are the first manmade objects to travel beyond the solar system, an estimated 11 billion miles from earth. Voyager I entered interstellar space in 2014. Because the two spacecraft took different routes, they entered this new frontier at different times. CU Boulder scientists designed and built instruments that both missions carried at launch more than forty-years ago.