Villanova Experts Reflect on the 2010s

Dec 11, 2019

5 min

Stephen M. Strader, PhDJerusha  Conner, PhD

The iPad. Hurricane Sandy. Affordable Care Act. #MeToo. Brexit. Streaming services.

Since 2010, there have been so many memorable and historic events that have shifted culture and society into unfamiliar territory around the world.

Some of Villanova's experts have put together thoughts on some of the decade's top stories that will continue to be relevant for the next ten years - and beyond.

Stephen Strader, assistant professor of Geography and the Environment

Over the last decade we have seen the issue of anthropogenic or human-induced climate change shift from something discussed between select, interested scientists to the front page of the news on a daily basis. This dramatic change in importance and coverage over climate change makes complete sense given, six of the last ten years globally have been in the top ten warmest on record. Actually, very likely, if not certain, is that the last 5 years will be the hottest globally on record. The odds of that happening in naturally are very close to zero. Nowhere have the effects of a changing climate been realized more so than in the western U.S. where wildfires have wreaked havoc year after year in the 2010's. States such as California, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Washington all experienced record-breaking wildfires over the last decade. Specifically, the Camp Fire in 2018 became the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, destroying 18,000+ homes and killing 85 people in the town of Paradise, CA.  


- Hurricanes Dorian, Irma, Harvey, Maria, etc. damaging entire countries (Puerto Rico and Bahamas) so much that there is question whether they will ever recover from the damaging effects.

- The deadliest tornado season on record, 2011. Including the devastating April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak and the deadliest U.S. tornado in modern history, Joplin, MO (158 fatalities).

- The 2011-2017 drought and water shortages in the western U.S. where California saw its worst drought in history or worst in 1,200 years. The drought killed 100+ million trees and resulted in water shortages that affected crops and caused municipalities to limit water use.

- The record-setting rainfall and floods in locations such as Colorado, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, etc. that resulted in hundreds dead and millions of dollars in crop losses. 

If the last 10 years have taught scientists, climatologists, policy makers, and the general public anything, it’s that we have our work cut out for us if we are to reverse this trend of increasing disasters around the world. The atmosphere continues to warm and all model projections point to an progressively warmer future Earth if action is not taken. This action can’t be tomorrow or by 2025, 2050, or some other arbitrary year, it has to happen now if we want to reduce future economic and societal losses.

Yes, it’s easy to be afraid and fearful of the future when all we see as scientists and citizens is rising temperatures, deadlier disasters, and a lack of drastic climate action. Unfortunately, this action can’t be tomorrow or by 2025, 2050, or some other arbitrary year, it has to happen now given we are in a climate emergency. However, we can’t let the fear result in crippling inaction, but we have to let it motivate us to fight, not for just our futures but our children’s, grandchildren’s, and great grandchildren’s futures. Let’s give them a chance to see the world the way we used to, beautiful. 

Jerusha Conner, associate professor of Education and Counseling

The latter half of this decade witnessed a resurgence of student activism, sparked by Black Lives Matter protests and the dramatic events at the University of Missouri in the fall of 2015. Highlighting 2015 as a pivotal year for student activism, the authors of the American Freshman National Norms survey deemed the 2015 freshman class “the most ambitious” group in 49 years of the survey’s administration in terms of their expectations for participating in protests, connecting to their communities, and influencing the political structure (Eagan et al., 2016: p. 7), and the numbers of freshman who report having participated in demonstrations as high school seniors has ticked up every year since. In my own research with college student activists in 2016, I found three striking trends: nearly half came to college already seeing themselves as activists; only 10% consider themselves single-issue activists (more than half identified seven or more issues their activism addressed); and a significant share were protesting their own institution’s policies or practices, but instead concerned themselves with broader social and political issues. They are what I call outward-facing activists, who use their campuses to stage and mobilize campaigns, rather than as the targets of their change efforts.

In the last couple of years, we have seen activism among high school students take off, as students have staged walk outs and school strikes to protest inaction on climate change and gun violence. Although these movements may appear narrowly focused on a single issue, the students involved have intentionally advanced an intersectional perspective, which draws attention to the racialized, economic, and gendered dimensions of the multifaceted problem they are seeking to address. Digital natives, these young people have deployed the affordances of social media not only to mobilize their peers in large scale collective action, but also to attract and sustain the attention of the media, pressure business leaders and politicians, and shape public understanding of the issues.

One interesting shift with this generation of student activists is that rather than turning their backs on the system or seeking to upend it, they are focused on enhancing voter registration and turnout, especially among young people. And their efforts appear to be working. Youth turnout in the 2018 midterms was double that of 2014, and record numbers of youth are continuing to register to vote. As the decade comes to a close and the 2020 campaign season revs up, the engagement of student activists in electoral politics will be important to continue to track. 

To speak with any of the experts, email or call 610-519-5152.

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Stephen M. Strader, PhD

Stephen M. Strader, PhD

Associate Professor of Geography and the Environment | College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Stephen Strader, PhD, is an expert on the interaction of climate change, natural hazards, and society.

Geographic Information SystemsNatural Hazards Hazards and SocietySevere WeatherTornadoes
Jerusha  Conner, PhD

Jerusha Conner, PhD

Professor of Education; Program Coordinator, Graduate Education | Department of Education and Counseling

Jerusha Conner, PhD, is an expert on student engagement, student voice, youth activism, and education policy.

Student EngagementStudent VoiceYouth ActivismUrban EducationEducation Policy

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