When I reflect on the 2010s, I recall a decade of feeling helpless in the face of tragedy and reacting with anger and determination to regain some control.

Face it, the 2010s sucked. But especially sucked for me in particular.

  • The company I worked for was sold to another company that laid me off at the end of 2012.
  • Unable to find work, I assumed thousands of dollars of student loan debt to further my education in 2013.
  • My brother died in May 2014.
  • I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea and started having to use a CPAP machine in 2016.
  • My wife left me and filed for divorce in 2010, triggering years of loneliness, animosity, and legal battles.
  • After the divorce, I was left with a house full of clutter and had to throw things away. I had accumulated items since 2001, had items from my Chattanooga apartment, items from my closed studio. Then my sister moved in. This meant throwing away or giving away so many things to which I had sentimental attachments.
  • The global war on terror really hit home when five men were shot and killed by a man just down the road from the office where I was working in Chattanooga.
  • My friend Don and a very nice lady I was dating named Dawn both died of cancer in 2017.
  • Once my coworkers found out I was turning 50, they began treating me differently. They presumed I was much younger.
  • This year was a particularly hellish way to bookend a miserable decade. Sickness, financial and professional struggles, a family crisis that left me feeling helpless.


BUT, it could always have been worse, and any day you are above the ground, it’s a “good” day. Having a good attitude is required to get through such challenging life events. Plus, I can honestly say that I am in a much better place than I was even three months ago.

I like my job, I’m making new friends, and my head is in a much more positive place since I stopped obsessing over politics and resolved to not surrender so much real estate in my brain to negative people with their toxic energies.

The decade wasn’t ALL bad

I held my first city-sponsored photography exhibition in 2017, a year also known for unfortunate hair choices.

  • I did prove something to myself by earning my Master’s with a perfect 4.0 GPA.
  • I learned a ton of new skills in marketing that increased my value to potential future employers.
  • My mother remarried in 2013 to a very kind man.
  • I greatly improved my relationship with my daughter and achieved a peaceful plateau with her mother.
  • I got to spend a ton of more time with my best friend, my sister, after rarely seeing her down in Florida for a decade prior.
  • Auburn won a national championship in 2010, beating Oregon 22-19, and almost earned another against Florida State in 2014.
  • I dated some truly awesome women and got some great friends out of it.
  • I fell in love with a city (Chattanooga) and rediscovered my love of my hometown.
  • Plant-based meat products were finally introduced and sold at scale.
  • We toyed with extraordinary gadgets that allowed us to carry computers in our pockets and on our wrists.
  • I did a whole lot of commercial and editorial photography that I am very proud of.
  • The city of Fort Payne sponsored my first solo photography exhibition at the Coal & Iron Building in 2017.
  • I watched our nation’s economy improve.
  • I became friends with great folks and met truly remarkable people. Thank you to everyone who was a part of my life in the twenty-tens.

Of course, my decade was largely defined by the photography I created and the models with whom I collaborated. There’s so many of them, I decided to put them into a separate blog post.

Here’s a bit of context about the decade from the global perspective…

The Death of Privacy and Secrecy

county fair

The wheels of time go round and round.

No doubting that we have lived through a period in which technology has revealed itself to be a bit of a Pandora’s box, easily manipulated by villains, yet also bringing into the light facts and techniques that needed exposing. We learned the hard fact that the “truth” is now a moving target.

Remember when Facebook announced its “pivot to privacy?” Facebook was fined a record $5 billion by the FTC for the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Fake news spread prolifically on Facebook and Twitter through sponsored posts, advertisements, bots, adversarial accounts and –– unfortunately –– unwitting users. Russia used digital tools to spread misinformation during election cycles, leading us to wonder what they will attempt in 2020.

  • July 2010 – WikiLeaks leaks over 90,000 internal reports about the US-led war in Afghanistan. In November, WikiLeaks released a collection of more than 250,000 American diplomatic cables, including 100,000 marked “secret” or “confidential.”
  • May 2011 – Vladimir Putin is elected president of Russia. As the decade proceeded, he tightens his grip on power and takes sinister aim at the USA.
  • June 2013 – Former CIA employee Edward Snowden discloses operations engaged in by the U.S. government mass surveillance program.
  • April 2016 – Journalists release a set of 11.5 million confidential documents from the Panamanian corporate Mossack Fonseca that provides detailed information on more than 214,000 offshore companies, including the identities of shareholders and directors including noted personalities and heads of state.
  • October 2016 – U.S. intelligence agencies publicly accuse the Russian government of using computer hacking to interfere with the U.S. election process; The Washington Post releases a videotape showing candidate Donald Trump privately bragging about sexual improprieties; WikiLeaks releases thousands of private emails from inside the political campaign of candidate Hillary Clinton.
  • April 2019 – The 448-page Mueller report is released in redacted form; WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange is arrested after seven years in Ecuador’s embassy in London.
  • May 2019 – Russian President Vladimir Putin expands government power to control internet traffic.

Oops

Little River Wild and Scenic Designation

Clean water Activist Angie Shugart speaking at an event in 2019.

This was a decade in which people shot themselves in the foot, voting against their own self-interest, ignoring warnings, and dealing with consequences.

  • April 2010 – Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform explodes in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in one of the largest oil spills in history.
  • September 2015 – Automaker Volkswagon is linked to rigging of diesel emissions tests.
  • June 2016 – The United Kingdom votes in a referendum to leave the European Union.
  • November 2016 – Donald Trump is elected the 45th President of the United States.
  • December 2016 – The US withdraws troops from Afghanistan after 15 years of war, only to return months later.
  • May 2017 – Donald Trump fires FBI Director James Comey, which leads to calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  • December 2018 – In a dispute over funding of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall, the US government enters a second government shutdown of the year that lasts for most of the following month.

Dashed Hopes

We started the decade with what seemed like it would be a positive revolution with the Arab Spring, but ended with the realization that sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you may unleash. There were so many instances that started out hopeful but finished with the world worse for wear. So much of the good that was done has ended up undone while a lot of the bad has gotten worse.

  • December 2010 – The attempted suicide of a Tunisian street vendor triggers a revolution that spreads throughout the Arab world. Within two months, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigns after protests and the first Libyan Civil War starts.
  • May 2010 – Osama bin Laden is killed by the US during a raid in Pakistan, bringing justice to the victims of 9/11 and the prospect of an end to war.
  • August 2010 – Libyan rebels overthrow tyrant Muammar Gaddafi and kill him the following month.
  • September 2010 – The Occupy Wall Street movement begins with protests in the US.
  • December 2011 – The US formally declares an end to the Iraq War.
  • November 2012 – Barack Obama wins re-election to a second term.
  • June 2013 – The US Supreme Court overturns a section of the Defense of Marriage Act, granting federal recognition to same-sex marriage in the US.
  • November 2013 – Iran agrees to limit their nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
  • November 2014 – One World Trade Center opens, replacing the fallen towers 13 after 9/11.
  • July 2015 – Cuba and the US reestablish full diplomatic relations after a 54-year stretch of hostility.
  • September 2016 – The US and China formally join the Paris global climate agreement, the two countries accounting for 40% of the world’s carbon emissions.
  • January 2017 – Donald Trump is sworn in as the first person to be elected president without serving as a political office holder or military general. In reaction to his inauguration, millions of people join in 420 worldwide “Women’s March” in 168 countries.
  • July 2017 – The Iraqi city of Mosul is declared fully liberated from the Islamic State.
  • February 2019 – President Donald Trump meets with North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un for a second time.
  • March 2019 – The final territory held by the Islamic State in Syria is liberated.
  • June 2019 – Massive protests erupt in the streets of Hong Kong after a controversial extradition bill is considered; Donald Trump becomes the first sitting U.S. president to cross the Korean Demilitarized Zone to enter North Korea and discuss denuclearization negotiations with Kim Jong-un.
  • October 2019 – A million people march through London demanding a second referendum on Brexit; the US kills ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a raid; NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch conduct the first all-female spacewalk outside of the International Space Station.
  • December 2019 – Formal charges are issued against President Donald Trump that accuse him of abusing power and obstructing Congress, making him only the fourth U.S. president in history to face impeachment; Pope Frances abolishes pontifical secrecy in sex abuse cases.

Man-Made Terror

American flags

Unfortunately, terrorism reared its ugly head a lot in the 2010. I photographed these flags left by Chattanoogans at the memorial for 5 soldiers slain in July 2016 by a man upset over actions by the US in the Middle East.

We can and must do better than we did in the 2010s. So many people died needlessly under tragic and shocking circumstances. What was to blame? Violent video games? Religious intolerance? Or did “some men just want to watch the world burn,” as the butler Alfred says of the Joker in “The Dark Knight” film? It says something that two of best movie performances of the decade were alternate takes on Batman’s clown villain.

From white supremacists and Islamic terrorists on the rise to incompetent and corrupt politicians to mentally deranged gunmen to a madman in North Korea inching his way toward the capability to launch nuclear rockets to mainland America, there was no shortage of terrifying prospects to fear.

  • January 2010 – Yemen declares war against Al-Qaeda.
  • July 2012 – Twelve people die and 58 are injured in a mass shooting in a Aurora, Colorado theater during a screening of the movie “The Dark Knight Rises.”
  • September 2012 – US diplomatic missions are attacked, including a compound in Benghazi where US ambassador J. Christopher Stevens is murdered.
  • December 2012 – Twenty-eight people, including the gunman, are killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
  • April 2013 – Two Chechnya-born Islamist brothers explode bombs at the Boston Marathon, killing 3 and injuring 264 others.
    August 2013 – The Syrian Civil War turns deadly as 1,429 are killed in a chemical attack.
  • 2014 – In Nigeria, 276 girls were abducted from their school and held hostage; the Taliban killed 132 children at a school in Pakistan.
  • March 2014 – Russia annexes Crimea, leading to its expulsion from the G8. Two months later, a Malaysian airliner is shot down by a missile, killing 298 people on board.
  • April 2014 – The Flint, Michigan water source changes, leading to a crisis.
  • May 2014 – A 22-year-old sociopath who was angry at women for not finding him attractive kills six people and injures 13 in California. Women respond with the hashtag #YesAllWomen and use it to start a conversation about all of the ways they are harassed by men in their everyday life.
  • June 2014 – A Sunni militant group called the Islamic State begins an offensive through Iraq to overthrow the Shiite government and declares itself a caliphate.
  • August 2014 – Michael Brown is shot in Ferguson, Missouri, inflaming racial tensions.
  • January 2015 – Gunmen from Al-Qaeda kill 12 people at the Paris headquarters of a satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo.
  • March 2015 – A Saudi Arabia-led coalition of Arab countries starts a military intervention in Yemen to fight Houthi rebels.
  • June 2015 – A white supremacist named Dylann Roof kills nine people in a Charleston church associated with civil rights history.
  • July 16, 2016 – Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez opened fire on two military installations in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He first committed a drive-by shooting at a recruiting center, then traveled to a U.S. Navy Reserve center and continued firing, where he was killed by police in a gunfight. Four Marines died on the spot. A Navy sailor, a Marine recruiter, and a police officer were wounded; the sailor died from his injuries two days later. On December 16, following an investigation, former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director James B. Comey said that the shootings were “motivated by foreign terrorist organization propaganda.”
  • November 2015 – The Islamic State launches multiple terrorist attacks in Paris, killing 130.
  • December 2015 – Two Islamist gunmen open fire at a San Bernardino office Christmas party, killing 14.
  • June 2016 – A gunman claiming allegiance to the Islamic State opens fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others.
  • July 2016 – Terrorists use a truck to kill 86 people and injure more than 400 others in France during Bastille Day celebrations.
  • February 2017 – North Korea test fires a ballistic missile across the Sea of Japan.
  • May 2017 – An Islamic terrorist bombing attack kills 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert in England.
  • August 2017 – Heather Heyer is killed after being hit by a car driven by a white nationalist while counter-protesting at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • October 2017 – A man opens fire on a crowd at a concert in Las Vegas from his room in a casino, killing 58 and injuring 851 in the deadliest mass shooting perpetrated by a lone gunman in US history.
  • November 2017 – A gunman opens fire in a Baptist church in Texas, killing 26 people and injuring 20 more.
  • February 2018 – a school shooting occurs at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others.
  • March 2018 – As a former Russian double agent and his daughter are poisoned by a nerve agent in the UK, Vladimir Putin is elected to a fourth term; China changes its constitution to grant Xi Jinping the status of “President for Life.”
  • May 2018 – In a “sham” election, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro wins re-election.
  • October 2018 – The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi is murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, triggering a diplomatic crisis for Saudi Arabia; the United States Senate confirms Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the US Supreme Court by a margin of 50-48; a gunman kills 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
  • March 2019 – New Zealand is rocked by 51 deaths and 50 injuries in terrorist attacks on two mosques by a white supremacist gunman from Australia who broadcast the attacks on Facebook Live.
  • August 2019 – A mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso leaves 22 people dead and 24 others injured; 13 hours later, 10 people are killed and 27 injured in a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio.
  • October 2019 – The bodies of 39 people are found in a truck container in Essex, England. A 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland is arrested on suspicion of murder.
  • December 2019 – Iraqi protestors and militiamen storm the US embassy in Baghdad in retaliation for a military strike two days earlier.

A Changing Climate

dramatic storm cloud

It was a turbulent decade in terms of weather.

“It’s a hoax,” the skeptics declared. But such words were more difficult to swallow as we saw with our own eyes the devastation caused by intensified hurricanes and tornados, raging wildfires, and possibly the beginning of the end of life and we know it on this planet.

Greenland’s ice losses have septupled. The worst-case scenario for sea-level rise appears to be likely. The movies of the decade portrayed a world literally shaking itself apart. We enter a new decade with a sense of existential dread.

  • January 2010 – Haiti earthquake kills 316,000.
  • March 2011 – a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, killing more than 15,840 people.
  • April 25-28, 2011 – Tornados break out across the US, killing 324 people and injuring over 2,200. The following month, an EF5 tornado kills 158 in Joplin, Missouri.
  • February 2014 – The Ebola Virus epidemic begins with the infection of at least 28,616 people and 11,310 deaths.
  • September 2016 – The US and China formally join the Paris global climate agreement, the two countries accounting for 40% of the world’s carbon emissions.
  • October 2019 – Heavy rain and flooding leave 3 dead and 200,000 people are homeless in Beledweyne, Somalia. Meanwhile, 29 are dead and 29,000 homeless due to flooding in nearby Kenya.
  • November 2019 – Italy declares a state of emergency in Venice following record flooding; 11,000 scientists from around the world publish a study in the journal BioScience, warning “clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency”; The World Meteorological Organization reports that levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached another new record high of 407.8 parts per million, with “no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline.”
  • December 2019 – Typhoon Kammuri hits the Philippines, causing the evacuation of 200,000 people.

So that is our past. What lies ahead?

I am no Nostradamus, but here are some informed guesses about what we’ll see and experience in 2020

In the movie “The Graduate,” an adult pulls Dustin Hoffman’s Ben aside to give him advice about future investments. He says one word: “Plastics.” The single word description of the next decade might be “combustible.”

Things seem grim at the dawn of the third decade of the 21st Century. A third of Americans have plunged into poverty or near poverty. Our bridges and roads are collapsing. Our schools aren’t keeping up.

Another recession is ahead

I put my money where my mouth is on this one, as I recently told my money manager to transfer my investments to less risky choices. There will be a burst of the bubble once it comes to light how officials have strategically manipulated the market and paid off corrupt regulators to enrich themselves. America will have to deal with the national debt once interest payments become too expensive to ignore, making dramatic cuts to programs. We will see austerity combined with a collapse of the economy as housing becomes too expensive for low-wage workers to afford due to rising student loan debt, rising unemployment, more baby boomers not being able to retire, rising living conditions, stagnated wages, automation, the military industrial complex remaining so firmly entrenched in our government and economics, etc. For these and a litany of other reasons, I worry that we’ll see a market crash of epic proportions in the 2020s. We’ve watched the American middle class disintegrate since the 1980s. The difficult answer will be to make college free, significantly raise taxes on the wealthy, take on greater debt by bailing out student borrowers, and reinvest in the country’s infrastructure.

China will continue to rise

We will see the Chinese aggressively assert themselves through diplomacy across the world and the development of artificial intelligence. China is messing with some serious stuff like modifying animal, plant and human life through somatic cell nuclear transfer and genomic editing. Meanwhile, incoming elected US officials will inherit damaged relationships with our allies and struggle to rebuild trust and presence globally as we trade with the world but take a diminished role in intervening in other nations’ problems. With Brexit happening this year, I think the European Union will slow down economically and have less influence around the world. Between less leadership on the world stage and an economic downturn, America is primed for an earth-shattering fall from grace. The straw that breaks the camel’s back may be if lender nations stop investing in US Treasury notes and other countries decide to abandon the US dollar standard.

War!

The US will invade either Iran or Venezuela.

Women will continue to rise

We will recognize their power politically and in business as we celebrate the centennial of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, giving American women the right to vote.

The Commodification of Affection and Alienation of the Sexes

Communication and physical touch between men and women may become a source of Commerce instead of reciprocated via complicated traditional quid pro quo relationships since a straightforward transactional relationship will be deemed safer and the rules are laid out beforehand. Men will lose their role as primary breadwinner or head of the household. Homosexual relationships will rise due to people feeling alienated toward the opposite sex and turning to their own gender for physical relief, emotional support and companionship.

Machines will continue to get smarter while people get dumber

Big data is watching our behavior while consuming media such as streaming video. Pretty soon, algorithms will know us even better than we know ourselves (they possibly already do) for extreme personalization. Fake news and misinformation campaigns are gearing up already to influence our next election. People are walking around in contextual bubbles, without shared experiences and facts, causing a sharply divided electorate and a growing wealth divide.

Smart Glasses

Remember Google Glass? It was a commercial failure at mid-decade, but we are going to see the introduction of augmented reality for audio using “Smart Glasses” that allow us to listen to music, conference calls or podcasts without affecting our awareness of real-life surroundings. Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook are all working on some part of the connected glasses and augmented vision ecosystem. We got a hint of what’s to come with the popularity of Pokemon Go on our mobile devices and the voice-activated smart assistants now employed in our homes to adjust appliances, lighting, play songs on request, etc. I got an upclose view of this developing technology when I worked on structured JSON-LD snippets for voice search capability on the websites I developed, essentially making it easier for Google’s search engine to find client websites as relevant organic results when doing voice searches. Wearable devices in clothing, headbands, shoes, etc., will help us connect to measure performance and augment sensory experiences.

Greater layperson access to tech

It’s frustrating having to rely on coders and tech types to get websites and apps built. We’re going to see more cloud-based automation offerings that are low-code or no-code platforms built to enable anyone to create business applications using their company data.

Innovative technology will attempt to curb CO2 emissions

Companies will finally acknowledge and adapt to respond to climate change with investments in advanced tech. This acceptance will only arrive once they see quantitative evidence that the cost of doing nothing will greatly surpass the cost of aggressive action.

Solar Panels will become common on rooftops

These panels will continue to decline in price and impact power generation companies with their capacity to generate surplus energy through a renewable source. Tensions in the middle east will be effected by lowered demand for petroleum products as more of us switch to electronic cars.

We’ll use 3D printing on a larger scale

This new tech will become a common household appliance as we order items from Internet companies and self-print many of the products we buy in brick and mortar retail stores now.

The rise of robots

The use of drones in battle zones has shown us the value in remote operation of combat tools. Watch for greater use of military robots before 2030 and growing concern for combining this with artificial intelligence. The Chinese and Russians will increasingly attack our satellites in orbit to disrupt our capacity for using technologies like GPS against them. We will also move closer to sexbots that are hyper-realistic.

The Millennials will Change America

We will see the passing of the baton as young voters take action against a rigged system that has generated billionaires through wealth concentration and protect the environment harmed by deregulation. They have gotten wise to how the powerful have stolen their future and will demand systemic change.

The Future will be what you make of it.

Good riddance, 2019, Happy New Year 2020!