The majority of primate species are disappearing from the wild
During this time, most of the world's primate species are finally going extinct in the wild, despite many decades of conservation efforts. This includes the majority of prosimians, monkeys, lesser apes (i.e. gibbons) and great apes such as gorillas. More than 300 of the 504 known species are lost by the end of this period,* surviving only in zoos or private collections.
The relentless expansion of the global economy and the pressures to achieve ever more "growth" resulted in severe depletion of primates' habitat. Demand for palm oil, rubber and other commodities – along with a general increase in urban sprawl, road building, mining and other activities – led to millions of square kilometres of forest being cleared. In addition, climate change rendered vast areas more vulnerable to drought, fire and other damage. Poaching and the trade in body parts were yet more factors.
With a population now exceeding 9 billion, humanity's ecological footprint was growing so large and so rapidly that it was impossible to preserve these fragile environments on the timescales required. Although some conservation successes are achieved, they are few and far between; the overall outlook for primates remains poor. Preservation of DNA material is now being prioritised in the hope of resurrecting these species at some future date.
Global population reaches 9 billion
For the vast majority of human history, the Earth's population stayed below 100 million, and life expectancy was short. Between the mid-19th and early 21st century, however, it mushroomed exponentially. From 1812 to 1930, the number of people on the planet doubled from one to two billion. It took just 30 years to reach the next billion and a mere 14 years to reach the billion after that. Population growth hit its maximum rate in 1963 when it peaked at 2.2% per annum.* All around the world, there were unprecedented improvements in mobility, personal income and general quality of life.
The global population continued on its upward trajectory in the 21st century, reaching 9 billion by 2042.** However, a raft of new social, political, financial, demographic, environmental and other problems were now having serious impacts on economic growth and prosperity. Automation had made vast swathes of jobs redundant, for example.* Many countries had built up enormous debts, particularly in the West. Furthermore, humanity's ecological footprint was too large, and the Earth too small, to support the kind of materialistic lifestyles and throwaway culture that many had taken for granted in the past. The days of rampant consumerism were coming to an end, with people forced to adapt and evolve to new systems, often with heavy government intervention in the market. It was almost as though civilisation was feeling a "hangover" from the boom times.*
Though life became hard for many, and plagued with uncertainty, people and communities learned to live through each new crisis. Britain, for example, took on a "Blitz spirit" and became self-sufficient in food production – emulating what Cuba had achieved in the 1990s. Among the government programs enacted was the conversion of sports fields, parks, gardens, golf courses and other green areas of land into crop growing and biofuel sites. Extensive recycling of metals, plastics, glass, electronics and other such useful materials became mandatory all over the country – with strict penalties for wastage. The rationing of water became the norm in some counties, as droughts became ever more frequent. Amidst a surge in refugees, tight immigration quotas were enforced, with Britain effectively pulling up a drawbridge and admitting only the most highly skilled foreign workers.
Similar programs were enacted in nations around the globe. These measures were the only way to ensure society's survival, in light of the accelerating environmental and resource decline. Social media, communications and information technologies aided in the transition – helping to organise people and community efforts. From the economic wreckage of earlier decades, new forms of socio-economic progress were beginning to evolve. The world was gradually becoming more localised and decentralised.
Though Britain was successful in this transition,* many other nations were not so lucky. By 2042, resource wars have plunged some regions into chaos. Parts of southern Europe, Africa and the Middle East are dependent on ever-increasing levels of foreign support. Thankfully, population levels begin to plateau in the latter half of the century. Together with ongoing technology advances, this offers hope for longer-term solutions to humanity's problems.
Data sources: Wolfram Alpha, US Census Bureau
White people are a minority in the USA
America is a country founded on immigration.* Today, its population is more diverse and multicultural than ever. Following the 1965 immigration reform (which grew from the civil rights movement), the number of non-white people increased dramatically. This was particularly true of Latinos, who went from 6.3m in 1960* to over 50m by 2010.*
By the early 2010s, non-whites had already begun to outnumber whites in California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Texas and Washington DC, while nearly half of all children in the nation were non-white.* This trend continued over subsequent decades. By 2042, white people themselves are a minority.**
This rapid change in the demographic makeup has significantly altered the political disposition of the country. Latinos,* blacks* and other minorities tend to be left-leaning.* Other factors have influenced voters' preferences – such as the growing urbanisation of the country, with cities tending to favour more liberal and progressive policies than smaller, traditional rural communities. Generation X and Generation Y (the latter now entering their middle age) have also reshaped the political stage, most of them favouring the Democrats.*
This and other factors have converged to make the old-style Republican Party unelectable. By now, the GOP has been forced to drastically moderate its policies and rhetoric compared to earlier decades.*
NASA Uranus mission
Although visible to the naked eye, Uranus was never acknowledged as a planet by ancient observers, because of its dimness and slow orbit. With the advent of larger telescopes and new observational techniques, it was finally recognised by William Herschel in 1781. Initially believing he had found a comet or stellar disk, his later studies revealed its true nature and location as a world of our Solar System beyond Saturn.
Named after the Greek god of the sky, Uranus was calculated to orbit the Sun once every 84 years (compared with 11.9 for Jupiter and 29.5 for Saturn), at an average distance of 20 AU (3 billion km; 2 billion mi). This made it considerably more remote than its larger siblings, with a much lower temperature and greater concentration of "icy" volatiles such as water, ammonia, and methane. In fact, the lower atmosphere of Uranus was later determined as being one of the coldest places in the Solar System, at 49 K (−224 °C; −372 °F). Another notable feature was its axis of rotation being tilted sideways, placing the equator where most other planets would have their north and south poles.
Herschel discovered the first two moons – Titania and Oberon – in 1787. More were identified in 1851 by William Lassell (Ariel and Umbriel), and in 1948 by Gerard Kuiper (Miranda). These five had planetary mass, meaning they could be considered (dwarf) planets if they were in direct orbit about the Sun. The other remaining moons were discovered after 1985. All of these satellites were named after characters from the works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope. Rings around the planet were discovered in 1977; intermediate in complexity between the more extensive set around Saturn and the simpler systems around Jupiter and Neptune.
Until the late 20th century, the exploration of Uranus was solely through telescopes. This changed in 1986, when NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft made its closest approach and passed within 81,500 km (50,600 mi) of the cloud tops. As it sped by, it studied the cold atmosphere, discovered 10 moons and examined Uranus' ring system, discovering two new rings. It also imaged the five largest moons, revealing that their surfaces were covered with impact craters and canyons. Voyager 2 was only a flyby, however, as opposed to an orbiter, so its time at Uranus was relatively brief.
Decades passed without further exploration of the ice giant – with attention instead shifting to Jupiter (Galileo and Juno), Saturn (Cassini–Huygens) and Pluto (New Horizons). Ongoing telescopic studies revealed various new moons, bringing the total number to 27. Several mission concepts for Uranus were discussed by NASA and ESA in the late 2000s and early 2010s, including a joint collaboration between the two agencies. However, these were considered to be of lower priority than Mars and Jupiter.
By the late 2010s, following the success of these various other missions around the Solar System, new exploration targets were needed and Uranus was now seen as a more promising candidate. Astronomers had recently discovered that exoplanets weighing about the same as Uranus and Neptune were more common than gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn. Determining the basic composition and interior structures of these ice giants would fill an important gap in the knowledge of how other star systems formed. A close-range study would also reveal more clues about the surprisingly dynamic icy moons, rings and bizarre magnetic fields; as well as potentially finding new satellites. Furthermore, in the decades following Voyager 2's visit, the orbit of Uranus had changed enough to illuminate more of its equator. This was making its atmosphere less bland and featureless than before, with a number of dramatic storms and swirls becoming visible.*
In its decadal survey for 2013-2022, NASA had included a return to Uranus or Neptune as one of its longer term objectives, with Uranus being favoured due to more convenient planetary alignments. In June 2017, NASA released a follow-up analysis – Ice Giants: Pre-Decadal Survey Mission Study Report* – as a precursor to the next decadal survey (2023-2032). This comprehensive, 529-page report outlined in more detail the options available for a return to both Uranus and Neptune; most of the concepts proposed detachable probes to be dropped into the ice giants' atmospheres, with the main spacecraft remaining in orbit for two to three years. Because of reduced sunlight in the outer Solar System, it was advised that a nuclear power source be used instead of solar. The science payloads of up to 150 kg included cameras (with spatial resolution of less than 100 metres), magnetometers, spectrometers and doppler imaging for the detection of "seismic waves" around the rocky core and icy mantle layers.
For Uranus, the optimal launch window was between 2030 and 2034, with a journey time of around 12 years. However, the development of new and more powerful rockets, such as NASA's heavy lift Space Launch System (SLS), provided the option to cut four years off the transit time. Thus, a mission timeframe of between 2038 and 2046 appeared most likely.* Using the SLS would require aerocapture techniques upon arrival – skimming the planet's outer atmosphere as a "braking manoeuvre" to avoid overshooting the target.
Despite aiming for a 2030 launch date, NASA experienced the usual delays and budget setbacks that had befallen so many of its earlier missions. Consequently, the Uranus mission was pushed closer to the end of its launch window. However, the SLS had been demonstrated for deep space travel and was now utilised for more rapid transit across the Solar System, offsetting the aforementioned delays.
By 2042, the Uranus mission is well underway, revealing a wealth of new scientific data about its atmosphere, interior, rings and satellites. The planet is globally surveyed with unprecedented detail; its dozens of moons are imaged in stunning resolution, while various new moons are discovered too.
The Diary of Anne Frank enters the U.S. public domain
The Diary of Anne Frank was a book of the writings by the German-born diarist, Anne Frank, who documented her life in hiding between 1942 and 1944 during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. She and her family were apprehended in 1944, with Anne herself dying of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp the following year.
Anne's father, Otto, the only survivor of the family, returned to Amsterdam after the war to find that her diary had been saved by one of the helpers, Miep Gies, and his efforts led to its publication in 1947. It became one of the world's most widely known books, with Anne gaining fame posthumously as perhaps the most discussed victim of the Holocaust. It was translated into more than 60 languages and formed the basis for several plays and films.
The diary received widespread critical and popular attention on the appearance of its English language version, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Doubleday & Company (USA) and Valentine Mitchell (UK) in 1952. The book later appeared in several lists of the top books of the 20th century.
The copyright of the Dutch version, published in 1947, expired in 2016, 70 years after the author's death as a result of a general rule in copyright law of the European Union. Following this, the original Dutch version was made available online. It then appeared on Wikisource, an online digital library of free content operated by the Wikimedia Foundation.
However, the diary was soon removed from Wikisource, after concerns over copyright. The Wikimedia Foundation was under the jurisdiction of U.S. law and therefore subject to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) – specifically title 17, chapter 5, section 512 of the United States Code. As the Foundation had noted in 2013: "The location of the servers, incorporation, and headquarters are just three of many factors that establish US jurisdiction ... if infringing content is linked to or embedded in Wikimedia projects, then the Foundation may still be subject to liability for such use—either as a direct or contributory infringer."
With 70 years having passed since Anne's death, her diary entered the public domain in the Netherlands on 1st January 2016 (although there was still some dispute about this). In the United States, however, the original text would remain under copyright until 2042.* This was due to a combination of several factors. Firstly, works published before 1978, in general, had a copyright of 95 years from date of publication, which in the case of Frank's diary was 1947. Secondly, foreign works of countries that were treaty partners to the United States were covered as if they were U.S. works. Thirdly, even if a country was not a treaty partner under copyright law at the time of a publication, the 1994 Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA) restored copyright to works that: had been published in a foreign country; were still under copyright in that country in 1996; and would have had U.S. copyright but for the fact they were published abroad.
The City of Trees project is completed in Manchester, England
The City of Trees is a project to plant three million new trees, one for every man, woman and child in Greater Manchester, England. Initiated by charities including the Community Forest Trust, it aims to transform over 20 square kilometres of unmanaged or vacant land into a productive and healthy state. This is achieved with help from public volunteers, community groups and local companies.
The trees are planted all over Manchester – in urban areas, streets, parks and gardens, as well as existing woodlands to expand their habitats and link to neighbouring areas of tree cover, which helps to improve biodiversity. Entirely new forests are also created.
The 25-year project is largely completed by the early 2040s.* Many of the first trees that were planted back in the early stages of the project have now grown to full maturity. Alongside the uptake of electric vehicles and other measures, the city is now enjoying much improved air quality, as well as better resilience to climate change. The benefits of trees include reduced heat* and air conditioning costs (saving up to 10% on energy consumption) and a reduction in flood risk (trees absorb surface water runoff, which would otherwise overload drainage systems, and reduce it by up to 80%* compared to asphalt surfaces). The presence of trees can also improve mental health,** increase educational performance and cognitive development, and create new jobs in timber and forest management.
Manchester, England. Credit: Moomusician